hidden europe 64

In search of Tesla: the road to Smiljan

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: The birthplace and childhood home of Nikola Tesla in Smiljan, Croatia, now houses a memorial and museum (photo © Dozet / dreamstime.com).


Nikola Tesla’s father was an Orthodox priest. Nikola was baptised in his father’s church on the day after his birth. And it is at that church, dedicated to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, where crowds now gather to understand more of the life and work of one of Europe’s most distinguished engineers and inventors.

We follow the rutted road which twists and dips through the rough Velebit terrain. This was probably the route taken by Milutin, his wife and their three children as they travelled south from Senj to the Lika region in 1855.

Our destination is the same as that of Milutin and his family. There is a little stream which runs through orchards and meadows. It is called the Vagančica, and on its right bank there are two handsome small churches. The first, on flat land overlooked by the forested ridge called Krčmar, is dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It is at this church where the faithful of the scattered hamlets come each Sunday for Holy Mass.

But Milutin was bound for the second church, a little downstream from the Catholic one. And so are we.

Milutin had served as a Serbian Orthodox priest for seven years in Senj on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast and now he was being rewarded for his dedication and well-crafted homilies with a parochial posting back in the rural region where he had lived as a lad and where his father Nikola was enjoying a quiet retirement.

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