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August 26, 2002

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Interested in seeing the world's only tower made from human skulls? You'll find it in Nis (pronounced 'Niesh'). The Turks crushed a Serbian rebellion, cut off the rebel's heads, and used these heads as bricks for a tower. The rotting, grinning skulls looked down the road to Istanbul. It's hard to match this ghoulish site: not much else to see in Nis besides observing life in a Serbian city. A citadel serves as a quiet park in the town center. An outdoor market, filled with anything from fruit to cheap watches, anchors the end of a long pedestrian thoroughfare. Despite Nis' status as Serbia's largest city in the south, it lacks infrastructure. Because of recent civil wars and UN sanctions, Serbia, a nation that once dominated other Yugoslavian provinces like Croatia and Slovenia, lives as an economic backwater. We can't draw money from the bank, no one accepts Visa even if posted signs say they do, and shops are small one-room businesses.
The Turks built a tower made from the skulls of Serbian rebels. They built it as a warning: don't start a revolution. Now it's a tourist attraction. Empty spaces show where people have removed the skulls of their relatives.
This large park once formed the inside of Nis' castle. It's a relaxed place near downtown.
Police as traffic lights: Serbia lacks a lot of infrastructure.