Wednesday, 13 February 2019


Just some statistic I posted a couple of months ago:

Pretty amazing isn't it?
Lets go over some other ones, not necessarily amazing but here we go.

Warsaw facts and figures

Let me show you a list and zoom in on some of these.
  • 1.7 million people, officially Over 2 milion, inofficially
  • 517,24 sqiare km
  • 8.3 million tourists annually. Of which 2.8 foreign
  • 83 hotels
  • 54 hostels
  • 63 museums
  • 79 parks
  • 28 cinemas
  • 56 theatres and musical venues
  • 51 bus lines
  • 25 train lines
  • 27 tram lines
  • 2 metro lines
  • 446km of biking trails
  • 1 river
  • 10 Bridges
So, officially the city has between 1.7 and 1.8 million inhabitants.
That was the official part. In reality it is a lot more. How much more? That would be a matter of estimations, as obviously these inhabitants are not registered in this city but living here.
It obviously is a huge pile of work to be able to keep it under control somehow. Many folks state these numbers are boosted by a huge number of Ukrainians which came here without registering, working for black money. To be honest I do not have a clue myself. What I do know is that also many Poles are still registered in other places (mostly city districts) than they are living right now. However, over districts that should not impact the total tally. I have heard and read estimates of number of inhabitants between the figures of 2 million and even around 3 million. I often say that the truth in most occasions is somewhere in the middle, but here I would stick to a more conservative number myself.

Warsaw is a bit of a hidden gem when it comes to mass tourism. Krakow for instance is more popular when it comes to (international) tourism. Of the 8.3 million tourists per annum, 2.8 million are people coming from abroad. That means a whole lot of polish citizens from allover the country pay a visit to Warsaw. Personally this split was a bit of a surprise really, but nice to see that the Polish like their capital city.

You might have noticed on the pictures I have posted over the last years, Warsaw has an awful lot of gorgeous parks spread over the city, big parks. Many people like to go and have a stroll there. They are spacious, well maintained, clean and make you feel like you are not in a big city. We love to visit these places really, it is also nice that the trees block a lot of noise. So relaxing. The city of Warsaw spends a lot of effort and budget on the green character of the city. Now stop using coal to generate energy and we maybe can enjoy it without smog during the winter months.

446km of biking trails
Not that spectacular compared to Dutch cities I know, but for Warsaw it is believe me. The infrastructure for bikes was none, nada, niente. However, there needs to happen a lot more before you will get me on a bike here. If I understood correctly, there will be further investments in bike infrastructure soon.

Just look at it haha. I took this photo when I was travelling back home from the airport last year. The guy ran out of asphalt and finished this bike path in a gorgeous way. Isn't it a piece of art?

I hope you liked to read it, take care folks.

Monday, 31 December 2018

Keret House: Narrowest house in the world

Keret House, the narrowest house in the world.

In 2012 architect Jakub Szczęsny decided to make something unique, and managed to put his idea into practice.

Construction took around a year. It measures 92 centimeters at its narrowest and 152 centimeters at its widest point. Let that sink in...

Israeli connection
The house owes its name to Israeli writer name Etgar Keret, tenant of the building.

During the 2nd world war there was a wooden bridge at this location, connecting the two Jewish ghettos (the small and the big ghetto). A very historical place in Warsaw.

The house
Again, 92 by 152 cm. Despite its small measurements the house has 2 floors.
It has a kitchen, a bedroom, a bathroom and living area. But how? Well, you must be somewhat flexible and have to use a ladder to be able to move from place to place.
The funny thing is that we call it a house, but due to its tiny size Polish law does not consider it a house. It is registered as an 'art installation' in the form of an insert between two existing buildings.

Visiting the Keret house
Just up to four people can enter at the same time. Against a small fee it is open to visitors, but the average visiting time is just 10 minutes, as it is such a small place. Before taking the decision to visit it, it is recommended to verify if your health insurance covers physiotherapy ;-)

Take care folks

Thursday, 27 December 2018


Big baskets with bread. A fascinating sight isn't it? It all did not make any sense to me to be honest.  

I thought people were hoarding leftovers to feed birds or something.  

Below you can see a waste bin which serves several households. Next to it the basket with bread. 

Later I discovered the real reason. 

As a Catholic country, many Poles just do not want to throw bread in the general waste bin. Bread represents the body of Christ, throwing it in general waste is really not done for many people. 

It got me thinking though, as Poland is not the most modern country when it comes to separated waste disposal. Would it really end up at a place where they only gather organic waste? I'm afraid that I will never find out...I expect that in some cases it does, in most not. 

If I will then I will let you know :)

Monday, 24 December 2018


If someone in Poland offers you a sandwich, you might only receive one slice of bread.
'Kanapka' is the Polish word for most types of snacks that have a slice (or slices) of bread as a base. It refers to all types of sandwiches Poles, it means the beloved open sandwich. 'Kanapka' is popular for breakfast, lunch and supper, the time does not really matter.

Kanapki (derived from the French word 'canapés') appeared in Poland at the end of the 19th century thanks to...French cuisine. The small open sandwiches, or 'canapés', were actually called 'tartinki'. The funny thing is that 'tartines' in France are large open sandwiches, 'canapés' are like one bite sized. So in Poland it is exactly opposite :)
At first, it was really something of the rich, but during the communist era they were an important part in daily diet of the average Pole. Large sandwiches only became popular in Poland later.

In the Netherlands I was only used to fold a slice of bread double, or to cut the slice in half and make a double sandwich. Most of the times we just use two slices of bread and fold them double. Here it is a bit different, in fact I never saw these double sandwiches here apart from places which serve foreign lunches.

Not the most amazing discovery, but it is a bit odd. PS: I still fold my sandwiches double :)

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Christmas Eve traditions in Poland

Like in many other countries Christmas Eve is usually celebrated with a family dinner at home.

There are a lot of traditions connected to it though. Traditions which were totally new to me.

Waiting for the first star to appear
Many Poles still wait until the first star appears in the sky before sitting down to eat on 24th December. This tradition commemorates the Star of Bethlehem.
Tricky when cloudy though 😉

Sharing an opłatek
This is a wafer made of flour and water embossed with a religious image.
I remember the first time my language teacher gave me one. Made a picture, posted it on Facebook...with baby Jesus upside down in his little crib. I did not even notice that it resembled a religious image.


But anyway, every person gets one and then shares pieces of it with everyone else, exchanging good wished to each other. So this tradition is linked to the breaking of bread at the Last Supper. After that we start to eat.

Speaking with animals
According to an old Polish legend, animals are granted the gift of speech on Christmas Eve as a reward for their role in welcoming Jesus on earth. As a result, some children try to have a proper conversation with their family pet. I always wonder what these pets would be thinking then 🤔

Empty place at the table
any Poles still  leave an empty place set at the table in case a person down on luck should show up and ask for shelter. While this rarely happens nowadays, the tradition nevertheless requires that lone strangers be taken in and treated as family. We also have an empty plate and cutlery on the table.

Not eating meat
Most Poles usually do not eat meat nor drink hard liquor on Christmas Eve. However, wine and fish are acceptable.

Hay under the tablecloth
The hay is being put there as a way of remembering that (according to the Bible), the newborn Jesus was put in a manger to rest.

Preparing 12 dishes
A traditional Polish Christmas Eve dinner consists of 12 dishes. One for each month of the new year. Some claim that one should try every dish to secure good luck throughout the upcoming twelve-month period. Classic Polish Christmas dishes include, amongst others, cabbage and mushroom pierogi (dumplings) and the poppy seed cake known as makowiec.

To me that is a bit over the top to be honest. Just a good meal with family is the most important. 

Merry Christmas all.


Monday, 10 December 2018


Pewex (short for Przedsiębiorstwo Eksportu Wewnętrznego - Internal Export Company) was a chain of hard currency shops in the People's Republic of Poland. They sold otherwise unobtainable Western goods in exchange for Western currencies, most commonly the US dollar.

Pewex pouch where people could keep their USD

The odd thing is that the possession of Dollars was not allowed during the communist era. However, Poles always find a way. These were traded on the black market like cigarettes are nowadays.

By the late 1960s, it had become apparent that the then socialist centrally-planned economy of Poland was inefficient. The rule of Edward Gierek led to a short period of economic prosperity. With the aid of foreign loans, Gierek instituted a programme to modernise industry and increase the availability of consumer goods. The standard of living increased markedly and for a time he was hailed a miracle-worker. The economy, however, began to falter during the 1973 oil crisis and by 1976 price increases became necessary, mostly to ease the repayment of these loans.

Foreign currency
In order to obtain much needed foreign currency from Polish society, authorities permitted in 1972 the creation of a network of shops under a state-owned bank named Pekao. There, the foreign hard currency could be exchanged for both foreign and domestic goods, many of which were unavailable to Poles at that time. Since ownership of hard currency as cash was forbidden and all dollars and Deutschmarks had to be deposited to dollar bank accounts, authorities introduced Bon PeKaO cheques, which were tied to the U.S. Dollar in a 1:1 ratio and could be used as currency in Pekao shops.

Later on the Pekao bank created a separate company, Przedsiębiorstwo Eksportu Wewnętrznego - the Pewex. While the letter x is not present in the Polish alphabet, it was used nevertheless, so that the name would sound somehow exotic and Western-like in the ears of the mostly pro-American society.

For years, the Pewex shops were the most common way for people in Poland to purchase unavailable consumer products. Pewex offered a large variety of products unavailable otherwise to the Polish population. These included jeans, Coca-Cola, alcohol, sweets, toys, cigarettes, electronics, and colour TV sets.

In addition, Pewex offered a number of Polish-made products that were otherwise intended for export only, including vodka and Krakus ham (hence the name "internal export"). Moreover, the Pewex chain was very popular among foreign tourists and diplomats, who could buy Western articles at very reasonable prices (sometimes even as low as 40% of their cost in the West) and tax free.

During the 1980s' economic crisis, when the state-owned shops for ordinary people offered barely anything, the Pewex shops were sometimes the only places where one could buy basic foodstuffs and other basic articles like toilet paper. Finally, in the 1980s, Pewex shops became one of the very few places in Poland where cars and flats could be bought without having to wait for several years.

As part of the peaceful transition of the economic system in Poland after 1989's revolution in Poland, the Polish economy was privatised and the ownership of foreign currency was deregulated. This made the Pekao cheques obsolete and soon afterwards most of the goods that had only been available from Pewex stores started to be sold in private shops as well. In the mid-1990s, the chain was heavily mismanaged, eventually privatised but soon afterwards went bankrupt. The destruction of the Pewex brand, one of the most recognizable in the People's Republic of Poland, is considered a good example of brand mismanagement.

But anyway, a fine piece of Polish cult!

Take care folks, cheerio.

Source: Wikipedia 

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Janusz Korczak

I made this photo somewhere in the year 2017 and did not pay real attention to the statue to be honest. Just a while ago I noticed it was a man holding children in his arms. The man, Janusz Korczak, is a war hero. Not an army General or Marshall, but a normal civilian with a great heart. Let me tell you a bit more about him. 

Janusz Korczak 
1878 - 1942

Physician, pedagogue, writer, journalist and social activist. Born as Henryk Goldszmit  in Warsaw, died in Treblinka. 

Janusz Korczak was born into the polonised Goldszmit family - his great-grandfather was a glazier, his grandfather was a doctor and his father, Józef Goldszmit, was a well-regarded Warsaw attorney. He himself, as both a Jew and a Pole, felt that he had two nationalities.

In March 1905 Henryk Goldszmit obtained his PhD and began working at the Jewish Berson and Bauman Hospital for Children in Śliska 51 street in Warsaw. As the resident doctor, he was obliged to provide 24-hour care to the ill and medical advice in the hospital's infirmary (regardless of faith); apart from that he also acted as a home-visiting doctor. Korczak was drafted to the Russian-Japanese war and in the years 1905-1906 gained experience as a military doctor.

Orphans Society
In 1912 he once and for all gave up work at the hospital and took up the post of director of the newly-opened Jewish House of Orphans, which operated under the patronage of the Help to the Orphans Society. There he collaborated with Stefania Wilczyńska, who helped him implement his authorial pedagogical concepts and creatively contributed to the development of the establishment. The House of Orphans became for Korczak a place of daily detailed observation of the psychophysical development of a child. There, innovative paedagogical ideas were conceived, such as that of the children's parliament, court, newspaper and notary. 

During the first days of the II World War, together with fellow tutors and co-workers he was present at the House of Orphans day and night. In September 1939 he spoke for the last time on Polish Radio, appealing to the people to remain calm. From the very beginning he constantly tried to obtain support for his institution. In the summer of 1940 he managed to organize summer camp for the children at a branch of the House of Orphans in the Wawer district of Warsaw. In the autumn of 1940 the House of Orphans - as a Jewish institution - was relocated to the ghetto to Chłodna 33 street, to the building of the Maria and Józef Roesler Secondary Trade School and Korczak was arrested for a brief period for not wearing an armband with the Star of David, which the Nazis ordered every Jew to wear.

In October 1941 the House of Orphans was once again forced to relocate. Korczak fought constantly for financial resources to pay for the maintenance of the children, but above all he made efforts so that, despite of the hopeless situation, life in the House of Orphans would run according to the prewar rhythm. As much as possible the old ways of functioning and internal habits were preserved. In the beginning of 1942 Korczak officially took up supervision of the shelter for orphans Main House of Shelter in Dzielna 39 street, which was in terrible condition. In May 1942 he began writing a diary which described the dreadful reality of the Nazi occupation.

Korczak consciously turned down opportunities which could have saved his own life: he didn't accept help to leave the ghetto and going into hiding, which was offered to him by his friends and on deportation day, in the morning of the 5th of August 1942, during the Grossaktion (the main stage of exterminating the population of the Warsaw ghetto) - he refused abandoning the children and workers of the House of Orphans. 

The last march taken up by Korczak and the children to Umschlagplatz is legendary, certified by many accounts and memories (not always coherent and credible in detail). It lived and continues to live its own life - in a mythologised version. However the essence of this legend reflects the real truth about Korczak - that he was a solid moral authority for all those who looked up to him for guidance and hope.



Just some statistic I posted a couple of months ago: Pretty amazing isn't it? Lets go over some other ones, not necessa...