‘The Bookworm Cabin is more than a ‘stay’. It’s an experience!’ TFN’s Alex Webber finds ‘unexpected magic’ in woodland retreat
Last time round, you may recall, I mentioned in this column that I was going away. Well I did, and I’m back – as in literally five minutes ago.
Now had you been paying attention, you’d know already where I was headed, but on the off-chance you were too busy making merry then allow me to fill you in: my latest jaunt took me to the Bookworm Cabin, a compact little hideout a forty-five minute drive from downtown Warsaw.
To many, the name alone should ring a bell. Accepting its first guests in 2019, the Bookworm Cabin went globally viral when it was first unveiled by its owners, the entrepreneur Bartek Kraciuk and his wife, architect Marta Puchalska-Kraciuk.
Their plan had been simple: to build a woodland cabin close enough to the capital for a quick escape… and, guess what, to then fill it with books.
This alone intrigued the public, but when press images were released a fuse was lit and the world went bananas – and I really do mean the world.
Featured in a slew of portals and publications, the Bookworm Cabin made it into every lifestyle and design bible you could possibly think of.
Likewise, I too found myself writing about it numerous times, but in those architecturally-minded articles that you write from a distance without ever needing to visit.
Not that I hadn’t wanted to spend the night there, just doing so proved to be tougher than I thought.
Though originally intended as a private retreat, such was the public’s curiosity that the Kraciuks decided to rent the place out – booked out solid in the first few months of operation, interest surged yet further when the pandemic erupted and the word ‘staycation’ became something real.
Having long held ambitions to stay there, I finally got my chance. Booking a month in advance for the beginning of Jan, not a day went by in the interim that didn’t involve me checking the long-term forecast in the hope of a blizzard.
I could picture myself already, hunkered down in front of a fireplace whilst threatening dunes of snow formed outside.
It didn’t quite work out like that, but in all other respects the Bookworm Cabin exceeded expectations.
First things first. Arriving. We’re all used to seeing places proclaiming they’re “an easy drive from town”, but reality often proves different. In this case, though, it actually is.
As a non-driver, I reached the cabin using Uber (PLN 140), though a GPS hiccup found me deposited by a puzzled-looking driver in an empty forest clearing. No kidding, the driver looked even more alarmed than me.
Still, Google’s satellite imagery soon had me on the right track and slashing my way through the undergrowth to reach the cabin itself; emerging from the bushes like Indiana Jones, I’d picked a stupidly scenic way to reach my destination – but boy, was it worth it.
As silly as it sounds, my chief concern was thus: having enjoyed such saturation coverage in the media, I felt like I already knew the place like the back of my hand. With that in mind, I doubted its potential to ‘surprise’ and offer ‘unexpected magic’.
And then I opened the doors.
Hidden behind two giant shutters, these unfurled to present an angled glass façade behind which sat the cabin itself. I’d seen it a million times before in pictures, but the sensation of seeing it first-hand proved a breath-taking moment. Likewise, actually entering.
Covering a footprint of just 25 sq/m, the first hour was spent familiarizing myself with every nook and corner with the excitable inquisitiveness of a Labrador puppy.
Clad in wood, it was everything I had hoped for – an intimate little treasure with a kitchenette one end, a miniscule bathroom unit under the stairwell (big people – good luck!), and a mezzanine level with a comfy bed positioned under a steep-sloping ceiling. Satisfied with my exploration, my holiday could begin.
The first thing you notice here, is that time turns on its head – eight hours feels like one, and one hour feels like eight.
With no screens or distractions, the body and mind quickly readjust to differentiate only between the light of day and the blackness of night.
But that’s not all. Just as a piece of architecture it’s worth the plaudits: with little else to do, you find yourself circling the cabin countless times, coveting its black diamond-like form from each and every angle. As dusk sets, the enticing glow emitted from within is just about the most delicious sight you can imagine on a frosty Polish evening.
And yes, the weather. Though I didn’t get the apocalyptic snowstorms I had prayed for, there was enough snow sprinkling the surroundings to lend a feeling of intrepid adventure.
That sensation would peak each morning on my daily patrol of the fields and forests; with just a couple of interloping deer for company it was exhilarating to explore the frigid moonscape all around.
Devoid of all colour, it felt like I’d accidentally walked into a black-and-white film: bleak but blisteringly beautiful.
Returning to the cabin, I’d then set about my chores for the day which essentially translated to mean gathering wood in a big steel bucket. After, I’d reward myself with a gratifying mug of tea before building a fire and gently snoozing off. And that, in essence, was all that I did.
Oh, and reading.
I’d made it my duty to swot up on every review ever written about this place, so already I knew what was coming. Though lined with oodles of books, a smattering of clowns had voiced issues about the choice on offer.
Seemingly dealing exclusively with the Albatros publishing house (think Grisham, Follett, King and Coben), this had not met with unanimous approval. Clearly, it’s not my job to defend Team Kraciuk, but where this point is concerned I refuse to stay silent.
To those that complain, they would be smart to remember that this is a 25 sq/m cabin, not the Bodleian Library. Use the presence of so many books as an inspiring mood enhancer but remember to bring something you like to avoid disappointment – just don’t take what I did.
Even by my own half-witted standards, I played a stinker by chucking a load of serial killer books into my case. Titles such as The Shrine of Jeffrey Dahmer, The Grim Sleeper, and Bind, Torture, Kill. Trust me, that is not a reading list that works when you’re all alone in a cabin in the woods.
Fortunately, that wasn’t all my reading and among my wiser choices were British Football’s Greatest Grounds and a collection of “fireside mysteries” by Agatha Christie – both perfect companions whilst sat in my monster slippers with a hot cup of cocoa.
It’s staggering how quickly night swoops in when you’re engrossed in a book, and it was the stillness of the night that I soon learned to love.
Waking, too, was something of a joy. Intelligently designed with five-meter tall windows, the first sight to greet you on rising is of trees softly swaying directly outside. You can’t wait for the day to begin.
True, the Bookworm Cabin is not the isolation experience some might demand – set not far from a country road, you will on occasion hear cars swooshing past. But this is never in a way that feels intrusive or detrimental – besides, what were you expecting such a short way from Warsaw?
For sure, the convenience adds to its appeal, but although I’m sure couples will enjoy it, for me the dimensions are better suited for a solo break to unplug, restore and heal the inner-self – and yes, having fried my brain during the Xmas party season, I could physically feel my body regenerate with each passing moment.
Great as the official press pictures are, they tell only part of the story – the fact is, the place connects on an emotional level that’s impossible to depict in pictures alone. Seeing is believing.
Price-wise, meanwhile, it’s money well-spent. Cost varies depending on the season and whether you’re visiting on weekends, but by in-large it’s safe to say that it averages out at around PLN 450 per night.
To some, that might sound steep, but it’s a place that should not be quantified in monetary terms. Being here is the very definition of soul-warming happiness, and if you must resort to financial benchmarks then consider that it’s cheaper than a five star chain – in return, you get an experience that reaffirms life’s best little pleasures.
And this final note is key. At the Bookworm Cabin (or their nearby sister cabin, the Art Book Cabin), you do more than ‘stay’. You experience. You experience the world in its most fantastical and innocent form.
That this is done in such a beautiful, cutesy and imaginative space only adds to the thrill. The Kraciuk’s did not just build their own dream home – they built OUR dream home as well.