Words and Photographs by Mikaela Dery. When I told my friends that I was going to Poland an alarming number of them told me that I wouldn’t like Warsaw. Their argument was that it wasn't nearly as pretty as Krakow. I was a little offended that they believed me to be so superficial (because I thought I was so good at hiding that particular personality trait). As a result, I went to Warsaw feeling determined to prove everyone wrong. To my delight I did.
However, in fairness, my friends had a point. Warsaw is certainly not a traditionally beautiful city. Most of it was bombed in World War II and its communist history is evident in the stark, grey buildings that fill the city. The main streets themselves are wide, and often disconcertingly empty. It is not a promising first impression. When we arrived I found myself walking along a completely deserted street, wearing as many layers of clothing as was humanly possible, thinking about how I might be able to convincingly lie to my friends and tell them that they know nothing about me, and that I have always loved bleak wastelands. I was not confident that I would be able to do this convincingly. However, after doing some research I discovered that I might not have to. We were advised to go to Mokotowska, a street known to be a hipster haven. I thought this was a very encouraging recommendation, and it was here that I learned Warsaw is a place for wandering, and it is a place where one must be attentive.
Like most places in Warsaw the street is wide, grey and sparse. However, every now and then we would come across an alleyway and would see a hint of a neon sign, compelling street art or some eye-catching greenery. Often this would be partially obscured by construction sites and general debris but if you are wandering inquisitively enough you will encounter some truly unique boutiques and restaurants. We spent the day gazing longingly at carefully selected and beautifully displayed international designer pieces and getting acquainted with the emerging Polish fashion scene.
After a couple of hours of trying on incredible clothes I resolved to never, ever eat carbs again and to devote myself to being a fabulous clotheshorse. Such resolutions don't last long in Warsaw. We had an amazing meal at the wonderfully kitsch U Fukiera. Located in the Warsaw’s beautifully reconstructed Old Town. It counters the city’s greyness with incredible amounts of the most fantastic flowers, a wonderfully eclectic art collection and a menu full to bursting with traditional Polish comfort food. However, one of our favourite meals came from Warszawa Powiśle. Like many of Warsaw’s delights, it is located in a wonderfully unexpected location - a car park behind a mall. The building was once a communist ticket station and its stark interior is made impossibly cool with neon signs and minimalist furnishings. In summer, we were told, the spacious outdoor area is put to good use as a dance floor and it attracts some of Poland’s best bands. During the colder months it is frequented by Warsaw’s young creatives and is the perfect place from some traditional Polish pierogi and a glass of wine.
Warsaw is certainly a city for the extreme wanderer. Sometimes we would stroll through the grey streets and would be struck by the bleakness of the city and would be reminded of Warsaw’s turbulent history. However, these moments of more sombre reflection often ended as quickly as they began, when we would stumble into an alley and be struck by the palpable creativity of Warsaw’s young artistic community. For an attentive ambler, Warsaw is an infinitely compelling and exciting city.