Oct 02

Hellbrunn Castle (Castelul Hellbrunn)

The Hellbrunn Castle is actually a villa of colossal dimensions which had been erected in the first decades of the 17th century (1613-1619) by the order of Markus Sittikus von Hohenems, the one who held the position of Prince-Archbishop in Salzburg at that time. The construction was not created with the purpose of accommodating the Archbishop, and for that reason, there are no bedrooms in the castle.

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The Archbishop was a man with a fondness for comedy and for that reason it had come with an innovative idea to create several mechanisms through which to amuse himself and his fellow guests. The castle is renowned for its water-games. There are several machines which sprinkle water when activated and the target of their ‘attack’ was usually one of the guests of the Archbishop. But even today, these water systems are functional and tourists can get to experience on themselves how the water games work. In mid-18th century, other inventive ideas were put into practice.

For instance, a mechanical, water-operated and music-playing theater was established, as well as an apparatus through which the imminent shift in power is emphasized. This consists of a crown which is situated under a water sprinkle and which moves up and down according to the movement of the water. This is a clear illustration of the rise and fall of those who rule over specific regions.

There is something worth noting and that is that the Archbishop was never subject to a practical joke because the place designated to him was not part of the water-games web so he never got wet, unlike the rest of the guests. At present, the place that was once occupied by the Prince is attributed to the tour guide.

The surrounding area of the Hellbrunn is actually an immense park which is adjacent to a zoo, a theater built out of stone and a small edifice which goes by the name of ‘little month palace.’ The name conveyed to the building is tightly connected to the history of its construction. Apparently one of the Archbishop’s guests had suggested that the view one sees out the windows of the castle would greatly improve if the landscape offered to the viewer consisted of a building on a hill. Markus Sittikus had taken this piece of advice seriously and had given order for a small building to be erected on the neighboring hill. One month later, when the same person came for another visit at the Hellbrunn Castle, the Archbishop presented him with the improved view from the window.

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The construction had survived throughout time and at present is a part of the Carolina Augusteum Museum of Salzburg. The items on display are representative for the cultural past of Salzburg, thus the ‘small building on a hill’ is the subdivision of the museum dedicated to ethnography.

The main building of the castle is rectangular in shape and comprises two pavilions in the front part. The edifice is made out of three storeys which are delineated at the exterior by means of specific decorative works. The first floor of the edifice comprised the rooms of the archbishop and the entire section bears the mark of the Italian painter Arsenio Mascagni. He had adorned the walls of the chambers at the beginning of the 17th century (1615), when he had painted both the walls and the ceiling with various scenes, some depicted from the famous series of autobiographies entitled the ‘Twelve Caesars’.

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Hellbrunn is situated outside Salzburg, but the two points are connected by means of a long alley. Upon arriving at the palace, tourists will first enter in the ‘courtyard of honor’, the Ehrenhof, a courtyard that broadens as one gets closer and closer to the castle. Behind the Hellbrunn Palace lies a 17th century garden which comprises beautiful flower arrangements and a pond that reigns in the center of the garden and in which a small quadrilateral isle is located.

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The initial design was conveyed according to the Baroque style, but this was later changed in accordance to the trends that were in fashion in particular timeframes. There are only two markers of the original plan (from 1730) and these are the two obelisks that are located in the western part of the gardens.
Due to the gardens and the mechanisms which are incorporated within the setting, especially the water games, the Hellbrunn Castle can be regarded as some sort of Disneyland, whose sole purpose was to entertain the Archbishop and his guests.

May 15

Royal Palace in Warsaw (Palatul Regal, Varsovia)

The Royal Palace has been designed by the architects Giovanni Trevano, Giacomo Rodondo and Matteo Castelli, and the construction work lasted from 1598 until 1619.

The castle has a pentagonal shape, consists of two floors and is representative for the early Baroque architectural style. But in time, the original castle underwent a series of modifications, work meant to enlarge the edifice. Thus, in a first renovation project, the Grand Court, the Little Court and the Grodzka Tower had been added.

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Throughout time there were two wings added. During the reign of Augustus III Wettin, a wing was constructed on the Vistula shore. The wing was named after its founder, “The Wettin Wing,” and was decorated with beautiful works of art by the sculptor Jan Jerzy Plerch.

Other modifications were conducted in the time of Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski (the last monarch of the first Republic of Poland): the Royal Library, which was constructed after the sketches of Domenico Merlini, and the Cooper-Roof Palace. The second wing was added in the later part of the 18th century, and was called the Baciarellowka, after the painter Marcello Bacciarelli.

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The Royal Palace also comprised a special room, used by the deputies of the state, but this disappeared in 1775, when Poland, as a country, disappeared from the face of the earth due to the third territorial division made between Prussia, Austria and Russia.

This room was initially used as the Town Hall, but later on it was transformed into the residence of Jozef Poniatowski, a hero of the Napoleonic Wars, and his uncle, the last king of Poland, Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski. In 1988, the Palace was included in the Royal Castle ensemble. An important historical event which took place here and is worth remembering is the drafting of the First Constitution of Poland – which occured on March 3rd, 1791.

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The palace disposes of a beautiful terrace with splendid arches created after the drawings of Jakub Kubicki. Tourists have to go out on this terrace as it offers an impressive look over the royal gardens.

The Castle has not remained untouched by warfare. Thus, in 1932, the German army burnt down the edifice, while a complete destruction of the Royal Palace occurred in 1944 (WWII). But the palace was reconstructed between 1971-1988, and with the occasion, the edifice had received works of art which belonged to King Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski (among which there were two Rembrandt paintings).

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At present, tourists can admire the palace as it was constructed in the 18th century, the façade facing the Vistula River still bearing the traces of the Rococo architectural style. The interior furnishing is pretty much the original one, despite the destruction which occurred in 1944, when the palace was blown-up by Germans. The reason for this is that several clerks which worked at the National Museum had managed to put to safe keeping a large part of the furniture.

The Royal Palace had managed to be “resurrected” due to some photographs taken prior to the destruction, as well as to some paintings created by Canaletto in which the palace was accurately represented. In fact, because of this, the most renowned room located downstairs bears the name of the painter.

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The Grand Hallway, or the Ball Room, has a ceiling which is sustained by 17 golden columns and which is wonderfully adorned with pictures representing various mythological scenes. Some of the most impressive rooms within the palace are the Senate Room and the Marble Room, both adorned with priceless objects of decoration.

The Royal Palace is truly imposing: the façade, which is made out of bricks, extends over 90 meters in length, there is a square tower located in each end, and the Sigismund Tower, which measures 60 m in height, is constructed right in the middle of the edifice. There is one theory according to which this later tower has been ispired by the Smolensk Tower, in Russia.

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The palace is now considered a museum and it functions under the Ministry of Culture. As it is a historical and national monument, the castle has been registered as part of the UNESCO patrimony since 1980.

Visiting hours (these depend widely on the period of the year in which you visit the palace, but the minimum opening hours are):
Tuesday-Saturday: 10:00 – 16:00;
Sunday: 11:00 – 16:00;
Monday: closed.