Tucked into a shady backroad a stone’s throw from St Patrick’s Cathedral in downtown Dublin is the exquisite Marsh’s Library. This isn’t just any library. In fact, Marsh’s Library looks exactly the same as it did when infamous horror author Bram Stoker (writer of Dracula) was a scholar there, checking out books about history and Transylvania! Founded in the early 1700s by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh, Marsh’s Library has been a renowned place of study since opening day. A gentle odour of ageing leather and ancient oak meets you as you walk through the neoclassical doorway and up the stairs of this beautiful, hidden library. Magnificent oak-panelled shelves rise up, larger leather-bound tomes on the bottom, smaller volumes up top. At the back of the library, there are still reading cages liming the walls – and 18th century solution to avoid books going missing (because of course you weren’t permitted to check a book off the premises in those days!). Today, only scholars can look through the books (though in a modern reading room, not the cages!), but there’s always an exhibition in Marsh’s Library, changed every few months. At the time of writing this, the exhibition is on Bram Stoker and the books he consulted while studying at Trinity University, though past exhibitions have been on stolen books, rare books or other scholars and writers who’ve consulted or featured in the thousands of books on the shelves of this library.
Pro tip: Check their website to see what exhibition is on at the time of your visit. While in Dublin, enjoy a stroll in Stephen’s Green or Merrion Park, visit any of the free national museums or have a walk through the infamous Temple Bar district.
The fantastic Jabłonna Palace (pronounced yah-bwoana) inhabits a lush, green estate-turned-park on the outskirts of Poland’s capital of Warsaw. Built in a joint neoclassical and baroque style in the 1770s by the Polish King Stanislaw’s brother, it was meant from the start as a stunning royal palace and park complex to stun and awe Poland’s elite. Like most of Warsaw – and Poland – the building is newer than it looks. Jabłonna Palace was burnt by angry Germans in 1944 and the resilient Polish of Warsaw reconstructed it as accurately as possible in the years following the war. Today, Jabłonna Palace’s beautifully Baroque ballroom, elegant dinning areas and classy guest rooms regularly hold concerts, art exhibitions, scientific shows, conferences and – you guessed it – weddings, as well as being open to the public. Even if you aren’t attending a wedding or concert, the grounds of Jabłonna Palace make for a great escape to the outdoors. Offering a much-needed breath of fresh air from the hustle and bustle of Warsaw, Jabłonna Park is a perfect place to spend a spring or fall day to jog, stroll, picnic or simply relax.
In 1601, a baby girl, christened “Maija,” was rescued from the wreckage of the 1601 battle of Turaida. She grew into a beautiful woman known as the Rose of Turaida who fell in love with Viktor, the gardener at Sigulda Castle on the other side of the Gauja River. In order to see each other, they would meet in the middle, inside Gutmanis Cave. Into this pretty little scene, enter the evil Adam Jakubowski, a Polish soldier who had less-than-chaste intentions for young Maija after tricking her to come into the cave. Thinking quickly (and deciding that death was better than rape), she told him her scarf was magical and could resist sword-strokes. He didn’t believe her, so she proposed a demonstration–which, of course, killed her. Though Viktor was originally accused, Maija’s half-sister witnessed the incident and her testimony along with Jakubowsk’s friend’s information about the crime, cleared his name. Jakubowski was later captured, tried, and executed. However, Viktor was devastated, burying his beloved Maija under the Linden tree and inscribing her grave with “Love is stronger than death.” Both the grave and the inside of the cave are still popular pilgrimage sites. (As a side note, the carvings seen here are the coats-of-arms of those who’ve visited the cave, making it is one of the earliest sites of “tourism.”) Step inside this cave, listen to its history, become a part of its legend and feel the love that still resonates here 400 years later. Gutmanis Cave still holds its secrets.