Waiting for armageddon that never showed up
The predicted end of the world today has been good for business for Serbian hotel manager Nebojsa Gajic.
“The Mayan apocalypse means we’re at capacity at 160 beds for the next couple of days, instead of the usual 100 we get this time of year,” he explained.
The apocalypse responsible for reeling in Gajic’s additional 60 guests is familiar to most people by now. The Maya Long Count calendar predicted that dawn today would mark the end of the 13th b’ak’tun, whose passing some view through the prism of an Armageddon interpretation put forward in the 1960s by Maya scholar Michael Coe. Each b’ak’tun is 144,000 days long, just under 400 years.
Less familiar to most is what Gajic and his business have to do with it.
High enough above sea level to deter mosquitoes, at 640m, the Millennium Hotel sits on a mountain called Rtanj in eastern Serbia’s Carpathian range.
A mountain in the shape of a pyramid celebrated in folklore as an otherworldly site, and renowned for its flora and far-reaching views, Rtanj was heralded as one of the strongholds against the end of the world.
“I would say about 20 or 30 called really upset, you know, scared,” said Gajic.
“But most people who booked rooms on the 21st were coming to the seminar group anyway.”
Every other month for the past three years, the Millennium has hosted a group of 100-odd participants for a “Spirit of Rtanj” round-table forum focused on the mountain’s allegedly magical properties.
“Scientists and the professors, they mostly focus on the magnetic field around here,” said Gajic, describing how some of his “army friends” have confirmed the inability of planes to circle Rtanj.
“The signal just goes. It’s a fact, following the legend about special air surrounding us.”
Serbian media are highlighting Rtanj’s alleged uniqueness, with the country’s largest daily newspaper, Politika, suggesting misguided fears about the end of the world are not all bad since they lead people to Rtanj.
“You’ll find the famous owner of the restaurant Forest Paradise”, the newspaper said, in the course of an account of “four luminous bodies” resembling aliens that appear in the sky above Rtanj regularly.
One local told the Serbian Evening News that aliens come to Rtanj often and that miracles are commonplace, making the mountain safe in general, even if doomsday fears associated with today were unfounded. The paper said this “doomsday tourism” translated into booked-out hotels in the resorts around the mountain, as well as special festivities today.
Rtanj is not alone in this. Doomsday tourism has flourished in several elevated sites such as the Italian town of Cisternino, Sirince in Turkey, and another mountain peak, in Bugarach in France, where mayor Jean-Pierre Delord announced that police would block the 200-person village from New Age fanatics in the lead-up to today.