Talking Location With author Charlotte Rixon – Newcastle
Author Ewa Dodd transports her readers to Warsaw
16th September 2017
Author Ewa Dodd transports her readers to Warsaw. Her historical mystery ‘The Walls Came Down,’ opens in the city.
Warsaw is a city that doesn’t give up. Even as a child, I was amazed when my grandmother told me how more than 80% of it was levelled to the ground during the Second World War. The destruction was so severe, that detailed 18th century landscapes by Italian painters had to be used to recreate many of the buildings, as nobody could remember exactly where everything had stood. Amazingly, Warsaw’s determined inhabitants managed to rebuild it in less than twenty years, working with very limited resources, and many of these quickly-built structures still exist today, amongst huge new state of the art shopping centres, cinemas and glass office towers.
Warsaw always pulls me back, which is why I chose it for the opening of The Walls Came Down and I had a great pleasure researching the different locations for the novel. My favourite part of the city is still the Old Town, and I used to love wondering up Nowy Swiat (possibly the most beautiful street in the city) towards the main square with the statue of Copernicus at its centre.
In the summer, I would nip into one of the cake shops or patisseries en route, and persuade my parents to buy me a paczek – an amazing Polish doughnut oozing with jam. From there on, we could go to visit the Royal Castle, or go to one of the outdoor restaurants in the middle of the square, where you’d often hear live music.
The towering Palace of Science and Culture is still one of the most recognisable buildings of the cityscape and I made sure that my characters saw it up close. It was originally a gift from the Russians, and has had more uses than you can imagine. Today it houses, amongst other things, a cinema, four theatres, two museums and an observation deck from which you can see the whole of Warsaw. It’s definitely worth a visit.
I’ve always loved riding the Warsaw trams. Many of the old style ones have sadly now been replaced, but there’s still something great about whizzing around the city admiring the views, with no traffic to stand in your way. I’ve met some interesting characters on the trams over the years – old ladies love to have a chat with whoever’s sitting next to them and you’ll hear life stories emerging within moments.
Don’t leave without trying the nation’s staple dish of pierogi. These dumplings come with all manner of fillings, from the traditional (cheese, meat, sauerkraut and mushrooms) through to the more exotic (summer berries, wild boar, duck). They are served in both high end restaurants and local greasy spoons. I would especially recommend Gosciniec Polskie Pierogi in the Old Town. And if you’re going shopping for food, try one of the many local markets – the sellers will always let you taste their latest wares, and the prices are much better than in huge supermarkets.
And the parks – I don’t think anyone does parks quite like the Polish. Lazienki is definitely worth a visit. In direct translation it means ‘The Royal Baths’ and it’s home not just to the most beautiful lake in the city, but also a Chinese Garden, hundreds of squirrels and peacocks and a number of fantastic outdoor music venues. In the summer there are festivals aplenty, as well as an open air cinema and yoga sessions, to name just a few.
What’s most exciting is that the city is constantly evolving. Every time I visit, I hear about new music venues, new arts complexes, and new uses found for old buildings. But the soul of the city is always the same and so are its inhabitants – they’ll get through whatever life throws at them, just like they always have.
Ewa is a Marketing Manager currently living in London. She goes back to Warsaw at least once a year to visit her family, and to stuff herself with pierogi. ‘The Walls Came Down’, a historical mystery novel, is her first book and was shortlisted for the Virginia Prize for Fiction.
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