Friday, 10 October 2014

'Golden October' Autumnal Excursion to Somianka Dwór, the Open Air Museum at Ciechanowiec and Liw Castle, Sunday 5th October 2014 - 300 kms

Please click on photographs to enlarge - the result is quite superior

Andrzej Cieplik (AC),  Jacek Kołodziejski (JK)
and I (MM) took the photographs


The weather over the last few weeks has been and continues to be superb - a real 'Golden October' as it is termed in Poland. Outside of the extensive pine forests most trees in the country are deciduous which results in a constant golden rain. If the weather is warm and sunny the landscape for driving is unsurpassed.

Some eight classic cars (with two new cars never seen before) and twenty members formed up in the ample parking space at the Toyota dealership in Warsaw. The original intention was an excursion to the Ossolinski Palace in Sterdyn-Ceranów. However communication with the palace, fraught with difficulties from the very outset, finally broke down completely. It is owned and was restored by an elderly gentleman who is rather whimsical in the way he opens the palace to the public and quite unpredictable in his attitude to invasions of what he considers his private space

Rather at the last moment we discovered it would be closed and so conjured up a Plan B on very short notice. Actually this was put together with the assistance of a helpful lady who unexpectedly answered the palace telephone. This would be a visit to a Skansen (open air museum) in Ciechanowiec and lunch there in a nearby relatively new hotel. The excursion turned out well in the end with some excellent driving on undiscovered (although sometimes rather rough) roads. 

Preparing for the 'off' in an area of Warsaw known as Marki      (MM)

We set off around 10.30. The plan of first visiting the Somianka Dwór (Somianka Manor)owned and restored by Pawel Esse, one of the CCC members, remained unaffected by the sudden change of plan. This was a pleasant short drive from Warsaw of about 50kms. 

The mansion (referred to by Pawel amusingly as 'my little cottage') has an interesting history. It was designed in the first half of the nineteenth century (around 1833) on the foundations of an old convent by the architect Adam Idźkowski. He was the architect of the reconstruction the Cathedral of St. John Warsaw built in the English Gothic style. The dwór is situated on a high cliff and surrounded by a picturesque landscaped park laid out in the nineteenth century. Between the wars the property extended  over 2000 hectares, including 800 hectares of forest. After the war it performed the functions of a police station, a kindergarten and a school. 

Somianka Dwór with the Blazej Zulawski Series 1 E-Type, the Austin Healey 3000 of Piotr Ficenes, Przemek's Ferrari 328, the Lukasz Rzepecki MG Midget, the Saab 96 V4 Rally Car of Jacek Kolodziejski,the BMW 635 csi owned by Kuba Owoc,
Ian Booth's Jaguar XK and Moran's 1974 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow


The park at Somianka Dwór  (MM)

Pawel Esse took us on a fascinating guided tour of his restored house which he hopes will be used by conferences, business people and others looking for relaxation in the lovely peaceful surrounding parkland. Unusually he opens it to the inhabitants of the local village to use as they wish for leisure and relaxation.

The Dining Room  (MM)

The Sitting Room  (MM)
The Library  (Dwor Website)
Pawel giving us a talk on the history and restoration of the house before our tour  (MM)


How does one approach the restoration of a house in this state except with trepidation, courage and incredible perseverance over many years!   (MM)

Pawel explaining historical minutiae of the house in the library but young girls and boys far more interested in each other - as is appropriate!   (MM)

As I am particularly interested in wartime aircraft (both the Great War and WW II) I spied in a corner of the library a small 'shrine' of photographs dedicated to an airman crowned with a Polish flag. I immediately asked Pawel what this was and its significance. 

As is often the case with the extraordinary folk who are members of the CCC (astonishing for such a small club) a remarkable story of wartime valour demonstrated by a close relative unfolded.

Major Jerzy Mieczysław Kranc and the squadron mascot    (MM)

I received this email from Pawel which clarifies the detail:

Major Jerzy Mieczysław Kranc was my great uncle from my father side, brother of my Grandma. 

First he was Wing Commander and than from 1944 a Squadron Commander of 304 (Polish bomber squadron). Active in many actions (famous for hunting the “German” Wellington. This aircraft which was taken over by Germans was known for attacking English crews returning after action to their bases in England). 

As attachment please find a few pictures from our family archive, among them two with wreck of ‘Sonia’ with General Sikorski and two others from Poland in 1939 where he was in 2nd Squadron in Kraków.

General Sikorski inspecting the extensive damage to the Wellington bomber named 'S' for 'Sonia'
Major Jerzy Mieczysław Kranc (far right)
Major Jerzy Mieczysław Kranc 

General Sikorski inspecting the extensive damage to the Wellington bomber named
 'S' for  'Sonia'

Major Jerzy Mieczysław Kranc  recieved the Virtuti Militari

                          Przemek, Pawel and Karolina share something amusing at Somianka Dwor    (JK)

  Pawel in an unsuccessful attempt to start his own MG Midget found unsurprisingly in his own barn    (MM)

And so we 'bad farewell' to a most pleasant morning spent at Somianka Dwór and headed towards Ciechanowiec, the skansen (open air museum) and some grub. 

These are a range of shots taken en route. We first took the dead straight Route 62 to Wyszkow, followed by a small section of the E67 and then the marvellous minor road for this type of driving, the 694 to Ciechanowiec.

                                     Piotr Ficenes in the 1960 Austin Healey 3000 Mk I, a rally replica of the car in which Pat Moss (sister of Stirling Moss) won the Liège-Rome-Liège and finished second in the Coupe des Alpes  leaving Somianka.             Info Michael Dembinski   (AC)



      Polish roads can be blissfully smooth and deserted - it is just a question of finding them!  (AC)



                                      Blazej Zulawski stands beside the pure aesthetic of the Series 1 E-Type   (AC)

          Lukasz Rzepecki in his MG Midget in a rare moment leading an E-Type Jaguar     (AC)


                      The Saab 96 V4 Rally Car of Jacek Kolodziejski in a typical Polish birch forest   (AC)


 Some beautiful profiles superbly shot by JK near a remote Polish cornfield


                                                      As driving can be in remoter parts of Poland....      (JK)

                                                         No doubt intending to head south for the Winter...     (AC)

      Jaguar XK, Rolls-Royce SS,  Ferrari 328 and Series 1 E-Type at speed - what an unlikely combination but it works well in the CCC.  The Rolls has quite a turn of speed when pushed and keeps up well unless the others decide to seriously race of course! 
A common activity among Poles...  (AC)


                                                                      And then the road became rather rougher...   (AC)


Incidentally, in case you are wondering, the 'HRH' registration plate originally indicated that the car belonged to the Sultan of Oman's fleet of RRs in Berkshire before he sold them off to lesser mortals such as myself. 
Well, why not retain the plate? A bit of fun and the closest to royalty I am ever likely to get!  

Incidentally I bought the car in 1985 for the 2013 equivalent of £33,040 - hardly an investment at current Shadow values despite all the present talking up of classic cars as part of an 'enjoyable financial portfolio'. But Roland and I will only be parted by the inevitable.

Buy what you love but choose carefully if you are in investment game.

Ian Booth in his Jaguar XK. 
I noticed we stuck together as 'moderate' English drivers among the Targa Florio inspired Poles!   (AC)

                                                                  And so to lunch...rather later than expected...   (MM)


Well we all made lunch (surprisingly delicious by the way) but not the skansen
It closed early at 4.00pm. 
'Far better to travel than to arrive' is fast becoming my motto!    (MM)

The type of buildings in this outstanding open air museum at Ciechanowiec. 
One of the finest in Poland. We really must return here.



We decided to return to Warsaw via the Castle of Liw, some 80 kms east of the capital. It holds strong nostalgia for me when I first visited Poland in the RR in 1993. Would it have changed in 20 years?

      The Castle of Liw     (MM)

The castle-manor complex of  Liw is the oldest example of architecture in the Siedlce Region. In the Middle Ages a wooden castle protected the eastern part of the Mazovian Duchy frontier from the attacks by the Russian, Lithuanian and Baltic tribes. In the first quarter of the XV century Janusz I Prince of Mazovia founded a new castle of brick on an artificially raised island surrounded by the swamps of the Liwiec River, which was the border of the state at that time.

The Gothic castle possessed crenellated walls, a drawbridge and two buildings for the knights and other occupants. The walls and the tower were heightened in 1437, 1512 and 1550-55. Nearby there was a settlement for the craftsmen and court servants. Before 1421 the village gained town rights. In the XVI century, from 1526, the Mazovian Princess Anna was the owner of the castle. She was the last member of the Piast Dynasty which ruled the Mazovian Duchy for almost 300 years. The next owner of the castle and ruler of the Duchy of Mazovia  was Bona Sforza, Queen of Poland.

A great disaster for Liw were the so-called Swedish Wars. In 1656 and in 1703 the Swedish Army conquered and plundered the town and the fortress which was ruined after the second invasion.

In 1782 the governor of the County of Liw, Tadeusz Grabianka, built a Baroque manor attached to the older fortifications as his office. It burned down in the first half of the XIX century but has since been restored.

There is an extraordinary anecdote associating the castle with the Nazis during the Second World War. The German governor of the area wanted to use the ruins to supply the bricks for the building of the extermination camp of nearby Treblinka. A young Polish archaeologist, Otto Warpechowski, persuaded him that Liw castle was a former fortress of the Teutonic Knights. And so it transpired that Liw  became the only castle in Poland actually renovated rather than destroyed by its Nazi occupants during the conflict.

               The Liwiec River at Liw - once the Russian frontier     (AC)

Ah yes! The shaken and stirred group photo! Those members of the CCC that survived the tribulations of
 Sunday 5th October  2014 gathered together on the banks of the Liwiec River     (AC)


The length of the Chairman's hair is a geriatric scandal! Appointment to be cut tomorrow October 11th! (AC)


 And so we prepare to depart for home...after 300 kms  of rather tiring and demanding driving. (MM)

Sheer vanity prompts me to post this picture of me at Liw in 1993 in the same RR as I drive today in Poland.  (Robert Mathews photo)

Excuse the Napoleonic complex but I had enormous fun in Poland twenty years ago. 

The RR caused quite a stir in those wild days shortly after the fall of Polish Socialism. Car theft and hijacking were rife. This caused me significant anxiety with Kalashnikovs costing  a mere 25 US dollars.  

Boys fell off their bicycles and so were thrown. I experienced only enormous friendship and enthusiasm. 'Thank you for bringing your beautiful car to Poland!'  

Matters are certainly rather different in 2014. Life has improved out of all recognition for Poles but it is rather less entertaining for us spoilt foreigners!


A long 9 hour day of driving and sight-seeing pleasure.

And long may this sublime 'Golden October' continue...and hope for many more.

Michael Moran (Chairman)