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Zelazowa Wola (Poland)

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The birthplace of composer Frederic Chopin in Poland.

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      10.08.2011 14:48
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      A magical experience

      I have been wanting to visit Zelazowa Wola for the last four years - ever since I came to live in Warsaw. Somehow I never seemed to manage it until a couple of weeks ago when we decided to travel out of the city by car to find some interesting places to view and take photographs of. My son had prepared a small itinerary which included seeing several wooden churches in the Kampinos region, the Modlin Fortress and Chopin's museum and the house where his parent's lived. You can reach Zelazowa Wola through the village of Kampinos and as this was the second major attraction on the list I felt very excited. The only problem was that my granddaughter had fallen asleep in her baby seat in the car and her Dad didn't want to wake her up so he pulled in to a side road to park up while I went my own way to the' World of Frederic Chopin.' I will add here that there is a car park across the road from the museum and house but it is quite expensive and we were feeling a bit frugal on that day and didn't want to fork out £2 for parking.

      As I was on my own and didn't want to leave my son and granddaughter for hours on end I decided to just view the house and gardens and go back to see the museum another time. I wasn't exactly sure how to get in to the gardens so just followed a young couple who opened a gate and walked straight through. I did think this was a bit odd. No admission fee but it was Sunday and some attractions in Warsaw and its environs are free on Sundays. I had only walked a few metres down the main garden path when a gruff voice shouted me back. Ooops! I did have to pay and had to go into the modern looking building at the side of the gate which was the museum and admission desk. The price for the gardens was 8zloty (approx £1.70) and the museum was 21 zloty (approx £4.50).

      If you love Chopin like I do and I do think you have to be a fan as his music is piped through speakers continuously all through the park then you will be in your element here. Benches are available for you to sit on and admire the gardens while listening to his romantic if a little over dramatic piano chords. In the courtyards concerts are first held in spring and follow through to the end of autumn. Musicians come from all over the world to take part in these concerts and visitors alike.

      Chopin's father, Nicholas, was French and you are probably wondering what on earth he was doing in this part of Poland - 52 kilometres outside of Warsaw. Well, he fell in love and married a young Polish woman called Tekla Justyna Krzyzanowska and baby Frederic was born on 22 February, 1810. It's all written down in the Register of Births at the local church. To earn a living Nicholas taught French to Count Skarbeck's children who lived in a manor house in Zelazowa Wola. One of the outbuildings on the Skarbeck's estate became the home of Frederic's parents and in 1928 the Friend's of Frederic Chopin's House Society made the very modest house into a museum. Many of the family's belongings were either lost or destroyed during World War II. Now the house is open to the public as part of the larger museum which has been purposely built to exhibit more of Chopin's manuscripts and photographs.

      I was quite taken back with the simplicity of the house. It is very much like a cottage you would find in Norfolk, painted white with a black tiled roof, ivy creeping around the front arched windows, two floors, French windows that open out on to rockeries and a wooded area. Inside the floors are bare wood and walls plastered and painted white. Furnishings are sparse and of that period with the odd photograph of Chopin and his family. I thought the rooms were quite bare and was a bit surprised. For example one of the rooms downstairs housed a Grand Piano but that was about it - one painting over the mantlepiece and a huge period vase in one corner. I felt as though the rooms could have been reconstructed with a bit more warmth - the house didn't feel like a home. Although the house is in a lovely setting with grounds packed full of ancient trees and shrubs I should imagine that in the winter it was a grim place to live in the days of Chopin. I did notice the very important eastern European full size heater/stove - the one that is tiled and belts heat out throughout the house. This would have been a necessary feature to stop the place from getting damp as the house is in a bit of a dip and didn't seem to get a lot of light although it was slightly overcast the day I visited. I have to say I wasn't overly impressed with the house. I'm not sure what I expected - something a bit more frivolous and not as basic. But this was the house belonging to his father so perhaps Nicholas wasn't as flamboyant as his son.

      The gardens and courtyards are a different story. I was very impressed with the planting and design of the gardens. I could see that some man made features had been introduced like small ponds edged with stone walls and various bridges made from wood had been built to span the river running through the whole of the park. There are monuments too dedicated to Frederic throughout and beware when suddenly stepping out from behind an ancient oak as you may find yourself greeted by a bronze bust of the wavy haired composer. I liked all of the monuments especially the obelisk with the F Chopin medallion dated 1894.

      The different species of trees are wonderful; beautiful tall cedars towering high into the clouds and willows weeping to the sounds of Chopin's piano. Certain areas are quite densely wooded with blankets of hostas covering the ground. The foliage of these plants always fascinate me as from a distance they look like a cloud of ordinary green floating underneath the trees but as you walk closer you notice the green turning to shades of blue, jade and even gold. Then there are areas blooming with orange lilies; long verdant stems topped with vibrant orange flower heads with just a touch of vermilion. Looking at each flower closely it's as if someone has picked up a fine paintbrush and gently spattered plum coloured paint into the centre of the flower head which is crowned with a golden halo. When the sun illuminates these flowers the scene is so beautiful, like stained glass windows in a church.

      I spent about 40 minutes in the park and I could have stayed much longer although on a Sunday it closes at 3pm. There were some tourists but I wouldn't say the park was crowded. A large cafe is situated near to the entrance gates which looked to serve hot and cold drinks and from what I could see just by walking past and having a nosy, had a very tempting selection of cakes. There is also a restaurant on the left hand side as you enter which is slightly hidden behind trees.

      Before I left Chopin's gardens and Zelazowa Wola I went inside to the admission area and entrance to the museum to see if I could find any free leaflets. I noticed a small souvenir shop selling postcards, books, CD's, T shirts and other Chopin memorabilia but no freebies as such. Although I did manage to pick up a rather stylish booklet celebrating his bicentenary of 2010. My copy is in Spanish. I couldn't find an English version and my Spanish is much better than my Polish or German. Whatever the language it is a nice souvenir and one I will treasure. I enjoyed my fleeting visit to Frederic's family home and park and will definitely go back to spend more time sat on a bench amongst the lilies while listening to the sound of Chopin's 'Raindrops'.

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