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Carnevale Praha

The Prague Carnevale 2016 is a Bohemian event, an Amadeus-style carnival full of surprises. The festival begins with a masquerade on January 29, and ends with a concert of Baroque music at the Clam-Gallas Palace.

The traditional masks meeting takes place at the Old Town Square on January 30, at 15:00 – this is the event that marks the official opening of the carnival. It is followed by the masquerade at 20:00, when there will also be live music performances, as well as food tastings. Some of the most interesting events of the day include the competition for the best mask, and the Race of the Golden Pig. The same day, in the grand residence of the Clam-Gallas Palace, you can attend the concert “In the Gardens of Goddess Pomona,” featuring the Opera Barocca ensemble and soprano Jana Bínová Koucká, under the artistic direction of cellist Ondřej Michal. To attend the concert you need to wear a costume and mask.

Carnevale Praha Masks

A group of people wearing traditional masks at Carnevale Praha 2015, courtesy the official page of the event on Facebook.

The rich program of this year’s edition makes this one of the most promising carnivals in the Czech capital. There will be a Mardi Gras soiree on the 6th and the 7th of February at the palace, after baroque music concerts, part of the famous Prague Opera Barocca, as well as a concert and matinee on January 31. The official carnival stages in the Old Town and Wenceslas Squares will feature theatrical and acrobatic performances hourly for the whole duration of the festival.

There is also a special ball for the smallest attendees, gondola tours on the Vltava, and romantic, Baroque-style carriage rides on the streets of the old town. Don’t worry if you don’t own a costume and mask, there are rentals available at Boudoiru Franzise Wussina, where you will find sublime Baroque dresses and accessories. Here you can also buy handmade original masks.

Chopin Museum

Warsaw is advertised as the city of Chopin, because the great Polish composer Frédéric François Chopin was born and raised here. His musical genius drew inspiration for many of his early works from the life pulsing on these historic streets, and from the beautiful nature of the local parks.

“The muse of his homeland dictates his songs, and the anguished cries of Poland lend to his art a mysterious, indefinable poetry which, for all those who have truly experienced it, cannot be compared to anything else,” said Franz Liszt once, referring to Chopin.

Fryderyk Chopin Statue in Warsaw © Artur Bogacki - Fotolia.com

Fryderyk Chopin Statue in Warsaw © Artur Bogacki – Fotolia.com

In fact, Chopin loved the cradle of his youth so much, he requested his heart be removed after death and returned to his beloved Warsaw. So if you want to tour Chopin’s Warsaw, you only need to follow his heart.

Walk down Krakowskie Przedmieście, to find the Church of the Holy Cross, where the heart of the composer rests in an urn immured in a pillar. This remarkable church, one of the most visited landmarks of the city, was built between 1679 and 1757, and was a collaborative effort, involving the creative genius of several architects and artists, including Józef Szymon Bellotti, the royal architect at the Royal Court of Poland, for the main building; as well as Józef and Jakub Fontana for the towers and the facade. But nothing of the original works remains: the church was blown up by the Germans in 1945. What you see today is the work of architect B. Zborowski. Luckily, the urn containing the heart of the composer was removed during the Warsaw Uprising (1944) by the Germans, who gave it to Bishop Antoni Szlagowski. Only on October 17, 1945 the heart was returned to the church, during a ceremony that celebrated 96 years since Chopin’s death.

Holy Cross Church Warsaw © stavrida - Fotolia.com

It’s easy to see Chopin’s Warsaw like a tourist: the city celebrates its most beloved son with pride and joy, and promotes all the significant landmarks that were touched by the composer, one way or another. The official route suggested by the City of Warsaw was inaugurated in connection with the 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth in 2010. When you follow the route, you will find several multimedia benches, which have an interactive sound system that will play Chopin’s music. There are 15 spots where you can rest on one of Chopin’s Benches, all connected with landmarks that played an important role in the life of the composer.

For instance, at Radziwiłł Palace, where Chopin performed for the first time in public, the bench will play RONDO in C minor, Op.1; 32”. At the Holy Cross Church, you will listen to the MEMORIAL MARCH from SONATA in B minor, Op.35; 45”; while the bench on Miodowa Street will play MAZUREK in A minor, Op.68; 34”. This is the street where you will find Honoratka, the only venue from Chopin’s time that still stands in its original form.

Honoratka

The composer used to dine and meet with his contemporaries often in the restaurant, back then called Kawiarni Honoratka. Today’s Honoratka is a place to discover traditional Polish cuisine, accompanied by the music of the master. Almost everything here is designed as an homage to Chopin: you will feel his presence, an uplifting experience, enhanced by cultural and artistic events and exhibits. And, of course, there’s even a Chopin menu.

Another uplifting experience on the itinerary is the Łazienki Królewskie Park, where, in the heat of July, August and September, every Sunday, from noon to 16:00 there are free Chopin piano concerts performed outdoors at the foot of the Chopin Monument, one of the most recognizable symbols of the city.

Łazienki Królewskie Park © aarstudio - Fotolia.com

The park used to be a playground for young Fryderyk and the son of the Prince. The gardens surrounding the various royal buildings are among the most beautiful in the city, and are popular for tourists and residents alike, not only for their outstanding landscape, but also for the events held here. Besides Sunday Chopin concerts, from June to September you can also appreciate performances by the Horse Quadrilles, which are staged on each first sunday of the month at 12:00.

Łazienki Królewskie Park is the site of the Royal Residence of King Stanisław August, today a prestigious museum, showcasing the Royal collections of paintings, sculptures, numismatics, and graphics, as well as temporary exhibitions on various themes.

No other landmark on the Chopin itinerary is as authentic as Salonik Chopinów, a small part of the flat where the composer spent his last years before leaving Poland. The flat, the only one belonging to the composer, which is still open to the general public, can be found inside Pałac Czapskich, formerly Pałac Krasińskich, and currently the Academy of Fine Arts. The apartment, however, doesn’t feature original furnishings, which were destroyed or lost during the World War II. Instead, the beautiful drawing salon was recreated in 1960 based on drawings by Antoni Kolberg.

If these landmarks are not enough to tame your thirst for knowledge, step inside Pałac Ostrogskich for the largest collection in the world of memorabilia and documents related to Chopin. One of his original pianos is still preserved here, together with manuscripts of his works, letters, notes, photographs, personal items, and much more. Unlike most museums celebrating the life and work of a local hero, the Fryderyk Chopin Museum is the most modern biographical museum in Europe. The experience is direct, hands-on, designed to satisfy curiosity and interest in visitors of all ages. 15 different rooms inside the palace are each a different “mini-museum” dedicated to the great composer.

This tour that celebrates Chopin will bring the purest of the local spirit closer to your heart. This is a kind of experience that completes your understanding of Varsovian tradition in unusual and unexpected ways, in tune, if you will, and perfect harmony: the kind of experience that redefines the purpose of travel, enriching your soul.

James Blunt

Autumn tends to be a grim season, but not in Warsaw, the city that celebrates the season with the largest international Polish festival of contemporary music, Warsaw Autumn (Warszawska Jesień). There are only four days left to enjoy outstanding performances at different participating venues around the city, mainly till Sunday, September 28, 2014, when the 57th edition of the festival closes with Musical Carriage and the Cuckoo Clock Orchestra, two sound installations by Erwin Stache.

/ Warsaw Autumn

Starting tomorrow till Sunday, September 28, 2014, you can enjoy La Folle Journée de Varsovie 2014 at Teatr Wielki (Grand Theatre – National Opera). This festival has been held annually since 1995, with great success in countries like France, Spain, Japan and Brazil. In Poland, the festival is organized by the Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra, C.R.E.A. and by the Ogrody Muzyczne Foundation. This is the fifth edition of La Folle Journée in Poland, and its theme is American Music of the 20th century.

More quality music is presented next Monday at Pardon To, Tu: live performances by Pat Thomas, a prolific artist, considered by many critics a master of improvisation. He will be accompanied by double bass player Adam Pultz, and a true star of Scandinavian improvised music, producer, composer and drummer, Peter Ole Jørgensen.

Pat Thomas at Pardon To, Tu

For fans of pop rock, Friday, October 3, 2014 is a day to mark in the calendar, as one of the bestselling performers of the genre, James Blunt, will perform at Torwar. Blunt is known for hist such as “Bonfire Heart,” “You’re Beautiful,” and “Goodbye My Lover.” The concert is part of the “Moon Landing Tour 2014,” which the artist dedicated to dreams, longings and first loves.

James Blunt

The Budapest Spring Festival celebrates its 34th anniversary this year. It is the largest cultural festival in the city, and counts among the most prestigious in this part of Europe.

Held from 21st March to 6th April 2014, the festival invites visitors to enjoy excellent programmes, and show, by acclaimed Hungarian and international performers. Among the stellar performers of the festival, we’d like to count the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hungarian Radio Symphonic Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and many individual performers, like Leila Josefowicz, Piotr Sałajczyk, Alison Balsom, Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Andreas Scholl, to mention just a few.

The festival counts concerts, dance, folk music, and theater performances on its schedule, and employs over 50 venues, including the Palace of Arts – Béla Bartók National Concert Hall, the new Budapest Music Center, Centrál Theatre, Radnóti Theatre, the St. Francis Parish Church, the Palace of Arts – Festival Theatre, and many others.

Among the programmes for young audiences, the most interesting are offered on the World Puppetry Day, with many free performances at several spots in the city.

For lovers of art, there are several exhibitions during the Budapest Spring Festival:

  • SPRING – Contemporary Arts Exhibition
    Venue: Balassi Institute, Budapest Somlói út 51. district I., Tel: (+36 1) 381-5124
    Date: 16th March – 30th April
  • Muses on Theatre Square
    The Pest German Theatre (1812-1849) was founded 200 years ago
    Venue: Budapest History Museum, Buda Castle, Szent György tér 2., building “E”
    Tel: (+36 1) 487-8800
  • 30th Hungarian Exhibition of Press Photography
    Venue: Hungarian National Museum, Múzeum krt. 14-16., district VIII.,
    Tel: (+36 1) 327-7773
    Date: 24th March – 6th May
  • Art Deco and Modernism, Interior design in Hungary 1920–1940
    Venue: Museum of Applied Arts, Üllői út 33-37. district IX:,
    Tel: (+36 1) 456-5107
    Date: 16th March – 30th September

There are two Mamaison hotels in Budapest, which offer excellent conditions for travellers visiting Budapest during the festival: Hotel Andrassy and Mamaison Residence Izabella.