So last night was our family dinner and I got to meet Stan (who is related by marriage a little way back, so not really a relative), his son Waldek, wife Dorothea and daughter Paulinka, plus the family of Dad’s cousin Graszinka, her daughter Dorota, husband Wyeslaw and daughters Paula, Susie and Maya. It was an odd feeling to be surrounded by people talking in a language you don’t understand, though both Paula and Paulinka spoke English and Paula’s parents spoke about as much English as I know Polish, but the evening seemed to go fairly well. It’s hard to form a strong bond with people who have not existed in your life before in such a short amount of time, but who knows what the future will hold. It wasn’t a really late night, but we still had a late start to the day.
We were only going to visit one palace in Poland. But whenever I researched the palaces of Poland, the elaborate rooms of Wilanow (vee-lah-noof), keep forcing their way onto the screen. I didn’t think I could live with myself if I didn’t take the opportunity to walk through its vivid rooms.
About a half hour drive from the centre of Warsaw is where you will find ‘the Polish Versailles’. Built in the late 17th century, Wilanow is opulent. The grounds immediately surrounding the palace are filled with colourful flower beds and rose gardens, the larger garden grounds with large shady trees.
It’s free to visit Wilanow on Sundays, but you still have to line up to get a ticket for 0 zloty’s. Very Polish. The tickets are printed with the time at which you are able to enter the palace (limited groups go through at a time), though of course, they don’t tell you this when you ‘buy’ the ticket. So now you know.
The rooms are painted boldly, paintings adorning the walls en-masse, intricate furniture filling the spaces of its grand rooms. Royal wallpapers and gold filigree live on the walls, ceilings and doorways. The palace seems enormous and it feels like hours worth of exploring.
Now I’m here looking for a Prince, so here are the lucky candidates….
So I’m thinking I might just stay single for a little while longer.
The remainder of our day is to be spent at Lazienki (wah-zhen-kee) Park. It is the largest park in Warsaw, weighing in at 76 hectares. The grounds are a mass of shady trees with squirrels ferreting around the shrubs and tourists.
Lazienki Palace, also known as the Palace on the Water is it’s centrepiece.
In stark contrast to Wilanow, Lazienki Palace is a white elephant.
Where Wilanow’s rooms shout opulence, Lazienki’s whisper.
Three gondolas adorn the lake, and we board one for a short but relaxing ride. The sun is out, the park grounds Gondola Ride and Palace on the Water, Island Ampitheatre, White House and Belvedere Palace, with free Chopin concerts at noon and 4pm and ice cream (lody) – which the Poles are apparently mad for!
Visiting Poland and not attending a Chopin concert is like… going to the Vatican without seeing the Pope, as a certain saying goes. It’s beautiful out this time of year (okay – most of the time), and the Łazienki park is lushly green and soothing and lovely – even more so when you’re listening to masterfully played piano music. The concerts fittingly take place underneath the Chopin statue, and their tradition goes back to 1959, with the festival changing and evolving over the fifty-five years that followed. Free admission, what else could you possibly want? A fantastic way to relax and unwind this is.
Wyeslav picks us up outside Lazienki and drives us back to his home for a dinner with the family. A beautiful meal is set out on the table – wonderful sliced tomatoes covered with white and spring onions, hardboiled eggs, salmon, cheeses, glorious grainy bread home made by Dorota, home made butter with herbs in it made by Paula, cold meats and pierogis. And there’s sparkling wine and vodka – lots of it. It is a lovely evening even though only Paula speaks English from their side and only Dad speaks Polish from our side, but they are coming to Australia early next year and everyone is excited.