City Tales

Toša and His Well-Diggers
The street in the XVIII century wasn’t named after a well; it was named after a kafana. In the place his wine barrel stopped after rolling down from a hill, Teodor Apostolović, wholesaler and industrialist from Zemun, dug a well. Soon afterwards, the ”Tošin Bunar” kafana was raised next to it, became famous and survived to the very day. Vineyards were up on the hill, and the famous ”little house in Srem” in them, mentioned in a song. People from Zemun, rich and poor, famous and unknown, loved to come here. And the entire neighborhood, during master Toša’s lifetime, became famous as Tošin Bunar. The kafana was closed only twice in its history, and the street changed its name only twice. For a short while

By: Miloš Lazić

With so many historians and an army of chronicle-writers, no one remembered to mention that Serbia has the perhaps most unusual monument under the sun! A monument to running away!
When you start from Surčin to Fenek, about three hundred meters before the monastery, one has to pass the ”Zlatni Krst” (”Golden Cross”). It is a monument – road sign, standing there since ancient times, officially since 1747. It was raised as a corner stone, to inform the faithful ones, travelers and the imperial notary that they are stepping onto a monastery estate. However, according to the legend, the stone stele marks the place reachable by Turkish cannonballs from the right bank of the Sava! Black Đorđe Petrović, famous Karađorđe, when fleeing from the Pashalic after the breakdown of the uprising in 1814, was running to that spot. From there he walked slowly to Fenek Monastery in Srem, his first real sanctuary.
People were fleeing before that as well and a village across the river was named after that unsporting discipline! However, although they are very proud of it, it wasn’t the people of Zemun who gave Bežanija (Fleeing) its name. They had more important things to do. Already in 1804, at the beginning of the uprising, when many Christians fled to Srem before the tyranny of dahias, they requested authorities in Vienna and Pest, through their Kontumac Board, to ”move further and take a bit deeper into the imperial area all Turkish subjects who escaped Belgrade, or return them back”. Their explanation for the request was that the number of refugees grew so much that prices of both groceries and housing were significantly raised. No one even thought about the few vineyard houses raised above the Progar Road. When the name of Bežanija has already become familiar, the only thing they could do was to accept it.
The village disappeared a long time ago and its name is already an urban toponym. Although, when one mentions Bežanija or Bežanijska Kosa, no one knows whether it belongs to Zemun or New Belgrade, since both municipalities consider it their own. Same with the Tošin Bunar (Toša’s Well) Street, for which it is at least known that it begins in Zemun and ends in New Belgrade, flowing into the Surčin Road.
The name of this street is strange as well. Because the well is a spot, a point, while the street is a line, which could be several kilometers long! How did it happen that someone was so wrong?


The answer is so unbelievingly simple. Tošin Bunar Street wasn’t named after a well; it was named after a kafana (just like the short Marka Leka Street was called At the Golden Angel Street after an inn, or Strumička Street in Pašino Brdo)! On the other hand, this kafana was named after a well, dug in the second half of the XVIII century by a certain Teodor Apostolović, nicknamed Toša, rich wholesaler from Zemun… It is one of the oldest still active kafanas in the capital city, although it was modernized and redecorated in the meantime, so much that it can’t be recognized anymore. The ”ktetor” and probably most regular guest was master Toša himself!
The Progar Road, later Tošin Bunar Street, wasn’t just some crummy thoroughfare, proven by the fact that another kafana appeared in it, near ”Tošin Bunar”, in 1924 (ten years before Zemun was united with the capital city). It was opened by a certain Petar Kokotović, who named it ”New Belgrade”, which was the first, although unofficial hint of the name of a new part of the city, which will begin blossoming on the left bank of the Sava a quarter of a century later, on a swampland between Belgrade and Zemun.
Why was the Progar Road important? Because it was squeezing under Bežanijska Kosa, which, together with Fruška Gora and Vršac Mountains, was among the most important wine growing zones of Serbian Vojvodina. Besides, when a Swab from Zemun, Bruno Moser, established his famous vinery in 1848, he didn’t enter the business just by chance. The vinery was raised on the foundations of the already existing vinery cooperation, after which the nationalized ”Bruno Moser’s Vinery” will be entitled ”National Wine Cellars” (”Navip”) after World War II. The cooperation gathered all inhabitants of the city and surrounding villages, who raised their vineyards there, on the sunless slope above the Progar Road.
It is unknown when the street was officially named Tošin Bunar, because the urban plans of Zemun from the XVIII and XIX century state the name Progar or Surčin Road. Since its renaming, its name was changed only twice: from 1942 to 1944, when it was named after Herman Gerring (at the same time, the Main Street was named after Adolf Hitler), and from 1947 to 1951, when it was named – Donbas Street, amidst the bickering with Joseph Vissarionovich and the entire ”Eastern Block”.
The name of the tavern remained the same though (everything changes, only kafanas are eternal). However, its constantly uncertain fate turned into a brilliant reality with the building of the Students’ City blocks, from 1949 to 1955, making them peers of the old part of New Belgrade, the famous pavilions. Since then, the kafana fed food and water to many new ”colonists” and generations of students from entire former Yugoslavia. As far as known, the ”temple of education” closed its gates only twice: first in 1968, during the students’ demonstrations, and four years later, when the ”black lady” visited, the smallpox epidemic, due to which many favorite Belgrade kafanas were temporarily closed.


According to one version of the urban legend, a barrel rolled down from master Toša Apostolović’s vineyard Bežanijska Kosa. The story further states that it rolled down in one piece, so he interpreted the unusual case as a message from his Almighty Employer, and dug a well in the place where the barrel stopped. Besides the Roman Well in the Belgrade Fortress, it is the most famous well in the city today.
They also say that the well was closed immediately after the war, second international war and who knows which one of ours. Probably not. Because post-war generations also remember it, abandoned in the backyard of the kafana!
Someone might ask an appropriate question – why would a winegrower need a well besides all his wine? The answer is simple: the well was for satisfying the thirst of travelers, and later the inn and humble guests, not the vineyard.
Those vineyards are a special, never forgotten story. Vlada Kanić, retired engineer, is famous for creating a tamburitza orchestra in Norway, with Norwegian musicians. He worked on oil platforms in the Northern Sea and cured his nostalgia with music. He composed many songs, which we today consider folk songs, and one of them is ”A Small House in Srem”. He dedicated it to his father and his vineyard house there, on Bežanijska Kosa, above Tošin Bunar, and when he plays and sings it, tears start rolling down his cheeks.
Late professor Dr. Rade Repac, renowned neurosurgeon, lived in Tošin Bunar Street. Although it was necessary to change two city buses to get to him, and additionally have a walk, he swore to his students that living there is not bad at all and that they should visit him more often. An additional argument was home-made wine, made by his friend from Zemun, from grapes from the misplaced vineyard, the last one preserved in that area.
When Oto Logo, who lived near the Slavija Square in Belgrade, moved his studio across the street from Students’ City, ”at the end of the world”, as his friends used to say, he pleaded that he had to work on a monumental horseback riding composition of Habib Burgiba, fighter for the independence of Tunisia and first president of that country, which was supposed to be six meters high. Therefore he needed an appropriate height of his working space. He did make the sculpture as he had imagined, cut it into pieces and sent it to his client, but never emptied or left his spacious studio, although he created only busts and chamber sculptures until his death. The strongest argument for his persistence was his explanation that he had become so familiar with the ”Tošin Bunar” kafana in the meantime, with its staff and guests, that he wanted to be as close to it as possible.


According to the data which can be collected on the ”omniscient internet”, not always entirely reliable, it is possible to reconstruct the life of master Toša to a certain degree, and his honorable role in the present Belgrade toponomastics. So, here it is:
When the Austrians retreated from Serbia, Teodor Apostolović refused to live under the Turks and moved with them from Southern Serbia to Zemun in the second half of the XVIII century. He was born in the vicinity of Thessalonica in 1745, so some chronicle writers say that he was of Aromanian origin and that his original name was Theodoros Apostolos.
As manufacturer of soap and candles, thanks to his commercial skills, he earned a great wealth, became a reputable citizen, benefactor, church councilman, president of the Zemun Ecclesiastical Municipality at the time the town had a population of 6.000. In 1786, he built the Church of Holy Archangel Gabriel (in the center of present City Park), turned into a monastery in 1990.
In his old age, he caught a severe eye disease, due to which he couldn’t differentiate silver and golden coins. He went to churches and prayed to St. Nicholas to return his eyesight. According to a legend somewhat different from the one we have already stated, one night he dreamed of St. Nicholas. He ordered him to go to Bežanijska Kosa, take an empty 100 liter barrel, and push him downhill. Where the barrel stops, he should dig a well and plant trees around it, and often wash his face with the water from the well to return his eyesight. He did as he was told in the dream: he dug a well and built a kafana immediately next to it. The water from the well was really salutary and Toša, allegedly, recovered from the disease.
Soon afterwards, it became a favorite picnic area of wealthy people of Zemun and the entire area around the well was named ”Tošin Bunar” already during master Toša’s lifetime.


Perhaps we could find out more about master Toša Apostolović, his street, kafana, vineyard and well in the Heritage Museum of Zemun. However, since it was placed under jurisdiction of the National Museum of Serbia seventeen years ago, it’s difficult to figure out its working hours. Besides, the old Spirta’s House, where the Museum was placed half a century ago, is in the process of restoration for a decade and a half. Dimitrije Ruvarac, historian and parishioner of the Church of Holy Trinity in Gornja Varoš is gone, and so is Branko Najhold, writer and most dedicated chronicler of Zemun. With their knowledge and dedication, making a story about Toša and his well would certainly be much easier.


Master Teodor Apostolović died in 1810 in Zemun. Immediately before his death, he bequeathed the land with vineyards and the well, probably the kafana too, to the Serbian Orthodox Church.


From now on you
can buy National Review at Trafika sales outlets

Србија - национална ревија - број 82 - руски

Србија - национална ревија - број 82 - руски

Србија - национална ревија - број 81 - руски

Србија - национална ревија - број 80 - руски

Србија - национална ревија - број 79 - руски

Србија - национална ревија - број 78 - руски

Serbia - National Review - Tourism 2020

Србија - национална ревија - Број 77

Србија - национална ревија - Број 76

Србија - национална ревија - Број 75
Србија - национална ревија - ФранкфуртСрбија - национална ревија - МоскваСрбија - национална ревија - Москва
Србија - национална ревија - ПекингСрбија - национална ревија - број 74
Србија - национална ревија - број 73

Србија - национална ревија - број 72Туризам 2019.
Србија - национална ревија - број 71
Србија - национална ревија - број 70Србија - национална ревија - број 69Србија - национална ревија - број 68Србија - национална ревија - број 67Tourism 2018
Србија - национална ревија - број 66
Serbia - National Review - No 65
Serbia - National Review - No 64Србија - национална ревија - број 63
Србија - национална ревија - број 62
Србија - национална ревија - број 61

Србија - национална ревија - број 60
Србија - национална ревија - број 59
Serbia - National Review - No 59
Serbia - National Review - No 58

Serbia - National Review - No 56
Serbia - National Review - No 55
Serbia - National Review - No 54
Tourism 2016
Српска - национална ревија - број 53
Српска - национална ревија - број 12-13
Srpska - National Review - No 12-13
Serbia - National Review - No 51

Serbia - National Review - No 49
Serbia - National Review - No 49
Serbia - National Review - No 48
Serbia - National Review - No 46
Serbia - National Review - No 46
Serbia - National Review - No 46Serbia - National Review - No 46, russianSerbia - National Review - No 45Srpska - No 6
SRPSKA - National Review - No 5Tourism 2014SRPSKA - No 2
Tourism 2013
SRPSKA - National Review - Special Edition

Battle above Centuries
Legends of Belgrade
History of the Heart


Чувар светих хумки
Србија од злата јабука - друго издање
Orthodox Reminder for 2013
Пирот - Капија Истока и Запада
Беочин - У загрљају Дунава и Фрушке Горе
Србија, друмовима, пругама, рекама
Србија од злата јабука
Туристичка библија Србије

Коридор X - Европски путеви културе
Београд у џепу
Тло Србије, Завичај римских царева
Добродошли у Србију