Pycon PL + Warsaw report

Last year during Euro-Python 2015 someone from PyconPL had an interesting lightning talk about PyconPL, and since that moment I was sold. However I missed it by few days that year. However this year I made it and as a bonus I checked out Warsaw, Poland too!

You can check my previous blog post how we got to Warsaw here

Before going to Pycon me and my girlfriend took two days to look around Warsaw, Poland. Throughout the trip we stayed in 3 airbnb places. The first day we were really surprised how pretty and big Warsaw is. To give a little background, before the trip we did a bunch of research of what to do in Warsaw and we really didn't find much so we didn't have high hopes to begin with, thus the surprise.

So without further ado, here is what I (and in some cases we) think of Warsaw!



Food and Prices

The city is beautiful and there are so many restaurants and cafes. The first thing we did was go to Mango Vegan Street Food which serves great hummus as well as other vegan dishes at a surprisingly low price, brilliant little place!

Low price is definitely a recurring theme in Warsaw - everything is surprisingly cheaper than in Estonia or Lithuania.
I've heard of a saying: "Poland is an eastern-european country with western-european prices" which I heavily disagree with, unless western-europe is cheaper than eastern in this context. Everything in general is at least 20% cheaper than in Estonia, sometimes significantly more and quality doesn't suffer because of it. The selection of foods and products in general is huge too - one of the benefits of being in central Europe I guess.

As a vegetarian I was surprised by how many vegetarian places and options there are in Warsaw. The vegan trend definitely feels real, which was both a pleasant surprise and a piece of convenience for myself.

Simple Definition of meat
the flesh of an animal used as food
a type of meat
the part of something (such as a nut) that can be eaten

As a side note for vegetarianism itself - I found that a lot of polish people do not consider fish to be meat, which is extremely weird and nonsensical. I've noticed that it's a quite common misunderstanding across Europe and had a very similar thing happen in Spain during my visit for Europython 2015 when the vegetarian sandwich I ordered contained tuna...

Also worth noting that a vegetarian person who eats fish is actually called pescatarian. It's a rather peculiar sounding term but it's there for a reason.

Rurki

rurki

There are few traditional Polish dishes, but as someone who's from eastern europe himself, I didn't find them unique or interesting at all. All except one: Rurki.
Rurki is a waffle roll with sweet cream inside of it. It's pretty simple but boy it's delicious! It's sweet, crunchy and creamy at the same time - a perfect dessert!
The best rurki we've eat were located in Zloty Tarasy shopping mall. At the very bottom floor there is a small sweets kiosk that offers the best rurki in the city!

Few Cool Food Joints

There wasn't that much to do in Warsaw, at least during our trip, so we ate out a lot. Here's a short list of my favourite places, that I highly recommend!

Mango Vegan Street Food

mango vegan street food
As I've mentioned above the place is great. It's quite cheap and the food is great. You can get daily deals (that last whole day) and some weekdays have discounts on some dishes. The food selection isn't great, mostly it's just flavours and variants of few dishes, but it's enough for few visits a week. A great place for a quick snack or a lengthier sit down!
Personal favourite and highly recommended: Pomegranate Hummus!

Bubbleology

bubbleology
Bubble tea used to be a pretty huge fad across the whole Europe few years ago. However these days it's no longer even a thing in Estonia or Lithuania. Bubble tea is a tea drink with syrup-like bubbles that you can suck in using bigger than usual straw, it's a mix of a dessert and a drink which seems to be the strategy of the biggest cafe brand Starbucks, so we know it works!
There's nothing particularity interesting about this shop other than it's themed as a science lab where bubble tea science happens. They really go all out by even dressing the clerks in lab coats and devising made up bubble tea formulas on the walls.

Regarding the prices - they are somewhat steeper than you'd expect even when Bubble tea in general is considered to be more expensive than it should. It wasn't the best bubble tea I had but it was good nevertheless so if you miss bubble tea or even worse - never tried it - check this place out!

Min's Onigiri

min's onigiri place
Onigiri is a Japanese rice ball that can be can contain some flavouring in the middle of it and topped of with dry seaweed wrapping. Historically it was invented as food for travelers, so it's a perfect food for tourists!
I really enjoyed this place, it only serves around 8 kinds of different rice balls and only 3 of them were vegetarian friendly, but all 3 of them were delicious. It also serves miso soup which is more or less bullion alternative Japanese use.
The onigiri themselves aren't that big, so you most likely want to take several. They are extremely delicious however and the miso + onigiri combo ended up being a perfect autumn food for tourists!

Regarding the prices - it's really reasonable. One rice ball + miso soup ended up being 10 PLN (2.3 euros) and 7 without the soup.

Tel Aviv Food & Wine

tel aviv restaurant during summer

Another vegan place, this time though, it's a quite fancy one. The place itself is pretty close to the center and easy to reach, however it's pretty small so you should avoid going there during peak hours.
The food is very fancy, but personally I wasn't impressed - it was very pretty but didn't have taste or price value to match it. I think I would reserve this place for more fancy occasions rather than a lunch break or a meet up.

Green Caffe Nero

There really isn't much to say about this place. It's a rather regular café, but it's really affordable, has decent food, tea and coffee, and most importantly it's quite cozy - so it's perfect for tourist stop for a tired, cold and worn-out tourist as myself!
Sitting down with a cup of hot tea, almost italian sandwich and writing some code or a blog for half an hour is always a pleasant experience, wherever you are.

You can find them pretty much on every corner, sometimes you can even see another one from sitting inside one yourself :D

Few Cool Places

Before we left to Poland we did some research of what to visit but couldn't find much other than war museums that are present in every European city and honestly - they bore me to death. However once we got there we found few places that are definitely worth visiting and here they are!

One place I don't mention that might be worth visiting is Copernicus Science Center. The reason why I don't think it's worth mentioning that it's always full of kids and unless you spend a long time in warsaw to find one day that isn't - it's not worth the headache.

University Library

warsaw library
Library? But we're on vacation!
Weirdly enough it was probably my favourite place in Warsaw. The main attraction was not the library itself, but what's on top of it! The roof of the library is a beautiful garden with all sorts of growth and shapes that create this unique and cosy atmosphere.
There were very few people and the weather wasn't that bad. It's near the river so it can get a bit windy, so pack up a scarf!

Technology Museum and Palace of Culture and Science

Place of Culture and Science image
Palace of Culture and Science was gifted to Poland by Russia after WW2. It's a really beautiful building that since in the very center of Warsaw.
Aside of being pretty it also hosts a pretty cool Technology museum inside of it.It contains exhibits ranging from old motorcycles to nintendo games and it's really fun!
Few of the highlights: Space technology exhibit, video games, old vehicles (from bikes to planes)

Pycon PL

pyconpl 2016

We got there in the morning of Thursday, the first day of the conference. My girlfriend attended Pyladies workshop while I checked us in. I don't think she enjoyed it as much as I thought she would, but it certainly piqued her interest in programming, so it wasn't bad!

The hotel is huge - it supports over 1600 guests and takes a bit under 5 minutes just to go from one end of it to the other. The cafeteria was great and served a sizeable selection of dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As a vegetarian I only felt left out for one lunch where everything seemed to contain meat which means I ate a full plate of roasted potatoes - just like home!

The first few talks were half interesting and half boring. I feel like with many of the talks tend to be longer than they actually need to and some people tend to dig into details a bit too much - the talks in this pycon were not an exception.
I think a lot of the presenters miss the point that the talk you are giving should pique the interest of the listener or tell a story rather than try sum up a framework or some technique in 10 slides.
For this reason, I enjoyed the lightning talks the most though that remains to be true for every conference I've been to.

During the lunch time I met a Lithuanian which was really surprising. Not only python isn't huge in Lithuania but when I was purchasing the tickets one of the hosts mentioned that I'd be the first and only person from Lithuania to attend PyconPL. I'm glad that it turned out not being the case because Lithuania really needs more Python! (or anything that is not php for that matter :D)

Meeting Scrapinghubbers

This year scrapinghub wasn't sponsoring the conference thus we didn't have a booth. However there were 3 other scrapinghubbers present in the conference other than myself. We chatted and played board games together and I can firmly say that in the two years that I've spent working in Scrapinghub I haven't met a single dislikeable person there and this conference solidified this experience even more!

Shoutout to Pawel and two Michals from scrapinghub who made this conference even more fun than it could have been!

Board and Retro Games

Every evening board game event has been held in one of the conference rooms and that's probably where the majority of the conference was spent. There was a board game rental company that provided the conference with some board games as well as some people bringing their own. We brought Exploding Kittens, Loot Letter and Coup. Exploding Kittens by far received the most attention, though the other two games weren't far behind too.

polish Mysterium
We didn't get a chance to play any board games that we haven't touched previously with the exception of Mysterium! Or at least Polish version of it, which is the original version of the game and by some considered to be superior. It's a brilliant coop game where one player is a ghost who was hanged for a murder he did not commit and has gives hints to the other players of who was the real murderer! Some people describe it as reverse Dix It which in a way it is, but in my opinion, much more fun and engaging.

Donkey Konga for gamecube
Another cool piece of entertainment was retro computer games, a full room of them! They had various consoles and computers ranging from atari to windows 95 Worms Armageddon machines. There were open and running through the whole day and you could play something in-between the talks or after having lunch. My personal favorite was Donkey Konga - a party, rhythm game for GameCube. It's like guitar hero but instead of a guitars, players use a set of bongo drums which create a hilarious and often silly atmosphere!

Summary

Initially we didn't find much to do when we did research about Warsaw, however once we got there we got pleasantly surprised by the city and what it offered! The city is big and beautiful. The center is structured in nice blocks that are easy to traverse and navigate. Every block being full of various small shops, cafés or restaurants. And even though there were indeed only few experience places we enjoyed them greatly!
Pycon was a blast too! The educational opportunities weren't that great (the talks, workshops etc.) but the board games and leisure activities were more than enough to compensate!

Will definitely consider going next year!
Only regret was not taking more luggage.