Polish landmark, Chopin statue frozen up: Sapporo Snow Festival

There is little doubt that the Japanese are an inventive people but the life-sized ice sculpture of Warsaw Palace on the Isle and the ice replica of the Statue of Polish composer Frederic Chopin truly exceed all expectations.

The 14-meter-tall, 26-meter-broad and 20-meter-long sculpture of the Palace on the Isle was carved out in ice and snow as part of the yearly Sapporo Snow Festival. And that is not the only Polish motif at the festival. Another sculpture, namely a replica of the Statue of Frederic Chopin, whose original can also be found in Warsaw's Royal Baths (Łazienki Królewskie) Park, is in the making.

Over 100 soldiers of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (自衛隊, Jieitai, JSDF) have been engaged in the sculpting works whose total time is estimated at 28 days.

The Sapporo Snow Festival gathers as many as two million tourists each year. Thanks to the dedicated work of over 3,000 people, unique ice-and-snow amusement parks including winter sports areas, bars, restaurants and illuminated galleries of ice sculptures are erected.

The main event of the festival is the ceremony of unveiling an ice replica of a worldwide recognised listed building. Until now the Forbidden City, the Triumphal Arch, the Paris Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, the British Museum and the Helsinki Cathedral had their ice replicas done in Sapporo. And the Palace on the Isle is to join the list.

This year is also the first time that Polish landmarks are unveiled at the festival. The reason for this is to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Polish-Japanese diplomatic relations.

Stone and bronze tougher than German bombs

Built on an artificial island that divides a lake in Warsaw’s Royal Baths, the original edifice was built in the 17th century as a Baroque bath house but it was only in 1766 that the last king of Poland Stanisław II Augustus bought it and converted it into a classicist summer residential palace.

During the final stages of WWII, the retreating German troops devastated the interior of the Palace and drilled holes in the structure in preparation for demolition, however, the plan was never carried out.

To date, the building with its magnificent stuccos and statues of gods and mythological personas, as well as the surrounding park provide a perfect surrounding for family outings, romantic strolls, picnics and sightseeing.

As for the bronze statue of one of the most famous composers ever and definitely the most famous Polish composer Frederic Chopin, it was designed in 1907 by Wacław Szymanowski but due to the turmoils of WWI saw its unveiling only in 1926.

The statue became the first monument victim of the German occupiers of Warsaw. On the day following its blowing up on May 31, 1940, a handwritten sign was found at the site which read: "I don’t know who destroyed me, but I know why: so that I won’t play the funeral march for your Führer."

However, the original mould for the statue had survived the war, which made it possible to cast a replica. Finally, in 1958, Chopin could sit on his original spot. Also, since 1959, free piano recitals of his compositions have been performed at the statue's base on summer Sunday afternoons.