John Falconer’s Travel Diary, Part II
I’ve just exited the Basylika Mariacka, a fairly standard church of the ‘extravagantly pious’ variety. Noteworthy: the pleasing chequerboard pattern of the ceiling, and the giant altar by Gothic artist Wita Stwosza, an altar which I have taken the time to sketch. Since this has taken slightly longer than I first anticipated, I hit the streets feeling decidedly peckish, and after a little wander I notice an interesting-looking place called Camelot.
The first thing I notice about this place are the walls. They’re covered with a thick layer of something that used to be sloppy; clay maybe. They’ve been painted powder pink, and in places the shape of the bricks underneath shows through – I don’t know if this is intentional, but it seems to fit the feel of the place.
Medieval-chic, I would call this. Very pleasing to the eye, but in the end, clearly an illusion. Unlike in medieval times, all the waitresses are young and prim, immaculately dressed and incredibly polite. Men, apparently, do not work here. I look at the chips in the paintwork and wonder if they are intentional. I look at the cheap, flea-market chandeliers. Next to the rather aggressive-looking wrought-iron wood burner is a pile of logs – does that mean that this thing gets used? Or is that, too, just for show?
Everywhere, there are candles. There’s one on my table, and when the table wobbles, wax drips onto a tablecloth woven of thick, white thread, like a spider’s web. On every surface not occupied by brass candlesticks, the ugly wooden statues dominate. Are they really hand-carved, as they appear? On a wide window-sill, two giant wooden birds watch the street, by some giant white flowers (are they real?) and a bowl overflowing with apples (are they real?).
I have already decided that I like it here, in spite of the existential crisis I find myself in. There’s an earthy colour scheme going on in the furniture: browns and greens, often decorated with painted flowers. The bare floorboards look dirty; I wonder if anyone cleans them. French swing music is gently pumped into the room, music which alternates between unobtrusive white noise and snappy trumpet leads that clamour for attention.
Lunch is a cheese toastie with olives. When it arrives, I see that the olives have their own pot, as does the tomato ketchup. Fried pine nuts are liberally sprinkled over an open-faced toastie, which rests on a large, undressed salad. Sitting like a king above everything is half of a hot, peeled tomato. Upon tasting, I discover that the cheese is, in fact, goat. I enjoy this with an entire pot of tea, which sets me back 15.50 PLN, or about 3 GBP.
The blood-red anteroom which I discover on my way to the toilet is decorated in a more boho style. The illusion here feels more authentic. My waitress, who has patiently spoken Polish with me throughout my encounter, teaches me how to ask for the bill, and I do. I tip 10% – which is all the coinage I have – and I hope it is enough. I think I will come back here. It is a good place to play the part of the struggling author.
Apparently there’s cabaret here on Fridays.
Note: On my way to the Basylika, a blonde girl with an umbrella started speaking in Polish. I’ve gotten pretty good at asking whether people speak English, so I did. She then invited me to a live, free, ‘sexy show’, and pointed across the street. My exclamation of “In the middle of the day?” was met with pure incomprehension. Apparently, the lads in Kraków can’t even wait until the evening for their fix.