Southern Tour - The Lira Ensemble
Itinerary of Lira's cultural tour of Southern Poland.
Poland, visit, tours
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  2019 Tour of Southern Poland

Thursday, June 6th

We depart from O’Hare Airport on a LOT Airlines Boeing Dreamliner or any other flight you may choose. Just be sure to join the tour in Warsaw on Friday morning, June 7th. If you take LOT, you’ll 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 on your onboard private computer, 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 7th

We arrive in Warsaw in the morning and immediately see the magnificent, restored Royal Castle (because it closes to groups late Friday afternoon). Experts have told us that you will have little or no jet lag if you do not go to sleep upon arrival in Europe, instead spend the day touring and sleep Friday night. It works! Plus, you will probably be too excited to sleep. Next, we visit Warsaw’s historic Old Town and New Town Market. We enjoy a light lunch in Old Town.  We see a short documentary film about the tragic plight of Warsaw during World War II. Then we stop at the Sofitel Victoria Hotel to freshen up for our evening. Our welcoming dinner is at one of Warsaw’s gourmet restaurants. Then we overnight at our hotel.

Saturday, June 8th

We enjoy a breakfast buffet at our hotel, with a large choice of Polish, Continental, and American dishes. After breakfast, we tour Warsaw, including the 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. Lunch is at another of Warsaw’s excellent restaurants. After lunch, we may be able to tour the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw’s newest and highly praised museum. We are attempting to get reservations. Next, you will have time to freshen up for dinner at one of Warsaw’s premier restaurants. Then we enjoy a private concert of Chopin music at a historic venue in Warsaw; 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 9th

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, artistic 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 10th

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, the Cesarsko-Krolewska 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 menu explanations. Then we overnight at the new AC Hotel by Marriot.

Tuesday, June 11th

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 part of Poland.  We visit the unbelievable 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 against the Russians – and won the battle. Lunch is at the Malarska Restaurant, with lots of atmosphere, followed by free time for shopping, strolling or resting.  Dinner is on your own at the restaurant of your choice, and there are many choices in charming Wroclaw. You return to the hotel after a lovely evening.

Wednesday, June 12th

After breakfast at the hotel, we head southeast into the mountains. We stop at the Adoria Vineyard to sample some Polish wine. Vineyards did not exist in Poland before recent climate change in Europe. We stop at the town of Swidnica to see an UNESCO Site, the Church of Peace – one the biggest timber-framed sacred buildings in Europe – with very unusual architecture. Lunch is at the charming Piwnica Ratuszowa in Swidnica, with lots of great ambiance. We continue our drive south through the gorgeous scenery of the foothills and the beautiful Tatra Mountains, part of the Carpathian chain. We stop in the town of Nowy Targ for dinner. We arrive at Zakopane and check into the refurbished Mercure Kasprowy Hotel.

Thursday, June 13th

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 to see the picturesque panorama of the mountains. 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 mountaineer decor and folk entertainment. We overnight at the Kasprowy.

Friday, June 14th

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 local inn, then head for Krakow, the beloved capital of southern Poland. We check into the elegant Holiday Inn, which is walking distance from Old Town Square. Since we have had a long bus ride, our superb dinner is at our hotel.

Saturday, June 15th

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 on your own, followed by lots of free time for shopping or anything you want to do. Krakow is the best city to shop in.  Dinner is at the famous Wierzynek Restaurant – probably the oldest in the world, and a famous Krakow tradition. 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, June 16th

Breakfast at the hotel, then we drive to Wadowice, the birthplace of Pope John Paul the Great and tour the excellent new museum dedicated to his life and accomplishments. We attend Mass (if you like) at the old parish church where St John Paul II was baptized and served as an altar boy. After a country lunch, we drive to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi German concentration camp – an unforgettable experience. It is an extremely tragic, but important part of Polish history. Back in Krakow, we drive through the city’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. We overnight at the Holiday Inn.

Monday, June 17th

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 a chance to buy religious souvenirs at Czestochowa. We lunch at the enchanting small palace in of Czarny Las. We drive back to Krakow to Lagiewniki, the new Sanctuary of Divine Mercy, founded by one of Poland’s newest saints, Sister Faustina. We see the nearly completed St. John Paul II Center. Dinner is on your own before overnighting at our hotel.

Tuesday, June 18th

After breakfast at our hotel, we visit the Sukiennice Gallery of spectacular, 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.  The rest of the day and evening – including lunch and dinner – are on your own, since you may want to do more shopping or make your own plans – perhaps to visit your ancestral home. We can recommend many great restaurants – or how about eating under an umbrella in Old Town Square.  The food is very good and it’s not expensive.  What’s more, it is the Krakow thing to do.  Don’t be afraid of the street food and the street venders; they are perfectly safe.  Again, not expensive and yummy. We also have the option of getting a reservation for as many as want to come at the exclusive Wentzel Restaruant for a quiet and elegant dining experience, and each pay our own bill. We overnight at the Holiday Inn.

Wednesday, June 19th

Since you have been very good travelers and very busy, we offer you all 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, but remember, you have a big dinner coming.  We get together in the afternoon to visit the famous church in suburban Nowa Huta that launched St. John Paul II’s career. In the early evening, we tour the remarkable Wieliczka Salt Mine – which has to be seen to be believed. Our elegant farewell dinner is in one of the salt chambers – a very unusual, enjoyable experience. We enjoy Cracovian folk song and dance and then return to the Holiday Inn.

Thursday, June 20th

Do have a big breakfast, because this will be one of the longest days of your life, due to our trans-Atlantic flight. If you fly with the group, 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 at Krakow or Warsaw Airport. On our flight home, lunch and a small snack will be served on board. Again, beer and wine are complimentary, as are soft drinks, coffee and tea. Our flight will take about 10 hours, but when we arrive in Chicago, it will be Thursday afternoon.