Today an interview with Kasia Boni, Spotter for our Warsaw cityblog. We met her in Warsaw this year.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a travel journalist, tough during past few years I did quite a lot of different jobs (from an assistant to a game designer). But writing and travelling was always my thing.
I was born in Warsaw, raised in Warsaw, educated in Warsaw and now I settled down in Warsaw. Well, settled might be the wrong word as right now I’m really trying to travel whenever I can, and – as I do not have any full time job – I travel a lot.
Maybe the reason I’m travelling that much is that sometimes I just can’t stand this city. The parts of concrete city, the temperature (it might be even -20 in winter – but usually during the night), and tired people. But I always come back here. In the end, this is my home.
More about me? I have two cats, a sweet tooth, and kitchen full of spices from all over the world.
Why Warsaw? Because everything is happening here right now! It was chosen one of the Lonely Planet’s top ten cities in 2009. There is no evening without an exhibition opening, smaller or bigger concert, some more or less spontaneous party, new plays in the theatres (or opera for that matter), weird artistic actions… I can go on and on. This city is developing. Right now.
Moreover, you might have not spotted it behind the wall of concrete building, but parks take 8% of the city, and forest (yes, yes – forests) take 14%. So it’s quite green here. We also have a national park within the city borders.
The must and the mustn’t?
First of all go and climb the Palace of Culture (I mean do not climb it, or even don’t think about using the stairs. Take a lift up to the 30th floor) and look at the Warsaw from the bird’s view. Then prepare for the ultimate experience in one of the Warsaw’s Milk Bars (like Bar Mleczny Familijny or Zlota Kurka) – they still look exactly the same like 40 years ago. That means that you are going back in time straight to the communist era. To shrug the milk bar experience off go to one of the trendy cafes (like Czuly Barbarzynca where with your coffee you can read one of thousands books they have there, or Relaks where with your coffee – the best in Warsaw – you can talk about your bike, or anything else, with friendly staff).
My general advice: wonder around. Here you can still find an old red brick building hidden in a shadow of a skyscraper’s wall of glass. You can spot an old tramway track which was leading trough the ghetto. You can meet colourful locals, and their old-time workshops.
As to mustn’t, please don’t go to the old city. I know it’s beautiful, etc., etc. But it’s artificial. You can hear all the languages there but Polish.
What do you know about Warsaw what no tourist will know?
Warsaw has a ghost city inside it. You can find only traces of what once was a large area of houses, shops, streets, and people fighting for survival. The Warsaw Ghetto. It was walled (you can still see the last fragments of wall at Sienna 55 and at Zlota 62) city completely destroyed at the end of WWII (well, generally, almost whole Warsaw was completely destroyed but this part of Warsaw was bombed house by house).
After the WWII, on the ruins, the new city was built. New (soviet) houses, new streets (they rarely match the street plan from before the war), new shops. Throughout the city centre you can spot small memorials describing what was happening there 66 years ago. It gives you glimpses to the no longer existing world of Polish Jews, and to the world of people who were managing to stay humans despite the inhuman world around them (quick spots: Femina Cinema stands exactly in a place, where the Femina Theatre used to be; an abandoned place between houses 28 and 30 at Nowolipki street is a place where the Ringelblum’s archive where hidden (where found after the war the archives have the most comprehensive knowledge about what was happening in the ghetto; Chlodna 25 is exactly in a place where the bridge linking small and big ghetto used to be. It goes on and on, you can find more places on your own).
What is the most popular neighbourhood to live in Warsaw at this moment?
Praga is still very popular. It started several years ago when, in the not very safe, but very cheap neighbourhood, artists started to rent flats or workrooms. Is the same story as everywhere else. From a neglected district Praga became one of the most fashionable ones with lots and lots of bars, cafes, and vintage shops. Tough it changes a lot, in some parts it didn’t changed at all. So you still have old bazaars next to the artistic pubs.
Praga was so long “the” place that now it had to stepped aside. I think that Saska Kepa is becoming more and more popular. It’s not only one of the prettiest Warsaw district with old trees and villas (look for the modernistic ones – they look great), but it’s also the one with very strong neighbourhood net. They organize many events and festivals. And recently main street – Francuska – has been renovated. And it’s dotted with small cafes, pizzerias, restaurants (Chinese, African, Italian, you name it). This is the perfect place to take a walk in the warm afternoon, and stare at the buildings from over your cappuccino cup.
Still my favourite neighbourhood is Mokotów (actually when I wrote that I was born in Warsaw, raised in Warsaw, educated in Warsaw and now I settled down in Warsaw I meant Mokotów). It has old houses about which my grandma has so many stories from the time of the WWII (she was 7 at that time and she was living and then hiding in some of the Mokotów’s houses). There are plenty of beautifully arranged parks with lakes (you can go ice-skating during a winter), ducks, and squirrels. Mokotów has more and more cafes (Relaks), clubs (Balsam), club-bars (Regeneracja), restaurants (Dziki Ryz, Zilelnik, Banja Luka, and Rózana), and eco-shops. And it also has all my childhood memories dwelt in building, trees, shops, and fences.
Can you describe a perfect day in your city?
If it’s a perfect day then it’s Sunday in late spring. The sun is there, days are long, and everything is blossoming like crazy – basses, forsythia, chestnuts, and lilacs. Ladies selling flowers on every street corner have roses, tulips, and meadow flowers.
This very Sunday I would start with small breakfast at Vincent. Delicious croissant, cup of coffee, and tables outside. I would catch up with the latest news reading the newspapers, and I’d also catch a little bit of sun.
Then I would go for a lazy breakfast with my friends at Chlodna 25 (it starts at 12 p.m.). We would eat freshly prepared cottage cheeses with different herbs, seasonal fruits and we would hunt for the waffles.
Then we would take a walk, maybe to Pola Mokotowskie, dropping by to Samira buying some hummus and pitas and taking it to my parcel at garden plots. There we would sit on the blankets and just rest a little bit longer.
If we were in the mood for a movie we would go to Muranów, or Luna, or Femina. We would finish with the wine at Sklad Win Braci Gessler (and if we feel like we want to do something more before going back home to get some sleep, we would go to Warszawa Powisle, or back to Chlodna, to see what’s happening there). So this is my perfect Sunday.
And when it comes to a regular day I would start it with a flat white at Relaks. I would spend there some time working. Then, I’d go jogging in one of the neighbouring parks (Morskie Oko or Lazienki). For lunch I’ll go to Bordo and eat THE spinach salad.
From there it’s just few steps to Wrzenie Swiata, newly open café run by famous Polish non-fiction writers. You can have a winter-time tea there and a good old-time chat with one of the journalists. Or you can simply work behind one of the small tables.
After that I would go for the walk without any purpose, just to wander around with my boyfriend. Preferably we would finish in one of my favourite restaurants: Izumi or Amber Room (or meet with my friends at Non Solo, savouring again the thin crust pizza). Then a quick beer with friends at Regeneracja or a long wine at Sklad Win. And that’s it.
Mind tough, that I’m quite indecisive – so if you ask me next time, I’ll probably chose some different spots. But right now these both days sounds perfect to me!
Check out all Kasia Boni’s articles and the other interviews with our Spotters.