Tavern, inn, lounge, lodge are just some of the synonyms for a Serbian institution that exists for centuries now. Taverns were described and sung in myriads of songs, but the atmosphere in it can only be understood if experienced. We’ve found a symbolical yet humorous definition of a tavern passed by from generation to generation.
“A traditional Serbian endowment, a place for having a good time and a drop of alcohol, a place which you enter knowing no one and leave with 4 best men”
The first tavern in Europe was opened in Serbia! Actually, they existed in Serbia a whole century before taverns appeared in biggest European metropolises such are Vienna, London, Marseilles and Leipzig. The oldest tavern in Belgrade is the “Question mark” or “?” which is right across the street from the St. Michael's Cathedral. Taverns as an institution were brought to this area by Ottoman conquerors in the first half of the 16th century (1522). In the beginning in taverns was only served “black, Turkish coffee” and they were furnished in a Turkish manner, with Turkish cuisine. Only later visitors could taste all Serbian traditional dishes along with specialties from all around the world.
In time, taverns became places to eat and drink, they became gathering place of important happenings. There were retold all the latest news, held business meetings, deals were cut, rebellions were raised, governments were overthrown and even marriages were arranged! Asides from the mentioned activities, in taverns were hosted cultural events such are premieres of new made films, plays and the first book fair was held in a tavern.
Taverns were named spontaneously or by something that people associated to them, thankfully to poets and writers who found inspirations for their biggest achievements right there.