I am excited to finally share with you my writing debut in “Wroclaw Uncut: Your Ultimate Alternative Guide to Poland’s Cultural Epicenter!” These past two weeks I have spent exploring the city indulging in some of the neatest coffee houses, cafes, and pubs. Below, are my first few reviews of these wonderful hidden gems, via http://wroclawuncut.com/2012/04/17/where-to-chill-with-a-tea-or-coffee/

Over the years, chain coffee houses such as Empik, Starbucks and Coffee Heaven have been propping up in Wrocław’s shopping malls and streets. When you look at their comfort and convenience, its easy to see why. Nevertheless it would be crime to forget about Wrocław’s vibrant selection of traditional bars, coffee shops and tea houses.

Once you’ve sampled the charm of these fine establishments, we’re sure you’ll be hooked – so be adventurous and check out some of these spots! Read on as Lauren Petersen gives the lowdown on KalaczakraCafé RozrusznikMleczarniaNalandaWydawnictwo and Literatka:

Kalaczakra Wroclaw Kalaczakra Wroclaw Kalaczakra Wroclaw

Wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the city? Need a few moments for yourself after a long day of work or class? Or, are you simply looking for a chilled-out place to meet friends and be surrounded by good spirits? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then be sure to visit Kalaczakra Gallery & Coffee. Upon entering this perfect hideaway, located adjacent to the University of Wrocław’s main campus, it’s only natural to be overcome by its relaxing aura.

Feel free to get cozy on one of the couches, armchairs, booths, or mezzanine of beds, and let your mind transport you to an East Asian oasis. Dim lighting fixtures adorn the corners and alcoves, while natural light floods the space from two symmetrical windows facing Kuźnicza Street. The richly colored walls are filled with the monthly exhibition of photographs or paintings; and a subtle smell of incense is the only lingering scent, as Kalaczakra is a smoke-free venue.

On the menu, besides good karma, is a range of drinks, as well as, vegan and vegetarian friendly snacks—provided by Krisznaitów, the adjacent/sister pub’s kitchen. The Yerba Mate, a hot tea originating in South American countries for its medicinal purposes, is a house specialty. It is served in a beautiful teardrop shaped, hand-made mug and is sipped out of a metal straw. The ceremony of drinking the tea with friends is also encouraged!

A favourite among art circles and students alike, Kalaczakra Gallery & Coffee offers a tranquil retreat for the body, mind, and spirit.

Café Rozrusznik Wroclaw Café Rozrusznik Wroclaw Café Rozrusznik Wroclaw

The name ‘Café Rozrusznik’ likely originates for one of two reasons. Translated to ‘starter’ it could either be a reference to the delicious coffee, or it could describe the manner in which the café originated. Located in Nadodze, one of Wrocław’s more impoverished areas, it was created with the “Do It Yourself” mindset in the hope of contributing to the economic and social development of the neighborhood. It is also one of the only locations in the city that not only roasts its own coffee, but sells fair trade coffee, too. Their very reasonably priced menu contains teas, soft drinks, fruit cocktails, cakes, and vegetarian Panini’s, all priced at less than 9zł.

Though it’s designed on a low budget, Café Rozrusznik hardly lacks appeal. One of the main highlights of the simple and modest interior is the vinyl record player on the bar, from which the music never stops . Clothespins suspend poignant prints to the exposed brick walls, which are washed over in a lemon-like glaze. Burlap coffee sacks from across the world flatter the front of the bar, while vintage upholstery covers the pillows and retro winged-chairs. A miniature orange tree blossoming in the corner window contrasts flawlessly to the teal blue accents on the doors and windows. Only five main seating areas make this hideaway extra cozy, but because of its small size, the rich fragrance of coffee permeates throughout.

The owner is very friendly, has impressive knowledge about both coffee and music, and even made change out of pocket. You’ll find the café is only a ten minute walk from Rynek, located beneath the mural of the giant sleeping man at Cybulskiego 15. With its second hand feel, focus on quality coffee, and DIY climate, Café Rozrusznik is a real alternative to the mainstream coffee house scene.

Mleczarnia Wroclaw  

Located next to Wrocław’s only remaining pre-war synagogue, Mleczarnia is a quaint, back street pub that oozes charm and romanticism. Old-world nostalgia is the perfect description for this favorite among locals and visitors alike, as conversation is confined to candlelight. Deep browns and earth tones host a backdrop to the dozens of family portraits and tapestries adorning the walls. A laid-back atmosphere and unconstrained table arrangements enable mismatched and timeworn chairs to scoot across worn wooden floors effortlessly. Dried flowers in vases, stacks of books with feathered pages, and oversized radios with turn dials complete the setting that resembles a late 19th Century dining room. As soft music plays in the background, it’s easy to get lost in anticipation of the stories the walls and pictures here could share.

Praise of the enchanting pub even reached the attention of the New York Times, in an article published April 23, 2010 regarding the renaissance of Wrocław: “Spots like the student-friendly watering hole Mleczarnia… have turned the out-of-the-way Wlodkowica Street into one of Wroclaw’s most fashionable avenues.” Mleczarnia justly deserves its role in fostering the revitalization of the Jewish District as chic restaurants and bars now fill the area.

Translating to “dairy” in English, Mleczarnia specializes in milk drinks such as coffee, cocoa, and hot chocolate. This bohemian bar has other reasonably priced drinks and snacks, and even offers a hearty breakfast menu. A personal favorite drink is the “Bar Tender Tea”; one can choose from an assortment of fruit-flavored herbal teas, mixed with chunks of orange, grapefruit, apple, lime, and lemon, and served with a shot glass of raspberry or ginger syrup. The beverage is not complete until it’s garnished with spices and accompanied by a heart-shaped gingersnap cookie.

Mleczarnia also hosts cultural showcases including guest speakers, musicians, and artists. Although the pub has a hostel located on the second floor that continues the old-fashioned and elegant theme, this really is a type of bar someone could “live” in. Some loyal patrons seem to do just that—camping out at their favorite spots, especially those tables in high demand adjacent to the old water pump near the main bar. This Wrocław institution offers a relaxing and quiet indoor gathering space; but not much compares to sipping your favorite drink in the beer garden while under the shadow of the towering courtyard tree.

  

Kawiarnia Nalanda is a magical café centered on individual wellbeing. Here, all of your senses can be enriched with a kitchen full of liveliness, numerous spots for lounging, and bookshelves just beckoning to be explored.  The uniqueness of this place goes beyond the daily vegetarian and vegan menu inscribed on the chalkboard. Here, the focus is on the “Five Transformations” and an exchange of yin and yang when preparing the fresh, aromatic, and organic cuisine. A vintage, wooden cabinet overflowing with a selection of herbal teas greets guests, while a wide range of Arabic coffee beans makes for a splendid brew. A personal favorite is the freshly made Yogi Tea, served with a side of honey. Looking for a twist on some traditional Polish fare? If the answer is yes, waste no time in ordering the spinach filled pierogi, which comes decorated with flax seeds. It’s also been said that their specialty carrot cake is among the best in all of Wrocław.

From the outside, Kawiarnia Nalanda is hard to distinguish; with no prominent signage or décor, it looks like any other Polish café. Nonetheless, once you step inside the peaceful realm, prepare to be overtaken by the carefree environment. The two-level interior is the ideal setting for weekly range of activities: workshops, book discussions, concerts, relaxations sessions, hula dance lessons, and cooking classes, to name a few. According to their website, Kawiarnia Nalanda also hosts many events for children, including birthday parties!

Huge arched windows, recessed lighting, and candles contribute to the comfortable aura as vibrant paintings, tapestries, and shelves fill the walls. Besides an extensive collection of sophisticated tomes and children’s books for sale, one can also purchase items ranging from tarot cards and organic honey, to hand-painted and sewn clothes, which are displayed hanging from the loft.

Positioned diagonally from Renoma at 12 Kosciuszko Square, Kawiarnia Nalanda is a must visit destination that promotes all aspects of embracing a healthy and nourished life.

  

Wydawnictwo, which translates to “publishing house”, is a sleek and modern getaway with an ambiance of upbeat energy—a nice change of pace from the typical dark coffee house. From the moment of arrival, chalkboard walls greet customers by pronouncing “welcome” in ten different languages. Ceiling lamps with differently colored bulbs dangle like silver drums over the pulsating entrance as yellow tulips accent the meticulously organized bar. This home-office away from home contains books filled with photographs and architectural splendors throughout the world. A large window display is filled with stacks of white-wrapped hardbacks; they serve as mountains for the lamps that perch on top like trees, as leafy plants sprout out of leather-bound briefcases.

The black and white brick walls, along with the slick lines of the furniture, contrast perfectly to the vibrantly colored shelves and couches. On the far wall there is a large orange shelf full of perfectly organized books for sale, each published in Wrocław or Lower Silesia. Continuing the café pub’s devotion to architecture and photography, the venue also serves as a gallery for rotating exhibits. On both levels of Wydawnictwo, strategically mounted spotlights emphasize the current display of statement black and white photography from locations across the world. If you are looking for a more hidden retreat, the basement, with its all-white, exposed brick walls and dim lighting, provides for a quieter haven.

The menu offers a full drink menu of coffee, cocoa, tea, yerba mate, beer, wine and much more. Their roasted Saicaf Italian coffee is also best when paired with one of the delicious cakes available. In the evening, the aura magnifies somwhat, becoming more upbeat as the lights dim and music grows lively. Connoisseurs of locally published books, photography, and design will surely enjoy Wydawnictwo as it is never the same experience twice.

Located in the heart of Wrocław’s Market Square, Literatka hosts a congregation of avid literature and liquor enthusiasts. Choose from a table basking in the golden Polish sunshine, an oversized leather couch in the main room, or worn, floral-patterned chairs in the back den where smoking is allowed and even encouraged. Soft yellow, smoke-embedded walls give way to Gothic vaulted ceilings and ornate brass chandeliers. A raised platform is the perfect pedestal for lectures and book signings as a backdrop of floor-to-ceiling shelves groan under the weight of hundreds of tomes.

The winding staircase leading to the loft, which is bolstered by bookshelves, creates a cozy alcove, while in the adjacent corner a rustic upright piano is tucked away. Want to take a break from deep discussion or writing? Then borrow one of the magazines, delve into an available newspaper, or just enjoy the pictures of famous writers dispersed across the wall like a disfigured checkered board.

It’s decadent décor, a stockpile of filled bookshelves, free Wi-Fi, and a varied selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, make café pub Literatka the academic’s delight.

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