Paralelní Polis – The Bitcoin Paradise
Not far from the Old Town, in a suburb in the north of Prague, lies a black, three store house that doesn’t seem to stand out from the rest of the buildings in the neighbourhood. Unless you enter it.
As you step in, you can congratulate yourself— you’ve just entered the world’s first bitcoin-only cafe— Bitcoin Coffee. The Paralelni Polis project was founded by a Czech contemporary art group Ztohoven and members of Slovak and Czech hackerspaces. They were inspired by Czech dissident Vaclav Benda, a leading persona of the movement for greater political freedom in the 1970s, and Timothy C. May, one of the founding members of Cypherpunks and the author of The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto.
Before your sight has a chance to explore the spacious room in front of you, your attention might get caught by a weird looking kiosk at your right hand side. A closer look reveals you that this big machine is nothing less than a true Bitcoin ATM.
Soon enough you’ll find out there is no space for any Fiat currencies — established as money under the force of law — in this house. If you want to taste the extraordinarily delicious coffee served here, you will have to press the button on a small black box next to the ATM so it can print out a paper wallet containing a unique Bitcoin address with both your public and private key. Of course, you can also use mobile wallets on your smartphone.
As you are saying “goodbye” to your money while inserting paper notes in the ATM, your paper wallet will immediately receive the inserted amount in bitcoins, and you are ready to go — with digital gold in your pocket!
The idea behind using Bitcoin as a currency is to bring visitors’ attention to use of new technologies in practice. Given the cafe’s goal to “achieve a superior taste in every cup and reflect the flavour profile and unique character of every variety and the influence of the environment in which the coffee grew”, a newcomer has a pretty good incentive to take up this challenge.
Moreover, with paper honeycombs and barrels dominating the interior of this industrial building, one just can’t resist to feel the peculiar vibe all around. Music that complements it is strictly royalty free, released under the Creative Commons license only. Paper honeycombs are also dominant in the co-working centre – Paper Hub – above the cafe on the upper floor
As you are peacefully sipping your coffee — 3D objects are being relentlessly printed just under your feet. Taking the stairs down to catch a glimpse of how these cutting edge technologies work is always welcomed, and even recommended. Apart from that, you can also attend regular 3D meetups, workshops and courses focused on various topics – from drone building to modelling in Blender. And in case you’ve ever wondered what 3D printed chocolate tastes like – in MakersLab you will find that out too!
On the uppermost floor of the building, you find the home of Hackerspace and the Institute of Cryptoanarchy. The Hackerspace holds regular meet-ups of programmers every week. The Institute hosts an interesting event everyday! Weekly Bitcoin meet-ups are focused on new trends in the crypto-world. As one of the main topics is Transhumanism, the Institute wants to shape the way humans interact with technology. That’s why it is not unusual to run into cyborgs there. Yes, you heard right. There are not that many people in the world who have RFID chips implanted in their hands, but quite a bunch of them sip their coffee at Bitcoin Coffee regularly.
Don’t despair, in case you are not into crypto-technologies at all, there is still a good chance you will find something of your interest in the agenda. For example, every other Wednesday the so called Cinema 43 organizes screenings of documentaries on various social, psychological issues – from freedom of press to crowd psychology — always followed by open discussion with experts from the given field. Naturally, you will also find meetups dedicated solely to the Austrian School of Economics here too.
The main theme underpinning the whole concept of Paralelní Polis is freedom. The founders also believe that we should be free to learn in the way that we want, and that feels natural to us. That’s why Thursday evenings belong to families adhering to principles of unschooling (homeschooling without a pre-packaged curriculum) who gather there in order to exchange their best practices, and spread the word. They do so even though it’s not really legal in the Czech Republic. But the spirit of fighting for the right to choose—whether it’s currency, school, or privacy— is omnipresent in this house, and it glows out far beyond its walls.
This is exactly that reason why Paralelní Polis has become such an extraordinary place, and a symbol. It’s where liberty blossoms, and its very basic concept gets nourished and cultivated. It blazes up fervent public discussions about topics it raises, it challenges the status quo, and it defends foundations upon which a free society is built. And despite of being a target of hostile ideological — and occasionally even physical — attacks, Paralelní Polis keeps being the lighthouse of freedom.
Picture source: Paralelní Polis
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