A 'Milk Bar' is not a bar

A Bar Mleczny in Poland translates to English as a ‘Milk Bar.’ These restaurants are holdovers from communist times. The government subsidized these restaurants so the ‘people’ could still ‘afford’ to eat out cheaply. I believe the term ‘milk’ refers to the food offering: primarily vegetarian and dairy (who could afford meat?) 

When my husband and I visited Poland, we walked in to one to try it. But truthfully, at that particular one, even for a very cheap price, nothing looked good to us, even though the price for a meal was around $2. Or perhaps it’s that because they’re designed more as cheap eats for locals. There was no English signage in them, so we weren’t sure what we were getting – except cabbage came with everything.

This photo was taken in Warsaw, on a touristy avenue just down the street from the Barbican, the (rebuilt) original gate to medieval Warsaw. Thus I can now read the Pod Barbakanem means by the Barbican.  I think they stay open as much for nostalgic tourists and students on a budget, as they are featured in all three travel guides I referenced.  
‘Coca-Cola’ needs no translation. We never did see ‘Diet Coke’ in Poland or Germany; instead the nearest equivalent was a slightly sweeter version called ‘Coca-Cola Light.’

With apologies for my very limited Polish, I just sat down to translate the words – and it’s very feng shui:   
         The Rule of Five Transformations

Fire (Ogien) à Earth (Ziemia)à Metal (Metal) à Water (Woda) à  Wood (Drzewo) 


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1 Comment.

  • There are good milk bars and not so good. But here are the reasons I like them 1) most of them have very tasty food 2) it is customary to share tables 3) even if you try to conceal it, you will probably be recognized as American. This is a good thing. People will invite you to join them, partly to practice their English. I’ve been traveling in Poland for extensive periods for more than 10 years now and about 2 dozen families have invited me to their homes. Many of these came from Milk Bar meetings. I have stayed with some Polish families for as long as two weeks. Poles are proud of their country and history. They have taken me around their regions and introduced me to places and customs I would never have discovered on my own, or through travel guides. Most times, I met such people in a milk bar, a kawaria (coffee shop) or on a tram, or other public transportation. Now, if you’re one of those arrogant Americans that give us all a bad name in parts of Europe, please ignore this idea. The Poles, in general, still have a good opinion of us.