Set 46 km west of Warsaw, a visit to the birthplace of composer Fryderyk Chopin has become a spiritual calling for the composer’s fans…
It is, to many, the ultimate destination. For fans of Chopin, Żelazowa Wola is what the Vatican is to Catholics: a place of pilgrimage and contemplation – a near holy site where you can feel the spirit of Chopin lingering in the shadows. And now, getting there has never been easier. Operated by Chopin Pass, minibuses leave almost daily from outside of the Palace of Culture, delivering sightseers to the composer’s doorstep.
You could use the 90-minute journey to browse through the Chopin related literature onboard, but the tendency is to sit back and lose yourself in the hypnotic tinkle of the pianist’s compositions. As roadside stops selling tires and tiles give way to quaint rural villages, travelers find themselves floating off into soothing, snoozy daydream. Back-to-earth, and the minibus comes to a halt outside the main gate, dispatching day-trippers in front of a stunning visitors center.
Completed in 2010 to coincide Chopin’s 200th birthday, explore two ultra-modern pavilions made from stone, glass and wood. Having resisted (or not, as the case maybe) the chance to stock up on Chopin merchandise, devotees are whisked through a small exhibition that presents the curious story behind the monument to the musician found in Łazienki Park. This though is merely fluff leading up to the main event.
Exiting, enthusiasts follow a path up to the place of Chopin’s birth. Having been rescued from ruin in 1928, this dove-colored annex is billed as the star attraction. Though small in size, and modest in terms of exhibits (period furniture, paintings and a couple of pianos bathed in light), there is something curiously enchanting about this pristine-looking home. As admirers solemnly shuffle over the creaking floorboards, they do so without so much as a whisper. The silence is reverential.
Returning outside, most take the chance to ponder their experience on the benches set out on the building’s flank. Nocturnes and waltzes pipe out from speakers while curtains billow in the wind. It’s a bucolic scene befitting of the moment, however, to make the most of it visit on Sunday when the double doors of the building are thrown open and international pianists recite works from Chopin’s oeuvre.
Though there is not much more to see, there’s plenty to soak in: the landscaped gardens are of considerable size, and an exploration takes visitors down curving pathways past cascading colors. Crossing a humpbacked timber bridge, sightseers are sucked into a magical world of surging streams and shaded alcoves – such is the sedentary pace and tranquil backdrop it becomes almost tempting to miss the bus back…
Buses leave from outside the Tourist Information point on the ul. E. Plater side of the Palace of Culture at 10.30 a.m. (Tues to Sun). An additional bus runs on Sunday at 1 p.m. Tickets are priced at zł. 119 and include transport and entry to both Żelazowa Wola and Warsaw’s Chopin Museum. For details, see: chopinpass.com