Following the inspiring visit to one of best of Warsaw tourist attractions, the Chopin Point Warsaw (HERE) I decided to give myself a chance to get to know the great composer better. The next opportunity for getting to know Mr. Chopin a bit closer came along rather quickly with an invitation for our One Day Tour team to visit the Sanniki Manor House. With my limited familiarity of Chopin and his life history I had no idea where and what the Manor House was and to be frank – I held no great expectations toward it either. But as they say – to err is to be human. The Manor turned out to be a fantastic surprise and once again I got to realize that buildings themselves are no more, but architecture – it is the people who look after the buildings who breath souls in these buildings and create them as a tremendous draw.
The Sanniki Manor at a close-up
The village Sanniki is about 100 km North-West from Warsaw – approximately 1.5-hour bus ride. A perfect distance for a full day tour. The story of the village dates to XIV century, when it became famed for and got its name Sanniki for making sleighs for the Dukes of the Płock principality. Today it’s best known for the Sanniki Manor House, which incidentally houses the Fryderyk Chopin Memorial Center.
Somewhat hidden amidst the average village houses and sheltered by the surrounding park, the Manor suddenly appears before you as a surprise. Even at a first glance you can tell that the estate is well kept. And as you approach it closely you can nearly feel the commitment and the love that is required to render such a charge. That first impression only gets stronger as you enter the grand, yet somehow cozy and welcoming, entry hall. The centrally laid out wooden stairs romantically creak under your feet as you climb up to the upper chambers all furnished with great care for detail. But what surprises you the most is that although it is a museum it somehow feels like a home. It does not carry or promulgate that typical “museum stiffness and the staff do not have that “upper lip” expression when talking to you. You can touch the exhibits, ask questions or just talk with the curators – you can even crack jokes and break into laughter.
What captured my heart and what was Chopin’s relation to the Manor?
Chopin spent here his summer vacations in 1828 when the Manor House belonged to the Pruszak Family, the parents of Chopin’s classmate Konstanty Puszak and his sister Olesia. Some of the best musical compositions of Chopin were originated here. Aside from working on his music Chopin just vacationed here with his friends and their friends, traveled around, rest and enjoy the country estate life. In one of the chambers upstairs you can see and touch the grand piano at which Chopin sat and played. The curators will eagerly tell you plenty of anecdotes about Chopin’s stay at the Manor and his interactions with his friends. For true devotees and lovers of Chopin having the chance to spend time here is like being in a time capsule, almost like he was still here.
Those, like me, who are barely learning about and discovering Chopin can attend workshops and although these are not always directly focused on Chopin the staff always finds ways to smuggle in an interesting tale or an anecdote or two.
The Sanniki folklore and handicraft
We had the opportunity to partake in a very unusual workshop and learn how to make flowers out of paper. Much to our surprise what on the surface seemed to be a monotonous and a boring activity absorbed us totally. It turned out that this particular trade is very distinct for this region and have a long history. The workshop was led by a talented woman dressed in a folk attire characteristic for the Sanniki region who passed us through the secrets of that unique handicraft.
Chopin’s favorite flavors
Humanity does not live by art and music alone. Luncheon was a function of our agenda, but we expected simple and homely food. Rather we were surprised by a spread of wonderful flavors prepared for us by two fantastic female cooks who treated us to tasteful dishes of which some were described as Chopin’s favorites. In summation to the traditional dumplings and marvelous meat rolls we were served absolutely fabulous beet crème, herb smoothies and the absolute best of the best – the parsley spread. This particular delicacy has already become a staple in my house. To make that even more special all produce used for cooking came for an eco-agricultural farm nearby
One thing is for certain – this was an unforgettable one day trip. I wish that the „big” museums would learn from Sanniki how to open themselves to the public and how to create an ambiance for learning, and discovering important things in the atmosphere of fun, excitement and great interpersonal communication. I know, it is not easy, but Sanniki have mastered that difficult task. It was here at the Sanniki Manor House, where I truly and for the first time met Fryderyk Chopin not only as the great bronze statue of the world renowned composer, but as a genuine anatomy and bone person full of fun, liveliness and laughter. To all the staff and the “Sanniki Good Spirits” who watch over and take care of the Manor I say THANK YOU.
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