Belgrade’s Tesla Museum: Celebrating Serbia’s Famous Son
Before we moved back to the States, I made a Belgrade Bucket List in an attempt to conquer the city before we left. Of course, the list was long, and we wound up missing out on some quintessential city activities. Like going to the Nikola Tesla museum.
If you should have the good fortune to meet at Serb, and that person doesn’t mention Nikola Tesla in the first hour, then I must say: you have not met a Serb. Tesla is one of the most famous Serbians, ever. He was a renown scientist who contributed to the development of AC current, wireless electric power transmission, the remote control, x-rays, and foresaw wireless signals similar to the internet. AND he inspired an amazing 80’s band and a verrry cool car. What have you done lately?
The man is so famous that three countries vie to call him their own. Tesla was born in 1846 in modern-day Croatia to Serb parents. His father and maternal grandfather were Serbian Orthodox priests, but he has famously stated he was “equally proud” of his “Serbian origin and Croatian homeland.” In 1891, seven years after moving to America, he became an American citizen, and expressed his pride to be an American, too.
After moving to the U.S. in 1884, he spent the rest of his life there, mostly in New York. Sadly, he was a great scientist but a terrible businessman. He was cheated out of patents and funding, spent his grants and savings on experiments, and died penniless in New York City in 1943.
You can understand my disbelief that we lived in Belgrade and never went to the Tesla museum. We figured we would go with our numerous guests and get sick of the place–but sent guests there without us instead. So when we came back to the city as tourists, the Testa Museum was one of our first stops. The museum is on Krunska, a pretty, mansion-lined street.
The museum offers tours in English, and I wouldn’t recommend seeing it any other way. After a short video about Tesla’s life, our tour guide demonstrated experiments to our group of 18 European visitors. We first demonstrated the tesla coil’s wireless power. Check out the arc of electricity and the people holding fluorescent tubes. Look ma, no wires!
we also saw Tesla’s remote control boat move:
and even got to feel AC current pass through us. The docent explained how the current couldn’t hurt us, but I let this random dude test it out before I gave it a shot.
Finally, we were led to Tesla’s resting place. His remains are stored in a golden sphere, which is supposedly Tesla’s favorite shape. I think there’s more to this, but can’t remember the exact story. Maybe that AC current was stronger than advertised.
The museum is a little short on details–especially about his later life in America and incredible fondness for pigeons–but the experiments and local pride make up for it.
Tesla might be gone, but he’s not forgotten. Recently, Tesla fans raised over a million dollars to build a Tesla museum at the sight of the Wardenclyffe Tower, where Tesla experimented with wireless broadcasting. George Clooney is rumored to be interested in playing Tesla in a developing movie. He’ll have big shoes to fill after David Bowie’s Tesla in the underrated movie The Prestige. (How is Bowie so foxy after all these years?)
Could it be that we’re in the midst of a Tesla revivial? Perhaps. And if not, I’m at least glad to knock another item off my Belgrade Bucket List.