Travels with Papillon




The Narrative



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Poland - Page 2


In Poland, and elsewhere in the old East Bloc, we heard the same refrain, often in exactly identical wording from many people.

"Under the Communists we had money and nothing to buy.  Today we have plenty to buy but no money."



Wieliczka Salt Mine


You have seen it many times on TV and you wonder, should I go?

Absolutely.  Yes you will live a rich full life if you do not, but this was an interesting tour, more so for the art carvings in the salt than the industrial process of salt mining.

Mined for over 2 centuries, the miners often took time to carve art in 3D and on the walls.  A mile long tour, you will enter a number of large chambers and marvel at the scene.  Everything is of salt, even the chandeliers are made of rock salt.

No longer worked, the mine is a major tourist attraction and even has a cafeteria and gift shop 400 feet underground.



You begin the tour by walking down 400 steps


A cramped miners elevator brings you back up.


Wall Carving

The Great Hall









Commie Tour

Seating you in a Polish built Trabant, the driver gives you a guided tour of the planned city of Nowa Huta.  Built starting in the early 50's, Nowa Huta was the community that would house the thousands of workers and their families at the new massive steel plant that became the pride of Polish Communism.

Strikes and actions by the workers were a major tool in the breaking up of the communist State.  As their reward thousands of workers were "down sized" as the plant had to compete in a Capitalistic world.  Today the works are owned by an Indian concern.

The town itself was more attractive than what we thought the Commies would, or could build.  Numerous parks and green spaces everywhere.











East of Rzeszow, on the road to L'vov and the Ukraine, is the small town of Lancut and its marvelous palace and grounds.

The present castle was built for Stanisław Lubomirski starting in 1629, and over the years a succession of Poland's elite have owned and upgraded the Baroque core into one of the finest palace museums in all of Poland.  Self guided tours (a rarity in Poland) allows one to dwell in some of the most well lit and tastefully decorated rooms on the continent.

Sadly the Poles usually deny permission to photograph inside so I refer you to the website with its Virtual Tour.




Carriage Museum

One of Europe's Best


At the time we liked this palace very much.  The rooms were airy and well lit from large window openings.  The furniture was appropriate and not crowded in.  The parquet floors were different in each room and very well done.  The stucco work was restrained but well done and highly effective.  But most of all we enjoyed the self paced tour where we could linger were we wanted, for as long as we wanted.






Now where did I put that???







Further east, very near the Ukraine border lies the planned community of


"Zamosc owes its perfection to two men: Jan Zamoyski and Bernardo Morando. Nobleman Zamoyski wanted to build a private city in the middle of nowhere, and the architect Morando knew how to do it. They worked together for 25 years and created a masterpiece which we can still admire today. Little has changed in the general design since Zamoyski founded the city in 1580."

The UNESCO World Heritage town with its picture perfect Market Square overseen by the wonderful pink Baroque Town Hall




A great place to chase the pigeons


Where Saturday is wedding day, and the bugler still plays the noon salute and warning from over the centuries.


And the pace of life is slow and easy and the open air cafes invite you to sit.


A fine Brew, our beer of choice in Poland


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Brought to you by the same family that gave you Zamosc, their family palace lies 10 miles or so north of the town.  Group tours in Polish only left us leaving the tour early.  Too bad, the guide appeared to be both knowledgeable and thorough.

We enjoyed the outside more than the inside.




Gallery of the Art of Socialist Realism

Located in the former carriage house is the small but interesting collection of state sponsored "approved" art from the 1950's.

The State did not approve of many forms of modern art and desired that "Art" serve a positive function in State Society.  Thus only approved themes promoting the Workers Paradise were acceptable.

Some good , but mostly mediocre art.

Very interesting museum though.



A Rose amongst the Roses






Southeast of Warsaw lies the old Polish city of Lublin, which appears to be getting on board the tourist bandwagon only now.  Given a few more years the old town will develop a better selection of cafes, restaurants and shops than are now available.  Attraction wise there are a number of venues of merit but the infrastructure is still a day or two away from being first class.

Pride of place is Lublin Castle, dating from the 1200's, and especially the Chapel, dating from the reign of Kazimir the Great (consecrated 1418).

Kazimir preferred the Russian Orthodox school of church decoration over the Latin and thus he contracted a school of Moscow painters to come and apply the wall and ceiling decoration in the eastern Byzantine (Russian) style.

Suffering serious neglect over the centuries and actually covered with whitewash and plaster (which may have preserved it better than not), the frescos were rediscovered in 1897.  Attempts were made through the teens, 20's and 40's to restore but only in the 90's was a serious attempt made.  The results are shown in the postcard view to the left.

Better lit than during our visit, it shows a room completely covered with one of the few, and best examples of Russian church frescos in existence.  Groups of 20 are allowed in for 30 minutes at a time.  Typewritten sheets with a map are provided in many languages to explain each scene









There were such mixed reviews on Warsaw that you enter the city in a state of bewilderment.  What to believe?

To my eye the problem lies with the city/country fathers who could never seem to agree on a comprehensive plan, thus buildings appear to be placed helter skelter without a zoning plan.  The result, to me, is a somewhat ugly city overall.


Toward the northeast.  The Old Town section is the red roofed area, center, above the parking area.



There are large areas that have been redeveloped or restored that rival the best of Europe.

It is those areas that we fell in love with.








Warsaw was probably the most destroyed city in Europe as a result of the war.  First the 1939 German bombings and infantry assault, then the Jewish Revolt in the summer of '43 which the Germans crushed with bombs, artillery and fire, ditto with the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944, then the systematic evacuation of the entire population and planned demolition of public buildings in the fall of '44, and finally the Red Army's contested arrival in January of 1945.

The authorities decided, over 5 decades, to rebuild the old squares, churches and palaces as they were.  It is those that we celebrate today.


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The Royal Palace

National Museum

The completely rebuilt Royal Palace which now houses the National Museum on 2 floors is a absolute gem.  Again our enjoyment is based on the ability to walk the rooms and galleries at our own pace.

State Apartments and Art arranged in an uncluttered manner, showcasing the best of the old and the talents of today's restorers.


Above - Porcelain 18th Century

Left - Gold leaf on Stucco


Next - Poland 3

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