There’s something really important in reconnecting with the place you’re from. A place where everyone speaks your language, where your surname is correctly pronounced, where all the smells and sounds are familiar. That is what Poland is to me – that cosy mix of familiarity.
As probably anyone who lives abroad, I have a somewhat complicated relationship with my country. I fondly hold on to traditions my friends back home see as outdated, I cherish the local food and find myself in awe of the little things my compatriots take for granted. It doesn’t mean I never see its flaws, on the contrary, I am very aware of my country’s limitations, but when you’re away from your land you can be more forgiving. Yes, people can sometimes be rude when you go to a Polish bank or a shop, yes they will share their opinions on your life whether you asked for them or not. But it’s the rudeness and nosiness that you’re familiar with, that you understand and anticipate and what used to annoy the hell out of you suddenly becomes a part of your culture, something you are trying to understand rather than judge. Because home is home, no matter how great or poor its interior design might be to others.
Having a two week break from work, I decided to recharge my soul in Warsaw. My actual home is Gdynia, a beautiful sea side town up north, but I felt that what I needed at this point in time was a home away from home. I wanted something familiar and easy, relaxing yet different enough to satisfy that wanderlust craving of mine. Warsaw seemed like the perfect choice – a city I know a little, where my friends live, but where for the first time I would be getting in the middle of the week instead of on the weekend and where as a result I would have to get around on my own while everyone I knew was at work. And so I got the ticket and went.
Flying with Wizzair I arrived at Modlin, which is to Warsaw what Luton is to London- a small airport on the city’s outskirts operating mostly budget airlines. The moment I stepped out of the plane Poland welcomed me in its capital with snow. The forest surrounding the airport was becoming whiter with every passing minute, snow turning the world into an unexpected winter wonderland.
The feeling of belated Christmas became even stronger once I finally arrived at Warsaw’s Old Town (having taken a connecting bus and a train from Modlin to Warszawa Gdanska, for approximately 4.50 GBP). After walking from the Ratursz Arsenal underground station down the Dluga street I kept on admiring the colourful tenement houses nibbled by time. The cobble stone alleys next to Warsaw Barbican were tethered with snow and the warm light of the street lamps gave the area a serene feel.
Passing the cosy cafes tempting me with their warmth and delicious scent of coffee and cinammon, I got to the Rynek, the main square of the old town. The space around the iconic statue of Warsaw’s marmaid had been turned into an ice rink surrounded by wooden huts selling mulled wine, hot chocolate and polish sausages. I felt like I travelled in time and was given yet another Christmas.
The Christmasy feel intensified further as I entered Bazyliszek, a traditional polish restaurant where I was meeting my friend Marcin. In the wooden interior decorated with brunches of pine tree and candles, I simply had to order barszcz, polish beetroot soup with dumplings, which reminded me of the delicious crimson hotness served each year on my family’s Christmas table.
After the delectable feast for the body and soul, Marcin and I decided the continue our catch up over a hot cup of tea in nearby Same Fusy. This tea house has always had a very special place in my heart ever since I travelled to Warsaw for the first time as a teenager and I had spent hours discussing life in this enchanting tea house. The owners of the place captured its essence perfectly when they described the it with the following words: “The floating aromas of freshly brewed teas, music of the world, make the time slow down, for as all tea lovers know, she doesn’t like rush and chaos”. Until this day, I find something magical among the brick walls of this cosy space. It is a place where my soul recharges, where conversations become more real and connections deeper.
Walking through the snowy streets of Warsaw’s old town I couldn’t help but feel charmed. This was the Poland I needed. The Poland I missed. By the time we got to the Castle square with its brightly decorated Christmas tree, I decided that the universe was giving me a present- another Christmas. I would spend the following two days doing exactly what I would have over the festive period- enjoying food and hot drinks, catching up on reading and spending time with people I love.
And that’s exactly what I did. I spent each lunchtime and evening with friends or family in Warsaw, enjoying the company of wonderful people I don’t get to see enough of. While everyone was working, I just spent my days enjoying Warsaw.
The first full day I had in the capital turned out to be the most relaxing day I’ve had in a while. Aside from breakfast, lunch and dinner with my favourite people, I just spent my day relaxing in Warsaw’s cosy cafes. I started off with breakfast in the Green Cafe Nero (which luckily doesn’t have much to do with the all-same coffee chain in England) on Nowy Swiat, a central shopping street leading to the Old Town. I then moved to the Wrzenie Swiata, where I enjoyed browsing through documentary books this place is known for before settling with one of them in a big yellow armchair by the heater while enjoying hot tea with oranges and cloves.After having pierogi for lunch with one of my friends I made my way to Telimena, which proudly announces itself at the entrance as the oldest cafe in Warsaw. The building, like most in Warsaw’s old town have an interesting history and has hosted many great Polish artists like the composer Fryderyk Chopin. There is something about the cafes in Poland that nurtures the soul and encourages reflection. It is something I miss deeply in London, as I pass by yet another Starbucks or cold minimalist interiors of the hipster cafes. In Warsaw the coffee and tea feel like love in a cup, the sofas and armchairs hug you, and the warm atmosphere makes people open up their souls.
During my short stay in Warsaw I abandoned the busy sightseeing schedule to follow my heart rather than head. I had been doing too much of what my head deemed necessary, neglecting the needs of my soul and it was time to reverse the order and give my spirit a break it so badly needed. As I entered yet another cafe, To Lubie, back by the Barbican and sat in a little reading nook by the windowsill, sipping tick and sweet amaretto flavoured hot chocolate, I felt that this is what life should be like. Unhurried, mindful, full of delicious drinks and inspiring books and conversations. Life filled with real people having real connection, eating real food in real places. I found my Polish hygge and I couldn’t have been happier.