The secrets hiding in Warsaw, the Paris of the east
Once known as ‘The Paris of the East’ for its Baroque beauty, Warsaw saw more than 85% of its buildings destroyed amid the ravages of World War II. Despite its past hardships, Poland’s capital city continues to rise from the ashes C and its once-famous elegance can still be found by those who look beyond the surface.
“A wise man once told me: when you look around Warsaw, ask yourself: ‘Is that an ugly building, or a dirty building?’” said Nate Espino, a partner at PR agency Aldgate Strategy Group who first moved here from San Francisco 20 years ago. “That has transformed my perception, and in the past two to three years some of the grotty old buildings have been sandblasted and are now gleaming.”
"一位智者曾告诉我：当你环顾华沙时，问问自己：'那是一栋丑陋的建筑，还是一栋肮脏的建筑？'"阿尔德盖特集团（Aldgate Strategy Group）公关代理合伙人纳特・埃斯皮诺（Nate Espino）说。20年前他从旧金山（San Francisco）搬来这里。"这改变了我的看法，过去的两到三年中一些难看的老建筑经过喷砂处理，现在闪闪发光。"
For many Warsaw residents, the city’s true appeal doesn’t lie in exteriors at all, but in its energetic inner life. “When I was moving to Warsaw, I wasn’t sure how I would find myself in a new home,” said Karolina Lyzwa, an Intrepid Travel Urban Adventures tour leader who moved from Łódź in central Poland. “Everything became simple after a sunny, summer season when I spent a lot of time on my bike, observing the vibrant life from the little cafes, relaxing on the Wisla [Vistula] riverbank, and reading about both the harsh and flourishing times of this astonishing city.”
对许多华沙居民来说，这座城市真正的吸引力完全不在于其外表，而在于其充满活力的内在生活。"我搬来华沙时，并不确定在新的地方如何找到自我，"勇敢旅行都市历险（Intrepid Travel Urban Adventures）的领队卡罗利娜・雷兹瓦（Karolina Lyzwa）表示。她是从波兰中部的罗兹（Łódź）搬来的。"在一个阳光明媚的夏季，我花了很多时间，骑着自行车，从小咖啡馆观察充满活力的生活，在维斯瓦（Wisla）河畔休息，了解这个神奇城市的艰难和繁荣时代。"
Long-term residents agree that Warsaw is a city where a little exploring C and a lot of patience C pays off.
Why do people love it?
Poland’s capital is full of surprises in unexpected places. “I discovered a skiing station in the middle of the city, a tropical beach on the Vistula River and a deer freely living in the Łazienki Park,” said French-Russian Sasha Naslin, who moved here from Belgium three years ago and blogs at The Alternative Travel Guide. “I was lucky to see him only the once!”
波兰首都在意想不到的地方充满了惊喜。"我在市中心发现了一个滑雪站，在维斯瓦河上发现了一处热带沙滩，还在瓦津基公园（Łazienki Park）发现了一只自在生活的鹿，但我只见过一次，"法裔俄罗斯人萨莎・纳兰（Sasha Naslin）说。她三年前从比利时（Belgium）搬到这里，为另类旅游指南（The Alternative Travel Guide）撰写日志。
Split by the Vistula River, the city doesn’t have a specific city centre but rather two sides with differing personalities. “The west bank is full of glam, bustling with a lively nightlife scene, while the east bank has been rediscovered by artists, offering an authentic atmosphere with attractions off the beaten track,” Lyzwa said.
Naslin loves exploring the Bohemian Praga districts on the eastside riverbank, with its alternative bars, theatres and street art.
Residents especially appreciate the ‘human-sized’ city, which makes it manageable and approachable for newcomers. “Each [of the 18] districts has a local fresh food market, a park with plenty of activities in the summertime, local bars and places to discover new artists,” Lyzwa said.
Warsaw pulses with an energy that comes from its constant state of reinvention and the physical rebuilding that is still ongoing in the city. “Kraków has bars that have been bars since the 15th Century, while Warsaw has seen whole nightlife districts come and go over the past decade,” Espino said. That dynamism mixed with a chip-on-the shoulder rivalry with neighbouring, more traditionally ‘tourist-friendly’ cities (Prague in particular) creates a unique energy that Espino compares to Beijing, “just on a manageable scale”.
What’s it like living there?
The first thing new residents need to learn is how get around on the chaotic streets. “Life is fast in Warsaw. You have to learn how to drive like nowhere else in Poland,” Lyzwa said. “You have to be dynamic, using all opportunities to squeeze in and making fast decisions while changing lanes.”
For those who want to skip the chaos, the relatively new Metro offers a respite. “Traffic sucks, so I stick to the Metro, which is still in its infancy but pretty good, and I avoid rush hour,” Espino said. Public transportation is quite affordable, costing 69% less than in London according to price-compare site Expatistan.com.
In fact, residents rave about how much more affordable the city is compared to other European capitals, with housing costing around 60% less and food costing half what it would in London or Paris.
What else do I need to know?
New expats should start their tenure here in spring or summer, according to locals. “The winters are grey and the days are short, both which are worse than the cold,” Espino said. Moving in the nicer, sunnier months can make that first adjustment a bit easier.
Being happy in Warsaw depends on making local friends, and accessible online and offline social groups and activities facilitate these connections. “Join a group, a running club, rowing club, drinking club, whatever,” Espino advised. One place to start is a vodka tasting tour or the Pub Crawl Warsaw. With records showing the spirit originating in Poland as far back as the 8th Century, vodka has its own cultural importance here. Learning how to drink it correctly C with others, and straight up, not as part of a cocktail C can be the first step in fitting in with the locals.
能否在华沙快乐生活，取决于交当地的朋友，能够在线上线下与社交群体接触，参加促进这些联系的活动。"加入一个团体，跑步俱乐部、划船俱乐部、饮酒俱乐部，什么都行，"埃斯皮诺建议。开始的地方可以是伏特加品尝之旅，或者去华沙酒吧（Pub Crawl Warsaw）。有记录显示，这种烈酒早在8世纪就起源于波兰，因此在波兰，伏特加具有自己的文化重要性。学会正确饮用――和其他酒类搭配、不加冰块、不调成鸡尾酒――是融入当地居民的第一步。
Many people speak fluent English in Warsaw, so it’s easy to get around as a new Anglophone expat, but residents stress the importance of learning Polish to truly engage with Varsovians, the name for Warsaw locals.
“Poles are different people in English than they are in Polish,” said Espino. “They are much more reserved in English, since it's a language they use for business, and can't be bothered to socialise in it.”
But making that investment is worth it to uncover the history and energy within Warsaw. “The spirit of the city hides in stories,” Lyzwa said. “So make friends with Varsovians and let them take you where they like to go.”