Sremski Karlovci

By Micki [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons
By Micki [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons
Sremski Karlovci  is a small town in the Srem District of Serbia, located 12 km south from Novi Sad.
It is also the seat of the smallest Serbian municipality, with only one populated area. This is one of the most beautiful towns in Serbia’s Vojvodina region, with its numerous and richly decorated baroque and neo-classicist buildings well preserved, it will make you feel like you are walking around some small neighbourhood of Prague or Budapest. It is also one of the most prominent spots of Serbia’s Wine Route. Understand : In ancient times, a small Roman fortress existed at this location. The town itself was first mentioned in 1308, under the name of Karom. Its Serbian name, Karlovci was first recorded in 1532/3. The town was first a possession of Hungarian noble families, but it was conquered by Ottomans in 1521. The fall of the Serbian Despotate to the Turks in 1459 forced many Serbs to move up north, and from this period a larger Serbian presence can be felt in Sremski Karlovci as well. In 1543, the town had three Orthodox churches, a monastery, and was predominantly Serbian.

During the Great Turkish War of the Holy League (Austria, Russia, Hungary, Venice…) against the Ottoman Empire, Sremski Karlovci were conquered by the League in 1688, and it was the location of the congress that ended the hostilities, with the signing of the Treaty of Karlowitz (Karlowitz being the German pronunciation of Karlovci) in 1699. The war had ended with a decisive victory of the Holy League, but for one part: the anti-Ottoman coalition penetrated deeply into the former Serbian territories, causing Serbs to join their ranks and fight for freedom. However, the League later retreated north of the Danube river, leaving Serbs to the mercy of ever-vengeful Turks, causing the First Great Serb Migration of 1689-92, when an even larger number of Serbs settled in these regions, led by Patriarch Arsenius III.
From the time of the Great Migration, Sremski Karlovci had become one of the main Serbian political, cultural and spiritual centres in Austria-Hungary, and the seat of the Orthodox Metropolitan of Karlovci since 1713. First Serbian school in Austria-Hungary opened in Karlovci in 1726, first modern Serbian drama was written and performed here in 1733, as well as the first modern Serbian Theological Seminary in 1794 (second only to the Kievan Seminary), just to mention a few milestones. During the Hungarian bourgeois revolution of 1848, Serbs also stood up for their own rights against Hungarian repression, proclaiming the short-lived Serbian Vojvodina (Vojvodina meaning Duchy, from Serbian vojvoda, duke) as a partially autonomous state under Austria-Hungary.

After WWI, Karlovci became part of the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Kingdom of Yugoslavia after 1929). It was also the centre of White Russian emmigration for a certain period of time, and the first home of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia. During WWII, the town was occupied by Axis powers and given to the Nazi puppet state known as Independent State of Croatia, led by the collaborationist and ultra-nationalistic Croatian part known as Ustasha. Sremski Karlovci were liberated in 1944.

Due to its glorious past, Karlovci even today remain an important spiritual and cultural centre of the Serbian people. It is also one of the most famous centres of viticulture in Vojvodina.

Access : Coordinates: 45.2, 19.933333 / By plane : The closest airport is Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport (IATA: BEG), located some 50 km south of Sremski Karlovci. There is a bus line from the airport to Novi Sad, but it doesn’t pass through the town, so you have two options, to go directly to Novi Sad, and then take a local bus, or to take a bus from Belgrade bus station.
By train : Sremski Karlovci are positioned on the Belgrade-Novi Sad railway line, and there are frequent trains going in both directions. You can check the timetable on the website of Serbian Railways. There is also a special train line called “Romance”, where you can ride a genuine 1930’s steam train, going from Belgrade to Karlovci every Saturday in August, departing from Belgrade Railway Station at 09:00, and returning from Karlovci to Belgrade at 18:05 the same day. Return ticket is 1260 RSD (as of 2014), and it also covers the fees for the tour guide and entrance to the museums in Karlovci. There are also a few departures in September, during the grape-picking season.
By bus : Sremski Karlovci are located on the old Belgrade-Novi Sad road, which is not as busy now as it was before the completion of that section of the E75. However, there are still many buses taking this road, and there are daily over 20 departures from Belgrade main bus station (timetable). Coming from Novi Sad, you can either take the bus to Belgrade, or take a local bus, suburban lines 60, 61 or 62, for about 130 RSD (as of 2014). Local buses to Sremski Karlovci depart from the main bus station in Novi Sad (timetable).

There is no bus station building in Sremski Karlovci, so you will always buy tickets on the bus, and you will have to check for schedules on-line, or with the locals. Novi Sad suburban buses stop in the town centre, near the main square. Buses from Belgrade to Novi Sad stop on the main road, some 3 min away from the centre. Be sure to remind the driver you need to get off at Karlovci.
Get around : Sremski Karlovci is a small town, so everything is accesible on foot, although the local bus lines from Novi Sad have a couple of stops in the town. Even if you don’t feel like walking, once you enter this cosy baroque ambience, you will change your mind.

Attractions : Cultural Heritage : Patriarch’s Court : Trg Branka Radicevica,  +381-21-881-729. 9-13. One of the most monumental XIX-century buildings of Vojvodina, it was completed in 1895 and it served as the residence of the Patriarch of Karlovci, and later as the summer residence of the Patriarch of Serbia after the reunification of the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1920. The building wasn’t damaged during WWII, but many of the valuables were stolen by Germans and Croats. It is surrounded by a beautiful courtyard. The Court today houses the Museum of Serbian Orthodox Church, and it is also the current residence of the Orthodox bishop of the Eparchy of Srem.
Karlovci Magistrate : (Municipal Assembly), Trg Branka Radicevica 6. The Magistrate of Sremski Karlovci is one of the most historical building in town. It was completed in 1811 in the neo-classicist style, and for most of its history it served as the seat of the Town and Municipal Assembly. From its front balcony, now richly decorated with flowers, representatives of Serbs in Austria-Hungary, led by Metropolitan Joseph Rajacic, proclaimed the autonomy of Serbian Vojvodina in 1848.

Four Lions Fountain : Trg Branka Radicevica. Located in the heart of Sremski Karlovci, Four Lions Fountain was erected in 1799, to commemorate the completion of the first waterworks in Karlovci. Legend has it, that anyone who drinks water from the fountain will eventually return to Karlovci. Take a sip and see if it works!

Karlovci High School : Trg Branka Radicevica 2,  +381-21-881-777, . The oldest Serbian high school was founded in Karlovci in 1791, under the auspices of the Metropolitan Stevan Stratimirovic. The building houses an impressive library with many books of great importance to the history of Serbs in Austria-Hungary. Today, it functions as Karlovci Philological High School, one of only two in Serbia (the other one being in Belgrade). edit
Karlovci Theological Seminary : Trg Patrijarha Brankovica 17. Orthodox Theological Seminary in Karlovci was founded in 1794, the second one in the world (Kievan Seminary being the first). It bears the name of Saint Arsenius of Srem (?-1266), the second archbishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church, who was, reportedly, from this region.

Stephaneum : Trg Karlovacke Mitropolije,  +381-21-882-552. The building of Stephaneum, completed in 1903, was first built as a dormitory for the students of the Theological Seminary. Today, it houses the Institute of the Serbian People, and a small gallery with various temporal exhibitions.

Old Pharmacy : Trg Branka Radicevica 13. One of the oldest pharmacies in all Vojvodina, Karlovci Pharmacy was founded in 1880, and it is still open. The interior of the pharmacy was made in the XIX century in Venice, and still remains largely unchanged.

Churches : Cathedral Church of Saint Nicholas : Trg Branka Radicevica. Serbian Orthodox Cathedral Church in Sremski Karlovci is dedicated to the Translation of Relics of Saint Nicholas (22 May), and it was erected in 1762. It is considered to be one of the masterpieces of Serbian baroque. The icons in the iconostasis were painted by famous Serbian artists Zaharije Orfelin (1726-1785), Teodor Kracun (1730-1781) and Paja Jovanovic (1859-1957). The church houses the relics of Saint Arsenius of Srem (-1266), the second archbishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and the wonder-working icon of the Holy Virgin Mary of Bezdin.

Church of Saints Peter and Paul : (Lower Church), Mitropolita Stratimirovica Street. The church dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, commonly known as the Lower Church, was first mentioned 1599, and the current building was erected in 1719, on the foundations of the previous church. It had been closed for a long time, but has been completely restored and reconsecrated in 2014. It is located just behind the main square and the Cathedral church. In the courtyard of the church, there is a mighty and towering plane tree, more than 30 m tall, with an estimated age of 150 years, a protected natural monument in its own right.

Church of the Presentation of Holy Virgin Mary : (Upper Church), Vojvodanska bb. The church of the Presentation, commonly called Upper Church due to its position on top of a smaller hill in town, was completed in 1764, on the foundations of an earlier temple. 58 icons in the rich iconostasis were made by famous baroque painter Dimitrije Bacevic (-1770), himself a native of Karlovci. Many important figures from the history of Karlovci are buried in the church’s courtyard. The church is in need of restoration, but it is still open, and can usually be visited in the morning.
Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity:  Trg Branka Radicevica. Located right next to the Orthodox Cathedral Church, the Catholic church in the town was completed in 1768. Its portal is considered to be one of the most beautiful examples of baroque portals in Serbia.

Catholic chapel of Our Lady of Peace : (Peace Chapel), Karlovackog mira Street,  +381-62-853-70-01. 8-19. The signing of the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699 took place on a hill overlooking the town, in a wooden hall erected specially for the occasion, with doors on all four sides, to allow the representatives of all sides to enter at the same time, and in the middle stood a round table for the negotiators – the first such example in European diplomacy. It was later turned into a Catholic chapel, dedicated to Our Lady of Peace, and the wooden structure was replaced with the current stone building in 1808. It is currently used for the celebration of Mass only a couple of times a year. It can be visited every day, but you have to phone Mrs. Mara Maletic, the current custodian (as of 2013), to open it for you. In case you have a problem communicating with her because of the language barrier (she might not speak English), you should check with the Tourist Office in town to have them arrange it for you. 60 RSD.

Natural Attractions : Strazilovo Hill :  with the grave and statue of Branko Radicevic : Strazilovo. The most famous Serbian romantic poet Branko Radicevic (1824-1853) was a pupil in the Karlovci High School. He died of consumption in Vienna at the age of 29. His last will was to be buried on Strazilovo hill overlooking Sremski Karlovci, and his remains were moved to this location in 1883. His grave was demolished by Ustashi Croats during WWII, and after many years of neglect it was restored in 2011. Strazilovo is located 4 km west of Karlovci, and is the favourite excursion site for locals in the summer.
Karlovci Belvedere (Vidikovac) : Magarcev breg. 08-24. The beautiful panorama view of Sremski Karlovci can be enjoyed from the Belvedere on Magarcev breg (Donkey Hill), some 300 m south of the main square. There is also a monument to Serbian writer and poet Dusko Trifunovic (1933-2006) on the hill. Belvedere can be accessed from Pupinova Street.

Museums and GalleriesSremski Karlovci Museum:  Patrijarha Rajacica 16, . 09-17, every day except Sunday. Museum is located in the historical building of Ilion, the former residence of the Patriarch of Karlovci, completed in 1848.

Jovan Zivanovic Apiculture Museum and Winery : Mitropolita Stratimirovica 86b, . 10-19, every day. Jovan Zivanovic Apiculture Museum and Winery can give you a nice insight into the local tradition of apiculture (beekeeping), as it is opened on the estate of the first educated beekeeper in Karlovci, Jovan Zivanovic, by his direct descendants who are still in the business. There is also an impressive 300-year-old wine cellar, and the possibility to try many of the local wines from the Winery. Museum is open every day, since it is a functioning country estate, but it might be better to phone in advance (English is understood) if you are with a bigger group.
Culture Centre Gallery:  Trg Branka Radicevica 7, . The gallery, unfortunately, doesn’t have a permanent exhibition, but there are many temporal exhibitions throughout the year.
Paleta Gallery :  Patrijarha Rajacica 14  . “Paleta” Gallery houses the works of a distinguished contemporary Serbian painter Milan Kecic (1910-1998). It is open for visitors mostly during the summer, but all visits should be phoned in advance to Mrs. Olivera Kecic.
Swabian Ethnic House :  Andreja Volnog 1a . Swabian Ethnic House is a part of the Foundation for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of the Danube Swabians. It is located in an authentic and well preserved Swabian house from the mid-XVII century. Visits should be planned and phoned in advance.

Activities : Karlovci Grape Picking Festival,   +381-21-685-30-01. Karlovci Grape Picking Festival emerged from a traditional folk celebration that marked the beginning of grape-picking season. This manifestation was reestablished in 1992, and has taken place in the town ever since, during the last weekend of September, or first weekend of October. It is the biggest cultural manifestation in Sremski Karlovci, attracting as many as 100 000 visitors every year.
Gugelhupf Festival :  +381-21-881-707. Organized by the Danube Swabian Cultural Centre, it is a traditional manifestation that centers around the competition in making the famous cake called Gugelhupf (Serb. kuglof).

Museum Night :  +381-21-882-855 . A traditional manifestation taking place all over Europe also exists in Sremski Karlovci, a city that is a museum itself. Every June (sometimes in May, though), local museum, galleries and other institutions organize various exhibitions and cultural programs that are open throughout the night.
Treaty of Karlowitz Anniversary,  +381-21-685-30-00. Anniversary of the Treaty of Karlowitz (26 Jan) is marked by a historians’ symposium and an appropriate cultural program.
Karlovci Karate Cup: 23 October Primary School,  +381-21-881-357. Karlovci Karate Cup attracts about 400 participants every year. It takes place in mid-April.
Karlovci Artist Colony :  +381-21-881-075. Exhibition of contemporary artists’ paintings and the accompanying cultural program. End of May, beginning of June.
Vojvodina Trophy Strazilovo :  +381-63-505-509. Biking club “Fanatic” from Novi Sad organizes extreme mountain bike races for the Trophy of Vojvodina every year in June.
Brankovo kolo :  +381-21-881-028. One of the biggest gatherings of poets in Serbia takes place in Sremski Karlovci in the beginning of September.
Brankovo kolo Youth Folklore Ensemble Annual Concert :  +381-21-883-722. Annual concert of Brankovo kolo Ensemble takes place in December, and also includes a “fashion show” of ethnic costumes.

Go next : novi-sad /  Fruska Gora / Palic lake / Sombor / Belgrade / Subotica / Croatia


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