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Moving to Warsaw: A (Simple) Neighborhood Guide

Moving to any new place is always confusing. The choices of neighborhoods can be confusing and overwhelming. Add a language barrier, a hectic work schedule, cold weather (in my case) and the whole process can easily become a nightmare. There are a couple of not-so-great ways you can go about this:

  1. Resort to the good ol’ Gumtree! Where you basically have to master the Google Translate technique (and I recommend you install the Chrome extension!)
  2. Hire a real estate agent! In Warsaw real estate agents charge up to 50% of rent to help you find an apartment. Hmmm…I say not worth it!
  3. Solicit the help of a local co-worker or a friend. Just be prepared to be paying for that favor for a long time.

As you may have guessed I chose to go with not-so-great-but-seemed-like-the-best-choice #1. I have become a master at translating Polish sites and capturing important pieces of information. Once I started looking at the listings I realized I had to get to know the neighborhoods, this required investigation, which for me meant: WALKING…a whole lot of walking all over Warsaw! I had a basic idea of what I wanted and liked. So, let’s start by taking a look at the different neighborhoods:

  • Żoliborzis one of the northern districts of Warsaw. It is also where I have been living my first few months in Warsaw. I would describe it as green, quite, and pretty. There are a lot of small parks around the neighborhood. So, it’s great for walking especially for families and people with dogs. It is also directly connected to the center via busses (#116, #503) and the metro.  Pl. Wilsona is 4 stops away from the Centrum Station. One of my favorite bars in Warsaw is in Zoliborz, Coco d’Oro, where they serve delicious Sri Lankan food.
  • Old Town: As the name suggests Old Town is the oldest historic district of Warsaw. Although initially, established in the 13th century what stands today was meticulously rebuilt after the city was destroyed in World War II. Old Town is pretty, colorful and busy. Some of the tucked away residencies offer some quite away from the touristy hustle & bustle. It is quite well connected with busses to the rest of the city, but expect to walk a lot since most of the Old Town is a pedestrian zone.
  • PowiśleLiterally means near-the-VistulaThis is probably my second favorite neighborhood if not my favorite. This neighborhood is happening! Surrounded by beautiful little parks, the Warsaw University Library (which has an amazing rooftop garden that overlooks the entire city), and a great selection of bars and restaurants. This is a quite central location accessible via busses and if you ride a bicycle it’s one of the more bike-friendly neighborhoods in Warsaw. Some of my favorite hang outs here include: OSIR Cycle Culture Cafe, Warszawa Powiscle, and Solec 44. And if you’re crazy about street art as I am, you’ll love taking a stroll down Aleje Ujazdowskie and getting a taste of Warsaw’s vibrant street art  and graffiti culture.
  • ŚródmieścieMeaning city center or downtown. With Warsaw’s iconic landmarks Palace of Science & Culture, Warszawa Centralna Station,  and Złote Tarasy shopping mall you cannot get any more central than this. Unlike other city centers, Srodmiescie is not overwhelming and crowded. It is also not a downtown that is solely functional and lively during the week. Many bars, pubs and other venues call this part of town home. If you like being in the center of things, this is  definitely the place for you.  The square of Pl.Zbawiciela is packed with great places to hang out like Charlotte, Plan B Bar, and Coffee Karma. One of my favorite places in downtown is art venue called V9. V9 offers all sorts of art workshops from stenciling to silk screen printing and more. They also regularly hold art exhibitions and small concerts.

Of course, there are many more neighborhoods in Warsaw, but I wanted to cover the ones I know most about. Be sure to check out: Praga, Saska Kepa, Wola and Mokotow.

Happy Apartment Hunting or just neighborhood exploring!

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The Owls have been claimed!

This is an update to my previous post on the Beirut Owls. Thanks to a local friend I now know who’s behind the Beirut Owls.

Meet Accousmatik System, a Lebanese non-profit organization responsible for cultural exchange in music accompanied by various art forms AND of course they are behind the owls.

Watch as their crew fills Beirut with these owls.

According to their website, there are 700 of their stenciled owls all over Beirut.

Owl Owner, please stand up!

I have been living in Beirut for two and a half months now and I can’t get enough of my strolls around Beirut where I’m constantly met with creative street art. There’s just been one big mystery during my time here: the “Beirut Owl”. The “Beirut Owl” is to be found in many parts of Beirut. It’s a symmetrical stenciled owl that I have become very fond of during my time here. Will someone help me figure out who this owl is? Who’s behind it? And whether it means anything?

Here’s the “Beirut Owl” in Hamra:

The Beirut Owl - AUB Wall, Hamra, Bliss Street

Here are a whole bunch of them hanging out in Gimmayze’s St. Nicholas Stairs:

Beirut Owls - Gimmayze Saint Nicholas Stairs

 

Some friends believe that the owl’s symmetrical shape is an Arabic word. Others told me that they thought the owl had a blog where it talked about its adventures around Beirut. It just seems that no one really knows anything about the “Beirut Owl” so will the owl owner, please stand up!

For more pictures of street art in Beirut, check out my ever-growing photo collection of Beirut Street Art.

 

Ahlein be Libnan!

Ahla! Ahla! Ahla!” which roughly translates to “Hello! Hello! Hello!” is the first greeting I received when I landed in the Beirut International Airport a little after midnight on Thursday from my friend Edy.

I met Edy last winter when I came to Lebanon to meet up with my best friend, Nora. Nora and Edy met while studying in Brussels a couple of years ago. And Edy moved back to Lebanon after finishing his studies. He’s from Jezzine a beautiful mountainous town in South Lebanon, but he know spends most of his time in Beirut working as a researcher and part-time professor. He’s going to be my host until I find a place in Beirut closer to my work.

My flight was delayed and I was a bit tired so we went to Edy’s apartment in Bikfaya. The next morning Edy dropped me off in Hamra, where I did some major walking and exploring of the area. I love the Hamra vibe; it’s very busy and loud. It’s a college town, being close to AUB, mixed with an artsy scene. There are little alleys and side streets filled with cafes, pubs, and restaurants. There’s also a lot of street art, which is something I’m instantly attracted to. Stenciling is very popular here and a lot of the messages right now seem to be political.

Street Art in Hamra, Beirut

Lebanon has a long history of sectarian violence and wars. And walking the streets of Beirut one cannot escape it. There are standing buildings with bullet holes all over them from the recent wars. Despite the tragic recent history and current anti-sectarian movement, the Lebanese people seem to have a resilience and a determination that is hard to miss in casual interactions.

On Friday night, Edy, some of his friends and I went to get drinks at a pub in Ashrafiyeh I visited the last time I was here called Hole in the Wall for welcoming drinks.

Welcome to Lebanon KF15, Hole in the Wall

I am certain the folks at Hole in the Wall will be seeing a lot of me this summer!