This leisurely coach tour covers Central Europe from Krakow, the fabulous former capital of Poland, one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, and the Carpathian mountain peaks, to the vineyard-covered hills of mysterious Moravia and its hub, the city of Brno, in the Czech Republic, all the way to Slovakia’s charming capital, Bratislava, nestled on the banks of the mighty Danube. We return via Wroclaw (formerly Breslau) in Silesia, to Warsaw. This tour is offered in collaboration with Guelph Arts Council and is conducted by historian Jacques Pauwels, author of ‘The Myth of the Good War,’ ‘Beneath the Dust of Time,’ and ‘The Great Class War 1914-1918,’ who will lecture on the fascinating though often tragic history of this part of Europe. This tour will feature a combination of deluxe and first-class hotels as well as excellent food!
Departure from Zamosc after breakfast. We motor to one of the greatest attractions of this part of Poland, the impressive baroque/rococo castle of Lancut and its park (https://www.zamek-lancut.pl/en). On to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, first, the wooden medieval Church of St. Michael in Debno (http://whc.unesco.org/en/documents/114514), and second, the amazing Salt Mine of Wieliczka, described as “a labyrinth of underground galleries, dating back to the Middle Ages, with works of art, underground chapels and statues sculpted in the salt, making a fascinating pilgrimage into the past” (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/32). Then we continue to nearby Krakow, Poland’s third largest city and capital for three centuries, a major cultural centre, and the home of a famous university, founded in 1364, where Copernicus was a student. Accommodation in the 4-star/first-class Hotel Park Inn, located just outside the historical city centre (https://www.parkinn.com/hotel-krakow), and dinner in its restaurant.
After a leisurely breakfast, comprehensive sightseeing tour of Krakow, one of Europe’s most beautiful and interesting old cities, with all the great sights, especially Wawel Royal Palace, Rynek Glowny, Europe’s largest medieval market square, the medieval Cloth Hall, the Church of Our Lady, the Gothic buildings of the Jagellonian University, the statue of Copernicus, picturesque streets such as Ulica Knonicza, the superb Gothic Cathedral, and the Jewish Kazimierz District with the Temple Synagogue, Corpus Christi Church and Ulica Szeroka. Old Krakow is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/29). The rest of the day is free to explore this wonderful city on your own. A classical music concert or folklore show may be available this evening on an optional basis.
Excursion to nearby Oswieçim, better known by its German name, Auschwitz, for a visit to the emblem of the horrors of the Holocaust, the biggest and most infamous of all Nazi camps, not just a concentration camp, but an extermination camp, now a memorial and a museum – and perhaps the saddest of all UNESCO World Heritage Sites (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/31). Return to Krakow in the afternoon and free time until dinner in the hotel or in a nearby restaurant.
Departure from Krakow after breakfast. Driving south, we soon enter the Tatras, the highest and most rugged range of the Carpathian Mountains, a kind of natural border between Poland and Slovakia. Together with its Slovak counterpart, the Polish Tatras are classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Our sightseeing will focus on the resort of Zakopane and surrounding area. Weather conditions permitting, we will ride on a raft through the Dunajec River Gorge, a tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site (https://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/2102; see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunajec_River_Gorge) OR take a cable car to the top of Mount Kasprowy, situated at an altitude of almost 2,000 m, to enjoy spectacular views of the mountains on both sides of the border (http://kasprowywierch.biz/english.html). Dinner and overnight in the 4-star/first-class Grand Hotel Stamary in Zakopane (https://stamary.pl/en).
Leaving Zakopane, we cross into the Czech Republic’s eastern reaches, an historical land known as Moravia. In the picturesque and lively university city of Olomouc, once the region’s capital, we break for lunch and for some sightseeing, focusing on the main square, featuring the huge renaissance Town Hall (with its astronomical clock) and the baroque Holy Trinity Column, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/859); other sights of interest are two baroque fountains and the Cathedral, named after legendary St. Wenceslas. In the afternoon we continue through the fertile Hana plain to the Czech Republic’s largest city after Prague, Brno. Our home here for three nights will be the centrally located five-star/deluxe Hotel Grandezza (https://www.grandezzahotel.com). Dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.
Morning sightseeing in Brno, with as highlights the city’s castles, Freedom Square, Old City Hall, St. Peter and Paul Cathedral on Petrov hill, fine historic churches and palaces in styles ranging from Renaissance to Art Nouveau, and attractive green spaces such as Luzanky Park and Denis Gardens. But the absolute highlight is likely to be our visit to the local UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Tugendhat House, a villa built by famous Bauhaus architect Mies van der Rohe around 1930 for a local Jewish industrialist (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1052). Afternoon free for shopping and/or individual exploring.
Amateurs of the genre may want to visit the St. James Church’s ossuary, the biggest in Europe after the Paris Catacombs, and/or the Capuchin Monastery where some mummified monks are displayed in an underground tomb. Brno also has a number of excellent museums, such as the Moravian Gallery, the second largest art gallery in the Czech Republic, the Museum of Applied Arts, the Museum of Romani (a.k.a. Gypsies) Culture, the Museum of Decorative Arts, and the Museum of Genetics named after Mendel, the famous biologist, “the father of genetics,” who worked and died in Brno. This evening, dinner of Moravian specialties and wine in a typical restaurant, likely enlivened by traditional folk music!
Full-day excursion to Bratislava, the small but very attractive capital of Slovakia, nestled on the banks of the mighty Danube at only a stone’s throw from the Austrian border. The main sights here are the hilltop castle and adjoining Slavin Monument, with great views of the city, the Cathedral, the New Bridge across the Danube, and the attractive medieval inner city with narrow, winding streets as well as fine square featuring historic churches, monasteries, palaces, and monuments to Slovak poets and national heroes. Also some free time to shop, explore on your own, and have lunch. Returning to Brno in the afternoon, we will view some of the sights in the Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/763). No group dinner this evening.
We leave Brno after breakfast and head north, via Olomouc, to Bouzov, a village dominated by a mighty castle that used to belong to the Teutonic Knights but was taken over by the SS during the Nazi occupation. On into northern Moravia’s High Ash Mountains (Hruby Jeseník), better known by its German name, Altvatergebirge, as this area was long inhabited by the Sudeten Germans. En route, your guide will give a talk about the history of Czechoslovakia from its birth in 1918 to 1003, when Czechs and Slovaks decided to separate – or, as some would argue, separation was imposed on them. Crossing back into Poland, we are in Silesia, a region that belonged to Germany until 1945. Lunch break in the ancient town of Klodzko. In the afternoon we visit one or (time permitting) both of the “Churches of Peace” in Jawor and Swidnica, rather unusual Protestant places of worship in a predominantly Catholic region and classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1054/gallery). Arrival in late afternoon or early evening at our 5-star/deluxe Hotel Radisson Blu in the Silesian capital, Wroclaw, known in German as Breslau (https://www.radissonblu.com/en/hotel-wroclaw).
Morning sightseeing tour of Wroclaw, with focus on the very attractive old town, known as “Polish Venice” because of its scenic location of a number of arms of the Oder River, featuring an impressive main square, an exuberant city hall, a baroque university building, and the usual array of fine palaces and churches. We also visit the city’s UNESCO World |Heritage Site, Centennial Hall, a pioneering work of modern engineering and architecture, created in 1911-1913 by the architect Max Berg (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1165). No group dinner this evening.
After breakfast, departure from Wroclaw. We motor to Lodz, the country’s third-largest city, an industrial powerhouse since the 19th century but also a major cultural centre. Here we will visit the Museum of Modern Art, focusing on avant-garde art and featuring works by Chagall, Picasso, Klee, Nolde, Ernst, etc. (https://msl.org.pl/en/ms/for-visitors.html) In the afternoon we continue to the village of Zelazowa Wola, located in the bucolic countryside of Mazovia Province, for a visit to the little manor house, surrounded by lovely gardens, where Frederic Chopin, the famous Polish composer, was born in 1810. Early evening arrival in Warsaw, where we check into the historic first-class/4-star Hotel Polonia Palace (https://www.poloniapalace.com). Final group dinner in the hotel’s fine restaurant.
After breakfast, panoramic tour of Warsaw’s historic city centre, the final UNESCO World Heritage Site on our tour (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/30), with monuments such as the picturesque Old Town Square, the imposing Royal Castle, St. John’s Cathedral and many other fine churches, the monument to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, City Hall, and the Saxon Gardens with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In the afternoon, transfer to the airport and return LOT flight to Toronto, departing at 5:05 PM and arriving at 8:20 PM.
- Return flight Toronto-Warsaw, including all applicable airport taxes/security fees/fuel surcharges; - Overland travel by private coach; - Accommodation based on double occupancy in a combination of five-star/deluxe and four-star/first-class hotels (the single room supplement is $775); - Daily breakfast, mostly buffet-style, and all but three dinners (or full lunches); - All visits and sightseeing, including admission to museums and monuments, as shown in the itinerary; - Gratuities for the coach driver and local guides. - A lounge pass for use on the day of departure at Toronto Airport for those who booked the tour and flights more than 90 days prior to departure.
- All items of a personal nature; - Meals other than those shown above, and wine/beer/coffee etc., with dinners; - Travel insurance is available on request; please call for rates;
January 01 - 01, 2020
Click on EXPLORE to see the list of tours
February 02 - 20, 2020
$6,875 from Toronto based on double occupancy.
February 09 - 19, 2020
$3,695 from Toronto based on double occupancy