Wandering Łazienki in Winter
The guidebooks will tell you that Łazienki Park is the largest in Warsaw, tucked just next to Belweder Palace. They will trace its various uses: from a menagerie, to a baths, formal gardens and eventually a royal palace. They may speak of its progression of owners, and maybe mention a few important architects. They will be completely accurate and they will miss the point entirely.
Łazienki’s power isn’t revealed in a recitation of dates and names. It is discovered in wandering its paths. And those paths have something new to unveil every time I walk them.
I acknowledge that Łazienki Park was created as a summer palace. I know that it’s designed to show its splendor in full bloom. And, it does. It is a beauty in the summer.
But, it turns out, it translates well in winter, too.
In winter there is the distinct feeling that a curtain has been pulled back. The bareness of it all makes it feel as though I can see a little more clearly into the heart of this place.
And what I see is magic. In the summer I knew it was beautiful. And, peaceful, and restorative. I love Łazienki in the summer.
But, in the winter it is revelatory. Bare lines etched in white begin to reveal a kind of magic hovering over this place. There's just thin layer obscuring the reality of this place. Walking through it, covered in white, I can almost, but not quite, see through to the other side.
Every fairy tale of dancing princesses and enchanted royals feels possible here. Wandering through Łazienki’s snow dusted paths makes me believe that Persephone really was wisked down to the underworld, and we’re all in frozen stasis, waiting for her return.
Without the distraction of showy flowers and dappled light filtering through leaves, Łazienki becomes a frozen kingdom of enchanted splendor.
The peacock is an enchanted king, resting regally on his bench. The deer are courtiers, gracing its paths and walkways. The statues stand ready to creak back to life. An empty theater, waiting to spring back to life in gay theatrics at any moment. Buildings are biding their time as museums until they can once again host glittering balls.
In the winter, when everything is laid bare, its secrets are real.
To walk through Łazienki in the winter is to anticipate. Everything is frozen in this state of magic, and it may thaw at any moment. Seeing it like this: frozen and transformed is to walk inside a fantasy. To see the part that was before. When the magic still held court here.