May 13 Depart New York
Fly from Kennedy Airport on Austrian Airlines.
May 14 Arrive in Krakow
Change of planes in Vienna. Upon arrival in Krakow, transfer to the Hotel Radisson SAS, beautifully located on the edge of the historic Old Town. A brief walking tour to stretch our legs precedes a relaxing welcome dinner.
Without Krakow, there would be no Poland, for this was the center of the nation for six centuries. From the moment it became the capital in 1040, Krakow flourished as Poland’s cultural and artistic center, a role it enjoys to this day. Over the centuries, wealthy merchants and noblemen transformed Krakow into one of Europe’s most stunning cities. It miraculously survived the destruction of two world wars and today Krakow looks much as it did in the 16th century.
May 15 Krakow
Wawel, the fortified residence of the Polish kings, rises dramatically on a hill overlooking Krakow’s Old Town. After visiting the complex and Royal Cathedral, we stroll through the narrow streets to Market Square bounded by the Renaissance Cloth Hall and the soaring Gothic towers of St. Mary’s. We arrive in time to hear the hejnal. This traditional trumpet call ends abruptly, in honor of a bugler who was killed by an arrow while sounding the alarm against invading Mongols. Inside St. Mary’s is a triumph of medieval decorative art—the magnificent gilt and azure altar carved by Veit Stoss.
Lunch in a local restaurant is followed by time at leisure. You may wish to visit the tiny Czartoryski Museum to see Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine. Then we are invited backstage at the famed Slowacki Theater and enjoy coffee with the actors at the Jama Michalika café, a favorite haunt of Krakow’s artists and actors for decades.
Enjoy a concert at the Philharmonic Hall.
May 16 Wieliczka-Oswiecim
For centuries, salt was like gold, a precious currency. The mines at Wieliczka have been worked for 700 years, enriching Polish kings and funding construction of Krakow’s treasures. Descending 442 feet, we marvel at the amazing chambers and galleries, including the Chapel of St. Kinga,with altar, chandeliers and sculptures all carved from salt. Return to Krakow for lunch.
The concentration camp at Auschwitz was established by the Nazis in 1940 just outside the industrial town of Oswiecim. More than five million people died here between 1940 and 1945. Auschwitz is still entered through the original iron gate topped with the ironic inscription "Arbeit Macht Frei", "Work Will Make You Free." We visit the camp and view a documentary film with rare footage shot by Soviet troops as they liberated the camp.
May 17 Czestochowa
If Krakow is the cultural capital of Poland, then the country’s spiritual center is Czestochowa. The Paulite monastery on Jasna Gora near Czestochowa is a site of pilgrimage for Roman Catholics, home of the revered image of the Virgin and Child known as the "Black Madonna." This ancient Byzantine icon has had immense impact on Polish history. Among its numerous miracles, it is credited with protecting the monastery during the 40-day siege by the Swedes in 1655. For hundreds of years, kings and wealthy nobles made valuable donations to the monastery, and commissioned works of art for veneration of the Black Madonna. Thus, the monastery contains perhaps the richest collection of applied art in Poland.
The road back to Krakow takes us along the Trail of Eagles Nests, a dramatic limestone mountain range that was once the stronghold of Polish kings. Ruins of medieval castles still cling to the mountain tops.
May 18 Lancut-Lezajsk-Sienawa
Bidding farewell to Krakow, our destination is the salmon and cream colored palace at Lancut. This romantic estate was originally the seat of a powerful robber baron. Thankfully came into the hands of the Potocki family, renowned art connoisseurs. As the Nazis approached Lancut, Count Alfred Potocki fled after posting signs that read National Museum, a bold move that probably saved the palace from looting. We tour the 300-room palace and 18th century theater. A special recital on the famous Baroque organ at the Church of the Annunciation in nearby Lezajsk follows. The church, once a Bernadine Basilica and monastery, was designed by Italian architects, but the opulent interior was created by the monks themselves.
We spend the night at Sieniawa, a lovely Baroque stately home, where we also dine.
May 19 Zamosc-Lublin
Zamosc is a true gem. Nowhere outside of Italy will you find such a beautifully-preserved Renaissance town. One of the earliest to be designed and built completely in accordance with the Italian concept of an ideal town, Zamosc was conceived by Jan Zamoyski, one of the most powerful men of his age. Venetian architect Bernardo Morando labored for over 10 years, designing Zamosc totally on paper before building began. His plan encompassed homes, guilds, churches and synagogue, library and universities, as well as impressive fortifications. Overnight in Lublin.
May 20 Lublin
A city of charming lanes and uniquely-decorated houses, Lublin has played an important role in Polish history. The Lublin Accord, uniting Poland and Lithuania into a Commonwealth, was signed here in 1569. The first Polish governments formed after World Wars I and II were in Lublin. And the Solidarity movement originated here. Lublin has always been a renowned place of learning, famous for the Catholic University, where Pope John Paul II studied.
On the eve of World War II, Lublin boasted the only pre-war Jewish College in the country. The Jewish community in Lublin was Poland’s third largest, comprising more than 30% of the city’s population. The city supported a dozen synagogues.
May 21 Kazimierz Dolny-Warsaw
The road to Warsaw takes us through one of the most lovely spots in Poland: Kazimierz Dolny. Splendidly set along a winding river in a National Park made up of deep ravines and rolling hills, Kazimierz Dolny is a picturesque collection of colorful buildings and cozy cafes, framed by the ruins of a Gothic castle. From the first glance, it is easy to see why Kazimierz Dolny has always been a favorite retreat for artists. After a walking tour, there is time to enjoy the town and artists’ galleries.
We arrive in Warsaw. Situated on the "King's Walk", Warsaw's most fashionable street, Le Royal MERIDIEN BRISTOL is only a short walk from the historical Old Town, the Royal Castle and the National Museum.
May 22 Warsaw
Warsaw has survived three attempts to wipe it from the face of the earth. Swedes razed the city in the 17th century; it was sacked again during the Kosciusko Insurrection in the 18th century; and then in 1944 Warsaw was systematically leveled by Nazi troops in retaliation for the Warsaw Uprising. Perhaps the sheer persistence of its citizens is why Warsaw symbolizes the heart of Poland.
We begin our acquaintance with the Polish capital in the Old Town. The Royal Castle, site of the signing of the world’s second constitution in 1791, was in ruins at the end of World War II. Its reconstruction was funded entirely by private donations.
Tracing the famous Royal Route, we wind through the city, past graceful churches and imposing palaces from Poland’s Golden Age. The Royal Route culminates at Lazienki, the summer residence of the Polish kings. Lazienki is an English-style park dotted with palaces, hills and miniature lakes. We enjoy a backstage tour of the historic Stanislawowski Theater, located in the Orangerie at Lazienki.
This evening is free for you to try one of the many fine restaurants or go to the theater.
May 23 Warsaw
Visit the Theater Museum, housed in the Warsaw’s imposing Great Theater. Then, students and professors welcome us to the Warsaw Theater Academy to learn about training in contemporary theater.
Poland’s King Jan III Sobieski is famous for the daring military operation that saved Vienna from the Ottoman siege in 1683. After the rescue, Sobieski turned his troops around and returned to Poland, declining to play a further role in European politics. But his favorite residence, Wilanow, clearly testifies to the influence of European taste; it was designed and sumptuously decorated by European masters in Italian Baroque style. We tour the chateau and formal gardens.
A private piano concert and dinner are part of our special tdf farewell evening.
May 24 Return to the U.S.
Fly back to New York, landing in Kennedy Airport this afternoon.
1501 Broadway, 21st Floor
New York, New York 10036
212-221-0885- x 257