Next stop: chaos. Follow the trail of bars and barges that have woken up Warsaw’s Wisła…
By Alex Webber Photographs by Ed Wight
Undeveloped say some. A missed opportunity say others. And true, benchmarked against other capitals then Warsaw’s river isn’t up to much. A murky shade of dirty brown, the ‘love at first sight’ impact of the Seine is manifestly absent. Honestly though, you’re in the wrong city for romance anyway: Warsaw’s river is all about the party.
To think, they used to caution people about visiting the Wisła. In the early 00’s the riverside bars acted as flypaper for thugs; if I remember rightly, rock bottom was hit when a headless corpse was discovered by one. Talk about a night gone awry. Times have changed and today both riverbanks have become the thumping heart of summer nightlife.
Not that this is immediately clear. Arriving to Pomost 511 we’re met by a Christian folk band practicing on stage. The pace is slow and the audience looks sedated. “It’ll get better,” I promise. And soon it does. For a kilometer or so the left bank is packed with drink stops and while many are much of a muchness, sponsored by corpo breweries and radio stations, others stand apart.
We bound across a gangplank and onto a barge requisitioned by Sen Pszczoły. A funky uncle behind the DJ decks drops Abba remixes amid a design tricked out with bunk beds possibly salvaged from an asylum. Moving on, we collide with a torrent of humanity. Night has fallen and so too inhibitions. Everyone, it appears, has got drunk rather quickly. Basslines from neighboring bars blur together creating one massive, undulating wall of party din. Even the food trucks feel frenetic: the Gringo wagon rattles with such intensity we fear it might bounce into the river.
Barka, while packed, offers relative respite. The crowd, sipping on craft beer and long cocktails, is all micro-skirted pussycats and twinkling smiles. For the first time we don’t feel like we’ve entered a frat house drinking competition. The veneer of civilization though shatters with a trip to the toilet cabins: I stagger out gasping. The momentary horror subsides and we’re sucked back into the havoc. Returning to Pomost, and its neighbor Cuda Nad Wisłą, and we find the evening has reached the point of annihilation: three lads are trying to untie a floating bar from its moorings but succeed only in falling over and somehow injuring themselves. Nobody notices, nobody cares – their bitter curses are lost on a careless wave of whoops and laughter. The party has just begun.
For our photo gallery of the Wisła, click here