Znak Pitanja (?) in Belgrade, Serbia


The oldest restaurant in Belgrade, a traditional tavern (kafana) built in 1823, feautures a warm hearth, wooden beams, hearty Balkan dishes such as podvarak and pljeskavica, live starogradska music, and a rather peculiar name: ?.

The “?,” or Znak Pitanja (“question mark”) as it is referred to as in Serbian, may seem like a modern publicity stunt, but it has borne this name for over a century now, since 1892 in fact.

At the time of its establishment, the tavern was named Tomina kafana after Prince Miloš I’s personal doctor who owned the place. Also known simply as the “Serbian kafana,” the tavern was renamed Kod pastira (“Shepherd’s”) in 1878.

In 1892, the new owner Ivan Pavlović attempted to rename it again after the nearby Cathedral Church of St. Michael the Archangel, an idea which was met with a vehement protest from the Serbian Orthodox Church authorities.

Chagrined, Pavlović put up a sign that simply read “?” over the entrance, a temporary solution to the situation. It was not long before it caught on, and the tavern officially adopted it as its new name. Now a local landmark, the tavern has withstood the test of time and was designated as a Protected Monument of Culture by the government in 1981.





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