Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Pic-Nic at the Country House of Otwock Wielki near Warsaw, Poland 3 May 2015

Click on photos to enlarge - far superior rendition

Where does one spend 'Constitution Day' in Poland? 

The weather has been changeable and surprisingly chilly in Warsaw this year but I was determined to  have the first pic-nic of the season in charming surroundings. It turned out to be a pleasantly sunny day verging on the hot after midday. Late April and early May are wonderful months in the country as spring literally explodes across the landscape and the trees come into leaf. Warsaw is utterly transformed from the foolish accepted view of it as a miserable city, cold and mired in slush. 

Every year I make a definite decision to use the old Royce more than the previous spring and summer. I dare not take it on the heavily salted roads of the long winters. Since my last visit here in April 2009 the CCC has come into existence so I invited the members if they wished to have a day away from the 'trouble and strife' (not the Cockney rhyming slang for 'wife' but the present state of the world). 

This charming baroque country house called Otwock Wielki and is situated about 25 kms south of the city off the road to Pulawy. It is built on an island on a loop of the Vistula river. The house is surrounded by a superb park with the usual Polish practice of closely planted limes and a small area of English lawn with a fine fountain of two leaping dolphins. Otwock Wielki was built in 1693-1703 for Franciszek Bielinski, Grand Marshal of the Crown, by the remarkable seventeenth century Dutch architect Tylman van Gamaren who designed so many of the finest surviving buildings in Poland. It was subsequently expanded in the eighteenth century by the talented architect Jakub Fontana. The interior has recently been restored and furnished in period with a stunning stucco what one might call 'Roman' Ballroom. The rooms formerly dedicated to the Polish military hero Jozef Pilsudski who presided over the brief flowering of Polish independence between the wars have disappeared. They have been replaced with a number of rooms decorated with period furniture, paintings (possibly family portraits) in the style of a dworek (Polish for country manor house).

Cupid strikes again!  Detail from a restored tapestry in the palace

The ballroom

A maritime fresco within the Palace

Detail from a beautiful Florentine pietra dura table

A pavilion in the gardens added since my last visit in 2009

Detail from and 18th century escritoire 

Detail of frescoes in the Dining Room

We set up our pic-nic table in a field beside the house and long water of the lake near an ancient avenue of willows coming into leaf. We were immediately attacked by tics lurking the long grass. Screams from the summer-dressed ladies present. "You can die from a bite! I know someone seriously ill, hospitalized...' Quite right.  We moved to an adjacent spot where they then began to fall from overhead branches of the trees. More screams and leaping about - not unlike French movie. We finally found a safe patch of ground. Nothing could have been more civilized as we opened the old Fortnum's basket left over from Christmas festivities years ago packed with excellent Polish cold cuts, fresh bread and a chilled bottle of New Zealand Rose. 

Our tic-free group guarded by HRH

Nothing could have been further from the absurd view of Poland as still a melancholic uncouth country. Here was no interference from 'guards' or private 'policemen' urging you to move elsewhere. One wonderful aspect of motoring in Poland is that you can stop almost anywhere scenic and pic-nic without problems of invading private territory or being accused of trespassing. Bliss if you love this activity as much as I do. The country is relatively unregulated concerning leisure activities and one never feels that 'pressure of people' that often spoil country excursions in so many European countries.

The picturesque lake

Ian Booth from the CCC and his family joined us. No other CCC members and no classic cars other than mine unfortunately on this pleasantly 'escapist' excursion.

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