Oct '20 — Poland, Warsaw

Oct 7

Sitting here in quarantine. On the outskirts of the city, near the airport.

Warsaw is neat, but lifeless. Outskirts of Minsk are poor and lifeless; outskirts of Warsaw are rich and lifeless.

Premade meals sold in small Zabka shops. Lots of premade meals.

A large apartment building, a keyed gate to enter the inner yard (also neat and lifeless), another key to enter the building, one more key to enter the apartment block (?), and the final key to enter the room.

More people seem to speak Russian than English.

Oct 17

It's almost the end of the ten-day quarantine.

All takeout food is somehow meh. I don't know why.

It's getting rainy here. Out of quarantine tomorrow, and will spend two days hanging around Warsaw.

View from my window:

Oct 18-20

As I said: neat but lifeless. Sims-like. Things built because somebody thought "okay, this could be here" rather than "I want this here because I'm going to use it".

The inner yard:

Going to the city center now. This photo symbolizes my entire impression: bushes in a concrete enclosure. Bushes as an object placed upon the map.

A neat garden square with cloned trees. "Should we do a three-bench square or a four-bench square?"

A lot of empty space (good!), but boring, concrete-filled. A parking lot next to a building that would have otherwise been nice to hang around.

Before Warsaw, I thought I liked contrasty, haphazard cities. Now I think there's something subtler there. This bit near a huge mall is haphazard—a playground, a pole with the flag, a tall brutalist building, a bunch of trees, some swings, several overlapping "roads"—but I don't like it at all.

One of the few things that feel like "yes, there are people living in this city, there are people for whom this city is their home, and I am just an intruder here". I want to feel like this more often. I want cities that are owned by their citizens, rather than cities owned by the city government.

This said, the Palace of Culture and Science—the eighth of the Seven Sisters—is genuinely cool.

Another undeniably cool thing: Poland has more civilization than Ukraine (which in its turn has more civilization than Belarus).

  • Belarus: nobody cares about coronavirus;
  • Ukraine: most drivers wear masks;
  • Poland: you can order an Uber with a full-width plastic shield!

Oh, and: I met somebody on the street, they didn't know English and the person they were trying to get info from didn't know Russian, I offered to translate, we spent the next hour walking together and talking. That was cool.

Me on the left, Misha on the right. Was a personal trainer in Russia, but currently has to work night shifts in a warehouse in Warsaw.

Overall

I don't like Warsaw and would not want to visit it again.

I think it might be a good place to live, quality-of-life-wise. But in terms of "how good it feels to be there"—nah. Doesn't feel good to be there.

(NB: I don't judge cities based on how good life there can be if you make an effort, because I don't make an effort. I judge cities based on the baseline state—how good it feels to be there without doing anything extra. I might stop caring about this when it becomes easier for me to put effort into things.)