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Jama Michalika

Krakow

Polish Cafe Culture

In the 1890s, Krakow was enjoying a period of renewed prosperity and artistic flourishing. The Art Nouveau movement that was sweeping Europe had found a willing outlet, with visitors from all over occupied Poland flocking to enjoy the decadent café and cabaret lifestyle in increasingly permissive Krakow.

Opening in 1895 on Florianska Street and assuming pretty much its present look by 1908, Jama Michalika (Michalik's Cave, so named due to the paucity of windows) became renowned as the birthplace of the Mloda Polska (Young Poland) artistic movement. Also born here was the legendary 'Zielony Balonik' (Little Green Balloon) cabaret, prototype of literary cabarets throughout Poland. It is considered one of Krakow's finest examples of Art Nouveau decor.

Many of its patrons in the years before the First World War were in the vanguard of art, music and literature, and while they were happy to enjoy their absinthe and philosophizing late into the night, not all of them were wealthy enough to pay their bills. Proprietor Jan Michalik's solution was the time-honoured one of taking payment in kind, thus endowing it with an interior designed and decorated by some of the great names of the day.

Today the interior remains exactly as it was a hundred years ago, and it now functions as a rather genteel reminder of that time. Popular with tourists, you can dine here or perhaps take an afternoon coffee with a slice of szarlotka. Or try the hot chocolate, a drink so thick it barely qualifies as a liquid. There is a summer garden, and inside there is also a smoking room for those who still indulge. Jama Michalika is a beautifully preserved yet functioning piece of a bygone age. Whilst its history may be both illustrious and scandalous, however, visitors who come seeking bohemian late nights of hard drinking, womanizing and wit are recommended to try their luck elsewhere.

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ul. Florianska 45, Old Town, 31-019

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