Warsaw is the whole world with everything exciting, interesting and incredible. Even places and things that might seem prosaic and ordinary at first sight, can turn out to be absolutely amazing and odd. There are many beautiful places in Warsaw. Parks, cafes, restaurants, museums, theatres, cinemas. You can spend there a whole day having a good time, relaxing, eating, finding out something new... There are peculiar places in the capital – the bookshops. A big part of them are small shops, where you can go and buy a book that you need. But I would like to talk about the huge, multi-level bookshops that cannot even be called shops. One of these bookshops is my favourite and I really enjoy visiting it.

At the begging, shortly after I came to Warsaw, I didn’t have the Internet. I didn’t have the access to the Internet at home and I was looking for a city library where one can use the Internet for free. I met with my friend who also had a laptop. When he found out what I was looking for, he advised me to go with him to Traffic Club. This is how I found this wonderful place where I am most often and spend a lot of time... Before that I had been to many bookshops in Warsaw. These were normal, ordinary shops where you can buy a book, a magazine, a newspaper and things of that kind. As usual, you go, buy want you need and leave. But when I went to Traffic Club, I immediately understood that I came across a weird and extraordinary place.

I felt really weird. It was a completely different world... It was a world of books, world of knowledge, world of intellect. It is impossible to just come here and buy something. When you cross the threshold, you start living a different life in a different world. The staff is always quiet and honest. They do everything no to disturb and create an atmosphere of peacefulness and comfort for their clients.

Over there a man is sitting and reading carefully a “fresh” newspaper issue. Behind his glasses you can see the eyes full of curiosity. It’s obvious that he’s reading something deeply interesting. And over there the girls are glancing through some new magazine and are talking quietly while looking at the photos of fashionable dresses. Behind them, a young boy is holding a book and is trying to figure out if he’ll be interested in it and whether to buy it or not. It’s a very strange place indeed. A palace of books and knowledge. Traditional stairs and escalators, see-through elevators, colourful windows from the first to the third floor. And books, books, books everywhere... The music is playing quietly. There’s also a “minus one” floor. Here is the music, films, computer games and much more. Thousands of CDs that you can listen on the spot, watch and choose. Everything creates the impression of a palace, kingdom, another country.

People. They look, search, choose. They walk, stand, sit behind the tables, sit on the floor, sit on the steps, lie. And everyone is reading, reading and reading.

At the beginning it was very strange for me. I’d never seen anything like that in my life.

What I liked the most is the second floor. On the shelves there are mostly various kinds of specialized literature. There are three big tables and a couple of smaller ones as well as separate toilets. People read, write, study and work here. They can use the Internet, maybe not the fastest but it’s for free. Some people use desktop computers but most of them bring their own laptops. If all tables are taken, they simply sit on the floor or the stairs.

You can hear quiet conversations in Polish, English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Ukrainian, Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese and other languages. People from different countries, of different skin colour and different cultures live in Warsaw and all find something for themselves in Traffic Club. All of the multicultural Warsaw. The Continent Warsaw actually. And Traffic Club is one of its islands. Over there, on the dais just in front of the stairs to the third floor, two young men are sitting (perhaps they’re from Africa). Not far from them two young women are talking in a whisper. A pram with a baby is next to one of them. The child starts crying, it must be hungry. Its mother takes the baby in her arms and gives it her breast. The baby starts sucking and its mother isn’t embarrassed by the surrounding people and calmly continues chatting with a friend. A couple of young people in love are sitting right on the floor near the wall. He has a laptop on his knees. She puts her head on his shoulder and they both watch something. It’s obvious that they feel comfortable here and they can be themselves.

I’m searching for some free place as I’m watching the second floor. It seems that everything is taken. But then I notice one free armchair and a socket nearby. I take the armchair and carry it with me to the socket. I put it near the socket, plug in the laptop and sit down. I feel pleased that I can finally work peacefully... Something is happening on the third floor. A meeting with someone famous is taking place. There is a cafe with the tables upstairs – in a big hall with a stage. There’s always something going on up there, a meeting or a presentation...

I’ve had a mobile Internet for a long time but whenever I’m in the city centre I try to visit this bookshop.

Anatoliy Pudlo

Translated by: Iwona Białek