Last week, we experienced record heat waves in Poland. Temperatures across the country topped up to 40 C (104 F).
Such a strange contrast from my first week in Warsaw, and six inches of snow covered the ground in APRIL!
We’ve been living as expats in Warsaw a little over four months. Recently, several friends and readers have asked what’s Warsaw like and how we are adjusting. I’ll admit that the first two months were rough. I shed quite a few tears, and I was depressed.
But now I can see the silver lining of it all. Sure, I still have a bad day now and then just like anyone else. However, I have realized there are many reasons to love living in Warsaw too.
My husband and I recently discussed what we like about living in Warsaw. We feel like we have everything at our fingertips – public transportation, a good location, more international food options, Dr. Pepper and pork – just to name a few things. Besides our family and friends in the U.S., I can’t think of anything else I miss from America anymore.
Top 10 Reasons to Love Living in Warsaw
1. Cost of living – This is one of first factors that attracted us to living in Warsaw. Our cost of living has been cut in half compared to living in Istanbul. Rent, eating out, drinks, international groceries are all much cheaper here. For example, on average, a half liter of Polish beer costs 8-10 zl ($2.50-$3) compared to 8-10 tl ($4.50-$5.20) for an Efes in Istanbul. Doesn’t take long for this stuff to add up!
2. Green spaces – Warsaw is green! According to this study, Warsaw has almost 20,000 hectacres (50,000 American acres) of green spaces and as such has earned the nickname “green city.” In fact, 14 percent of the city’s urban area (7,258 hectacres) is covered by forests – much more than any other European city. Because of all this green space, you constantly see people running, riding bikes and relaxing in the city’s numerous parks.
3. Polish pierogies, piwo and pork – You knew food would be one of my top reasons, right? Polish food is hearty and reminds me of a grandmother’s homecooking. We’ve eaten our fair share of delicious Polish pierogies washed down with half liters of piwo (beer). Piwo was one of the first Polish words I learned. I am almost overwhelmed by the abundance of pork here.
4. Pubs in Parks – The Poles certainly got this idea down pat! As you stroll through the city’s numerous parks, you often will stumble upon a small pub. Our favorite is the Flinstone-like Pub Lolek located in the large Pole Mokotowskie Park. Just park your bike, order some beers and kielbasa and you’re set. We also like the small beer tents set up along the Vistula River.
5. History – After World War II, Warsaw was left in ruins by the Nazis. Nearly 85 percent of the city was destroyed. Then, the country was under harsh Soviet rule for 40+ years. The Poles have endured a lot (too much) and their spirit is one of total perseverance.
|This photo shows what Warsaw looked like in 1945 following the war. Devastated!|
I love wandering through the restored Old Town area and hanging out in the New Town section. You’ll also see many important reminders of the city’s Jewish history too.
6. Classical music – I think you could catch a live classical concert every night if you wanted to in Warsaw. Since the city is home to the famous 19th-century composer Frederic Chopin, classical music plays a big role in life here. I like wandering behind the University of Warsaw where you are bound to hear students practicing classical melodies. On Sundays through Sept. 29, you can catch either the noon or 4 p.m. outdoor piano concerts featuring Chopin’s music at Warsaw’s Royal Łazienki Park. A wonderful free activity! (More info: http://www.estrada.com.pl)
|Just look for the large Chopin monument at Warsaw’s Royal Łazienki Park.|
7. Renting bikes – In order to get to those free Sunday concerts, we often ride bikes thanks to the city’s convenient rent-a-bike system by NextBike. After paying an initial 10 zl annual fee, we can rent bikes from more than 50 stations around the city. Rentals for less than 20 minutes are free. Warsaw has numerous bike trails and wide sidewalks that are perfect for long bike rides or quick trips down to the river or the market.
Until we moved here, I hadn’t rode bikes much as an adult except for the times my husband has tried to kill me on vacations in Bali, Belize and Bozcaada. However, I have grown to really like biking. We see much more of the city on bikes; not to mention, that they often are quicker and cheaper than other modes of public transport. And when there’s a promise of a beer in the park, what’s not to like?
8. Farmer’s market – I visit my nearby farmer’s market at Hala Mirowska at least twice a week for the freshest Polish produce. I don’t know much Polish yet, so shopping at the market is pretty comical and involves a lot of pointing and smiling. I love having this market just five tram stops away from our apartment!
9. Ease of getting around – Although Warsaw is a large metropolitan city with a 2.7 million population, I find it relatively easy to get around. Much, much easier than Istanbul, thank you very much! Warsaw’s public buses, trams and subways are just easy to use and inexpensive. For 250 zl ($80), I use a 3-month unlimited, refillable transportation pass.
Also with smart phone apps such as itaxi.pl and jakdojade.pl, with just a click, I can order a taxi or figure out the fastest way to get somewhere via public transportation.
10. International foods – Lastly, we have been impressed with the city’s selection of American burgers and steaks, Vietnamese food and pizza. International food isn’t “Turkified” like it was when we lived in Istanbul, so I actually can eat a decent bowl of pho or bánh mì sandwich. Now, if only, I could find some authentic Mexican food somewhere.
While it’s taken more time to grow to love Warsaw, with a bit of insatiable curiosity and some patience, I have come to realize it’s a great place to live!