Krakow was always going to be the highlight of our Polish trip, unless I break my blogging hand skiing or discover the perfect black pudding. Actually, the second of those has happened in Gorne, a culinary voyage of discovery to match the curry and chips near the Etihad.
Apart from Krakow’s reputation as an undiscovered Prague, I’d read much about the emergence of a craft bar scene to rival Berlin or Bethnal Green, which sounded like patent rubbish.
We’re part of a group of ten friends, so the challenge was to test that craft hypothesis with a group aged 4-65 intent on exploring, or avoiding, old stuff.
The best place to see that old stuff is in the castle grounds. I would put it on a par with Edinburgh, if not quite Clitheroe.
The old palace reminded me a bit of St Petersburg on the cheap, but the cathedral was as good as anything we’d seen. About a fiver to see the vast collection of 16th century tapestries and royal tombs; the walk up the bell tower gave a great view of intermittent fog.
Our Polish hosts had some lunch ideas, but nervously consented to letting me pick the closest option from my Top Ten Krakow Pubs for Craft list.
C.K. Browar looked the sort of edge of centre modern (’96) brewpub we’ve enjoyed in Nuremeberg (Barfuesser). A cellar pub with youngish groups with those 3 litre self-serve tubes that seem a good idea at the time, and as much schnitzel and cabbage as any human can eat for about £3. The bill for ten of us was under £40, including free sullen service. Our Polish friends were well impressed.
The beers in our sampler (top) were good to excellent (the dunkel), though I balked at the lemon flavoured beer served with a straw. Our Polish hosts, used to a diet of Tyskie spiced with the occasional Zywiec (they’re identical) found them a revelation.
This was still a fairly traditional looking pub though. On the way in to the market place we found the real deal.
Multi-Qlti Tap Bar has the name, the scary spiral staircase, the cutting-edge skate shop (said my son), and had just opened at 3pm.
This is the sight that greeted me as I opened the door.
“Wow !” said I (“awesome” is for Southerners).
“The English have invaded” said a young Manc couple who’d beat us to opening.
I’ve wrote quite a bit recently about overwhelming choice; this was even tougher working through a list of Euston Tap proportions to find the Polish beers, eliminate the 10%-ers, reinstate them for Mrs RM, and then decide against the Sour. The three we shared were all interesting, if a bit intensely-flavoured for some of us.
Apart from the English invasion, I didn’t see any locals on the Hopium Black IPA, so I can’t actually tell you whether these new bars are aiming for tourists or affluent students.
If this place was in Cambridge I think Mrs RM and I would visit regularly, particularly at those prices (£2-£4 a pint). The unisex toilets were a bit “challenging” thought our fellow Brits, so perhaps they weren’t true Mancs after all.
One other significant feature was a separate smoking room. What an excellent idea, it really ought to be trialled in the UK.
Two minutes further into the fog and we found the central square, where Mrs RM spent an hour buying a nativity set while the rest of us bought halva and caramel nuts. We win.
Central Krakow has some bargains on the market stalls, but feels more upmarket than I expected, all organic ice-cream, pashminas and drip coffee.
The last of those accompanied a decent collection of bottles in a café picked at random by Mrs RM, in a courtyard just of Florianska. 9 portions of apple cake washed down with cocoa and some very hoppy Native America, perhaps the best evidence that there’s a market for all those bottles I’m seeing in rural Poland.
Krakow, on a smaller scale, really could be any modern European University city; Manchester, Berlin or Copenhagen. With young Poles staying or returning home to produce and consume some superb beer in comfy places, this felt like a beer destination city.
Perhaps it was the fog, but I wasn’t quite as blown away by the city itself as you’re supposed to be. But the castle and the Marienkirche are something else. You can even overhear the Catholic confessions here, which might be a new area for BRAPA to explore in the future.