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Mihaela Lica Butler

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Mihaela Lica-Butler is travel writer and travel public relations consultant by profession, lover of cultures and cuisine. She has built a fun career while chiming in on many topics, from relating the trials and tribulations of the people of Kosovo, to experiencing, first hand, the heroics of the Romanian soldiers serving for the UN. But she thrives in conveying her love for travel and places in written word, and she is happy to be a constant contributor for some of the world's best travel sites.

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Pisztory Palace

The Pisztory Palace is a historic landmark of Bratislava, just five minutes by car or fifteen minutes on foot from Mamaison Residence Sulekova

Local pharmacist Felix Pisztory appointed architects and builders to erect the superb estate in the 1890s. It preserves many of its original features, including gilded frescoes on the ceiling and mosaic flooring in the staircase hall. Some of the crystal chandeliers are original too. A Gastach allegoric painting dating from 1895 is in excellent condition and can be admired inside the palace as well. 

In 2016, the  Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) conducted restoration works at the palace facades and the roof. Since 1963, 
the Pisztory Palace is a National Cultural Monument of the Slovak Republic. 

During its time, the palace served as a private residence, as the German Embassy during World War II, and later as the home of the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Museum and the House of Slovaks Living Abroad. Since 2012 the Pisztory Palace it is a cultural center hosting a wide variety of events, including concerts, exhibitions, theater,  and much more. The venue is available for hire for weddings, banquettes, and conferences. 

In the left wing of the palace, there is a special community center designed to encourage participation of the more disadvantaged groups of population in a non-traditional artistic way, for example via theater, performance, and dance.  The actors are recruited from homeless people, physically disabled, and people belonging to socially disadvantaged groups.

The garden of the Pisztory Palace is an impressive sight. Restored in 2012, it is carefully landscaped and enhanced with all kinds of medicinal plants and herbs to honor the memory of its first owner, pharmacist Felix Pisztory.

As from December 2016, the Pisztory Palace on Štefániková Street is incorporated in the network of Old Town cultural centers.

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Rhino at the Warsaw Zoo

You’ll reach the  Warsaw Zoo in less than ten minutes by car when you stay at Mamaison Hotel Le Regina. It is one of the city’s most cherished attractions, not only for its role as an animal sanctuary but also for its significant part in World War II when the zookeepers defied the Nazis by saving the lives of hundreds of Jews.  Between 1940 and 1944 Jan and Antonina Zabinski hid around 300 Jews in the “house under a wacky star” – their home at the zoo. Antonina and Jan Żabiński were honored with the Righteous Among the Nations title by the Yad Vashem Institute in Israel on 7 October 1965.

Antonina Żabińska at the Warsaw Zoo, 1933. Photo: Warsaw Zoo Archive.

The unpublished diary of  Antonina Żabińska, Ludzie i zwierzęta (People and Animals), was the inspiration for a 2007 non-fiction novel by poet and naturalist Diane Ackerman, titled The Zookeeper’s Wife. Consequently, the book hit the screens as a motion picture in 2017 starring Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, Daniel Brühl, and Michael McElhatton.

The Zookeeper's Wife

Amongst the people who found shelter at the Warsaw Zoological Garden were: Magdalena Gross, Maurycy Paweł Fraenkel, Rachel Auerbach, Regina and Samuel Kenigswein, Eugenia Sylkes, Marceli Lewi-Łebkowski with family, Marysia Aszer, Joanna Kramsztyk, Eleonora Tenenbaum, the Kellers with child, Irena Mayzel, Lewy the Solicitor, Kinszerbaum and Dr Anzelm, according to the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews “Polish Righteous – Recalling Forgotten History” project.

The zoo was bombed in 1939 and many animals died, including apes, an elephant, and a giraffe. After the surrender of Warsaw to the Germans, the Nazis transferred some of the most valuable animals to the Schorfeide reserve in Germany, then shot the other animals. The zoo was closed and it only reopened in 1949.

Today, the Warsaw Zoo is one of the busiest and most popular in Europe. It cares for over 4200 animals and welcomes over 1,000,000 visitors annually.

A lion at the Warsaw Zoo.
A lion at the Warsaw Zoo.

Warsaw Zoo Today

Visitors can admire all kinds of animals at the Warsaw Zoo:

  • meerkats sharing a facility with giraffes and bongo antelopes as they would live in nature
  • gorillas – including Azizi, the leader of the band
  • Mendoza, a magnificent and majestic condor
  • sloths, like Paavo and his companion Amy
  • Cocoro, one of the largest toucans in the world
  • Cuba and other Indian rhinoceros
  • Hugo the hippopotamus
  • Leon, the  magnificent elephant and his herd
  • Lucy the chimpanzee and her family
  • Beata the black jaguar, and many other animals

While walking around the zoo, you can not miss the beautiful bronze sculptures depicting animals. They are accompanied by descriptive labels in the Braille and sound as part of the educational path for the blind and visually impaired.

There are 13 gastronomic outlets operating seasonally in the Warsaw Zoo so you will have plenty to choose if you are hungry. Plus, the zoo has its own restaurant, Tembo, and a bar,  Belwederek.

The zoo is open daily from 9:00. More information, in Polish, on the official website.

For more attractions in Warsaw when you stay at a Mamaison hotel, see this link.

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The Sacré Coeur Park is an oasis of green in walking distance from Mamaison Riverside Hotel Prague – about twenty minutes on foot or two minutes by car. It is a picturesque site that occupies the site of a garden landscaped in 1872 on the grounds of a former vineyard. The park, as it stands today, was developed in 2004.

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Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts

The Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts is about two minutes walk from Mamaison Hotel Andrássy. It is a thought-provoking destination, founded in 1919 by Ferenc Hopp (1833-1919), whose passion for the Orient and Oriental art led to an impressive collection, boasting more than 4000 objects. The current exhibition celebrates the woman goddess and is titled “Devi Cults and Traditional Female Roles in India.”