One of the many items on my “to see” list for Belgrade is Tito’s tomb, otherwise known as the “House of Flowers”. Previously I had only a cursory knowledge of Tito, and even less of Milosevic, and to be quite honest, Yugoslavian politics and history has always confused me, even though I’ve been hearing about it for years, and listening for hours and hours to my husband talk about it. He is a history buff. So one afternoon after class I hopped on the bus with my friend Christophe, from Grenoble, France, and we found our way to the House of Flowers. “Kucha Svecha”. The grounds are open every day except Monday and have normal working hours. Contrary to Wikipedia information, the entrance is not free. I was charged 300 Dinars to visit.
Tito was the communist dictator of the former Yugoslavia, and remained in power until his death in 1980. Yugoslavia continued to exist as a country for at least a decade before it began to disintegrate into the separate nation states as we know today. Many locals, especially older ones, may not gain much from visiting, since they may have experienced Tito’s presence first hand. But for a foreigner, this is a place I would highly recommend visiting, in order to get a general impression of the “Tito Years”
The Yugoslavia museum that is located there was currently closed, which is quite a shame, especially considering that the National Museum located by Trg Republic is also currently closed for renovations. The trip is still worth it however, because a visitor can view both the House of Flowers, which includes both an elaborate display and the burial site of Tito. Also, there is the “Old Museum”, which housed a varied display of Yugoslavian artifacts including traditional clothing, musical instruments, and weaponry, along with hundreds of gifts that various countries (both from the former Yugoslavia and beyond) had given Tito.
The most interesting part of the visit was the display of Batons given to Tito every year on his birthday. There were hundreds, maybe even thousands of batons on display from countries all over the former Yugoslavia. These batons were brought to Tito as a part of a relay race in which the youth of the nation participated in. The hand-made batons were intricately decorated and made of various materials such as wood, metal and stone, and were carefully inscribed, usually with something like, “To Our Dear Tito” “From, the Yugoslavian Communist Youth”, or perhaps, from The Albanian Music Organization, or even, the Athletic group of Southern Croatia, or the People of Slovenia. There were pictures of children sprinting all over the map with the batons, eagerly handing them off to the next runner, and finally, presenting them to Tito himself. This was quite an eye-opening display of the broad range of Tito’s presence.
The Yugoslavian political history is quite complex, and very hard to follow. This museum offers a glimpse into one main component of this history. Overall, very interesting and educational experiences indeed, if you’re ever in Belgrade, go see it.