The fancy tiles may evoke images of Lisbon or the Mediterranean for the first time, but this Szczecin gem is Polish to the core—so much so that to this day, when you walk in, you are transported to the city’s past.
With a touch of Art Nouveau, coffee, and the atmosphere of the world-famous film Chocolat, you get the ingredients of this romantic café at 19 Pocztowa Street, which holds surprises in all its 22 square meters. The place was conceived by Monika Szymanik, who was drawn to the West Pomeranian capital by love. Monika’s story is, like that of her café, a fascinating one: you wouldn’t imagine that a girl growing up in a modern skyscraper would later become an ‘old times fan’ shopkeeper. Over the years, walking around the city’s historical sites, she has learned to see the beauty in the small details and notice what others find hard to see—partly thanks to this, the Kamienica w Lesie (loosely translated as ‘Tenement House in the Woods’) bookshop café is now a reality.
In the meantime, a teenage crush had matured, and a new flame had been ignited: Monika didn’t waste any time and started thorough archival research and compiled an album of visual historical records of the city. After the success of the project “Kamienica w Lesie – the Instagram wanderings of a Szczecin resident”, they rented the iconic Pocztowa Street shop, home to the unique bookshop café. In addition to coffee specialties, visitors can learn about the unknown faces and stories of Szczecin, with the feeling of sitting in a time capsule.
The exceptional interior evokes the old atmosphere— a clever observation that reveals from the first visit that there are more secrets than meets the eye. The square shapes felt extremely odd against the uneven walls, revealing the hand-painted Art Nouveau tiles beneath a thick layer of plaster. In the following weeks, Monika and her team worked under the supervision of two conservators (art curators), stripping the chipped paint off the porcelain tiles piece by piece. The apartment building on Pocztowa Street is registered in Szczecin’s listed monuments, which unfortunately means that only the exterior of the building is protected, not the interior. In addition to the tiles, the antique door and flooring are also original, probably worn down by countless locals over the years. The result, after the technical modernization, is a bohemian yet noble space in every detail.
The history of the tenement house is just as charming as the design: when the bookshop café opened, it didn’t only attract curious bookworms but was organically found by those who were once involved. The first such person was a gentleman named Michał Lewandowski, whose family ran a butcher’s shop at 19 Pocztowa Street between 1948 and 1975. When he heard that the place had been revived, he brought a picture of his parents behind the counter—the connection between past and present makes the setting so mystical. Michał’s story led to another, and Monika dove into researching old documents. She now knows how the interior of the rooms changed, who designed them, and what life was like within the walls of the café.
Monika Szymanik’s aforementioned project is also available in book form, aiming to inspire and prove that you don’t have to travel across continents to feel like Christopher Columbus—a fascinating adventure might be awaiting just down the road.
With the purchase of this book, you support the further renovation of the bookshop café.
Photos: Monika Szymanik
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Source: Vogue Polska