The area I live in Warsaw is one of the oldest areas in the city and part of the Warsaw Ghettos. It is called Wola and you could say it is a bit run down although I live in a new block of flats and there are new buildings going up weekly. This area, once thought to be very dangerous and still not recommended as a place to be walking the streets at night on your own, even now,.still has a strong sense of community.
From Wola I can either walk or catch a No 13 or 23 tram to Kino Femina which is one of my favourite spots in Warsaw. From here I can walk to the huge flower market which is blanket of colour to the eye or step inside one of Warsaw’s oldest bazaars, Hala Morowska.
In England we would probably call the Hala Morowska an old fashioned covered shopping center but the Poles like to call it a bazaar. It is a great Polish tradition, pre-war and has survived Communism. This bazaar along with Rozycki’s Bazaar came through socialism successfully. When in the shops the shelves were empty, the bazaars offered fresh fruit and vegetables from around the world, and by 1989 this form of trading was everywhere. All the bazaars including Hala Morowska are immaculately clean and the produce sold is always fresh and good quality. They are run hygienically and in accordance with trading regulations so that meat, fish and dairy products can be purchased without any worry.
Inside Hala Mirowska, it really is like stepping back in the 1940’s. You feel like you should be wearing a trilby hat and long coat. It is quite fascinating to see such a jumbled array of good on sale under one roof. As you enter through the doorway you can either take the right turn and go through the turnstile to the supermarket which has huge wide shelves which are sometimes bare or overloaded with stacks of the same item. To the left of the entrance is a makeshift coffee bar where you can buy a cuppa to keep out the cold from the freezing winds and snow. From here, onwards, it is a labyrinth of individual kiosks selling anything from carpets, make-up, jewellery, plastic flowers, glass plates and cups to match. The list is endless. I am sure if you wanted something obscure and you knew where to look you would be able to find it here.
A different picture is painted outsided the bazaar – one of entrepreneurism and individuality. You will see many an old lady sat on a wooden stool wrapped in her wooly coat, hat, boots and the thickest of scarves. She is here for a purpose and that is to sell her wares whether they be fresh herbs, home-made jams, fresh eggs, fresh cut flowers. These old ladies and old men travel from outside Warsaw every morning no matter how bad the weather is to try and make a zloty or two. It is fascinating to see all the wonderful things they have to offer.
Walking further down the road past the bazaar is another interesting sight – several people standing in their own little spots on the pavement. Here they will have laid out in the most attractive way things that they no longer want or need. On one stretch of pavement there will be about 20 people selling old books, shoes, clothes, bric a brac. Then suddenly the Police arrive and everything is packed away as it is illegal to sell on the street without a license. The speed in which every item is packed in an old suitcase is to be admired. They obviously are experienced and have the knack. But no matter what, come rain or shine, these folks will back in the same spot, same time tomorrow, trying to make a living on the streets.