- February 1, 2013
Cafés, restaurants and other places in Vilnius
Near the courts, just next to the Lukiškių aikštė there was the “Shares” restaurant. There, as Kolator mentions, judges were the main customers. Cabbage soup was served there, as well as pork, boiled or fried, depending on what one liked. They also served amazing meat with tubes, wholemeal bread, salt for the bone marrow and a mug of beer from Żywiec.
On a street near Adam Mickiewicz Street, in the place where, later, in Soviet times, there was “Dainava” restaurant, was the “Manor House” restaurant –one of those of the highest quality, where, as Kolator recalls, “menu was similar to menus in other Vilnius restaurants, but the atmosphere was different, specific, as if the atmosphere of home. Old, period manor house, wooden ceiling, dark wooden panels on the walls, shelves run around the room just under the ceiling, and decorative plates and other vessels stand on them. Period furniture, dark wood, but the waitresses were the most the beautiful ornaments of the place. Handsome ladies in folk clothes, stripped skirts, embroidered blouses, bunches of ribbons and bead necklaces on their necks. They smile, they are charming and dignified. They serve dishes as if it was a home party. I do not feel like in a restaurant, but rather like being at my friends’ house. The atmosphere is like in a family’s manor house (…). The waitresses were from gentry families, they had a dignified way of life, they had their own style.”
On Jogaila Street, just behind the trade house of Jabłkowski brothers, there was a restaurant for the common people.
Kolator writes : “Chauffeurs ate there. Cabbage soup, a proper portion of pork and vodka.”
Walking down the Castle Street (Zamkowa), people were entering Januszkiewicz’s restaurant, where one could order a fish, straight from a fish tank, eat smoked salmon, eel, sterlet, black or red caviar. At Januszkiewicz’s they served fish, mainly. Then, closer to the Gate of Dawn, there was the restaurant in “Bristol” hotel, where today “Astoria” is. There, one could order pork with buckwheat, and also trout, fresh one, taken out of water. In the basement of “Bristol” there was “Kazbek” bar, where everyone could taste original Caucasian shashlik.
In “Italia” there was a fish paradise and very kind service. Kolator writes: “A fish for you, sir? How do you like it? You can have a kosher one. Maybe a whitefish?” Various liquors were served with fish in „Italia”.
The “Savoy” restaurant on the German street was famous. Kolator recalls: “You had to pass through a paved square, a bit sordid, then there was an inconspicuous entrance, you could even say it was odious, but very discreet, if you didn’t want to be in the main room you could take a smaller one and it wouldn’t be more expensive. The tripe there was the best in Vilnius! The smaller rooms were rather spacious; usually there was a couch in each of them, or a comfortable sofa, you could seat leisurely and relax. Tripe, as everything else, was sprinkled with vodka, ladies preferred “luxury” one, but it was too delicate for men’s taste.”
Those who liked the taste of Jewish “side lock” vodka could go to “Wełwka’s”, on the narrow Jewish Street, opposite the St. Nicolas’ Church. Jewish pike fish was served there as well as other Jewish fish dishes. The customers were usually the host’s fellow believers, but Catholics who liked Jewish cuisine were coming in often.
Anna Jędrychowska in her Zigzag and straight book writes that students liked to eat “in «Under Twelve» pub, in a picturesque, though dimly lit and infamous Savičiaus lane. The pub was of unsure origin, cabmen were sitting there, and ladies of not so unsure, but, on the contrary, commonly known character. Red plush rooms would be quite cosy, if there weren’t bedbugs everywhere, and the arguments of cabmen with their foul language. Members of the Group of Original Creativity (STO – Sekcja Twórczości Oryginalnej) were going to the «Under Twelve», only men, sometimes, as a great honour, they were taking a girl friend with them, to show her the night life of the city.”
The author of “Zigzag and straight” recalls one more Vilnius restaurant, where the students of the Stephen Báthory University were going willingly. “Another modest plain restaurant has become popular. On Royal Street (Zamkowa Street, today Barboros Radvilaitės), near Orangery Lane and opposite the romantic Pilių parkas, there was a pub, in which painters and sculptors from the near Fine Arts Department were eating. More than one of them ate on credit, using the owner’s sympathy for the Bohemians. One of the painters had so great debts that he was not able to pay them, so, following the old tradition of painters’ associations, he covered the walls of the pub with al fresco pictures.
One spring night Miłosz, Bujnicki, Jerzy Zagórski, Stefan Zagórski, Dąbrowski and Jędrychowski came into the pub for a small beer. The bizarre drawings on the walls made them unspeakably delighted. Stefan Zagórski began to sing equally beautiful and unprintable song of Russian students “Arbuz na słonce lubit zret’!
“Ałła werdy” – his companions followed.
To the accompaniment of this song and other, similar ones, the Club of Intellectuals was born.
The pub was close to the Metropolitan Diocese. The Intellectualists were really fond of Boy. So, they called the pub «Under Consistory Virgin».”
There also was a special place in Vilnius, belonging to Aunt Rosie on Bridge Street 19 (Mostowa) in the courtyard, in one of the few basements. Lilka Szerszyńska and her parents were living in the neighbouring basement, under the same house number. She was a pupil of the Secondary School of Eliza Orzeszkowa, so called “orzeszkówka”. Her brother’s godfather and her father’s friend was one of the rectors of the Gate of Dawn. At the beginning of his staying in Vilnius he was going to Mrs Mr and Szerszynski and he gave the address to the cabman asking whether he knows where it is. The answer was:
–Sir! The horse will go there on his own!
Alfred Kolator, describing cafés and restaurants in Vilnius could not skip Aunt Rosie’s place. “Various people were going there. When the head of the police was the good and full of energy colonel Proszałowicz everything was fine. Strong black coffee was drunk, good French cognacs too, ladies preferred liqueurs but, unluckily, someone too zealous appeared and accused Aunt Rosie of supporting prostitution.
—Prostitution! Who has ever heard of that! Such a word!— and at that point Aunt Rosie enumerated names of some of her customers and frequent visitors. —I’m askin’. Your Honour! Mr Kirtiklis, is he rightful or not rightful? No prostitution in my place! Only rightful things!
Stefan Kirtiklis (1890-1951), a mayor in the Polish Army, between 1928-1930 deputy-governor of Vilnius, 1930-1931 – governor of Vilnius.
Anna Jędrychowska, with a dose of humour, also looks back at Aunt Rosie’s place. She says that “there was a story known in Vilnius, about a painter, who received an order for a portrait from an uneducated landowner. He finished the order but the man did not like it. He refused to pay for it and he did not accept the, in his opinion inaccurate, portrait. The painter rented the picture to so-called Aunt Rosie, known in Vilnius as the owner of a place of character which was difficult to be called private, no matter how hard its tenants were trying to persuade officials during censuses that their occupation was doing manicure.
One day the landowner went to Vilnius and, intending to ask for a manicure, entered Aunt Rosie’s saloon. On the wall, in the central place, he saw his own portrait. An argument began. Aunt Rosie did not want to take the portrait down from the wall, as, in her opinion, it was a masterpiece and a brilliant ornament for the saloon. She said she paid a lot for it. The landowner went to the painter, who coolly said that the portrayed person had the right to buy it as the first one, but since he hadn’t used it, the artist could sell the work. The man went back to Aunt Rosie and bought the portrait, paying her additional profit margin.
Not only uneducated landowners and students knew Aunt Rosie’s place, but also the soldiers of Vilnius. Belniak, an old soldier of cavalry captain Jerzy Dąmbrowski-Łupaszko, a tailor, Mr Rynkiewicz, who willingly talked about his adventures in this place with men from Połocka street.
At nights they were sitting on a bench under a lilac shrub; Mr Komarowski, who lived in flat 11, Korsak from number 13 was coming, and sometimes, when he was sober, Burłak Andrejew was joining them. Mr Rynkiewicz liked to boast about his adventures in Aunt Rosie’s place. Boys from the neighbourhood were listening to their conversations.
And Mr Rynkiewicz was talking about Aunt Rosie’s saloon, on Bridge Street, near the Green Bridge.
—So, you know, gentlemen, there is Mańka– not pretty, skinny, but passionate like hell. There is also Helenka, fiery, dark haired, but fatty. There is Irenka, maybe not yet the best one, in bloom, maybe fifteen years, for an amateur. I don’t like babies. That’s good for old men. You know, I treat public houses only as means of entertainment. You know, talking and drinking wine. Mańka plays the guitar well, has a nice voice. Each place like that has its own atmosphere. Aunt Rosie’s palace is not the worst one. It’s on Bridge Street, you know, but you have to knock the door and wait, because Aunt Rosie won’t open for anyone. And when you’re in, go straight to Mańka. She plays the guitar and sings old romances in Russian, and when she sings, your soul cries.
—And how much is it for such a visit?— Burłak Stiepan became ardent.
—Five zlotys… —said Mr Rynkiewicz.
—This is daylight robbery — Stiepan shook his head. — The pleasure is quite expensive…
—And you, Russian, what did you think? It ruins fools. Have you heard about such a thing? — Mr Rynkiewicz finished his story, he stood up and started walking towards the gate, when he suddenly recalled something and turned to the men sitting on the bench:
—You know, gentlemen, whatever you do, a woman will still be like an onion. Whoever takes down her clothes, will long cry.”
Tłumaczenie Emilia Zawieracz w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Emilia Zawieracz the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.