Some more attractions in Warsaw - hundreds left to write about so stay with me!
by Praskipark on January 13, 2012
Three Cross Square is a hectic place and you can easily get knocked down by a car if you don't have your wits about you. The square is far too small for all the buildings standing in the centre of the square and the avenues like Ujazdowskie which run from it are always packed with passing traffic. This is the centre where the modern Sheraton Hotel is situated - home to pop stars and many diplomats for a night or two. You only have to walk a couple of steps before spying a limouisine with a flag flying or a Rolls Royce with its windows painted black. It's all quite glamorous but there are other buildings that are quite down to earth like the Comminist looking building that spreads all along the right hand side of the square facing St Alexander's Church. This is a stern looking building - it certainly doesn't ooze any charm. It's grey, very officious and official -one of the main finance buildings in Warsaw. Still, I quite like the design but then I am a fan of Communist style architecture.Now, the square is called Three Cross Square but I have only found two. Maybe I've not been looking in the right place. According to old guide books there were two columns topped with crosses built here in 1731. These must be the surviving ones I have seen but there is meant to be another cross held by the Czech Saint John of Nepomuk who is present in a monument founded by Marshal Bielinski in 1752. I have seen this monument but to be honest I never noticed the third cross. I will have to return to find it. The square was also known by two other names; Three Cross Crossroads and St Alexander's Square.St Alexander's Church dominates the square with its large dome, clasical body and six-column portico(see my review). It's a huge building filling nearly every inch of the square in the centre. Two monuments exist in the square; one of Wincenty Witos, a Polish Prime Minister to be elected from the peasants' party. A very charming monument it is too. The other monument is dedicated to Jakub Falkowski who founded the institute of the Deaf-Mute and Blind.There are several elegant coffee houses privately owned and not part of the big coffee franchises. In summer seating outside is available but not sure how healthy it is to sit outside with all the fumes from the traffic. Three Cross Square is easy to reach by bus (136) and you can even walk from the Old Town or Nowy Swiat. The National Museum isn't far away - within walking distance.It's not my favourite square in Warsaw but worth a visit if just to see St Alexander's Church and perhaps search for the third cross.
by Praskipark on January 2, 2012
Ujazdowski Park has quite a few interesting monuments/statues but my favourite has to be the one of Eve (1911). This is a statue that from a distance looks like a bodily outline but it isn't until you actually get up close to it you realise it is the shape of a woman's body lying on a tree stump. The bright jade contours of this woman's body highlight the surrounding shrubs and trees. She lies in her own small garden and her pose is a strange one - more sleepy, almost dead and not very evocative at all.The creator of this piece of work was Edward Wittig, a polish sculptor who was born in 1879 and died in 1941. He was born in Warsaw but travelled to Vienna and Paris where he studied fine art. From the statue of Eve you can see he was influenced by Rodin and I can see the heaviness of Rodin's style in this sculpture although the body has more contrasts and perhaps isn't as symbolic as some pieces of Rodin's work. Wittig was in fact a student of Rodin but over the years changed his style and became more interested in the work of Avistide Maillol, a French sculptor and follower of New Classicism. It is from Maillol where Wettig picked up the rough, cubic style from and throughout Warsaw I have seen many single figures created in this style.Wettig's work is displayed in galleries in Paris and in Kraków as well as Warsaw's own Zacheta Gallery.Personally, I like this statue very much although the lady in question is a bit on the heavy side. Her arms and hands are very strong and masculine looking as are her calves and feet. The pose I have seen before in another sculpture of Wettig's which stands across the road from the Zacheta Gallery on a piece of waste ground. My first impression is that the body looks as heavy as stone as if it has been shot and left to fall. I like the fact that you can walk around this statue and look at it from different angles and are able to touch the smoothness of the bronze lines and curves although from the back view there aren't too many curves. The side view is one of smoothness and here you can follow the curved line from her shoulders to the tips of her toes.You can find the statue of Eve (Ewa) in Ujazdowski Park. It faces the pond and pergola and stands in its own area under trees and shrubs. Take the path to the right as you enter the park from the main entrance. It's a very impressive piece of work. Bus number 180 from Bankowy will take you to Ujazdowski Park and the statue of Ewa.
by Praskipark on January 3, 2012
The Church of St Lawrence is a funny old church. In fact it looks abandoned and I very nearly missed the building when I was out walking on Wolska a few months ago. I had gone out one Sunday morning on the main Wolska route where there are at least three churches and cemeteries along this thoroughfare. In theory this area of Warsaw isn't too far away from me but in practical terms it is a lot further than I thought and much better on the feet and legs if you take a tram.For a start the church is well hidden behind tall trees and the exterior is either painted grey or had the original paint stripped down leaving a rather dirty stone colour. Whatever has happened it does look a bit sorry for itself. The thing that drew me towards the church was the lovely garden area at the back. It was a little overgrown with rambling conifers - those that grow sideways and spread out and wild lilies. Interesting features were a cream stone coloured statue of the Virgin Mary and a cross. The bell tower was one of those modern ones made from black steel that look a bit like a look out post in wooded areas - where firemen stand on the top to search for flickering flames during the summer heat.The original church dates back to the 14th century and then much later in the 16th century a wooden building was erected which was burnt down by the troublesome Swedes. Eventually it was re-built but the Dean of Warsaw in 1695 suddenly decided that a brick church would be a much better proposition and seeing that Queen Sobieska was willing to hand over some funds he went ahead with the project and this was completed by 1755.Various incidents happened afterwards like the Prussian Army destroying the church and then being re-built and consecrated only to have its name and religion changed. It wasn't until World War I that the church became Roman Catholic again and the name of St Lawrence was handed back to it. A new church was built in 1923 and everything seemed to be going along smoothly until 1944 when the cemetery next door became the place of mass executions by the Germans. During this time the church was burnt and yet again had to be restructured. For many years the parish belonging to Saint Lawrence moved over to another area of Wolska and the church wasn't used. This is probably the reason why it looks so desolate. It wasn't until six years ago that the parishioners started to come back to this spot and use the church.Inside the building is very spacious with a very high ceiling. Furnishing is minimalist in style with one large candle chandelier hanging above the centre of the altar which is basic and not too elaborate. The congregation seemed small when I visited although the singing was loud and enthusiastic. I did notice that the acoustics were excellent and I was touched by the exuberance of the parishioners voices. As I have earlier stated the Church of St Lawrence can be found on a road with other more glamorous churches and cemeteries if you can call a cemetery glamorous. This Roman Catholic church is definitely the poor relation but I liked it - there was something about the garden and the stark exterior. Definitely worth a peep if you are in the Wola area. Tram number 26 will take you all the way - you can catch it from Ratusz Arsenal.
by Praskipark on January 6, 2012
For some reason the monument dedicated to Frederyk Chopin has been on my mind. It's a couple of months since I viewed it last but over the years I have seen the sculpture in different seasons and just lately I have been thinking about it quite a lot. Not sure why, as it isn't one of my favourite Warsaw monuments. In fact it is probably the one I dislike the most. My husband speaks very negatively about this piece of work - he says that it looks like a giant dog turd. That's not very nice and I am not so negative but it really isn't on my top 20 list.The city loves it and wherever you go you will see pictures of this monument duplicated on trams, buses, tourist information brochures, TV, magazines and newspapers. I know Chopin is a widely recognised symbol of Warsaw but why is this particular monument so popular? Let's take a closer look The monument is in a great location - Łazienki Park. As soon as you enter the second main entrance gate of the park on Al. Ujazdowskie you notice Frederyk sat at the back of the rose garden. His vision looms over towards you and you can't help but walk forward to get a closer look. Wacław Szymański designed the monument in the early 20th century and as you can see it is very Art Nouveau. I like this representation - especially the way his body is swaying with the movement of the tree. He has a romantic aura as he looks to the side. His hair and clothes are 'flowing'. This is a nice touch. The tree I am not so sure about - it looks bedraggled and strangled. I am not really sure what the pose is meant to be - is he sat underneath a tree dreaming away, being imaginative and thinking of his next composition or is he distracted and looking over to something/someone in the distance? The brick plinth that Chopin sits on is very large and it's amazing that it was saved from destruction during the Second World War. It is far too large in my opinion and doesn't blend in with the bronze of the sculpture. In front of the plinth is a large green pond edged in the same brick material. This, I don't like either. In winter when the roses have died and not many leaves are on the trees the plinth really sticks out and looks ugly. Originally the monument was unveiled in Łazienki Park in 1926 but was completely destroyed during the Second World War. The one that we see now has been reconstructed from old photographs and models. I think this must be one of the most visited monuments in the park and in July of this year the rose garden was absolutely buzzing with people sat listening to one of the free concerts that are staged from spring until autumn - of course Chopin's music is only played. Usually, the concert pianist sits at the side of the monument playing her/his piano. I have heard a few pianists over the years and the standard of music is excellent. It's a nice gesture from the council to organise these concerts and such a wonderful location for them to take place. I suppose performers are honoured to play next to their hero. Not sure how I would feel - I wouldn't be able to concentrate for looking at that tree and ugly concrete plinth.Sometimes when I write about an attraction I usually end up liking it a lot more than when I visited it but this is not the case with Frederyk's monument. I still don't like it very much. Perhaps you will. If you would like to see it take a bus to Łazienki Park. There are a few to choose from: 108, 116, 119 and 166. All these buses will drop you off at any of the three main entrances to the park on Al. Ujazdowskie.
by Praskipark on January 10, 2012
I think I have nearly written about all the attractions in the Stare Miasto of Warsaw but seemed to have missed this one out. It's the tunnel that leads under Castle Square or Plac Zamkowy as it is called in Warsaw. When I first ever visited Warsaw - a very long time ago now, I was a bit of a newbie to the city and Eastern Europe too. I remember walking under this tunnel on the tiniest bit of footpath I have ever come across. I was a nervous wreck because trams, buses and cars sped through this tunnel from the centre of Warsaw at a fair old pace. I just thought it was the thing to do, to get from the new part of town to the old part. Silly me - I don' t think anyone ever walks under the tunnel as it is for traffic only. Still, I survived.The tunnel was built in the years from 1947 - 1949. It's aim was to provide a subterranean thouroughfare for the busy route - East to West and also a tramline that would link the eastern part of the city to the western part. There is a bus and tram stop opposite the entance of the tunnel and it is quite exciting on a dark day to watch all the shadows from the headlights of the cars dance across the top of the inside of the tunnel. I always get excited when I am walking from Praga to the Old Town because I know as soon as I've crossed the bridge I can see the tunnel lit up. It looks very impressive as the Gothic Bridge strides across the top of the tunnel and not only do you see flashing headlights and tram lights you can see people walking on top of the bridge.Installed by the entrance to the tunnel are escalators which take you to the East/ West Route. Generally I walk up the stone stairs at the side but somedays when it's very cold I do use the escalators and this is a bit of a treat as I love the 'social-realistic' design which actually resembles the Moscow or St Petersburg underground. There are always guards on duty here and it always seems so quiet. When you reach the top of the escalator you will be on Plac Zamkowy but before venturing out into the open take time to go to the public toilets which are to the right of the doorway. Even if you don't need to go to the loo it's worth a trip down some steep steps just to look at the amazing network of pipes and generators with hundreds of switches. It is like something out of a Frankenstein movie, Very 50s looking, really fascinating. Oh, and by the way the toilets are exceptionally well looked after and there is a small charge. It's worth spending a few pence just to view this underground cavern of pipes.
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