Gardens, parks and Frederick Chopin: a day in the countryside

Planning a day trip in the countryside? Then, perhaps, you could consider a visit to the palaces and manor houses of the western Mazovia. Just one hour of drive from Warsaw you will find gardens, parks and Frederick Chopin. What is more, our itinerary will give you a unique yet nostalgic insight into traditional country living of Polish nobility; from a modest manor house in Żelazowa Wola to a proper Baroque palace in Nieborów.

The music and garden aficionados would enjoy a visit to Żelazowa Wola, the birthplace of Frederic Chopin. There is a museum with some memorabilia and an amazing park originally designed before WWII and meticulously restored to its former glory for the Frederick Chopin birthday anniversary in 2010. You can walk between the yellow Frederic Chopin roses (you can see on the photograph or cross a bridge called: Mazurka. The park is also full of music coming from speakers skilfully hidden in the greenery. Additionally, until the end of October, every Thursday and Friday at 12:15 and 2:15 pm ,there are 15 minutes mini piano concerts performed by young pianists prize winners of music competitions. The price is included in the price of the entrance ticket, so you can plan your visit accordingly. Moreover, there is a temporary exhibition on the history of gardens and you will be able to see it until the end of may 2018.

The Nieborów palace and Arkadia park will appeal to people interested in elegant country living and ambitious landscape creations of the aristocracy. The majestic stair case of the palace is worth seeing as it is fully decorated with blue and white tiles from Holland. It is said that every tile shows a different scene! While Arkadia, since its beginnings in the 18th century, has been considered one of finest sentimental and English-styled parks in Poland.

A short stay in Łowicz is an opportunity to explore the folklore traditions of Mazovia. For example colourful paper cutouts used for house decorating and distinctive patterns of the traditional costumes. The local museum and souvenir shops are the best opportunity to get a proper view on the subject!

A full day trip usually includes lunch. We can recommend Oberża pod Złotym Prosiakiem near Nieborów for people looking for a traditional inn. Every Chopin aficionado will appreciate the interiors of Przepis na kompot in Żelazowa Wola.

Our service:

We provide guiding services in all the above mentioned places. Tickets to the Lowicz Museum, Zelazowa Wola and Nieborow/Arkadia complex can be bought directly in the ticket offices of the museums or we can assist you with the booking.

The full tour itinerary can be organised in the spring-summer season due to the Nieborów and Arkadia museums opening period (from the 1st of April until the end of October). Shops in Łowicz are closed on Sunday. On request we can provide transport services and book lunch in a local inn.

 

Praga: eastern bazaar, bears at the tram stop and more…

The eastern bazaar is called in Polish Bazar Różyckiego and it is the oldest in Warsaw; bears are for real as they live in a zoological garden enclosure. What more can you find in Praga?

Praga in Warsaw, the eastern part of the city, is a district where you can explore multicultural traditions. Jews, Roman Catholics and  Orthodox Christians have lived together for many centuries and that is why churches and synagogues were built in a very close proximity. Secondly, it was almost not destroyed during WWII and you can still recognise some views from the 100 years old postcards and photos. Even a short walk offers a complete change of urbanscape for people who are familiar with the Warsaw’s city centre with its reconstructions and communist architecture.

Truth be told, some of the houses are in need of a complete makeover and some must be properly restored. Unsurprisingly, the most neglected streets were used as WWII film sets – the most famous case being the Pianist on Władysław Szpilman’s war experiences. The eastern district seemed to be a perfect film substitute for the Warsaw ghetto scenery.

A walk in Praga may be full of surprises. You can meet  – bronze musicians in the middle of the street. They used to be a local entertainment as they wandered around the city with their music. There is more: an original bunker from the times of WWII and “pyzy”: an emblematic street food from Bazar Różyckiego. The home made dumplings filled with meat and served with a lot of gravy were sold from glass jars. Today, you can have meat or vegetarian option in one of the bars around the bazaar.

Our service:

Our 3 hours walk will take you to the centre of the district in the vicinity of the Różycki Bazaar and the Zoo. There is a possibility to combine this itinerary with visiting the Praga Museum (a local historical museum of the district and the Jewish prayer house from the 1800’s) and the Żabińskis villa with the hideouts built to save Jews from the Ghetto; for more information go to the post on the Jewish heritage in Praga.

There is an entrance fee to Praga Museum – the Jewish prayer house entrance is included in the Praga Museum ticket.

There is an entrance fee to the Zoo and . The visit may be arranged in the mornings and early afternoons only and it will take approximately 1 hour.

The highlights of Warsaw and a selfie with Frederic Chopin

What are the highlights of Warsaw? Well, the absolute must see in the historic area of Warsaw include: the Old Town (UNESCO World Heritage site), glimpses on Wisła (our river), the elegant Krakowskie Przedmieście, the modern University of Warsaw Library and its roof garden, the Chopin’s heart and… a personal selfie photo session with the composer.

First of all – don’t worry about the Chopin’s heart. Actually, you can’t see it as it is hidden in a niche and covered with a proper stone plaque. Then, be prepared for the story of the afterwar reconstruction. Historically speaking, the Old Town heritage covers almost 7 centuries of architecture, but most of it was recreated after WWII.

Next, visiting the St. John the Baptist Cathedral (Roman Catholic) or the Market Sq. provides you with a unique opportunity to feel the inner strength of the Polish nation. The people’s will brought about the reconstruction of the entire district on a unique scale in the history of the world. It’s not an exaggeration: the reconstruction was the reason why the Old Town in Warsaw was listed as the part of the UNESCO World Heritage.

Then, the Warsaw University Campus with its duality: the grand and noble buildings of the old section in Krakowskie Przedmieście and quite unique modern architecture in the Powiśle area, such as one of the Warsaw icons: the New University Library Building with its remarkable roof garden and a panoramic view on the Wisła river and the city centre.

In November 2016 we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the University as it was established in 1816. The Krakowskie Przedmieście Campus is worth visiting also as a place closely associated with biographies of its alumni, such as Frederic Chopin. This is where you will find one of the playing musical benches. And you can take a selfie with the composer right at the entrance to his home – all you have to do is download the free app called selfie with Chopin from the official tourist site of the city or ask your guide!

For more city walks in winter and in summer click our Warsaw section.

Our service:

This is our most popular 3 -4-hour walking tour. However, there is a possibility to use very convenient public transport or a private car – if needed. There are daily or longer period tickets for the city’s trams and buses available in kiosks or ticket machines located at the major stops.

This itinerary offers you a very convenient start for further exploration. In the Old Town area you will find the Royal Castle with its art collection. But if you are more interested in the reconstruction – then go to the Muzeum Warszawy (the Warsaw City Museum) and see the exhibition located on Brzozowa St. in the Old Town.

We provide guiding services. There are entrance fees to both museums. Tickets for individual visitors must be bought at the museums ticket office. Group visits must be booked via the official website or the booking offices (no more than 25 pax in a group). On request, we can assist you with the booking.

War/saw: Warsaw and WWII

Are you interested in the city’s complex and heroic past? Would you like to find some traces of the WWII in Warsaw? It is possible even if you have just 3-4 hours to spare for a city walk and you prefer to stay in the city centre.

 

 

You can start your walk in the historic and well-known areas such as the Old Town, but you will need to focus on curiosities and details that are hidden in plain sight. For instance, let’s take the Column in the Castle Sq., the one erected in the memory of Sigismund III Vasa and the main meeting point in that part of Warsaw. Originally it was built in 1644, but, after almost 220 years, the old marble column was replaced with a granite one. Then, the whole monument was destroyed during the Warsaw Rising 1944, the column was shattered into pieces and the bronze statue of the king was lying on the ground. That view was shown on one of the photos of the ruined city after the war.

Subsequently, it was rebuilt but the old columns are still on the square, next to the entrance to the Castle. You will be able to tell which is the oldest one and which was a war casualty even if you have no idea how to distinguish marble form granite. My advice: look for bullet holes.

As far as the Royal Castle is concerned, there is a special music event commemorating the WWII destruction of the building. Every day at 11.15 you will hear a trumpet player who appears on the Castles’s main tower (the one under the clock). It is a bugle call created especially for commemorating the damage done by German bombings from the beginning of the WWII. On the 17th of September 1939 the clock on the Castle Tower stopped precisely at 11.15 am and that is why we have the music played shortly before noon.

There are other memorials in the Old Town as well. As you walk in the vicinity of the St. John the Baptist Cathedral you will find small plaques commemorating barricades created by the Polish insurgents during the WWII. Last, but not least, the majestic 1944 Warsaw Rising Memorial will give a unique visual comment to the stories of bravery you may know from history books.

 


Warsaw is also one the most important Holocaust sites in Europe and some of the most significant memorials are located within a walking distance from the reconstructed walls of the Old Town. In 1940 the Jewish Ghetto was established in the Northern District of the city. Although the ghetto itself was razed to the ground after the Ghetto Rising in 1943, the traces of its existence are still to be found. For example, just outside of the Krasiński Garden you will see one of the Ghetto Wall Markers to show you the boundaries of the district.

Then, a few minutes away, you will be able to pay your respects to the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto at the stairs of the famous memorial. If you decide to walk along the Ghetto Memory Trail, then you will get to the Umschlagplatz area, the very place from where the Jews were deported to the Treblinka II death camp during WWII. The urbanscape of that part of the city is modern, but even a short walk in a comunist-style housing estate will provide architectural and spatial context to the tragic history of the Warsaw Jews.

For more city walks in winter and in summer click our Warsaw section.

Our service:

This is a 3 -4-hour walking tour. However, there is a possibility to use very convenient public transport or a private car – if needed. There are daily or longer period tickets for the city’s trams and buses available in kiosks or ticket machines located at the major stops.

This itinerary offers you a very convenient start for further exploration. In the Old Town area you will find the Royal Castle with its art collection and a special exhibition on its WWII destruction and the subsequent reconstruction. But if you are more interested in the reconstruction of the Old Town district as a whole– then go to the Muzeum Warszawy (the Warsaw City Museum) and see the exhibition located on Brzozowa St. in the Old Town. As far as the history of the Warsaw’s Ghetto is concerned, we strongly recommend a visit to the Holocaust Gallery in the Polin Museum

We provide guiding services in the city and in the museums. There are entrance fees to museums. Tickets for individual visitors must be bought at the museums’ ticket offices. Group visits must be booked via the official website or the booking offices (no more than 25 pax in a group). On request, we can assist you with the booking.

Royal Baths of Warsaw: peacocks, squirrels and gondolas

 Peacocks, squirrels and gondolas… you will find all that, and more in Łazienki / the Royal Baths of Warsaw  or Park Łazienkowski. These names are given to one place that is considered the most magical in Warsaw. This is a common belief shared by the local people and visitors. So, what is all the fuss about?

The Royal Baths of Warsaw is a complex of gardens and villas created originally in the second half of the 18th century for the Polish king Stanisław August Poniatowski. Today it is 76 hectares of greenery in the city centre and (at least) three different gardens, so even a short walk is like a live lecture on the history of landscape architecture.

The oldest part is called the Royal Garden and it was created in the 18th century, then there is the Romantic Garden (the 19th century). The 20th century Modernist Garden is the most famous and photographed part due to the Fryderyk (this is the Polish spelling!) Chopin Monument and summer piano recitals. There is also a Chinese garden – the newest addition to the Łazienki complex designed following the Prince Kung’s Mansion in Beijing.

Mind you, we are talking about the major attraction in Warsaw with a very busy cultural calendar full of concerts and events: the Chinese lanterns festival or Chopin recitals are just the most famous ones. The Polish Tourist Organisation recorded that in 2013 Łazienki were visited by a little over than 2 000 000 people and the survey showed the constant increase in number of visiters in 2011-2013. Sometimes, especially on spring or autumn weekends, finding a secluded spot can be really challenging.  Monday to Friday are much less busy. Alternatively,  you can decide to visit the royal villas as most visitors focus on the gardens.

All the greenery is just a part of Łazienki as there are several royal villas to visit. The main one is called the Palace on the Isle (in Polish: Pałac na Wyspie). Then, there is the White Pavilion and the Myślewicki Palace.What is more, the king was renowned for his vast cultural interests and this is why you can find two theatres in his park: the open-air Amphitheatre and the elegant, wooden hall that was arranged in the building of the Old Orangery. All in all, you can stay here all day or come for a short walk, but it is an absolute must see in our city.

Our service:

The guided sightseeing includes a walk in the gardens and visits to the king’s villas such as the Palace on the Isle or the Old Orangery with an original 18th. century theatre. We provide guides who are licensed for both gardens and villas.

The entrance to the park and summer Chopin recitals is free but there is an entrance fee to villas. The ticket price depends on the number of villas you decide to visit.

#selfiewithchopin, multimedia and national pride

Let’s start from the beginning – there is a photo competition in Warsaw organised by the Bureau of the city’s promotion. It is simple: take a selfie with Chopin, hashtag it: #selfiewithchopin #contest and wait for the results. It lasts until May 14th (2017), but there are Chopin themed multimedia that you can enjoy all the time. As you can see on my Facebook fun page, I do it quite often. But then, why do we like the Chopin’s music so much? And was he French or Polish? These are genuine questions some tourists asked me at the playing musical benches.

First of all, the multimedia. Downloading app Selfie with Chopin will give you access to some info on his bio and music. Then, there is another app called Chopin in Warsaw. It will provide you with some old views of Warsaw, so you could really see Frederic Chopin’s Warsaw. What is more, you can access not just some old photos, but there are a few Augmented Reality stops. For example, at the Czapski/Krasiński Palace on Krakowskie Przedmieście St. you will find a view of the composer’s drawing room. BTW, that was his last address in Warsaw before he left the city in 1830, and he created there both of his piano concertos.

The apps will guide you along Frederic Chopin itinerary marked by playing musical benches. They were installed in 2010 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the pianist’s birth. For instance, there is one in the Royal Łazienki Park and it plays a piece of the famous Polonaise in A Major (op. 40 no 1). Or you can listen to the part of the Sonata in B flat minor (op.35) renowned for so-called Funeral March at the entrance to the Holy Cross Church where Chopin’s heart is buried. The list and the locations of all playing musical benches is published on the city’s website called Chopin’s Warsaw. There is a printed version of it available in the tourist information points.

Planning a visit to Żelazowa Wola, the Chopin’s Birthplace Museum? There is a selfie stop there as well. You can take a photo of an AR Chopin just next to the bushes of Chopin’s Roses, the Polish variety created to honour the musician. Additionally, you can download an audioguide with some extra content, such as a short documentary on the Mazovia region and other places visited by the young composer in our region. It is available on the official site of the Museum.

Last, but not least, why do we have such an obsession with Frederic Chopin? After all, his father was French and he lived in France half of his life. Well, Chopin considered himself a Polish citizen and was very proud of it. Then, we consider him the most important and the most famous Polish composer. What is more, his music became one of the national symbols and was seen as such by the occupants of our country. To begin with, there was a ban on playing Chopin’s music in public in Warsaw in the XIX century. This regulation was applied on the territories that, like Warszawa, had belonged to our, Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom, but were under the Russian occupation since 1795. That was a personal decision of the Russian Tsar taken after crushing the Polish Insurrection in 1830 and 1831. The similar, anti-Chopin law was introduced by the Nazis after seizing Poland in 1939. The Polish people were not allowed to play it in public or listen to it’s recordings and the monument from the Royal Łazienki Park was destroyed. This is why, playing Chopin in public has become a political statement after WWII and the open air concerts started.

The best way to understand our feelings and emotions about Chopin is by watching Roman Polanski film on Władysław Szpilman called the Pianist or joining one of the open air summer concerts in Warsaw or Żelazowa Wola. All in all, it is a very nice way to get to know our capital city.

Jukebox, Jewkbox! Music in Polin Museum

Warsaw and all kinds of music: classic, pop, folk, dance, indie rock – all that in one exhibition and with a Jewish twist. Here are some photos from a special meeting for the Polin Museum guides…

“Only the empty sleeves” -Hanno Loewy, the curator of the exhibition, has informed us, just at the entrance. So, you can’t buy any records at the exhibition or take any as a souvenir but you can listen to them all. Moreover, there is a very illuminating exhibition catalogue published by the museum.

As for the exhibition, there are some topic areas: the row of old gramophones to give you some timeline, a huge collection of the EMPTY sleeves – to present different kinds of Jewish music in the 20th century, the comfy listeners area to offer you a place to sit and just enjoy the music. Of course, there is a special Polish Jewish music zone as well. Make sure you go up to the mezzanine – there is a stage waiting and a kind of a multimedia introduction to the contemporary Jewish music and musicians in Poland.

Have fun and enjoy as much as I did! The exhibition will be open until 29.05

Summer means Chopin

It feels like summer in Warsaw lasts as long as the open air concerts in the Royal Łazienki Park. Every year, from May to September the area next to the Fryderyk Chopin Monument (the Polish spelling!) turns into an open air concert hall. It has been a city tradition since 1959. Worth experiencing even if you are not an enthusiast of classical music. Concerts are held every Sunday: at noon and at 4 o’clock PM. The 2017 season starts on Sunday, the 14th of May.

Some of the concerts/garden trivia: the green surroundings you can see around the monument were designed especially as an open air concert hall. The rose garden is an actual theatre parterre for an audience and tall tress behind the monument are a natural, and very dramatic, backdrop.

During the summer Chopin concerts, both the performing artist and the piano are covered by a shade designed especially for Łazienki by Marek Krawczyński: architect, designer and pianist, who was born in Warsaw and then emigrated to Australia. The shade’s shape was inspired by the Sydney Opera House roof shell.

If you miss the concert on Sunday or come to Warsaw before or after the festival, you can perform some Chopin on your own. At the entrance to the park, there is one of the Chopin playing musical benches. The benches were created for the composer’s 200 birthday anniversary in 2010 as part of the tourist itinerary called “Chopin in Warsaw”. The one in the park plays the Polonaise in A major, op. 40 no. 1; just press “PLAY” and enjoy. If you downloaded the app “Selfie with Chopin“, then check Internet accessibility in the park, as it is one of the areas where you can get your personal photo session with the very elegant gentleman and composer.

For more info on the Łazienki park and our guiding tours click sections: Warsaw and Łazienki: Royal Baths of Warsaw. More about the concerts and monument in my post called #selfiewithchopin and national pride

Wilanow

Warsaw became a capital city of Poland at the turn of the 17th c. Subsequently, the kings and the most influential aristocrats turned the new capital into a city of palaces and gardens – all in the Baroque style! The Wilanow Palace and Garden, located in the distant southern part of the city, and not destroyed during the WWII, is a perfect place to see how it was like to be the mighty king of Poland and Lithuania.

The Wilanow Palace is considered to be one of the oldest museums in Poland. The Baroque royal apartments, private rooms decorated in the 18th century style and halls created in the 19th c. – all that is opened for every visitor. The museum itinerary includes also the so-called Polish Portrait Gallery with a collection of paintings from the 16th to the 19th centuries, such as the Portrait of Count Stanisław Potocki by Jacques-Louis David and the coffin portraits characteristic for the Old Polish culture.

Then, the palace is surrounded by a mix of formal Baroque garden, a romantic English-Chinese park, and an English landscape park. And a landscape specialist will be able to find some more influences. There are many music concerts being held both in the halls and in the gardens. And in winter, the museum is renowned for its gardens of light installations.

Our service
We provide guiding services – we can guide you in the Museum permanent exhibition and the gardens. Tickets to Wilanow for individual visitors must be bought at the Wilanow Museum ticket office (no possibility of on-line booking). Group visits must be booked via the Wilanow official website (no more than 25 pax in a group). On request, we can assist you with the booking.
A guided tour of the Wilanow Palace * takes approx.: 60 – 80 min.
A guided tour of the Gardens* takes min. 30-40 min.
* Please note that availability of exhibitions, the opening hours and the guiding restrictions are subject to the Wilanow Museum Regulations