The Royal Palace marks the easternmost edge of the Stare Miasto, Warsaw’s Old Town, a cobblestone-paved area that stretches west toward Warsaw’s modern business district. Scars etched into the walls of the palace paint a picture of a long history, showing repairs, additions and changes wrought upon the structure over the past seven centuries.
I use the Old Town as the opening scene in A Blind Eye. One of my characters, Łukasz Kaminski, has been beaten and left for dead. As he slowly recovers—both his strength and his memory—he makes his painful way through the Old Town to the Royal Palace. The photograph on the book’s cover shows the scene, looking at the Palace from across the Wisła River.
It’s a fascinating place, and well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Warsaw.
The Great Tower was erected in the fourteenth century and the palace expanded significantly in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was a royal residence, the place where parliamentary deliberations were held and the administrative and cultural center of the country. Like so many places in Poland, however, it suffered through wars and partitions.
Once a site of great artistic collections, its art and artifacts were looted. In the nineteenth century, during the partitions of Poland, most of the collections ended up in Russia. Only some of the collections were returned when Poland regained its independence.
World War II brought yet more destruction. Warsaw’s Old Town was devastated during the war, the Royal Palace no exception. If you’re on Pinterest (and I know it’s not for everyone), I’ve pinned some images there showing the brutal impact of the war on the built environment.
The decision to rebuild the castle was made in 1971, but funds were solely lacking. The Polish people came together to rebuild. I remember my mother telling me about her childhood in Poland, collecting used tin cans to send back to Warsaw for the rebuilding effort. Every little bit helped. Thanks to the dedication of the Polish people, the needed funds became available in 1980. In 1984, the reconstructed interiors were opened to the general public. Here is a photo of my family (many years ago) in front of the Royal Palace and another of my mother in front of Zygmunt’s Column in the Old Town.
The Royal Palace is just one of the many fascinating places I explore through fiction. I’ll share more in future posts. How about you, what wonderful places have you visited through the joys of reading?