Cafe Bajer on Trida Miru in Pardubice may look like it’s been there since the dawn of the 20th century, and that’s just what owner Milan Bajer wants you to believe when you step inside. The cafe has in fact been in business for just 15 years, although that’s a very impressive feat considering the musical chairs like activity that affects most high streets these days with businesses opening and closing within months.
Since 1998 Cafe Bajer has been a focal point of Pardubice’s Trida Miru where young and old alike go to catch up with friends and take it easy with a nice hot cup of coffee. There could be a group of students playing on their phones at one table, and the elderly owner of a nearby factory at another, all sitting together with the same plan, to relax.
Customers are spoiled for choice when it comes to where to sit, with no less than six distinct seating areas, all with their own different character. As you walk in from Trida Miru, you walk down a narrow passageway and are greeted by a number of antiques, bicycles and old coffee boxes. There’s a selection of tables running along one of the walls and a nice secluded raised seating area at the end. In the Summer months this makes for a fine hideout from the glaring sun.
When the weather takes a turn you can seek shelter in the conservatory area where you really get a sense of what this place is all about, an homage to coffee, the Austro-Hungarian empire and Art Nouveau and Art Deco stylings. Milan Bajer, the owner of Cafe Bajer who runs the business with his sons is a big antiques fan, as evidenced by the sheer amount of fascinating paraphernalia that dots every nook and cranny of the cafe.
There’s old coffee dispensers, storage boxes and posters as well as vintage cash registers, phones, clocks and ornaments. But they’re not just a random collection of forgotten treasures, or the kind of standardised “vintage” materials you see in so many so called retro pubs and cafes around the world. These are the genuine article, items from cafes that have long since gone out of business, many of them right here in Pardubice, others from businesses from all over the world.
Pardubice is well known for a number of products, perhaps most notably Semtex., the plastic explosive. It is also the site of a factory that plays a big part in the story of Cafe Bajer. What is now the Kávoviny factory near the train station used to be the site of the Franck coffee company which made substitutes for classic coffee. The best known was “Franck’s Genuine Coffee Supplement”, Franckovkafor short, which came in oval red packets or brown boxes. Under the name “Karo-Franck” it was sold in the form of cubes. Another favourite was a rye coffee called “Perola.
In the main seating area of Cafe Bajer you can see a lot of posters and artwork which are original advertising materials for these products. It’s really fascinating to know that what I thought were just random posters are in fact highly relevant to Pardubice and its past and indeed current industry.
With cafes popping up here there and everywhere these days, it’s refreshing to be able to sit down and relax in a place that has been around long enough to have a history all of its own, even though it may not be that old an establishment itself. The antiques and decor in Cafe Bajer tell a tale all of their own, a tale of coffee, industry and a more decadent time in our history, that with Milan’s help hopefully won’t be forgotten.
There are in fact two Cafe Bajers in Pardubice. The main one on Trida Miru established in 1998 and the smaller but equally impressive and quaint cafe located under the Green Tower next to the old square. More on that in the next blog post including a hidden gem you’d never knew was there.