We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Super Long Trip Report May 10-24

djr
Austin, Texas
Level Contributor
845 posts
34 reviews
Save Topic
Super Long Trip Report May 10-24

This is a long trip report on our trip from May 10 – 25. My husband wanted to see Poland as his grandfather was born there -- although his Polish ancestors all migrated to the US by the late 1800’s. We decided we wanted to take a trip which focused on Poland only. Although we’d previously booked with other small tour groups, we didn’t find any US-based companies that had tours that only toured Poland. As we explored several options, and made spreadsheet comparing itineraries, we decided on the Pearls of Poland trip with Exciting Poland. I couldn’t tell you now what tipped it in their favor, but I think it may have been a little more time at Czestochowa. This is not a review of the tour company, hotels or restaurants. We may do those separately. This is just a report of what we did over the 15-day trip.

This was supposed to be a small-group tour of 6-15 people. However, we were notified by the tour operator in March that no one else had booked for May. After our trip, I thought that perhaps everyone else knew that every school-aged Polish child was on field trips in May and they knew to avoid touring then. However, 20-20 hindsight… and since we’d already purchased our airline tickets, we were given an option to convert the tour to a private tour (for a price), which we decided to do. Although we followed the basic itinerary of the Pearls of Poland, we substituted one day to drive through the area and some of the towns my husband’s ancestors came from. Going through the tour operator, we had a guide and driver with us the entire time. This eased some of the language issues, especially when we were outside of main tourist areas.

Although we’ve traveled to Europe before, we’d only been on river cruises, and added days either at the beginning or end of the trip. This was our first all-land European trip and we circumnavigated Poland during the 2-week period. It will be a long report, I’ll update as I finish days.

Mentioned in this post
Poland
Poland
Europe
Czestochowa
Czestochowa
Silesia Province, Poland
Europe
Europe
World
13 replies to this topic
djr
Austin, Texas
Level Contributor
845 posts
34 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Super Long Trip Report May 10-24

Day 1 – Arrival to Warsaw Thursday May 10. After leaving Austin Wednesday night at 7:00 PM and connecting at Heathrow Thursday morning, our flight to Warsaw arrived around 5:30 PM on Thursday night. Witek, our guide/driver was in the arrivals area of the Warsaw airport waiting for us after we cleared immigration. He drove us to the Polonia Palace Hotel for our first two nights. Although the hotel was a little distance from Old Town, it was in a great walk-able area and we had no problem walking to and from Old Town. After going over an overview map of the area, Witek left us on our own for the rest of the evening, making a plan to meet the next morning at 9 in the hotel lobby.

Our first stop was to the ATM at the Bank Polski the block behind the hotel. During our entire trip, we were never charged extra fees for withdrawing money from the ATM. The rate was fairly consistent and in line with the current exchange rate. The ATM did disburse larger bills which sometimes shop clerks wanted to confirm if we had more exact change when making a smaller purchase… but it was never really an issue once we broke the larger bills.

We wanted pierogi, so Witek had recommended the Zapiecek chain, and there were several on our way to Old Town. We walked past the one on Aleje Jerozolimskie which was pretty busy and on a noisy street. Since we planned to walk to Old Town, we decided to walk further down Nowy Swiat to the location there. I loved this for our first Polish dining experience. The table had a crocheted doily with Boleslaviec style pottery (it may actually be Boleslawiec pottery). Our server was very helpful in guiding us to order the “our grandmothers recommend” assorted fried traditional dumplings, as well as assorted sweet dumplings for dessert. We were a little stumped by the description “ruthenian.” Google translate couldn’t help us out. It turns out it is a potato-mixture. Bryndza and oscypek were sheep cheese (we’d later see plenty of oscypek in Zakopane!) For the dessert dumplings our server suggested a sweet vanilla sauce, which reminded me of a better version of cinnamon roll glaze.

After dinner, we continued to walk towards Old Town, as we approached the Copernicus statue, we noticed all the rollerbladers. Apparently, there was some kind of group-skate night that was meeting at the Copernicus statue. This is the second time we’ve traveled to a major European city and have come across one of the skating events on our first night in town. We eventually made it to Old Town, but mainly just wandered around. There was a fire-juggler at the Zygmunt column and lots of people at the restaurants in the square. We were tired and we still had a long walk back to the hotel, but I’m glad we made it all the way to the Old Town. Our total step count for the day: 15,968

Mentioned in this post
Warsaw
Warsaw
Mazovia Province, Poland
Polonia Palace Hotel
Polonia Palace Hotel
2,955 Reviews
Warsaw, Poland
Restauracja Zapiecek
Restauracja Zapiecek
2,112 Reviews
Warsaw, Poland
Boleslawiec
Boleslawiec
Lower Silesia Province, Poland
Zakopane
Zakopane
Lesser Poland Province, Poland
Copernicus
Copernicus
222 Reviews
Krakow, Poland
Krakow, Poland
Destination Expert
for Krakow
Level Contributor
3,299 posts
9 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Super Long Trip Report May 10-24

Big applause for Zapiecek for the correct translation of "ruskie", which is all too often incorrectly translated as "Russian".

Mentioned in this post
Restauracja Zapiecek
Restauracja Zapiecek
2,112 Reviews
Warsaw, Poland
djr
Austin, Texas
Level Contributor
845 posts
34 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Super Long Trip Report May 10-24

Day 2, Friday May 11, Tour Warsaw. We started our day with the Polonia’s famous breakfast buffet. It did not disappoint. My husband even poured a shot of the bison vodka which we shared. No, we normally don’t do vodka shots for breakfast when we’re not on vacation. Although I was exhausted the night before, I didn’t really sleep well. Coffee was important. Almost every hotel we stayed at had nice single-cup coffee makers which produced a nice cup of coffee. I was happy.

The itinerary included a 3-hour guided tour of Warsaw. We drove to Lazienki Park where we enjoyed walking the paths, and hearing about how this section of the city was not destroyed. Although I’d seen photos of the Chopin statue, I never realized that when viewed from the back tree appears to be fingers set to play a piano. The peacocks near the palace opened their feathers several times while we were there. G and I toured the palace on our own. It was included with our itinerary, and was interesting, but I don’t know if we would have decided to tour it if we hadn’t already “paid” for it.

After our visit to the park, we had a driving tour of points of interest. We drove past the Unknown Soldiers’ Grave and there was a small crowd gathered as it was time for the changing of the guard. The tomb is situated in a beautiful park, but our short visit never allowed us time to visit. Our next stop was at the Ghetto Heroes Monument located at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. They did park the car and we were able to get out and walk around. Again, there was no time to visit the Museum. As we drove to the Warsaw Uprising Monument, we passed the Monument to the Fallen and Murdered in the East (the train car full of crosses), but it’s located in the median of a busy street, and once again no time to stop and Witek barely slowed the car.

We did stop at the Warsaw Uprising Monument, and from there walked to Old Town with our local guide. Walking by the side of the Supreme Court building, I liked the statues of the 3 women, I think the guide told us what they signified (justice?) but I forgot. My google searches are telling me either, except that they are caryatids, which is a sculpted female figure that serves as a column or pillar.

Although we’d walked through Old Town the previous night, we didn’t know what we were seeing, so it was nice having the guide point out important sites. I hadn’t realized the imposing red brick building was the Basilica. The square was busy with both official vendors and “unofficial” vendors, who we could see quickly pack up their wares when they got some signal law enforcement was approaching. Of the official vendors, there was one artist I really wished I’d been able to return to at the end of the trip. He had lovely small paintings of forests… it wasn’t until we’d driven through such forests that I realized it would have been a great remembrance.

Our official tour ended, and G & I wanted to take a break for beer and a little lunch. Apparently, lunch was not built into the itinerary (more on that later). Although our guide encouraged us to go tour Royal Castle, after touring one palace in the park, we decided to skip the castle. Although our local guide pointed out several of her favorite restaurants, they were on the other side Old Town. We asked Witek and he recommended a little bar on the main street. We really just wanted a beer and a snack. I was able to try the sour rye soup, which I really liked, and G had a sausage dish. While we were sitting in the sidewalk tables enjoying the afternoon, we noticed a wedding party gathering at the church across the street (St. Anne’s). Since we noticed other tourists popping in, we decided to also. We enjoy seeing European churches and this one was beautiful. We only peeked in from the narthex.

After I saw so many school children getting ice cream, I decided to try one of the soft-serve, chocolate-vanilla cones that you could buy all over. It was the first of many Lody during our vacation. We made our way along the river bank, past the new Copernicus Science Centre (no time to go in), stopped at a convenience store to pick up some bottled iced tea (G’s must-have) and some water. We were trying to decipher the labels to find still water and did not succeed – ended up with fizzy (which I like). I think we were still jet lagged, or just hadn’t looked at enough Polish bottles of water yet to realize that niegazowana was the word we were looking for. (After reading the National Geographic June issue article on plastic pollution… I’m hoping the hotels appropriately recycled the bottles we disposed of.)

Dinner was included in our tour this evening and Witek took us to Smaki Warszawy which was only a few blocks from the hotel. Many restaurants were having special white asparagus menu items which I took full advantage of. Although we took pictures, I really don’t know what else we ate, possibly duck or beef cheeks. I really wanted to try some Polish wines when I was here, but very few restaurants served them. The Polish wine industry is rebuilding, and it’s less expensive for the restaurants to serve Italian, French, Spanish, etc.

After the early dinner, G & I walked around the Palace of Culture and Science area. The park facing Aleje Jerozalimskie was being enjoyed by many. There was an area with large hammocks, and some interesting benches that looked like open books. There were modern sky-scrapers in the area, and I must admit I was surprised to see windows open on the upper floors. I’m sure there’s a building code against that in the US. Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped at a Wedel chocolate shop for some bites of dessert. Our total step count (earning that dessert) was 26,104, over 12 miles.

Mentioned in this post
Warsaw
Warsaw
Mazovia Province, Poland
Polonia
Polonia
24 Reviews
Kudowa-Zdroj, Poland
Warsaw Ghetto
Warsaw Ghetto
177 Reviews
Warsaw, Poland
Museum of the History of Katowice
Museum of the History of...
39 Reviews
Katowice, Poland
Royal Castle
Royal Castle
61 Reviews
Bedzin, Poland
Copernicus Science Centre
Copernicus Science Centre
2,424 Reviews
Warsaw, Poland
Smaki Warszawy
Smaki Warszawy
268 Reviews
Warsaw, Poland
Palace of Culture and Science
Palace of Culture and...
4,036 Reviews
Warsaw, Poland
djr
Austin, Texas
Level Contributor
845 posts
34 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Super Long Trip Report May 10-24

Day 3, Saturday May 12 – Leave Warsaw for Ryn. We toasted with our final breakfast vodka shots and left Warsaw for Ryn. The allure of Ryn was to stay in a Teutonic Castle, driving through Polish farmland to the Masurian Lake district. The rolling hills were full of yellow, blooming rape (canola) flowers. When we arrived in Ryn we checked into our huge corner room of the castle. There was a pharmaceutical conference in meeting rooms on ground floor, and they also had a dinner in the main hall that night, although we were able to see it through windows on the landing of our floor. We didn’t really have lunch (a repeated problem on this trip). We snacked a little with left over granola bars from the flight, then went out to explore Ryn. Interesting obsesrvation in the hotel was a notice not to steal the towels or robes as they were microchipped… and yes, there was a little electronic something woven within the (rather standard) towel.

As we expected, being in a 14th century castle, there was no air conditioning or “climate control”. There were plenty of windows to open, but someone in the neighborhood must have had a fire or was burning something because we smelled smoke with windows open. None of the windows we encountered in hotels had screens… and considering these were big window, I presume there’s not a bug problem there.

Ryn itself did not have much to see. The castle is situated between two lakes, we walked to both. At the smaller one, northeast of the castle, there was a pier and a swimming area and we several people in the water. They had a nice little beach. I’m sure it gets busy in summer… but this was a warm day. The other lake seemed to cater to boaters, however we only saw one jet ski puttering around. There was a nice sidewalk around the lake, but there really wasn’t anything else to see or do.

We also had a trip to Gierloz to tour the Wolf’s Lair, Hitler’s Eastern Front HQ. It was more interesting than I expected. The magnitude of the destroyed bunkers and extent of the compound was interesting. Our visit included an English-speaking guide – it was nice having someone to show us where we could go into some of the ruins and explain what we were seeing. I still wonder if prisoner labor constructed it (one website said it was POWs). I think our guide misunderstood my question when I asked who built it… he replied the Germans. The resources they would have needed to dedicate to construct this would have been significant.

Our dinner tonight was back in Ryn at a lake-side restaurant – an old mill. The beer of the day was Kasztelan, and I enjoyed some nice lake perch with a “variety of salads”… 2 cabbage and 1 carrot. The menu also had potato sausages, since we’d never heard of potato sausages, we had to try them. And it’s basically seasoned, mashed potatoes in a sausage casing. Different, and tasty! At this restaurant, as with all over Poland the bread was fantastic, whole grain and very tasty. After dinner we enjoyed the pool and spa area in the castle. Our step count? 15,156, mainly the Wolf’s Lair.

Mentioned in this post
Warsaw
Warsaw
Mazovia Province, Poland
Ryn
Ryn
Warmia-Masuria Province, Poland
Lake District
Lake District
Cumbria, UK
Poland
Poland
Europe
djr
Austin, Texas
Level Contributor
845 posts
34 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Super Long Trip Report May 10-24

Day 4, Sunday May 13 – Ryn to Gdansk. The breakfast buffet at the Ryn Castle was one of the best (although no vodka). I came to expect a nice selection of salads at the breakfast buffet and normally had some lettuce and tomatoes. There were deviled eggs on almost all the buffets,as well as an egg salad. Smoked fish, and of course meats and cheeses. I had my fill of liverwurst. The breads were all amazing. On the itinerary today was boat ride (cruise on the itinerary) on the Elblag Canal, tour Malbork Castle, then arrive in Gdasnk in the evening.

We’d researched the Elblag Canal and with its “land lock” and “sailing on grass” it sounded like an interesting experience – one of the 7 wonders of Poland. We were not impressed. Apparently, the only cruise in May is a 2-hour cruise on the normal part of the canal, through 2 regular locks. No sailing on grass, only through some rather boring scenery -- we did pass a fair number of men fishing along the shores of the canal. We’ve been on multiple river cruises and have sailed through many locks. These were not impressive. There was no commentary (not that we would have understood it), just a lazy ride on a boat. Since this was off-season, there were no concession on the boat (our guide had told us there would be, but he did confirm when we checked in and found out there were none). Several families brought bags of snacks and drinks, but it was only a two-hour cruise. As my husband said, “if there were some audio animatronic dinosaurs along the banks it would have been more interesting”.

After the we disembarked, we drove 1 hour through more rape fields to Malbork Castle where we needed to wait a bit for our English-speaking tour guide. (notice.. no break for lunch or snack). The castle compound is very impressive and our guide was excellent. I’m sure we would not have gotten as much out of the tour without her. There was also an amber exhibit that we really enjoyed.

We drove on to Gdansk to our hotel (Dom Muzyka Hotel) just outside of Old Town. We had dinner, at Gdanksi Bowke, and had beer to accompany our appetizer of lard and bread. The food was good, and afterwards we had time to walk around Old Town a bit. It was an easy walking day, only 6 miles (12,895 steps).

Mentioned in this post
Ryn
Ryn
Warmia-Masuria Province, Poland
Gdansk
Gdansk
Pomerania Province, Poland
Ryn Castle Hotel
Ryn Castle Hotel
535 Reviews
Ryn, Poland
Elblag
Elblag
Warmia-Masuria Province, Poland
Malbork
Malbork
Pomerania Province, Poland
Poland
Poland
Europe
Dom Muzyka
Dom Muzyka
302 Reviews
Gdansk, Poland
djr
Austin, Texas
Level Contributor
845 posts
34 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Super Long Trip Report May 10-24

Day 5, Monday May 14 – Gdansk. This morning we had a local guide to tell us about Gdansk and take us around Sopot. It was also fire fighters’ day, and they where having a ceremony in the main square, by the Neptune fountain. We learned about Fahrenheit, saw lovely buildings and heard a story about a giant … and why there’s no steeple on St. Mary’s Church. We learned about the three coats of arms on the Upland Gate… and saw a representation of a very fierce unicorn (no rainbows and glitter on this unicorn!). On our way to Sopot, we drove by the new WWII Museum and stopped at the Solidarity Center and the Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers. We were able to step inside the center for a little bit.

On our way to Sopot, we also stopped at the Oliwa Cathedral for the organ concert. I’d read about the figures on the organ, and it was interesting, but I don’t know if I’d recommend it. It seemed to be on the big tour groups itinerary. We finally made it to Sopot where we were able to walk by the crocked house, which now is a Costa Coffee with umbrella-ed tables in front. The pier and the beach are beautiful, and we had a beautiful sunny day to enjoy it. “Lunch” today was ice cream in Sopot. We didn’t really have free time, just met Witek back at the car where we headed back towards Gdansk, stopping near the North Harbor Lighthouse to look across the river at Westerplatte Monument.

I really wanted to buy some amber, and both Witek and the guide recommended what was probably one of the most expensive places to buy it. The short amount of time we stayed in any one place didn’t really allow time for shopping around. Since my husband doesn’t like to shop, once it’s “checked off the list” it’s time to move on. We did at least have a moment to sit with some pierogies and beer and people watch. The old town section of Gdansk is really pretty, but I did begin to wonder how much amber people buy… one shop right after the next!

Our city guide told us the Hotel Gdansk had the best beer in Gdansk, so we decided to have dinner there. I had the asparagus special with fish, while G had beef cheeks. A blueberry torte for dessert was excellent. On our way back to the hotel we stopped in a Biedronka for a few snacks for the drive the next day. These groceries were all over the country. A lot of walking again today, 20,815 steps!

Mentioned in this post
Gdansk
Gdansk
Pomerania Province, Poland
Sopot
Sopot
Pomerania Province, Poland
Oliwa Cathedral
Oliwa Cathedral
725 Reviews
Gdansk, Poland
Westerplatte
Westerplatte
1,144 Reviews
Gdansk, Poland
djr
Austin, Texas
Level Contributor
845 posts
34 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Super Long Trip Report May 10-24

Day 6, Tuesday May 15. Leave Gdansk for Torun. We had a later start today (10 am) than the other days (9 am). We took a morning walk back to the Old Town area with our extra hour. The street were quiet with only a few people and cleaning crews around, and we were hoping to find a store open where we could buy Goldwasser… luckily we found one and were able to buy some small bottles as gifts. I forgot my re-usable bag I normally carry, and we were charged a minimal fee for a nice Goldwasser bag.

Torun is where we really started noticing the school groups. We were scheduled to visit the Museum of Gingerbread, but when it looked like our group was going to be several different school groups and us, we decided to pass. It may have been a combination of noisy groups and missed lunch that made us a little less tolerant and go-with-the-flow than we could have been. The Pearls of Poland tour officially goes to the Copernicus museum, but it was closed for renovations.

Our hotel was a combination of old and new, the Hotel Bulwar, right on the Vistula. Although we had a large corner room, we could only find one electrical outlet for us to charge our devices. Also, the climate control was not enough for the warm day, so the hotel staff had to bring us the handle to open the window. One of the things I didn’t think of before traveling was how to open windows. We were five floors up and the giant window opened like a door, no screens, but at least a thick window sill. I realized later that most windows could be opened in two positions, the more logical hinging from the bottom to open from the top, and the way I did it where it opened like a door.

I think we were reaching information overload, the only significant things I remember about Torun, besides the gingerbread, was the leaning tower, seeing Copernicus birthplace and the first tour guide who mentioned Father Kolbe. The donkey of shame also made an impression. The town was beautiful, it probably would have been better to skip a tour here and just enjoy the town. I was almost surprised to find out how compact the town was, because during the tour we seemed further. We managed 14,124 steps this day.

Our dinner was at Spichrz, an old mill converted into a restaurant and inn. Again, traditional Polish food. Witek raved about the salad bar, and – in retrospect – it’s probably what I should have expected: a potato salad, two types of white cabbage salad, one red cabbage salad, a carrot salad and a beet salad. Not a leafy green or tomato in sight. I did order a delicious dinner salad with greens, chicken, dried tomatoes, caramelized pear, walnuts, gorgonzola, my husband stuck with the breaded pork chop. As we walked back to hotel, some of the children had left, but it was still a busy place. We stopped and were overwhelmed by the choices of gingerbread but managed to make a decision on a selection which we snacked on during the remainder of trip. I really preferred the plain, but we had to try the flavored fillings just to see what they were like.

Mentioned in this post
Gdansk
Gdansk
Pomerania Province, Poland
Torun
Torun
Kuyavia-Pomerania Province, Poland
Goldwasser Restaurant
Goldwasser Restaurant
1,791 Reviews
Gdansk, Poland
Poland
Poland
Europe
Copernicus
Copernicus
222 Reviews
Krakow, Poland
Hotel Bulwar
Hotel Bulwar
372 Reviews
Torun, Poland
Spichrz Hotel
Spichrz Hotel
195 Reviews
Torun, Poland
djr
Austin, Texas
Level Contributor
845 posts
34 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Super Long Trip Report May 10-24

Day 7, Wednesday May 16. Today, we drove from Torun to Poznan, going through several towns that my husband found on baptism and wedding certificates of his grandparents and great-grandparents. The tour was supposed to stop in Biskupin, but after looking at Google maps, all the towns were between Torun and Gniezno.

Witek was helpful in getting a list of towns a few days before, then when we arrived, finding city hall and talking to staff to see if they had any information on the town. The staff in Kcynia (thank you Anna and Ewa!) were most helpful and provided us with all kinds of printed materials on the town, and even called the church where a priest took us on a short tour to see the restoration work being done on it. We continued driving through several small towns, stopped at a couple of churches and then headed for a quick stop in Gniezno to see the Basilica. There were only a couple of school groups touring the church, and this church, although large and beautiful, seemed to blur together with all the other churches.

We arrived in Poznan in time for an early supper, and opted to just eat at the Italian restaurant at the hotel. When we arrived in our room, we experienced a quirky translation about the air conditioner. The sticker attached said: “If the window is open the air conditioning is not working”. Well, the window was open, so G was not happy about not having a/c again. He’s lived in Texas his entire life and has never experience life without air conditioning, and European style climate control systems are not what he expects for air conditioning. Anyway, at dinner Witek explained that the air conditioning will not work when the window is open, slightly different translation. So we closed the window and to see if the room would cool down.

After dinner, we walked up through the Stary Browar to the old town area, admiring pastries in bakery windows. Stary Browar seemed like the normal shops in an unusually impressive building. Since we're not big shoppers, we just walked through. Thanks to our walk around Poznan, we walked 15,710 steps today.

Mentioned in this post
Torun
Torun
Kuyavia-Pomerania Province, Poland
Poznan
Poznan
Greater Poland Province, Poland
Gniezno
Gniezno
Greater Poland Province, Poland
Stary Browar
Stary Browar
143 Reviews
Kielce, Poland
djr
Austin, Texas
Level Contributor
845 posts
34 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Super Long Trip Report May 10-24

Day 8, Thursday May 17. After breakfast, we met at 9:00 for a guided tour (again). We started at the Poznan Cathedral. We were able to go down to the crypt and see a short film (in English!) about the history, not only of the church, but of Poznan. It’s hard to believe how old the ruins in the crypt are, and how long a church has been standing here. We were also able to see the Golden Chapel behind the altar and the Sword of St. Peter. This was a very impressive stop.

We drove from the cathedral to the Imperial Castle, stopping to see the monuments in the park across the street. Before entering the castle, we stepped into the temporary Enigma Cipher exhibit. The castle is an interesting mix of modern sections with more traditional sections. After touring the castle, Witek picked us up to drive us closer to Old Town, we planned to be in front of the clock to see the goats at noon. However, I had another, more important goal… to buy a famous Poznan St. Martin Croissant. We stopped near one shop which sold them and bought a croissant for me and another pastry for G (he doesn’t care for poppy seeds). We learned more about Old Town, and also stopped outside the Rogalowe Museum (Croissant Museum) where there were crowds of children. Luckily our guide was able to make her way to the front of the line so I could buy a croissant here too. Although they were very slightly different, I wouldn’t say one was better than the other… they were both delicious. After our tour, we had a little time to step inside the pretty pink church of St. Stanislaus.

Now that I’m revisiting our pictures, I really wish we’d had more than ½ day in Poznan. This was the first town where we actually saw an open-air market (well, except for souvenir vendors), but we didn’t have a chance to stop – onward with the tour. This is one of the translation issues we had with Witek. I had mentioned I liked to visit markets, thinking that was synonymous with open-air fruit and vegetable markets we’ve seen in other European cities. Later, I realized he considered these “bazaars” and not markets. Markets were just stores (I think). We never did go to, or really see a true farmers market in Poland.

We only had ½ a day in Poznan because we were driving to Czestochowa. I had looked forward to this visit because we’ve had a picture of the Black Madonna in our house for years. My husband’s uncle brought it back when he visited Poland years ago. Then my mother told me she’d been using the prayer card for the Black Madonna daily in her prayers. She thought it was Czech since my father’s sister had it brought it back after a trip to Czechoslovakia, where his family is from. Anyway, Witek found out there was an English Mass in late afternoon, and we should be able to make it.

After checking into a hotel across the street from the monastery complex, we quickly walked up the hill to the church/shrine. Luckily, the Mass was running late. We were not allowed in the actual chapel as it was reserved for a tour group from I believe Oregon. But they still came outside the gates to give communion to those of us who wanted to receive it. It was an abbreviated service, but it was nice to be able to attend.

As we were leaving a first communion group was lined up to be next in the shrine/chapel area. Across the country, we encountered many children in their first communion attire, not just on Sundays. Witek mentioned it was “White Week”, but we never really understood what exactly that was. I think we understood the children receive their first communion in their parish church, but then for the rest of the week, … well we’re not sure what happens. We noticed parents in Krakow hurrying to get their child in their freshly laundered white clothes somewhere… presuming a church. All I could think of was whoever was responsible for keeping the dress/pants/shirt/etc clean and ready for the next day. If anyone can fill us in on what White Week is, I’d appreciate it.

After Mass, we had time to look around the shrine and basilica. A choir that was scheduled to perform that evening were practicing in the basilica when we walked in, making it a truly special experience. The voices were wonderful. As we left, we tried to find a gift shop or book store because my mother wanted some information (in English) about the Black Madonna. There was one shop open just outside the walls, although it was closing in a few minutes, the one clerk who could speak English was able to show us the only items they had printed in English. There really wasn’t very much printed material, and this was a guide of the shrine with some history.

With this purchase made, we walked down the street adjacent to our hotel to the restaurant Witek had recommended, Dobry Rok. We started out with a lovely appetizer and preview of what we’d see in Zakopane. This was goat cheese, not sheep, and it was grilled, but with the cranberry side. I had a fantastic onion soup (it was drizzly and cool for most of the day). My pork dish came with lentils… probably about 2 cups of them! G ordered the duck. Why is duck so prevalent in Europe, but we never see it in local restaurants. There seems to be an opportunity for duck production in our area.

This was one of our lightest day for walking, only 5 miles (10,874 steps).

Mentioned in this post
Poznan
Poznan
Greater Poland Province, Poland
Poland
Poland
Europe
Czestochowa
Czestochowa
Silesia Province, Poland
Krakow
Krakow
Lesser Poland Province, Poland
Zakopane
Zakopane
Lesser Poland Province, Poland
Europe
Europe
World
djr
Austin, Texas
Level Contributor
845 posts
34 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Super Long Trip Report May 10-24

Day 9, Friday May 18. This morning we had an official tour of Jasna Gora with Father Simon. He was a very interesting guide with a dry sense of humor. He took us all over and explained significance of certain items. When we toured the treasury, there was a sign that said no photos were allowed, but he told us we could take photos “discreetly”. Like all good tourist attractions, the tour ended in a gift shop, but having a priest as a guide gave us an added bonus of being blessed, and blessing items we purchased.

We left Czestochowa by noon to make it to our hotel in Oswiecim for a late lunch before the 3:30 English tour at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Our lunch was at one of the two restaurants at our hotel in Oswiecim. We had a choice between the Polish restaurant or the Italian restaurant. We chose the Polish. We weren’t quite tired of Polish food yet. There was finally a Polish wine on the menu! I had the white, a Solaris from Winnica Turnau. It was a very nice wine. I’d never heard of Solaris before and it’s good to try something new.

Due to rather slow service at our table (the only other guests come and went before we were served), we arrived at Auschwitz at 3:25 for the 3:30 tour. At least we didn’t need to wait around. I was kind of dreading this tour. I’ve read so much about the atrocities of WWII, I felt like I needed to brace myself. It wasn’t as emotionally draining as some of the books I’ve read, and for that, I was thankful. Now, if we could only keep this kind of thing from ever happening again. But our own border guards are separating children from parents when they illegally cross the border into our state. I know that’s nothing compared to what happened during the war, but there’s still trauma due to those actions and I can’t help but wonder where they got the idea to do that.

Our guide was very good, and the English-speaking group to Birkenau was rather small as some people left after Auschwitz. But I was glad that part of our itinerary was over. We went back to the hotel, where we decided to have a snack at the hotel bar, which was actually in cellar area, under the Italian restaurant. After seeing that menu, I wished we’d gone there for lunch. But I had an opportunity to try the Rondo/Regent, also from Winnica Turnau, and found a very easy-to-drink red. It was a mellow evening after a busy day. We walked 7 ½ mile, 15,703 steps.

Mentioned in this post
Jasna Gora
Jasna Gora
643 Reviews
Czestochowa, Poland
Czestochowa
Czestochowa
Silesia Province, Poland
Oswiecim
Oswiecim
Lesser Poland Province, Poland
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
Auschwitz-Birkenau State...
11,926 Reviews
Oswiecim, Poland
Regent Warsaw Hotel
Regent Warsaw Hotel
1,296 Reviews
Warsaw, Poland
Reply to: Super Long Trip Report May 10-24
Get notified by e-mail when a reply is posted