Following the exhausting life changes at the end of last year, a time had come to grant myself a little rest, and connect with my ancestry. Alas, I am just returned from a holiday to Poland. Why did I decide to visit the homeland at the time of biggest freeze, me, who hates any temperatures below +15 degrees Celsius? If that’s hard to comprehend, the idea of ending up in the Polish mountains at that time seemed pure madness; and yet, I did it.
I did regret not getting myself proper boots and a winter coat for this journey, as I spent that long weekend shivering away. I would have probably returned with a frostbite on half my fingers, if not for those lovely retreats – the coffee shops – that helped bring my body temperature back to normal. Thanks to those I was at least a little bit more appreciative of the beautiful Zakopane buried under the snow; although from now on I will probably only admire it on photographs.
Zakopane is a tiny touristic village, more focused on protecting their natural heritage of valleys and mountains and traditional regional food than the novelty in the form of independent coffee shops. For this reason, there were only two places I frequented with my friend – which fill in the void perfectly.
This is a chain of eight Polish coffee shops dotted around the country, who themselves claim to be promoting a new approach to coffee drinking, by enjoying the finest quality Italian espresso. Closer to the Western end of Zakopane’s ‘high street’: Krupówki, it neighbours a similarly stylish-looking restaurant.
Upon entering, one is mesmerised by the scrumptious, albeit not overflowing pastry case – and the pleasant warmth from the radiators. The menu consists of all the coffees available in an average British cafe – an important point, as still many shops in Poland do not feature mochas! – but the presentation delivered so much more food for the senses than your typical high-street order.
As ever, I justified the whipped cream by the workout my body had to do to keep itself warm; so much so that I accompanied my mocha by a cherry pie. The coffee was a bit too much on the sweet side, but that wasn’t a huge problem in the circumstances, as it complimented the bitter-sweet cake perfectly; and it didn’t hint of artificial sweetness which is always nice. Add to it the warm decor and the views of the snowy village outside and you’re bound to be wanting to come back.
Zakopane, ul. Krupówki 6
Kawiarnia Lodziarnia Żarneccy
Classified as an ice-cream shop, Żarneccy has all the resources they need to create the most amazing coffee deserts – plus a wide offer of cakes and sweet waffles served hot and cold with fruit or, well, ice-cream. The menu boasts of standard coffees with a twist: a whipped cream here, a delux chocolate there or a good splash of some flavoursome alcohol. There’s enough on the drinks list to keep a family entertained for a week.
Despite the rather impressive presentation of the two-storey shop, unique to the other end of Zakopane’s Krupówki, the place was rather empty when we entered; that was soon to change though, as after sunset the crowds started flooding in for their sit-in and take-away treats.
When my mocha arrived I felt slightly disappointed: it looked rather unimpressive, moreover, the frothy milk suggested a poor quality beverage. I tucked in nevertheless, just to be blown away by the amazing taste of the coffee. The flavours were perfectly balanced, the texture just right. It certainly was a cup of a magic potion, laughing in the face of the cold outside.
My friend opted for the Amaretto-infused number, and although I usually prefer my spirits and coffee separate, upon our second visit I ordered the Coconut Dream (with the sweet addition of Malibu). Now, what warming powers did that baby have! Together with the hot apple pie, served with raspberry syrup and vanilla ice-cream, the visit made for one of my best memories of Zakopane.
Zakopane, Krupówki 48 B
I hope I didn’t put anyone off travelling to the Polish mountains, which – and many will agree – are strikingly beautiful. And if you do decide to see it with your own eyes but, like me, you end up suffering from the truly wintery cold, rest assured that a tasty retreat is just around the corner – if not serving coffee, then certainly one of the best mulled wines you ever tasted!