Inside Warsaw: A-F

This will be A-Z, but in stages.

A is for APTEKA – An Apteka is a Chemist / Pharmacy. Poles are hypochondriacs so it won’t take you long to find one but when you do there will be a big queue. Drugs are fun, so expect most people in the queue to wish to hold a conversation about what’s new and sexy on the drug scene. Those who don’t want to do that will wish to have a conversation about how to get the same things for half the price or about why their prescription has a bad date on it. They sell everything you could possibly want. They like selling new drugs imported from Switzerland, which cost a fortune. The staff generally do a pretty decent job.

B is for BOLEKBolek was Lolek’s mate. They are cartoon characters. There’s a good bar named after them in “Pole Mokotowskie”, which is not a great park but is a big green thing near the centre of town. The bar is far better in spring or summer as it is mostly open air. They do decent food and have a BBQ going most of the time. You can approach it by car from Zwirki i Wigury (the road that goes to the airport). The entrance is where they have recently built a “Jeffs” restaurant.

C is for CATS – if you like cats there are plenty of wild ones to be found. Most of them live in the basement rooms of the apartment blocks but the name they are known by has something more to do with living under roofs as far as I can tell (dachowiec?). It also stands for KOTY (Cats) the musical at Teatr Roma. This theatre does a great job with all its productions so its well worth popping along. The best place to buy tickets is the theatre box office to the left of the theatre on Nowogrodzka. Lastly, C is for Cheese. Polish cheese is easy to spot, it is all square, yellow and rubbery but has 25 different names. Unless you need it to glue together a toasted sandwich, leave it alone! I’m being unfair on Polish cheese in general, but most of the good stuff is hard to find in Warsaw. There’s a good shop just across the street from Popiełuszko’s church in Żoliborż that sells country cheese as well as meats and stuff. I’ll leave you to explore and find it!

D is for DONKEYS – if you like donkeys, don’t come to Warsaw. I’ve never seen one here, not even in the zoo. The zoo is on the other side of the river in bandit country. If you want a day at the zoo when in Warsaw, get up early and catch a train to either Gdansk or Berlin.

E is for ERRATIC – you will notice that drivers in Warsaw become very much this when; 1/ it rains or snows, 2/ it is the weekend, 3/ it is a bank holiday. The rest of the time the driving is poor, but predictably so. It is also for EAR BASHING, which is what you’ll get if you visit any government department, post office, 25% of shops or try to take your child out for a walk without three layers more clothing than you though was appropriate for the weather conditions.

F is for FLOWERS – the people of Warsaw love flowers. They are a part of every occasion – life, death, birthdays, name days, whatever. You can find them everywhere from shops to kiosks, street markets, outside graveyards. They tend to be quite a lot more expensive in the florist shops than other places but they do make good bouquets. I buy most of mine on the street outside Hala Mirowska on Jana Pawła II which is the closest you can get to wholesale and so you get a lot for your money and there’s a very good choice. Apart from bunches, there are many options for made up arrangements in baskets, which are also very popular. You need to be a little careful with the choice of flowers though. Red carnations (any carnations really) are communist flowers and there’s a whole bunch of others that are really only good for funerals or for old women. Also very quaint are the people selling home made small bouquets of what look like flowers they hand picked in the forest glades that morning, and might very well be exactly that! They generally hang out down the side of Hala Mirowska and might also have a few 1950s broken electrical items, old socks, dolls with the head missing, to flog as well as the flowers. Whatever they managed to scrabble together before catching the bus for Warsaw basically. The variety of these wild flowers is amazing. Watch out for the sunflowers as they tend to come complete with bees! Obviously the spring / summer is the best time and much lower prices but you can buy all year round.

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13 thoughts on “Inside Warsaw: A-F

  1. island1 says:

    Ah happy days at Bolek i Lolek… sitting round the open fire roasting your own nuts, if you’ll pardon the expression.

    I have to say the first few times I heard of Bolek i Lolek I thought people were talking about a character called Bolocky Lolek, which I found quite amusing.

  2. […] Original post by scatts […]

  3. some dude says:

    Wha, wha?

    Praga is not entirely Bandit Country. People are poor, but it is quite safe there. At least if you keep to the main lanes at night. ;)

    Someone recently wrote here that Mazovian wojewodztwo has low unemployment, and maybe you can add two to two (granted, given that this is Poland you may get three and a half).

  4. […] Original post by scatts […]

  5. Richardlith says:

    I have lived in Lithuania, Latvia and Hungary, and I can tell you that all these points equally apply to those countries (though not Loliek and and Boliek, there are local equivalents).

    I have a theory that the hypochondria was caused by German trained doctors over the centuries. Germans are also hypochondriacs.

    To CEE people, however, the British just don’t seem to care about their health , and a Pole or Lithuanian in the UK wil actually get angry in the UK is they see someone not wearing enough clothes.

  6. scatts says:

    Happens every time my family visit the UK. All I hear is my wife saying “look at that, see what that child is wearing, in THIS weather!”

    :)

  7. Bilus says:

    C is also for Carp!

    Christmas in Poland is really a nice change from commercialised shoppy party drinkie mad Christmas in England – it’s more an observance, a vigil; indeed, the most important day in Poland is Christmas eve and it’s called ‘wigilia’, from the Latin ‘vigilare’, ‘to wait’ – thus, keeping the vigil for the coming of Christ. And in keeping with that spirit, people abstain from meat throughout the day of wigilia (much like Good Friday in a past England).

    And, of course, being a meat-eating culture, there has to be a substitute – thus, carp. And Polish people like their carp fresh. Thus, in the big supermarkets, they often keep a tank as big as a boxing ring of live carp – prospective wigilians point to a likely specimen and it is duly thrown into a carrier bag, which is then simply hawked, flapping frantically, around the supermarket as they continue with the rest of their shopping….

  8. island1 says:

    Bilus: There’s a thin line between ‘nice change’ and ‘tedious sitting around without alcohol to relieve the boredom,’ even if you do get to watch a fish swimming around in the bath.

  9. scatts says:

    Bilus, thanks for the Wigilia comments! We will get round to that on Polandian but probably not for a few more months!

    I’m not a carp fan myself but I do appreciate a less commercial Christmas.

  10. […] writes about Warsaw cats, donkeys, flowers and more in the first part of the “Inside Warsaw” […]

  11. Richardlith says:

    Scatt, you can usually tell the Polish children in British schools now. They are the ones wearing a hat, gloves, and most importanly, wearing a fully zipped up jacket.

  12. Michael Farris says:

    For me, D will always be dworzec, as Polish train and bus stations are always interesting, if not always in edifying ways.

  13. […] INSIDE WARSAW – A-F […]

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