During a bleak snowstorm this winter (granted, only the first we’ve experienced this year), I found myself looking out the window onto the cars enveloped in the grey cloud, and dreamed of those Polish places…
Those places named Arkadia, Golden Terraces, Galeria…
Those warm cafes where I’d sit, perched expectantly on a stool, following the latest episodes of a friend’s relationship drama (or recounting my own, with hand gestures nearly sweeping the hot chocolate with whipped cream off the table); or those cozy armchairs in the back where we’d hide ourselves from the bitter Polish cold and from uncaring men, our stories and jokes mixing together to form a warm current of words and images and emotions, shared and understood.
I miss the restaurants, often on the 3rd or 4th floor, not small and smelly booths forming a food court, but dining establishments of their own right, with uniformed waiters, darkened interiors, and non-plastic chairs.
I miss the long walks throughout the whole establishment, starting with buying a card or book at the multimedia store Empik and continuing through jewelry stores and outposts of European clothing brands (with clothes actually my size and that I hadn’t seen on other women around me), stands selling all shades of amber bracelets and earrings (did you think amber was only available in amber? Come to Poland and find out!), and finally ending at the underground grocery store, with the obligatory stop to buy ground meat for my grandmother to feed the neighborhood cats with.
Oh, how I miss Warsaw’s shopping malls.
Those undulating glassy domes covering a large expanse of inexpensive shopping, delicious sugar-laden hot drinks, free toilets, warm air – they were perfect meeting places for the high school and University of Warsaw student that I was, and that my friends were.
Most of all, perhaps, I miss those friends. The ability to call and say “Meet me at Arkadia or Zlote Tarasy, help me buy a dress for this upcoming wedding” or any such excuse to spend 3-4 hours talking is sadly gone now. The only time I spent at a Warsaw shopping mall this past year was an in-and-out affair where my husband and I dashed in to grab a Polish soccer jersey in between 2 social events and while trying to coordinate a laundry delivery.
Yes, I miss those friends. And I miss the shopping malls that somehow became the ritual meeting places of our friendships.