Berlin / Warsaw – Just under 600 kilometers away from Berlin is a city that sends travelers on a journey through time. On a journey to the time before Corona, in front of masks, in front of all the rules, restrictions and prohibitions. I was in Warsaw for four days with some friends. We have experienced a city in which there does not seem to be any corona, at least in public. And where life is raging. First of all: Yes, it felt good. And it gave us courage that life here too will return to normal at some point.
Of course, before we started our trip, we checked with the Foreign Office whether and how it was possible to travel to Poland. And whether it makes any sense at all. With a few exceptions, there is therefore a quarantine obligation, from which one can, however, test oneself free. The quarantine does not apply to those who have been vaccinated or recovered. Since we are all either vaccinated or have recovered, at least entry shouldn’t pose any problems for us. Equipped with digitized vaccination certificates and carefully kept quarantine orders from the local authorities, we travel to our neighboring country.
But nobody wants to see our evidence on the way to Poland by train. Really nobody. Polish police march past us several times on the train, once they stop and scrutinize us. Exemplary and well behaved, we pull out our quarantine certificates and want to show them to the border guards. But we only get a disparaging gesture of the hand and a few grunting noises, which at least in our opinion mean: Leave us alone with the nonsense. Something that we will be signaled very often in the following days and will also be said directly.
Foreign Office: There are strict rules in Poland
Ok, so entry is not a problem. How will it be in Warsaw itself? Because the website of the Polish authorities is logically in Polish and we do not trust the mostly moderately exact translation services with the worldwide chaos of rules around Corona, we checked with the good old Foreign Office.
Here it says among other things:
- Public life is restricted.
- It is mandatory to wear a mask in closed rooms and on public transport.
- The minimum distance in public space is 1.5 meters.
- Shops, banks and petrol stations may only be entered with gloves, which the shops must provide.
- Compliance with the regulations is increasingly monitored by the police; violations can result in fines. Violations can result in fines ranging from PLN 5,000 to PLN 30,000.
Ok, in the worst case a fine of 6000 euros. Hm. Since we don’t want that, of course, in the absence of a local cash cow and are used to comparable rules from Germany anyway, we keep our masks on on the train for the time being. Even if we’re almost the only ones, it doesn’t matter.
When we arrive in Warsaw towards evening and get off at the main train station, we still have our meanwhile everyday material companions on our mouths and noses – and again we are the only ones. All over the station. No traveler, no conductor, no salesman wears mouth and nose protection whatever the name. Then a squad of police officers walk past us – and none of them have anything on their faces either. So we take off our masks and make our way to the accommodation on foot.
„Fuck Covid, man!“
When we set off after a short freshening up and a little later discover the first inviting bar, we almost fall away from the German Corona belief. The shop is full, inside and out. Nobody wears a mask here. Nobody keeps their distance. Nobody controls distances. Nobody wants to see a test. Nobody wants contact details for the purpose of follow-up, at least not with regard to Corona. When I lean over the counter and the bartender discovers my most loyal companion for months – the mask dangling from my arm – she snaps at me: “Put away the mask, it’s a party here! What you want to drink? “In response to the slightly intimidated question about what the Corona rules actually are like here, there is the short and clear answer:” Fuck Covid, man! “
When we later end up in a club, I finally feel like I have been transported back to the time before Corona. Show contact details and tests, please only remove the masks at the table? As you currently know from what was once the wildest club in Europe, the Berghain? Not even close. The bouncers look for purely bouncer criteria. If your face, style and behavior match, you come in. Otherwise not. As simple as that.
Corona and any related rules or restrictions simply do not play a role here. We don’t see a single mask all evening. Instead: people who laugh, drink, smoke, celebrate, sing, toast, flirt, dance and smooch as if it were the last party of their lives.
Also at the public viewing for the European Championship finals on the Vistula one day later we are sitting tightly packed in the sand. The security forces only ensure that there are still passages for passers-by on the adjacent promenade. Corona rules? Don’t seem to exist. Nowhere. Nobody wears a mask in the supermarkets, clothing stores, breakfast bars or drugstores, and distances are only maintained by chance if there are too few people in the store. At the latest when queuing at the cash register, people are waiting in line, as was customary in this country, before Corona completely turned life upside down.
Laughing, flirting and happy people in Warsaw
Well, you could say the behavior is irresponsible. One could say – how can you? You could say that the people in Warsaw are all corona deniers, conspiracy theorists, and aluminum hats. One could condemn all of the people in this beautiful city who don’t wear masks and who are obviously ignoring Corona. And I am convinced that many who have read this text will think so. And are of the opinion that one should critically question the behavior of Warsaw residents, work with numbers, incidences and comparative values in order to scientifically prove the irresponsibility of the people.
But you could also say that the people in Warsaw have simply learned to live with the virus. The fact is: In the past few days I have seen so many happy, laughing, chattering and honestly happy people as I haven’t seen in Berlin or Germany for over a year.
PS: On the way back to Germany, the Polish conductors walked through the train shortly before Frankfurt and pointed out to the passengers that they should please remember to wear a mask, we would soon be crossing the border. When we passed them and were back on German soil, I was back on the train wearing a mask. A little longer than expected, by the way, because a signal disruption delayed the journey. And suddenly I no longer had cell phone reception either. Instead, the following, slightly sad thought: Welcome back.