Life, Work, Death, and Architecture : an emotional journey through Poland’s first Millenium

Next Departures :

9 to 14 May 2022 / 12 to 17 September 2022

8 to 13 May 2023 / 11 to 16 September 2023

Poland is one of the largest countries in Europe, steeped in the continent’s dramatic history and radiant culture. It is a proud nation of workers, inventors, scholars and soldiers, men and women who forged the Polish nation and its distinctive national identity over the course of the last millennium. Our visit will take us to the southwestern regions of Lesser Poland and Upper Silesia, where we will immerse ourselves in Polish history and culture, and familiarize with the sites, events and personalities that shaped Poland, Europe and our world.

What we will see

The journey will take us between Krakow, the gem of southern Poland, and Katowice, the busy capital of Upper Silesia. We will also visit southwestern Poland’s more rural regions such as Chochołow and Zakopane near the Slovak border. In the course of the trip, we will experience some of the most dramatic episodes in European history. We will revisit Poland’s long journey into republican statehood, and be introduced to its wonderful melting pot of national identities at Krakow and Katowice, two cities emerging at the fault line of European cultures. We will talk about the frictions that led to the inevitable clash between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during WW2. And about the horror of the Holocaust, the rise and fall of Communism, and the succour of the country’s Catholic faith in its time of need. At the end of this emotional and informative journey, we will have a deeper understanding of Polish history, culture and identity, as well as the country’s past and present challenges and hopes for the future.

Krakow’s historic Town Square © Dimitris Vetsikas

Day 1 : Welcome to Krakow

Arriving at Krakow, we will check in to our 4* hotel. Then we will get acquainted with each other, and with the fabulous city of Krakow, at its historic Town Square, a UNESCO Heritage site. We will see the Town Hall, Cloth Hall, the Barbican and St. Florian’s Gate and so many other sites, and join in the bustling revelry of Poland’s most visited city. Alongside the classic sites, we will also become acquainted with Krakow’s Socialist Modernist heritage, as we visit wonderful local examples of post-war socialist art & architecture such as hotel Krakovia, the Kijov Cinema and the Jubilat department store.

The Socialist Modernism of Jubilat Department Store

Day 2 : Nowa Huta and Wieliczka Salt Mine

In the morning, we will visit Nowa Huta, Krakow’s post-war model Socialist district, famous for its huge steelworks and Stalinist architecture, the distinctive Soviet neo-classical style favoured by Josef Stalin. The history of Nowa Huta is also the history of Poland’s communist period, spanning the end of WW2 to the transition to democracy in 1990. We will hear stories about Poland’s Communist experience, see the imposing industrial, religious and housing architecture of the era, and experience aspects of the Socialist lifestyle : This may include visiting one of the last remaining bar mleczny (a state subsidized ‘milk’ bar), riding in a Trabant, the iconic East-German classic car, visiting a Cold War era nuclear bunker, or any other typically socialist-era activity that we may be presented with …

Nowa Huta, an example of Stalinist city planning © Piotr Tomaszewski-Guillon / dronographyapplied.com

In the afternoon, we will experience the region’s long mining tradition first hand, by visiting the famous Wieliczka Salt Mine, an astonishing Unesco Heritage Site. We will take the Tourist route, and wander through its warren of tunnels for two hours, hear about the history of salt mining and its importance, and admire the extraordinary statues and gothic style halls and statues carved out of rock salt. For those who are in for an underground adventure, we can always opt for the Miners route, and perform mining tasks such as estimate methane concentration, weaving ropes, efficient use of a map and even a shovel under the supervision of a foreman. Either way our visit will be led by one of the mine’s specialist tour guides.

The famous St. Kinga’s Chapel, carved into rock salt deep inside the Wieliczka Salt Mine

In the evening, guests will be invited to explore old Krakow’s neighborhoods and discover more of this fabulous and lively city by themselves.

Day 3 : Katowice

The SIlesian Insurgents Monument and the Superjednostka housing estate at Katowice

In the morning, we will set off to Katowice, the capital of Upper Silesia. The theme of this day will be Socialist Modernist architecture : we will wander the city to admire Katowice’s socialist housing estates, like the humongous Superjednostka (Super-Unit), the Gwaiazdy (Star) Estate, and of course the photogenic Kukurudze (Corn Cobs) while we immerse ourselves in Poland’s socialist-led post-war architecture boom. We will also see the unforgettable Spodek, Katowice’s large arena and a true miracle of engineering, and Katowice’s train station, the city’s Brutalist masterpiece. We will explore the ways architecture, art and politics combined in socialist Poland, how these connected to the region’s heritage, and still inform its future.

Katowice : the Gwaiazdy estate and the iconic Warszawa Mine Shaft at dawn

Upon our return in the afternoon, we will wander around Kazimierz, the city’s Jewish quarter. We will see remnants of the evidence of centuries of Jewish presence in Krakow. We will also be introduced to the darkest period in the history of the city, through a visit to the remnants of Krakow Ghetto, and the Oscar Schindler factory.

Remains of the wall of the Krakow Ghetto

Day 4 : Auschwitz

On this day, we will visit the memorial & museum at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Approximately 1.1 million people were systematically murdered at the the former Nazi extermination camp in just over 4 years, victims to the abhorrent policy of the Final Solution. Auschwitz is synonymous to genocide and war crimes, and represents one of the darkest chapters in the history of mankind. It will be a difficult and emotionally charged place to visit, and it’s guaranteed to test your faith in humanity, and change you in many ways. Our half-day visit will be led by one of the museum’s historians.

Auschwitz II – Birkenau extermination camp © pkz net

The afternoon will be completely free.

Day 5 : Chochołow/Zakopane

Today we will spend the entire day at the Spa in Chocholow. Featuring thermal baths, mineral treatments and the one of largest heated pool & bar in the region, this is the perfect way to have a relaxing and carefree day while indulging the North Eastern European spa tradition. For those who like checking boxes, the Slovak border and a short visit to another country is only one kilometre away.

Rural Polish houses at Chochołow © aoetaroa

In the evening, we’ll have our farewell dinner in one of Krakow’s traditional polish restaurants. It will be one last chance to enjoy the region’s delicious specialties, enjoy Krakow’s vibrant night life, and reminisce of everything we’ve seen and learned during our trip.

Day 6 : Farewell to Krakow

It will be farewells and departures on our final morning to Krakow. There might be time for some last minute sightseeing or shopping before boarding your flight, and I will be on hand should you need help or directions.

Where will we stay ?

We will overnight exclusively in Krakow. It is a busy, well connected transport hub, boasting excellent hotel, leisure and dining options – so it is the obvious choice as base for our excursions. We will stay in a centrally located 4* hotel for our entire stay.

Where will we dine ?

Polish cuisine is hearty, no-nonsense and delicious. We will sample the region’s may specialties, such as Pierogi stuffed dumplings, infinite varieties of Bigosa staple cabbage stew with or without meat, or Golonka , a filling roasted pork knuckle enjoyed right off the bone. When on the go, we’ll be grabbing a Zapiekanka, a fast food comprising half a baguette topped with your choice of over 50 fillings, or a bowl of Barszcz, the beetroot broth known and loved everywhere we’ll be. Whether you’re a dedicated vegetarian or a meat lover, Polish cuisine is guaranteed to comfort and satisfy !

If you’re looking to extend your trip to Slovakia – almost a stone’s throw away from where we’ll be – please check our friends Authentic Slovakia. Their highly rated sightseeing tours in old socialist Skoda cars are pure nostalgia. They can take you around Bratislava and to the Carpathians and show you the very best of Slovakia’s past and present !

Pricing

The price of the tour is £999 per person sharing a twin room. The single person supplement is £150

The price includes :

  • 6 day / 5 nights accommodation (including breakfast & taxes)
  • All transport – public or private – we utilize as a group
  • All entrance fees & tickets to places we will visit as a group
  • Experienced local English speaking guides at the heritage sites we’ll visit
  • One farewell group dinner at one of Krakow’s finest traditional restaurants
  • An experienced, passionate, knowledgeable, tireless, and fun tour leader (that’s ME !!)

The price does not include

  • Flights to and from Krakow
  • Airport Transfers (can be arranged for a fee)
  • Any meals and drinks (except as mentioned above)
  • Personal (not as a group) expenses such as meals, transport, additional services, shopping, gifts, souvenirs etc

We will travel as a small group of 7 persons max. The aim is to keep it small, and personalized.

Poland Is Not Yet Lost will be available to book up to two weeks prior to departure. To declare your interest and book, I will require a 10% deposit. This will remain fully refundable until the closing date above, or in case the trip doesn’t eventually go ahead.

The remaining balance has to clear by two weeks prior to departure, so I can be able to begin guaranteeing the remaining accommodation, transportation and dining for the group. I will regrettably not be able to refund you within two weeks prior to departure.

Sometimes there are unexpected situations. It can happen to any of us, an emergency, or an unavoidable event. Instead of forfeiting your deposit entirely, and provided that there is a genuine reason for you to cancel at any point after a deadline, I would be happy to discuss with my suppliers about transferring the balance and reservations towards the next available tour date : I’ll be more than happy to host you at another, more convenient time !

Contact me at explore@explorabilia.co.uk or register your interest below for further info and reservations. I am looking forward to welcome you to Poland Is Not Yet Lost !!