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Monday, 9 March 2015

The Oldest Bookshop In Europe

Dearest hearts,

I hope you had a great weekend next to your beloved ones & next to your friends. I always firmly believed that week days are for learning and studies and working hard & the weekends and those days in which one can totally relax and grab a cup of coffee/tea (whichever you prefer, I never discriminate ;) ) and spend quality time with the ones you care. Today I wish to tell you about one of Krakow hidden gems: the bookshop called Matras Ksiegarnie (Ksiegarnie = Bookstore in Polish language). For that I will abuse a bit of their website in order to share with you some information and be exact :)
"In 1473, in Kraków, Kasper Straube of Bavaria set up the first printing house in Poland and in 1513 Florian Ungler's printing press produced the first book ever to be printed entirely in the Polish language: 'Raj duszny' (Paradise of the Soul) by Biernat of Lublin. It should come as no surprise that in Kraków books are held in high esteem. Kraków is also the home of one of Europe's oldest universities and provides fertile ground to discuss books and issues to do with their sale and promotion, as well as a chance to meet those who are involved in the literary profession.
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One of Kraków's bookshops is particularly worthy of attention. It is located in Rynek Główny (the Main Market Square) at number 23 and nowadays operates under the name of 'Matras' - a well known country-wide bookselling chain. This location, in the very heart of Kraków and close to the historic Town Hall Tower and the Cloth Hall, has been involved with book trade since 1610. It was in this year that books started to be sold at a house here, at that time called 'Kamienica Kromerowska' - the House of the Kromer family.
In fact, the Matras bookshop located at number 23 Main Market Square is actually the oldest bookshop in the whole of Europe. And it wasn't just any foreign visitor who called this place 'Cathedral to the book' but Carlos Fuentes, one of the greatest writers of our time. On the 14th of May 2002, he began his entry in the Matras visitors book with these very words: 'A Matras, Catedral del libro...'"
In the heart of the Matras bookstore at number 23 Main Market Square, one can find also their adorable/intimate coffee shop. The coffee shop is located at the further end of the Matras bookstore and has 2 rooms dedicated to Noble prize winners: Wislawa Szymborska and Czeslaw Milosz. Wislawa Szymborska's room is painted in light colors and has an original wooden ceiling dating back to the 19th century and slightly extravagant sea-blue furniture. In this room one can find the poet's books in plexiglass bookcases - decorated with her quotes. Czeslaw Milosz's room has also bookcases displayed, but the ambiance is different: cherry-red colors, dark furniture, Viennese style sofa with black wood frames and lamps in the ceiling that make you think of the night sky. The bar is in the Czeslaw Milosz room and you can even drink whiskey/liquors/exquisite wine there, though all the time I was there I could see people ordering only coffee :)
Sometimes in these 2 lovely rooms Matras bookstore hosts reading nights and lectures. The environment is very relaxed and you do not feel time passing by. You can take a book up and read a bit from it and then decide if you wish to go home with it or not. You can pay both by card and cash and the people working there are always very helpful and have great command of English language. There is a large menu from where you can pick and choose your poison - I tried the double espresso with milk (which had a really nice and tasty foam and it has to be noted that I hardly EVER have coffee!) & the traditional Polish apple pie (with whipped cream on the side and a dash of chocolate). Both were heavenly! and I recommend them with all my heart.  
There is a bathroom as well - one person slot - after the room with the bar. It is always clean and with fresh towels/toiletpaper (which is a must!). There might be an issue with people with disabilities to come to the coffee shop inside the bookstore, as you get there by going up a set of stairs and there is no ramp as alternative :( but unfortunately the space is so tight that I cannot see how they could fix that. The prices are quite nice for the City Center and I had a chance to bump into a 1+1 deal - coffee and cake for 12 zloty - the bookshop attendands often offer the people coming in the bookstore coupons for that ;) It is definitely worth a shot if ever you are in the Krakow City Center and you are a fan of both coffee/tea & books - give it a go and let me know how you liked it :)

P.S. How awesome can a bookstore be, to have a book about itself? Well Matras Bookstore has it - and it is written both in Polish and in English, so ask about it once you are there ;)  

** This post was made out of love for books and coffee shops. I was not repayed in any way and all the opinions are my very own, straight from the heart! ** 

Yours truly,
A LadyBug In Love With Books & Tea & Krakow City Center = Matras Cafe/Bookstore