National Museum, Krakow
In the 16th and 17th c. the Polish hussars were the leading branch of cavalry. They were equipped with a long lance as their main weapon and were wearing plate metal body armour. The hussars fought countless actions against a variety of enemies, and rarely lost a battle .
Most famous in the history of Europe is the charge led by King of Poland Jan III Sobieski of the 3.000 Polish Winged Hussars against the Turks at the Battle of Vienna in 1683 .
Polish Hussars were also famous for the huge 'wings' worn on their backs or attached to the saddles of their horses. The wings were made of a wooden frame and, most commonly, eagle feathers, although ostrich feathers were also worn .
It is not clear if these wings had a practical use in battle or were just used on parade .
Whatsoever, they are quite impressive.
During WW II the winged hussars became the badge of the 1st Polish Armored Division (ref. my tip).
The Polish winged hussars were present at the battle of Normandy WWII.
After the German invasion of Poland in 1939 a number of Poles joined the allied forces in the UK. The Polish 1st Armoured Division (Polish 1 Dywizja Pancerna) was, created in February 1942 in Scotland and commanded by General Stanislaw Maczek. Its badge showed a winged hussar (photo 1).
The Polish division, numbering approximately 16.000 soldiers, arrived in August 1944 in Normandy attached to the First Canadian Army and became famous during the very hard fighting against SS divisions at the Battle of Falaise where Maczek's division had the crucial role of closing the Falaise pocket.
After the Battle of Normandy the Polish 1st Armored Division pushed to the North to liberate Ypres (6/09/1944) and Gent in Belgium. This was done by the 3rd Polish Infantry Brigade (3 Brygada Strzelców). Belgium honored the Poles who liberated large part of Flanders by giving the 9th Rifle Battalion along with the title "Rifle Flanders" shoulder cords called "Fourragere" in the colors of the Belgian War Cross (9 Battalion Strzelców Flandryjskich).
My photo 3 shows the memorial in Ypres, Belgium (ref. my reviews on Ieper/Ypres).
After this the Polish division liberated Breda, Brabant, Netherlands on 30/10/1944
The 8th Rifle Battalion was honored by the Dutch and called Battalion Rifle Brabant
There is a General Maczek Museum in Breda and a Polish military cemetery (photo 2). The tombstones show the winged hussars badge.
I discovered that these two battalions still exist in the Polish army with their names Flanders (photo 4, banner of this battalion) and Brabant in the 34 Armored Cavalry Brigade.
At the end of WWII the Poles who fought in the West were stripped of their nationality by the communist power. The majority chose exile in several Western countries. Many have experienced a difficult rehabilitation, like that of General Stanislaw Maczek, set to retire prematurely.
I'm well aware that this review is not just about tourism but I think that the dramatic years of WW II for Poland, France, Belgium and Holland can be remembered here with the story of the Polish 1st Armored Division.
The Gallery of Polish Arms and Uniforms with a 1200 m² display area on the ground floor has been renovated in 2009. Over 1600 objects show Polish military history from the 10th c. to WW II.
The memorabilia show works of great craftsmanship such as a horse tack ornamented with precious stones, ensigns and relics of famous Polish military leaders (photo 1) .
Surprising is unique collections of Polish sabres, arms and armour of Polish Winged Hussars (Photo 2) . This was a discovery for me .
Polish lances were long (about 5 m) and were hollowed. The hussars had also a sabre and pistols. The hussars' primary battle tactic was the charge, slow at first, then closing ranks and charging through the enemy at the highest pace .
The typical Polish lancers cap called chap(s)ka (czapka) (photo 3), is a peaked cap with a square-shaped crown. Napoleon had a regiment of Polish lancers wearing the chapska in his imperial guard .
All this is illustrated with video displays and multimedia presentations.
Indications in Polish and English. Photos allowed (no flash).
The main building of this national museum is located at the corner of the western ring lane Al. Krasinskiego and al. 3 Maja .
The museum is located in a modern building and has 3 permanent departments :
1° The Gallery of Polish Arms and Uniforms which was the object of my visit. It is the second largest collection of historic arms and military memorabilia after the Army museum in Warsaw .
2° The Gallery of Decorative Art. It is the largest permanent exhibition of its kind in Poland. It is a chronological presentation of the wealth of Polish and West European decorative art from the Middle Ages to the Art Nouveau period. For me it was the most interesting part of the museum .
3° The 20th Century Polish Art Gallery is with about 400 works the largest display of contemporary art in Poland and occupies the largest part of the museum.
I spent only a short time in this part as I had not much time left and my interest for this type of art has faded. I don't know if it is due to the evolution of the contemporary art itself or me, with age, getting more critical about art matters .
I will come back with some details on the two first departments.
Open: Tuesday-Saturday 10 - 18 h. Sunday 10 - 16 h. Closed on Monday.
Price: 10 PLN, reduced 5 PLN. One ticket for the 3 galleries. Free on Sunday.
Photos allowed (no flash).
Special Exhibition (Sept 2011)- on loan from the Spanish Royal Family. There was an excellent exhibition of various treasures from the Spanish royal family including furniture, paintings, personal objects from the various palaces in Spain. This showed the changing tastes of the royal family throughout the ages as well as a variety of richly decorated pieces from various parts of the world.
Permanent Exhibition- Arms and Uniforms in Poland
this was a very well done exhibit (a bit dark in some parts of the museum). There was an especially good collection of medieval armor and methods. The timeline was especially interesting..it traced the development of arms and uniforms of the polish military from the beginning of Polish nationhood only until 1945. Not one day of the communist period is covered.
to me this omission was especially telling
There are two other permanent exhibitons in the main building
Gallery of Decorative Art
20th Century Polish Art
Walking in this area was especially nice. You get to see a lot of academic buildings, and even some buildings with socialist realism.
It is the largest permanent exhibition of its kind in Poland. For me it was the most interesting part of the museum. I regret I had not more time to have a better look at the collection of furniture, fabrics, clothing, gold, silver, ceramics, glassware and musical instruments.
The Gallery was opened to the public in 1998 and consists of nearly four thousand exhibits in stylishly arranged interiors.
It is a chronological presentation of the wealth of Polish and West European decorative art from the Middle Ages to the Art Nouveau period.
Hereafter some photos of furniture, clocks and a surprising so-called carousel sleigh (± 1740) with a figure from Diana.
Indications in Polish and English.
Photos allowed (no flash).
Mehoffer is another relatively well known artist who was most active during the art-nouveau period. His former house has been restored and contains examples of many of his works including stained glass windows, pictures, furniture and graphic works. It also houses various other artefacts associated with the artist
This museum contained a collection of Polish craft art - costumes, plates, furniture etc. and a large gallery of contemporary Polish art. The craft art wasn't that interesting but it was good to see the modern Polish art which gave a good impression of Polish art today. Although all the art has been produced fairly recently there was a good spread of modern art and more traditional paintings, drawings and watercolours.
Main building of Poland’s richest museum, with branches scattered all around Krakow’s downtown, is the chief venue for temporary exhibitions–sometimes sensational, always interesting. The gallery of the 20th-century Polish art upstairs houses nearly 500 outstanding works by Poland’s modern artists, with a tilt towards those most important for Krakow. Arranged with regard to schools and trends rather than chronology the exhibits provide a wide cross-section of the Polish art, starting from the 1890s up to now. Also permanent are two other exhibitions: of decorative art and of the Polish arms and army uniforms.
Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday 10 a.m.–3.30 p.m., Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Most of museum in Cracow are free on Sundays!
There is one center of the National Museum in Krakow and a few further branches. Rich and valuable collections, temporary and permanent exhibitions, together almost 780 000 exhibits, a few prehitoric relics, art from Poland, but also Wester and Eastern Europe.