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The Warsaw Voice » Destination Warsaw » September 28, 2012
Destination Warsaw
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The Heart and Lungs of Warsaw
September 28, 2012   
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Łazienki is the one place in Warsaw that everyone has been to, whether local or tourist. One of Europe’s most beautiful palace-gardens complexes, it is located in the heart of the capital, on 76 hectares of prime land, and is home to a large variety of flora and fauna, as well as to historic architecture and sculptures. It is a favorite place where lovers meet, and where families come for Sunday walks. It is here at the iconic art deco Chopin monument that every Sunday during the summer months you can hear live piano concerts performed by world-renowned artists. And it is here that you can learn about Polish history and finally, here you can go for a stroll or simply relax by the lake or lose yourself among the natural park-forest.

Originally, the area was a wild forest. In 1764 the property was bought by Stanisław August Poniatowski, the last king of Poland, who established his summer residence here. He expanded the late 17th-century small Lubomirski Bath pavilion and transformed it into a pearl of Polish architecture. The palace also served as a gallery for the king’s collection of 17th- and 18th-century paintings and sculpture. And it is here that the king hosted the famous “Thursday dinners” inspired by Parisian salons, where he invited leading artists, writers and politicians. After the 1944 Warsaw Uprising the Germans burned down the palace, but their plans to blow it up were never carried out. It was rebuilt after World War II.

There are other notable buildings in the complex. The three-story My¶liwiecki Palace was built for the king in 1774 in early classicist style. The old orangery is one of the world’s few examples of an authentic court theater. The new orangery in neo-classicist style with eclectic elements was built in 1860 to house one of the largest in Europe collections of tropical plants from Nieborów, belonging to czar Alexander II of Russia, who could not transport it to St. Petersburg due to climatic conditions there. Unfortunately, due to neglect the plants froze during WW I. Today, the orangery houses a tropical garden and an exclusive restaurant.

In 1822 the Wielka Oficyna building was transformed into the Cadet School of Infantry (Podchor±żówka). It was here that cadets were urged to pick up arms and revolt, effectively beginning the November Uprising of 1830. Today, it houses the Ignacy Jan Paderewski Museum.

The Roman-inspired Amphitheater built in 1790 looks like the Roman Forum ruins. Performances are still staged there today.

Other interesting architecture includes the White House, which was built in 1774 and has the king’s authentic bed. The Hermitage, rebuilt in the 18th century, houses temporary art exhibitions, while Diana’s Temple, built in 1822, was inspired by ancient Greek architecture. The Egyptian Temple, built around the same time, today houses the Museum of Scouting. The Nowa Kordegarda, built in 1779, today acts as art gallery space. The Cantonists’ Barracks for the Calvary headquarters, built in 1826, today house the Museum of Hunting and Horsemanship.

Jolanta Wolska
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