43 American tourists, 11 days spent in Poland and many beautiful memories. When the Polish Falcons of America contacted us we knew that we would be more than happy to show them the country of their ancestors, assist with their genealogy research and make great memories.
We started the trip in Warsaw by strolling around the Old Town – once completely destroyed and now restored to its prewar appearance. Then the Falcons headed to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to place the wreath there. Many of them had fathers and grandparents served in the Polish Army so it was quite a touching moment for them. We ended the day on a lighter note with a dinner during which everybody had the chance to get to know each other better and talk about the trip.
We explored the Old Town Market Square: its old buildings, charming cafes and shops with artisan goods. Then we went sightseeing the Łazienki Palace, a classicist building surrounded by serene Royal Baths Park – the largest park in Warsaw. It was great to be escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, enjoy the beauty of architecture and nature and relax basking in the sun. We ended the excursion with a photo op in front of the nearby Chopin Statue.
Still in Warsaw: we visited the parts of the city that used to be the Warsaw Ghetto, the largest in German-occupied Europe. Then we had lunch in a local restaurant serving traditional Polish dishes and then we went to the Warsaw Uprising Museum which is dedicated to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. It is one of the newest museums in the Polish capital, popular with both local residents and tourists alike.
We left the official Polish capital for its spiritual capital – Częstochowa. The city is famous for its Pauline monastery of Jasna Góra that houses the Black Madonna painting attracting millions of pilgrims from all over the world every year. After spending several hours there we went to another Polish capital, this time the former capital city – Kraków
Kraków is a city packed with attractions so our schedule did not allow us a lot of time to ‘sit and stare.’ We went to Kraków’s Main Square to see its Renaissance government buildings such as the Town Hall and gothic churches. Then we went to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum which is only a 90-minute-drive from the city.
We started the day with a visit to the Wawel Castle. This former house of the Polish kings consists of a number of buildings located around the main courtyard. Among them there is the castle itself as well as the impressing cathedral with the crypt in which many Polish monarchs and statemen were buried. Then we went to Wieliczka Salt Mine which is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
We headed for the Polish mountains. One of the stops on our way there was Nowy Sącz a town that houses a charming open air museum full of old thatched cottages and wooden outbuildings. Once we learned about how our ancestors used to live we moved on to Zakopane, a town surrounded by the Tatra Mountains. We could not ski there then but we managed to go for a long walk.
It was one of the most memorable days during the whole trip. Our mostly city-raised guests went for a ride in a horse-drawn wagons up to Morskie Oko- one of the most beautiful lakes in Poland and a perfect place for a picnic. After spending some time relaxing in the south of Poland it was time to go to Wrocław so off we went there in the evening.
Wrocław is often mentioned as one of top European destinations. It was also the European Capital of Culture in 2016 and there are good reasons for these accolades. The city is beautiful and rich in history. It belonged to the Kingdom of Bohemia and Germany before. Its monuments, parks and gardens are testament to its great past. Once we set our feet there, we explored the city’s attractions: the Main Market Square, the Centennial Hall, the Wrocław Fountain.
We spent the last day in Wrocław admiring the Panorama Racławicka a cycloramic painting depicting the Battle of Racławice and strolling around Ostrów Tumski, the oldest part of the city that used to be an island. Ostrów Tumski is famous for its many churches, cathedrals and statues. Finally we bid farewell to the city and went to Warsaw where we enjoyed a nice dinner in the company of the Falcons for the last time.