It’s an honor to chat with you, Krzysztof. To begin, would you mind telling us how you came to discover your passion for Warsaw, history, and guiding?
In regards to how my passion for Warsaw started, well, I was born and raised here, so I kind of just fell into it. But, in regards to my passion for guiding, that came later: when I was a teenager, I began travelling more – travelling in the “classic” style that is (i.e., without cell phone apps instructing me what to do and where to go) – and I grew to admire the guides that would show me around the places I was visiting. After a few trips, I came to the decision that I too wanted to guide one day; I too wanted to be able to tell others about my city and my country.
Would you choose any other location or profession if you could do it all again?
I’m a Jack-of-all-trades who enjoys multitasking, so guiding is actually just one of my occupations (I’m also a driving instructor and a transportation specialist). I definitely wouldn’t switch Warsaw for any other city, but if I had enough time, and if the opportunity should present itself, I would love to be able to guide people in one of the Polish national forests. Interestingly, I studied classical linguistics, but I have never been involved in that realm in my professional life, having adopted the tour guide role from a young age.
What has been the biggest highlight of being a guide?
I most enjoy meeting interesting people, but another highlight is that I get to learn a lot from my clients. Thanks to them, my bucket list of places to visit is getting longer and longer.
I see you occasionally feature in local media. Would you mind explaining as to why?
Since both locals and tourists are increasingly finding interest in exploring Warsaw and learning the city’s fascinating history, I’ve been contacted by the media because I’m very experienced with both. The media are determined to encourage “Warsaw studies” by revealing interesting stories about the area, and I’m one of their go-to people for such information. Also, people find it fascinating to compare present-day-Warsaw with pre-war-Warsaw (especially the appearance of different city sights since Warsaw was almost totally demolished during the last war, and hence changed a lot thereafter), and I know a lot about this area of expertise.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
Honestly, the best part of my job as a tour-guide-cum-driving-instructor-cum-transportation-specialist is that there is no typical workday! Apart from following certain guiding routes through the city for the sake of providing a well-rounded introduction to Warsaw, each of my tours is at least a little bit different from the last and the next; they’re “tailor-made” depending on my clients’ interests.
What is the best trip you have ever lead?
I once guided a lady who lived in Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. She was a little girl at the time, but she could recall a lot, and she shared many fascinating stories about things most only see in movies. Tragically, the lady lost her mother in the ghetto, but she had a longing to come back and see the area as an adult. It’s miraculous the lady survived in the first place, and I was extremely impressed by her courage; she wasn’t sad or distant on the tour, and despite the fact that we were visiting places of true martyrdom for her family, she was engaging and open to talk about everything that went on there. It was a big history lesson for me, and one I will cherish.
What’s the most bizarre experience you’ve ever had on a guided tour?
I once had the honor of guiding a European monarch! Unfortunately, I cannot disclose the name, but I will tell you that it was a great experience. For this tour, I had to learn how to properly address the person, and how to step and act appropriately too. It was exhausting – there were a lot of manners of conduct to constantly consider – but also exhilarating.
Since we all know no job is perfect, would you mind sharing some of the downfalls of being a sightseeing guide in Warsaw?
I just wish Warsaw was a more popular tourist destination because then I could make guiding my one and only full-time profession. That said, there most definitely are advantages to it being less crowded than other cities. For one, the tourist hotspots here are not overcrowded, and two, the guides are (in my opinion, at least) more passionate and devoted to their work than those in some other cities. I suppose we are just that much more grateful for the tourists, and thus we treat visitors very well.
What are your three favorite things about Warsaw?
I love the rich history, the true uniqueness of the city (from its architecture to its food), and the central location; as a man of intrigue, I greatly appreciate the easy access to many other Polish and European cities.
As an experienced guide, can you think of any tips people should know before going on a guided tour?
Look into whether or not a tour guide has a guiding license. Licenses don’t ensure a good tour, but they do ensure that you’re paying for someone who had to undergo training and pass exams to get where they are. In turn, you can rest assured you will learn valuable information. Also, when picking your guide, look at their activity on social media channels. This way, you can decipher whether guiding is a true passion of theirs, or if it is just a side hobby that they only put half an effort into. The bottom line is that you want to hire someone who is truly passionate about being a guide. You want someone who eat, sleeps, and breathes guiding!
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
There are several places I’d love to experience, but my biggest dream is to travel to central Africa. I’m fascinated by that area’s amazing nature and wildlife.