“ ""Sightseeing Type: Parks / Gardens / Address: Nieborów - Pałac / 99-416 Nieborów / Poland"" „
Autumn in Warsaw is the time to go out and see things mainly because the winters are too cold and you just want to cosy up inside with a mug of hot red wine flavoured with cinnamon, anise and other wonderful herbs, and the summers are baking hot so all you want to do then is escape to the coast or another country where you can dive into the ocean.
A lot of people think Warsaw is just full of concrete tower blocks and there is an element of truth in this but we do have some beautiful parks in the city and even more beautiful parks outside. A couple of weeks ago when the weather was lovely; each day had an Autumnal feel with the sun lying low in the clouds but still offering enough warmth and brightness to take a ride out to an enchanting village called Arkadia. Not to be confused with Arkadia Shopping Mall.
The village which is very near to Niebrow is about 80 kilometres from Warsaw and easy to travel to by car but because it was the week leading up to All Saints Day the traffic on the roads was pretty horrendous so we decided to jump on a train from the central station. The train's destination was Lowicz but we got off at the stop before, marked Myslakow (one of those stations in the middle of nowhere). The park is within walking distance; only about 6 or 7 minutes. Trains run every hour from Warsaw and we were told not to get on any of the Express trains as they don't stop at Myslakow. There are several buses per day also passing through the village of Arkadia on their way to Lowicz which is about 7 miles away. To be honest, travelling by train is much better, smoother, less crowded and more reliable.
There is something very evocative about the park in Arkadia - it is very romantic and owes its existence to Helena Radizwill, who was the princess of the nearby palace at Nierbrow. Searching for tranquility, beauty and being influenced by western European trends she wanted to create a paradise; a beautiful island of peace and tranquility.
In the last part of the 18th century the princess was influenced by many aesthetic and philosophical trends that had become fashionable particularly in Britain but also in France and other countries in Europe. These trends had been re-invented not only from classical traditions but also from fashions in the Middle Ages; philosophies that were returning to the past and to nature.
During the last twenty years of the 18th century fashionable women from the aristocratic Polish families like the Czartoryskis, Lubomirskis, Oginskis and Radziwills were inspired by these trends and couldn't wait to design and create their own parks. Of these, Arkadia was the most artistic and original.
The original layout and design of the park began in 1780 and thereafter work was carried out; all the time moving along with fashion, trying to improve the park and enlarge the area. Princess Helena died in 1821 but before then she had added many treasures from her numerous journeys abroad. Whatever crazy object caught her eye she had it packed in a box and sent back to Poland. Such decorative elements included tombstones, statues, pieces of antique sculptures and some works of art that were very rare and exotic for the time. In nearby Lowicz there was a ruined castle and a collegiate church. Helena was fascinated with the church and had the architectural details copied which were later fitted into the design of the park. Some features were incorporated into other buildings forming very strange compositions and others were added as freestanding elements.
The first stage of the laying out the park was completed in 1800 by King Stanislaw August Poniatowski's court architect who was the main designer of Arkadia. Most of the structures built in that period are still around today but not all in good shape. After 1800 a different architect took over; Enrico Ittar from Italy and tried to create a Roman vision with his outlandish and innovative solutions. Outstanding features included the Amphitheatre (designed using a similar theme as the one in Pompeii). the Roman Circus, and the Tomb of Illusions. Sadly, only a few pieces of his work have survived.
After Princess Helena died, Arkadia fell into deep decay. Nearly all the great works of art were taken to nearby Nieborow and placed in a museum or in the garden which is open to the public. The abandoned buildings that were once in vogue gradually disintegrated with the passing of the years. After World War II, restoration work started but was never completed. It is only recently that a conservation programme began but its progress seems very slow so what we saw on that beautiful sunny day was an overgrown park that had turned into a natural woodland. The buildings looked to me like they were about to fall down but there was something about this air of decay - in a way it gave the park a very romantic atmosphere.
As we strolled slowly through the park, picking up leaves and throwing sticks for the dog I was charmed by the pavilions, temples and odd structures. I loved wandering through the very tall trees which still had some leaves at the tops of the branches. I loved the noise of the long grass swishing against my suede boots and every now and again as I passed by some abandoned bits and pieces of carved stone I stopped and looked at the curious markings. Some were over two thousand years old. I felt quite at home sitting on the steps of the Temple of Diana and as I read the inscription on one of the pieces of stone I could feel the poetry and the sense of an aesthetic time that had long passed and will never return.
The experience of being in Arkadia park was enchanting and we stayed far too late, just as dusk was descending and the caretaker was coming to close the gates. I wanted to know more about this peaceful haven and according to the caretaker there are books in English which are on sale in the palace museum in Nierbrow and tell the whole story of Arkadia and Princess Helena. By the time we arrived at the museum the doors were closed so unfortunately I wasn't able to buy a book and it would have been in English too! Never mind, next time.
English style garden.