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then who was much more inter- ested in my skate board, fashion, soccer andmost of all, getting out from the prison of Communism andmoving abroad. In those days, neither driving nor parking occupied even a sliver of my mind. I was one of the privi- leged children whose parents owned a large high-rise apart- ment and two cars.

T Most ofmy friends’families did-

n’t own a car. The owners of even a meager Russian Lada or the East German cardboard Trabant, were the chosen few. Most people inWarsaw took public transport. Street cars, (tramwaje,) were the most popular way of getting around. They were safe, cheap, easy and ran across the entire city. I don’t remember ever seeing a

meter or an underground parking garage inWarsaw. Our 12 story build- ing had an outdoor parking lot. The parking was located next to the com- munity gardens. Not only were the gardens much larger than the parking lot, there were many more cucumbers basking in the summer sun than cars. The lot had space for about 20 cars. The apartment building had 72 units. On any given day, no more than eight cars filled in their spaces. After almost 30 years away, I was

excited about my trip toWarsaw Uni- versity and couldn’t wait to sit in Lazienki (Baths) Park and listen to Chopin Concertos. I was eager to ven- ture to the Old Town and visit some of my favorite churches. I was thrilled to take in a play inWarsaw’s NationalThe- ater, the very place where my mom used to drag me to transform me into a lover of arts. (By the way, Shakespeare in Polish simply doesn’t work. They should just stick with all those Slavic playwrights like Mickiewicz.) Each experience reconnected me

HELAST TIMEI saw my birth city Warsaw was over 27 years ago. I was a kid back

with my heritage and made me fall in love with the city all over again. Every thing except parking. Lets face it: Park- ing inWarsaw sucks!Yes, those blissful cucumbers and emerald green lettuces of my childhood are long gone. And no, they didn’t just “paved paradise and put a parking lot” as Joni Mitchell sings, they simply put up more high-rises. High rises that don’t have garages or parking lots. So where is a person to park inWarsaw?

majority of its historic buildings), I wanted to experience it all formyself. My cousin graciously loaned me

her Opel but insisted on accompanying me on my adventure. She explained that because she lives in a communist era building, she has to park almost half a mile away from her apartment. No wonder the majority of Warsaw women are so svelte; they walk for miles in stilettos. The parking lot she used was an

outdoor one. Fenced and with 24 hour guard on duty. Security is extremely important since breaking in and vandalism of cars are a daily occurrence. The monthly cost is 180 PLN/zl ($60). I noticed that the new develop-

Communism might be resting peacefully with Stalin, yet, bureaucracy is still alive and well.

After the communism collapsed in

1989 and Poland quickly became a free market economy, the unavoidable hap- pened: Poland became a car culture. Currently, Warsaw is the 9th largest city in Europe with the metropolitan area of over 2,300 square miles (200 in the city proper) and a population of almost 3 million. In the late 90’s Poland had the highest demand for new cars in all of Europe. These days, despite higher interest

rates and slower economy, the demand is still high, the roads narrow, in bad shape and parking limited or often nonexistent. Still, as a grown up in this “phoenix city” ofmy childhood (Warsawhas risen from the ashes ofWorldWar II and rebuilt the


ments with their western style apart- ments do have underground garages. Nevertheless, larger part of the city was built in the era where cars nor parking were a part of dailyMO. My cousin insisted that I experience some Polish parking insanity. Its per- fect example was her work place, Ministerstwo Sprawiedliwosci which means Ministry of Fairness. That is the Ministry that handles various traffic violations including some parking tickets. Some, becauseWarsawhas three

parking enforcing organizations: Parking, Municipal and the National Police. Communism might be resting peacefully with Stalin, yet, bureau- cracy is alive and well. My cousin emphasized that although she is a

lawyer, parking laws baffle her. Next to the Ministry is a huge park-

ing lot. It is an empty lot. For some rea- son the ministry and the private compa- ny that runs it cannot reach an agreement to keep it open. Subsequently, most of the employees or folks trying to find “fairness” in their legal matters park on the sidewalks. The sidewalks are packed and the cars are issued parking tickets (mandaty) daily. Most don’t care about those tickets because they are myriad loopholes to get out of paying them. One is that “any correspondence”

left under the windshield wipers is invalid.Theymust be handed to the driv- er or mailed to the owner. The parking enforcement often takes photos of the

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