Having just skirted an array of more or less life sized dinosaurs (a permanent installation) in the citadel of Belgrade, we enter a fascinating exhibition of the history of coffee. Just about every aspect from plants and origins to beans, their varietals, the tools for roasting, grinding and brewing.
Which set us up nicely for our next stop. If we could find it! There was no problem spotting the actual Pobednik (Victor) monument. 14 metres of Doric marble surmounted by a bronze warrior commemorating Serbia's victories over the Ottomans in the Balkan Wars and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in WWI. But where on earth was the Beogradski Pobednik Kafe?
A discreet sign and the disappearance of our guide down some stone steps are clues. We followed and eureka! There, overlooking the mighty Danube is a grassy terrace strewn with tables and umbrellas. And a scattering of customers.
At one end of the terrace tucked into the stone ramparts is the cafe itself and its chatty manager Ivana. Her feelings towards coffee are ambivalent.
With that she smiles a cheeky smile, takes another swig from her large mug of coffee and talks about the customers, their coffee (and rakia) habits and how much she enjoys the job and the company of people.
And who are we to break a student tradition. A few rakias later and we're into another Serbian coffee tradition: the reading of the coffee grounds. Ivana was to be our foreteller, but an influx of customers pulls her away. Kristina, our guide, takes over.
The results were interesting. And private.
Words and images by Fred Shively and Paul Kelly, the Balkan Caffeinators
What is Balkan Caffeination?
Our mission is to explore why coffee and cafés are central to the Balkan way of life.