Thursday, June 22nd
We depart 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, June 23rd
We arrive in Warsaw in the morning and immediately see the magnificent, recently restored Royal Castle, then on to Warsaw’s historic Old Town and New Town Market. Meanwhile, our bags are delivered to our rooms at the Sofitel Victoria Hotel on Warsaw’s Sobieski Square. We enjoy a light lunch in one of the charming restaurants in Old Town. We see a short documentary film about the tragic plight of Warsaw during World War II. We stop at the Victoria to freshen up for our evening, which begins with a private concert of music of Poland’s greatest composer: Frederic Chopin. Our welcoming dinner is at the Belvedere, one of Warsaw’s most exclusive restaurants. Then we overnight at our hotel.
Saturday, June 24th
We enjoy a breakfast buffet at our hotel, with a large choice of Polish, Continental, and American dishes. After breakfast, we follow Warsaw’s Royal Route with its many palaces (now often embassies), churches and monuments and see more of the capital city. We visit Wilanow Palace, the summer residence of King Jan III Sobieski, one of Poland’s greatest heroes, who saved Europe from Turkish invasion at the Battle of Vienna in 1683. We lunch at Delicja Restaurant – one of Warsaw’s best. After lunch, you will have time on your own and you’ll have some time to freshen up, because dinner is at another of Warsaw’s elegant restaurants. Then we enjoy a Mozart opera at the historic Warsaw Chamber Opera House. It will be presented just as Amadeus did – except for the electric lights. Then back to our hotel. If you’re not too tired, we recommend a short stroll from the hotel to see a bit of Warsaw night life on Old Town Square.
Sunday, June 25th
We attend Mass (if you like) at Holy Cross Church where Chopin’s heart is buried, then enjoy breakfast at the hotel before our drive into the countryside to visit Zelazowa Wola, the birthplace of Frederic Chopin. Lunch is at a darling country restaurant. Then, we drive to Lowicz, the Mazovian region known for its colorful paper cutouts and excellent embroidery. We enjoy a folk art presentation and entertainment at the unusual home of Kasia and Wojtek Gronecki. We tour the ruins of the ancient castle they are restoring. They serve us a homemade, mostly home-grown dinner in their charming cottage. We drive back to our hotel for the night.
Monday, June 26th
Breakfast is at the hotel, then we drive southwest to the city of Lodz, Poland’s second largest city, once an important industrial center and the home of three cultures: Polish-Jewish, Polish-Catholic and German. We do a short tour of Lodz (pronounced “WOULD-GE”) to see how Poland is recovering from communism. Lunch will feature local specialties, then on to the city of Wroclaw (pronounced VROH-ts-wahf), the capital of Lower Silesia. We tour Wroclaw’s charming Town Square. We have a group dinner reservation at one of the best spots in town, Wroclaw Restaurant, where you have your first chance to make your own menu choices and pay individually in cash or credit card. We will help with explanations. Then we overnight at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel.
Tuesday, June 27th
Our breakfast at the hotel is also a buffet, which is customary in Poland. Then we tour the city of Wroclaw with its Gothic architecture and Silesian style – different than in other parts of Poland. We visit the marvelous Aula Leopoldina at the University of Wroclaw, decorated in the ultimate Baroque Rococo style. We see the Raclawicka Panorama, the 360-degree painting of the Battle of Raclawice at which Tadeusz Kosciuszko led Polish troops in revolt against the Russians – and won the battle. Lunch is at a local restaurant with lots of atmosphere, followed by free time for shopping or resting. Since you have been good travelers, you get the evening off to rest, tour on your own, shop, or do anything you want. Dinner is on your own; Wroclaw has lots of fun restaurants and you must try the beer.
Wednesday, June 28th
After breakfast at the hotel, we head southeast into the mountains. We stop at the Adoria Vineyard to sample some Polish wine – which did not exist before climate change in Europe. We stop at Swidnica to see an UNESCO Site, the Church of Peace – one of the biggest timber-framed religious buildings in Europe with very unusual architecture. Lunch is at the charming Piwnica Ratuszowa in Swidnica. We continue our drive south through the gorgeous scenery of the foothills and the beautiful Tatra Mountains, part of the Carpathian chain. We arrive at Zakopane and check into the new Grand Nosalowy Dwor Hotel & Spa. For dinner, we try some of Zakopane’s unique cuisine at a local restaurant before we return to the hotel for the night.
Thursday, June 29th
Breakfast is at our hotel, then we tour Zakopane with its distinctive architectural style of intricate wood carvings. Zakopane is Poland’s most popular ski resort town, so we go up into the High Tatras in a cable car. Lunch is on your own today and there is time for resting or shopping in the afternoon. There is much to buy here, especially unique mountaineer folk artifacts. Later, we visit the Orski Gallery of works by Polish-American artist Ryszard Orski. Our hearty dinner is at a highlanders’ inn with lots of atmosphere and folk entertainment. We overnight at the Grand Nosalowy Dwor.
Friday, June 30th
After a good rest in the clean mountain air, we breakfast at the hotel. We drive to a national park for a restful – totally not dangerous – raft ride down the Dunajec River Gorge at the very southern border of Poland. Slovakia is on the other side of the river and we actually enter Slovakian territory – a second country at no extra charge! We enjoy Polish country dishes for lunch at a charming inn, then head for Krakow, a city beloved by many, many people. When we arrive in Krakow, we check into the Holiday Inn, which is walking distance from Old Town Square. Our dinner is at what is probably the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world, and is also a Cracovian tradition – Wierzynek – in Old Town Square. Our gourmet meal will be scrumptious. We overnight at our hotel.
Saturday, July 1st
Breakfast is at the hotel, then we tour scenic Krakow, the capital of Malopolska (Little Poland – the heartland). Conde Nast Traveler Magazine calls it “the most European of all cities.” We see Wawel Castle and Cathedral, St. Mary’s Church, Old Town Square, the Sukiennice (an historic shopping mall) and much more. Lunch is at the famous Kawaleria Restaurant. In the afternoon we visit the Sukiennice Gallery of 19th century Polish art. Next, we see Krakow’s newest attraction – the Underground Route under Old Town Square – a great way to learn about the history of this fantastic city. Dinner is on your own and we can suggest a variety of delightful restaurants – in various price ranges. Be sure to spend some time in the Old Town Square. It is fun on a Saturday night. Then we overnight at the Holiday Inn.
Sunday, July 2nd
We attend Mass (if you like) at Krakow’s Franciscan church. Breakfast at the hotel, then we drive to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi German concentration camp – an unforgettable experience. It is an extremely tragic, but important part of Polish history. We stop at Wadowice, the birthplace of Pope John Paul the Great and tour his excellent new museum. We will lunch en route. We drive through Krakow’s former Jewish district, Kazimierz, with several interesting Jewish restaurants featuring terrific klezmer music. Since dinner is on your own, we can make a reservation for you in Kazimierz or elsewhere in Krakow. Since this has been a busy day, you may want to retire early at the Holiday Inn.
Monday, July 3rd
We rise early for breakfast at the hotel before our drive west to Czestochowa, the spiritual capital of Poland. We see the miraculous, historic painting of Our Lady and tour the monastery on the Mount of Light. We will have the opportunity to request Masses for your loved ones to be celebrated at the foot of the painting, and also a chance to buy religious souvenirs at Czestochowa. We lunch at the enchanting small palace in the village of Czarny Las. We drive back to Krakow to Lagiewniki, the new Sanctuary of Divine Mercy, a movement begun by one of Poland’s newest saints, Sister Faustina. We see the nearly completed St. John Paul II Center. Dinner is at another Krakow landmark restaurant, before overnighting at our hotel.
Tuesday, July 4th
Since you have been very good travelers and very busy, we offer you the morning off. You can sleep in and have a leisurely late breakfast, do some final shopping, or start packing, or do anything else that makes you happy. Lunch is on your own. Later we visit the famous church in Nowa Huta that launched St. John Paul II’s career in the church. In the early evening, we tour the remarkable Wieliczka Salt Mine – which has to be seen to be believed. Our farewell dinner is in one of the salt chambers – a very unusual, enjoyable experience and an unforgettable venue to celebrate our National Holiday. We enjoy Cracovian folk song and dance and then return to the Holiday Inn.
Wednesday, July 5th
Do have a big breakfast, because this will be one of the longest days of your life, due to our trans-Atlantic flight. We must be at Krakow’s John Paul II Airport early for our flight to Warsaw, where we catch our flight to Chicago. Since your bags have been checked through to Chicago, your hands are fairly free. If there is time, try to do a bit of duty-free airport shopping (or window shopping) at Warsaw Airport. Our flight home will take about 10 hours later, but when we arrive in Chicago, it will be Wednesday afternoon.