The Last Bohemian
Tin Ujević was a so-called Yugoslavian Bukowski – a true bohemian, and an artist. A man about whom many myths have been spun. This is not a surprise, as the famous poet was a well-known guest of many Croatian and Serbian bars, during the cities' most vivid nightlife era in the beginning of the 20th Century.
Tin moved to Belgrade straight from Paris, where he started his bohemian lifestyle in the café Rotondo while hanging out with Picasso, Trotsky, and other significant European artists and politicians. After long years of crazy adventures in France, he arrived in the Serbian capital with only a hat, his distinctively torn and worn-out coat, and a bag full of manuscripts.
Being completely broke, immediately upon arrival he visited the famous gathering place of Serbian intellectuals – a cafe in the Hotel Moscow, with the hope that someone will spare him a drink. Luckily, there he met a poet called Rade Drainac, another famous Belgrade bohemian, and sat at his table. A waiter soon approached two praised artists and asked them what they would like to drink. Rade replied to the waiter: – Nothing, thank you! –
Right after, the waiter popped the same question to Tin, to which his famous reply was: – I’d like the same as Rade. Only with a glass of white wine on the side! – Back then, Tin was already a well-known intellectual in the Kingdom, so Rade couldn’t wait to hear his famous long and poetic monologues. As their quick drink turned into hours of sitting at the bar, distinguished guests of the hotel kept sending drinks to the table of two educated tramps, just so they could amuse them with their dialogue.
When the evening came, they would go to the cafe "Three Hats" in the famous Skadarlija Street. There, drunk and in ecstasy, they frolicked until the morning, or rather, until they bored the waiters and neighbors with their shouting and drunkenness. During their night outs, the police often had to intervene.
The famous Artists of The Bottle, as they were called, were lucky that the administrative division of the city worked in their favor. Briefly, Skadarlija Street was divided into two city districts - Palila and Dorćula, so each side of the bohemian street had different police surveillance. This allowed boozers to initially vandalize a bar on the one side of the street and then, without the fear of arrest, cross over to the other side and continue their debauchery there. The police in the first bar carried out an investigation but they had no authority to intervene on the other side of the street
When the police managed to catch them, Tin would sometimes get beaten, and sometimes they would just take him to the station.
In the police station, officers would cut Tin's hair and shave his beard, since he never did that himself. During his stay in Belgrade, over time it became a routine for the police to detain him every three months without him doing any offenses, just so he could wash, cut and shave. Because of similar benefits, he became friends with Belgrade police chief Ljubiša Lazarevic. Two men befriended through a convenience they both had insomnia. Tin would keep him company during his long nights and Ljubiša would kindly share his always full stock of cigarettes.
When he wasn’t drinking, partying, or, in those rare moments, writing, the poet would sleep on park benches, usually in Kalemegdan Park. On one such occasion, local policeman approached Tin to wake him up. The policeman thought that he was just a regular tramp.
As soon as he realized that he had woken up a respectable writer, the policeman started apologizing. – You don’t have to apologize. – Tin mumbled, with his eyes still half-closed.
– Although, I would consider you more polite if you had first woken up the neighbor from the ground floor. – he added, while pointing his hand to the poet Rade Drainac, who was sleeping under the bench.