The cliffs near Svrljig as a history textbook

Milena Mihajlovic | Live the World

November 23, 2022

A travelogue of walking between the cliffs, natural defensive walls, discovering stoned ancient animals and watching a modern train cut through the rocks with a piercing whistle, that’s both impressive and almost frightening.

Cliffs near Svrljig and Nisevac © Credits to Terra Incognita

When walking through the immense cliffs and rocks surrounding the town of Svrljig, I get the feeling that this place was somehow very important once. The dramatic scenery at the edge of the village Nisevac had more purpose during the Roman and Ottoman times but to simply invite the tourists to walk in awe, like today. These cliffs follow an ancient Roman road and serve as an open history textbook of sorts.

Prehistoric prints on the cliffs near Svrljig

There are multiple archeological and historic and prehistoric sites near Svrljig. While walking the thrilling path, where once stood the ancient Roman road, our guide Nenad has pointed out that it’s possible to find the prehistoric fossils all over the path. A bit skeptic, we kept looking through the random stones, until our eyes got adjusted to recognizing the very specific details, that tell a story of long-gone marine animals who lived here. I even collected a few shell-shaped stones. The thought has stuck with me of how impressive it is to have a souvenir “only” millions of years old.

The Roman Road © Credits to Terra Incognita

These fossils testify to hardly imaginable times, when the cliffs and stones that we walk on were no more than an oddly shaped sea bottom. The calcium carbonate rocks near Svrljig are shaped by both history and nature, and they hide many caves, and who knows how many strange old traces of life. The caves within this area, like Prekonoska cave and Samar cave, were home to many large prehistoric animals like cave foxes and bears and even the early hominids.

Roman history near Svrljig

Stunning views toward cliffs © Credits to Terra Incognita

For years, it was thought that another ancient Roman city was lost, and it’s unspecified location remained unnoticed for long. I’m talking about Timacum Maius, whose sibling ancient town Timacum Minus was declared the Monument of Culture of Great Importance in 1979, and is protected by the Republic of Serbia. Unlike it’s smaller sibling, Timacum Maius was discovered only recently, in 2012, near Svrljig. To date, it remains covered by the veil of mystery and thick layer of dirt, as the detailed excavation and diggings were not carried out, due to the lack of finances. Some written sources suggest that it was, as its name says (lat. maius), a major stop on the ancient Roman route through Eastern Europe. Timacum Maius has appeared on the ancient Roman ”Peuntinger’s Map”, but its real location went undiscovered until 2012, after more than 150 years of debate.

Timacum Maius © Credits to Terra Incognita

While walking the well-marked trails of Eastern Serbia, the centuries sweep by me, and I get an intimidating feeling that I am standing in a place that resists the time. The towns are the symbols of civilization, they are built, and they fall, and new ones pop up in a blink of an eye. But these rocks take everything in. They don’t forget, they don’t fade away. They are engraved with stories of glory, of hunger, of peace, and unstoppable course of nature. And ours, the visitors, duty is to walk through these open history textbooks, like right here, on the cliffs near Svrljig, admire the power of time, an ongoing evolution of our society, and make these stories alive once again.

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