Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History

Explore the extraordinary past of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through the pages of the book 'Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History.' Uncover political events, economic development, and cultural heritage of these Banat towns through richly documented stories. Follow the evolution from the earliest days to the present, delving into the intricate threads of political intrigues, economic transformations, and cultural ascensions. Experience the past through the eyes of the author as the pages of the book unfold before you, providing a unique perspective on the life and legacy of these significant locales.

Taverns and taverns in Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through the centuries
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The evolution of catering: Taverns and taverns in Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through the centuries

The first hans and taverns in Novi Bečej were recorded in the description of the Beautiful City of Bečej by Evliya Çelebi. After the expulsion of the Turks from these areas in 1738, it was noted that there were no hans in Bečkerek that year, but there was one in Šimuđ, for which the village paid a rent of twenty forints. After the expulsion of the Turks, there were hans in Bečej, Bečkerek, Modoš, and Pardanj, but due to the large number of people who died from the plague or were taken into Turkish slavery, the hans were closed.

Many crimes occurred in the taverns and inns in the eighteenth century, so the authorities resorted to closing them, especially those isolated on the roads between individual settlements. In 1790, a report was considered about the isolated district inn between Beodra and Vranjevo "near the ditch" in Vincehid (Crna Bara). It was concluded that honest people should be chosen for innkeepers of such inns and that all those who transgressed should be removed from the inn within fifteen days. Later, in 1801, the district notes mentioned a trade route leading from Kikinda to Bečej, drawing attention to an innkeeper in Vincehid. The murder of the Vranjevo priest Jefte Đakovački by the innkeeper Stevo Klepac from Vranjevo is mentioned.

Taverns and inns were also a gathering place for debauchery and prostitution. In 1834, it was requested from Arad to interrogate the innkeeper from Vranjevo, Jonaš Vajs, because of a certain Rozalija Polak, who had previously belonged to Moric Grinfeld, an innkeeper from Arad. It seems it involved white slavery.

Regardless of the fact that taverns and inns were the source of many evils, it seems to have been a profitable business for the feudal lord or authority, as well as for the lessee-tenant. This is evidenced by the annual lease amounts and the data on the lessees of the inn in Vranjevo. It is recorded that for the tapping of drinks for the year 1792/3, the following owed:

- Jovan Avakumović, the district judge at the time, 250 forints,
- Atanasije Vrušić from Novi Sad, 268 forints,
- Nasta Kapetanović, 1,801 forints.

The leases increased rapidly from year to year, so in 1826, someone named Johan Šarficki paid 2,510 forints for the annual lease for serving drinks in Vranjevo, and by 1835, the lease in Vranjevo was paid by Johan Mason with 5,300 forints, while in the same year, only 208 forints were paid for the lease for serving meat. In the second half of the nineteenth century, in 1862, for example, Matija Mason in Vranjevo paid an annual lease of 7,626 forints.

During the development of society and further division of labor, hospitality became an economic sector without which the further development of society could not be imagined. It imposed itself in a universal form as an essential need of modern living.

Such a change was experienced in hospitality in Novi Bečej and Vranjevo. The role of hotels, restaurants, taverns, and other hospitality establishments became significant. It is impossible to imagine the summer grain and corn purchases when hundreds of buyers and agents, boatmen, and others who came to take the harvest from almost the whole of Banat gather in Novi Bečej without hotels and restaurants offering their services.

Taverns, among other things, contributed to the development of culture and art. They were, in a certain period of development, besides schools, places where public events could be held, theatrical performances staged, beautiful songs and music heard, lectures held, etc. The entertainment life in many places could not be imagined without taverns. Many newspapers would arrive and acquire a readership much later if it weren’t for the appropriate premises in taverns where artists, lecturers, and other cultural workers gathered.

Hospitality itself represented a significant economic sector. Between the two World Wars (1919–1930), Novi Bečej and Vranjevo had many taverns. This was undoubtedly contributed to by vibrant trade and a large number of workers who were consumers of tavern services. Among them were numerous unskilled workers who often earned even more than many qualified workers. These were "kubikaši" who performed the most difficult piecework. On one hand, high earnings, and on the other, primitivism and satisfying the most modest life needs for the family, allowed a portion of the earnings, even a considerable one, to be spent on drinks in taverns. As much as the "kubikaši" were modest in terms of food and clothing, they were excessive when it came to drinking. Because of their excessiveness, they couldn't consume drinks at home but instead consumed them in taverns, beyond the control of their wives or parents. Moreover, drinking in taverns was a social activity. Similarly, "vagandžije" lived, of which there were about thirty in Novi Bečej. "Vagandžije" were workers who loaded grain onto boats and unloaded other goods from boats. Perhaps the exhausting work of both "kubikaši" and "vagandžije" encouraged, when they returned from work on Saturdays, seeking relief from their burdensome lives in drinking.

The development of hospitality was also significant due to Novi Bečej being on the route connecting the Middle Banat with the Middle Bačka. All travelers coming from Sombor and Novi Sad by train usually used a boat from Stari to Novi Bečej and then the train again to Kikinda or Bečkerek. Since the arrival time of the boat in Novi Bečej and the departure time of the train from Novi Bečej did not suit many, they stayed overnight in hospitality establishments.

Taverns didn't just spring up between the wars; their number was quite large even earlier, and this was contributed to by the grain trade that took place in Novi Bečej and Vranjevo during the summer when traders came from Karlovac, Sisak, Rijeka, and other parts of Croatia; also from Serbia, Germany, etc. Wealthy farmers from Vranjevo also played a significant role in the development of hospitality, as well as the fact that Novi Bečej was the seat of the district. Peasants from surrounding areas mostly came by horse-drawn carts and left their horses and carts in two inns called "svratište" while they did business in the district offices, at the Novi Bečej market, or in trade.

At the end of the nineteenth century and until the 1930s, Novi Bečej had two hotels: Vojvodina and Royal. Vojvodina was a larger hotel than Royal, and it had a larger and better-equipped tavern, so during the Austro-Hungarian period, it was called the "great tavern". Vojvodina was located where the cooperative building stands today. It was a two-story building. Upstairs were rooms for lodging, and downstairs was a restaurant and a large hall for parties and other events. The restaurant had large windows, and the walls of the hall were lined with wooden paneling at a height of one to one and a half meters. The square pillars in the restaurant were covered with mirrors on all four sides, which were also on the walls. Vojvodina also had a summer restaurant-hall, which was right up to the embankment towards the Tisa River. In the summer, the windows in the "saletni" were opened (and the side facing the Tisa was all in windows), so tables were set up on the embankment, and guests could enjoy the fresh air and beautiful views of the Tisa and the Gradište forest. There was music in the restaurant every night, playing romances and folk songs, and after 8 PM, dance music. The hotel had about twenty rooms.
Hotel Royal was located where Hotel Jadran is today. It had eight to ten rooms upstairs. The restaurant was on the ground floor in the premises where the Jadran restaurant is today. Perhaps the restaurant was more modest than today, but it certainly did not lag behind in the quality of food and drink. Royal (hotel and restaurant) was run for a long time by Rajko Nikolić, who, with his wife and another maid and waiter, successfully managed all the business, much to the satisfaction of the guests.

Besides the embankment, in the area where Mile Josimović's house - Dojdoša and Pista Koša are today, there was a tavern called Belo Jagnje, owned by Ištvan Genci. The tavern was mostly frequented by peasants who came to the market or those from neighboring villages who brought wheat and waited in line for loading onto boats. On Sunday mornings, the tavern was full of "kubikaši" who came to the market and stayed in the tavern.

Across from today's Workers' Hall, on the corner (in Duško Nikolić's house), stood Miloš Gavrić's tavern. Its regular patrons were vagabonds and peasants waiting to deliver grain to the boats. Of course, on Sundays, there were also card players, and on market days, the tavern was always full of those who stopped by, on their way, while at the market, to have a shot or two of brandy.

Next to the Vojvodina Hotel was the mansion of the landowner Rohonci, where there was a bar with very good drinks from Biserno ostrvo. The bar was exceptionally busy, with visitors including the fishermen of Novi Bečej, card players, and visitors from the markets on market days.

In the building, which today houses a store for motorcycle and bicycle parts, owned by the Vlaškalin family, there was a fairly large tavern called Lovac (Hunter). Apart from its regular customers from the Bečejska čaršija, during market days, the tavern was full of people from Vranjevo.

As can be seen, the main concentration of Novi Bečej taverns was around the Tisa River and the market. However, there were quite a few taverns on the main street as well. For example, on a part of the main street, where Sakač Geze's house and photography shop are today, there was a restaurant called Bela lađa (White Boat). The tavern was in an old single-story building, which could have been built in the first half of the nineteenth century, and it was owned by the Jew Đula Beron. It also served for the sale of wine and brandy wholesale and retail.

Next to the Bela lađa tavern, where today a part of Vuka Karadžića Street is cut off (from the main street to Petra Drapšina Street), there was the Krka inn and cinema Krka. The inn was owned by Slavko Majin, whom nobody called anything other than Lala Krka. This was the busiest tavern in Novi Bečej, and perhaps the top in terms of service quality. This place was also known for card games. There was a special room where drinks were served during the day but turned into a card-playing room at night. There was also billiards, but it was all insignificant compared to card games. There was a specific dice game called "karametli" played all night until two in the morning when the tavern closed. Many lost money playing this game, and some, passers-by through Novi Bečej, lost their last dinar, so they didn't have money for a ticket to where they were going.

Right next to the Krka tavern was Danka Marčić's tavern. It was a gathering place for boatmen and Hungarian day laborers. On Sunday afternoons, dances were held for the Hungarian youth, and quite a few primitive balls during the autumn-winter period. These were peculiar dances and balls. Often, the joy turned into fights, not with fists, but with knives. Individuals would leave these fights bloody and others would end up in the municipal prison.

On the main street, where the road to Bašaid joins, there were two or three taverns, of which the most famous was Kruna (Crown). It was one of the most famous and perhaps the oldest hospitality establishments in Novi Bečej. Its guests were mostly boatmen, but on market days, many visitors from Torak, Beodra, and Dragutinovo were there too. In Kruna, dances were also held for the wealthier agricultural youth, just like at Danka Marčić's, so the outcome of dances and balls was often similar.

What set Kruna apart from other taverns was not only its great turnover but also that it served as a stop for guests from surrounding villages who came to Bečej in horse-drawn carriages. It was a kind of "parking lot" for these vehicles. It had a large yard with a shed in the middle, similar to the one at Tisa in front of the tavern near the ferry station on the Bačka side, only the shed in Kruna was much larger. Farmers would leave their horses hitched to the carriages under this shed. If there was no space under the shed, the carriages were left in the yard. A worker-guard, paid by the tavern keeper, looked after the horses, carriages, and their contents. If a horse got loose, tangled, or if hay fell out of the carriage, the guard would assist, and his main concern was to guard everything in the carriages. He was accountable to the tavern owner for the safety of the entrusted property, and the tavern keeper guaranteed this to anyone who left their carriage in his yard. There was also a well in the yard from which the horses were watered. The service was significant for the residents of surrounding villages, and it was cheap. The tavern keeper counted on the fact that those who left their carriages and horses would spend some money in the tavern.

Near Kruna was also the Sarvaš tavern, which was among the more reputable ones, especially at the end of the nineteenth century when various events were held there.

In front of the railway station itself was a tavern run by Agoč Akoš, which did very well as long as the boatmen were earning well. Upon arriving in Novi Bečej, they would first stop there with the money earned during the week. According to Istvanfi Endre, after the construction of the railway in 1883, it operated for many years as a railway station restaurant and as a favorite outing place "for the railway-enthusiast public."

Novi Bečej had another stopover. It was Veselin Sele Nićin's tavern. It was located at the corner of Žarko Zrenjanin and Svetozar Miletić Street, in the house of lawyer Zlatko Marić. The tavern had two halls where dances and entertainment for the artisan-trader youth were held until the economic crisis. During and after the crisis, this youth moved to Sokolana (the current gym of the "Miloje Čiplić" School), and at Sele's, dances for the rural Serbian youth of Novi Bečej continued. Sele belonged to the Democratic Party and was in opposition to the ruling political parties at the time, so his place served as a refuge and organized its first party there, the local organization of the Youth Cultural-Economic Movement OMPOK. This tavern also had a very large yard used as a stopover for peasants who came from surrounding villages with horse-drawn carriages.

On the corner of Narodni front and Sonja Marinković Street was a tavern run by Laslo Ištvan. It was one of the more prestigious in Novi Bečej. Dances for the youth from the ranks of merchants and craftsmen of Hungarians were held there. Unlike the dances at Danka Marčić's and those at Kruna, there were never any disturbances or fights at this tavern.

On the road to Kumane, in today's Lole Ribara Street, there were two taverns. One in Rade Lučić's building, who was also a tavern keeper (Lole Rib

ara no. 15), and the other in Mladen Kurbanjev's building (Lole Ribara 21).

Further, towards Novo Miloševo, near the Vranjevo mill, there was a tavern run by the father of the famous actors of Belgrade theaters Slavka and Nikola Simić, and later probably the owner with the nickname Tirač, so the tavern was called Tirač's until the Second World War.

Makra ran a bistro and a shop on Ljutovo.

All in all, Novi Bečej and Vranjevo had around thirty taverns. Apart from them, there were two more closed-type taverns, Kasina, which served as a meeting place for Jews and wealthy merchants of Novi Bečej, and the Hungarian Civic Reading Room, where, in addition to the tavern, there was also the first bowling alley with a parquet floor in Novi Bečej. The reading room also had a large hall where several times a year, the most elite parties for the Hungarian population were held.

Most of the mentioned taverns, except for four or five, no longer exist today, perhaps that's why they deserved to be mentioned, especially because they represent a kind of landmark of the lifestyle at the time.

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