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.

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

While in Warsaw – go to Edo!

Early spring weather in Warsaw may be tricky. There is an old Polish saying: w marcu jak w garncu – it means that the weather in March is like a cooking pot: expect everything from snow and freezing wind to nice sun. What to do in the worst snow storm scenario? Our recommendation for spring 2017: go to Edo.

“Podróż do Edo” (Journey to Edo) is the title of a new temporary exhibition in the National Museum in Warsaw. Until May 7th you can enjoy Japanese ukiyo-e prints from a private collection of Jerzy Lestkowicz. There are more than 300 works from the 18th and 19th centuries and they will take you on a unique journey from Kyoto to Edo.

My favourite room is a workshop area adjoining the exhibition where you can see a truly fascinating short documentary on the process of the Japanese colour print making. The artists skills and precision are simply amazing!

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