“ Sightseeing Type: Castles / Palaces „
The Mokotow quarter on the south side of Warsaw is somewhere where all residents of Warsaw would like to live including myself if I could afford to. Mokotow is an area rich in parks and has a few ornate houses that survived the war. One of the main streets running through the area is called Pulawska Street. It is here where you will find Krolikarnia Palace sitting deep in its own park of tall and very old chestnut trees.
Tram numbers 4 and 18 will take you to the palace and gardens. The stop is actually called Krolikarnia and it is across the road from the entrance. Trams leave from Bankowy or Centrum.
At the time of the Wettin dynasty these grounds housed a rabbit breeding farm and this is where the name stems from. The name for rabbit in Polish is Krolik. Later, the park was purchased by Count Thomatis, an eccentric theatre director who lived during the reign of Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski, who built the palace there. Many owners followed including Marta Krasinska who before World War II managed a hospice for the terminally ill.
Today, the palace still looks very much like it always did with a huge green lawn set in front of the building. The building itself isn't very large - more like a smaller version of Castle Howard in York. The day we visited it was a very hot sunny day and people were sat on the lawn reading and frolicking with their children. The scene was a beautiful pastoral one with floating clouds high up in a azure sky.
The grounds of the palace are easy to walk around, admission is free. All around the sides of the lawn and even on the grass are several statues sculpted by Polish artist and sculptor Xavery Dunikowski who was born in Krakow and died in Warsaw in 1964. There are many statues of different styles and sizes. Some are very smooth with a polished finish, others are rugged and crudely carved. It's lovely how the statues mingle in with people sitting and children playing.
Inside there are many more exhibits which the artist gave to Poland as a special gift and some represent the work of artists who were once imprisoned at the concentration camp in Auschwitz. The palace is an elegant building with its remodelled classical Roman form, stone ornaments and portico housing allegories of art and science in the arched corridors. Museum attendants occupy every room where there is a display and their eyes follow you around so best not to touch or you will get told off. They aren't the most gracious attendants I've encountered. All pieces of work are well labelled in Polish and English. Not all the rooms are open due to renovation work which seems to be an ongoing concern and hopefully one day will be finished and all the rooms will be open to the public. There isn't a cafe or kiosk at the moment which is a shame as I think this attraction would benefit from both so take some sandwiches and a drink. I didn't notice any toilets either but I'm sure there must be this facility inside the palace. There definitely aren't any in the grounds. I liked the building inside but I much preferred to be outside in the fresh air free from the peering eyes and stern faces of the attendants.
It was a lot of fun being able to get up really close to the statues outside. I could stroke every one and liked to feel the form and smoothness of the different shapes whether it be a head, hand, leg etc. It's fun for children too as there are statues of animals. My granddaughter enjoyed stroking the back of a greyhound made from marble although she was a bit frightened of the image of King Stanislaus Poniatowski. He did look strange though dressed in a jesters outfit I have to admit. In the centre of the lawn there is a large sculpture made from cardboard boxes in the form of a series of tunnels. This is for children to play in and a lot of fun. I wanted to join in but of course I am too big and couldn't fit through the tunnels.
It's difficult to choose a favourite sculpture as they are all interesting in their own way but I think it has to be the one of a ballerina sitting in a beautiful pose on the lawn. This is made from marble and is a wonderful texture to feel. She has the daintiest of bodies with a wonderfully shaped head held upright and proud. There is something graceful yet dreamy about her pose - as if she is sat on a magic carpet waiting to be carried away to a distant land.
My second favourite is the row of heads of artists and sculptors who were imprisoned in Auschwitz at the same time as Dunikowski. These have been sculpted in the same rough style and all painted black. Each head is mounted on a stone plinth and from a distance is very eye catching. Close up I found the images haunting as nearly every one had a look of terror and torment in their eyes, unshaven with wild hair and swollen lips.
I enjoyed my visit to Krolikarnia Park and Palace. It wasn't at all what I was expecting. I had no idea that the grounds were filled with statues. This was a nice surprise and I loved the variety of statues, some very strange and some very beautiful like the ballerina sat on the grass. The grounds aren't vast and can be easily walked around in an hour. If you like a good view I suggest you walk to the back of the palace before leaving the park. Here is one of the best views of Warsaw I have seen and definitely worth getting the camera out. Another park, another palace in Warsaw. Both recommended.
Krolikarnia is rarely if ever visited by tourists, it's barely if at all mentioned in guide books and even a lot of locals haven't visited it as it's not in the immediate center. I spent a while checking out the hidden southern corners of Warsaw a few months ago though and was pleasantly surprised to find a little area a bit off the beaten path.
Krolikarnia translates to "Rabbit House", originally it was a bestiary and when it was built rabbiting was all the rage. These days however you are more likely to find a collection of domestic rabbits rather than a succesful catch! This peaceful looking little palace was built in the 1780s but has suffered turbulent times, being a major player in the Kosciuszko Uprising of 1798, suffering a fire in the 1870s and was finally defeated by bombing at the hands of WW2 but it has been rebuilt and seems to retain its composure as it stands out on top of a hill, trees either side, looking down upon a park and lake. During its best days it hosted a wealth of private art and housed a brewery, these days it's less grandiose but still a nice place.
The park known as "Arkadia" is not as frequently visited as it should be but this just adds to the special hidden values of this undisturbed historical gem. Exhibitions of art and sculptures can be found inside and sculptures dot the nearby gardens too.
Whilst it's probably not worth making a visit to this park on its own considering that it is a few kilometres from the centre, it is well worth combining with a walk through Arkadia and a visit to some of the other rarely seen southern sights like Dolina Sluzewiecka and perhaps Kabaty Forest and Wilanow Palace. Whilst the ideal way is to walk enter by walking through the nearby park, there's a back entrance from the detached busy streets and other methods of getting there are as follows:
By subway - Wierzbno station;
By bus - 505 (Krolikarnia stop)
By tram - 14, 18, 19, 33, 36 (Krolikarnia stop)
A historical palace in Warsaw, Poland.