The following itinerary lists a range of site visits which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but some require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. Furthermore, a number of the sites have not confirmed their opening hours for 2020. Therefore the daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, renovation works, train schedules and confirmation of music performances. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunch and dinner as indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner.
Krakow - 4 nights
Day 1: Wednesday 9 June, Arrive Krakow
- Orientation Walk (optional)
- Introductory meeting
- Welcome Dinner
Travellers arriving in Krakow on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred to the Holiday Inn. Note: if you are not arriving on the ASA ‘designated’ flight you will be required to make your own way to the hotel, or you may wish to contact ASA to arrange a private transfer.
After checking into our hotel, there will be time at leisure followed by an optional orientation walk within the vicinity of our hotel. This evening we will have a short introductory meeting before dining at the hotel’s restaurant. (Overnight Krakow) D
Day 2: Thursday 10 June, Krakow
- Krakow Old Town: Collegium Maius (courtyard only), Church of St Anne, the Market Square, Church of St Adalbert, Church of St Barbara (exterior), Church of St Mary (Veit Stoss altarpiece) & the Town Hall Tower
- Afternoon at leisure
We commence our tour of Poland with a walking tour of Krakow’s old town. After visiting Collegium Maius (courtyard only) and the Collegiate Church of St Anne, we proceed to the famous, World Heritage-listed Market Square, which was laid out in 1257 when the city received its new municipal charter from Boleslaw the Chaste. One of the largest and most beautiful in Europe, this square is a virtual architectural museum with historic façades as well as shops, stalls and outdoor cafes. Ancient buildings include the imposing Renaissance Cloth Hall, the Gothic Town Hall Tower, the magnificent Gothic-Renaissance-Baroque Church of St Mary, splendid Neo-classical palaces and the tiny Romanesque Church of St Adalbert. Its cellars house a small but very interesting museum devoted to the history of the Market Square.
The monumental Church of St Mary dominates the north-east corner of the square. Its façade, regarded by some as surpassing even that of Wawel Cathedral, is a quintessential example of Krakovian ecclesiastical architecture. Although an earlier church predated the Market Square, the present Gothic brick basilica was completed in the late 14th century under the supervision of the Prague builder, Nicholas Werner. Later periods saw the addition of tracery and Renaissance spires, and a Baroque porch. There are many treasures in the interior but undoubtedly the most important is the outstanding High Altar by the great German master Veit Stoss (completed c.1490). This massive late Gothic polyptych (13m by 11m) carved of lime wood is devoted to the life of the Virgin Mary and is regarded as one of the master’s greatest works. Another fine element is the church’s 14th-century choir windows, influenced by French Gothic models. They display 40 scenes from the book of Genesis and from the lives of Jesus and the Virgin.
Our program is designed to conclude at approximately 2.30pm with the remainder of the afternoon at leisure. You may wish to visit the Rynek Underground Museum situated below the Market Square. (Overnight Krakow) B
Day 3: Friday 11 June, Krakow
- The ‘Royal Way’
- Wawel Royal Castle: State Rooms, Courtyard and Royal Apartments
- Wawel Royal Cathedral of SS. Stanislaus and Wenceslas: Nave, choir, chapels & Royal Crypts
- Evening Music Performance (details to be confirmed in 2021)
This morning we follow the so-called ‘Royal Way’, which was the traditional route taken by Polish monarchs to their coronations in the cathedral on Wawel Hill. We will then visit the Wawel Hill, where the Vistulians built a medieval fortress which, with time, became a large castle and cathedral. As the site of royal coronations and burials for 500 years, the cathedral and castle were extended and embellished by successive rulers. More than any other place in Poland, it is a showcase of the country’s history. As a symbol of national identity, the cathedral and castle at Wawel hold a similar position in the hearts of the Poles as the Prague Cathedral and Castle do for the Czechs.
We begin in the Royal Castle. An earlier Gothic fortress was rebuilt in 1502-6 for Sigismund I Jagiellon as a splendid Renaissance four-winged palace, designed by the Italian architects. It has retained this aspect despite some later alterations. After the court transferred to Warsaw, Wawel castle was neglected. Yet, despite the depredations of the Swedes, Prussians and Austrians (who replaced the original Gothic fortifications with the present massive brick walls) and the loss of many treasures, the complex, restored since World War II, is undoubtedly one of the most splendid Renaissance residences in Central Europe.
The castle’s courtyard has magnificent arcades and windows in pristine Florentine Renaissance style. We visit the State Rooms including the spectacular Senators’ Hall and Throne Hall. Among the treasures in these rooms are the 140 or so Flemish tapestries that were commissioned by the last Jagiellon king, Sigismund August, in the late 15th century. This collection, featuring biblical themes, landscapes and mythological subjects, is one of the largest and most important in Europe.
After lunch we visit the Cathedral of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslas. This essentially Gothic church, the third to be erected on this site, was built in 1320-64. Inside, the most important treasures are: the Shrine of St Stanislaus (the 11th-century bishop of Krakow and patron saint of Poland) designed by Giovanni Trevano (1626-9); the Czartoryski Chapel; the Crypt of St Leonard, which is the most important remnant of the previous Romanesque cathedral; the Sigismund Chapel, often described as ‘the pearl of the Renaissance, north of the Alps’; the Chapel of the Holy Cross with its outstanding tomb for Casimir the Jagiellon by Veit Stoss (1492). If time permits, we shall also visit the Royal Crypts where such national heroes as Thaddeus Kosciuszko are buried.
In the evening we will attend a music performance (details to be confirmed in 2021). Krakow has a proud history of classical music, with a symphonic orchestra playing concerts in the city from as early as 1909 until the outbreak of World War II. During the war, the General Government Philharmonic was composed of Polish musicians and conducted by Germans. The orchestra even became known as one of the best in Europe, as well as being a haven for musicians who would otherwise have faced concentration camps and death. After the war, the Krakow Philharmonic was established in February 1945 as the first one in Poland, and used their current building, a former Catholic House built in 1931 at ul. Zwierzyniecka 1, as the philharmonic hall from that time. Of particular significance is the magnificent organ by Johannes Klais-Orgelbau. (Overnight Krakow) B
Day 4: Saturday 12 June, Krakow – Wieliczka – Auschwitz – Krakow
- Wieliczka Salt Mine
- Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum
About 12 kilometres south of Krakow is the Wieliczka Salt Mine, which has functioned for over seven centuries. In the Middle Ages, the salt mines here provided one-third of royal revenue and drove the development of medieval Krakow and Southern Poland. Approximately two kilometres of the 200 kilometres of galleries and chambers are open to the public. The depth reached is 135 metres and the temperature is constant at about 14 degrees Celsius. The chambers contain fascinating underground chapels where every article – pulpits, altars, sacred objects – is carved in salt. Outstanding chapels include the Chapel of Blessed Kings (19th century), the Chapel of St Anthony and the Chapel of the Holy Cross. These unique mines now appear on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
In the afternoon we visit the UNESCO-listed Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum. This sobering half-day trip will have a lasting impact, commemorating the lives of those who died in the extermination camps during the Holocaust of World War II. (Overnight Krakow) B
Warsaw - 4 nights
Day 5: Sunday 13 June, Krakow – Warsaw
- National Museum: Leonardo Da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine
- Orientation walk, Warsaw
- Evening Meal at Restaurant Podwale 25
This morning we visit the National Museum to admire Leonardo da Vinci’s splendid Lady with an Ermine. One of Leonardo’s undisputed masterpieces, it is the portrait of the beloved mistress of Ludovico Sforza ‘Il Moro’, Duke of Milan.
After an early lunch at leisure we travel from Krakow to Warsaw. On arrival, we take a short orientation walk before dining together at a local restaurant. (Overnight Warsaw) BD
Day 6: Monday 14 June, Warsaw
- The ‘Royal Way’: Krakowskie Przedmiescie, Nowy Swiat Avenue incl. St Mary’s Visitation Church, President’s Palace (exterior), University of Warsaw (exterior), Church of the Holy Cross
- Morning tea at the historic Blikle Café
- Palace of Science and Culture, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and other monuments
- Afternoon at leisure in Warsaw
The avenues Krakowskie Przedmiescie, Nowy Swiat and Ujazdowskie make up one boulevard which stretches from the King’s official residence in Royal Square, Old Town, to his private palaces in Lazienki and Wilanow. When King Sigismund Vasa moved the capital of Poland to Warsaw from Krakow (1596), these streets gradually came to be lined with aristocratic palaces and wealthy burgher residences. On coronation day, the royal procession would proceed along this avenue, which would be decorated with numerous triumphal arches to celebrate the new ruler – hence its name: the ‘Royal Way’. In the 19th century, the ‘Royal Way’ saw many major political demonstrations and patriotic marches. Much of this area was destroyed during World War II and was rebuilt. Often, all that has been reconstructed is the historic façades behind which are completely new buildings. Nevertheless, these streets are among the most elegant and charming in Warsaw with many special cafés, shops, luxurious tenement houses and palaces which today house government departments and embassies. Along the route we’ll also encounter a host of fine monuments and churches.
We begin at Castle Square and walk along the tree-lined Krakowskie Przedmiescie Avenue, one of the most historic and beautiful streets in Warsaw. Among the many interesting sights are: The Church of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary, containing altar figures which are among the best examples of 17th-century wooden sculpture in Warsaw; the Church of St Anne, which has some excellent 16th-century Baroque murals by Zbrowski; the President’s Palace; the Church of St Joseph the Guardian, which is one of the few churches to have escaped destruction and thus boasts an original 18th-century interior. We’ll also see the University of Warsaw with many fine buildings; the Nicholas Copernicus Monument (1830); the Adam Mickiewicz Monument (1898); the 18th-century Potocki Palace; our own Bristol Hotel (one of the grandest hotels in Poland); the Church of the Holy Cross, which is an outstanding example of Warsovian late 17th-century architecture – it contains the heart of Chopin in the lower church – and the Ostrogski Palace, which is the headquarters of the International Chopin society.
We continue along Nowy Swiat Avenue. It was, and still is, the smartest street in Warsaw. Here, on the tree-lined avenue, it will be difficult to refrain from investigating the many lovely shops and cafés. We can treat ourselves to a snack at one of these – the Blikle patisserie/café, which is one of the most famous historic coffee houses in Warsaw and was, at the start of the century, renowned for its doughnuts and other delicacies. Our walking tour will end with the Palace of Science and Culture with its splendid view of Warsaw, and with a visit to Tomb of the unknown soldier. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. (Overnight Warsaw) B
Day 7: Tuesday 15 June, Warsaw
- Old Town: Royal Square, Royal Castle (exterior & interior), Town Square, Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Kanonia Street, City Walls and Barbican
- New Town and Monument to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising
Our tour today commences with the Castle Square in Old Town. We examine the Monument to King Sigismund III Vasa, who moved the capital of the kingdom from Krakow to Warsaw in 1596. Carved in stone by Constantino Tencalla in the mid-16th century, the monument symbolised the glory of the Vasa dynasty. We next visit the Royal Castle that dominates the square. It was reconstructed from rubble (1971-88) after the Germans destroyed it in World War II. The red brick façade of the Royal Castle now appears exactly as it looked in the 17th century, when King Sigismund Vasa adapted it to the needs of a royal residence as well as the meeting place for the parliament. It was at this time that the castle received its present early-Baroque form – a 5-winged pentagon around an inner courtyard. The Italian architect Giovanni Trevano oversaw its construction. Today, the Royal Castle retains much of its original splendour.
We shall tour the Castle interior, where many of the fascinating historical state rooms and private apartments are open to the public. Many of the original furnishings have been returned after they were hidden during the Second World War. Among the highlights are the King’s Apartments, the Ballroom, Knight’s Hall, Marble Room, Throne Room and the wonderful Canaletto Room with twenty-three paintings by Canaletto’s nephew and pupil, Bernardo Bellotto. These paintings are largely townscapes of Warsaw painted between 1767 and 1780, which, because of their meticulous detail, served as invaluable guides in the reconstruction of the historic parts of the city.
A short walk from the Royal Castle brings us to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. The unusual early 15th-century façade is in the original Mazovian Gothic style. Originally a parish church, the building became a cathedral in 1789. It witnessed several important events like the coronation of the last Polish king, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, in 1764. Although largely reconstructed, the interior contains several interesting items including tombstones and sacred objects. In the crypt is the tomb of one of Poland’s best-known authors and Nobel Prize winner in 1905, Henryk Sienkiewicz (author of Quo Vadis).
Close by is the Old Town Square, which is undoubtedly the loveliest market square in Warsaw. This open space experienced several reconstructions from its inception in the early Middle Ages. Today, the house façades of the wealthy burgher houses are mainly in the 17th-century style. Although completely reconstructed after World War II, this delightful square is a restorer’s showcase and the visitor is hard-pressed to remember that all of the buildings were resurrected from rubble. Our tour of Old Town will end with a stroll along charming Kanonia Street, and an investigation of the Barbican and the city fortifications.
We shall also make a short excursion into adjacent New Town, which, although more modest than its affluent neighbour, has its own charming atmosphere and is a welcome respite from the crowded streets of the Old Town. Our tour will conclude with a visit to the striking Monument to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. Located in central Warsaw, the monument, unveiled in 1989, depicts figures emerging from the wartime rubble. (Overnight Warsaw) B
Day 8: Wednesday 16 June, Warsaw
- Royal Lazienki Park: Chopin Monument, Palace on the Water and Myslewicki Palace
- Evening Music Performance (details to be confirmed in 2020)
A short public bus ride along the Royal Route brings us to the Royal Lazienki Park (Lazienki Krolewskie). Along with the Palace on the Water, the park is closely associated with the last king of Poland, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, who transformed what was once a game park into one of the great palatial complexes in Poland. His greatest legacy is the summer residence, the Palace on the Water (Palac Na Wodzie), which he commissioned from the Italian architect Domenico Merlini in the last decades of the 18th century. Originally, a small bathhouse (lazienki means bath in Polish) was located on the canal in the park but, by the time Merlini completed his project in 1793, the modest structure was transformed into the magnificent Palace on the Water. It is unquestionably one of the finest examples of the Neo-classical style in Poland. The surroundings of the residence were not neglected and were redesigned to accommodate orangeries, romantic structures such as a Greek temple, a hermitage and a theatre on the island in the Greek style. Sadly, King Stanislaw could not enjoy his summer palace for long because, in 1795, following the Third partition of Poland, he was forced to abdicate and left the realm permanently. We shall tour the interior rooms which feature the stunning Ballroom, Dining Room (where famous Thursday dinners were held with leading intellectuals and artists), Picture Gallery and the Bathing Room. We shall next visit the recently renovated Myslewicki Palace.
Tonight, we will attend a music performance (details to be confirmed in 2021). (Overnight Warsaw) B
Torun - 1 night
Day 9: Thursday 17 June, Warsaw – Torun
- Old Town Square
- Town Hall (exterior)
- Town walk including Church of St. Mary
- Medieval Fortifications
- Nicholas Copernicus Museum (exterior)
- Church of Saints John the Baptist & John the Evangelist
- Ruins of the Castle of the Teutonic Knights
We drive to Torun to explore this beautiful town on the banks of the Vistula River. We begin in Torun’s Old Town Square with its wonderful collection of well-preserved burgher houses and magnificent Town Hall. We also visit the adjacent Church of St Mary, which dominates the south-west corner of the square. A fine example of Vistulian Gothic, it features an unusually ornate east gable and octagonal towers. The church, erected by the Franciscan friars in 1263-1300, boasts a splendid Baroque main altar and 15th-century stalls.
Our town walk takes us past the Nicholas Copernicus Museum, dedicated to the town’s most famous son. Nearby, we visit the imposing Medieval Church of Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, with its outstanding collection of artworks, including altarpieces, furniture and frescoes. Finally, we explore the ruins of the ancient Castle of the Teutonic Knights that allows a fine panorama of the Vistula River. (Overnight Torun) BD
Gdansk - 3 nights
Day 10: Friday 18 June, Torun – Malbork Castle – Gdansk
Our journey from Torun to Gdansk will feature a tour of Malbork Castle, which is rightly regarded as the finest example of secular medieval architecture on the European mainland. The vast expanse of the fortress covers an area of some 21 hectares. The history of the castle is inextricably linked to that of the Teutonic Order of the Hospital of St Mary in Jerusalem, more commonly known as the Teutonic Knights. Founded in 1191, this strict military-religious Order settled in Poland in 1226 to aid in the Christianisation of the pagan Prussians. However, the knights began to establish an independent state by occupying various castles and by finally, in 1274, constructing a new fortress in Marienburg (Malbork in Polish). In 1309, with the Order’s expulsion from other parts of Europe, Malbork became its chief refuge. The Knights grew in strength and power until 1466 when, following their final defeat in battle, the castle passed to Polish royal rule. Although the fortress suffered neglect and fell into decay, it was restored in the 19th century. Further restoration was required after major damage in 1945.
The Castle is divided into the Lower (outer) Castle, Middle Castle and Upper Castle. The most important is the Middle Castle, which contained the Great Refectory and the magnificent Grand Master’s Palace. This 14th-century palace was one of the grandest Gothic residences in Europe, not unlike the Papal Palace at Avignon. The Upper Castle is the oldest part of the complex. It contains the impressive Gothic chapter house, which boasts one of the earliest interlocking star vaults in Europe, as well as 14th-century frescoes of the Grand Masters. Not to be missed is also the Church of St Mary with its beautifully embellished Golden Gate. After thoroughly investigating this huge castle, we drive into the great Baltic port of Gdansk. Tonight, we dine together at our hotel overlooking the river. (Overnight Gdansk) BD
Day 11: Saturday 19 June, Gdansk
- Main Town including: the ‘Royal Way’, Dluga Street, Dlugi Targ, Highland Gate, Prison Tower, Golden Gate and St George’s Court, Neptune Fountain, the Green Gate, Golden House, Main Town Hall (interior) and Artus Court (interior)
- Waterfront, including: Seven Gothic watergates/storehouses, promenade along the Motlawa River, Zuraw (exterior)
- Museum of the Second World War
Situated on the Vistula delta, Gdansk (German: Danzig) was established in the 10th century by Mieszko I of Poland as his realm’s major port. It has retained this status today. Its strategic importance is well known to historians of German-Polish 20th-century relations. From the 13th century, when Gdansk was first granted civic privileges, the port became an immensely wealthy trading and manufacturing city. It was a member of the important northern trading confederation, the Hanseatic League. It gained a large cosmopolitan population – German merchants and tradesmen mixed with Poles, Dutch, Swedes and even Scots. Throughout its subsequent history, Gdansk fought to preserve its civic privileges, trapped in struggles between Poland and Prussia, which both recognised its strategic significance. On the one hand it separated East Prussia from the rest of the German lands. On the other, it was vital to Poland as the country’s only seaport and trade outlet.
We begin our sojourn in Gdansk by exploring the historic Main Town. The most important streets of Main Town are the Dluga and the Dlugi Targ, which boast most of the finest burgher houses and monuments erected during the late Middle Ages. Our walk starts at the west end of Dluga Street with the Highland Gate (16th century) that was a part of the city’s fortifications. Next to the gate is the medieval Prison Tower that forms part of the 15th-century Gothic walls. Close by is the ‘Golden Gate’ (1612-1640) adorned with fine Renaissance sculptural decoration. To the left is St George’s Court, an impressive example of Flemish Gothic style.
Dluga Street and Dlugi Targ formed what was referred to as the ‘Royal Way’. This street was one of the finest examples of urban architecture in Poland until it was destroyed in 1945. Everything has been painstakingly rebuilt. We make our way along this street to the Main Town Hall. Its present façade is in the Renaissance style, following the remodelling from the original Gothic in the 16th century by several eminent architects. Its interiors were sumptuously decorated and often served as a royal residence. Our tour of the interior will include the Red Hall, the Winter Room and the Small Court Room.
We continue our tour with an investigation of the important buildings on Dlugi Targ, which begins at the Town Hall (interior) and ends at the Motlawa River. A feature of this last section of the ‘Royal Way’ is the raised terraces that give a unique flavour to Main Town. Among the many magnificent residences along this street, of particular note are the ‘Golden House’ with its outstanding façade and the Artus Court. Erected in the late 15th century, Artus Court functioned as the town’s merchant union and guilds’ headquarters. We visit the interiors that were reopened in 1997 after extensive refurbishment.
After admiring the Neptune Fountain, cast in 1613, we examine the Green Gate (16th century), which was a palace rather than a gate. Its façade has rich stonework, sculptures and door surrounds. Our tour of the Main Town ends with a walk along the riverside promenade. Here, we can view the various medieval gates-turned-storehouses that line the bank and remind us of Gdansk’s importance as a Hanseatic port.
This afternoon, we visit the recently inaugurated Museum of the Second World War. The heart of the museum is the permanent exhibition of 5000 square metres, which makes it one of the largest historical collections in the world. The exhibition explores the course of the Second World War, putting a particular emphasis on the fate of individuals, communities, nations, and on the everyday lives of civilians and soldiers. (Overnight Gdansk) B
Day 12: Sunday 20 June, Gdansk
- The Gdansk Shipyard – the Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers of 1970
- The Old Town including the Great Mill, Old Town Hall and other buildings (exteriors)
- The Arsenal, St Mary’s Church, Royal Chapel (exterior)
- Time at leisure
- Farewell Dinner at ‘Goldwasser Restaurant’
A short walk brings us this morning to the entrance to the world-famous Gdansk Shipyard, where the Solidarity movement was born in 1980. This movement not only initiated the demise of the Communist regime in Poland, but also initiated a chain reaction which led to the fall of the iron curtain in 1989. We encounter the Monument to the 1970 Shipyard Workers, a poignant reminder of the tragic events of December 1970 when the police and army killed many shipyard workers who were protesting against Poland’s repressive regime. The monument was not erected until 1980, on the 10th anniversary of this bloodbath. That same year, Lech Walesa signed the historic Gdansk agreements with the Communist authorities, leading to the formation of the Independent Solidarity Trade Union.
We next walk to the Old Town. Here, we admire the Great Mill, which is one of Gdansk’s finest secular buildings. In the 14th century, this structure was the largest of its kind in Europe. We then explore the Old Town Hall, one of the few buildings in the Old Town to survive the events of World War II. Built in the 16th century, it has a fine façade and an impressive interior. Following further exploration of the Old Town, we walk to the nearby Arsenal, an outstanding example of Flemish Mannerism. We then explore St. Mary’s Church, which was begun in 1343 and is one of the largest brick churches in the world. It is 5000 square metres in area and can accommodate 25,000 people. While the exterior is reminiscent of a fortress, the vast interior contains many treasures.
The rest of the afternoon is at leisure. Tonight we will enjoy our farewell meal at the charming Goldwasser Restaurant located in the historical centre. (Overnight Gdansk) BD
Day 13: Monday 21 June, Depart Gdansk
The tour ends in Gdansk. Participants taking ASA’s ‘designated’ flight will transfer to Gdansk airport for their flight to Australia. If you have made your own arrangements, you may take a taxi to the airport, or ASA staff can organise a transfer for you. B