Warsaw is a complex city to write about for many reasons... around 80% of the city was destroyed during WWII and the Old Town of the city was left in ruins to be rebuilt by the people, the Jewish population were moved into a Ghetto before being massacred, and the Communists only left the city twenty-seven years ago. So, you can understand that emotions can run high with a minority when they witness change and unfortunately refugees and the “threat” of Islam seem to be a real issue with the Nationalists here in Poland.
N.B EducatingKavita does NOT see refugees or Islam as a threat and will not tolerate any comments in support of this mentality. Any comments in support will be reported and removed from this site.
The people of Poland are incredibly proud of their country and have fought for so long to retain their culture and traditions despite various countries occupying their land, and it’s interesting to note that a large population of Warsaw do not attend the Independence Day marches that take place in November due to the riots and violence from previous years and choose to celebrate in different ways at home.
People from all over Poland travel to Warsaw to attend this demonstration with a variety of intentions. But the most vital point to take away from this is that the march is not a reflection of the people of Poland collectively.
I happened to be in Warsaw for the Polish Independence Day which is annually celebrated on the 11th of November and during my stay I was warned by many not to be around the city centre during the various marches that take place due to riots, violence and the colour of my skin. But a large part of my journey around the globe is to educate and to be educated and so I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.
The day of the Independence Day march was an emotional one. There were people young and old, flares, smoke, flags, chants of “God and honour”, nationalists, concealed faces, fire crackers, snowfall and racial tension. But other than glares from the nationalists I felt sufficiently safe standing against a wall, watching from a semi-safe distance as the people marched past. In all honesty I only left after a man whose face was completely concealed walked up to me and pointed at me and the South American guy standing next to me. From his eyes and demeanour, he looked intoxicated but it was enough for me to make my exit.
In my experience, the people of Warsaw are incredibly friendly, hospitable and helpful. I have met so many locals in Warsaw who have randomly joined my table as I drank my coffee or ate my meal alone. People who sat and discussed life, work and my crazy travel plans, people who gave me advice about places to go, to eat and to see and people who gave me a real cultural experience whilst being in Warsaw. The Independence Day March is not a reflection of Poland and its people and it is important that I communicate this without leaving any doubt in your mind.
Warsaw is beautiful and you will have an amazing time here regardless of your creed, colour or sexual orientation.
Things to do and see:
- Check out the Old Town- The buildings are picturesque
- Walk down Nowy Swiat (a street that leads to the Old Town littered with historical buildings, restaurants, shops and cafes)
- Free Alternative Walking tour to the Praga area where you can see lots of street art and one of the streets where the film “The Pianist” was filmed.
- Lazienki Park where you can also find the Palac Na Wyspie (Palace)
- Also look out for the benches around the city which play music by Chopin when you push the button.
Places to Eat and Drink:
• Hala Koszyki- a cool indoor place to eat and drink (Koszykowa 63)
• Plan B- an awesome bar (on the roundabout at Marszalkowska)
• Various restaurants on Francuska street in Praga
• Zapiecek for some traditional Polish food (there are many locations of this restaurant)
• Mleczarnia Jerozolmska a modern Milkbar on (Al. Jerozolimskie)
• Familijny a more traditional Milkbar (Nowy Swiat) – This place is super interesting, you order your food from a menu on the wall and get served through a small window. The food is cheap but delicious.
I spent a week in Warsaw and could have easily spent another. I met so many amazing people around the city and hostel which makes leaving all the more difficult.
The food in Poland is delicious so you must definitely try as many things as possible. The Pierogi’s (Polish dumplings), Bigos (stewed cabbage with meat), amazing doughnuts and various other dishes.
Warsaw really is a great place to visit and I cannot recommend it enough!