Updated: Aug 30, 2022
With my birthday coming up this week I decided to reflect back over the different celebrations held over the years...
My first year in Poland I had about 5 months to meet people before my first birthday celebration, working in the UK team and being in a new and vibrant work environment I knew a lot of people from a number of different groups in my office. It's fair to say at that time socialising was pretty regular, there were a lot of crazy nights...a lot of Vodka (even though it didn't always sit too well with me) and a great number of memories from that era...it's fair to say my first year in Poland was quite spectacular!
Lost in a haze of celebrations I decided I wanted to do something a little special for my party...
There was a 'bar' near the office where we often went, well I say bar...it was technically a Bobby Burger...a popular burger chain in Poland, we watched the football there, enjoyed cheap beer and pretty decent burgers...it felt like the perfect place to begin the evening.
It is worth mentioning that this was a double celebration, a good friend Szymon was leaving the company, so we combined my birthday with his leaving sendoff.
With the help of a colleague Kasia who worked in the Polish team I believe, we struck up a booking with the owner, renting the upstairs area, furnishing the tables with bottles of Vodka and some Polish snacks. I think we had around 30 people...at least show up at the bar, we drank nice cheap beer...each shot was accompanied with 'Sto Lat' the traditional song sung at birthday celebrations (it means 100 years), I am sure this was sung no less than 5 times...fair to say spirits were high and all were having a good time...and getting pretty drunk in the process...I believe it was about 3 hours later we decided to move the party back to my flat...
Now a small sidebar: prior to the party much food was prepared, the usual crisps, biscuits, vegetables with dip, bread rolls...and in addition Kasia had helped me to prepare some wraps which we cooked up earlier in the day, a friend Ewelina (a great Vegan cooking expert) had made some salads as well, I would say if anything perhaps too much food was prepared haha...in addition the fridge had plenty of beer and the freezer was full of bottles of Vodka, the furniture rearranged. The below is how the flat looked normally...
After getting back to the flat...well some things are a little blurry, I will admit I was asleep for some of the party...as you may have guessed it...I drank quite a lot, but I can tell you the following...
Some 40-50 people were in attendance in total, people coming and going as the night went on. The lights were pretty much kept to a minimum, loud music was played and there was a lot of singing and dancing in the main room, with people sitting and chatting in the bedroom and on the balcony.
There were a couple of bad incidents that night, one guy was very rude to a girl he had come with...I'll not say more except he was actually the last to leave and was a nightmare to remove from the flat.
At least one person had been ill in the corridor, efforts were made to clean everything up...though lets say the neighbours weren't happy...
Also the Police were called to some of the party goers who were drinking in the buildings interior courtyard.
The party went on through the night and almost everyone left by 2pm the next day, safe to say it's a party that seldom people forget...the only exception was the one straggler previously mentioned who ended up sleeping in my bed and not leaving until about 7pm...
The clean up of the flat took around 2 days, spilled food and alcohol, a bit of broken glass, but nothing too catastrophic...and that was my first birthday in Poland...I loved it, had a lot of fun and was so happy that everyone else had such a good time :)
My second year in Warsaw was blessed with the arrival of some young blood, we had created a new team in the office to take the instructions work over from our colleagues in India, I was the SME in this team, helping to coordinate the work, the training and I couldn't help but make myself a bit of a social ambassador...Our CL team had also grown, so at this point I knew a lot more people at work and had a lot of friends and colleagues, I also had a new relationship under way...
That year I organised a party down at the Vistula river, with the July weather, the beautiful and serene shoreline of the river, a pleasant view of the forests on the other bank...and a nearby bar, it was the perfect place to have celebrations...and also this time I felt it would be lighter on me not throwing a flat party!
The beauty of drinking on the river in Warsaw is that you can take your own alcohol, meaning a much cheaper night for all as well as a greater variety of alcohol!
This year there were at least 50 people in attendance, including work colleagues, friends and former colleagues who joined in the celebrations! The was much talking and drinking and a jovial atmosphere, this was made all the greater when my friend Artur (a wonderful guitar player) and his friend showed up and played music for the group, there was much singing and dancing until the early hours...I can say that it was a magical evening and one I will never forget, perhaps not as unique as the first years celebrations, but certainly one I will always hold dear to my heart!
The evening continued back at my flat with a smaller contingent luckily! We played drinking games such as Jenga, had some food and drinks and talked and the night ended peacefully with me and my partner at the time leaving me with quite the hangover in the morning!
The year of the pandemic was a different one for sure, I was now working in a different team in the office, many people no longer resided in Warsaw, choosing to live cheaper lives back with their families or in other cities while working remotely...and drinking down the river was no longer legal at this point. I was also about 5 months into a new relationship.
I changed tactics slightly and had the party further along the river in a place called Plaza Zoliborz, basically a beach area. The great thing about this location was the following: It was still by the river, we had another bar close by, this area was never patrolled by the police...and there were fire pits!
Armed with some basic BBQ equipment and some Polish sausages, we foraged for firewood and with a lot of help from my friend Adrian we got a good fire going and were cooking up hot dogs for those that wanted it. I was armed with some premixed Vodka...or as they call it here 'Turbo Cola' in addition to some other drinks.
The turnout was quite dramatically smaller this year which I attribute to the conditions above, but we had fun, I got to have some good catch ups with people I hadn't seen for a while and it was a great night, though no afterparty for me this time...the night ended with me and my girlfriend dragging ourselves to the roadside to get a taxi back...which was actually more challenging than it sounds in the state we were in...
This year was still during the Covid times...though by now people weren't as concerned, there was a much greater wish for life to be back to normal, but still with holiday season, with some people living away from Warsaw still and a greater distance of time between me and my main colleagues from work this was another small event wit say around 20 people in total.
The night started in my flat (this was not the same one as the first year), where we had some drinks, talked and played some games in a small group before heading down to the river where we met others and during the evening others joined us.
This evening was fun...though in my memory it is less memorable than other years, no drama, nothing crazy happened on the river except of course much drinking and merrymaking!
Later on in the night it was decided to go back to my flat, I would say 10 or so people were in that group, we would continue to drink, often staying out on the balcony, people split across this...the kitchen and the living room. Though to my dismay many glasses got broken and there was a large amount of devastation in the flat...the state of the balcony was also horrendous...
I was a different person at this time and not so easy going as I used to be, I was rushing around trying to clean up and yet didn't want to disturb those that were having fun...
I admit I was getting a little fed up and went to bed, letting those that wanted to stay continue the party, I would just deal with the aftermath the next day.
I decided for myself that from this day I would not have any large parties at my flat anymore, the cleanup was always intensive and I didn't like to have things broken or any damage to the property occur anymore (especially as this was a rented flat!)
This year we met down by Wild Beef on the Vistula river, grouping on the steps by the river side, a small group at first but quickly expanding, by 9:30 most people had arrived, all bringing beer, 0% beer or wine.
I will add that I was a little worse for ware this evening, let's just say this was the third night in a series of pretty heavy evenings...so I was drinking beer very slowly. During the evening we were constantly being assaulted by the bugs...every few minutes you felt one slam into your face...at least not many mosquitoes this year.
I spent most of the evening chatting 1-1 on the side of the stage and catching up with a series of good friends, some of the people there I hadn't seen for a good while and it was great to see them again.
A few extra gifts came my way (adding earlier in the week on my actual birthday celebration with a smaller group of friends which led to night one of heavy evening, particularly with Tequila...though from this I got some Witcher figures and a Jar of Marmite...and of course the glamourous cake with candles to blow out and wishes to make). There were some lovely thoughtful gifts, Whisky, flavoured Vodka, PSN vouchers and shall we say some other lovely trinkets...I was very surprised and grateful for the generosity of my friends :)
As the night went on I was struggling a little, not feeling too well after the previous evenings activities some friends decided we had to apply the polish solution...which they use a lot, which is I needed a shot...in this case some Plum Bimber. This helped perk me up a little at the end, so I had the energy to mix around a little more and catch up with people I hadn't spoken with much yet.
The cold air of the evening, a little low for July drove a few people away back to warmth others were driven off by the flys, we went down a smaller group though we did have a new arrival.
We talked and drank until 1/2am I believe and I shared a taxi back with a friend, it was just how I wanted, a nice chance to relax by the river, catch up with friends and have a good time.
Next I have to start planning for the big 40th next year, Sky Bar? Boat Trip? Just a couple of the options under consideration...
A small sidenote: One custom I admire in Poland is how people will often out of courtesy let you know if they cannot attend an event, even when say 1 in a 100 people invited, they will often drop a private message to let you know about their other plans, this I always find a charming feature :)