Thursday, 1 August 2013

London vs Warsaw

I'm moving to Warsaw this month, and I'm taking a certain Mexican with me. Even though the Daily Mail says our quality of life is about to rocket, I'm a little apprehensive. How do my London hang out places compare to their Varsovian equivalents?

1. Battle of the Books

In London I cycle past the chaos of King's X to get to the British Library. Somewhat mute on the outside, spacious and ueber-well stocked on the inside. Drawbacks: drink-ban and relentless bag-checks.

In Poland, my lib of choice will be the Warsaw University Library, right by the banks of the Vistula. It sports a massive roof garden overlooking the city, reading rooms with lots of natural light, and lax regulations. Check. 

2. Scraping Icons

It's undeniably impressive and its changing colours are beautiful, but somehow I never quite warmed to the Shard. Do I sense something brutal and aloof about it? Maybe it's the speed with which it appeared and now dominates the skyline, or its exclusive big-money purpose. Will Self agrees.

The Palace of Culture and Science was a gift from Stalin to the city, and for most old-school Varsovians  it still symbolises Communist oppression. But to the young the Pałac is central to cultural life, containing several theatres, cinemas and bars (and a $2 viewing platform). And the architecture is smugly between Manhattan and Communist nostalgias.

3. Hipsters

Moaning about gentrification is circular and clichéd, but London does take the mick - the capital of cool is being made by the Capitalists of cool. Take Dalston. African and affordable five years ago, it's now filled with bankers and American Apparel clones. 

In Warsaw the key word is reclaiming. There is space, and it's cheap. The city has been going through a Renaissance of trendiness but so far it's inclusive. My favourite places are the Powiśle bar in an abandoned railway ticket station, the super-cool cafe/market Koszyki in a regenerated hall, and the inter-generational parties of the Nizio foundation.

Looks like I'll be fine. Plus there's a pull-out couch in our place. Just saying. 

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