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Trip Report The Princess Diaries: My Three Week Odyssey In Poland And Romania

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For many third generation American Ashkenazim like myself, we have led comfortable lives, and rarely think about what our grandparents and their predecessors went through in Eastern Europe. I grew up knowing two grandparents, one from each side, and I remember feeling embarrassed by their accents and they both seemed to have some inner turmoil. Long gone now, I wished I had interviewed them about their lives in the "Old Country," but I never did--I only knew they came through Ellis Island on a boat. My maternal grandfather was one of several children, and he was the only one to have come to the US from Poland before WWII, and I'm sure you can guess what happened to the rest of the family during the war.

I decided to put together my own roots trip, and the planning took me over a year. Each city that I visited, with the exception of Sighisoara, Romania, which was a rest/stopover point for two nights, either had a synagogue, a concentration camp, or both. The trip was quite fascinating. It was the first time that I got the logistics down perfectly, as well as the pacing. Here is the itinerary:

Oh, and special thanks to thursdays, for suggesting going to Brasov. It was much more cool than Sibiu, you were right, and the synagogue was beautiful

Wed Aug 31 - airberlin flight to Dusseldorf, Berlin, Krawko
Thur Sept 1 - arrive in Krakow
Fri Sept 2 - Jewish Kazimierz, Old Town, 7 PM services at Isaac Temple, 8 PM dinner
sleep in Krakow
Sat Sept 3 - Auschwitz/Birkenau Concentration Camps
sleep in Krakow
Sun Sept 4 - Podgorze: The Jewish Ghetto, including Schindler's factory, Pharmacy Under The Eagle
sleep in Krakow
Mon Sept 5 - Take 8:13 AM train to Wroclaw, arrives at 11:31 AM, Jewish Walking Tour, Synagogue
sleep in Wroclaw
Tues Sept 6 - Walking Tour of Ostrow Tumski and Old Town, Royal Palace
sleep in Wroclaw
Wed Sept 7 - Fly Wroclaw to Gdansk via Warsaw
Monument to Shipyard Workers, European Solidarity Museum
sleep in Gdansk
Thur Sept 8 - Malbork Castle, 28 minutes away, via direct train
sleep in Gdansk
Fri Sept 9 - Stutthof Concentration Camp
sleep in Gdansk
Sat Sept 10 - Morning Walking tour of Gdansk, including Oliwa area
fly Gdansk to Sibiu via Munich
sleep in Sibiu, Romania
Sun Sept 11 - Walking tour of Sibiu, Great Synagogue, and ASTRA museum
sleep in Sibiu
Mon Sept 12 - 8 AM pick up, driver from Sixt Rent a Car, see some of the 18 villages of Marinimea, and Transfaragen Highway
sleep in Sibiu
Tues Sept 13 - 8 AM pick up, driver from Sixt Rent a Car, one way transport to Sighisoara, stop at Brasov Synagogue en route
sleep in Sighisoara
Wed Sept 14 - Walking tour of old town Sighisoara in the morning, hike the Breite Plateau in the afternoon.
sleep in Sighisoara
Thur Sept 15 - 8 AM pick up from driver Cristian Hrusca, one way transport to Sighetu, see sites along the way, including Targu Mares Synagogue
sleep in Sighetu Marmatiei
Fri Sept 16 - Elie Wiesel House, Wijnitzer Klaus Synagogue, Jewish Cemetery, Sighet Village Museum
sleep in Sighetu Marmatiei
Sat Sept 17 - 8AM pick up from driver Cristian Hrusca, takes me to sites around Sighet, arrives back at Sighetu 6 PM
sleep in Sighetu Marmatiei
Sun Sept 18 - 8 AM pick up from driver Cristian Hrusca, one way transport to Suceava, see villages along the way, arrive 6 PM
sleep in Suceava
Mon Sept 19 - 8 AM pick up from driver Marius Ciobanuday, see monasteries and salt mine, return 6 PM
sleep in Suceava
Tues Sept 20 - 8 AM pick up from driver Marius Ciobanuday, visit Gah Synagogue, and more monasteries and fortresses
sleep in Suceava
Wed Sept 21 - TAROM flight RO 810, 5:55 AM departure for Bucharest, arrives at 7:10 AM
Jewish walking tour, including Holocaust Museum, then Old Town (Centru Vechi)
sleep in Bucharest
Thu Sept 22 - Departure for Berlin, Dusseldorf, Los Angeles

Best Moments:
1. Malbork Castle near Gdansk is amazing. The audio tour was stellar, and "scolded" me when I took a wrong turn.
2. Stutthof Concentration Camp was fascinating. The dog kennels are still there, and the sign says, sadly, "The smallest German Shepherd housed here was larger than a starving prisoner."
3. I liked the entire city of Sightetu Marmatiei. They filmed the beginning of "Borat" near there, and it is very traditional looking. The city was actually part of Hungary during WWII, and Jews were sent very quickly to Auschwitz. There are two survivors in town, one woman 90, and another 103. When I asked the caretaker at the synagogue if either had children, he said one did, but the other "was experimented on by Dr. Mengele."

Difficult Moments:
1. airberlin misplaced my suitcase for the first 30 hours of my trip. They won't do a search until five days after arrival.
2. LOT cancelled my flights from Wroclaw to Gdansk, and fortunately, my son at home was able to put me on a later flight. No one at the hotel would help. When I got to the airport, I asked the check in guy what happened, and he said, "There was no plane."

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