“Reborn from the ashes of WWII like no other city in Europe, Warsaw holds the key to understanding the spirit and strength of all Poland,” explains Malgorzata Zakrzewska, director of Mazurkas Travel, which works with U.S. groups.
The company creates glamorous dinner parties in sumptuous 18th century cellars and backstage tours of the largest stage in Europe, the Opera Theater. There are also vodka tastings, dance classes and jazz evenings at an old sugarcane factory, now the Fabryka Trzciny Artistic Center.
Group tours discuss Old Town’s reconstruction brick by brick 50 years ago from pre-war photographs, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And the Warsaw Rising Museum has won global applaud for its retelling of the amazing holdouts against the Nazis.
Warsaw absolutely throbs with music festivals year-round, and the whole town gets involved when the lineup includes Polish composer Frederick Chopin. Though Chopin moved abroad at 20, he was said to carry an urn of Polish soil until he died. His every step here is fodder for pilgrimage. Varsovians flock to Holy Cross Church where he insisted his heart be immured after death. (The rest of him is at Pere Lachaise in Paris.) The maestro’s childhood home, Zelazowa Wola, 30 miles west of Warsaw, makes a great day trip to an idyllic, stream-riven countryside. Go in summer when famous pianists give concerts in the old family home.
Zakrzewska says locals and visitors love the hip redesign of the Chopin Museum, which blends interactivity and way-cool audiovisual aids with the world’s largest collection of Chopin memorabilia inside the gorgeous historic interiors of Ostrogski Palace. One plastic card embedded with a computer chip guides guests through the maestro’s creative process. View rare manuscripts, hear tales, smell the composer’s beloved violets, listen to music and even make some noise by stepping on sensors embedded in the floor!
Only the room commemorating Chopin’s death is silent.
Zakrzewska’s most popular event is a trip in vintage cars to the 187-acre Lazienki Royal Park for a Chopin concert at the foot of his monument.
“The recital is a sentimental journey and people are truly moved, often to tears, by the emotion in the music,” says Zakrzewska, who serves champagne at intermission.