Cracow Jewish Restaurant: Klezmer-Hois, the place where time stopped century ago, Klezmer music takes you to other dimensions and Jewish dishes bring new culinary experience…
History left behind….
The restaurant Klezmer-Hois (Klezmer House) is located in the heart of the former Jewish district – Kazimierz.
Just this location alone promises to guests if not hundreds of years of colorful history then certainly an atmosphere and vibes reflecting early years of the 20th century.
The town of Kazimierz (Casmir) was founded in 1335 by the Polish king Casmir the Great mainly for Jews migrating in large numbers to Poland at those times.
Situated next to then Polish capital – Cracow, on an important merchant tract, Kazimierz created an enormous growth opportunities for its inhabitants.
No wonder that soon after Kazimierz became a rich commercial center with its own defensive walls and imposing gates controlling the traffic in and out of the city.
Sketch showing the Royal city (and Capital of Poland) Cracow and neighboring Kazimierz at around 1350...
Closeness to Cracow had also a strong social impact on the life of inhabitants of Kazimierz. Despite its clear Jewish majority, it was still a place where both – Jewish and Polish (Christian) cultures peacefully coexisted for centuries.
The origins of the building at 6, Szeroka Str date from 1567, when a ritual “Mikvah” was opened in what today will be called basement.
There is a common misconception that mikvah corresponds to our bath. The truth is however that in Jewish Law, the mikvah is a highly spiritual “place” where immersion offers a gateway to purity. It may be surprising to many, but according to Jewish Law a settlement does not necessarily need synagogue to attain the status of Jewish community, but it does need a communal mikvah.
Well, this clearly underlines the importance of the building that now houses the restaurant Klezmer-Hois.
Jewish Restaurant Klezmer-Hois: Address:
6, Szeroka, Kazimierz
Main Entrance with the garden in front is kept as "touched by time" instantly bringing the ambiance of the early 20th century....
Throughout the following centuries the building was several times remodeled, loosing its historical value and appearance. From few existing tax documents (most perished during WWII) it is known that in early 1800’s the mikvah was operated by Jekele Felczer…
WWII led to total destruction of the building (only the underground mikvah survived these tumultuous times although in a very poor shape), so it had to be “raised from ashes”. Re-building process was finished in 1976 but then in 1990 the building was transferred to the local Jewish Community.
Time stopped here long time ago .....
Today the beautiful old building operating under the name Klezmer-Hois, houses the Restaurant-Café, Hotel and a small Jewish Theater “Barakah”. It is owned and operated by Wojciech and Małgosia Ornat (themselves of Jewish roots) – fervent promoters of Jewish culture in Cracow.
Klezmer-Hois: Place where the time stopped in 1920's
The restaurant includes two rooms – bigger one makes the main dining area offering evening live music while the smaller one serves as a coffee-bar. Late 19th century furniture, Jewish-theme paintings, old pictures and objects from everyday life create a characteristic atmosphere of long-gone pre-war times. Crossing the doors you are making the step 100 years back into a slow-motion life of a wealthy Jewish family. With lacy tablecloths and candles reminiscent of grandma’s best times you feel a pleasant homely atmosphere of serenity. Suddenly the bustling and noisy outside world ceases to exist….
What about a cup of coffee?
Thanks to lacy tablecloths and candles reminiscent of grandma’s best times you feel a pleasant homely atmosphere....
For those wanting the best of both worlds there are few garden tables in front of the restaurant. The wall of greenery separating the garden from streets and an old façade of the Klezmer-Hois building on the back makes it still a quite isolated place belonging to the past (as most of the Kazimierz), while the characteristic noise of passing by streetcars, and cars mixed with hordes of tourists flooding the streets reminds you that the time did not stop here century ago as you could possibly think being inside.
Specialité de la maison...
The restaurant and café offers a range of traditional Jewish dishes but undeniably showing strong East-European influence due to centuries of coexistence with Polish (Slavic) culinary habits. As the result, the menu may please not only Jewish guests.
The list of specialties worth of trying may include: Jewish style Carp, Jewish Caviar, Yankiel’s Soup, from the wide choice of beetroot soups – the Cold Beetroot one.
Flagships of Jewish cuisine are Stuffed Goose Necks known as “Gęsi Pipek”. Interestingly enough there are two version of this “delicacy”.
In the northern Poland it is a roasted skin of goose neck stuffed with giblets, potatoes, onion and herbs. In the former Galicia (Southern Poland including Cracow) these are stewed-then roasted goose stomachs stuffed with goose liver, lard, onion, veggies and herbs. In any case here opinions are divided but simple - you can either love “Gęsi Pipek” or not!). Just to let you know – it tastes much better that it might sound to you!
Klezmer-Hois: Almost "mandatory" in Cracow garden in front of the restaurant....
Also traditionally suggested Jewish dishes include Galician Goulash, Choulent, Kugel (Potatoes Pie) … If you never before tried anything like that, then may be it is time to gain the new culinary experience. But do not be scared, the menu does not end here as restaurant also offers many other delicious but familiar sounding dishes like beef in garlic and cumin sauce, Viennese Schnitzel, breast of turkey or chicken, salmon in almonds, grilled trout etc...
Although the long list includes some “new additions” reflecting quickly changing culinary habits in today’s society, most of main positions are prepared according to recipes that have been passed down through generations of Polish Jews.
Please note that the restaurant do respect the obligatory rules of kosher cuisine (although they do not have the kashrut certificate).
Scene like from the movie "Fiddler on the roof...."
Not surprisingly, Klezmer-Hois is more than just a Jewish restaurant – it also plays an important role as a cultural center. Concerts of Klezmer music are held here in the main restaurant room every evening at 8:00pm. The music and lyrics by Quartet Klezmer Trio “transform into an unforgettable and extraordinary trip to the Klezmer world of sounds and stories”…..
Well, one picture is better than thousand words, and certainly one video clip is better than thousand of pictures, so please be the “virtual guest” of Klezmer-Hois during QKT’s evening performance (Note – selecting the Music button and then CD records, you will be able to listen to few tens of second of each record).
Ladies and gentlemen, in front of you:
You can meet here artists, musicians, movie directors…. Guestbook and wall pictures provide evidence of the presence of such celebrities as Steven Spielberg, Roman Polanski but also Prince Charles, Ben Kingslay…, not mentioning other names may be less known to the general public, but nevertheless, well respected across the world.
As restaurant owners nicely pointed it out:
“Klezmer-Hois Restaurant-Café well suits Kazimierz, since it brings back the sentiments and creates a special ambiance of past years, when Jewish life was a fact, not history.”
Indeed these days there is no big Jewish community living in Kazimierz. Yes, you can hear Yiddish and Hebrew on the Kazimierz’s streets and see people in characteristic Orthodox- Jews garments with “Yarmulke” (Kippah), but they are mainly tourists…
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Crossing the entry door you find yourself in a totally different world, far from aggressive commercials, far from city's noise.....What was important minutes ago, now seems to fade out...
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In addition to beautiful and emotionally deep presentations of Klezmer music, the little underground theater Barakah operating under the artistic direction of Leopold Kozłowski from time to time organizes artistic events promoting Jewish culture and traditions.
Frankly, it will be difficult to find the better location for a “Jewish-Institution” having so much to offer.
Just across the street there is the 16th century Remuh Synagogue named after Rabbi Moses Isserles, a very influential Ashkenazi Jew known by the Hebrew acronym “Remuh”). The Lamenting Wall in the nearby cemetery is a place of pilgrimages.
Not far on the Szeroka street there is an oldest Jewish house of prayers in Poland – a 15th century “Old Synagoge” with large exhibition of numerous cultural and religious Jewish “treasuries”….
Few hours in this part of Kazimierz, may be some time for a cup of coffee in the surroundings of the Klezmer-Hois bar, few hours in the nostalgic atmosphere from the beginning of the last century – all that takes you far away from let’s face it - sometimes aggressive modern day environment….
And even just that is worth of your time!
If you enjoyed this visit, then please share your experience with friends :-)
If tomorrow you would like to dine in another Cracow's restaurant then before making the reservation please select the following link :
Old Town Cracow Restaurants
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