Where shall I start? How can I summarise 10 months on my life in a blog? How do I put into words what this city has given me? A happy place, a safe place, a place where I know I will always be welcomed. To my own surprise I have been calling Warsaw home for a few months now, and I guess from now on I always will – even thought I don’t even speak this very difficult language. Feeling comfortable to come back here after exhausting trips, walking around and taking buses as if I had the whole city in my pocket and then getting lost in order to discover new places, showing the city around with pride to some of my friends who came to visit me. Those are only some of the memories that will be sticking with me for a very long time.
I still remember, what a friend of my parents said when I told him that I was going to live in Warsaw “What? Are you being punished or something? Why would you go to such a cold country?” and boy how wrong he was. I mean, except about the cold weather part obviously. It is indeed quite cold during winter. If you are not a minimum prepared it can be quite a challenge. My southern self though (I come from south of France, you know sunny and hot weather nearly all year long), was so scared of the winter in Poland, that I came quite prepared, I expected worse than what actually happened. (Let’s just not mention those locals you told me that this winter was actually quite a good winter compared to others.) I was like a kid each time it was snowing (southerners-who-never-see-the-snow stuff) and I even when the sun was setting early I was trying to do something of my day. (You have no idea how weird it was for me to see the sun setting when it was only 3pm or something.) Therefore, despite the infamous grey, depressing winter months and the sun setting at 4pm, nothing could have killed my mood; you just have to adapt your habits and take advantage of the cold and dark weather (somehow).
Autumn was also quite a masterpiece for the eyes. It was probably my first ever fall that felt like fall, with all those orange and reddish colours on trees. I would take so many pictures all the time. I don’t really have the autumn vibes where I live. In fact, fall in my hometown is actually quite green, because we finally get the rain that we didn’t have because of summer drought. :))) So yeah, fall was quite the spectacle for me. The amount of time Khatia and I went to Łazienki Park during this time is frightening, but the landscape looked like it was straight out of a painting, we were obsessed. But for me, fall also rhymes with my first weeks in Warsaw, my first discoveries. The first time I was walking down those streets, which would become so familiar just a few months later. I was having this first time excitement, everything was new, and everything had yet to be discovered. I was making new lifelong amazing friends and memories, my project in the primary school was just at its beginning, I had months ahead of me to get to know new things. Somehow, for me fall was rhyming with new beginnings.
However, springtime in Warsaw will always have a special place in my heart, when the city is awakening after winter (don’t expect it to happen before the end of April thought). Maybe also because so many things happened during this period, like Europe day for example, but also school trips I was going to with my organisation. Generally speaking, finally discovering the city you have been living in for months, with flowers, green trees and decent weather, (discovering that Warsaw is actually quite a green city indeed!) is an amazing feeling. Seeing your favourite places with summery vibes, and discovering your new favourite outdoor places (because now you can actually finally chill outside) has been my favourite. It was like discovering the city all over again. In French, with have this expression “Refaire le monde”, which is one of my favourite expressions and which could correspond to the English expression “putting the world to rights”, having long talks about life, how the world should be, but without actually having any sort of impact. That is basically what we were doing whole springtime. Chilling with friends, a beer in one hand, some paluszki in the other, putting the world to rights, and realising that your time in Warsaw is flying by. Being scared of how fast the time is flying by, but also knowing that you still have few months left here and that you will be making the most out of them. Yeah, a completely new range of possibilities came along with springtime.
Summer is still on going, and it marks the end of my project, so it feels like a bittersweet and nostalgic summer. A few days away from my departure, I feel like I still need to go to so many places in this city, that there is still so much to do and that I’m running out of time. All those places I wanted to go to (or go back to) but just postponed are looking at me with an air of defiance. I know I won’t go to all of them, but I can at least try to reduce the list. Summer feels different, my work at school is over, I miss it already because I know it’s finished and if I ever go back, things will have changed. I already miss my (now old) routine. Some of the other volunteers left already so from this aspect as well it’s not the same anymore. Also now that it’s the holidays, tourists are in the city, which is nice, but it feels like this city is not my little secret anymore (even though it clearly never was but let’s move on). So yeah, things are different, but apparently people say that sometimes change is a good thing. Is it?
There’s a countdown in my head, counting down the days before I leave and it scares me. I know, I’m leaving for new stuff again (studies, how exciting right?) but leaving this city where I made so many memories in those streets feels weird. I’m going back to my country, but to something new still, so somehow I’m kind of leaving comfort zone again. That’s it, that’s what Warsaw has given me, a new comfort zone. How funny right? Who would have thought when I left France a few months ago? A comfort zone in a country where I don’t even speak the language. But yeah here we are, Warsaw became one of my comfort zones. Maybe not forever, maybe just for some time, because things will continue to change, but for now, Warsaw is one of my comfort zones, and I’m happy about that. Perhaps it shows how much I changed during all those months. I like to see it in this way at least.
What I loved (and still love!!) the most about Warsaw is that this city has something to offer to everyone and to every mood. What I have been telling to many people lately, is that from a touristic perspective, there is not as much to do as in other places of Poland (Kraków, Gdańsk, Zakopane this one is for you) but I would not live anywhere else in Poland than in Warsaw. You want a nice cosy place to have a hot chocolate or a coffee to break your routine during wintertime, or after a freezing free walking tour of Communist Warsaw? Nothing easier. Maybe you are more about going out for food halls and cheap drinks before going to clubs? Please do, there are lot of possibilities (and during summer, when going back home, take advantage of this to appreciate the sunrise at 4am, it’s always worth it). If you prefer fancier drinks with games or karaoke, it’s whatever, that’s also possible. You want to go chill in nice green parks and have a picnic? Just pick one out of the several parks of the city. You want to see the sunset and have a beer on the beach or by the Vistula? Be my guest. Maybe you would rather go to thrift shops instead of big busy malls? Who cares, both are possible. You get me; you can never get bored in this city if you are willing to try new stuff.
/!\ Pro tips from Liz to feel like a local:
- Hala Koszyki
- Ulica Francuska (& not just because I’m French)
- Poniatówka Beach
- The stairs next to the Copernicus Centre and the Warsaw Mermaid
- Browary Warzawskie
- Nowy Świat (obviously)
- Green Caffè Nero and Costa Coffee (not local in any way but always there when you need them)
- Bistro Charlotte (don’t expect too much out it if you’re French though)
- Zagrywki, best mini golf you will be playing
- Second hand shops (see Dennis’ blog, he will give the best advice)
Finally, be prepared to play hide and seek with bridges and tunnels because you need to get on the other side of the street to catch your bus but it’s not allowed to cross at the street level and you can’t find how to go on the other side (eventually you will be missing your bus, believe me). Only time and experience will help on that one, even Google Maps will be helpless. :))) Now it’s up to you to find your favourite places in the city. /!\
Now that my life here is ending, I want to say thank you Warsaw, for giving me so many memories to share with so many different people. Thank you for the hot, sunny days and thank you for the cold, snowy ones as well. Thank you Palace of Culture for being the north of my compass during those ten months. Thank you night buses I know I can always count on you. Thank you sunset and sunrise for never disappointing (the best in Europe so far!). Thank you Atrium Promenada even thought I could not even find a nice pair of Converse in any of the shops. Thank you Złote Tarasy for having what Atrium Promenada did not manage to have. Thank you Cubano for the late night dances. Thank you Dworzec Centralny and Dworzec Wschodnia for being the departures of many of my new adventures. Thank you bus 151 for being so close to the flat. Thank you Łazienki Park, just because. Thank you Green Caffè Nero for the hot chocolates. Thank you Nowy Świat for the cheap drinks. Thank you Hala Koszyki for the expensive ones. Thank you Poniatówka beach for the memories. Thank you to the one and only Balaton Lake of Warsaw for the jokes but also technically, the walks. Thank you Osiedle Wilga bus stop even though we hated you. Thank you Warsaw Mermaid for guiding and protecting me in this city. I love you all with all my heart. I will miss you all just as much.
For my friend Théo. Because you came to visit me in Warsaw and I love you more than I will ever love this city. Wherever you are now, I hope you are doing fine.