White Sails in the Sea of Wheat
They are traces of a past stylishness, which we nostalgically remember. From Novi Kneževac to the Vršac Mountains, about fifteen have remained. Dressed in beautiful parks, hidden from vulgar curiosity of modern barbarians, most of them renewed, these edifices have an undisputed cultural and tourism potential. Hoping that it will finally be understood in the appropriate instances, we are taking you to a light cruise

Text and photo: Miodrag Grubački

About fifteen old palaces and castles have been preserved in Banat. Each of them, of course, has its own story. Many are untold, many forgotten, many mysterious from their very beginning. We are taking you for a walk, first on these pages, and later it all depends on your curiosity and imagination.
According to official definitions, a palace is a representative, unique edifice, erected outside of the temporary residence of the owner, intended for resting or residential activities. They are featured by large dimensions and specific decoration, both exterior and interior. Castles are less luxurious, but with similar purpose and function, sometimes for a longer stay of the owner and his entire family. They were built in Banat mostly during the XIX century, by rich landowners and members of their families, later often moving into the hands of new owners.


Northernmost, in Novi Kneževac, four castles were erected, in a vast space along the left, Banat bank of the Tisa. The Servijski-Šulpe castle is among the oldest single-story buildings of this type in this part of Serbia, built in the last decade of the XVIII century. It has the most luxurious appearance, and today holds part of the local municipality administration. It was built by Marko Đurković, member of a Tzintzar family from Novi Sad, who later added the aristocratic ”de Servijski” to his name. One of the owners of the castle was also aristocrat Katarina Šulpe, so the castle also has her surname in its name.
Novo Miloševo, one of the biggest village settlements in Banat, owes most part of its development to the aristocratic family Karačonji, whose members raised a large agricultural estate on the edge of then Beodra. The then prefect of the Torontal county, Laslo Karačonji, in the period from 1842-1846, built a single-storey, classicism-style castle on the estate, with a symmetric façade, one of the largest in Vojvodina, as well as several accompanying objects, two parks, even a semi-Olympic swimming pool. After the fall of Austro-Hungary, the castle has changed its owners and purpose several times, and today it is the administrative and production headquarters of a chemical company. It is partially conserved, but its beauty can be admired only through the fence, from the main Novo Miloševo street.
About ten kilometers north of Novo Miloševo, in Bočar, on the estate of the German Hertelendi family, two castles were raised in the early and mid-XIX century, one classicism and the other in secession style. They were raised by brothers Karolj and Mikša, and after the death of Karolj’s son and end of the Hertelendi dynasty, they came into possession of Ivan Bajić and Alojz Bajer in 1891. They redecorated it for their needs, so the castles have been carrying the name Hertelendi-Bajić or Hertelendi-Bajer until today. The Hertelendi-Bajić castle is a ground floor building with a long rectangular basis, a nice example of residential objects built in Vojvodina in early XIX century, while the Hertelendi-Bajer castle is also a ground floor building, but with a humbler appearance, in the form of the Cyrillic letter ”P”, with long yard wings. A psychiatric hospital used to be there until 2005, and after it was cancelled, the building was abandoned and left to ruin. The reconstruction and revitalization of the castle began five years ago, for accommodating children with special needs, but the works were stopped in the meantime.


In the Konak village, half way from Zrenjanin to Vršac and a few kilometers from the Romanian border, two castles were built in a period of half a century. The Jagodić family castle, whose history was used for the novel and TV series, was built in 1835 in the forest on the edge of the village. The building raised by Petar Jagodić belongs to the ”field castle” type, with a beautiful park surrounding it. It is symmetrical and rectangular. Turning the castle from residential to business space after World War II caused many changes in its interior. The restoration began in 2007 it successful completion brought the castle its former glory.
At the entrance of the same village from the direction of Vršac, in the vicinity of the Brzava river, count Ladislav Danijel built a classicism castle in 1884, simple and elegant, indented for the luxurious residence of the landowner’s family. The park with rare exotic species and the castle with its accompanying objects, make a protected whole of undisputable value. The castle has been hosting an elementary school since 1959. Conservation works have been done twice, in 1984 and 1988. The very building and park around it are well preserved.
Members of the Armenian landowner family Danijel built two more castles in the neighboring village of Stari Lec, both in the village center, one next to the other. The big castle was built in 1890 by count Pal Danijel, later prefect of the Tamiš county, while the small castle from 1894 belonged to Ema Danijel, Pal’s cousin. The third member of the Danijel family, Janoš, built it for Ema. Both castles are ground floor buildings, classicism-style, in good shape, and today make part of the complex of the home for neurologic patients. The big castle is recognizable for its octagonal watchtower on the side, the mark of the entire village with a population of a bit less than a thousand.
In the vicinity of Stari Lec, like a lighthouse in the infinite plain, rests the Kapetanovo castle, pearl of such building style in Banat. It was erected in 1904 by Botka Bela, prefect of the Tamiš county, and named after one of its later owners, Milan Kapetanov, who had it until the nationalization after World War II. It was built looking up to medieval castles, outside of the residential area, in neo-gothic style, with many elements indicating the wish of the builders to leave something unusual for these lands. High pediments with graded edges are on three sides of the castle, and a tower with a serrated ending of walls is on the fourth. The restored Kapetanovo brings travelers an unexpected view of the plain, incredibly white. Besides the specific architecture, it is also famous for various legends. The most popular one is about the mysterious lock of blond hair, told with pleasure by many inhabitants of Stari Lec.


Only five kilomenters from Kapetanovo is the village of Hajdučica, known for the castle of Lazar Dunđerski, famous landowner from Vojvodina and owner of breweries in Čelarevo and Zrenjanin. Surrounded with a wonderful park, the castle has been resisting time for more than a hundred and thirty-five years. The building is ground floor, but high, classicism-style. Under its entire surface is a wine cellar. The surrounding park is very beautiful, made as a combination of English and French style. According to some experts, it is the best preserved and most valuable XIX century park in the entire Serbia.
Under the Vršac Mountains, in Veliko Središte, there are two castles of the aristocratic Lazarević family – the larger one built between 1860 and 1870, and the smaller in 1900. The older castle is not only bigger, but also more beautiful, classicistic. Gothic elements prevail in the smaller one, including interesting angle towers. They stand next to one another, in a thick park. The larger was adapted for the village school, while the smaller one is not used.
The youngest of all castles in Banat is from World War II. It was erected upon the order of German field marshal Herman Gering from 1942-1944. He confiscated the estate on the edge of Srpska Crnja from its former owner Šajević, and gave it to general Neuhausen, supplier of the army and inhabitants in occupied Banat. He built a castle on the estate, in (interestingly) ”Russian classicism style”, with a symmetric basis, luxurious stairways and balconies. The castle was nationalized immediately after the liberation, its owner was the ”Jakšićevo” Agricultural Good for a long time, and from the 1980s it was adapted into a restaurant. After the renovation in 2001, it became a beautiful hotel, today owned by a company from Timisoara, a city about fifty kilometers away.
It’s probably most appropriate to end the story about the castles of Banat in the Castle of the Lazar family in Ečka, near Zrenjanin. It has the most detailed chronicles, with many interesting participants and events. The rich Armenian merchant Lazar Lukač raised the classicism-style castle in 1820. At the official opening ceremony, on August 29, the nine year-old wunderkind Franz List delighted numerous guests with his piano skills. The famous count Esterhazy, one of the richest landowners in Hungary, was also a guest at the event. Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia were frequent guests of the Castle and surrounding hunting grounds in the later decades, as well as Petar I Karađorđević, before taking over the Serbian throne. A real mundane life took place in Ečka, full of balls, fencing, bow and arrow and hunting competitions. The afar famous stable, with over a hundred and fifty horses, was in the castle park. Important parts of the Lazar landowner family estate also included the water tower on the bank of the Begej, Roman-Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist and livery stable.
The renewed Castle is today a luxurious restaurant, surrounded with a spacious park, with a large bronze fountain, monument to St. Hubert, protector of hunters and the sculpture ”Girl with a Bird”. The park has been a gathering place for fine artists for decades, who come here to the Art Colony ”Ečka”. Many events important for both Ečka and Zrenjanin, only about five kilometers away, take place here.
At the end of this stroll through the Banat plain, we notice that only two of these castles are part of the tourist offer (in Ečka and Srpska Crnja), although most of them are in solid state, renewed in the previous years. With a bit more awareness of their significance and potentials, mainly cultural and touristic, they could truly become the treasure of entire Serbia.


Lock of Blond Hair
After his bankruptcy in 1938 and being forced to sell his castle near Stari Lec, Botka Bola could not anticipate that his wife, incapable of enduring such a loss, will pour herself with gasoline and set fire. They say she burned quickly and that the only thing left from her was a lock of blond hair, which flew around the castle for a long time. The legend further says that each August 2, on the day of St. Elijah, a shadow of a woman with long blond hair appears at night in one of the rooms of Kapetanovo, watching into the Banat plain. Today, when mowing around the castle, many feel that, instead of grass, a lock of blond hair got entangled in their tools.


Fear of Glass
A legend says that the Lazarević brothers liked to go on sleigh rides. When there was no snow, they ordered glass from Pančevo and sleighed and skated on it. Once the glass broke into numerous pieces, injuring both brothers and the wife of one of them. They fell ill from glassofobia, they saw glass everywhere and images of glass haunted them, so shortly after they left the estate in Veliko Središte under the Vršac Mountains.


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