Thursday, 24 October 2013

Symphony in Socialist-Realism

A grey lunchtime along the lower reaches of ul. Marszałkowska - Warsaw's main north-south thoroughfare - puts me in mind of Western stereotypes of Poland and the rest of the former Soviet bloc - this is how millions of not-too-well informed folk in the UK and North America think of whenever Poland is mentioned.

So rather than show hipster bars selling artisan beer, newly-opened shopping malls, beautiful urban parks, up-to-the-minute public amenities or new motorways - let's wallow in preconceptions. Let us go back to a Workers' (rather than Consumers') Paradise and see Poland's capital as it would have looked at the height of the Cold War. Let us take a short stroll down Marszałkowska, from Pl. Unii Lubelskiej to Al. Armii Ludowej.

Ul. Marszałkowska, corner of  Litewska
Wire netting, where Socialist Realism joins pre-war tenements
Ul. Marszałkowska, corner of Al. Armii Ludowej
Ul. Marszałkowska, corner of Zoli

Ul. Marszałkowska, the lower end.
Warsaw or Łódź? 150m north of Plac Unii shopping mall.

Update: Saturday 26 October - Today's Gazeta Stołeczna has picked up on the state of the southern end of Marszałkowska. In its front-page story about the growing number of empty premises in the city centre, it mentions this stretch of road, saying that there are 11 boarded-up properties between Pl. Unii and Pl. Zbawiciela. Easy to see why - the centre of retail gravity has moved northward (and now southward too). Despite the economic upturn, many shops and restaurants have closed down and the City authorities can't find new tenants for the premises. Less footfall, fewer shoppers.

This time last year:
Glasgow snapshots

This time two years ago:
A slow farewell to our Powiśle office

This time three years ago:
A slow farewell to my Nissan Micra

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