Hello, long time no see
With NaNoWriMo fast approaching, and a cup of espresso in my hand at 1am, I came to an abrupt realisation:
I need to go to a coffeehouse.
I have not updated this blog in ages, but as you might have (or not, that’s okay) been aware, I was living in Bratislava, Slovakia for a very long time.
I am currently studying in the Netherlands, living in the Hague for almost 3 months now and although I thought I had not been uprooted in Slovakia, turns out, I actually am to one thing (or maybe two):
Coffee. Effing. Houses.
Or to simplify the concept: cafes.
I had grown so accustomed to just heading for the city centre, entering a cafe of my choice (there were too many options to ever really struggle), ordering a luscious-looking piece of cake with some Viedenská káva and enjoying it well into the evening without a care in the world. It was expected from me to do so, and highly encouraged by the endless selection of cafes scattered throughout the Bratislava old town and neighbouring areas.
I never really thought I would be missing that particular scene, that particular aspect of my life in Slovakia.
As a tween growing into a teen, I appreciated the overly trendy cafes in the repertoire – with an order consisting of cappuccino + cheesecake or something similar. As I turned sixteen, the change to more off-the-path establishments came, and so did my dietary preferences, opting for espressos or Viedenská káva (if feeling indulgent) with slices of heartier cakes, or perhaps a selection of biscuits… And at 18, when writing and studying really became a day-to-day routine, so did my visits to what I would define as the “second-living-rooms” of Bratislava – tiny, cosy places with blankets at hand and lighting so dim it called for naps as my nostrils took in the smell of coffee and my hands held a wine glass… or a coffee cup… or anything for that matter. All while the hustle and bustle around me went on: two old ladies having a conversation about their sons-in-law, three students arguing about whether their parents took part in the 1989 revolutions or not, a mother and father having some cake while their child slept in grandma’s arms…
There really isn’t anything similar here, and my concerns are growing. With NaNoWriMo just around the corner, I worry whether home will be the one place where I can get my work done… It’s just not the same to work alone in my room, and do so in a place bustling with people, objects, ideas, potential lives to write about…
I would have never guessed something as simple as the Bratislava coffeehouse scene, which I took for granted for so many years, would play such an important role. Not only in my day-to-day routine, but in my lifestyle, my writing, and by default my personality.
For now, all I can do is mourn for those atmospheric evenings in the Bratislava old town, sitting by a window, sipping on Viedenská káva and digging into a superb slice of poppy seed cake (a speciality this time of year) as the temperatures outside drop but the ambiance inside the coffeehouse becomes increasingly pleasant… So pleasant, so awfully pleasant, that my fingers reach for pen and paper or set on my laptop’s keyboard and I begin to write.
In any case, here are some of my cafe suggestions, in case you are interested in checking out what I so much long for!
My favourite cafes in Bratislava, in no particular order (because it’s impossible for me to choose):
- Dobre&Dobré (Nedbalova 13, Staré Mesto, Bratislava)
An interesting place right in the Stará Tržnica building. Cosy and elegant at the same time (not to mention incredibly picturesque), it is the perfect place to stop for a coffee either solo or with a couple of very good friends. One thing I really appreciated about the place is that it is run by an NGO that aims to increase the inclusiveness of homeless people in the workforce. In terms of food, the menu is quite limited but the coffee is amazing, and when it gets too hot out, it’s a great place for lemonade! And if you’re lucky, you might be able to listen to some live music!
- Foxford (Staré Grunty 24 – Galéria Cubicon, Karlova Ves, Bratislava.)
There are a couple of locations for this one, but my favourite is definitely the one in Cubicon. It is quite small in comparison to the flagship one in the city centre (which I highly recommend too), but there is something about it that makes me like it more. It has a more hipstery-feel, with a bright red Volkswagen van inside (yes, you can have coffee inside the van too), and books covering the entirety of a wall. Just like the flagship in Obchodna, it shares premises with Martinus, one of the most popular, if not the most popular bookstore chain in Slovakia, so it’s perfect for buying a book and start reading it just minutes later in a cosy nook! My recommendation for this one: the raspberry brownie cheesecake is to die for, and they serve a pretty great flat white.
- Eleven Books and Coffee (Baštová 345/9, Staré Mesto, Bratislava.)
Located in the heart of the city centre, just metres away from the iconic Michalská brána, this is a very pleasant place to spend the afternoon at. From all the places, this is the one where the biggest recommendation is not coffee-based, but chocolate-based. Their hot chocolate was my salvation through the bitter January cold – so decadent you could still get tiny bits of dark chocolate that had yet to melt fully. It is also a bookstore, specialising in used books, where you can get books in many languages. Pretty nice selection of books in German, since they are located in the same building as the Austrian Institute.
- La Putika (Panská 12, Staré Mesto, Bratislava AND Klobučnícka 4, Staré Mesto, Bratislava.)
For this one, it is just impossible to choose between those two locations. As far as I know, there are a couple more locations in Bratislava, but these are the two I frequented, and I must say I loved them equally.
The Panská location has more of a traditional cafe vibe to it and tends to be less crowded than other locations. From all cafes I have mentioned, this was the one closest to the city library, so it was my excuse to get out of the library and just attempt to study there instead. The coffee selection is great, but so are their wine and beer ones so decisions are tough to make. They also have a decent dessert selection.
The Klobučnícka location is a Bratislava favourite because it has that living room feel to it that many appreciate. It’s like being at home but not really at the same time. The decoration makes the place feel oddly familiar, and oddly nostalgic even if it’s just your first time visiting. This location is always crowded, which can be a plus side or a minus side, according to your preferences. In any case, this location is just across from Dobre&Dobré so if any of the places are full, you can just cross the street and go to the other one 😉 and then go back and forth, endlessly, until it is late enough to go home. Because at the end, that’s what cafes are for: enjoying the transition from afternoon to evening to night. Or at least that’s what they mean to me.
- Štúr (Štúrova 8, Staré Mesto, Bratislava.)
A classic. Located in Štúrova, it is very close to Comenius University and therefore you might run into students working far more than in other cafes I have mentioned. Out of all the places I have mentioned, this is one of the most work-friendly places, but it is still a great place to lounge in one of the sofas at the back with some friends and have a chat over coffee. The Viedenská káva here is one of my favourites in Bratislava, and so is their čoko-lekvárová torta – which I would best describe as a creamier take on a Sachertorte, replacing the apricot jam with a raspberry one.
In any case, what even is Viedenská káva?
Literally translates as Vienna coffee, although in Vienna this is knowns as a Franziskaner. To simplify, it is half coffee, half milk, topped up with whipped cream and potentially, though not always, chocolate powder.