3rd July - 6th July 2017
Warsaw - Day 1
Warsaw, I was not sure I wanted to visit but off we went. Tram to the station and then a train ride to Warsaw. First class of course. We arrived very early but that did not matter we got our bearings and got on the train we were in a 6-person carriage but we had the window seats. Two Americans from Dallas joined us and a young German woman who was going to a work conference, she worked hard the whole trip and the four of us chatted away like old friends. He had been in Hamburg with work and they had tacked the holiday on. They were very interested in our trip and where we had been. We also chatted about politics, they do not particularly like Trump, think the English leaving the EU is a daft idea and were generally interesting we also talked about the history of Berlin.
On leaving the train at the Central Train station we took a few minutes to orient ourselves and walked to our hotel. Warsaw Central has some amazing buildings. An upgrade at our hotel was nice, although I do not think the room could be much smaller. Then we decided to walk to the Old Town for dinner. And walk we did, and walk and eventually found a traditional (touristy) Polish restaurant for dinner very tasty we had a few drinks of course. The waiter was a little worried as I was drinking cider mixed with vodka he said it could be very strong and not to have to many. It was nice that he cared. We tried the traditional Polish cheesecake just tasted like baked cheesecake to me.
I wanted to see Chopin’s statue so we walked (a lot of walking this trip) down town to Lazienki Royal Park where it was situated. It was quite a walk but interesting walking through Warsaw. The statue is quite amazing Chopin is sitting under a willow tree in an area he used to visit often. Chopin grew up in Warsaw. There is a sort of Chopin walk past (through) coffee shops, bars other areas he used to frequent as a student.
We wandered back through the park and stumbled on The Orangery or rather The Royal Theatre and The Royal Gallery of Sculpture in the Old Orangery, this it turns out is part of the Palace and garden complex developed in the 18th century by the last King of Poland Stanislaw August. Stanislaw was known for his love of the arts. He believed an educated population who loved the arts was a happy and healthy population so allowed all to see his collection. The sculptures are copies from the original works from Rome and other parts of the world. We decided to have a look. I did my usual and asked for an old people’s discount, this caused a problem and a rather surly young man was found who spoke English. He eventually sold us a ticket to the whole Royal complex at 10 PLN off each. Not sure we wanted to spend that much and see a whole complex, but in for a penny, in for a pound. We could pay 30 PLN each by credit card, but for some vague reason we had to pay 10 PLN each cash. Thinking that might go in their pockets we set off to look at the exhibits.
Next thing we knew the Ticket seller was following us!! He then started to explain about how the building had been restored and how it was used to keep the plants warm in the winter with an underground series of tunnels filled with hot air from wood fired furnaces to expensive too run today. He was very interesting so I asked him a few questions and before we knew it we had our own personal guide!! Admitting to knowing no Polish history, we got a list of Polish Kings what they had done and how they had lost their thrones. It seems Polish kings were elected by the nobles. Most of the were foreigners from nobles families related to other crown heads. Poland was also unified with Lithuania. It was partitioned three times once by Russia, once by Austria, the last time by the Nazi’s of course. Our guide was very proud that in all those times they had stayed Polish. He showed us the most important statues and where the original paint had been found after the war and after the communists had departed Both Nazi’s and communists tried to raze the whole of this palace park to the ground but it has all been rebuilt to its original beauty.
We were taken to the Royal Theatre and told all about the paintings and what they mean. A TV crew arrived and wanted to start filming the Theatre but were told to wait until we had finished!! It was a little embarrassing, I felt like I was someone important to be hold up filming. We eventually left our new friend at the Orangery, (with the 20 PLN we had saved as his tip! What goes around comes around). We were told what to visit next and what not to miss. We dutifully set off for the White Pavilion and the Print collection, our guides favourite building.
The White Pavilion was stunning I especially loved the wooden floors and understood about our guide saying how the whole building smelt of wood. It was a smallish building but full of lovely prints. It is amazing how these places have all been resurrected from the damage done by the Nazi’s and the communist’s photos of the damage make me wonder how they started and did not just decide to pull them all down. I guess it is the Polish history and they are rightfully proud of it. I for one am glad they have restored everything. After the White Pavilion I was so exhausted and hot we had to find a beer. As we were walking across the park land we came across a lady feeding the red squirrels. I was so excited, I have seen plenty of grey squirrels but no red ones. These were quite tame, they were so small and cute.
The Palace on the Island is the main palace in the area. It is in a most beautiful setting, on a lake of course. The Palace, located on an artificial island, was the summer residence of the King Stanisław August Poniatowski.. It was raining when we got there so we dashed into the palace. Wow this was the real deal again it has been restored but it is magnificent.
The current appearance of the palace is largely influenced by a major expansion that took place in the 17th century, ordered by Crowning Marshal Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski. Between 1772-1793, King Stanisław August Poniatowski transformed it into a classicist building, designed by Dominik Merlini and Jan Chrystian Kamsetzer. The newly-created palace became the summer residence of the King, and it was at his famous summer lunches, which took place on Thursdays, that the most renowned and notorious painters, sculptors, poets and writers converged. Between 1788-1793, the palace was rebuilt in the classical style, with all scenic paintings and sculptures provided by Marcello Bacciarelli and Jan B. Plersch. After the death of King Stanisław August Poniatowski, the palace passed into the hands of Prince Józef Poniatowski and in 1817, it became a Caesarian residence. In the interwar period, it was a part of the State Art Collection. In the autumn of 1944, Germans moved all furniture and art to the Third Reich and set the palace on fire. It was rebuilt in 1945-1960 under the direction of architect Jan Dąbrowski, who restored it largely to its 17th century appearance. The palace is on an artificial island, in the middle of a lake, hence its name (Palace on the Island); it is connected to the land by two bridges with classicist columns.
The most valuable building of Łazienki Królewskie is after a complete renovation, which took place in the years 2013-2015.
We wandered around the building with no personal guide, not used to this. We still saw how amazing it was especially the bath house. Where trysts were made I understand. How romantic.
The last Palace, the Myślewice Palace (will they never end I am exhausted writing about them, never mind walking around them). This is a curved building, it was a bit disconcerting wandering around it as it seemed to return on itself but didn’t. I liked the layout and enjoyed the interior of this palace.
The palace took its name from Myślewice village, which was once located not far from the palace. In 1774 the walls of the palace already existed, however the date of the commencement of construction is unknown. The palace is situated at the closing of the road leading from the city. King Stanisław August Poniatowski ordered it to be enlarged with two-storey pavilions, combined with the main body with round fittings of a single storey, at this point in its design, the building was finished by Merlini. The palace is in the early classicist style, making it one of Warsaw's few surviving examples of this architectural era. The original aspects of the structure are the round outline of the 'wings', and the particular shape of the roof which is designed to resemble patterns in traditional Chinese art.
After visiting this palace, it was time to follow the road back to the city, of course not as easy as it sounded. I decided walking through a park was a better idea than along city streets. It was more interesting but took a very tired Clare with an aching back a bit out of our way. We stopped at a little coffee place in the park and with no Polish and no English on the café side we ordered a couple of life saving coffees. Yes! that is correct too tired and a little cold for beer. Another long walk and we were eventually back at the hotel. I was so exhausted we went to the closest place for dinner a Himalayan restaurant, it was lovely.