VIMINACIUM - A TOURIST ATTRACTION
Viminacium was devastated and destroyed in the middle of the 5th century, and it remained forgotten and buried like Pompeii, which disappeared under a flood of lava from Vesuvius in 79 A.D.. That analogy and the recognition that the remains of the Roman town and the military camp represent a site of exceptional interest explains why Viminacium has been called the Balkan Pompeii.
All the legionary camps and Roman towns lie under modern agglomerations today - Londinum lies under the present London, Novaesium under Neuss, Castra Regina under Regensburg, Mogontiacum under Meinz, Mediolanum under Milan, Emona under Ljubljana, Aquincum under Budapest - and that fact makes excavation difficult. What distinguishes Viminacium from other archaeological sites and makes it particularly important is the exceptional wealth of finds contained already in its surface, arable layer. As a result, more than 13.500 graves have been explored in the past twenty-five years and more than 32.000 finds have been deposited in the vaults of the Museum.
However, although Viminacium is an exceptional archaeological site without exact parallel in any other region, we cannot but feel regret because of the sad fact that its treasures, which are of inestimable value, are often conveyed out of the country to enrich foreign museums and private collections.
The joint support of the municipality of Požarevac, the Republic of Serbia and the local firms, as well as the cooperation of the archaeologists abroad could make Viminacium an important tourist attraction and a significant source of income for the entire district.
Viminacium lies in the way of the expanding strip mine "Drmno". The experts and authorities, though aware of the importance of energents for the development of the country, are nevertheless trying to find means to preserve as large a part of the site of Viminacium as possible, for they consider it an exceptionally valuable testimony of the past which should be bequeathed to the future generations. According to the planned development of the "Drmno" strip mine, the zone of the Roman town and the military camp will not be endangered before 2040. Viminacium, however, covers as area of more than 450 hectares, and the town areals are directly menaced by the advancing mine. Some exceptional monuments are located in this area. They include an aqueduct nearly 10 kilometers long, some late classical basilicas, agricultural estates of Roman veterans, villae rusticae, and Roman roads which connected Viminacium with the neighboring towns. Some of these monuments have been discovered by the methods of remote detection, the analysis of aerial photos, geo-radar and magnetometric examination, and some have been archaeologically explored. A section of the aqueduct, partly archaeologically explored, had to be dislocated, for it stood in the way of the advancing strip mine "Drmno". Since bulldozers extending the mine had already demolished some parts of the aqueduct, it became urgent to commence salvaging operations. The dislocated part was used to replace a previously destroyed section of the aqueduct, the site and direction of which could be established. This monument is of great interest and it requires speedy conservation, protection and presentation. The explored part of the aqueduct is also seriously threatened because of the lack of funds. Some other important Roman monuments will be also endangered by strip-mining. A very short distance from the creeping front of the mine is a very important Roman basilica from the 4th century, which must be relocated and conserved very soon if it is to be preserved.
As the Law Concerning the Cultural Monuments of the Republic of Serbia prescribes, investors operating in areas of archaeological interest (in this particular case the firm "JPPK Kostolac") must provide the necessary funds for the preliminary archaeological surveys and explorations and for the relocation of monuments, their conservation, restoration, presentation and publication.
If we bear in mind the exceptional character of the site of Viminacium, it is quite clear that the explorations involved exceed the limited financial resources of the "JPPK Kostolac". The main difficulty in the financing of these explorations stems from the fact that the Elektroprivreda Srbije (Serbian Electric Supply Service) has not allocated sufficient funds for Viminacium. It is essential that the Elektroprivreda Srbije and the respective ministry, i.e. the Ministry of Energy, meet their legal obligations and allocate the necessary funds for archaeological explorations. The Viminacium project, directed by the Archaeological Institute of the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts, will be realized in cooperation with the Institute for the Protection of the Monuments of Culture of the Republic of Serbia..
It should be recalled that Viminacium was placed under the state protection as a monument of culture - archaeological site as early as 1949. In 1979 the Serbian Assembly declared Viminacium a cultural monument of exceptional importance (Official Gazette SRS, 14-79)
Archaeology can, and should,. and must be profitable. The explored archaeological monuments should be protected, conserved, covered and presented as objects of tourist interest. There are many indications that Viminacium can become an attractive tourist destination as one of the richest archaeological sites from the Roman period,. A particular asset is the airport for light aircraft which is only three kilometers distant from the site. At the same distance from Viminacium is the Danube, which is not only an excellent natural thoroughfare, but is also considered "the river of culture" from its source to its mouth. This lends further support to the conception of Viminacium as a site of cultural interest and a source of profit.
Accordingly, further investment into the archaeological explorations at Viminacium will contribute to the development of tourism in this area, which is already an important centre of agricultural and energy production.
Why Viminacium Should Gain Access to the River?
Viminacium is only 4.5 kilometers distant from the Danube, the river which connects a number of states and bears lively traffic. Besides, the passengers of the Danubian tourist cruisers display considerable interest in the cultural monuments to be seen in the ports of call of their ships. Therefore the Danube is of exceptional importance for the development of Viminacium as a tourist attraction. Two hundred and fifty ships with about 35.000 passengers have put into the port of Belgrade in 2005. About 150 ships with 30.000 passengers have stopped at Novi Sad in the same year. It is expected that about 300 ships will stop at Belgrade in 2006, while the number of ships putting in at Novi Sad will remain roughly the same, so that a total of about 200.000 passengers will have passed through the Serbian part of the Danube by the end of 2006.
Owing to the special regime of navigation, Novi Sad and Belgrade are the only ports of call of foreign passenger ships in Serbia. The average duration of their stay in these ports is four to eight hours, and the average duration of the sight-seeing tours organized for the passengers, which consist of the usual visits to the places of interest in the town, is about four hours. The considerable distance of Viminacium from Belgrade and Novi Sad (the average journey by bus from Belgrade to Viminacium takes 1.8 hours) and the difficulties in providing an adequate number of buses conforming to the EU standards, which increase the cost of the transfer of passengers, make it impracticable to organize trips to this attractive archaeological site from the present ports of call. Since the cruising market is expanding, the demands for "alternative" destinations have considerably increased. Viminacium is located on an arm of the Danube, only 4.5 kilometers from its navigable course and represents an attractive location for the typical Western visitors - tourists of advanced age and generally well educated.
An unfavorable circumstance - but also a possible advantage if the visits to Viminacium from the Danube are carefully planned - is the fact that the timetable of the cruisers envisages the passage through the Iron Gate by daylight.. A visit to Viminacium in the afternoon during the season (March-November) might replace a morning without a program in Belgrade. Alternatively, a visit might be organized during the morning hours with the return trip in the afternoon.
At least a fair number, and very probably most of the passengers on the Danube might be attracted to Viminacium in 2006 if the following basic amenities and activities were provided:
- a landing on the Danube;
- the transfer of passengers from the landing to the site in buses of adequate quality and comfort;
- an accompanying program lasting one to three hours, depending on the wishes of the tourist agency.
THE LANDING ON THE DANUBE
It is necessary to construct, as near the site as possible, an adequate landing on the Danube, with electricity and water laid on, and with the necessary infrastructure for the Customs and Police, the parking of buses and the embarkation of passengers.
The shortest way from the landing to the site is 4.5 kilometers. Several types of vehicles should be provided - at least three top quality buses, as well as a few old-timers, cabriolets and open vehicles.
Three forms of visits are planned:
Basic - lasting one hour, which includes a tour of the three existing sites.
Extended - lasting two hours, with a visit to the Museum of Požarevac or a possible outlying department of the Museum.
Full - lasting three hours, with a lecture by a specialist on each location and a concert on one of the sites (the baths or the mausoleum).
The revival of Viminacium will be important not only for experts, but also for all those to whom a better knowledge of the exceptionally important role of this area will help to form a better idea of the so-called arid historical periods. Viminacium can be preserved only by restoring it to the context to which it belongs historically. The visions of arriving ships, waiting buses and crowds of tourists are not mere figments of idle imagination; they are projections of a future based on the knowledge gained by archaeological excavations. Moreover, it is fitting to end the story of the past - and of the future of Viminacium - as it began, with the words of Flavius Gratianus: "Maybe the stay in this town forebodes good ".