What guides poetic thinking is the conviction that although the living is subject to the ruin of time, the process of decay is at the same time a process of crystallization…

Hannah Arendt

Warsaw, whilst being a city full of ‘development’, is also a city full of decay. It’s what makes it such a poetic place. Even in the city’s centre the wild places and abandoned spaces often contrast unsympathetically with the vanguard of skyscrapers in their fashioned glass and steel sprouting up here and there.

Beginning in the southernmost tip of the borough of Wlochy, Fort Zbarz, located on the border with Mokotow, is a great starting point for wildness and wetness and a study of decay. Fort Zbarz was part of a line of defences built in the early part of the 19th century which consisted of two circles of forts surrounding the city of Warsaw. Fort Zbarz, long since abandoned by humans, is part of the outer circle.

The fort itself has been partially swallowed by the water of its moat creating the image of a terraquaeous city half above half beneath the surface. The paths themselves, signs that not everyone has forgotten of such places, are difficult to follow since they too have been swallowed up by growth. This is the thing with decay. One man’s decay is another man’s growth. As things fall off (de-cadere) and separate from each other, they coalesce and unite with other things. Decay, thus, is not all ‘de-cay’; it is growth too. There are few things quite so majestic as nature retaking its territory.

Midst the reeds and red bricks, a plane flies overhead reminding us that the airport is next door. Terminal 2’s new glass and steel building is not five hundred metres from here, the runway a little less than a kilometre. Whether it’s the fort’s active undergrowth or the airport’s active runway, it’s all go in Wlochy.

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