The drive from Poznań was a journey of 291km, almost entirely on high grade 2 lane motorway. It took three hours.
We observed, what we thought was, a surfeit of sound barriers on either side of Polish motorways in strange places….. i.e. where there is no housing to be affected by engine noise?
It’s very high spec also with animal passages, culverts for small reptiles. When completed, the A2 motorway in Poland will run from west to east through central Poland, from the Polish-German border in Świecko/Frankfurt (Oder) through Poznań, Stryków (Łódź) and Warsaw to the Polish-Belarusian border in Kukuryki, it’s a trans European highway.
We said good bye to our white car at Warsaw Central Station…. a pig of a place to drop off a hire car. It turned out that a driver was specially sent out from the car depot office to pick the vehicle up from us. We could have driven more easily to their office than try and find a particular car park at a very busy station. We opted for parking in a lot outside Museum Techniki 100 yards away from the station and rang the office for advice. We congratulated
ourselves upon staying calm in a challenging spot and duly a guy came and signed us off. Good bye wee white Suzuki…….
A taxi took us to the Old Town and we ate shrimp salad, for it was available….. (each time we’ve asked for prawns so far they’ve been struck off the menu). We eyed the greying sky but finished lunch, and found our apartment, No 13, on the second attempt (initial attempt at entering 13 was unluckily(!) in a parallel street). Just in time before spectacular lightning and thunder.
All of the buildings in the Old Town were levelled by German explosives during the Warsaw Uprising towards the end of WWWll and our apartment has been rebuilt to replicate what was here before using architecture students sketches, photographs and a bit of wizardry to create a ‘new’ Old Town. It’s a remarkable feat, so much so that it has UNESCO status for the quality of the restoration.
The Royal Castle in Warsaw, a symbol of the sovereignty of the Polish State, was a target for German planes and as early as 17 September 1939 it was in flames.
As firemen and public fought to put out the fire, Polish museum workers and conservators risked their own lives trying to salvage the precious art collections, as well as decorative elements from the Castle rooms.
During the Warsaw Uprising in September 1944, holes were drilled in the walls of the ancient edifice and German sappers filled them with explosive and blasted the Castle walls.
The political climate stopped thoughts of reconstruction until January 1971. The construction works started in September 1971. The first stage of the project – body of the building in an unfinished state – was completed in July 1974 by installing the cupola on the Clock Tower and restarting the clock after 35 years. In 1977 first interiors were ready and in August 1984, came the opening of the Castle to the public who had financed virtually the whole project, money coming from donations made by Poles at home and abroad.
The whole story is told brilliantly with digital projections and soundtrack on multiple screens in the vaulted cellars of the Castle.
There are two Rembrandts, in the collection, that were saved. They are stunning in their
detail and use of tone.
There’s also a large collection of Canalettos. Not Giovanni Canaletto but Bernardo Bellotto, (1721-1780) an Italian famous for his vedute of European cities (Dresden, Vienna, Turin and Warsaw). He was the pupil and nephew of the more famous one sometimes used the illustrious name, signing himself as Bernardo Canaletto. It’s thought that he may have used a camera obscure to achieve some of the precise perspective, although Many of his paintings are of wider more pastoral scenes than his uncle.
We felt that these paintings could do with one of those TV Art experts, (or Adrian Swales on Bentinck Road). She’d get out a swab and some liquid soap to reveal wonderful colour and light beneath years of grime. Or perhaps Bellotto preferred a muddy palate?
The interiors are impressively restored with some original features, dug out the rubble, and back in place.
We sketched in the Castle garden which looks out to the Vistula river and walked around the walls gradually getting to know the Old Town.
Pod Samsonem is a Jewish restaurant full of atmosphere and interesting food, just off the Rynek
Square. Marion liked the sound of Jewish Caviar, and I chose Collar of Carp in aspic. For mains M followed with Carp with Potato and salads, K for Fried Chicken Livers with buckwheat and beetroot.
The caviar turned out to be mashed chicken livers (a moist pâté). M swapped this for my carp, ‘cos she eats fish but not meat. So we both had entrée and main with the same content, liver followed by liver, carp by carp………
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