Oh God… I have not written anything for a longer while, but these days were a bit too busy for me. Today I would like to take you for a small walk around my block – for some of you it might be scary, for the others – quite interesting. So today I would like to tell you a bit about Mirów neighbourhood in Wola district where I live.
Depends where you are from and what living conditions you had in your life, you can either love the area, accept it, or totally hate it. My friends who visited my area lately were quite concerned about how it looks like and how inconsistent the style of buildings is. Well, it’s kind of true. It looks like the building system I live in is the only one that looks all the same, the rest is very much… different.
The sad history behind Mirów (and major part of Wola district) is that it was a part of Warsaw Ghetto and the block I live in was there. It was called a “Small Ghetto” and it is remembered in the area, as the borders are marked on the pavement. As the whole area was destroyed after the collapse of Ghetto, it needed to be rebuilt. This way the new neighbourhood was created between 60s and 70s of the XX century and was called “Osiedle za Żelazną Bramą” which means “Neighbourhood behind an iron gate”. There was even a Polish-Austrian documentary called “Behind the Iron Gate” which is a movie about the buildings and the people living there. It’s quite new as it was filmed in 2009.
Grzybowska street – my block is the first huge, grey building on the left side
As I mentioned, the area is very inconsistent. 50 years ago when the residential buildings were built there were no modern skyscrapers built. My block is also surrounded by tenement houses. Some of them were renovated, but some are either in horrible condition or they even have signs saying more or less “Be careful – possibility of collapse”. These buildings are not renovated by their owners and possibly – there are no people living there (at least I hope so!). This is actually pretty scary for many people, but for me it makes no difference as the area is unique.
One of the tenement houses located just 2 blocks away from my building. It is marked with a sign that warns you of possible collapse
There are many advantages of living in such area. First of all, Żelazna street where I live is full of new places like restaurants (there is a nice Korean Bar and Burger place in my building), stores (the nearest grocery store is inside the building, and a slightly bigger one is also in the building, but outside), services (e.g. barber shops, public transport service point, ATM machines, there is even petrol station nearby).
Krochmalna street – typical older buildings there being surrounded by one of “Iron Gate” blocks (on the left side)
The biggest disadvantage is that most of the area belongs to paid parking zone, so if you own a car – you need to either purchase some kind of a monthly pass or hope that your building owner offers such thing. There is also one street that does not have a paid parking zone (Krochmalna), yet – it is always full of cars. My building has a paid parking zone offered by the building owner and I think it’s the same with all the other ones in the area. So no need to park on the outside road, you can park between the buildings and you will be able to enter only if you bought a place as there is a security guard who opens the gate. As I know, the cost is more or less 20 euros per month, so not expensive at all. I don’t have a car and looks like I will not have it for longer, so it’s not a problem for me anyway :)
A bit further in Krochmalna street – one of a few spots in the area where you can park your car outside for free
Still, the area is popular amongst students (both Polish and foreign), imigrants (mostly Vietnamese people) and older people who live there since forever. The reason is a price – small and not renovated apartments (the smallest ones are 27m2) here cost like 300 euros per month. Bigger ones are more of 350-400 euros. Of course if they are renovated, the cost is higher (around 500 euro), but still – reasonable for Warsaw due to the close proximity to the center. I also heard that those buildings are not popular amongst people who are employees coming out of Warsaw – I am not sure about it, but as majority of the people are older or in their early 20s – this might be true.
For me the location is excellent – Warsaw is quite a big city and what’s more – it’s quite crowded as well. This makes me very happy then that it takes me 5 minutes on foot to the tram stop (with 2 tram stops to Warsaw Central station) and there are also bus stops just in front of the building. If I wanted to use underground – 2nd line is located less than 10 minutes away on foot. There are days when I get up at 8.20 and I still make it on time to work at 9.00 :)
My usual tram stop called “Norblin” – you can see some modern buildings in the background
One more thing about the buildings themselves – they have been built in a very experimental technology for the 60s and 70s. It was called “Stolica” and instead of a large concrete blocks technology, the main walls are built from one gigantic brick which makes it very stable and safe – people say there damage of the buildings are non-existent because of this technology (and some are laughing that in case of a nuclear attack, this will be the only thing that will survive in Warsaw :D). Because of that there is also one element that is super-important for me. In many new blocks the walls are so thin that you can hear your neighbours talking, watching tv etc. Here – there is nothing! I remember that I had Russian neighbours 2 floors below and they made some party (quite a loud one). I heard it only when… I opened the window as their was open as well. I did not hear anything through my floor!
There are also some areas for the children – playground is separated from the street by the fence, but it is accessible for the people without any keys etc.
So now the downside: there are more and more modern buildings being built in the area. The view from my “balcony” (not a real balcony, just a type of barrier that allows you to safely look outside) speaks for itself. There is a Q22 skyscraper (built recently), Grzybowska 43 office building (not used at the moment, but there would be tenants soon), the apartment complex is being built there now (replacing The Mint of Poland) and on the other side – JM hotel, Pekao Bank’s Tower, Hilton Hotel and a bit further away – Warsaw Spire Skyscraper. Soon it will remind much more of the center which is full of skyscrapers and there are also lots of old apartment buildings.
2 views from my so-called “balcony” – one shows you modern buildings and the other one – more of the older area
2 more shots from the area – one is 3 modern buildings seen from Chłodna street (one of them is Warsaw Spire, the one in the center). On the second picture – Atrium Centrum building with one of the “Iron Gate” buildings in the background
Still, if you want – you can find spots that are still the same as they have been many years ago. One of the examples is the bakery that exists for over 60 years. Some people describe it as “the place where time stopped” and they are somehow right as the interior is not really modernized. You can find this place in Żelazna 64 street (so a block away from my building) in the corner with Krochmalna street. The cakes and bakery products there are simply excellent – the recipes are the same as they were in the past, but there are also some experimental ones based on the owner’s ideas. Furthermore, the place is run by a very nice lady who works there for 40 years, she is always polite, helpful, smiles to you and wishes you “all the best” when you are leaving. She also runs a blog on the internet about the bakery. Her honesty and good quality products are famous – during “Fat Thursday” (the tradition I already explained a little bit here) there are long queues of people who want to buy doughnuts from this bakery. Of course, most of the places are popular this day, but this one is extremely popular. I know some people are not used to such tastes (they have been born and raised when everything was already chemical), but if you miss “home-made” tastes – this is the place for you. Furthermore – you can find places like shoe repair stores or clock repair stores (which obviously are getting extinct) in my area.
Entrance to “Zosicz” bakery – the words says “cookies”
I think the history of the bakery and services that do not exist in many places anymore is the best conclusion of my feeling about this area. I don’t care it is old, I don’t care it might seem ugly, I don’t care it’s not full of rich people. I consider it relatively safe, quiet, my neighbours are kind, they always say hello and wish you a nice day. I feel like at home and for now – I don’t want to move anywhere else in Warsaw (it obviously might change one day, as I live here for 3 months, but usually – I already know if I find something good after a month or two). I still think many people who live in houses or in more luxurious areas would not feel this way, but as I never lived in a luxury – for me such conditions are absolutely fine :)
Have a lovely week ahead!