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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Europe (excluding the United Kingdom) (02/19/09)

TITLE: Káva Java Gold
By Lisa Claro


Káva Java Gold was a gem of a find, tucked at the end of a short strip mall on a secondary street behind a large shopping center. There was no Starbucks in sight and I had two hours to kill.

I stepped through the door and into serendipity.

The floors were textured concrete, painted glossy black. The open ceilings revealed funky tract lighting and lazy ceiling fans. Each wall was a different hue reminiscent of rich coffees and teas—creamy gold, mossy green, deep burgundy and muted red-orange—and while there were café tables and chairs in the center of the room, the four corners were made cozy by the placement of small loveseats and coffee tables. The windows were covered in ceiling-to-floor silky fabric that invited the sun but muted glare. More ceiling-to-floor draperies served as partial dividers to create pockets of semi-privacy.

Enchanted, I stepped to the counter. The coffee selections included a rich German blend, café-au-lait, Spanish mocha, and the promised Czech káva. Baklava, tiramisu, and other baked goods tempted from behind a glass case, and the lunch specials were Polish pierogis and a stew of kielbasa and pork with sauerkraut. While waiting for the young man behind the counter to assist me I glanced at the artwork on the walls which depicted landmarks from every European nation I could name and many I could not.

“Cool little place,” I commented to the young man after ordering a cappuccino. I glanced at his tag but was unable to pronounce the name printed there. He smiled at my struggle.

“My friends just call me C.Z.,” he said. “My family is Czechoslovakian.”

“You have very little accent.”

“We moved here when I was young. I’m USA all the way.” He laughed and his hazel eyes danced. “My grandmother, now—I call her Babička,” he see-sawed his hand, “her English is not so good, but she tries. This is her place.”

“Did she do the decorating? This is great.” I swept my arm around. “I love the whole European theme.”

“You’d be amazed at the number of people who don’t notice.” He pointed to a wall of photos. “The tulips in Amsterdam, the Matterhorn, the Acropolis, St. Stephen’s Cathedral—things that should be highly recognizable, but people pay no attention.”

“Your grandmother—Babička,” I corrected, “must miss Europe a great deal to have gone to the time and trouble to create such a tribute.”

“Yes, but not for the reasons you think.”

C.Z. chose his words while he finished blending my cappuccino.

“Babička was a young girl when Hitler marched across Europe. Her family sheltered Jewish friends and was found out. She and her mother, father, and two sisters were put into cattle cars and taken to Poland.” His eyes dimmed. “All but Babička perished in Auschwitz.” He sighed. “She survived by picturing all of the amazing things in Europe rather than the ugliness of the Nazis. Dreaming of acres of blooming tulips in Holland and cherry blossoms in Prague reminded her that beauty can exist even when ugliness tries to stamp it out.”

“So these images saved her,” I offered.

“Yes, and every day she looks at her pictures and they make her happy.”

“Your Babička sounds like an extraordinary woman.” I said, and meant it. “Why did she name this place Káva Java Gold?”

“Well, Káva and Java, for the obvious reason.” He grinned and pointed to the logo that was a stylish, steaming coffee cup. Then he walked around the counter and I followed him to the photographs. He pointed to one of the pictures and then to another. “This is the Gold.”

I leaned closer. At the top left corner of each photograph was a small, gold cross. I moved from photo to photo—Oslo, Rome, Paris, Prague, Budapest and so many more—each was adorned with the gold cross.

I looked askance at C.Z.

“The Nazis could not destroy the beauty of Europe or the cross of Christ. This knowledge gave Babička the courage to go on when even breathing was an effort. As I said, so many come in and do not ask about the photos and do not see the crosses. They come for káva; yet God’s beauty and the love of Christ completely surrounds them on every wall.” He offered me a wide smile. “Not your average cup of coffee.”

“Yes,” I agreed, humbled. “Thanks to your Babička, Europe is more beautiful than I ever imagined.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Gregory Kane03/03/09
What a charming way to explore the Old World without even having to leave the New. I did wonder if there was an internal inconsistency in that it was apparently the narrator's first time inside the coffee shop and yet he was able to recognise the exotic variety of foods and pastries. I also admired the way in which you explored the theme of the gold crosses, thus bringing out something of the richness of European faith down through the centuries.
Sheri Gordon03/05/09
Congratulations on your EC. I loved this--what a beautiful story. Nice job with the topic.
Sharon Kane03/05/09
This is lovely. The descriptions of the room are beautiful. I felt at home just reading it! And the grandma's story of triumph over fear, bitterness and hatred by focusing on beauty and on the cross is very moving. Very well done, and big congratulations!