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Chopin momument in Lazienki Park

Fryderyk Chopin is undoubtedly considered one of the world's greatest composers. No other pianist before or since has contributed as many significant works to the piano's repertoire, at the exact moment so movingly capturing music's depth and soul.

Unfortunately, Chopin's life was very short-lived, and he only spent a small part of it in Poland. The Polish traces of the composer lead mostly to Warsaw; however, there are still plenty of other locations associated with Chopin found throughout the country. 

Fryderyk Chopin was born to a French father and Polish mother in Żelazowa Wola near Warsaw in 1810. The charming manor house in which Chopin was born is now a museum and an educational center devoted to the great composer. A lovely park encloses the family home and serves as a riveting backdrop to scores of piano concerts and recitals regularly taking place on its grounds. While in Żelazowa Wola, it makes sense to extend one's visit to other scenic and charming locations of the Mazowsze region. Exploring this part of Poland along the marked Chopin route is fun and educational. Being born in the province and living for many years in Warsaw, Chopin developed a very close relationship with the area. This bond is best illustrated in the iconic bronze statue of Chopin sitting underneath a willow tree, which is specific to Mazowsze region. The monument is on display in the Royal Łazienki Park in Warsaw. Other noteworthy examples include the church in Brochów in which Chopin was baptized. The red-bricked, defensive structure of the Brochów Church dates back to the 1300s and is a remarkable example of fortified sacral architecture. Different places associated with the composer include Sanniki, Sochaczew, and Płock.

Little Fryderyk spent only few months in Żelazowa Wola. In the fall of 1810, the family moved to Warsaw. Chopin lived in the city for the next 20 years. In local schools and music rooms, the composer honed his piano skills, developed his unique playing style, composed music, and gave live performances. Near Warsaw's, Old Town stands the Ostrogski Palace, home to the Fryderyk Chopin Society and Museum. The exhibits cover the history and Chopin's works, original manuscripts, documents, and letters the composer wrote.     

However, the most symbolic of all the sites and points of interest associated with Chopin is the Royal Łazienki Park. One of the most favorite places to visit both by Warsaw's residents and tourists, the park hosts free summer piano concerts. These public recitals performed every Sunday by talented pianists captivated the listeners for decades. Held at the foot of the Fryderyk Chopin monument, they are a definite highlight of Chopin's Warsaw tour.  Every five years, the capital of Poland brings forth the prestigious International Chopin Piano Competition. With its tradition going back to 1927, it is one of the world's oldest, most celebrated music competitions. It is also one of few contests devoted entirely to the works of a single composer. The contenders are pianists between the ages of 17 and 28. Their performances are judged by a renowned international jury composed out of the world's most accomplished experts in pianism.   Chopin's music can also be readily enjoyed just by sitting on musical benches located throughout the city. With a press of the button, one can relax to the sounds of this great composer's works.

In 1830, 20-year-old Fryderyk Chopin left Warsaw to never return. He spent the next two decades of his life abroad, mainly in France. He died in Paris on October 17th, 1849. According to Chopin's last will, his heart is returned to Poland and laid to rest in the church of St. Cross in Warsaw. Before leaving Poland, however, Chopin traveled extensively around the country. His written letters provide a glimpse of the artist's travels and visited locations. It appears that Chopin had a thirst for adventure and exploration. He enjoyed Toruń immensely and was impressed with the town's gothic architecture and the sweet local delicacy- gingerbread.   He spent some time in and around Poznań, enjoyed a three-day Polish wedding in a small town of Żychlin, and then ventured down to Kraków and Małopolska province. He journeyed through what is now the Ojców National Park and the Eagle Nests Trail. He made it to Wieliczka Salt Mine, which back then had an underground zip line as one of the attractions. He visited the city of Kalisz six times, and it was from Kalisz where Chopin left his homeland for good.

Even in his younger years, Chopin's health was failing him. He traveled to Duszniki Zdrój, a health resort in Silesia, to recuperate and recover. During one of his stays, Fryderyk gave a charity concert. Although he allegedly complained about the quality of the local pianos, the show went down in history as his first foreign performance outside of Russia controlled Poland. 

Nowadays, Duszniki is the site of a leading piano festival and holds many treasured mementos and keepsakes related to the composer's stay. Duszniki Zdrój is situated in the Kłodzko Valley, a stunning nature spot and an excellent starting point for exploring the superb local attractions of Lower Silesia.

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