Europe, with its rich medieval and renaissance history, is a place of romance. Beautiful architecture, beautiful people, and a wide variety of nooks and crannies to explore; Europe is a continent that held a special place in my mind. I’ve read the stories of knights, of maidens, of castles, and still regards Europe as a romantic place, so much so that I want to experience it in person and open my heart to its wonders. With that in mind, I search for universities to apply for, and being a gamer, I ended up choosing Warsaw, Poland, the HQ for CD Projekt Red, the creators of the game series The Witcher. I’ve been here almost two months, and have not worked up the courage to visit the HQ yet, but I’ve spent a lot of time walking from one end of the city to the other, getting lost and exploring the city.
In my naiveness, I thought that all European countries speak English, but that is not the case in Poland (maybe I should have done more research), and it has been difficult to fully experience the city as I originally wanted to. Despite English music being played everywhere in Warsaw, the natives don’t really know English, and those that do are the younger generations. Don’t get me wrong, people here are very friendly, and they really try to accommodate me as much as they can, and no matter where I go, I see people greeting each other with a friendly smile – something that not many do in the States; and despite me not understand a lick of Polish, and most Polish I spoke to does not understand English, we still manage to finish with business on a daily basics, with patience and friendliness on Polish people’s part, and hand gestures and apologetic smiles from me. In the States, I know people would look down on me if I don’t speak their language, but here, the natives don’t bat an eye and try that much harder to help me – which, in turn, make me feel bad that I do not speak their native language. They were simply wonderful!
Not just the hospitality, the city itself is wonderful as well, with many grand and beautiful structures, the ease of getting around with public transportation, and it is such a safe place that I travel in dark corners late into the night with no problem – something that I would NOT do in the States, ever. Of course, I try not to stay out late, as the weather in Warsaw is harsh in winter, warm and sunny one moment and frigidly cold the next, especially after 5 p.m., but there are times when I have to hunt for food or enjoy the night out with friends. Besides, nighttime Warsaw is no less beautiful than the day, perhaps even more so since it lacks the hectic pace of the working hours. In the night, the peace drapes over the landscape, giving it a private quietness that is perfect for a walk to enjoy the city without the noise of cars and crowds alike. Maybe you can try it, a warm drink in one hand, a phone to take pictures in the other, and just walk down the cobbled streets of Old Town, you’ll find both peace and beauty that inspired poets.
Since it’s winter time, I would recommend bundling up and let a cup of hot chocolate warms you up from the inside out as you brave the night, and may you discover the serenity of the capital city.
For the day traveler, the city shows its liveliness with the citizens walking everywhere, tourists – also everywhere, cars lining up for miles, and shops everywhere you go. It can be somewhat overwhelming, as shops here are more specific – each in their category: coffee, bakery, clothing, shoes, etc., and you would be hard-pressed to pick one place that has it all. Most of the time, people here go to the mall for their shopping needs instead of visiting individual places. Regardless, all shops here seem to be thriving well on both tourists and natives alike – I need to learn Polish to ask them how they manage such a thing, haha.
I was stumped a lot during the first month, trying to figure out where to go, where to eat, and (being a hermit) how to get what I need while avoiding the malls like the plague. The malls here terrified me more than the ones in the States, as they are somewhat of a maze, and no matter the days, it is overly crowded and you have to line up for almost everything. I dislike crowded places and I hate standing in line, so I really try to find places that have neither, and so far, it’s basically almost everywhere but the malls (so maybe that’s the secret to the shops outside the malls, with people like me who likes to not wait XD).
With Warsaw being the capital city, it is a bustling city for businesses, and there is a pattern where the good places are. I’m still trying to discover the city day by day, and I’ll certainly keep this blog updated with the places I’ve found.