Free Tea! Free Coffee!

25 05a

(Art on the old city wall)

Before we got here I was researching Krakow (with help, thank you Magda!) and one of the things I found was a free cafe, called Cafe Fińska. Well, almost free… in return for a cup of coffee or tea you add some art work to the paper tablecloth. I was very interested. Imagine having a place where people could get together, share a tea or coffee and do some art…. it’s probably not surprising I was interested. So I searched for more information about this place and as it wasn’t too far from our apartment, I thought it might be nice to go visit.


(The old (city gate)… and the new (McDonald’s arches)…)

I wasn’t sure what to expect and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to communicate with only one word of Polish. But nothing ventured… so on Friday with a map and google directions (really miss data) scribbled on top we started walking in the direction of the (former) Jewish Ghetto. It took nearly an hour and the weather was very warm so we were a little flushed when we arrived. Denis made sure I went in first…


(A sign…)

The cafe is on the ground floor of a triangular-shaped building at the junction of two streets and it is tiny inside. The walls are covered in art, as is the (paper) table-cloth. There are mugs and a tea-making area in one corner (do you call it a corner if it’s a triangle?) There’s a six seater table down one side and a two person sofa on the other. When we walked in there were two men playing chess at a small table in the middle and one man on his iPad on the sofa.


(Low flying helicopter)

Not knowing the etiquette for this situation I decided to go ahead and announce myself. I spoke as slowly as my nervousness would allow, hi I’m from Ireland and I heard about your cafe, would you be able to tell me something about it, please? Silence. Oh, do you speak English? The older of the men at the chess board pointed to the two others and they laughed sheepishly and said yes. In the end the older man explained the history of the cafe while the younger one translated. The third man made our tea.


(See the bugle peeping out the top window of St Mary’s Church? Every hour on the hour, 24 hours a day (yes someone gets up in the middle of the night to do this) the bugle sounds over Krakow. To commemorate the bugler who was shot with an arrow to the throat as he warned the town of invaders)

It started last year when there was an art festival in Krakow. A guy called Michał Mioduszewski, an artist all the way from Warsaw created it as an art installation in the Grolsch ArtBoom Festival, June 2013. His working title: Revolutions happen in cafes. It was a great success and then the art festival was over and it was time to close everything down. But it didn’t close. The locals loved the cafe so much that they decided they wanted to keep it. They have been paying the rent ever since. They are also donating their time, their tea, their coffee and sometimes their baked goods. It opens six days a week from 4.30pm and sometimes they have concerts and classes. Everything is run on a voluntary basis with donations going towards the rent. No one makes any money out of this venture, except maybe the landlord!


(The foot bridge over the river covered in locks declaring love)

We left after our tea and I thanked the men (in Polish – thank you, Kinga!) All the way back to town I wondered…. is this only possible in Krakow or in Poland?


(Tram tracks through the park)

Maybe… maybe not… Mairead.

P.S. A link to more information about Cafe Fińska.

Canada – home of the free… stuff

29 8a

(Our bus stop – a little off-center but working perfectly)

Yesterday Caoimhe and I went to the Mall (pronounced maul.) Although there’s public transport here in Barrie –  a bus service and a train to Toronto – most people take cars. So Caoimhe had never been on the bus (neither had my sister or brother-in-law) but as bus travel is an integral part of every holiday for me, we gave it a go. Barrie is considered a town, but it’s a big town, with a population size similar to Cork city. We would need a map, timetables, directions – we didn’t have any of these…. but we had something else – Doris!

29 8d

(Our map – that’s the lake in blue and the circles with the arrows are the bus number and bus direction – we took number 10 and number 20)

If you’re keeping up with our story you will remember Doris and Bobba? Well, on Monday they had to go for a doctor’s appointment and among the out of date magazines and health promos in the waiting room they discovered a bus map and timetable. We had the tools. (Interesting by the way…. doctors visits are free – yes free! I was beginning to notice a few aches and pains that I could get investigated before we get back to Non-free-land when I was told it was only for residents. Sure I’m fine really.)

29 8b

(A newspaper stand on a suburban street)

Anyway, on Monday night we poured over the map and discovered where we could pick up the bus, how much it would cost (one fixed price $2.85 and that includes transfer to any other bus), what number it would be and which direction it would be going in. By Tuesday at 11am we were ready. We found the stop easily (after a bit of confusion – mine – about which side of the road the traffic drives…. it’s  the right!) and settled down to wait.

29 8c

(A fire hydrant – doesn’t it look a bit like the little bear in Yogi Bear?)

Caoimhe had a book and I had my camera. When the bus came we were ready with our exact change. I had put mine into the little slot and was encouraging Caoimhe to do the same when the nice lady driver said, Tell me she’s in 8th grade. Never one to disobey a person in uniform (and Caoimhe is in 8th grade) I nodded, Yes, she’s in 8th grade. Then she’s free when she’s with you. Yahoo!

Free doctors and free travel, how much better can this get? Mairead.