Week two in Warsaw was more relaxed, in part because it was raining much of the time. Fortunately we eked out one bright day to spend at the Wilanow Palace. The last stop of the bus line running by our apartment was literally at the palace gates, so it was easy to get there even though it was on the other side of town. It turned out that the Palace uses timed tickets for crowd control (something a couple of other Warsaw museums could take a cue from). We ended up with two hours before our entry slot. Luckily the Poster Museum and the park grounds around the Palace were free for the day.
The Poster Museum had some of the most up-to-date displays I’ve ever seen in a museum – items from supporters of Charlie Hebdo and from Black Lives Matter protests. The parklands are massive – befitting a royal residence – and have both formal flower gardens and tangles of trees and reedy ponds. It is a pretty popular place to have wedding photos taken – it was a Monday and there were multiple bride & groom sets posing. Honestly, the day was so nice that wandering around the grounds was as interesting as the palace itself.
Wilanow is one of the few important buildings in Warsaw to escape total destruction by the Nazis. A plaque just a few hundred feet from the gates mark a spot where the Home Army prevented the demolition crew from reaching their target. The damage it did receive during WWII has been repaired – most rooms are decked out as they would have been in the 1700s. A few are much plainer (presumably sections hit by bombs or shrapnel), and are now used for gallery exhibitions. Currently it was set up with tea and chocolate serving sets. The best part was old quotes about how healthy chocolate is from essays published hundreds of years ago when it was still an exciting and newly available product.
The restored rooms are incredibly decadent – velvet wallpaper, muraled ceilings, gold paint, lots of art. I particularly like the portrait of the woman rolling her eyes. I believe she is supposed to be either looking heavenward or to a lover in another portrait that would have been placed above her. But she really seems as thought the whole ordeal of sitting for the artist is just too much for her afternoon. Upstairs, a small domed ceiling had a sky painted in the oculus with a couple of cherubs perched on the edge. But someone had the brilliant idea to fit a sculpted cherub leg onto the mural to make it look more 3 dimensional. I want to give the person who thought of this a hug… the random baby leg dangling from the roof made my afternoon.
Elsewhere around the city, we stumbled on more public art. I don’t know what the yellow stones are for (a wooden platform just out of the shot was still being constructed), but it reminded me of the rocks I used to decorate my goldfish’s bowl. The rocket cow gets a gold medal for most interesting sculpture? statue? assemblage? It was hiding in a rather subdued-looking business park that had other surprises, including some incredibly fresh and tasty sushi whipped up by Polish chefs.
Sushi aside, snacks in Poland raise the bar for the rest of the world. The following chips flavors exist: dill, kebab & onion (reminiscent of a pita kebab), grilled kebab, Oriental salsa, every kind of paprika, multiple kinds of cheese. Not to mention spiral ketchup Cheetos. And the chocolate… I will be craving both E. Wedel and Goplana (which I discovered this afternoon) candy bars for a long time to come. A non-zero amount of my time in Krakow will be spent tracking down more sweets. Of course, that will only be the time that I am not stuffing my face with pierogis. The frozen cheese & potato pierogis we sometimes bought in Seattle are a pale shadow of the real thing, but more on that in a later post.