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The Victor is a bronze statue of a nude male figure with a falcon in his left hand and a sword in the right, the symbols of peace and war. Or as our guide would have it, ‘it says we prefer peace but if circumstances force us we will fight.’ That’s a fair outlook.

By the way, the Victor was actually our third destination, the first being the Roman Well that I wrote about yesterday. In between we made a brief stopover to see another historic sight, a Military Bunker opposite the Victor’s statue. It was probably built during the period of Cold War, nobody is really sure.

Standing outside the bunker and listening to the guide talk about its significance, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I was looking at the entrance to a hobbit’s home. Not that I have ever been to one for real, but in my imagination, yes, I have even lived in one. But as soon as I stepped in through the door, the cold and drab interior quickly dispelled all thoughts of magical beings and brought me back to reality.

Enough of military bunkers. Now back to the Victor.

The Victor was designed by the sculptor Ivan Mestrovic. It rests atop what is called a doric column (designed by Petra Bajalovic). If anyone’s interested, doric is a style of classical architecture characterised by simple and sturdy, massive columns. So you know Victor has his feet planted firmly on a pretty solid base.

Apparently the monument was meant to be larger than the 46-feet tall one that it is today. Initially, it was to rest in an oval fountain basin with decorative bronze masks everywhere, some on the basin and others all over the column. Even as most of the work was completed, the first World War began and only the Victor and the lion masks survived the destruction that ensued.

There’s an interesting fact about this statue which celebrates Serbia’s victories in the Balkan and the first World Wars. The municipality’s efforts to place Victor on a fountain in the Terazije post war was met with stiff resistance from the majority of citizens of Belgrade. It was an insult to the chaste Belgrade women and would damage the morals of young girls, they argued. Alas, the Victor without any clothes on him had become too liberal for post war Belgrade and hence needed a new place.

That is how this symbol of freedom of the region from long years of subjugation by both Ottoman and Austria-Hungarian Empire now happens to stand above the King’s Gate of the Belgrade Fortress facing the Danube. It is said to be the most visited and photographed tourist attractions of Belgrade. No wonder. It is indeed worth a visit.

Shail Mohan 2022