I love Warsaw. I don’t know if it’s just because it’s taken 15 years for it to grow on me, or it’s really cleaned up its act. It’s not a showhorse city, it’s a workhorse. People seem to work and play hard, with none the flash and trash of a place like Kyiv or Moscow (although I do remember when the Mafiosi look reigned). Small, efficient cars outnumber oligarch mobiles by a huge margin (I have not seen a Hummer since I’ve been here). People seem sensible, aside from that whole OTT Catholic thing they’ve got going on.
Warsaw is never going to win any awards for its urban design or the historical legitimacy of its Old Town (the city was completely rebuilt after the war by people who clearly had their heads lodged firmly in their asses). However, there’s so much more going for it. The restaurants are great, there are a ton of bars and there are uniquely Polish cultural activities. There are great museums, bike paths traverse the city and it’s easy to get around (oh, how I remember how so NOT the case this once was). The city seems to WORK for the people who live here.
I’m trying to avoid falling into the trap of thinking Warsaw is so great, only because I’m faced with going to back to Kyiv tomorrow. I saw Warsaw when it was much, much worse than Kyiv. I like Warsaw because it demonstrates that there is hope for its neighbors to the east. In a period of 15 years, Warsaw has gone from dysfunctional misery to completely presentable (maybe it’s analogous to a functioning alcoholic…). That alone is a reason for optimism, and makes it easier to go back to Crapistan.
At least two dozen times over the last four days, I’ve kicked myself for not bringing my camera