The 19th and 20th century architectural legacy of the Praga district, buildings which survived WW2 but were rather neglected since then, lend the district its unique character.
Hence film makers, such as Polanski, seeking authentic fragments of pre-war Warsaw for the film “The Pianist” come to streets like MaĹ‚a Street to shoot on location. The flowers on the balconies and the numerous Marian shrines in the courtyards give the narrow streets an added charm. You can still see the traces of adverts for shops, some of which are in Russian, dating back to the 19th century.
One of the many attractions is the Rozyckiego Street Bazaar, which has been around for over 100 years. There are signs of Warsaw’s multicultural past and present. Across from the Gothic spires of the St Florian Cathedral gleams the typically Russian cupola of the Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church. Meanwhile Armenian, Vietnamese, Russian, and Lithuanian are just some of the languages you will hear spoken by the traders at the Stadion market, the largest flea market in Europe, where it is famed you can buy absolutely anything. Visitors are also attracted by Praga’s industrial architecture (eg. the Koneser Vodka Factory). The specific atmosphere of the right bank of the Vistula has also encouraged several galeries, cafes and clubs to open here and more and more Varsovians are proud to say “my heart is on the right side”.
Residential glory of Praga
Praga's grim state proved a visual boon for film directors Steven Spielberg and Roman Polanski, who filmed Schindler's List and The Pianist on the architecturally significant Zabkowska Street. This street showcases Praga's former glory: its oldest house, No. 7, circa 1880, and its most beautiful house, No. 2, circa 1914. Some homes are converted to bars. Three favourites among bar-hoppers are: Po Drugiej Lustra; W Oparach Absurdu; and Tysy Pingwin.
Praga owes much of its rejuvenation to creative types who - instead of lamenting the sad state of its old factories and warehouses - saw avant-garde reinventions. The old Koneser Vodka Factory was once seen as Zabkowska's eyesore, but is now prized for its post-Industrialist architecture. The complex of 1897 Gothic-style buildings is transformed from a distillery to a cultural centre with a restaurant; two notable art galleries, Klimy Bochenska and Luksfera Photography; a design shop selling quirky art; and Warsaw's famed Teatr Wytornia. On warm evenings, Koneser's courtyard serves as an open-air cinema with art movies screened on a brick wall.
An artist enclave
Warsaw's creative element immediately clustered around residents Iza Bil and Andrzej Wyszynski when they set up Studio Melon Photography in the run-down Wroblewski Warehouse storage complex, built around 1910. Today, their Studio Melon Cafe - adorned with works by Praga photographers and writers - is a bohemian hub for artists, intellectuals and theatre types who linger over espressos and hearty meals. Among its neighbouring clubs, Sen Pszczoly is popular for its live music.
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