Yes, we know. Berlin is hard to leave.
Many have moved here from other continents with good intentions: “Ooo, no more than a couple of hours to Hamburg, Leipzig, Dresden? Hell yeah! Backpacking, here I-” and then they’re called out to the latest vernissage with free tea tastings followed by beer yoga (google it if you doubt me).
But there’s more to life than Spätis and Mauerpark. Sometimes we tend to forget that Berlin, half a day away from Cologne and Munich, is almost sitting on the Polish border. This makes it a mere three hours from Poznan: the cutest cafe town I’ve ever been to.
Now, what are your excuses? Time? Poznan can be done in a day, and you can easily work on the train. Money? A train ticket can cost 40-50 euros last minute without a Bahncard25 (i.e. 25% discount), and there are some buses that go there. Plus it’s 1 euro to 4 zloty, so your spending money is quadrupled. I probably spent no more than twenty euros for two and a half meals and a handful of hot drinks.
The train ride itself is interesting. If you go within the next year or so you may still catch the transition period post-communism modern makeover, meaning you may get a new train, a very, very old and slightly ugly train with comfy old fashioned compartments, or a mixture of the two. A tip: before crossing the border, you’ll be offered tea and coffee and asked to pay. In Poland, the same drinks trolley rolls past and it’s complimentary.
So, free hot stuff in belly, you’re probably already feeling a bit better about venturing outside of your Berlin pad. And again, if you go soon enough, you’ll still be able to see the metamorphosis of Poznan Głowny (main station). While the old station slouches to one side, staring into wrecking balls and oblivion, the new one has sprouted glass ceilings and a Starbucks.
Leaving this little historical interlude behind will only take you about 10 minutes on foot. And then, after turning a few concrete corners you’ll suddenly have lost yourself in the middle of a tiny, adorable, rainbow-coloured square (Stary Rynek – which I can’t help but associate with an image of twinkling stars). Once you’ve drunken in this old fashioned beauty, reminding you that aesthetic can be achieved with things other than spray cans and graffiti, you should weave through the little cobbled streets and explore the cafe scene.
After two visits’ worth of cafes, this list might end up kind of long. But essentially, there are two things you should look out for: hot chocolate and pierogi. I came back from Poznan having stuffed myself with both – weird that this didn’t stop me looking for them in Berlin, right? It’s no coincidence that the first photos on my camera after this trip were of the best pierogi I’ve found so far on home turf, at Tak Tak (“yes yes” in Polish).
An old favourite. With your grandma’s decor and hot chocolate as thick as cream you can’t really go wrong. If you’re looking for something that could dare to match this in Berlin, sniff out Nibs Cacao.
This is a good old “Bar Mleczny” (“milk bar” for people with less consonants in their languages). Old meaning the sort of thing you could find in any decent communist Polish town barely half a lifetime ago. When you visit Apetyt, it feels like nothing has changed… apart from the fact that English-speaking Westerners are sitting opposite old-time regulars.
Yes, this does mean that the menu will be entirely in Polish and probably no one will be able to translate it for you. If you need some letters to grasp at, look for pierogi z serem: a sweet dumpling filled with a sort of cream cheese, served with melted butter (mmm, obesity).
The force of the pink sign, pink decorations and pink everything drew me in with horror, and I left with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Różove apparently means “pink love” – duh. Pretty much everything is pink, but absolutely everything has taste. It also seems like a perfect place to love yourself with a hand-made patchwork treat.
A trendy little creperie for sweet tooths and savoury, uh, savourers. The records tiling the walls are pretty cool, but I can’t tell you why they’re there. A big, big, big hunch suggests concerts.
Apparently there are two of these cafe-galleries very close to each other, which confused my walnut-brain no end. But they’re both bound to be good: orange hot chocolate and art is a yummy combo.
As you can see, my recommendations and memory are pretty food-based. But obviously Poznan (and Poland in general) is fascinating, beautiful, and all the rest of it. It’s a university town, so there are plenty of bars, a few cool and cheap hostels, history and architecture museums, gigs and exhibitions, and even a street art scene. Basically exactly what a Berliner needs to get them off their minimalist stools.
Noriaki – a Polish street artist who also has a thousand eyes in Berlin.