Progress and tradition collide in Poland's green oases
By Christian Lowe and Anna Wirowska
WARSAW (Reuters) - Krystyna Pakulska walks down a dirt track lined with silver birch trees and stops for a moment to breathe in the air.
"Look at the beauty around you, the flowers and the trees," says the 59-year old, a retired employee of Polish state television. "Why destroy this beautiful land?"
This is an allotment garden, one of dozens carved out of the Polish capital by the country's previous rulers so that workers could relax in their spare time by tending flowers and shrubs on their personal plots.
Two decades after Poland threw off Communist rule, this relic of a more sedate past is colliding with a modern reality: the appetite of the market for space to build new apartment blocks, offices and retail parks.
This rural idyll is right in the center of Warsaw and that makes it a prime real estate spot.
A calculation based on market data from real estate firm Colliers International shows that if a garden in central Warsaw were available for residential development, the smallest plot could sell for 165,000 euros, and probably several times more depending on the number of floors in the planned building.
For now that price exists in theory only. Developers cannot touch the allotments, also known as community gardens, because they have special protected status under Polish law.
But the country's constitutional court ruled in early July that this status had to change, a decision the gardening fraternity says will be exploited by property developers to pick them off one by one, buy up their plots and build on them. Continued...