hidden europe 23

Coffee and cake: a Belgrade centenary

by Nicky Gardner


In a part of Europe where cakes were seen as the hallmark of civilisation, the Hotel Moskva excelled in bringing Viennese perfection to Belgrade summer afternoons.

Wander down Terazije in Belgrade and you will surely not miss the Hotel Moskva. This Serbian landmark opened its doors to visitors in 1908. It was then by far the smartest hotel in the city and quickly became a focus for cultural life in Belgrade, as well as an important spot for diplomatic exchanges. The centenary prompts us to look back to the Belgrade of one hundred years ago.

When a St Petersburg insurance company presented architect Jovan Ilki? with the brief to design a grand hotel for Belgrade, the directors of the sponsoring consortium asked Ilki? to suggest a building that was both stylish and unequivocally European. They received just what they demanded, a centrepiece for a main Belgrade thoroughfare that very firmly signalled the status of Belgrade as a middle European rather than a Balkan city. Little more than half a century earlier, camel caravans from the Orient were still coming to Belgrade for trade.

Modern Belgrade has exorcised its Ottoman past.

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