© The Promised City photo: Vera Kondratiuk

“Is it true that Warsaw is the new Berlin?” I was recently asked somewhere in Europe. I am not sure this is the case, but the very suggestion rings sweetly in Polish ears. “Fuck the Biennale! I am going to the Berlinale!” exclaims Basil the painter, announcing his change of fortune, in the Warsaw TR Theatre’s adaptation of The Portrait of Dorian Gray. “The editor-in-chief would certainly love this place”, enthuses the Aktivist city monthly. “That is because Agata is constantly trying to prove… that Warsaw is increasingly closer to Berlin, and every time she gets to a nice new venue she opines: ‘Well, finally, Warsaw is getting closer to Berlin’”. In the case of the shop under consideration, its Berlin attributes are spacious interiors in a century-old tenement block, clothes by young designers, designer furniture, vintage goods, eco, “good coffee, music from an old record player and a very pleasant atmosphere” ¹² . A reviewer of Gazeta Stołeczna touts the loft club 1500 m2 as follows: “We really missed such a cultured space – large, raw, alternative, in Berlin style” ¹³ . The photograph features a bicycle and graffiti. Berlin is associated with bicycles, creative professions, and freedom in terms of behaviour and a liberal social code that permits the bringing of infants to parties. Convenient transport connections certainly helped to make Berlin the point of reference for Warsaw. After 1989 Berlin was energetically promoted as the capital of post-Cold War Europe, and it is with Berlin that Warsaw, for centuries suffering because of its distance from the most important European capitals, has particularly good connections; before cheap flights brought it closer to the old Europe, it was enough to board the Berlin-Warsaw Express. The DJs brought records from there, fashionistas observed new trends emanating from there, artists kept in touch with the art world of Berlin. It was even relatively easy to regularly commute between the two capitals. But even if there had been no train connection, Warsaw and Berlin have a much deeper common link: the scars from the War and the Cold War, the twin fortunes of cities damaged by totalitarian systems – cities that are flawed, forever unfinished, open and receptive to new influences.