Eastern bazaar, bears at the tram stop and Google for Startups in an old vodka distillery – when you cross Wisła river and get to the eastern (right) river bank you will discover Warsaw that is an alternative to skyscrapers and reconstructions of the city center.
First things first: the eastern bazaar is called in Polish Bazar Różyckiego and it is the oldest in Warsaw; bears were for real as they lived in a zoological garden enclosure that used to be located next to a very popular bus stop in the middle of the district. And the vodka factory from the 19th century is a newly opened multi-functional center called Praga Koneser Center. What more can you find in Praga?
Firstly, it is a district where you can explore multicultural traditions. Jews, Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians have lived in Warsaw together for many centuries and that is why churches and synagogues were built in a very close proximity.
Secondly, the right bank was almost not destroyed during WWII – you can still recognise some views from the 100 years old postcards and photos! Even a short walk offers a complete change of urbanscape for people who are familiar with the Warsaw’s city centre with its reconstructions and communist architecture.
Truth be told, some of the houses are in need of a complete makeover and some must be properly restored, like the Praga Koneser Center. Unsurprisingly, the most neglected streets were used as mural walls or WWII film sets – the most famous case being the Pianist on Władysław Szpilman’s war experiences. The eastern district seemed to be a perfect film substitute for the Warsaw ghetto scenery.
A walk in Praga may be full of surprises. You can meet – bronze musicians in the middle of the street. They used to be a local entertainment as they wandered around the city with their music. There is more: an original bunker from the times of WWII (only from the outside) and the hideouts built to save Jews from the Ghetto in the Żabinskis villa located in the Zoo. Well, you may read or watch a movie about the zookeepers’ family saving both their Jewish friends and a total strangers… It really happened in Warsaw and you can visit the original site.
Finally “pyzy”: an emblematic street food from Bazar Różyckiego. The home made dumplings filled with meat and served with a lot of gravy were sold from glass jars. It is the local tradition but today, you can have a vegetarian option with mushroom or home made pesto (and just plain dumplings without any fillings). I like my pyzy from the local bar called Pyzy, flaki gorące and from a jar, but some of my friends prefer a local milk bar (communist style eatery) called Ząbkowski. And to conclude your local flavors’ exploration you can go for a tasting tour in the “Polish Vodka Museum” or have a coffee in one of the local cafes.
Our 3 hours walk will take you to the centre of the district in the vicinity of the Różycki Bazaar and the Zoo. There is a possibility to combine 2 hrs walking itinerary with visiting the Praga Museum (a local historical museum of the district and the Jewish prayer house from the 1800’s), the Żabińskis villa with the hideouts built to save Jews from the Ghetto (for more information go to the post on the Jewish heritage in Praga) and the pyzy dumplings tasting in one of the local eateries. The complete tour lasts approximately 4 hours (without the Polish Vodka Museum)
There is an entrance fee to Praga Museum – the Jewish prayer house entrance is included in the Praga Museum ticket.