Going to Wilanów, The Polish Versailles


Catatan di Polandia #13

It’s freezing cold today (yesterday, Indonesia time). It was 0 degree even when the sun was already up. Remnant of snow from yesterday’s precipitation was still quite thick, although some had melted away. But at least it was sunny. So I decided to go out — just for the sake of it. I had stayed indoors almost all day long the day before — except for a brief venture to the nearby supermarket in the morning to buy my weekly supplies of food, etc. Staying indoors for an extended period of time is boring.

I was not quite sure where I’d go. I just wanted to go out. But then I remembered I had not been to this place that had read about a few weeks earlier from a tourism leaflet: Wilanów.

Dubbed the ‘Polish Versailles’, the palace complex of Wilanów is only 10 kilometers away south of Warsaw’s city center. And it is conveniently accessible too. From Nowy Świat — the street that leads to the old town Warsaw and Zamek Królewski (the royal castle) — we only need to take single bus ride (on bus number 116 or 180) that takes only about 30 minutes.

So, after a relatively short bus ride from where I live to Nowy Świat, I got off, and got on the 116 bus. Wilanów is right at the very end of this bus route and just across the street from where it stopped.

I’ve never been to Versailles (occupying some 800 hectare ground, I imagine it must be a much larger palace, and its history as many of us know is more dramatic and illustrious), but the moment I set my eyes on this palace, I could say it’s a remarkably beautiful piece of architecture. Compared to the other two palace complexes that I have visited here — the Zamek Królewski and Łazienki — I think this palace’s façade is more impressive, probably partly — from my photographer’s eyes — because of the right quality of sunlight in the early winter afternoon.

Wilanów Palace, Warsaw.
Wilanów Palace, Warsaw.

In size, Wilanów palace complex is actually smaller than that of Łazienski’s. The former is said to occupy a ground of 45 hectares, only slightly more than a half in size than that of Łazienski’s 74 hectares (Zamek Królewski is a different category all together because it is not situated amid a garden like these two).

What is now called the Wilanów palace is said to have been initially built by the Stanisław Leszczyński familly in the 17th century. Over the years its ownership has changed hands and the building been expanded and remodelled several times by its subsequent owners. The Wilanów palace survived the destruction that Warsaw suffered in World War Two, although it is said that some of its prized collections were seriously looted.

A small chapel by the lake at Wilanów palace garden.
A small chapel by the lake at Wilanów palace garden.

I spent the a half day here strolling in its gardens, taking pictures — as I usually would everywhere I go — taking the advantage of the gorgeous light that the day offered until it was no longer possible to make good pictures when the sun was fast setting in the west. My hands were almost frozen by then — I embarrassingly slipped and fell down too, once, for not minding the frozen snow while I was walking and busy making pictures. But the day was a good one and I was happy with the pictures I made.

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