By Andrew King
Wherever you are in the world, some of the most memorable moments are when the weather makes you take a detour from the sights and smells of outside to the sights and smells of inside, usually a shop or a cafe. Krakow, late Autumn and a sudden squally shower of sleet and biting wind helped me find a combination of the two, a cosy bookshop and coffee house lost in the side streets of this most beautiful and haunting of cities. I spotted a simple sign for a bookshop on a fairly bland street. Small from outside, it was like stepping into the wardrobe to Narnia. A bookshop I dream of finding, but better.
Lined with books, the walls are a feast for the eyes of any bookworm. Books in English and French and Polish. A small counter of cakes, biscuits, the sound of a coffee grinder and steam drew me through the room. Homemade semolina and orange cake and black coffee with hot milk. I was ushered around the side of the counter into a room that spoke of days gone by. Wooden tables, doorways framed with heavy curtains, small lamps, dark green fin de siècle wallpaper, wooden newspaper holders and enough cosiness to make me want to just sit there for hours, reading and thinking about the city yet to explore. It was quiet, except for a couple of tables of people reading or staring deep in thought at the cold outside. Atmospheric and as dark as the coffee, it was old Eastern Europe, the Orient Express and Cabaret all at once. I expected Oscar Wilde, Sally Bowles or Marcel Proust to appear from behind a curtain. There was suspense in the air; the coffee was on its way.
Strong and smooth, the coffee lived up to the rich aroma from the grinding machine. The china chunky and warm to cup in my hands. The sticky bitter sweetness of the orange cake with the coffee was alchemy. Coffee is always better when there is magic in the air. It’s this type of independent coffee house that makes cities so attractive, like you’ve discovered something of your own.
Massolit also has another small bakery shop a few streets away, minimalist, white and great for delicious bread and pastries, but it is the bookshop café where memories are rich and sweet to savour.
Massolit Books and Café, ul. Felicjanek 4, Krakow, Poland