Legend from Smiljan (25th of August 2012)

Tesla, sculpture, memorial center, Smiljan

Croatia is, in addition to beautiful nature, also known for several genial and great men and women. The greatest one of them is Nikola Tesla, legend from Smiljan.

Tesla was a source of all sorts of disagreements, misunderstandings, and intentional misinterpretations. This followed him throughout his life, and in these regions, in the times of ex-Yugoslavia, and especially during twenty years since it dissolved, the quarrel about Tesla assumed grotesque proportions.

Of course, for the historical figure of Nikola Tesla it is completely irrelevant what some suspicious guys from Serbia or Croatia have to say about him. His legacy does not depend on them, because Tesla is far too big for this region. Tesla is a legend, legend from Smiljan, a small piece of Lika county which, together with Tesla, entered the history of civilization. Tesla's Smiljan is 104 km away from Karlovac, 148 km from Zagreb, 438 km from Budapest, 617 km from Prague, 8995 km from Colorado Springs, ... as is shown on the stone "signpost" in Nikola Tesla Memorial Center in Smiljan (below). Smiljan in the center of the world.

Tesla, where is Smiljan

My Slovenian colleague recently congratulated me Tesla's day, and I thanked him with a murky comment that I very well know how it will be celebrated around here - inadequately and with boring stories about Tesla Serb and Tesla Croat. I heard from him the best remark about Tesla's nationality. My Slovenian colleague nicely explained to me that Tesla was neither Serb, nor Croat, nor Austrian-Hungarian, nor American, but Martian!

Tesla, sculpture, memoriak center, Smiljan

So, if you want to see where the Martian was born, you have to visit Smiljan near Gospić.

Tesla's face is mysteriously smiling on the signpost by the highway and it directs all those interested to leave the highway at the Gospić exit. The distance from the exit to Nikola Tesla Memorial Center is about 8 km and the road is clearly marked. In the Center, you will be greeted by the excellent sculpture of Nikola Tesla, a work of Mile Blažević (the photo above). Blažević has succeeded in achieving a great physical resemblance, and he also managed to suggest some aspects Tesla's personality - Blažević's Tesla, completely separated from his surrounding to which he pays no attention whatsoever, stares in two hemispheres which he holds in his hands. Those two hemispheres are his world, nothing else is important. This is Nikola Tesla that I know also.

Memorial Center is a complex of five buildings: Serbian orthodox church where Tesla's father Milutin served as a priest, a house where Tesla was born, a wooden cottage with a straw roof (photos above and below) whose use is unknown to me, and two recently built objects.

Tesla, Memorial Center, Smiljan

One of these objects is a reconstruction of Tesla's experimental station from Colorado Springs (1899-1900; the photo below). Inside it, generation of high-frequency currents (Tesla coil, Tesla transformer), electrical discharges in the air and induction of light emission in neon lights are demonstrated. The kids love it. Star Wars. Too bad it lasts far too shortly.

Tesla, laboratory, Colorado Springs, reconstruction, Smiljan

The most interesting and the best planned building of the center is the house where Tesla was born (photo below). Downstairs there is some sort of timeline which describes the world during Tesla's lifetime and Tesla's contributions to it. The events are well chosen and they enable even poorly informed visitor to position Tesla's figure in history, science, and technology. The nicely and professionally designed sound-scene is perhaps the most dramatic feat. The noise of children playing, birds, orthodox choir church singing, folk songs, sounds of stream, trees, of Tesla's inventions, buzzing ... All this is composed very pleasantly and it "opens" the house to its surroundings, to the fields and hills and Vaganac stream, and to the history and time which has passed since kid Tesla was running around the house. The sound-scene was designed by Vjeran Šalamon.

Tesla, Memorial Center, Smiljan

Upstairs, in the loft, there are replicas of Tesla's inventions; turbines, motors, Tesla's coil and rotating metal egg which functions on the principle of magnetic induction in the metal positioned in the rotating electromagnetic field. The inventions are pretty well represented, but there are very few of them.

Orthodox church in Smiljan (Milutin Tesla)

Unfortunately, orthodox church (photo above) is closed for visitors which is in my opinion a big omission: I bet that many of the visitors here have never been in the orthodox church (when I was in Smiljan, I saw a family of Slovaks and Italians).

Tesla turbine

There is a lot to be improved in the Memorial Center. It poorly reflects Tesla's stature. A lot more demonstrations of Tesla's inventions should be created, in large format, as Tesla loved it: spectacularly, amusingly, shockingly, fiery, frighteningly, disturbingly, impressively. I can imagine summer evenings in the center where the spectacle of lightning takes place in the open. Because Tesla was the Master of Lightning. Tesla was, in addition to being an inventor and a scientist, also a performing artist. Many of his demonstrations can be fully understood only when viewed as performances. Unfortunately, the center does not come even close to showing it. There is obviously a lack of enthusiasm around here. That's how it is these days ...

Even if the center does not satisfy visitors like me and all those who think that Tesla deserves much more, nature of Lika will not betray you. Lika is the territory where the mountain merges with the softer land, in which the rock and the grass peacefully coexist and where the colors are unique. Yellow, orange, red, green, and blue. The photo above shows the view from the position of Tesla's birth house. >> Click on it to show it in triple resolution.

If nothing else, one should visit Smiljan to see the landscape where the Martian was born. Legend from Smiljan.

Last updated on 25th of August 2012.