The view from Warsaw.
This is the view from my window in Warsaw. It’s of Marszałkowska street. There’s good action down below, being right above a trolley stop. There is a roughly fabricated balcony that extends out from my dorm room that I can stand on and look at people walking by on the sidewalk one story below.
This part of the city was around 80% destroyed in the war. While the rebuilding doesn’t seem to have been done hastily it doesn’t seem to have had the same amount of grandiose planning as say Berlin or the attempt at recreating the national heritage that was lost as was done in Krakow. Warsaw just seemed to have rebuilt normal city, and it works.
There is a modern shopping mall that seems very new a block to the south of my hostel. I spent the afternoon in the food court there revising and doing additional research for an article. It’s kind of unsettling sometimes to look up from an hour of being completely absorbed in the work to notice that you’re surrounded by people chomping noodles and slurping big cups of pop. But the mall food court is ultimately a good place to work, it has everything I need: a table, a chair, internet, bathrooms, easy access to food (clearly), as is free to sit in for as long as I want.
Cafes can get crowded and you generally need to pay for an overpriced menu item to sit in them.
While working in hostels…well, forget that. Unless it’s a particularly large hostel with a large amount of public space — which isn’t too common — this is just a horrible thing to have to do.
So I sit around in mall foodcourts. I suppose it’s not the most romantic place to be writing about the New Silk Road — you’d figure that I should probably be sitting on some Central Asian sand dune on a Persian rug next to a steaming pile of camel dung….
I had two meetings in Warsaw. Both were at the Bookhouse Cafe. One was with a highly regarded Polish Sinologist, author, and former ambassador, and the other was with a lawyer who does research on the New Silk Road and China to advise the Polish government. These will be featured in my upcoming book and articles, so I won’t go into this in any depth here.
Warsaw probably has the most high-tech McDonald’s restaurants on the planet. They’re almost fully automated. When you walk in you enter into a foyer that has computers where you order what you want and pay. Then you go over to a pickup counter to get your food, which is still made by actual humans (for now). To use the toilets you need to punch in a special combination that’s written on your receipt into the lock on the door.
The one thing that’s not automated here is the security: a big goon in guard gear realized that I was shooting videos and yelled at me to stop. However, I was able to get enough to put it together and publish on our YouTube channel.
Europe has been experimenting with a lot of different types of automation to streamline and cut out laborers from the commercial process, such as cash-less stores that are fully self-checkout.
The one job that’s secure here for the time being is in security. While they’ve come up with ways to cut people out of the payment process they don’t seem to have figured out how to keep people from stealing things. So they still need these guards checking everybody…or yelling at vloggers, as I discovered.
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3679 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Papa Bay, Hawaii
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