Thursday, June 22, 2017

Vilanowa Palace, Warsaw

June 21st

This Polonia Palace has a superior buffet breakfast which even includes shot glasses of vodka with the coffee and whole baked apples.

So we were ready to go when Karolina came at 9. Her small Honda  is very satisfactory as it has a jump seat and the three of us can sit side by side in the front. We drove to Vilanowa Palace on the outskirts of Warsaw. The baroque palace was built by King John lll Sobieski in the last quarter of the 17th C. and in spite of Poland's complicated history including the abolishing of the monarchy in 1795 and more than one partitioning  of Poland and two World Wars the palace and its extensive gardens has survived. It  was originally opened as a museum in 1805.
The scene of devastation around the Polonia Palace in 1945.
 The hotel today
Breakfast buffet including baked apples.
More goodies
Vodka or Freidrich Chopin 'champagne' with your coffee.
A wing of the Vilanowa Palace.
Rather superior garden seats.
 A very fine equestrian portrait of Stanislaw Potocki by Jacques Louis David painted in 1781.
Beautiful furniture.
The King's bed.
 17thC tapestry wallpaper.
Elaborate cornice
Delicate ceiling painting.

 After World War ll the palace was used by the government to accommodate world leaders. This bed had to be lengthened for Charles de Gaulle.
One of the stone floors
Our lovely and expert guide,Karolina.
Charles de Gaulle striding out in Warsaw today (near our hotel).

In the morning we fly to Helsinki to connect with our flight back to Australia and this blog will once more go into hibernation.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


June 20th

Yesterday we caught the intercity train from Torun to Warsaw but we were not quite so lucky as on the train from Gdansk to Torun.Train 51112 was not so new and not so smooth but it was O.K.  It was a very warm day and air conditioning.was by opening the window.

Our hotel in Warsaw is the Polonia Palace originally opened in 1913.

In 1945 most of Warsaw was in ruins but our hotel (middle background) seems to have survived.

 As Polonia Palace looks today.
The foyer of the hotel which is always full of people unlike the other hotels where we have stayed.
 One of Stalin's wedding cake buildings..
 Unofficial market near Warsaw Central station.
Monument to Chopin in the Lazienki  Park in Warsaw where he was born  and lived until he was 10.
 Statue of King John lll Sobieski who defeated the Ottomans in the battle of Vienna in 1683.
Another Polish king in front of a (re-built) palace in the old town.This king, Sigismund was also king of Sweden and he moved the capital  from Krakow to Warsaw in 1596 because Warsaw was closer to Sweden and also closer to Lithuania which was another part of his realm..
Market stalls in the main square of the old town.The facades of the buildings in the background largely survived the war unlike most of the old town.

St John the Baptist chapel in the Cathedral also dedicated to St John.
Memorial to the Ghetto uprising in Warsaw.
A memorial to the "Little Helpers" (children) of the second uprising in 1944 set in part of the original city wall.
Le petit train for tourists.
Street sculpture in Torun.

The Jewish population of Warsaw before the Second World war was over 300,000. most of them were not assimilated and did not have Christian friends to help them when they were forced into the ghetto. In 1942 mass deportations to Treblinka started. Although Treblinka only operated for about one year about one million people were murdered there.
In 1943 there was an uprising in the ghetto and although the Jews fought bravely it was  hopeless  and very one sided.
In 1944 the Poles tried to oust the German army. They were unsuccessful and a lot of Warsaw was destroyed.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Torun, Poland

June 18th

Yesterday we caught the Intercity train from Gdansk to Torun. The Polish train was much more modern than the Budapest to Bucharest one we travelled on two years ago.

Torun is on the Vistula River and was an important trading centre and a member of the Hanseatic League in the 13th, 14th and15thC. The Teutonic Knights made Torun their headquarters but their castle is now in ruins. Torun escaped bombing during the Second World War and so its medieval buildings are original rather than reconstructions.
Bread stall in the street market


Polish people appear very fond of strolling but maybe it is only on summer weekends 
and in between sitting and drinking beer in the pavement cafes.
 Another market stall.
Even a bicycle cafe.
And surveying it all is Copernicus himself.
This is the house where Copernicus is reputed to have been born. His father was a wealthy copper merchant.
Other substantial merchant houses. 

 The leaning tower, part of the 13thC city walls. The top is 1.5m out of line.
Typical merchant mark, which had to be recognisable by illiterate people
Detail of the decoration in the cathedral.
The donkey is not as friendly as you might think. It has a ridge along its back and the court might order you to be tied on its back for a period of time.
The female guardian angel of Torun.
The Frog fountain. Legend has it that there was a plague of frogs and a skillful violinist played and the frogs followed him all the way to France. The frogs stayed in France (to be eaten) and the violinist returned to a hero's welcome in Torun.
A modern Teutonic knight acts as a tour guide.
Our room has 7 lights and only 4 switches. Although each switch has 4 possibilities we could not work out how to turn the desk light off even with the cryptic instructions provided!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Malbork Castle. Poland

June 16th,

This morning Evelina came to take us to  Malbork castle a fortified monastery built in the 13thC as the headquarters of the Teutonic Knights a German order of Crusaders -warrior monks.
It is a huge brick castle and has been painstakingly restored.  It  was pouring rain and the cobblestones are tough both for walking and pushing a wheel chair..
One of the gates to Malbork castle.
A black cross on a white ground was the symbol of the Teutonic Knights.

Some of the beautiful vaulted ceilings.
An elaborate lock  within the castle.
Medieval floor tiles
There was even a chairlift to gain access to the upper floor.
On the way back to Gdansk we drove through an area where Dutch Memmonites settled in the 16thC after religious intolerance forced them to leave the Netherlands. The Polish king welcomed them  and their skills in draining swampy land were used to reclaim land in the delta of the Vistula river. They were industrious and built themselves large wooden houses. and successfully farmed in the area. After the Second World War many of the Memmonites were expelled to West Germany and  most of those people subsequently moved on to Canada  and the USA where there were already Memmonite communities.
Typical Memmonite house. This one is dated 1803.
The ornate posts  supporting the front room which was used to store grain .
Local enthusiasts are restoring some of the houses .