Feb 28

Slowinski National Park (Parcul National Slowinski)

Slowinski National Park is located in the northern part of Poland and it is one of the touristic attractions that this country has to offer. The park situates itself between Leba and Rowy and the reason for which the park occupies such an important position among the Polish must-see sights is that it offers a unique combination of lanscapes which is not available extensively in other national parks. And I refer here to the moving sand dunes which are actually located in close vicinity of the Baltic Sea.

Slowinski National Park

This interesting picturesque scenery is what draws people to this specific location. The park came into being in the second half of the 20th century, more precisely in 1967, even if the idea to transform Slowinski into a protected area had emerged more than twenty years earlier (in 1946).

At present, the national park stretches over 186 square kilometers, the majority of which (more than 100 square kilometers) consists of waters, whereas the remaining area is made up of forests. The way in which the area has evolved in the course of time is easily explained if we are to take a look at the geographical changes which had occurred. Initially, what now we call the Slowinski National Park was in fact the bay formed at the Baltic Sea. But due to the constant movement of the sea, the bay was pushed inland further and further, and sand dunes were created in between.

Slowinsky Park – Sand Dunes

This process has evolved steadily, the sand taking possession of more land on a yearly basis due to the activity of the winds and waves. In fact, it is precisely due to this natural phenomenon that the area has become renowned. The so-called “moving dunes” are seen as some sort of natural oddity as this occurrence is not something which one can see every so often. The speed with which the sand is carried varies between 3 and 10 meters on an annual basis and the constant wind leads to these dunes growing higher and higher. At present, the maximum height is of 30 meters.

In order to get a general image of the park and especially of the picture offered by the sand dunes, it is advisable to find a high peak, preferably Rowokol (which is the highest) and use it in order to admire the national park in all its glory. What is worth mentioning here is that the constant shift of the sand uncovers the remnants of the past forests that used to spread on the bay. Thus, every now and then, one can see petrified tree trunks emerging from underneath the sand.

Moving Sand Dunes

Even if the sand dunes represent the point of interest in Slowinski National Park, you ought to pay attention to the other natural elements present here. For example, the park is abundant in lakes and rivers. Two of the lakes, Lebsko and Gardno, are known for the families of aquatic birds that seek shelter on their waters. The number of bird species which are located here reaches 257, which clearly pinpoints the fact that the national park is a natural biosphere which deserves to be protected and thus preserve its fauna and flora diversity.

Visiting the area does not resemble ‘going into the wild’ as there are specially arranged tracks for tourists which take those who venture on such a trip through the park to the most important locations in Slowinski. The trails stretch over 140 kilometers and even more so, they are ‘equipped’ with benches so that tourists can catch their breath when necessary.

Oct 03

Artus Court (Curtea lui Arthur)

Artus Court, also known as Dwór Artusa, is the construction located in the center part of Gdansk, in Poland. In the past, this was the place where merchants used to gather, but it was also the epicenter of the social life of that specific region.

While the scope of the edifice had changed, in the sense that it is no longer the center of Gdansk’s commerce, it is still heavily populated as visitors from around Poland and even from beyond the territorial delimitations of the country come and visit it.

The tourist attraction under discussion in this article draws its name from the medieval legend of King Arthur. This specific folklore is the symbol of nobility and chivalry and it is of no surprise that the buildings designated as the meeting place for the bourgeoisie incorporated this term in their name.  Such courts existed throughout Poland, but the one in Gdansk was by far the most important one due to the fame surrounding it.

http://media.photobucket.com

The court was already formed in the first decades of the 14th century and it was home to 6 societies. This type of organization was developed in accordance to the merchant’s trade relations and only the finest members of society could be affiliated – people pertaining to the aristocracy and to the bourgeoisie. The Court was intent in maintaining its elect membership and this meant that other categories of people were banned from the court – such as craftsmen or hired workers. This “community” had its own rules. For example, no talks about the deals one made were allowed inside Dwór Artusa, such matters were to be dealt with in the courtyard situated at the entrance. The evenings were usually moments of relaxation and entertainment as different types of performances were organized here.

http://www.medieval-baltic.us

But the strict rules which were initially imposed on the members began to shift in time. For instance, if at the beginning gambling and card games were forbidden inside the organization, this soon began to change. Also, the lavish feasts which were occasionally organized at the Court and which were a symbol of wealth began to take a different form – that of a tavern in which drunkenness was the main theme. As it is obvious from the changes which instilled themselves at the Court, things started to degenerate slowly but surely. Naturally, many complaints were brought before the Court due to the way in which things evolved.

The construction was also used for social and cultural events. In the 17th century, many writers and painters presented their works here.

http://www.tripadvisor.com

The first building of Arthur’s Court dates from the 14th century. There is still some unknown information in relation to this edifice. Another edifice was erected probably in the later decades of the 14th century, but this was burnt down at the end of the 15th century. Several archeological diggings were conducted to the location in the later decade of the 20th century and these revealed traces of this second edifice.

The devastated edifice was refurbished a couple of years after the fire occured and at the middle of the 16th century this building was given a new appearance. The façade was once more renovated in 1617 in the Dutch Mannerism stylistic design. Among the decorative elements which adorned the edifice, one could notice sculptures representing heroic figures from Antiquity, and different metaphorical representations of power and righteousness.

http://members.virtualtourist.com

At the interior, Artus Court resembles an immense hall constructed in the Gothic style. The walls are covered with frescoes in which both mythical and historical characters can be noticed. The hall abounds in lavishness due to the extensive range of paintings and the highly decorated pieces of furniture. Some of the pieces of art which have gain recognition are actually those created by unidentified artists and which date from the 15th century. Other items used in the decorative process of the hall were tapestries, armors, emblems of royal families and even a cage which contained species of exotic birds.

http://en.wikipedia.org

Tourists who visit the Court are also impressed by the heavily decorated furnace which had been created between 1545 and 1546 by Georg Stezner. This furnace measures 11 meters, but the most striking thing about it is that its 520 tiles (in which it is coated) illustrate the great European leaders.

At present, visitors can admire the memorial board which had been placed on the front wall of the Court in 1965 in order to commemorate the moment when the Polish soldiers have placed their flag on the Artus Court – an event that occurred 20 years earlier.

Tourists are permitted to enter inside the Court and admire first-handedly the edifice. In fact, the court is actually one of the sections of the History Museum of Gdansk.

Sep 18

St. Mary’s Church (Biserica Sf. Maria)

St. Mary’s Church is the Roman Catholic Church situated in the Gdansk region of Poland. The noteworthy information writers might be interested in learning is that the church is the largest religious institution in the entire world which is made out of brick. The construction work began in the later decades of the 14th century and as the project advanced, the impressive Gothic edifice began to take form.   

The colossal construction measures 105.5 m in length, being able to fit within its walls as much as 25.000 people. But in order to reach this stature, the edifice underwent a progressive development.

http://www.shopandsee.eu

Initially, the site housed a different construction which had been erected by Swietopelk II, the Duke of Pomerelia Gdansk. This earlier church was constructed in 1243 and consisted of a wooden structure. Only after a century had gone by, did the foundation stone for the new church was set. This construction work was completed in 1360 and its result was a basilica that featured a small steeple. Parts of this basilica are still preserved to our days, but these refer solely to the lower levels of the construction upon which additional layers were built.

The church that presents itself today before us has been erected between 1379 and 1496. Heinrich Ungeradin, an expert in masonry, was the person appointed to supervise the project, thus the result was bound to be impressive. The construction lingered on and by 1447 only the eastern segment of the edifice was erected.  Ungeradin did not manage to see the church completed, his successor Hans Brandt taking things from where Ungeradin had left off.

http://www.comevisitpoland.com

The history of Poland is quite troubled so it is no wonder that the church had witnessed several experiences which greatly impacted the institution. For instance the three partitions of Poland had affected the church in as much as the Prussian authorities deprived the cathedral of much of its treasures. Valuable objects such as sacred vessels, pieces of clothing, fabrics and garments made out of materials from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt were lost. The objects made out of precious metals were melted down in order to forge other items of value. Even the golden embroidery that adorned the vestments was carefully removed so as to decorate the uniforms of Prussian officers.

Even with these alterations, the church, as a building, was left unspoiled. The interior and the exterior had managed to preserve their appearance throughout the centuries, up until the Second World War. This time of warfare left a deep scare on the walls of the church, especially after the Danzing city had been the target of an air raid (in 1945). The ceiling came tumbling down almost in its entirety after having burnt. The devastation was impressive: the windows were smashed into millions of fragments and in several places the bricks melted because of the high temperature which was registered within the walls of the edifice.

http://pictures.polandforall.com

But even under these dire conditions, the artwork encountered at the interior of the church had managed to maintain its original look – not because the pieces of art had survived the attack while contained within the walls of the church but because these had been removed from the premises long before the air raid was initiated and had been taken into safekeeping. After the restoration process was completed, many of these items had found their way “back home,” thus tourists have the opportunity to gaze on the original oeuvre encountered at St. Mary’s Church – or at least part of it because a number of items was transferred to several museums across the country.

The refurbishing process was begun immediately after the war, in 1946. By the end of summer, the following year, the ceiling had been reconstructed and was secured by a layer of concrete in order to prevent subsequent incidents from causing too much damage to the roof.

http://www.panoramio.com

The interior decoration consists of various works of art which are representative for the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque painting. The exterior of the church bears the mark of the Gothic architectural design, the narrow windows being an accurate illustration of this style. There are no decorative items found on the exterior, the façades consisting solely of plain bricks. The elements that contribute to the majestic appearance, besides the actual stature of the edifice, are the towers which are located on each corner of the building and are topped by means of metallic headpieces, to which are added the gables and the pinnacles which pierce the roof every now and then.

The belfry shelters two bells: Gratia Dei, the larger one, which reaches an F sharp note, and Ave Maria, the smaller one which sounds in C sharp.

Sep 07

Wawel Castle (Castelul Wawel)

When it comes to imperial houses, Europe has quite a variety of impressive castles, the only thing that make some more renowned than others are the striking appearance and craftsmanship with which they have been constructed.

The Polish town of Krakow prides itself with a beautiful Gothic Castle which was erected by the order of Casimir III. Wawel Castle is actually an ensemble of edifices which encompass within their walls a courtyard. During the reign of Casimir the Great, the castle truly blossomed, being transformed into the perfect lodging for the royal family. However, the citadel was destroyed almost in its entirety at the turn of the 15th century when it was ravaged by flames.

http://traveler.nationalgeographic.com

But it can be argued that something good came out of this event in the sense that it was then that the architectural style characteristic for Renaissance was brought to Krakow. With the initiation of the rehabilitation process, Krakow experienced an architectural turnaround, the new wave of decorative design having been incorporated in all of the new constructions to come, not only in Krakow, but throughout Poland.

The historical past of the construction is tumultuous, as Wawel has experience both periods of greatness and of complete decadence. From the epicenter of the most powerful country on the European continent, Wawel Castle was transformed into nothing more than a dirty garrison under the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

At present, tourists are bound to find the Wawel Castle at its very best, as the edifice had undergone renovation for quite some time. The sections which are more likely to catch the interest of visitors are the State Rooms, the Treasury and the Armory.

http://forum4editors.com

 

The State Rooms are striking in their appearance, even more so if we are to take into consideration that these have been used for military purposes for close to a century. The restoration work was initiated at the beginning of the 20th century, but when WWII broke, the refurbishing process came to an end abruptly. But none of these historical hindrances is noticeable within the walls of the castle. These rooms are now decorated with beautiful tapestries and ancient collectables, at which are added antique furnishings. Wawel Castle has preserved an authentic feel to it in the sense that visitors actually feel that they are going back to that historical past, and they have the opportunity to walk alongside royalty. The only thing that lacks from this scenario are the actual noblemen; otherwise, everything is preserved to its minute detail.

http://www.britannica.com

The treasury and the armory are definitely worth exploring due to the precious objects encountered here. Tourists can gaze on the weapons of ancient times: swords, maces, and all sorts of weapons used in the past, some of them being beautifully adorned with precious stones. The designs are so unique that it becomes obvious that only a true artist could have created such one-of-a-kind pieces of weaponry.

The treasury located inside Wawel Castle consists of several ceremonial objects, the majority dating from antiquity. While you might expect to find the crown jewels here, with the castle having been the dwelling of the royal family, you will be disappointed to find out that these are not part of the treasury. In fact, these jewels have been melted near the end of the 18th century, when Poland underwent its final dismemberment. But there is something that has survived from the crown jewelry and that is the Szczerbiec Sword which was first used in the coronation ceremony in the 13th century and which has been used as such from then onward.

http://www.inyourpocket.com

As it has been previously mentioned, the Wawel Castle traversed different stages having shifted its purpose in time. A museum has been organized here so as to maintain the history of Wawel alive.  Several archeological diggings took place so as to uncover de hidden pieces of the puzzle, which were to retrace the past and give insight into the construction of the castle and of the way in which it was transformed throughout the years.

Aug 24

Tatra National Park (Parcul National Tatra)

Tatra National Park is situated at the southern border of Poland and consists of the natural reservation which has been declared a protected monument back in 1954. Initially, the national park consisted of 215.56 square kilometers, only to have shrunk in time with almost 4.000 km2. While the entire area is protected under the law, only close to half of it consists of secured zones due to the fact that it shelters various species of animal and plant life which are on the verge of extinction.

There have been several attempts to include Tatra Mountains into some sort of program in order to ensure that the natural area is protected from any human interventions that might be detrimental to the environment. Awareness was first drawn close to the end of the 19th century and after various organizations were created with the purpose of protecting the area, the Tatra National Park finally came into being in ’54.

http://pictures.polandforall.com

It is common knowledge that the Tatras traverse both the Polish and the Slovakian territories and each state had created its own natural park. But in 1992, the two parks were unified into a biosphere reserve that transcended the territorial boundaries (the borders) and formed a single protected natural reservation under the Man and the Biosphere Program developed by UNESCO.

The Tatra Mountains located in Poland are part of the Carpathians and are divided into 2 mountainous ranges: the High and the Western Tatras.

http://toptravellists.net

As a general rule, the alpine environment has impressive landscapes to offer, not to mention that its specific characteristics make various mountainous regions worth exploring. For instance, this specific park consists of numerous peaks which seem to pierce the sky, as well as various natural depressions with specific rock formations, thus creating this beautiful effect of elevation versus concavity. The Polish Tatras contain within their rocky slopes 650 caves. These are divided based on their location, type, as well as formation. The most renowned cave from Poland is called Wielka Sniezna and it differentiate itself from the rest due to the fact that it is the lengthiest one (18 km) and the one that reaches the highest depth (814 m).

 

http://www.flickr.com

From a geological perspective, the Tatra National Park is endowed with quite a number of rivers and lakes. These contribute extensively to the general imagery offered by the park which conveys the impression that one has entered into an oasis. Thus, tourists are bound to be mesmerized by the crystal clear water of these ponds and streams which traverse the region. While some of these are average in size, you will also find yourself being taken aback by the impressive length of several rivers which can exceed 20 km. In the majority of the cases, tourists feel more attracted to the cascades probably because these have a way of “manifesting” themselves – the sound the water makes when falling freely into the torrent which takes it further down the stream or the visual imagery of the agitated water splashing everything that gets too close to it.

http://www.flickr.com

When it comes to taking a vacation, one should never lose sight of the peace and relaxation a trip “into the wild” can confer. It is one thing to evade into a secluded resort, up the coast, far from any trace of humanity, but taking a trip into the Tatra Mountains and exploring the land, with all its natural wonders, will bring you closer to the much needed escape you have been aiming to attain.

The national park consists of a mixture of forests and meadows, each characterized by a differentiating trait. Some of the endangered animals which have found their retreat and, consequently, their salvation within the park are the marmot, the falcon, lynx, wolf, eagle, the brown bear, etc.

http://www.tripadvisor.com

Taking into account the surface it occupies from the territory of Poland (0.07%), we might be inclined to believe that the ample impact that this park has in regards to tourism is minimal. But we couldn’t be more wrong to believe so. In fact, Tatra National Park is the most visited park of its kind on the entire Polish territory and draws as much as 3 million visitors on a yearly basis.

Aug 03

The Birthplace of Frederic Chopin (Casa natala a lui Chopin)

The birthplace of Frederic Chopin is a little manor house, known as a “dworek,” surrounded by a large natural park located right on the banks of the Utrata River. The house is situated in Zelazowa Wola, in Poland, and it has been transformed into a museum dedicated to the life and work of the great composer. This is actually a section of the Fryderyk Chopin Museum located in Warsaw.

There is this erroneous belief that Chopin was a Frenchman, but actually he was born of a French father and a Polish mother and his birthplace is located in Poland. Chopin, just like Mozart was a self-taught person who sought greatness (he had his first concert at the fragile age of eight), so it is no wonder that people dubbed him “the second Mozart.”

http://dli.ro

 

There is really no comparison between the two artists as each had made an enormous contribution to the development of what we now call classic music. For example, Chopin’s music seems to transpose the listeners into a different period, taking them through the Parisian salons, whereas Mozart created a much more surreal realm through his music, one which accentuates the dramatic side of the universe.

The house in which this genius of classic music was born was actually a manor which belonged to Conte Scarbek, the person who had hired Chopin’s father as a teacher for his children. The manor was one of the most beautiful ones in the region, and the 17-acre park surrounding it contributed to the natural beauty of the location.

http://www.observatorcultural.ro

 

Tourists who are actually interested in visiting the place where Chopin spent his childhood and the environment in which the artist evolved, will be pleased to learn that not much has changed. Unfortunately, the passage of time had left its mark on the house, especially since it had been left to chance. The later years of the 19th century found the house abandoned and the only thing that saved it was the growing interest of the public into retracing the origins of Chopin. Thus the manor was restored and transformed into a museum. The floorboards and the painted beams date from the the period in which Chopin dwelt there, as well as the furniture. The rooms have tall ceilings and are quite spacious.

http://dli.ro

 

It is true that Chopin did not spend all his life in this place. In his twenties, when the Polish Revolution broke, he decided to immigrate to Paris, where he remained for the rest of his life.

Today, the manor-turned-museum hosts various recitals. If you happen to visit the place when such an event takes place, you will have no problem in recognizing Chopin’s music. The concerts are tributes to the great mind that had left his mark on the classical music.

Jul 24

Wieliczka Salt Mine (Mina de Sare Wieliczka)

The Wieliczka Salt Mine is situated in the southern part of Poland, in the town of Wieliczka – this explains the name given to the mine.

This specific salt mine bears a historical significance due to the fact that it is the single mine in the world to have been working continuously ever since the medieval times. The structure of the mine is definitely impressive in the sense that it is layered on 9 levels, covering a surface of nearly 300 km and a depth of 327 m. The space is accurately organized so as to reveal the entire mining procedure, with all the developing stages, as these have evolved throughout time.

http://forum.xcitefun.net

These characteristics of the site have led the Wieliczka Salt Mine to be included on the first list of Cultural and Natural Heritage developed by UNESCO, on the 8th of September 1978.

It is common knowledge that salt was the engine to stir the economy of the state. In fact, during the period of the Kingdom of Poland, salt was a medium of payment, legally recognized by the state. This goes to show the importance attached to this mineral.

As the time went by and as new technological developments emerged, the site began to be exploited extensively. Unfortunately, this also led to the instability of the salt mine, especially since the workers did not take the necessary precautions to ensure the firmness of the salt walls. The result was that the exploitation work was concluded in 1996.

http://www.kuriositas.com

But the Wieliczka Salt Mine was arranged so as to meet various purposes: touristic, cultural and well-being.

What attracts tourists to this site are the numerous statuettes, as well as the chapel, which have been carved in the salt rocks. The original statues were actually crafted by miners, but they were later on improved by the hands of capable artists which have transformed them into beautiful sculpture. It is no wonder that more than one million visitors come to Wieliczka Salt Mine on a yearly basis.

At present this is the most visited site in the country due to the artistic representations encountered within the underground chambers. The place is definitely exploited to the fullest, for touristic purposes this time. There are numerous events held here, such classical music concerts. The salt rocks chambers have great acoustics so you can only imagine the sound quality of the orchestras performing in the mine.

http://www.hotelraider.com

There are temporary exhibitions held at Wieliczka Salt Mine and the items on display are the works of art of renowned artists such as Richard Horowitz and Jerzy Skolimowski. This goes to prove just how appreciated this site is if artists from different corners of the world come to Poland in order to present their work in this unique “gallery.”

Tourists might also be attracted by the matchless experiences that the mine has to offer, such as the opportunity to do bungee jumping in the salt chambers. Performing the extreme sport is in itself an act of courage because you are supposed to plunge into the abyss. While you will normally plummet from a bridge, dam or tall building, even a crane, the underground bungee jumping is definitely a new experience, one that you are bound to remember for the rest of your life.

http://www.esvomeeting2012.org

There was also the possibility to surf on an underground lake. The European champion Mateusz Kusznierewicz got to undertake this mission when he visited the salt mine. The event was televised and it featured various celebrities. But none other except Kusznierewicz managed to ride the wave which was artificially created with the help of a huge blower.

As you can see, the mine performs several roles: that of a museum and a recreational facility. In order to gain access into the mine you will have to purchase a ticket. The price varies, depending if you visit the mine on your own or as part of a group.

Visiting hours:

April, 1st – October, 31st: 7.30 a.m. – 7.30 p.m.

 November, 2nd – March, 31st : 8.00 a.m.- 5.00 p.m.

Jul 13

The Gallery of the Polish Painting (Galeria Pictorilor Polonezi)

The Gallery of the Polish Painting is dedicated to the Polish Art of the 19th and 20th century (from 1800 up until the 1945). The paintings date from the pre-war period and have been gathered between 1927 and 1939.

These were initially located at the Silesian Museum and the collections have been created due to the efforts of Tadeusz Dobrowolski, the person in charge of the museum at that time, who had visited a multitude of antique shops and national fairs throughout Poland in order to find those valuable pieces of work. But paintings were also purchased from international galleries, such as from Paris or Vienna.

http://www.theodora.com

 

Initially, the collection of paintings did not have a designated place of their own, so they were put to safekeeping inside the Provincial Council where they awaited to be transferred to a specially arranged edifice. The plan was to have everything prepared in this regard up until 1940, but unfortunately history had a different view.

World War II came swiftly, and the new building, which was a landmark of Polish culture, and of modernity, as well, was brought down to the ground. The collections were then transferred to another museum located in Bytom. There were 280 pieces of art, but the dire circumstances contributed to the loss of an impressive number of 100 items.

http://www.turistik.ro

 

The museum in Bytom was functioning under the Silesian Museum so the collections were very well preserved. After the war, the collections remained in Bytom, but the museum changed its name to Upper-Silesian Museum, thus keeping the “memory” of the initial museum alive. However, in Katowice, the construction work was under way so that the Silesian museum was inaugurated in 1984. So the collection would return to its “hometown” once more.

Afterwards, the museum was dedicated to increasing the collections as much as possible so as to encompass valuable works of arts of renowned painters.

The result was that the Gallery of Paintings comprised works of art which mirrored the most significant developments which occurred in the Polish art. Thus visitors can admire paintings representative for various periods: Classicism, Realism, Romanticism, Symbolism, Impressionism, as well as the artistic responses to the secession and inter-war period.

http://en.wikipedia.org

 

Once entering the gallery, it is obvious that portraits form the majority of the paintings on display. The artists were particularly interested in portraying historical characters, artists, important public figures, children and in painting self-portraits.

But the gallery is not dedicated solely to portraits. The other works of art are categorized according to the theme they present: depictions of nature, allegorical interpretations, paintings with inanimate subject matters, as well as representations of interior decorations.

The entire collection should be perceived as a whole, a symbol of the Polish Art, which emphasizes the way in which the artistic mind has evolved in the course of a century.

http://en.wikipedia.org

 

Up next, we are going to mention some names, as well as their works, in order to have a clearer perspective about the items that can be found at the gallery: portraits by Henryk Rakowski i Jan Matejko, ‘Summer’ by Aleksander Kotsis, The Blue Boy’ and ‘Horsewoman’ by Peter Michałowski, the famous ‘Jewess with Lemons’ by Aleksander Gierymski, Jacek Malczewski (a Symbolist painter), landscapes by Jan Stanisławski, etc.

Even if WWII has caused serious damages to the museum, but more importantly it had made the collections lose valuable additions, the Gallery of Polish Painting is still one of the most impressive ones in the country. Just to comprehend the immense value the paintings of this gallery carry, you should know that many of these are reproduced in textbooks and catalogues, not only those published at a national level, but also in the publications from across the Polish borders.

Jun 21

The Palace of Culture and Science (Palatul de Cultura si Stiinta)

The Palace of Culture and Science is located in the center of Poland’s capital city, Warsaw, in Plac Defilad Square (Parade Square). The construction was erected after the Second World War, at Stalin’s request.

He intended the building to be a present to the Polish people, but the gift was in no way received with arms wide opened as it was but an emphasis on the fact that Poland was at that time under Soviet ruling. The initial name of the edifice was Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science, but the name survived only while the Soviets were in power. When the USSR fell, Stalin’s name was crossed out. Thus the edifice bore the simple name of Palace of Culture and Science.

http://www.theodora.com

 

The skyscraper is the tallest one in Warsaw and it positions itself on the 8th place among the highest buildings on the European continent.

There is a lot of controversy revolving around the palace. On the one hand, it is a constant reminder of the grim past, when Warsaw was under Stallinist rule, but on the other, it is an imposing edifice, whose architecture is impresive to the core. Not to mention that the palace was on the verge of being demolished when the Berlin Wall fell.

http://www.panoramio.com

 

The 42-storey building which measures more than 234 m has many ‘usages’. There are two halls, one for exhibitions and one for conferences – the latter being big enough to hold 3.000 individuals -, an entertainment and culture section which comprises a theatre, a cinema, a museum and a bookstore, office quarters, as well as a media centre from where are broadcasted television and radio programs.

http://archive.constantcontact.com

 

The idea for the building sparked when the USSR and Poland signed an agreement in April, 1952. But it became an official plan 3 months later, when the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs at that time confirmed that the construction will not take long to begin. But as determined as everyone was to initiate the construction work, one aspect was still not decided upon: the purpose for which the edifice was erected.

The Soviets had in mind to create a replica of the Moscow State University, but the Polish population was not so fond of the idea, and they wanted instead a center of science and culture. In the initial project, the plan for the building  was at a much smaller scale, of only 100 m in height, but the architects raised this number at 230 m. About 7.000 people were involved in the construction work of the Palace of Culture and Science, both of Russian and Polish origin.

http://goeasteurope.about.com

 

The edifice is adorned with an impressive number of sculptural works of art (exceeding 550) – the majority of which were crafted in Estonia expressly for this palace. But for a considerable period of time visitors were not allowed to enter the Palace. Only those that had a special type of pass could step inside the edifice.

The exact reason for which this occurred was not made public and the result was that a number of rumours emerged concerning the feeble structure of the palace. There were other rumours as well which came to life, such as the idea that the palace had 5 basements. The reality is that there are only two underground rooms, but there is one noteworthy characteristic that these hold – each of them measures 5 m in height.

http://www.dmcpoland.com

 

For travelers, it should be mentioned that the Palace of Culture and Science has a “smaller counterpart” in Latvia’s capital city, Riga. The Academy of Science located in Latvia resembles the Polish Palace in the architectural designed conveyed. More so, it has the same origin, as the Academy of Science was also a gift from the Soviet Union, this time to the industrial laborers and farmers of Latvia.

May 29

Lazienki Palace (Palatul Lazienki)

The Lazienki Palace is also known as the Water Palace due to the site in which it is built – the Royal Baths Park, in Warsaw. The neoclassical palace has been constructed between 1683 and 1689 on an artificial island which was created on Lazienki Lake, dividing the lake into a smaller pond to the north and a larger one to the south. The palace is not stranded on the island, but it is connected to the land beyond the lake via two bridges which have ionic colonnades.

Construction

The initial plan was to construct a bathhouse on that site. The beneficiary of the building was Stanislaw Herakliusz Lubormirski, the landlord of the neighboring palace – the Ujazdow Castle. The estate was enhanced after 1678 by means of garden pavilions (four in number). The architect behind the marble building was Tylman Gamersky who had the task of creating the aforementioned bathhouse, to which he had to add a pavilion fit for living and a garden grotto.

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The same architect would then embellish the interior of the edifice with wonderful stucco works. Due to the purpose for which it was intended as well as the surroundings in which it was found, the decorative elements of the edifice also included water divinities, and these were mainly located in the center of the building, surrounding the fountain. Other ornamental elements used were reliefs, Latin inscriptions and sculptures, both on the interior and on the façades of the edifice.

Another member of the Stanislaw noble family, this time August Poniatowski, decided to turn the bathhouse into a dwelling and thus the remodeling work began in 1764, under the supervision of Domenico Merlini. The project was completed in 1795, but the edifice suffered damages during WWII, as many other edifices did in that time. The German troops pierced the walls of the edifice so as to place explosives and thus turn the building into ashes. But they never got around to doing this. Soon afterwards, the edifice was used as a garrison.

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Architectural design

The façades of the palace form a unity by means of an entablature which is sustained by immense Corinthian pillars that connect the two floors and are ‘embraced’ by a banister which is decorated with statuettes representing mythological beings.

On the ground floor, one can admire Bacchus’ Room which is beautifully adorned with Dutch alabaster from the 17th century and a painting from Jacob Jordaens workshop (a Flemish Baroque painter) which illustrates ‘Silenus and Bacchantes.’ The same room used to contain a painting on the ceiling (the 1778 ‘Bacchus, Ceres, Venus and Cupid’), but the Germans destroyed it during WWII (1944).

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The Round Room (Rotunda) occupies the central part of the palace. The interior is dressed in white and yellow marble and adorned with the representations of the Polish kings. It is no wonder that this is one of the most relevant rooms in the palace, representative of the neoclassical decorative art.
Opposite of the Round Room is the small Art Gallery in which one can find minor works signed by the masters Rubens and Rembrandt. Other rooms located at the ground floor are the chapel and dining room which used to hold the famous ‘Thursday Dinners’ that brought together free masons and other important figures of the Polish Enlightenment. The furniture and the paintings found in this room follow the classical design.

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Solomon’s Room, one of the largest ones at this floor, was embellished with a series of painting which retraced the history of Solomon – this explains the name of the chamber. The artist behind the paintings was Marcello Bacciarelli who had created the works of art between 1791 and 1793 for King Stanisław Augustus. However, all of the 6 paintings from this series were destroyed by the Germans back in 1944.

The first floor holds the royal apartments, an art gallery, a balcony, the king’s cabinet, royal chambers, a vestibule and an office.

The palace is impressive in itself but the picturesque location in which it is situated makes Lazienki Palace more alluring to the tourists who want to catch a glimpse of history in their travelling but who also want to wonder in a peaceful and natural surrounding and admire the clear water of the lake and the beautiful garden of flowers.