No big drama. Last evening I drop by to see a friend, we sit a while, at some point we think we might get something to eat. And where to go? He suggests Manjež. I say, oh, is Manjež working again? He says yes, I say well, you can always go to Manjež.
Historically this last statement was true. You could always go to Manjež. It was the sort of place where you would go if you didn't know where to go. If you were walking in the area you would swing by, because the probability that some group of your friends would be sitting at the tables on the sidewalk in front was reliably high. The place was always dirty, its WC like a scene out of Trainspotting, and their food would always just barely cling to this side of average. The beer was BIP (a local acronym, BIP = Bedna Imitacija Piva). But it was cheap, the crowd of people mixed and welcoming, and before you sat down konobar Draško already knew what you wanted. Manjež was a rare reassurance that whatever else was going on, something was always right with the world.
Last year the place was closed down for remodelling, and the people who did the job could have done a lot worse. They did not fill it with neon and chrome, or turn it into a casino, or stick fountains everywhere. It seems like there was a serious effort to recapture the atmosphere of what Manjež may well have been at some time, a beokafana period piece of the kind in which the characters in an Alfred Hitchcock film might dine while waiting to shuffle onto a train full of hidden murder weapons and a vaguely menacing border guard. They did not raise the prices much, and the food was just fine.
All the same, Manjež is no more. It has never happened before that on a pleasant summer evening, I sit with a friend at a sidewalk table and we are the only people there. Nor that opera arias waft gently though the windows. Nor that we are not repeatedly approached by the local stray cats (what did they do to them?). Konobar Draško is nowhere to be seen. People: Manjež is not Manjež without konobar Draško. More than this: Belgrade is not Belgrade without konobar Draško.
There is one more unremarkable spot in the city, and the world is just a little bit poorer.