Sunday, August 31, 2014

Multicultural Festival Warsaw

What's better than markets? Multicultural street festivals. If there is anything I enjoy more than wandering the markets of foreign cities, it is wandering the street of my city when it has been taken over by booths from various countries playing traditional music and selling arts, crafts and tasty delicacies. I have been fairly anti-Warsaw as of late, partly due to the fact that all I have wanted for the past couple days was a good bowl of Pho and I have yet to find that here and partly due to the fact that it has been disturbingly cold for my poor, Texan blood.

Krakowskie Przedmiescie taken over by a parade and booths from all over the world.

I have been feeling homesick for a few days, now, missing mostly the range of cuisine that you can find in any supermarket in Austin. I also miss the number of different cultures you see on the average bus ride through the city. People from all over the world have settled in the States, and while I have chosen to leave that to experience the original cultures of the places I pick from a map, it is sometimes overwhelming to be so surrounded by a single foreign culture. Pretty sure the name for what I'm feeling is culture shock. A year or so late, but still. I guess it happens anytime.

It almost looks like I photoshopped pictures from Carnaval onto the streets of Warsaw.

Wait, we aren't in Brazil?

And they're back!

I have long been a believer in blending into whatever culture I choose to live in, if only because that is the best way to have an authentic experience. Study the language, eat the food, walk the streets at all times of the day, find the places the tourists don't go, become so immersed that you begin to use the phrasing of an ESL student. How else would a traveler truly understand the places they visit, except through seeing it, feeling it, tasting it the way a local would? Yet I come from a place where I could get virtually any cuisine with no difficulty, where many of my friends were from different countries. Sure, getting to know a place like a local is an experience unlike any other. Sometimes I still want to be able to get on a bus and see faces of every color or walk into a supermarket and have the world's cuisine at my fingertips.

When it comes to multiculturalism and diversity in Warsaw, the most positive thing I can say is that it's changing for the better. I have no idea what the city was like 10, 20, 50 years ago. What I know is the Warsaw of today, which seems to be trying it's best to attract and keep people from all over the world. I am starting to find the diversity of Warsaw: the restaurants, the spice shops, the festivals.

 When I first arrived with a friend to the Multicultural Street Festival, I was overwhelmed. What is this? Booths from Turkey, India, Nepal, Tibet, Sicily, Georgia, Cuba, Mexico, Hungary! Dance groups, a parade with the brightly colored feathered headdresses of Carnaval, African drumming, hip hop, an enormous Ukrainian flag that takes up the entire street! Every booth selling foods, some that smell of roadside marshrutka stops in the middle of Georgia, some that smell like my memories of Trabzon and Istanbul! Baklava!

I can no longer keep track of the countries!

Oh, this one I know! 

Sadly, it was an eye-opening experience for me to see all of these different cultures mashed together on the streets of Warsaw between the Presidential Palace and the Old Town square. This city has its limitations when it comes to multiculturalism, but it is still the capital of an Old World country whose history spans longer than I can imagine, coming from such a young country. Sitting with a friend eating pizza the other week, I made a comment about the view needing some mountains and my friend laughed. How cynical must I be to criticize the view while sitting in the Old Town square of a beautiful, historical city with the strength to come back from total destruction in less than 75 years? Clearly, I needed to have my eyes opened a bit, and my mind.

Nothing better than khinkhali and beer at a street festival on a sunny late-summer Sunday.

Maybe my grumpiness is from the lack of tongue-searing food here. Or maybe I just need some tacos. Where are the tacos, Warsaw?!

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