Novi Sad’s legendary Petrovaradin Fortress is the military command you only wish you dreamt up as a kid.

One of the most substantial, complex and preserved artillery bastions – a protected maze of underground tunnels and mine galleries with listening tunnels.

Tour well-preserved barracks, officers’ pavilions, food warehouses, arsenals, water stations, guard-houses, artillery sheds, powder houses, chapels and monumental main gates. Modern additions include a nightclub, delicious restaurants offering various specialties, pastry shops, historical archive, museum, observatory, planetarium, synagogue and artists’ studios and galleries. A unique Clock Tower, with the clock’s face more than 6.5 feet high and the roles of the minute and hour hands reversed (so that the big hand points to the hour and the small hand indicates the minute), sits high up on the bluff, letting fisherman see the time from far off. The clock still operates and rings every hour. Another popular stop are the catacombs located in the fortress, which are believed to contain the riches of Serbia’s medieval leaders. And of course, it offers stunning views over the city of Novi Sad and its bridges.

A legend tells that the Petrovaradin name is derived from numerous languages – ‘Petra’ is Latin for rock, ‘var’ is Hungarian for town and ‘din is Turkish for faith – hence ‘Petrovaradin’ literally means ‘the town on the rock, firm as faith.’ But it is also often called the “Gibraltar of the Danube” because of its strategic position on the cliffs.

The fort takes design cues from master military engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban’s fortified system of bastion lines (AmaWaterways tours one of his premier fortresses in Blaye, France). An extraordinary example of 18th century engineering, the history of Novi Sad dates back thousands of years. While remains of archaic military ramparts were discovered to be from the early Bronze Age (circa 3000 BC), archaeologists have discovered that there has been a continuous settlement here since the Paleolithic Age (19,000-15,000 BC).

Originally constructed under Roman rule, Cistercian monks expanded upon the fortress in the 13th century. Later, the Ottomans captured it in 1526 before it came under fire again and was won over by the Austrians in 1687. Knowing they needed to build a more secure fortress to keep the Turks at bay, and protect Vienna and Budapest from a further siege – the Austrians demolished what was left of the medieval fort in 1690.

A delegate of Emperor Leopold I laid the cornerstone of the present-day fortress on October 18, 1692. When it was completed 88 years later, it was the strongest and best-equipped fortress in the Austrian Empire with a garrison of 4000 people, 400 canons and massive gunpowder warehouses. Still, by this time the threat of war did not loom as large and so, in effect, the fortress became more of an administrative, army, spy and information centre. It has since been demilitarised. In 1991, it was listed as a cultural and historical complex of great importance.

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