“ Park in Warsaw, Poland. „
It's very easy for me to write about Praski Park or Park Praski as the locals call it. It was the first park I visited when I first came to Warsaw as a tourist several years ago. I could see the entrance to the park from my hotel balcony. Not that I spent a lot of time on the balcony at that time. It was one of Warsaw's freezing winters and the snow came fast and furious and stayed for many weeks. What also fascinated me was the stone bear pit. I could see this too from my window and balcony. I didn't encounter the brown bears at that time but I have seen them several times since. They are very comical begging for food and as you can imagine are a great tourist attraction.
Apparently, the park areas covered over 30 hectares originally but great chunks were lost when the zoo was opened next to the park. Having walked the whole distance of Praski Park I would say it is still very large, at least half its original size. Jan Dobrowolski designed the park in 1865 and it took six years before it was finished.
All Warsaw parks are different; some very grand and some not so grand. Praski isn't grand, it is urban and modern in style yet has a great variety of old trees some of which are over 100 years old. The species of trees I recognise are chestnut, maple, poplar and butter wood. Some of these have great big fat trunks and their roots spread a good distance under the ground and paths making some avenues a bit tricky to walk on. In parts the undergrowth under the trees is wild with ivy and other trailing foliage. When the sun shines through the tops of the trees it casts haunting shadows on the foliage and is very pretty to look at.
Praski Park is attractive to visitors throughout all the seasons. In spring it's lovely to see buds bursting through and some trees have coloured blossoms of pink, yellow and white. The air is still slightly chilly and not too many people are around. This is a good time for a long stroll as there is an air of tranquility and freshness. In autumn the ground is a blanket of amber, orange, yellow and brown. It's great fun to walk through the tumbled piles of leaves and to hear the rustling, crackling noise of one's boots as you kick the leaves away. Summer comes and the atmosphere changes greatly. Families walk out together dressed in their summer clothes, cyclist's swerve on their designated paths, people old and young sit on wooden benches, talking, laughing and reading, others just go off and do their own thing whether it be rollerblading, tight rope walking or yoga. July and August is the time for free concerts and in the auditorium you will see packed audiences sat outside listening to music while eating a hot dog or slurping an ice cream. Then December brings ice and snow and Praski Park becomes a desolate place to be. The only sounds you hear are birds and squirrels foraging for food and old people out walking their dogs.
Some of Warsaw parks are very flat but Praski is not.The ground is very uneven and the area near to the right banks of the River Vistula is hilly. I like the small, green hillocks because if you sit on the side you can hear the whirring noise of traffic as it passes over the bridge to get to the Old Town or further on towards the city centre.
There are a mixed variety of sculptures in the park mostly of a modern nature. Some are a little odd and the imagery takes a bit of time working out like the curly, swirly body of an animal with huge round eyes. I still haven't a clue what this one represents. I'll go with tiger. It isn't very big and stands on a stone plinth. I like the way it is hidden behind shrubs and trees like a tiger in its natural environment.
Then there is the statue of a buffalo (Zubra)with its red markings looking angry and ready to charge. I like the way its body is arched and tense although I do think its head and face are too pointed.
The Zyrafa (giraffe) is one of my favourite sculptures in Warsaw and one of the highlights of Praski Park. It is made from stainless steel and can't be missed as its head rears above the tallest trees. The body of the giraffe isn't solid, it has many gaping holes and the head is devoid of eyes which gives it a spooky look. In lots of ways the head reminds me of a drawing of a dinosaur in my granddaughter's story book. There is something very primitive and prehistoric about the shape of the head and the knobbly bone at the top near the ears. If you approach the giraffe from the back you are able to notice the straightness of its long neck and the slender build of its legs. The closer you get to the sculpture you see bits of straw and other nesting material in the stomach of the giraffe. Because of the many holes, sparrows and other small birds such as blue tits have found their way inside and have decided to build nests. The giraffe stands alone in a paved circle with benches all around.
This is a meeting place for Mums with their prams and small children. I wonder how many children are scared when they see this silver shining creature? I think I would be scared if I was a small child. Actually, the statue was given to the park authorities as a gift for the children of Warsaw in 1981 but I can't find anything out about the sculptor.
It was Spring time when I last visited Park Praski and the blossom was just starting to appear on the trees. I have one photo of the giraffe standing in front of a tree with yellow blossom. He does look an elegant creature. I love the porous quality of the steel and the fact that the statue is so tall and grand. The giraffe isn't loved by everyone - some people think it is unsightly but I think it is a splendid construction and can't wait until the snow comes so I can go back to check on my giant of a friend.
Eliza Orzeszkowa was a well-known Polish novelist who was passionate about her country and was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1905. This talented writer didn't win the prize but she has been remembered for her work. A monument was erected here in the park in 1938, designed by Henryk Kuna.
Overall, the park is well maintained. Wooden benches are in abundance as are litter bins. There are kiosks selling soft drinks and light snacks such as hot dogs, sandwiches and Zapiekanka (pizza baguette). There is a covered auditorium with a large seating area. This is used for theatre and concerts in the summer months.
I like the atmosphere of Praski Park and fully recommend a visit. It's somewhere to visit outside the city and very simple to reach by tram. Take a 13, 23, 26 tram from Ratusz Arsenal and get off at the first stop after the Stare Miasto. You will see a sign for the Zoo - Praski Park is right next door.
Address: Aleja Solidarności, Warszawa 00-090