Avala (Serbian Cyrillic: Авала) is the mountain overlooking the city of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. Nicknamed one of two "Belgrade mountains" (the other one being the mountain of Kosmaj), it is situated in the south-eastern corner of the city and provides a great panoramic view to Belgrade, Vojvodina and Šumadija, as the surrounding area on all sides is mostly a lowlands. It stands at 511 metres (1,677 ft) above sea level, which means it enters the mountain category just by 11 meters.
The Avala is located 16 kilometers south-east of Belgrade. Entire area of the mountain belongs to the Belgrade City area, majority of it being in the municipality of Voždovac, with eastern slopes being in the municipality of Grocka, and southernmost extension in the municipality of Sopot. It is possible that in the near future entire are of the Avala will create a separate municiality of Belgrade, named Avalski Venac.
The Avala is a low, type of the Pannonian island mountain, though it is actually the northernmost mountain in Šumadija. Until 600,000 years ago, when the surrounding low areas were flooded by the inner Pannonian Sea, the Avala was an island, just as the neighboring mountains (Kosmaj, Fruška Gora, etc) , thus earning its geographical classification. However, the Avala remains an "island mountain" as the area around it, Pinosava plateau of the northern Low Šumadija, is low and mostly flat. In the north it extends into the woods of Stepin Lug.
Mountain is built of serpentine, limestone and magmatic rocks, which are injected in the shape of cone (laccolith). Other peaks include Ladne vode (340 meters), Zvečara (347 meters), Sakinac (315 meters). The Avala had deposits of ores, most notably lead and mercury's ore of cinnabarite but mining activities which can be traced to the pre-Antiquity times, ceased in the 1960s. The Avala is also a location where mineral avalite, named after the mountain, was found. AA greenish mineral, chromian, magnesian or potassic alumosilicate (variety of the mineral illite), it was discovered by the Serbian chemist Simo Lozanić who established its formula. Optically examined by the Israeli minerologist Tamir Grodek who classified it as a member of the mica mineral group. .
Despite being only mountain in the area, the Avala is not a source of many rivers. The Topčiderka river, originating in the woods of Lipovička šuma on the south-west, flows on the western slopes of the Avala, while river Bolečica flows on the eastern slopes. Other minor flows include the Vranovac, a tributary to the Bolečica. Small artificial lake near the village of Pinosava is created on the western slope of the mountain. The settlements in the area are notorios for problems with shortages of drinking water during summer.
In the Middle Ages, the town of Žrnov or "Avalski Grad" (Avala town) was located on top of the Avala. In 1442. it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, which built a new town in Žrnov's place as a counter-fortress to the Belgrade city fort, and renamed it "havale", which originally comes from Arabic and means "obstacle", "shelter".
The mountain has been protected since 1859 as a "monument of nature", or, by the modern standards, "sight of the exquisite values". That year, Prince Miloš Obrenović of Serbia issued an order for the Avala to get fenced and protected that way. Remains of the medieval Žrnov were removed in the 1934 to make a way for the Monument to the Unknown Hero. In the period of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the mountain was declared a national park, in 1936. In 1946, by the ukaz of the Presidium of the National Assembly of Serbia, the Avala was reduced to the status of the "public property of general benefit" and placed under direct management of the Government of Serbia. In 1965, a 202 m high Avala TV Tower was constructed, one of the tallest structures in the Balkans, by the architects Uglješa Bogunović, Slobodan Janjić and M.Krstić. It had a restaurant-look out on 120 meters. The tower was destroyed during the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999. It's total reconstruction began in 2006 and it is to be completed by the end of 2008. The new tower is almost the exact replica of the destroyed one, including the unique three-feet base. Belgrade's General Urbanistic Plan (GUP) for the 2001-2021 period defines the mountain as the sports and recreation area.
Settlements near the mountain are not much populous. They include Ripanj (on the south, the largest one, with a population of 10,741 by the 2002 census of population), Pinosava (on the west, 2,839), Zuce (on the north-east, 2,024), Beli Potok (on the north, 3,417), all in the municipality of Voždovac, and Vrčin (on the east, 8,667), in the municipality of Grocka. A motion is in the process of creating a new municipality called Avalski Venac, which would include all these settlements and possible few others, but the acting mayor of Belgrade, Zoran Alimpić stated that new municipalities will probably not be formed before 2011 or 2012.
Despite being officially protected for almost 150 years, it was only in 2007 that a preservation plans for the mountain were made. That way, the Avala entered a circle of protected green areas of Belgrade, which also include the mountain of Kosmaj, the island of Veliko Ratno Ostrvo and the wood of Stepin Lug, with the forests of Košutnjak and Topčider to be added next. Protected area of the Avala covers an area of 489,13 hectares.
Aside from the rich animal life, the Avala is known for it's diverse plant life, despite not being a tall mountain. There are over 600 plant species living on the mountain. Some of them are protected by the law as a natural rarities, like certain types of laburnum or box tree. The area is also abundant in medical herbs. High woods mostly consist of durmast oak, Turkey oak, hornbeam, beech, linden, black pine, black locust and other trees.
The Avala is well connected with the Belgrade and other parts of Serbia via roads, highway and railroads.
Avalski drum ("Avala road") is an extension of the Boulevard of the Liberation, which directly connects the mountain to downtown Belgrade (via neighborhoods of Selo Rakovica, Jajinci, Banjica, Voždovac, Autokomanda, Karađorđev Park and Slavija. On the mountain, Avalski drum divides in three:
Sub-Avalan settlements are directly connected to Belgrade by the bus lines of the city's public transportation, with terminus in the Belgrade's neighborhood of Trošarina.
Highway Belgrade–Niš, section of one of the major European roads, European route E75, runs east of the mountain, through Vrčin. North of the mountain runs Kružni put, the most important road in the southern outskirts of Belgrade, which connects all the southern sections of the city. It is also a projected route of the future Belgrade beltway which would continue thrue the Bolečica river valley and the projected Vinča-Omoljica bridge over the Danube into the Vojvodina.
Railroads also run on both sides of the mountain. Eastern branch is a section of the Belgrade-Niš railroad. It runs through the tunnel under the Avala at Beli Potok and then through Včrin. Western branch runs through Ripanj and the long "Ripanj tunnel" (though not under the Avala), and continues into the western Serbia and further into Montenegro, as part of the Belgrade-Bar railway.
The Avala is a traditional picnic resort of the Belgraders, but it's capacities are not being used much. In 1984 number of tourists was only 15,700 despite over 1,5 million of inhabitants in Belgrade. Some attractions and capacities on the mountain include:
Special attractions of the Avala are several monuments. They incude: