Pierogi and pancakes – foods that provide sustenance to battle the cold and grayness of Poland.
By Caitlyn Winders
At first glance, it appears that Paris and Warsaw could not be more different. Paris is called the city of light for a reason. Every street and alleyway is overflowing with natural and artificial beams. The Eiffel Tower twinkles during the evening on the hour. Street lamps, monuments, and endless, terrifying traffic ensure that Paris is lit up at all times. This is not to say that Paris does not have undesirable areas. Paris has been devastated by tragedy and is riddled with impoverished neighborhoods but it does a fantastic job of putting a shiny veneer on a sometimes rotten package.
In contrast, Warsaw is gray. Its weather, its buildings, and its neighborhoods all possess a grayness that seeps deep into your bones and threatens to choke the life out of its residents. The sun did not shine once while I was there. It too seemed to be strangled by grayness. Warsaw has a distinct personality that sets it apart from other European cities. I visited the Warsaw Uprising Museum and it helped me to begin to comprehend Warsaw’s grayness. While almost all European cities have been touched by war, Warsaw was nearly obliterated during World War 2. Out of the 900+ historical monuments, buildings, and works of art that used to fill the city, less than 100 remain. Approximately six million Polish citizens perished during the war. The city rebuilt itself after the war, but I’m not sure if it will ever achieve the same vibrancy that it had prior to it.
Polish food seems to embody this resilience. It is built upon hearty stock, drawing its base from heavy starches and weather-resistant vegetables. While I was there, I dined on pierogi and pancakes, food that had clearly been designed for those who needed lasting sustenance.
Until my friend and I visited the Old Town, a beautifully reconstructed and preserved area of the city, I was convinced that all of Warsaw was a mediocre industrial eyesore. Paris has turned me into an architecture elitist. The Old Town serves as a time capsule; a way to see the dynamic version of Warsaw that existed before The Holocaust. As we walked through this area, and made our way to the tiny cafes drinking hot Polish mulled wine I wondered why not all of Warsaw was like this.
In spite of the fog that clings to the
rooftops in Warsaw, each restaurant we entered was full of life and warmth. Our bellies
were full of potatoes and Borscht soup, a stark contrast to the world outside.
After my visit to the Uprising Museum, I understood the gray. I detest this gray. Warsaw never chose it, Polish people fought it with all of their might. Almost 70 years after the conclusion of World War 2, this gray still persists. Polish citizens have come to make this gray their own, and while it may seem like a sign of dysphoria and melancholy to the outside world, I believe that this gray is also an emblem of Warsaw’s resilience. I know that the clouds will clear and Warsaw will see the sun one day.