Paul Polanski, an American writer and journalist, who spent a part of his life in Serbia, in Kosovo and Metohia, ended his life, not in America, but in the south of Serbia, in a Knez Selo, a village near Nis. He was also lowed Serbia, so he was a fighter for justice, end because of that he wrote several poems about the suffering of the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohia after the bombing.

He is also the co-author of book about the bombing of Nis and the author of many poems about life, love and suffering. Together with journalist Maja Kostic, he made several interviews in which he investigated the consequences of the bombing of cluster bombs that were thrown at civilians in Nis. Pol Polanski died after a short illness in Knez Selo, where he was buried. He was a poet, a bohemian, a friendly man who adored “Kafanas” in Nis.

Pol Polansky about Kafanas in Nis

Although there are many interesting historical sites to see in Nis, the city is most famous for its “Kafanas”. No matter how rich or poor, most people dine out at least once a week in their favorite Kafana. When I decided to make a tour to Nis there was only one thing really to write about: my “favorite” Kafanas. That does not mean they are the best. In fact, for some people I have left out the best (certainly the most expensive) but for me these are the favorites not only for me but mainly for the locals that live here.

I, for example, go to the same Kafana every day not necessarily to eat but to wait for my bus. I live in a small village in the hills to the east of Nish but since there are no shops or kafanas there in Knez Selo, I take the bus into town every day to do my shopping in the Durlan Market. While waiting for a return bus I have a coffee and rakija (fruit brandy). In downtown Nish my daily ration would cost between 300 and 400 dinars.

In my “local” it is only 110 dinars for exactly the same Turkish coffee and brandy. Although it is mainly patronized by senior citizens such as myself it is worth getting on a number 2 or number 15 bus and experiencing a neighborhood bar. They also have a good menu although only in the Cyrillic alphabet. But it is worth the effort to get away from the tourist scene. The place is called Vodenica. Get off at the bus stop at the police station across the street from Durlan Market.

kafana galija
Foto: Kafana “Galija”

The Vodenica is on the left side of the market at the end of the block. There is no sign hanging out in front but it is the last one. In the winter there is a nice open fire in the dining room decorated in the ethno style with a combination of wood and stone. When I do eat there I always have a half portion (five) of khbabi (hamburger rolls) with fresh onion, kajmak cheese and a thin crusty bread bun. About 500 dinar (less than 4 euros) with a beer or glass of wine. Also on the menu are stuffed peppers, veal tail stew and smoked beef burgers. Can’t beat it.

Someone once said about Kafanas: Tavern is a place where intelligence gathered, where some of the most beautiful songs were created, where all the important arrangements were made, from marriage, millions of contracts, to crossing borders and entering the war. It is also a place where ugly girls are beautiful, where everyone frowns with pleasure, and where no one will mind if you try out your voice options, which even your birth mother would not tell you are tolerable.

There, people run away from reality, students from school, husbands from women, and vice versa. It is an empire of unwashed glasses and checkered tablecloths, where guests perform true endurance tests regarding the exchange of fluid with the closer, and sometimes farther, environment, depending on talent. Where no one has a shred of respect for furniture, especially tables, and where the function of the toilet is strictly primary, with no aim to impress anyone.

Unjustly cast into the shadows in the wake of the onslaught of populist industry, capitalism and European integration. Still, it resists the tooth of time, above all for its faithful meracliums and bohemians, lovers of pure, natural pleasure, without makeup and beautification, a worshiper of simplicity and masochistically beautiful songs.

The tavern lives on for the guest intentions. It is not accidentally entered, but provoked by a burning desire, or at least an alcoholic urge. And in it, in it everyone loves you, to the last penny or allowed minus, but they love you right.

9 thoughts on “An American writer and journalist Paul Polansky about Kafanas in Nis”
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