In a small village, near Zgorzelec (a city on the Polish/German border), there is a beautiful classical mansion from the early 19th century. Since 2013 it has been owned by a Polish-Dutch couple: a painter Małgorzata “Maugosia” Sycz and Jan-Kees Berendsen, the owner of Siber & Masen Management Consultancy.
After years of living in the Netherlands they have settled here to let Mrs. Sycz pursue her artistic plans, and to let Mr. Berendsen realize his professional projects. The heavily neglected building required a huge amount of work, but thanks to a sophisticated taste of Maugosia brilliantly renovated interiors are now beautiful and very elegant. The palace has a spirit, as we could feel during our visit in August 2014, enchanted by the great hospitality of the new owners. The palace had big luck and they are inevitably lucky to have it!
THE STORY OF MAUGOSIA AND JAN-KEES
For a few years they were looking for a home abroad were they could work together. Maugosia Sycz is an artist and wanted to have a studio at home where she could run her workshops and Jan-Kees Berendsen needed space for developing his coaching practice. They preferred a place where they could arrange rooms for the participants of Maugosia art workshops and clients of Jan-Kees.
Jan Kees says: well, what could I do was to search the web. There are websites offering houses for sale from all over the Europe. On one of those sites I clicked on the housing stock in Poland. (Maugosia was born in Poland.) There I saw a picture of a beautiful palace that was offered for sale. After I read the description I fell in love with it. But yeah Poland, I don’t speak the language and I did not know the area. Anyway, after a couple of weeks thinking about it I showed Maugosia the advertisement and she got enthusiastic. Then we contacted the former owner and during a short stay in Lower Silesia we could finally see the house.
When we arrived to Palac Sławnikowice we were surprised by the space and the atmosphere in the palace. What is more, the structural condition was pretty good. There was obviously much done already. The palace had been barely inhabited for more than 2 years. In each room the sleeves had to be rolled up by us. The heating had very little capacity and only in the kitchen there was a stove where water could be boiled. Upstairs there were few bedrooms furnished but only partially finished and also the roof and gutters desperaately needed to be done.
The palace is a national relic. Originally built in 1571 but in 1806 almost completely destroyed by a fire. The former owner had to build on the original basement of the palace in Classicist style drawings by Langhans. Langhans was among others the architect of the “Brandenburger Tor”. This reconstruction lasted approximately from 1806 to 1809. The most famous inhabitant of the Palace was Ehrenfried Walter von Tschirnhaus who invented European porcelain, which was later produced in Meissen. He was also born here. Thereafter several famous German noble families lived here. During World War II the Germans were expelled or fled in despair from Lower Silesia. After the war the it had been decided that the rivers Oder and Neisse became the border between Germany and Poland. In 1945 the palace was taken by the Polish government and an elementary school was housed in it. That school was closed in 2002 and in 2005 the palace was purchased by a Belgian artist.
In the picture: Sławnikowice 1857-1883, lithography by Alexandrer Duncker.
Since September 2013 we spend most of our time in Slawnikowice. Meanwhile, we extensively renovated almost all areas, a new heating system has been installed,
34 radiators are replaced and over 300 meters of pipe for hot water are installed.
It is plastered and painted, new bathrooms are made, lighting installed, new doors hung – too many works to mention all of them.
The kitchen with pipe…
…and without, July 2014
And now we have four spacious and comfortable rooms for our guests, each with a separate bathroom.
Guests can have a rest in the park and at the evening relax in the cozy “oval room”. Depending on weather breakfast is served inside or outside and if our visitors prefer so, they are welcome to join us with the evening meal.
Jan-Kees: Slawnikowice is a small village of “waldhufendorf” kind (houses are built along the road) and it has about 300 inhabitants. I grew up in a small town in the Netherlands, so it was not hard for me to get used to living in a rural environment. The people here are very friendly and they are happy that the palace is inhabited again. Because the mansion is a national monument, many people come along to watch and take pictures. Maugosia often starts the chat, there is always something to do. On New Year for example, two strangers approached the gate, then sprinkled corn and sang a Polish (as we thought) song. We had no idea what it was about, but it turned out that it was an old Ukrainian* tradition – those men did it to wish prosperity to the house and its inhabitants. We also occasionally saw pilgrims who were walking from Cracow to Santiago de Compostela (over 4000 km!).
In the meantime, we have already made some nice friendships here. Dutch-Polish couples, Poles who returned after years in Australia. It is of course easy to Maugosia as she speaks Polish. It will take some time before I can speak Polish, it seems to be one of the hardest languages in the world.
The cozy “oval room” with original stoves
Our palace is an ideal base to explore the beautiful Lower Silesia. You can do pretty much everything: visit beautiful towns, explore the rugged nature on your mountain bike or on foot, canoeing, mountain climbing, winter skiing or cross country skiing and enjoy the summer sun on a beach at one of the many lakes. You can eat in various restaurants which are not yet discovered by mass tourism.
In short: only 700 km from the Dutch border you will find one of the most beautiful holiday regions of Europe. It’s great here!
Jan-Kees and Maugosia with Renata, August 2014
Pictures: Maugosia Sycz and Jan-Kees Berendsen, www.dolny-slask.org.pl, Renata Głuszek
* After World War II German people living in Lower Silesia were replaced by Poles from eastern parts of pre-war Poland, incorporated by Russia, including a part of present Ukraine