The Palace on the Water

In between bouts of fuming about my crazy country, I am still working on that Gray Sundays in Warsaw list. Though yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day, the project du jour was Pałac Łazienkowski, also known as the Palace on the Water. (It is gray and chilly today, while I write this post, so that counts!)

I walk past this palace several times a week, in all seasons. It is on my exercise route through Park Łazienkowski (Royal Baths Park), which is, in my opinion, the nicest place in Warsaw. So, of course it took me almost a year to finally go inside.

The Palace on an earlier spring day. Gondolas take visitors around the small lake.
The Palace on an earlier spring day. Gondolas take visitors around the small lake. Yeah, it’s pretty idyllic.

The Pałac Łazienkowski was originally a bath house, built in the late 17th century by Prince Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski. I was surprised to find that, like Doctor Who’s famous telephone booth, it is “bigger on the inside.” Much bigger!

The Count, one of a long line of bald Polish nobility (no kidding, one kind was actually called Boleslav the Bald).
The Prince, one of a long line of bald Polish nobility. No kidding, there are dozens of portraits of bald noblemen, and one king was actually called Boleslav the Bald. it must have been hereditary.
Bacchus overlooks one of the first-floor dressing rooms.
A truly dissolute Bacchus overlooks one of the first-floor dressing rooms.
Bath-y sorts of frescoes in the actual bathing room.
Bath-y sorts of frescoes in the actual bathing room.

Though heavily damaged by the Nazis in WWII (fortunately, they never got around the detonating the explosives that they had planted in the palace for some mad Nazi reason) it has been beautifully restored since. Many statues and paintings were hidden from the Germans during the occupation and saved. However, the Baroque-era frescoes were destroyed: pictures of some of them can be seen here.

A view of the bathing room before and after WWII.
A view of the same bathing room before and after WWII.
An impressive fireplace in the dining room.
An impressive fireplace in the dining room. Hercules on top, Cerberus, the three-headed dog, at bottom right.
The rotunda in the middle of the palace.
The foyer, looking into rotunda in the middle of the palace.
The roof of the rotunda.
The roof of the rotunda.

A later Polish king, Stanisław II Augustus liked the bath house so much that he converted it into a small summer palace. Though Stanislaw is often viewed as a failure, having been the last king of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, he was a notable patron of the arts and did have rather good taste for a Baroque-era monarch. The modestly-sized living quarters that he installed on the second floor of Pałac Łazienkowski look something that a person could actually live in.

King Stanisław August Poniatowski.
King Stanisław August Poniatowski.
The King's private chambers
The King’s private chambers
The King's bedroom. The bed is more like a couch, because he slept sitting up, as did most people at the time.
The King’s bedroom. The bed is more like a couch, because he slept sitting up, as did most people at the time.
Such a lovely view out the bedroom windows.
Such a lovely view out of the bedroom windows.
I was personally impressed that anyone would install all these beautiful mosaic wood inlay floors in a bath house, even on the second floor.
I was personally impressed that anyone would install all these beautiful mosaic wood inlay floors in a bath house that sits on a lake!

I’ve seen a LOT of Baroque bling in my time—a LOT—but I I think the Palace on the Water is a real jewel that is well worth a visit.

Visiting information here.

lazienkapalac-16

 

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