Thursday, July 13th
The tour departs from O’Hare Airport on a LOT Airlines Boeing Dreamliner. Enjoy dinner over the Atlantic. All meals/refreshments onboard, including wine and beer (should you want them), are covered in your tour price. Other alcohol is also available at reasonable prices. We nap/sleep or watch a movie or two, then have breakfast over Europe. The Dreamliner has lots of electronic “toys” and services, so you may not want to nap. We land at Chopin Airport in Warsaw, Poland’s heroic capital city, on Friday morning.
Friday, July 14th
The tour arrives in Warsaw about 10am and immediately tour the magnificent, restored Royal Castle. Meanwhile, our bags are taken to our hotel – the Sofitel Victoria, one of Warsaw’s best. (For those who have been to Warsaw, we can offer an alternate itinerary if you like.) After a light lunch, we tour Warsaw’s Old Town, New Town Market, and see the Chopin monument, grand buildings and churches in the capital city. We view a film about the tragic history of Warsaw. We attend a concert of Chopin piano music in one of Warsaw’s many palaces. Our welcoming dinner is at one of Warsaw’s most exclusive and interesting restaurants – then overnight at our hotel.
Saturday, July 15th
We enjoy a breakfast buffet at our hotel, with a large choice of Polish, continental, and American dishes, then visit the Polish Parliament and learn about Poland’s democratic government which replaced communist rule. We visit the National Museum to view its magnificent collection of historic Polish paintings. We view the panorama of the city from atop the infamous, communist-era Palace of Culture. We have lunch at another of the city’s fine restaurants. Then we drive to Wilanow, known as the Polish Versailles, to tour the summer residence of King Jan III Sobieski, who saved Europe from a Turkish invasion at the Battle of Vienna in 1683. If you have seen the palace, we suggest Warsaw’s famed Museum of Poster Art. (Poland is a world leader in poster art.) We return to Warsaw for dinner and to enjoy a Mozart opera at the Chamber Opera House just as Amadeus would have presented it himself (except we’ll have electricity) as part of Warsaw’s critically acclaimed annual Mozart Festival. Then back to our hotel.
Sunday, July 16th
We attend Mass (if you like) at Holy Cross Church where Chopin’s heart is buried. Then back to our hotel for breakfast. Then we leave Warsaw, driving northeast into the countryside. We lunch at a charming country inn, then continue our drive east to the city of Bialystok, where we tour the Branicki Palace. We check into the rustic Zubrowka Hotel and enjoy dinner at the Carska Restaurant. After dinner, Lucyna offer a quick review of Polish and Lithuanian history, so you can better understand what you are visiting.
Monday, July 17th
After breakfast at our hotel, we tour the world famous Bialowieza National Park, which includes one of last primeval forests in Europe and is included in the UNESCO list of World Natural Heritage Sites. It is home to the zubry – Poland’s buffalos. A walk through this silent, haunting woodland is refreshing and memorable. We enjoy a picnic lunch by a lake near the forest, then drive to the village of Hajnowka to visit the Orthodox Church there to learn about Poland’s surprising religious diversity. Dinner includes an introduction to Zubrowka, the delicious vodka created in this region.
Tuesday, July 18th
Following breakfast at the hotel, we drive farther northeast toward Lithuania. We stop at Czarna Wies Koscielna, a village known for its folk art, to meet with a local artist who will demonstrate his skills. Our next stop is Suprasl with its 17th century bishop’s palace. We see a small but significant collection of original frescos and icons. We have lunch at a local restaurant before continuing to the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius (formerly known as Wilno in Polish). We check into our hotel, the Ramada in the center of town, and enjoy a dinner of local specialties.
Wednesday, July 19th
After breakfast, we tour Vilnius, including the Old Town’s with its Baroque Peter and Paul Church with 2,000 statues, Upper Town with the Gedimas Tower and Vilnius Castle. We see the wide boulevards and the main square of this city beautifully restored after communist domination. Following our tour, we will have free time for shopping/resting/private touring followed by lunch on your own. We will make restaurant suggestions in various price ranges. We re-group for dinner at one of Vilnius landmark restaurants for a taste of Lithuanian folklore with our meal. Then to our hotel for the night.
Thursday, July 20th
After breakfast at the hotel, we bus west to Trakai, the castle that was the ancient capital of Lithuania with its Vytautas Fortress surrounded by five lakes – the former residence of the Lithuanian grand dukes. We continue west, crossing the border near the town of Sejny, known for its unusual and delicious “sekacz” pastry, where we have lunch. And guess what’s for dessert? We check into the St. Bruno Hotel in the city of Gizycko. There, Lucyna will give you a one-hour Polish lesson which will help orient you a bit to what you are hearing and seeing around you. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Friday, July 21st
After breakfast, we drive farther west through the Pojezierze region – Poland’s “land of a thousand crystal-clear lakes” created by glaciers eons ago. We stop at Sw. Lipka to see its remarkable, huge Baroque Jesuit church in this tiniest of towns. Next is lunch featuring local favorites before our afternoon drive to the Polish seashore. We arrive in Gdansk and dine at one of the city’s many fine restaurants. Our overnight is at the Hotel Hanza, near everything you want to see and do.
Saturday, July 22nd
After breakfast at the hotel, we spend the day touring the Tri-City: Gdynia, Gdansk and Sopot. We start in Gdansk. We visit the shipyard where Solidarity was born, the Solidarity monument and museum. We see Mariacka Street in Gdansk, the largest amber market in the world. Do plan on buying some Polish amber. The selection will amaze you and the prices are so much more reasonable than in the US. There will be free time for shopping/resting/private touring and lunch on your own. Poles excel at preparing fish dishes and Gdansk is the fish capital of Poland. Enjoy! Later, we see Sopot, Poland’s seashore resort town with its longest pier in Europe and the port at Gdynia. We stop in the suburb of Oliwa with its famous cathedral organ – one of the best in Europe. Dinner is at the wonderful “Pod Lososiem” (Under the Sign of the Salmon) restaurant – a tradition in Gdansk. Then back to the hotel.
Sunday, July 23rd
We attend Mass at St. Brygida Church (if you like) – which became famous worldwide as the Solidarity church. Then breakfast at the hotel and we drive to Malbork Castle, former seat of the Teutonic Knights, where we tour this remarkable castle – one of the largest left standing in Europe. Lunch is at a local restaurant, then we drive to Kaszubia, a beautiful region of Northern Poland with German, Scandinavian, Dutch and Lithuanian cultural influences. We visit the “skansen” (outdoor museum) in the Kaszubian Ethnographic Park and then enjoy local specialties for dinner followed by Kaszubian songs and dances in the town of Zukowo, where Kaszubian folk items will be available for sale. Then back to our hotel for the night.
Monday, July 24th
Breakfast at our hotel is followed by our drive to Torun, home town of Nicholas Copernicus, the great Polish astronomer, where we tour his museum. Torun is also home of Polish gingerbread, which you can munch on as we make a short tour of this lovely, historic town. Torun’s Old Town is on the UNESCO list of world treasures. Several Polish cities made the list. You will have time for shopping and/or lunch on your own and there are many cute spots to eat. Then we drive to Gniezno, the first capital of Poland, with its Gothic Cathedral with bronze doors that date back to the 12th century – one of the best examples of Romanesque art in Europe. We continue on to Poznan, one of major cities in Poland, a business center that is the capital of Greater Poland. We check into the Sheraton Hotel. Our dinner includes local treats, then back to the hotel for the night.
Tuesday, July 25th
After breakfast at the hotel, we tour Poznan, including its Renaissance Town Hall and bustling town square. We’ll watch the Poznan goats butt heads at the strike of noon – an old tradition. We see an example of how Poland is updating without losing its heritage – a modern shopping mall in an historic brewery. Then, free time for shopping/resting/private touring followed by lunch on your own. You have been very good travelers, so you deserve a night off. There are many restaurants to choose from for dinner on your own and just sitting in the square and people watching is enjoyable.
Wednesday, July 26th
Breakfast is at the hotel before we drive toward Warsaw. On the way, we stop at Lichen, called the “Czestochowa of the North” because it has become a major place of pilgrimage. Its huge basilica was built as Poland’s thanks to the Blessed Virgin for freeing the country of communism. We stop at Zelazowa Wola, the birthplace of Frederick Chopin. We have lunch at a country inn and then drive to the suburbs of Warsaw, to the elegant Mazurkas Hotel where a farewell dinner awaits us with a last taste of Polish folklore. Do get a good night’s sleep before your return flight.
Thursday, July 27th
Today is one of the longest days of your life, because of your trans-Atlantic flight. You may want to sleep in and enjoy a quiet breakfast before our departure for the airport. There will be an opportunity to do some shopping at the duty-free shops at Chopin Airport and it is recommended. As before, all food and drinks onboard your flight (including wine and beer) are covered by your tour price. When you arrive in Chicago, it will be 10 hours later, but it will still be Thursday afternoon.