An overnight stay in Rzeszow is highly recommended for at least two reasons.
Hot summer nights in Rzeszow are tempting occasions for indulgence. In fine weather, Rzeszow’s medieval market square turns into a lively place wrapped in old-world charm and ghostly magic. Mutating into a popular rendezvous among the native population, it is the place to stay if you want to join the melange of locals in an indulgence of music, drinking and entertaining. The atmosphere is neither too noisy nor extravagant but it is unquestionably an authentic experience of the Polish way of life at its best. The language of communication is absolutely Polish and so having the ability to understand some Polish gives one the chance to participate fully in the activity. An additional atmosphere of magic permeates into the ambience after sunset when the shaded country lamps that surround the square diffuse their yellowish candle-style illumination onto the open-air dining tables and the throngs of ghostly passers-by. Consider walking across the square alongside the shadows in a bid to explore the beauty of the floodlit kaleidoscope of pastel hues that cover up and camouflage the external walls of the Town Hall.
The entertainment scene on the Rynek started to wane by midnight. Having become weary after a day of sightseeing, having been worn out after spending hours slurping Tyskie lager, I had no other option but to leave behind my bunch of Polish friends and set off for my sleeping nest at Hotel Polonia. After a good night’s sleep, I got myself going again without delay intending to take an early eastbound bus to Lancut, go around at leisure and explore possibly all the places of interest in the city and then return to Rzeszow by evening.
Hotel Polonia is a convenient place of accommodation for those who intend to use buses or trains. From the hotel, I jumped to the bus station (Dworzec Autobusowy), the hotel being located right opposite the station on Ul Grottgera. As the timetable posted at the bus bay indicates, buses to Lancut are very frequent departing from Rzeszow and back on a regular basis every half hour. But prior to setting off, it is advisable to check the timetables at Platforms 6 and 7 carefully since some Lancut-bound buses bypass the Lancut bus station (appearing as Lancut D. A. on the timetable) which is the most convenient stop for day trippers who are short of time. An easy short hop east lasting only thirty minutes, the trip allows for numerous stops on the way, the Krasne Auchan stop three miles away from Rzeszow being ideal for those who want to stock up on foodstuffs from the neighbouring supermarket.
Unless one has tried to master the pronunciation of distinctive Polish consonants and clusters of letters through association with native speakers, one should not attempt to utter words as hard and tricky to express as Lancut (more or less pronounced wan-tsoot, but still incomprehensible to attendants at bus or train stations if expressed accordingly). To avoid being teased in front of a bus load of locals and mind you, Poles are awfully good at leg-pulling, it is wise to write down the hard-to-pronounce term, be it the name of a city or the name of a particular stop, on a slip of paper and show it off to the driver. This prevents embarrassment on your part and encourages assistance and support on the part of the operating attendant.
I took the 9:00 am Veolia bus from Platform 7 expecting to arrive at Lancut by 9:30 am. Out of the station, the bus plied eastwards along Al. Pilsudskiego before it crossed Most Lwowski, the wide bridge way that stretches out over the Wislok River. From here, the bus continued east along Ul Lwowska cutting across the Osiedle Mieszka suburb to the roundabout intersection that heralds the onset link with the A4 dual-carriage motorway. Once on the A4, the bus traced its way hastily, punctuating its route with only two stops. As the bus approached Lancut, the motorway changed direction and the surrounding landscape assumed an air of soothing freshness and uncluttered spaciousness. The dual-carriage motorway changed into a single carriageway as the bus wended its way through Lancut. After stopping at three further stops on the outskirts of the city, the bus soon reached the station located within picturesque green surroundings only a short walk northeast of the city’s main attractions.
Lancut is renowned for the Lubomirski Palace, a huge castle complex enclosed within a peripheral zone bordered by three main thoroughfares: Ul Kosciuszki, Ul Osiedle 3 Maja and Ul Armii Krajowej. Although the park is right across the road south of the bus station, access to the gardens is only possible through Ul Zamkowa, a secondary road on the extreme westernmost edge of Ul Kosciuszki.
The sheltered kiosk hidden under dense foliage on Ul Zamkowa outside the entry gate to the landscaped park acts as a ticket office, selling two categories of entry tickets. One ticket allows for a two-hour guided tour of the palace only; a combined ticket includes in addition to the palace a tour of the former stables and coach-house. Having made my way into the park, I walked hastily along the main gravelled pathway to the palace, intending to go around the palace first and view the park later. The palace tour had been scheduled to start not before the number of visitors gathered together in the hallway went up to ten. In a matter of minutes, I counted ten and before long, a lady guide appeared to start off the tour. But… to my astonishment, she was a monolingual Pole and contrary to my expectations the tour was inevitably set to be conducted entirely in Polish. Since my knowledge of Polish vocabulary is limited to a few everyday words and phrases, I had no other option but to voice my disapproval with the officer in charge. Having made me aware that tours in English are conducted whenever enough pre-bookings make this viable, he was helpful enough to hand out an English audio-guide in a bid to make it possible for me to go around on my own.
The palace’s heyday began in the early seventeenth century when Stanislaw Lubomirski transformed the existing derelict castle into an impressive baroque structure, its new design and embellishment having been assigned to the famous Dutch architect Tielman van Gameron. The last owner of the palace was Alfred Potocki who shortly before the arrival of the Russian army in July 1944 relocated the most precious collections to Vienna. What remained and the palace itself were then left under the care of Potocki’s servants whose ingenuity and resourcefulness helped in no small way towards the survival and preservation of what was left behind after the war.
Today, a tour of the palace embraces the rooms on the west side of the ground floor together with the entire first floor. Meticulously restored to their original grandeur, the stately chambers and the suite of connecting rooms and corridors are themselves a showcase of splendour, a symbol of the majestic opulence that characterized the former Polish aristocracy. Housed inside the chambers, enormous collections of paintings, sculptures, objets d’art, fine handicrafts and weapons are watchfully displayed for art connoisseurs to scrutinize and admire. Worthy of mention are the excellent library, untouched by wartime destruction and the dining room, a huge richly decorated chamber with seating for eighty guests.
The spacious landscaped park that surrounds the palace is a beautiful formal garden of flower beds, exotic trees and manicured lawns, traversed by a series of gravelled pathways that are ideal for a leisurely stroll in an ambience of peacefulness. One particular path leads to the remaining section of ramparts that were formerly laid out in the shape of a five-pointed star around the entire park. Among the outbuildings scattered here and there in the park, the most delightful is the Orangery, a splendid shaded greenhouse with an impressive layout and an eye-catching design.
South of the palace, the pathway next to Hotel Zamkowy leads to Ul Armii Krajowej. A wonderful chateau-like building across the thoroughfare houses inside its vast chambers the palace’s stables and coach-house. The latter holds a wonderful exposition of over hundred horse-drawn carriages, all carefully restored to their original glittering beauty. Animal lovers will either approve or disapprove to the pack of stout horses (well-fed, aren’t they?) that still inhabits some of the stables but children are amazed by the friendly and docile attitude of the animals.
The empty stables adjacent to the souvenir shop were restored and utilized as an exhibition space to hold a display of over one thousand icons and a vast collection of church artworks, mostly originating from Orthodox churches scattered in the region. The display is a veritable treasure-trove of outstanding beauty, a nonpareil of extraordinary artistic achievement and craftsmanship.