walkscape Warsaw
Warsaw edgy side
Posted on October 12, 2017

Think that we can walk carefree through the streets of the Praga district it could be regarded as a dream in the days before the fall of Communism. This place constituted for so many years the rough, poor and criminal set of Warsaw. And yet, now wandering in the neighborhood has a strong sense of discovery. Unveil the authentic Warsaw, the real one. Yes, the Praga district is definitely the one that has best withstood the WWII bombing. The entire identity of the city stands here.

Go into the courtyards is one of the most interesting experiences. They are able to give a unique sensation of intimacy and Polish identity. Football, religion and worn out walls. The badge of the city football team Legia Warszawa is spray painted almost everywhere to remark the mass vocation of the district. The Virgin Mary among leafs and flowers is the strongest mark of the religious attitude. Only one perspective, the faith, the centre of the courtyard and at the same time cornerstone of the Polish culture. On the background, the flue pipes stand out, the plaster flakes and the slight wind moves the lace curtains. A light orange tiny car left with flat tires as a monument or a pop icon, catch the attention. It's a Polski Fiat 127P. The first image that drives in the mind is an old man who drives very slow in a can of tuna. For Poles went a lot deeper, the supermini car manufactured in Poland between the 1970s and the 1990s was something different. Apparently, every family had one, just like the Trabant in East Germany. 

Imagine how many families used to load up every kind of things to go somewhere on holiday.Roaming in the streets up into Brzeska road, the most dangerous road in Warsaw. Certainly not today. It is difficult to imagine what could it be thirty years ago. Nowadays is a road like any other, but the unhinged sign of Rozyckiego bazaar survived. The old black market, a place of illegal commerce during the Nazi occupation as well as during the Communist era. Now is a basic flea market, where to buy any kind of necklaces, shoes, and caps. Right away, on the opposite side, a majestic building rises with the energy of a survivor after bombing and decline.

Probably the most interesting discovery in this neighborhood is the magic world of Milk Bars. The image of Korova Milk Bar in Clockwork Orange is not so far, of course, they don't sell milk laced with drugs but the word Korova means cow in Russian. These places look like seedy old-fashioned bars but they are the perfect location where to try the best traditional Polish food. Originally developed as bars where to eat dairy items, later they have become relatively cheap restaurants for workers during the Communist era, serving vegetarian and traditional meals. Nowadays, they are not very widespread and they don't have signs outside. The best way is to ask locals where to find them. Once inside, the process is peculiar. The first step is the choice of the meal through a untranslated menu, then the payment and in less than one minute, just a bit further a lady puts the dishes in front of you from a window. My random choice has been a breaded cutlet called Shabowy with rice and boiled potatoes as sides. 

The image of ordinary workers, teenagers and elderly people with their nephews into the bar generates an extraordinary sense of devotion to the past that is not so far away. Staring out, the floral pattern curtains, with their old-fashioned colours, create the last division between this surprising folk place and the outside developing neighborhood.