In most big Polish cities like Warsaw, Cracow, Poznan, or Gdansk one of the main cultural and social attractions nowadays are shopping malls. They lure us with their beautiful designs, colorful windows, restaurants, and movie theatres. For Poles living in big cities, shopping malls have become a part of life style to go shopping on Saturday and Sunday. It is like a ritual. You are not working, your partner is not working, let’s go early in the morning and stay until late afternoon in the weekend paradise of shopping galleries.
The most known and the biggest shopping malls in Warsaw are: Arkadia, Wola Park, Sadyba Best Mall, Galeria Mokotów. If you go there during the weekend, you always have this weird impression that it is always the time just before Christmas. Whole families with young babies even, old people, yuppies, teenagers and foreigners are all there.
In Poland, the intention of most shopping centers is to convince their visitors that there is everything there to satisfy their needs; starting with practical stuff like dry cleaners to movie places and restaurants.
Each of the above Warsaw shopping centers is slightly different. Arkadia is considered to be one of the biggest shopping malls in the Eastern Europe. It looks magnificent from the outside and it is designed in a very practical and reasonable way. In contrast to other places, I can always find my way there. Actually, Arkadia is a shopping mall I love the most and it used to be one of my weekend paradises. Downstairs there is an enormous lobby with places like Empik, Smyk, zoological stores, food stores, garment food places and alcohol. (It’s funny because Geant, a food chain of Arcadia has not been able to acquire license to sell alcohol for more than a year and the reasons remain unknown.). For people who grew up in the communism, like my parents, Arkadia looks like an American paradise. Some people just come there to enjoy the look of luxurious things. Arkadia lures all kind of clientele. Those who live on a minimum wage can get a bite at Mc Donald’s, Pizza Hut or similar fast food chain. More demanding customers can eat in the restaurants downstairs whose menu is more sophisticated. In the summer small children have enormous fun playing with water in the fountain located at the entrance.
Wola Park is more shopping oriented place. People who come there in majority look for cheap groceries and all kinds of household appliances which can be found in Auchan. If you go there during the weekend be prepared for even an hour spent in the line to the register. Wola Park is in general more peaceful and offers all kind of entertainment for small kids (book reading, playing games and theatrical plays). Thanks to that fact, the parents can enjoy their shopping spree with no toddlers screaming to go home. Fashion-oriented folks come there also to go to such stores as Miss Sixty, Zara or Mango.
The first big shopping mall which was built in Warsaw was Galeria Mokotow. Now its kind of off the road because it is located far away in Mokotow. However, some Polish designers have stores there and it is surrounded by the newly arising business district. It is very confusing not to get lost there and I never remember which store is where. Whenever I am there I have the impression that this shopping center is a paradise of yuppies. They walk with all those fancy paper bags and usually carry more than they can handle and I think it’s the opportunity for them to show how much money they have. They also have special rituals like drinking coffee and eating sushi during lunch time in the most visible spots of Galeria Mokotów. Definitely weekend shopping became a habit for many affluent and less well-off inhabitants of big cities. However, it is kind of sad when a shopping mall is being built in the middle of the old Jewish district Kazimierz in Cracow just to attract more money and with no regard for the surrounding architecture.
I appreciate the daily shopping rituals of Poland. You go to the store for fresh bread, meat, veggies etcetera each day. There is more of a sense of community compared to North America, with it's super-centers and malls.
no Jewish " gmina" would accept such investment
You know, of course, that Kazimierz isn't a Jewish neighborhood anymore. It's just where the jewish neighborhood used to be. There's no actual jewish community for it to benefit. More likely it is benefitting real estate developers. It's a shame that in many cities around the world, historical areas are scarred by modern shopping malls. But I guess people gotta shop. The best malls are the ones that try to incorporate the local architecture and blend in. In America they have no problem because there isn't so much historical architecture to begin with.