What makes a good Warsaw tourist guide? Is it the knowledge of history, arts, facts, and dates ? Or perhaps there is something more to that? Something that one cannot always determine well? Something that is maybe difficult to grasp? What is that certain something that makes people want to see the city with you, listen to your stories and ask questions?
The challenge of being a Warsaw tourist guide
Warsaw is not an easy city for touring. Much as it is a challenge for a tourist, it is also a challenge for a tourist guide. Warsaw is a city of monuments, stories about the ruins, fighting, destruction and reconstruction. “This used to be..”, “this was destroyed…”, “that was rebuilt after the war…” – these are probably the most common expressions Warsaw tourist guides use. In consequence the relevant question is: how do you make Warsaw, despite its imperfections, an attractive place in the eyes of a tourist?
Warsaw tourist guide – it’s a hard life
It takes some work hard to convince a tourist that they have just visited one of the most dynamic places in Europe, a vibrant city, yet a place filled with history. Knowledge alone is not enough. It is important of course, but from my observations I see, that people care more about how we live today rather than who designed the King Sigismund’s Column. There is no doubt that a professional tourist guide should know this, and it is my solid foundation, but I think that tourists are far more interested in the real life, gossips, anecdotes and stories. Of course every person is different, so I try to feel the visitor.
It is important for me to know their expectations, so that I can match the itinerary and the message to their interests. I talk much, but not too much – it is vital for a Warsaw tourist guide to explain, clarify and brighten the picture. My message must be as clear as possible, yet detailed and interesting.
The “must-see” and “must-do” challenge.
There are of course places which a Warsaw tourist guide cannot skip. The Old Town, the Royal Route, the Palace of Culture, Chopin’s Monument – you need to see and admire them and listen about their history. For me though Warsaw is more than “just” the Old Town. It is also the ubiquitous contrasts and ultra-modernity which you will not see anywhere else in Poland. Traces of the communist system, which attract and intrigue the visitors, and the history of the Warsaw Jews. On the other hand there are things that you just must do. So, I encourage my guests, if time permits, to get to know the ins and outs of Warsaw, to drink a glass of vodka and taste bread with lard or the Blikle doghnuts (pączki). I always try to be up-to-date with what is happening in the city and convince the guests to participate in the city’s events – because it is a part of the experience.
I’ve got the key, I’ve got the secret…
In my opinion the key to success is professionalism, knowledge, self-control, smile, passion and cordiality towards the customer. An absolute must is of course, an excellent knowledge of the language in which you guide the tourists. I do not allow myself to perform a bad job, I’m not going cutting corners, I do not simplify things where there is no need to do that. And the tourists appreciate the professionalism. But above all, I just really like and enjoy what I do. I would not change it into anything else.