Perhaps no other composer has come to embody his nation like Fryderyk Chopin. From the moment you land at Warsaw Chopin Airport, there are reminders everywhere. But Chopin left the Polish capital when he was twenty. How much of the city would he recognize today?
In his bicentennial year, Chopin's Warsaw meant big business. Beyond the International Chopin Competition, held every five years, the entire city got a spit-and-polish job to prepare for an onslaught of Chopin fans from around the world. In Jerusalem, pilgrims follow the Stations of the Cross. In Warsaw, you follow Chopin’s Benches – fifteen park benches scattered around the city that are loaded with multimedia apps and downloads designed to transport you back to Chopin’s time.
It begins where Chopin left: In Krasiński Square, former home to the Polish National Theatre. The place where Chopin premiered his First piano concerto in March of 1830; the place where six months later he played his farewell concert before leaving the country forwever.
The journey – with accompanying musical selections wends its way through the Warsaw of Chopin’s time. Miodowa Street – The entire social life of the Polish capital was centered here, as was a teenaged Chopin. Radziwiłł Palace – where an 8-year old Chopin gave his first public performance. Holy Cross Church – where Chopin prayed, played, and his heart now stays.
And the last stop: Lazienki Park - or the Royal Baths Park - the largest park in Warsaw, and home to the most famous Chopin monument in the world. How the statue got built is a story that mirrors the sad chapters in Poland’s history. But today, it’s a peaceful oasis in a bustling city...and a gathering point for pilgrims, pianists, and even a few pigeons…all flocking to offer their own tributes to the Poet of the Piano. - Benjamin K. Roe