“Hey hammers …”, i.e. the struggle for the stairs of Warsaw

The Vistula Boulevards in Warsaw, as we are talking about them in the first place, are an artificial and regulated left bank of the Vistula. A lot, since it covers almost the entire length of the river in the city. They start somewhere near the Gdańsk Bridge, pass under the Royal Castle, the aforementioned Powiśle, pass the Fr. Poniatowski (i.e. Poniata) and end somewhere in front of the Łazienkowski Bridge.

After the recent renovation and revitalization of some buildings, it is a trendy place to stroll and have a coffee. A stone’s throw from the center of the capital, near the Copernic Science Center, the University of Warsaw Library (ie BUWU), the exhibition pavilion of the Museum of Modern Art, as well as a dozen restaurants , clubs, bars, etc. during the day.

The boulevards get louder at night, it’s a popular hangout spot for young people for the proverbial beer. They’re called boulevards, but in slang terms they’re Stairs, Vistula, Vistula, Stairs, and you know what happens in all the other combinations. A house with a beer in hand, on the banks of the Vistula, without a precise location.

The biggest crowds are in Powiśle and near the Poniatowski Bridge, where the always-busy “Orka” is located. And most pubs and bars. Many people are also “under the neon”, i.e. the inscription “nice to see you” hanging under the Gdańsk bridge and “near the mermaid”, i.e. near Copernicus metro station.

The stairs can be a place for “biforek”, i.e. drinking alcohol with friends before the party. “Na afterek”, that is, after the actual event, as well as the destination, or all in one – universal, versatile and in its simplicity, brilliant.

A place known to everyone in the capital and beyond, you can often meet wandering tourists here in the evening. With admiration painted on their faces, you can drink vodka over, “on the street.”

The parties start already in the early afternoon, according to the author’s own experience, the first brewers can be seen from 2 p.m. (during the student session – 24 hours), and more the hour, the more people, the higher the percentage. There are specific alcohols, all kinds of vodka, whiskey, wine, vermouth etc. etc Not to savor the same winemaker for 17 zlotys at sunset, but to “settle it down”, with sachets of alcohol, packets of chocolate chips and hundreds of cigarettes, bluetooth speakers with music thoroughly. After a fairly short period of time, everything takes on a festive atmosphere and every stranger is a friend. Hence the unique atmosphere of the staircase.

– We come there with our acquaintances, our friends and we sit together, it is known in our group, but everyone knows that you are part of something bigger and it is the most fun there -down – says 24-year-old Ola. What?

More or less this: someone drops those “hey hammers” from the jotbeel and everyone sings, one guy swung the guitar and after a while a dozen people were humming “Baśka had a nice chest”, someone one will help, with a pipe, with fire. Images of life in the queue for tojtojków under the bridge or in the queue for alcohol, which ended surprisingly quickly, are also beautiful. It has its charm.

This beautiful dream ends around 8 o’clock in the morning when the most tenacious leave the stairs staggering. Is it noisy? Does alcohol affect you too much? Yes.

Mainly on Friday and Saturday, but always in summer. Watching the sunset and sunrise on the same night is an unforgettable experience. – Oh, there was often something like “Christ is already brilliant!”, Haha – laughs Karol, 24 years old. He adds that you have to be on the steps: in summer it is compulsory, at least once a week.

The 2018 Warsaw capital city council resolution legalized alcohol consumption in the strictly designated area of ​​the boulevards (not that anyone has ever done this before). There was bajlando – you could drink it without any (at least criminal) consequences. Freedom has been curtailed by a pandemic and the suspension of this decision for health reasons. That young people would not gather.

Decision making, the stairs survived. There was a bigger conspiracy, because supposedly it was allowed, supposedly not, a drink from a Frugo bottle, vodka diluted with Tymbark or beer drunk from a plastic bag, you know, necessity is the mother of invention.

In the spring of 2022, Warsaw President Rafał Trzaskowski hung up the ban on drinking on the Vistula. To the fierce opposition of the inhabitants of Powiśle, who appealed against it.

Trzaskowski disagreed with his townspeople and the legal battle is currently underway. Whether the president fully feels the storied “vibe”, we do not know, and we know that one evening he was absorbed by him, but by whom, at least once in his life…

However, the locals did not like the fact that there was noise on the Vistula all night long, drunk people made fights and fights, not to mention rubbish in power.

– We are still a cultivator, she cleans up after us, but it’s true, I saw various things on the Vistula, haha ​​- smiles Natalia, 25 years old.

For several reasons. Konrad Maj, a social psychologist from SWPS University, notes that it is a relaxed place, a “comfortable” place. Plus, it’s available for free, unlike pubs, clubs or restaurants.

– We are on our terms on the steps. – This place is wilder than those commercial, popular places, which are also characterized by the fact that they are quite expensive. Going to a club or cafe is associated with certain costs, it is not here – he explains.

Also, according to the psychologist, the proximity to nature – the river bank and a kind of escape from the bustle of the city, the center of which is a stone’s throw from the Vistula, is not unimportant.

The evidence remains, such that it is relatively close. The most important points of Warsaw within walking distance. At the Palace of Culture and Science it’s a few max. 20 minute hike. As well as the shape and layout of the place itself. – We have steps, stairs, we can sit – said Maj. – If someone wants to listen to a concert, buy an ice cream for example, go to a café, they can go higher. You can also go lower so as not to see the city behind us and feel far from it. The arrangement of the steps is also such that you can hide, go somewhere on the low platforms – he explains. – What your heart desires – he underlines.

It all adds up to an atmosphere of stages. – If we feel more local, if we are more relaxed, in nature, then other types of behavior appear. It is a consequence of this environment and what it all looks like – describes the psychologist.

Varsavianista Jarosław Kaczorowski, a Prague walkologist from the Praska Ferajna team, points to two fundamental problems: noise and garbage. He points out that the main generator of noise is not the youth, but the restaurant owners.

– I would use carrot and stick techniques here, educating people that littering is not allowed, as we will be withdrawing consent to drink alcohol, and informing landlords of pub that if they did not play music softer, we would take their concessions or consent from them – he assesses, citing for example Poznań, which thus solved the problem of litter on the banks of the Warta river .

He considered the boulevard atmosphere as a showcase and one of the symbols of the capital, but not too much of a student culture. – Many people deny and criticize the heels on the boulevards, but also a lot of people come there – he says. According to him, visitors to the stairs are only partially young.

Kaczorowski is against taking what they bring to the city by the stairs, he is for putting in order what is already there. – Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater – he stresses. “It’s a very popular meeting place because people vote with their feet,” he explains. It emphasizes the same aspect as May: free entry.

He also notes the fact that the boulevards are not homogeneous. There’s a city-renovated part with expensive pubs and big-ticket facilities, and the neglected part behind the Mermaid statue, behind the tube station. “There are three or even four times as many people there,” he said. – It’s usually boring in this renovated part – he agrees.

Every Mata fan, as well as every third trucker who regularly listens to the radio in the car, knows that “this love song is sung on both shores”. Of course, it’s been known for a long time, we also drink on the right bank.

The Praga side has a wild shore – unregulated by human hands – it is a Europe-wide phenomenon. In no other capital does the river flow freely through the city center. (See: Tiber in Rome, Thames in London, Seine in Paris – all tightly built).

Thus, the wild bush limits where one can drink. But the noise problem is also smaller – to the nearest residential buildings in Praga from the Vistula it is already a trip, to an active liquor store or liquor store – a pilgrimage. Nevertheless, on the beach “pod Poniatem”, at the Łazienkowski bridge and near the national stadium, you can swing a few deeper ones – and also legally.

– City beaches have become fashionable again – notes Varsavianista, and Warsaw has always had such a beach. – Here again there is a conflict with Natura 2000 and the protected areas on this side of Praga and the wild bank of the Vistula – he adds.

The stairs are not an invention of Warsaw. Some cities also have their own places where young people consume high-percentage alcohol in large numbers after dark.

Płock has “stairways”, i.e. routes of stepped lanes stretching along the high embankment of the Vistula. However, this does not bother anyone, because once the escarpment is high, there are two hotels on its top, the building of the municipal archives, churches, a convent and a high school.

In Krakow, the tracks near Wawel can be considered something like this, and in Toruń you drink on Philadelphia Boulevard. Poznań heads for the grassy banks of the Warta River.

There are also examples of this outside of Poland. In the evening, young Romans gather in Piazza Trilussa in Trastevere. A tipsy company occupies the steps leading to a magnificent fountain at the edge of the square.

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