Ostensibly, we’re Warsaw bound, but not before a brief stop in Pulawy, to see the Czartoryski Palace.
Home to Princess Izabella in the late 1700s,
the Palace was a central point for culture, drawing in artists and poets. Princess Izabella went on to establish Poland’s first national museum within its grounds, naming it the Shrine of Memory.
Her museum was dedicated to important events in Polish history – battles of significance, art works, jewels of Polish kings and sentimental trinkets.
After the 1831 insurrection against Russia failed, Pulawy was deserted. The Czartoryski family went into exile abroad and the palace was seized by Russians. I can see its appeal – with extensive accommodation and grounds it would make a fine military base. Luckily, it was left largely intact, opening the opportunity for the museum we see today.
The museum remains true to Princess Izabella’s vision, with most of her original collection on display, albeit in the Palace, rather than the Gothic House and the Temple of Sybil, where it was originally housed.
The Palace is nestled amongst extensive woodland grounds, its surrounding manicured gardens watched over by a family of peacocks, complete with chickies.
A peacock flies over my head from his perch, and I can report that small birds, they’re not. There’s a terrific “whoosh” of wind and wing as he passes.
Inside, we see the elegant central rooms of the Palace, but those set up for the museum’s display.
Particularly impressive is the beautiful staircase, a study in iron forged with intricate details.
It’s an eclectic collection, ranging from porcelain, sculpture, paintings, armory, ivory and personal items.
One of my favourite pieces, Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Lady With an Ermine” is housed here, although it’s on tour presently. Ironically, I snapped a photo of the poster for the tour, featuring it, in Treviso earlier this trip. Small world, isn’t it?
We tour the collection, making of it what we can. Most of the notes are in Polish of course, only a few are transcribed in English. Afterwards we skirt the peacocks to visit the Gothic House
and the Temple of Sybil – my favourite.
The English would call it a folly, built without reason, just for it’s sheer loveliness.
The rest of the day is spent driving to Warsaw, Poland’s capital. It’s mainly farmland, excellent for a successful session of stork spotting. It’s not until we’re within 20 km of the centre that high rise apartments appear.
I’m intensely curious to see Warsaw. Himself has filled me in on a little of its tragic history in WWII. In response to the Warsaw uprising, Hitler ordered the city razed, as a lesson to others not to follow. After the war, the city was painstakingly rebuilt, recreating what was lost. Even today,75 years on, it stands as the largest scale rebuild in history. The mind boggles at the effort this must have taken, especially from a people broken. In addition to military losses, 150,000 civilians were killed within days during the uprising. Man’s evil towards man. It knows no boundary.