We live in tough economic times. Money is difficult to come by and jobs are as rare as four-leaf clovers. We all need something, and someone, to cheer us up. But how to woo the perfect mate when there’s little but holes in your pocket?
Let’s assume you’ve found someone to take on a date, otherwise there’s not much point in reading the rest of this article. Let’s also assume you’re the guy, and therefore expected to pay in traditionalist Poland, or some kind of radical feminist. Now, how to have the best date spending the least money? The editor set me the challenge of dreaming up a romantic evening in Krakow for 50 zloty.
My first idea was a restaurant. First dates usually involve having a drink and a meal. Most of the places I have eaten in since arriving in Krakow have been student restaurants and bars. Coco is one of the nicest. You can eat there for less than 20 zl, inside or in the garden. There are also the two Kuchnia u Babci Maliny restaurants, with their rural, peasant-food vibe. Milkbar Tomasza is also great for a modern take on traditional, cheap Polish food.
Milkbar Tomasza – Cheap but stylish
Chimera is good for fresh vegetables and salads in a nice, garden-like space. Café Botanica is another student-style place serving quick food for little money, and they have a back room that looks like an interior garden. The most affordable solution would be a bar mleczny (milk bar), those traditional, cheap cafes ubiquitous in communist times, but they close early, and the smell of sausage and cabbage is not so romantic.
I kept passing by places that seemed nice for a single person like me, but I had to put my brain in couple mode. Where would I like a guy to take me on a first date? I forced myself to think about flowers and candles.
I asked friends and walked the streets, delving into some of the passageways of the Old Town. I found lots of fancy restaurants, but the problem quickly became obvious – at 25 zl per person, you might be able to afford one main dish each, but you would go thirsty. There had to be an alternative.
Despairing of finding a place where I could picture myself going on a date for 50 zl, I decided to quiz couples wandering on the Planty on a sunny Sunday afternoon. They must have some expertise in the area.
The nice people who didn’t mind being disturbed by a girl asking weird questions in hesitant Polish were unanimous: “Of course you can spend less than 50 zl on a date! You can go on a date for free.” The answer, it seemed, was the open-air date – on the Planty, in parks, on the banks of the river. I even heard the philosophical answer: “You can spend a romantic evening in McDonald’s if you want. It’s not the place that’s important, but who you are with.” A romantic ideal, but suggesting a Big Mac might be a bit of a risk if your date is older than fifteen.
The planty. What could be more romantic? And it’s free.
Surely, the challenge was beaten – simply sit on a bench with your beloved. But that would be cheating. I decided to think of something a bit fancier than five hours on an uncomfortable bench on the Planty.
What about a romantic picnic? Clearly, the location would be important. Between the Ojca Bernatka footbridge and the Piłsudskiego Bridge, facing Wawel Castle, would be a good spot. Sitting on the grass, with the music and the atmosphere of Forum behind you – just not too close, otherwise you might get the feeling other people are having more fun than you are. Sitting on the Kopiec Krakus enjoying the outstanding view, is another good idea.
The next thing to consider is the setting. A wicker basket looks organised, but old fashioned (girls love that). I found one for 6 zl on Gumtree (and a new one for 14 zl in Jubilat). An old bed sheet, with flowers and lace, can act as the blanket – the kitschier it is, the cuter you will look. White plastic cutlery is fine. You can get knives, forks, cups and plates for about 5 zl in Jubilat (or colourful ones for about 15 zl).
The gallic delights of Le Petit France.
Last, but not least, the food. Perhaps I’m just feeling homesick, but also because French food always looks fancy, I thought about a French picnic. La Petite France on św. Tomasza sells imported French food and homemade cakes. There have hare pâté for 13 zl (a big pot), cabecou cheese (soft goat’s cheese from southwest France) at 4zl per piece (two is enough), and Tomme de Savoie, a hard cheese from the Alps with a strong taste but a delicate texture for 65 zl/kg, (100–150g would be more than enough). To complete the theme, a baguette from Charlotte on Plac Szczepański costs just 4 zl. A bottle of wine would be perfect, but drinking alcohol is not allowed in public places in Poland, and we only have 50 zl, so grape juice will have to do (3.50 zl in Kefirek).
Pâté, goat’s cheese, 100g of Tomme, bread, a basket, plastic cutlery and plates and juice comes to just 45 zl.
The last 5 zl? In Kefirek, they sell a candle in a little holder for 2 zl, and you can get a rose for 3 zl at a market.