To the Heroes of the Ghetto

 

When you are at the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial just look around you. You will find many interesting memorials as the world famous memorial created by Nathan Rapaport and Leon Suzin is just one way we pay our respect to the heroes of the Ghetto. For example, every year, around 19th of April you are going to see a lot of daffodils in the area of the former ghetto. We decorate the city with the yellow flowers to show that we remember about the Jewish fighters from WWII.

Let’s begin with the name of the famous memorial. It is called To the Heroes of the Ghetto or the Rapaport Memorial – as Nathan Rapaport (or Rappaport) was the author of the sculptures. It was created in 1948 and since then has witnessed many important events: this is the very spot where Willy Brandt (Chancellor of Federeral Republic of Germany) knelt down in 1970 in a gesture of penance and humility. BTW, there is a memorial to that event and it is located at the other end of the square.

What’s interesting, there is another memorial built next to the famous one. In fact, the decision to build a monument to the Ghetto fighters was taken in 1944. As a consequence, the first small memorial, designed by Leon Suzin, was unveiled in April 1946. You can see it today, it is located a few meters from the Rapaport Memorial, but it is much less impressive. Look for a simple piece of red limestone in the shape of a circle, with a palm leaf, the Hebrew letter bet and an inscription written in Hebrew, Polish and Yiddish.

 

There are some interesting photos from the unveiling ceremonies at the core exhibition of the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The museum itself was opened in 2014 and since then has been considered one of the best of its kind. For example, in 2016 it was rewarded with European Museum Academy Award, but it’s best if you see it for yourself. The building was designed by Rainer Mahlamäki, an architect from Finland.

In spring, in the vicinity of the memorials, you can find flowers with a special meaning. For example the Irena Sendler red tulips named after a nurse and a social worker who saved 2500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. Then, there are a lot of yellow daffodils: some planted and some just laid in the memory of the Warsaw Ghetto fighters and their last commander – Marek Edelman. He used to leave a bunch of the spring flowers on the Rappaport Memorial every April, on the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1943 Ghetto Rising. This is why daffodils have become symbolic flowers for the Jewish fighters from WWII; just look at the temporary mural by Andrzej Wieteszka created in spring 2017 in the city centre.

In between flowers and stones and in front of the entrance to the Polin Museum, you can find medium-sized, dark blocks of stone. They are part of the Memorial Route of Jewish Martyrdom and Struggle in Warsaw 1940 – 1943. The stones, placed there in 1988, will lead you towards the Umschlagplatz Memorial. It’s not easy to read what was written on them, but if you focus, you will be able to discover names and events important for the history of Jews in Warsaw.

Our service:

We provide guiding services in the Polin Museum. Tickets for individual visitors can be bought both on line and in the Museum. Group visits must be booked via the Polin Museum official website (no more than 25 pax in a group). On request, we can assist you with the booking.

#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.

The highlights of Warsaw and a selfie with Frederic Chopin

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

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.

Spring in Warsaw: flowers and their secrets 

There are more than 67 city parks and gardens in Warsaw. However, they are not the only place to look for signs of spring. There are spring flowers and vegetables on the markets while the city gardeners are busy with new plants on the streets. And some of the flower beds have a special meaning!

Magnolias are the first ones: in the yard of the University of Warsaw or at the old entrance to the Wilanów Palace. You can find them blossoming in March and April. In May, all the horse-chestnut trees are in bloom! They are not edible, but fun in autumn when you can make a toy figurine out of their nut-like seeds and a few matches. In spring the trees are a nice view for adults and visitors, but an omen of uncertain future for high school students – the final exams are scheduled for the first weeks of May.

During a city walk, you can find Irena Sendler red tulips named after a nurse and a social worker, who saved 2500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. That variety was created by Jan Ligthart, a bulbgrower from Breezand in the Netherlands. He has been growing and creating new flower bulbs all his life since he was 13 years old. There are other Jan Ligthart tulips bearing Polish names, such as violet the Chopin’s Prelude, which can be found in the Royal Łazienki.

In April, you are going to see a lot of yellow daffodils. They are very popular spring flowers, but some of them are planted in memory of the Warsaw ghetto fighters and their commander – Marek Edelman. He used to leave a bunch of the spring flowers on the Rapaport Memorial to the Heroes of the Ghetto every April, on the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1943 Ghetto Rising.

Last but not least, there are some more flowers named after Frederic Chopin. There are at least two kinds of tulips: the violet one created by Jan Ligthart and the another lemon-yellow, lily-shaped variety called simply the Chopin tulip. What is more, there is a rose named after the pianist as well. The nicest flower bed with the Chopin roses is located at the back entrance to the composer’s birth place in Żelazowa Wola. The rose was created in 1980 by an important Polish breeder Stanisław Żyła and it is quite a tall bush. Actually, the mature Chopin rose is taller than the composer himself, as he was 170 cm while the flower can grow up to 2 meters. It starts blossoming in June.

Our service:

The city’s parks and gardens like the Royal Łazienki, squares with the Warsaw Ghetto monuments or Frederic Chopin and his Warsaw – these are some of our city walks itineraries where you can find spring flowers. Go to Warsaw section for more sightseeing ideas.

Łazienki: Royal Baths of Warsaw

Łazienki – the Royal Baths of Warsaw – Park Łazienkowski: all 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.

Beijing in Warsaw

There is a piece of Beijing in Warsaw. Perhaps, it is a bit controversial – some people simply adore it, but some just ask why we decided to have a Chinese garden in the middle of our capital city.

This is a Chinese garden designed following the Prince Kung’s Mansion in Beijing, and you can find it in the Łazienki park. It was created in Warsaw in 2014, but there was a Chinese Avenue in our park 200 years ago, at the times of king Stanisław August Poniatowski, who created the residence.

Every summer, the Chinese section of the park expands: the red lanterns and other lighting features are built along the main alley. It is a part of the Garden of Light festival that has been organised by different historic residences all over the world since 2012: the common denominator being the fact that all the gardens/members were created in the 18th or the 19th century.

To sum up, the Chinese Lantern Festival and the Chinese garden in Warsaw are an elaborate reference to the 18th century European fashion for all things Chinese or, at least, from Far East. The king who founded Łazienki was no different. He was educated and open minded enough to follow the European interests. And since 1764, when he was elected king, he had enough money to act on this cultural pursuit. There are old plans and views of his park with pagodas and water features in “Oriental style”. What is more, in 2012 the traces of the old Chinese Bridge were discovered during the excavations – actually, the old Chinese garden was located not very far from where you can see two new pagodas today.

For more of our park and city walks suggestions go to sections: Warsaw  and Łazienki: Royal Baths of Warsaw.

Country living in Mazovia

From a modest manor house in Żelazowa Wola to a proper Baroque palace in Nieborów; the historic estates and manor houses located in the vicinity of Warsaw give a unique yet nostalgic insight into traditional country living of Polish nobility.

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. You can walk between the yellow Frederic Chopin roses or cross a bridge called: Mazurka. The park is also full of music coming from speakers skilfully hidden in the greenery. Additionally, in summer, every Sunday there are open air concerts.

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.

 

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

Pałac na Wyspie – Palace on the Isle

Pałac na Wyspie (Palace on the Isle) is located in the centre of the Łazienki Park, the most magical park of Warsaw.  Many people visit the Royal Baths complex just for its green spaces. As a result, the garden paths can be really noisy and crowded, while the villa remains quiet and peaceful. And this is the royal villa on one early spring morning in 2016.

The Palace on the Isle is the largest of the villas created by the king in his favourite residence –  it was big enough for receptions and balls. You can see large festive halls on the ground floor and, on the first floor, you will find the private rooms, like bedroom or study.

The private rooms are royally elegant and luxurious but, on the other hand, very intimate and homely. The museum is especially proud about the result of the king’s bedchamber restoration. The works were recently (2016) and it was possible to find the proper shade of the damascus silk, so the room looks like it used to almost 250 years ago. Or, at least, it is very similar: the Polish restorers have reached for inspirations to France and the Maria Antoinette’s bedchambers, as they could not find enough of the local archive info.

However, the elegance is not the only reason I like the first floor of the villa. I simply adore the views from the king’s study and dressing room. A few years ago, I happened to meet Konrad Pustoła – a photographer and an author of a series called “Views of power”. Seeing his work would tell you something about my country and its people in power positions, even today. Some of the views were really depressive, closed and with tight fences. It was not the case of Łazienki and Stanisław August Poniatowski: his views were on the beautifully shaped lake and carefully chosen greenery. One could say that it was an artificial paradise and it had nothing to do with reality. Well, Poniatowski was the last king of Poland and Lithuania and his reign ended rather catastrophically as the country lost its independence for 123 years.

To sum up, the villa and the gardens were created with the same principle in mind – to offer delight and elegant amusement for the owners and their guests. If you are lucky, you can enjoy the royal comforts and decadence all for yourself and, perhaps, admire the view of power completely undisrupted – as it happened to me that morning in early spring 2016.

Our service:

The guided sightseeing of the Łazienki complex 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, are free but there is an entrance fee to villas. The ticket price depends on the number of villas you decide to visit.

Warszawa in winter

Wisła, the longest and the largest river in Poland. In summer, there are cruises and sandy beaches full of people enjoying the season. In winter, you can walk along the river banks or admire the frosty panorama from the Old Town hill. Snow turns Warsaw into a real photographers’ paradise. You can find equally interesting winter locations in one of the city’s parks, like the Chinese garden in the Łazienki Park .

To find more about our city walks go to the sections: our programmes and Warsaw.