Street in Skadarlija
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Skadarlija (Serbian Cyrillic: Скадарлија) is a vintage street, an urban neighborhood and former municipality of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. It is located in the Belgrade municipality of Stari Grad (Old town). Skadarlija partially preserved the ambience of the traditional urban architecture, including its archaic urban organization, and is known as the main bohemian quarter of Belgrade, similar to Paris' Montmartre.
Skadarlija is located less than 300 metres (330 yd) north-west of Terazije, central Belgrade. It begins right below the Republic Square and stretches along the short, winding Skadarska Street and the surroundings streets of Zetska and Cetinjska. One of the most famous streets in Belgrade, Skadarska is less than 400 metres (440 yd) long. It connects the Despot Stefan Boulevard with the Dušanova Street, near the Bajloni open greenmarket and the Mira Trailović Square, where it extends into the neighborhood of Dorćol. Neighborhoods of Kopitareva Gradina and Jevremovac are to the east.
Though today the term is mostly applied to the street only, Skadarlija is a former municipality of Belgrade and a wider quarter which includes some 20 neighboring streets.
Skadarlija became a separate municipality of Belgrade in 1952, after the previous post-World War II division of Belgrade into raions from 1945 to 1952 ended. That municipality included a large portion of urban Belgrade, mainly the Danube oriented neighborhoods like Dorćol, Jalija, Stari Grad, etc. By the 1953 census, municipality of Skadarlija had a population of 31,281. On 1 January 1957 it merged into the new municipality of Stari Grad and Skadarlija became a "local community" (mesna zajednica), sub-municipal administrative unit, within the municipality. According to the censuses, the local community of Skadarlija had a population of 7,399 in 1981, 7,074 in 1991 and 5,942 in 2002. Municipality of Stari Grad later abolished local communities.
The history of Skadarlija began in 1830 with the settlement of Gypsies in the abandoned trenches in front of the ramparts. The Serbs and the Turks began settling in 1835, building the first proper houses with gardens, so the street stretched between two gates of the Belgrade Fortress: Stambol Gate and Vidin Gate. The 1854 town plan of Belgrade reveals that the Gypsy hovels had been replaced by brick buildings into which artisans, caterers, petty clerks and others moved. The whole locality was referred to as the Gypsy Quarter, Gypsy Alley or Šićan Mala and remained a Romani settlement until 1870. In that period, the stream called Bibijin potok ("Bibija stream"), which originates under the modern Politika building in the Makedonska street, flowed down the alley, crossing it. The stream was named after Bibija, the Romani deity of salvation. At the time, Belgrade was divided into quarters, and the stream was an administrative border between the quarters of Palilula and Dorćol (Stari Grad). As Palilula limited the playing of music to midnight, people would then jump across the stream in the Dorćol section to continue with festivities.
An aqueduct was later constructed which conducted the stream underground, which still flows below the street. The aqueduct was essentially a wall through the center of the street, and it also conducted water to the local households from the central pump in Terazije. Still, during the heavy rains or melting of the snow, the stream would still form and flow down the middle of the street. The largest arch of the aqueduct was named Skadar, after the town, so in 1872 the street was named Skadarska ulica. Serbian for "Skadar street", it is still the street's official name. As of 2018, Skadarska is among only 29 streets in Belgrade which never changed their names since the first naming of the city streets in 1872.
Soon after the aqueduct was built, the first khans were built along the foothill of the wall. They were the precursors of later kafanas. Skadarlija began to acquire its bohemian character in the last few decades of the 19th century, and particularly after 1901, when the well-known Dardaneli inn, located where the National Museum in Belgrade is today, was demolished and its guests, prominent writers and actors, moved to the Skadarlija inns or kafanas. In the early 20the century there were 15 kafanas in Skadarlija, including: Tri šešira ("Three Hats"), Dva jelena ("Two Deer"), Zlatni bokal ("The Golden Chalice"), Bandist, East, Guild, Vuk Karadžić, Bums keler, Miloš Obilić and The two Sergeants, Mala Pijaca ("Little Greenmarket"). The first three of these still survive today, accompanied by some new restaurants like Ima dana ("There will be days"), Skadarlija (demolished in 2006), Dva bela goluba ("Two White Doves"). In the late 19the century, the beginning of the street was a location of "Pašonin bulevar", the very first Belgrade's music hall. As of 2019, the Tri šešira, founded in 1864, is the oldest, still operational kafana in Skadarlija and second overall in Belgrade, after the ?.
The end section of Skadarlija is known as the Skadarlija atrium. It is mostly occupied by the brewery that belonged to one of the most distinguished Belgrade families before World War II, the Czech-originating Bajloni family. It produced "Aleksandar" beer, made from thermal waters that spring out in the brewery's backyard. When Bajloni began digging for the foundations of his brewery in 1892, he discovered the bones of the mammoths and skulls of the Neanderthal Krapina man. The well is located 80 to 300 meters (250 to 1000 feet) under the surface. After 1945, the brewery became part of the "BIP" brewery, but was later closed. The spring water was bottled for drinking until the early 2000s. Under the brewery is a complex of lagums (subterranean galleries or catacombes), which were used as a storage rooms for the beer barrels. By 2008, the entire inner complex is abandoned and slated for demolition. However, as the project of massive reconstruction failed, the brewery became home for many coffeehouses and clubs.
The houses in the street were small, with mud plastered walls and roofs covered with flat tiles (ćeramida). The houses had small yards with gardens and water taps and wooden, plank fences (taraba). Only occasional houses had a porch. By the 1930s, many survived while smaller number of houses was demolished and the new buildings were built instead. The street itself was paved with the rough, lumpy cobblestones.
20th century revitalization
The house of Đura Jakšić, a well-known writer and painter who lived and died in Skadarlija, has been turned into a meeting place for the poets participating in the Skadarlija Evenings event. Its renovation and restoration began in 1968 in accordance with the designs made by a group of prominent artists: architect Uglješa Bogunović (1922–94), writer and painter Zuko Džumhur (1921–89), painter Mario Maskareli (1918–96), sculptor Milica Ribnikar-Bogunović (1931), painter and writer Momo Kapor, among others. They managed to preserve its existing values and introduce modern facilities without interfering with its historical features. In the late 1960s, Skadarlija regained fame as the center of youth and bohemian artists of Belgade. Plans for further adaptations were made in 1977, but remained on paper until 2008.
One of the first modern clubs in the neighborhood was "Monokl", opened across the "Tri šešira" in the 1970s. Famous folk singer Silvana Armenulić performed at the opening. DJ was Maksa Ćatović, who was previously a disc jokey in "Cepelin" in Tašmajdan.
In 1985 theatre director Zorica Jevremović Munitić founded Children's Street Theater /Ulično dečje pozorište/ in Skadarlija. The core of the troupe was made up of Romany children who lived in Skadarlija, 'white' children' from Dorcol (a nearby prestigious Belgrade neighborhood), Romany children from the favelas of the Belgrade suburb of Mirijevo (who sell flowers in Skadarlija), professional actors and painters who live in Skadarlija, a Skadarlija fortune-teller, clowns, fire eaters, and alternative artists (musicians, painters).
In February 2008, plans were announced for the complete reconstruction of the lowest section of Skadarlija (Skadarlija atrium, an area of about 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres)) bounded by the streets of Skadarska, Zetska, Cetinjska and Dušanova. Works are scheduled to begin in September 2008 and due to be finished by December 2010. A new multi-functional center will include two hotels, subterranean garage, restaurants, museum and a new pedestrian zone comprising a wide promenade between the Skadarska and Cetinjska streets. The restaurant Stara Skadarlija, two authentic walls of the brewery, the old tower and shopping mall, boiler room and lagums will be preserved but with additional functions. The tower will be illuminated and visible from the city neighborhoods below. The shopping mall's higher floors will be turned into a hotel. Lagums will be open for the public and turned into souvenir and gift shops. The atrium will be turned into a new commercial shopping mall and a hotel with subterranean garage of 1,000 parking spaces. Water springs will be co-opted and protected, and new drills will be added to the existing three springs, as a sort of a tourist attraction. The most controversial aspect at the moment appears to be the concept of a glass box-shaped membrane, lit from the inside, which is supposed to engulf the Stara Skadarlija restaurant. The idea is opposed by the local population. Except for Stara Skadarlija, changes will mainly occur in the side from the Cetinjska street which is considered a low preservation urban area, unlike the Skadarlija side, which is protected by the law and no new construction works will be allowed. As the altitude difference from top to bottom of the projected area is 17 metres (56 ft), it is de facto going to be step-like dug into the ground for almost three floors. The project was scrapped in the later years due to the unsolved property ownership issues, as the BIP sold the brewery to the Italian company "Star Immobiliare" in 2006 which in turn sold it to the British "Invest Balkan Properties PLC" in 2007. Company "Elgin" acquired the building in 2010. They claimed that by the end of 2011, they will announce which of the world-famous hotel chains will build a hotel but nothing happened.
Instead, reconstruction of the street was announced by the city government in October 2016, as the cobblestones and the façades became damaged in time. Works were scheduled for the spring of 2017, but were moved to October 2017, as the city decided to accept the proposition of the kafana owners to postpone it until after the touristic season is over. However, they decided to renovate the drinking fountain, which was to be finished in July 2017. As the fountain is at the beginning of the street, the tourists routinely avoid the street thinking it is completely closed, while those who enter the restaurants' terraces and gardens often leave as the dust is everywhere, especially in the initial section of the street. The number of visitors dwindled and the restaurateurs accused the city administration of "ruining the 2017 season". The fountain was restored according to the original 1966 project of Bogunović and Ribnikar, and the works were finished on 7 July 2017, 10 days ahead of the schedule. The stone fountain, which was built on the location of an old, one-pipe fountain from the Ottoman period, was fully renovated and the stone bench made of the yellow Ljig sandstone, which was projected in 1966, was finally built. Further reconstruction began on 16 October 2017 and was projected to last until the spring of 2018.
In November 2017 photos appeared showing that the trademark stone kaldrma has been removed and that street was paved with the asphalt concrete. It prompted a major public outburst and protests, so the city authorities explained that the asphalt is just the substrate and that stones will be washed and placed on top of the asphalt. As the works were under the tougher public scrutiny since then, it was obvious that the old stone was replaced with the new, imported one, produced in Greece in 2016. City then announced that the old and new stones will be mixed, but instead of a colorful stones of the old kaldrma, the new one is uniformly gray, described as the "dark shroud, in contrast to the previous playful and diverse one, which took [from Skadarlija] its joy and vibrancy and killed its Dionysian spirit". In the lower half, which was done by December, only the new stones were used. The customs paper show that the stone was imported only after the asphalt pavement was finished and public protests.
The reconstruction was halted again in the spring of 2018 because of the opening of the touristic season, and was continued in October 2018. Deadline for this phase was mid-December 2018, but when deadline approached, it was obvious that the works are not going to be finished. Despite holiday season, the works left majority of the quarter even without the basic, street lights. Additionally, works on almost all cross streets began in April and were to be finished by October, but that wasn't finished either, so the association of the local restaurant and café owners again reported declining income due to the dug streets. They negotiated with the city administration a temporary halt of the works during winter holidays.
The present Skadarlija, a short and curved street, is a remarkable Belgrade tourist attraction. It includes well-known restaurants, hotels (e.g. Le Petit Piaf), art galleries, antique and souvenir shops. At the end of the street there is the Sebilj fountain. It is an ornamented drinking fountain, copy of the Sebilj fountain in Baščaršija in Sarajevo, and gift from Sarajevo to Belgrade.
Groups playing Serbian brass or traditional urban music and actors dressed in traditional Serb costumes perform down the street. Unlike other similar and popular places in Belgrade that are considered posh, Skadarlija is known as a place visited by young couples and entire families with children. Restaurants offer the typical national cuisine, most notably the roštilj (grilled meat) with pivo (beer). Skadarlija's cafés, restaurants, art exhibits and cobblestone (kaldrma) promenade attract up to 20,000 people daily. The street is a car-free zone but it would be unsuited for traffic anyway because it is too narrow and with bumpy cobblestones.
Well-known but mostly poor poets and writers became regular visitors of Skadarlija in the early 20th century, not just from Serbia but from the wider Yugoslav areas, even before the Yugoslav state was formed as such in 1918. The most prominent residents and visitors in Skadarlija's Bohemian history include Đura Jakšić, Dobrica Milutinović, Žanka Stokić, Ilija Stanojević, Tin Ujević, Gustav Krklec, Stevan Sremac, Antun Gustav Matoš, Zuko Džumhur, Momo Kapor and Silvana Armenulić.
My name is Skadarlija...or Skadarska street, however you like it. I am no boulevard...or avenue...or highway. I am common steep curved alley in the middle of Belgrade. And that would be everything meaningful to be told about me if it wouldn't be for my bohemian history, my crumbling roofs, my shaking chairs...— Zuko Džumhur
After decades of performing in Skadarlija's restaurants and outdoors, some singers and performers became synonymous with Skadarlija: singers Šaban Šaulić, Toma Zdravković, Olga Jančevecka, Divna Đokić, Sofka Vasiljković, Mila Matić, actress Ljubica Janićijević who impersonated Gypsy fortune-tellers, and Radomir Šobota as a drummer.
Restaurants are proud of their lists of worldwide celebrities and epicurians who visited them over the decades. Even Alfred Hitchcock ended his diet in Skadarlija . Often, they post photographs of their visits on the walls. For example, over the years, Tri šešira welcomed numerous famous guests such as guitarist Jimi Hendrix, politicians George H.W. Bush, Josip Broz Tito, King Juan Carlos I of Spain, Sandro Pertini, and chess player Anatoly Karpov. Other celebrities who visited Skadarlija include queen Elizabeth II, politicians Willy Brandt, Gianni de Michelis, Helmut Kohl, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Yevgeny Primakov, Igor Ivanov and Margaret Thatcher, author Alberto Moravia, actors Burt Lancaster, Vladimir Visotsky, Gina Lollobrigida, Alain Delon, film director Nikita Mikhalkov, etc. Visitors from the later period include Joe Biden and Johannes Hahn.
As similar Bohemian quarters, Skadarlija and Parisian Montmartre twinned on 22 October 1977. A group of French artists visited Belgrade to mark the occasion. They were joined by large crowds of Belgraders, and they formed a joint procession which walked from the Monument of Gratitude to France in Kalemegdan Park, through Knez Mihailova Street and Republic Square, to Skadarlija. The photos of the event are kept in the archive of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Two identical plaques, commemorating the event, are placed in May 1978. In Montmartre, the plaque is placed on the building of the Free Commune of Montmartre while artist Branimir Bane Minić, who authored the plaque, was dubbed the Knight of Montmartre. In Belgrade, the plaque is placed across the house of Đura Jakšić.
Since 1993, the official opening of the summer season in Skadarlija (restaurants are open the entire year) has been marked by rising a "bohemian flag". The flagpole is located in front of the Zlatni bokal restaurant. The ceremony is always attended by celebrities, including popular and opera singers, actors, and artists. The season usually begins in the late April/early May.
There is a special code of conduct for the restaurants and their employees. The code was rescinded in 1975 but was reintroduced in 2010. It includes the types of dishes that can be found on the menues, what types of uniforms, table clothes or music are allowed and the knowledge of foreign languages.
The entire season consists of a series of festivities and celebrations: Summer Saint Nicholas Feast, Skadarlija Fest, Flower Festival (Festival cveća), Hat Festival (Šeširijada), Tamburica Fest, Miss Skadarlija Paegeant, children's cooking festival Varjačići (visited by Jamie Oliver), wine exhibitions, painting and poetry evenings, theatrical shows, Snail Race for choosing the slowest bicycle rider, dancing shows for the old-style dances, etc.
The symbol of Skadarlija is a Fedora-type hat. There are numerous folk songs which mention the hat, they are dedicated to it or named after it. This especially goes for the songs in the style of starogradska muzika, which is another emblematic feature of Skadarlija.
At the end of the street, across the Dušanova Street, there is an open greenmarket, officially named Skadarlija Greenmarket. It developed spontaneously in the 19th century for the customers from the lower Dorćol neighborhood, for whom the central city market, the Great Market, was too distant and uphill. It was established on an empty lot in front of the Filip's Brewery, which was later renamed to Bajloni Brewery and the market became known as the Bajloni Market (Bajlonijeva pijaca). In 1926 the Great Market was finally closed and city founded several new markets throughout the city, further from the downtown: Zeleni Venac, Kalenić and Jovanova market. In the process, the Bajloni market was also adapted that year: it got new market stalls, a fence, quality stores for the meat, eggs and dairy products and improved hygiene. Though officially named Skadarlija today, the citizens refer to the market only as Bajloni.
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