Some of you might think why I chose Warsaw to be the destination of my Erasmus-programme. For those, I do not have a spesific answer. Poland was already a bit familiar to me after my visitation to Krakow last January, and my second visitation to Wroclaw/Sompolno/Poznan this summer. I have Polish friends and I want to explore more of Central Europe. (This is important to know, that Poland is in fact concidered to be Central European country based on historical and cultural reasons.)
University of Warsaw is the biggest University in Poland with over 50 000 students. It was founded in 1816 and offers studies in over 18 faculties. They had an interesting study programme from the field of international relations in, so I decided to give it a try and apply. The courses I'm taking here are varied - from European History and World politics to sociology and contemporary ideologies.
Warsaw is the capital of Poland with approximately 1,7 million citizens. There are lot of activities here; several art museums, stadiums, football matches, concerts, theatre, cinemas - something for everyone! The city is divided by the river Vistula (pl. Wisła, fi. Veiksel) and my home is located to "tois puol jokkee" (Proverb from Turku, meaning basically "other side of the river").
The programme of my first two weeks here has been busy. When I arrived to the airport, my mentor Sonia was there to pick me up. She was sweet to take me all the way to my home, and she told me essential things about my neighbourhood and about Warsaw in general. I am living in area of Saska Kepa, which is a nice, calm area. I share a private flat with my two roommates; local Polish guy and an exchange student from Spain.
I like my neighbourhood here, I have everything essential close to me, such as a grocery store and the famous restaurant/bar street Francuska. Even though there's not a straight metro, or sadly even a tram connection from my home to city centre, there is a bus stop just opposite side of street of my home, and straight line operating to my Uni. The buses are operating also at night, so to get home from pub is not a problem here. It is easy and cheap to travel with student's reduced ticket (we'll get 51% discount of transportation in Poland with our Polish student cards). Ticket for three months in Warsaw costs 140zlotys (~30€).
During my first week I found a nice place where to go for running. Since I live close to Wisla, I can run alongside it. I also applied for gym membership; they have a system here where you'll pay 59 zlotys in month (around 13 €) and with this price you'll able to use over 60 gyms in Warsaw. The nearest one is just opposite side of the street, so there should be no excuses for skipping the gym day!
And talking about gym days, they will be necessary because of the food here. Polish food is usually heavy and/or unhealthy. It is relatively cheap to eat outside - a meal in a restaurant costs usually around 5-6e, including drinks. Polish cuisine is rather meat based, but Warsaw is luckily one of the most vegetarian friendliest cities in Europe. Normally there are at least few options for vegetarians. So far pierogis are my favorite dish from Polish cuisine!
My studies started already on next day from my arrival. I had applied for intensive Polish course, which turned out to be useful. We had a small group of nine people, and we were learning basic phrases, communication skills, and in general things what would be useful to know while living in Warsaw. People do speak English here occasionally, but especially with older people it is usually better to use Polish. After my intensive Polish course I know how to greet, thank, and say goodbye. I know how to order food (and most importantly, beer!). I know how to take a taxi, and I actually once already did, but actually everything I had to say, was my address and thank you (and then I fell asleep to the taxi).
I got to know people from my Polish group and I've been spending time with them outside the classes. They found a typical Polish restaurant near to our Uni (these restaurants are called Milk Bars which is a literal translation from Bar mleczny), and we've been there having a lunch for few times. Menu is only in Polish but luckily there is a Polish speaker in our group - he is able to save me from guessing which meals are vegetarian. The food there is very tasty and cheap, the whole meal is around 3-4e.
Drinking culture in Poland is one of a kind. They love vodka, and apparently drink it whenever there's a possibility or reason for it. It is also typical here to drink vodka and eating a pickle with it: this combination is tested by me with bad outcome, (by felling asleep to a bar... and that taxi....) For us exchange students there are infinite amount of parties offered, everyday of the week. So, unlike in Vaasa where you had to plan your week based on an occasional party - here you can attend one if you have time or will. One funny thing I've noticed while I've been traveling in Europe, is that they sell Finlandia everywhere. Not only in here Poland but also in Czechia, Hungary and Romania. It is apparently concidered to be Premium vodka? My friends from abroad find it funny that I've never even tasted it - but that is because of the high price of it in Finland. I guess I need to try it here, where I dont have to spend a fortune to taste a vodka from my own country!
On my first week I visited the cultural palace. It is the tallest building in Poland, and inside there is a theater, a cinema, a restaurant and lot more. We went to movies to watch "the Square", a Swedish satirical drama film. It was an experience to watch a film with Polish subtitles and actually understand more from Polish than from Danish, that the main charachter was speaking (which, sorry, is so hard to understand!). I also visited our University Library and the outside gardens - located to the backyard and rooftop of the library. Gardens are free to enter for the public, and definitely one of my favorite spots from Warsaw so far. The library itself is super comfortable, otherwise than to study - you can relax or actually even sleep there.
On the second week I had the opportunity to join the trip with Ostrava's transportation group to Hungary and Romania. I will write an own blog post from that because it was quite adventurous trip, and I had an interesting way how I reached Hungary and Warsaw on my way back!
So overall, my first weeks in Warsaw have been pleasant and full of activities. The actual studies started yesterday, and so far so good - the field is interesting and seems to have the contents I was looking for. I will be back soon with the post about my trip, and I'll keep you updated of my adventures in Warsaw and elsewhere!