Tough competition: from Krakow to Warsaw – how did I end up in Warsaw?
When I lived the first time in Poland I didn’t even really knew Krakow, my new home, yet, but I already had heard enough about Warsaw to very much dislike it. Krakow, everybody had told me, was the place to be in Poland, Wroclaw was also okay, but Warsaw – that would be a miserable place and I would be lucky if I’d never have to stay for longer. I listened carefully and obeyed.
A few months later, the really cool internship a professor helped me to find, was at the Institute of Public Affairs in Warsaw. Poor me, I thought at first, quickly though I was excited about my new adventure and decided to forget everything I had heard before. I wanted to meet Warsaw unbiased.
Since the beginning of my studies I have received a scholarship by the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation and I am very thankful that they made it possible for me, beyond many other things, to stay in Warsaw and to take private lessons in Polish to reach a B2-level.
So, how is the place?
Warsaw, I have to say in the beginning, does not have it easy. The laboriously re-built city center cannot compete with the century-old beauty of the Cracovian old town and the sight of the architectural monster right next to the main station – a mix of real-socialist and Ancient Greek style – does not automatically make tourists’s hearts flutter.
But, if you ask me, Warsaw is one of the most underrated cities. Warsaw is not a place which will make you fall in love at first sight. Warsaw is an angular, arbitrary and stubborn beauty which must be captured to fully enjoy her.
In Warsaw, Poland meets the world beyond international drinking bouts and hanky-panky. In Warsaw live the people who are looking for splendor, success and big-city-feeling. The baker doesn’t have time to wish a good day and the old man by the kiosk doesn’t remember a single of the faces coming by every day, asking for the news or a bottle of water.
People are rushing by eachothers and they are too busy to keep their goal and their destination in sight to apologize or even look back if they ram their bags into the people to their left or right.
In Warsaw the people wear an international style, sporty-chic, the scarf just casually on the shoulder, one hand through through the hair in the morning, up the nose, a touch of powder, a bit glitter and some glamour.
And all this happens in front of a scenery which appears to be more real than it actually is. The atmosphere of medieval markets and small alleys is missing, but the power of the united strength which was shown by the Polish people after the second world war, by the people who did not accept that their country was razed to the ground – this power is speaking from every brick.
In Warsaw the history is kept in memorials and monuments and is presented in interactive museums, under the free sky it’s time to live in the present and for the future. People talk, laugh, dance, make decisions, argue, rush from A to B, always a coffee to go in one hand and the other with a phone.
And at some point you reach the point where you know what you see and when you begin to dig deeper, to become a part of the diversity. Small restaurants, alternative cinemas, underground clubs where the DJ plays what he likes and not what the world is listening to anyways. You get lost in bookstores which end up being a café and in small streets or in one of the many parks which invite you to take a breath of fresh air and to get lost in your thoughts.
Warsaw is truly the only city who has so far surprised me in every regard and proved to be the complete opposite to what I would have expected it to be. I love surprises.