Zbawiciela Square photo Daria Pawęda © Warsaw Tourist Office
Yes, it also happens the other way around: Dutch people who live and work in Poland. Warsaw, for example, offers plenty of interesting opportunities thanks to the presence of many multinationals, but also a vibrant entrepreneurial atmosphere, and the quality of life. Writer / journalist Beata Bruggeman-Sekowska wonders what it is like to live in her hometown when you come from the Netherlands.
“Warsaw-Warszawa is my home and feels like home. It’s great to live here’’, says Dirk Aarts.
Dirk comes from Bakel and he has lived in Warsaw since 2000. Dirk works as a managing partner in a large communications agency. A large city with 2 million inhabitants has a lot to offer in terms of culture, sports, retail and even nature. The dynamics that Warsaw has experienced in the last 20 years and still continues to experience is fascinating, according to Dirk.
Liesbeth van Leeuwen also feels at home in Warsaw. “I’m glad I got to know it.
Especially in the summer it is lovely, then I cycle everywhere and visit the nicest places. Warsaw is a beautiful, green and still interesting city with many faces. “. Liesbeth comes from Den Hoorn near Delft. In 1989 she went on an exchange to Poland for the first time. She first lived in Lublin situated in the eastern part of Poland and since 2002 she has lived and worked in Warsaw as a management assistant.
Dirk emphasizes that he finds it annoying to see how persistent the stereotypes about Poland are, and that they are still present in Dutch media. “Many people have an image of Warsaw as a grey, ugly, unattractive city. It is a pity that journalists sometimes choose the easiest way, confirming the existing stereotypes. If they would be a little more adventurous and creative they could show us a very different, nicer side of Warsaw”,”Dirk adds.
“Poland is a country that is close to the Netherlands, much closer than many think. We have a lot of common history, although we don’t know it. Warsaw is unknown because of the negative “former Eastern Bloc country label” (and therefore unloved), but it deserves to be discovered as a beautiful, dynamic and above all fun city, “says Liesbeth.
Compare Amsterdam with Rotterdam
According to Dirk, Warsaw is a less easy city to visit than for example Krakow. Compare it with Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Amsterdam is easy for an average tourist. For Rotterdam you have to make more effort, but then an exciting city will reveal itself. Warsaw has a fascinating and tragic war history (such as Rotterdam). “If you make the effort to dive into it, you will understand the city better and you will see it differently,” adds Dirk.
Love at first sight
Liesbeth lived in the Saska Kępa district on the east side of the Vistula River for a few years. It was love at first sight for her: ” The moment I entered it, I already thought it had a nice atmosphere.”
Later she discovered that there is a Dutch link here. Centuries ago, Dutch settlers, the Olędrzy, had lived here. They drained the wet, swampy land next to the river and made it dry and habitable. The district is a little lower than the rest, so you drive straight into the polder. The Francuska street is the main street of the district with all shops, cafes, restaurants.
The side streets are green and quiet, with many pre-war houses, many built in the style of Polish modernism.
From Saska Kępa you can enjoy walking on the green side of the river. For Liesbeth, Warsaw is a beautiful, green and still interesting city with many faces.
You have to feel Warsaw
Dirk also finds Saska Kepa district and Francuska street special. According to Dirk, Warsaw is a city that you have to feel and experience among the people in the streets and squares. “It is buzzing with countless cafes and restaurants, joie-de-vivre, such as Francuska street, the lively and youthful Zbawiciela square and the grand old part of Mokotow district.”
And in the summer months on the banks of the Vistula. The creativity and passion with which small shops and restaurants are run. ‘’Warsaw’s greatest beauty is in the people’’, says Dirk.
A must see
For Liesbeth a must see in Warsaw is the Old Town: Stare Miasto. Starting with the cosy square next to the Royal Castle where music is always played and various people perform.
In the Stare Miasto there are countless beautiful houses, squares, churches and other monuments. “I love to walk around there and through the Barbakan, through Podwale or Freta streets and end up in one of the restaurants with friends to eat or drink something.”
Liesbeth continues: ”A favourite place of mine is also New Town Square: Rynek Nowego Miasta. From the Stare and Nowe Miasto you have a beautiful view over the river. “
From the Old Town you can walk down the “royal route” and visit many beautiful parks. Especially Lazienki Park is worth visiting.
According to Liesbeth, you should also see something of the past in Warsaw: ‘’the most beautiful museum is Polin, a modern museum about the history of the Polish Jews, which also tells something about the history of Poland.’’
A guided walk through the Warsaw ghetto always makes a big impression on her.
Dirk finds the eastern riverbank incredible, in the middle of the city, you simply walk there. “You are in a nature reserve – with wild plants and large trees. There are numerous beaches, where friends gather after work for a ball game, beer and BBQ, while overlooking the center of Warsaw with its characteristic skyline. Beautiful place to relax and celebrate life, “Dirk adds.
And if you literally mention the most eye-catching places in Warsaw, you have to mention the ‘’high rises’’: the Palace of Culture (231m high, famous ‘Russian’ tower), Zlota 44 (192m high residential tower designed by Daniel Libeskind) and the Warsaw Spire (180m high office tower).
Warsaw: general info
Warsaw is the capital city of the Republic of Poland. Poland is situated in Central Europe and conquered communism in 1989.
Poland borders with seven countries. In the west with Germany, in the south with the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in the east with Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine and in the north with the Baltic Sea and Russia.
Poland is about 7.5 times bigger than the Netherlands and is the ninth largest country in Europe. In 2017, 38,476,269 people lived in Poland, which is 0.6% of the world’s population and 5.3% of the European population.
According to a legend the name Warszawa stems from two lovers: the fisherman Wars and the girl Sawa, who are said to have founded the city. Warsaw was mentioned first in 1241. In 1596, King Sigismund III Wasa moved the Polish capital from Krakow to Warsaw. You can see his monument in the Old Town (Stare Miasto) of Warsaw.
Warsaw has a tragic history. The Jewish Ghetto was destroyed by the Nazi Germans in 1943, and nearly 13,000 Jews were killed. In 1944, Warsaw was almost completely destroyed during the Warsaw Uprising because the Red Army standing nearby on the Vistula River was ordered by Stalin not to help Polish fighters. Warsaw was simply betrayed by the Red Army. About 200,000 people died and the city was destroyed. The population fell from 1.3 million in 1939 to 420,000 in September 1945.
The Old Town was carefully rebuilt in the old style after the war and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.