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From Wola to Wilanów – by bike. Quick impressions!

Smocza Street, where our ambitious trip to Wilanów begins, is located within walking distance of Museum of Polish Jews on 6 Anielewicza Street.

The permanent exhibition (placed in the basement) commemorates and documents a thousand years of Jewish history in Poland. Raw and minimalistic, construction of the Museum’s edifice reflects two of its main architectural tenets – not to dominate The Monument to The Ghetto Heroes and not to interfere with the neighbourhood. The project of the building, designed by a Finnish architectural office Lahdelma & Mahlamäki won an international architectural competition organized in 2005. Incredibly functional and spacious, the Museum building boasts 12,8 square metres usable floor space – one third of it is occupied by the core exhibition, while the remaining space accomodates offices and various other purposes. The symbolism of the Museum is not limited to the interior: the building’s façade is clad with glass panels printed with traditional ornaments and Hebrew letters. The Museum was founded in 2013; its mission is not only to concentrate on the history of the Holocaust but also to mark Jews’ contribution to Polish economy and culture.

The best way to get to another attraction – The Krasiński Garden and Palace is through Świętojerska Street, which today unfortunately has nothing to do with the historic buildings of the city. The street was not renovated after WWII. Nowadays, one can see there i.a. The Embassy of The People’s Republic of China in The Republic of Poland based on project by Romuald Gutt, famous architect known for characteristic building of GUS (Central Statistical Office of Poland). One can also find here once world-renowned Institute of Industrial Design.

Through Świętojerska Street we get to the stunningly baroque Krasiński Palace – built in 1695 based on concept by Tylman van Gemeren for provincial governor of Płock – Jan Dobrogost Krasiński. Unfortunately, Great Northern War made impossible for owner to finish decorating the interior.

A few years before the first partition of Poland by Prussia, Austria and Russia the Palace was bought and transformed to main office of Treasury Commitee hence building is sometimes called The Palace of The Republic of Poland. In 1783 interior of the palace was consumed by the fire.

During interwar period the palace contained headquarters of the Supreme Court (its current site is located vis a vis – on the other side of the square). The palace was destroyed again, during the Warsaw Uprising. Nowadays the palace is transformed into branch of National Library which contains golden documents and manuscripts. Behind the palace there is a city park, based on the remains of palace’s garden hence is called the Krasiński Garden. After the war park was enlarged by the destructed areas which wasn’t to be rebuilt.

In 2012, 337 of 929 trees was cut out, including many which survived both wars and maybe even remembered IRP (First Republic of Poland). That was an execution of the development project of this area by Barbara Kraus-Galińska and her company Abies – Landscape Architecture.

There is Freta Street in front of us – it’s closed to traffic

The street runs along the New Town Market Place – it was build in in the IV century as a small market square in front of the north gate of the borough – The Old Warsaw. Its name origins from latin word “fretha” which simply means muddy fallow land. The whole street was completely destroyed during the Uprising in 1944. The reconstruction from 1950-55 corresponds with its XVIII century’s form. Some of the buildings was rebuilt in even older palace style, preserved and depicted in the paintings from the days of the last king of Poland. In this regard, especially interesting is quasi-baroque tenement house no. 39. The pavement, made of red granite bricks, and fragments of curbs remained original. By contrast, present form of the New Town Market Place is quite chamber – after the war it was reconstructed only partially: north and south frontages refer to previous architectural forms, mainly from the XVIII century. First premeditated damages of the Market were made by the Swedes in 1656-57. In the XIX century stone city hall was pulled down – at that time Warsaw (finally!) was merged into one administrative entity. During the second part of XIX century another redevelopments and demolitions took place which significantly decreased size and prominence of the Market. As well as nearby streets, the New Town Market Place was completely wiped out during and shortly after The Warsaw Uprising.

Another sight is The Barbican – constructed in the XVI century according to the draft of Venetian architect. The Barbican was already outdated by the time it was built – due to discovery of regular artillery. The Barbican did not play any role during warfare and was partially deconstructed and then surrounded by tenement houses. On the eve of the war outbreak part of its walls was uncovered, followed by a number of further discoveries and finally leading to renovation of the entire building based on baroque engravings. Nowadays, during summer season walls of The Barbican host an exhibition of The Museum of the Warsaw dedicated to history of the Old Town, especially its fortifications. Both the New City (the best path leads through Stara Street) and The Barbican are close to Boleść Street. As for the approximately 200 meters long street, it has an extraordinarily rich and interesting history. Dated back to the Middle Ages – it led to the marina on banks of the River Vistula, then to the first bridge built on the river in 1573, destroyed by the ice floes 30 years later. However, it didn’t lost its significance for it leads to powder-magazine and (from 1770) to The House of Punishment and Improvement (a type of jail). Currently the facilities of powder-house and jail one can find the ,,Stara Prochoffnia” theater (Boleść Street 2). During the time of the post-war reconstruction (60s) remaining gothic elements were exposed. Nowadays, the passage at the end of the street (underground) leads to brand new boulevards by the Vistula River. Nearby we can spot The Multimedia Fountain Park by The Square of I Armored Division. From May to September one can see there (on Fridays and Saturdays approx. 9 PM) multimedia spectacles consisting water, lights and sounds (with lasers and projections of the films on the mist-water screen). But there is a lot more to see. Traveling along the Vistula River one can admire truly stunning boulveard – the second major investement (along with the new metro line) implemented and greeted with general satisfaction of the citizens of Warsaw. There are lots of places where one can have a glass of water (or something else). From now on, the road to Wilanów goes south. We should speed up. Going along Wybrzeże Gdańskie Street one should take a good look on Śląsko-Dąbrowski Bridge built and designed by Jerzy Koziełek in 1947-49, based on Kierbiedź Bridge’s pillars. The bridge provides integral part of East-West Line. Passing the bridge one can get quickly to the Warsaw University Library – on 56/66 Dobra Street. The building of the library was designed by the living legend of the Polish architecture – Marek Budzyński. Despite providing its considerable collections to the public, the library hosts a number of noteworthy events and exhibitions e.g. The Science Festival. There is even a garden placed on the roof of the Library – one can admire the view of the nearby area. Although in the neighborhood there is an attraction which is kinda hard to beat – The Copernicus Science Center on 20 Wybrzeże Kościuszkowskie Street. It is the biggest science center in Poland where one can take part in lots of conferences and presentations. Its mission is to ,,encourage personal involvement in discovering and understanding the world around us” and to provide visitors (adults and children) with inspiration. The Copernicus Science Center is without a doubt worth a separate visit. But we are going on, though Poniatowski Bridge (a couple of its arches was blasted by the Russians in 1915, the rest was destroyed in 1944 by Germans) and arriving in Powiśle area. One can see there Płyta Desantu (the place of landing, dedicated to another bloody episode during the Warsaw Uprising), the Sapper’s Monument (officially named “Glory for Heroes”) and few nautical centers. Moreover there are a number of pubs and clubs with live music (e. g. „Kurort” i „Cud nad Wisłą”). We’re in the hurry – going along Czerniakowska Street we are passing by blocks of flats – Kopiec Powstania Warszawskiego. They can seem to be a little shabby but well, famous old school Lotos pub can be tempting… Let’s stop for a while at the intersection of Czerniakowska and Powiślańska Street – although only now the area of Czerniaków begins. On Bernardyńska Street one can admire Church of St. Anthony of Padua designed by (as well as Krasiński Palace) Tylman von Gameren (and was built by Izydor Affaita in 1690-1693)

Tylman von Gameren, honored by king Jan III Sobieski and married to Polish noblewoman Anna Komorowska, was buried in Warsaw. Highly educated, he was a kind of architect-philosopher type. The comparison between these two buildings designed by this genius architect from Netherlands could be really interesting – especially considering the fact (what seems to be almost unbelievable in the history of city of Warsaw) that the Church of St. Anthony was never redeveloped and preserved its original baroque style. Now we can go along Powiślańska Street and with God’s help reach the Wilanów area, passing by so called Czerniaków lake. When we arrive on the kings’ former demesne, Powiślańska turns smoothly to Wiertnicza Street. There are plenty to see and explore here, e.g. The Wilanów Palace – summer residence of Jan III Sobieski, St. Anne’s Church, and, more contemporary – Royal Garden of Lights. Nevertheless, every true connoisseur can’t miss The Poster Museum. Posters, along with the industrial design works were once Polish pride and main product of export. Since the Poles are not geese…

Start: 27 Smocza Street

1. Museum of the History of Polish Jews – 6 Anielewicza Street

2. Krasiński Garden and Palace, Krasiński Square

3. Świętojerska Street

4. Freta Street

5. The New Town Market Place

6. Boleść Street

7. The Square of I Armored Division – Wybrzeże Gdańskie Street

8. The Warsaw University Library – 56/66 Dobra Street

9. The Copernicus Science Center – 20 Wybrzeże Kościuszkowskie Street

10. Pomnik Sapera/The Sapper’s Monument – Stanka Street/Solec Street

11. Church of St. Anthony of Padua – 2/4 Czerniakowska Street

12. Wilanów Palace – 10/16 Stanisław Kostka-Potocki Street

During the trip one will see The Barbican and two bridges (Śląsko-Dąbrowski Bridge and Poniatowski Bridge) as well as a number of monuments, art centres and restaurants/pubs.