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A July Trip to Poland and the Czech Republic

A July Trip to Poland and the Czech Republic

Old Jun 26th, 2022, 05:15 PM
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A July Trip to Poland and the Czech Republic

And we're off - soon at least (fingers crossed!) - to Poland and the Czech Republic.

For those of you who've read some of my planning threads, you may be familiar with the different options we considered for our spring / summer 2022 trip. High on the list are the South of France, Italy, Switzerland, Great Britain, and Greece. Originally considering a trip in April or May, the timeline kept on slipping as we did not feel comfortable with the rate of COVID cases in these countries at the time. Refundable accommodations in Provence and the Cote d'Azur were booked and cancelled. Accommodations in northern England and Wales were booked and cancelled, as recently as 4 weeks ago. Same with Switzerland. Glued was I to the NYTimes and CovidTracker.fr and its infection and transmission data.

We did not finally bite the bullet for real - non-refundable airfare and accommodations - until 3 weeks ago, much later than we typically do. Based on COVID data as well as the cost of accommodations, we settled on Poland and the Czech Republic. We've visited Prague 12 years ago and enjoyed it but have not been back since. Poland will be new to us, as well as the rest of the Czech Republic.

If all goes as planned, we depart Washington, DC, on Friday, July 1st, for two weeks. Our anticipated itinerary will be as follows:

Warsaw, 3 nights
Krakow, 4 nights
Olomouc, 2 nights
Cesky Krumlov, 2 nights
Prague, 4 nights

We've sketched out some of the top places we want to visit, researched and made a few reservations on dining, and booked a couple of performances. If you've visited these places and have favorites, please do share. I will post live on the road.

Come along for the ride.
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Old Jun 26th, 2022, 10:11 PM
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Most definitely along for the ride triplanner. My family and I were looking at Budapest, Poland and Berlin for May/June this year, but decided against it once the Ukraine war started. Depending on how it goes we may reschedule for next year.
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Old Jun 30th, 2022, 03:37 PM
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looking forward to reading about the trip.
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Old Jun 30th, 2022, 07:58 PM
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For Krakow, you might have to get tickets in advance if you want to tour the royal apartments at Wawel Castle. Entry is limited.

I assume you will be interested in seeing both the salt mine in Wieliczka and Auschwitz.....

We ate spectacularly well at just about every turn of our three week trip in Malapolska. one of my favorite items of the trip was grilled oszypek, a smoked cheese. We had it at a rural fair, but I know they serve it at Restauracja Galicyska in Krakow. They also serve a rye soup and borscht which is terrific. Oszypek, ungrilled, is sold throughout Krakow.

There is a street theatre festival in Krakow July 8-10. We attended this, and it is terrific. More info: https://teatrkto.pl/35-ulica-festiwal-program/

About an hour form Oloumoc is the Macocha Abyss. Definitely worth going to. An hour in another direction gets you to a very impressive skansen in Roznov Pod Radhsotem. Both destinations worth a full day, though if I had to choose it would be the Macocha Abyss.
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Old Jul 1st, 2022, 06:00 PM
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Shelemm, thank you so much the wonderful suggestions, much of which I had not come across in my research. We’re all set with Wawel and Auschwitz. Will definitely check out the street theater festival; the jazz festival will also take place while we’re in Krakow. The oszypek is definitely up our alley.

Geetika and Millie2112, glad you’re along on the journey. Budapest is definitely one of the cities on the Continent I enjoy the most.
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Old Jul 1st, 2022, 06:38 PM
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Tagging along too.

I had a quasi-similar itinerary--no Olomouc--the same timeframe (maybe it was early August! it was baking hot, in any case) about 7+ years ago. One of my favorite trips ever! We absolutely loved Warsaw and Krakow, we stayed in Telc as well as Cesky Krumlov. My traveling companion left earlier than me and I had several more days in Prague. The supposedly second and third-tier sights there are really worth exploring.

I'm sure you will have a wonderful trip.
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Old Jul 1st, 2022, 10:53 PM
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While in Kradow I would recommend visiting the Czartoryski Museum. Da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine is impressive. I'm looking forward to your report.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2022, 09:31 AM
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Looks like a good itinerary. We did something similar in 2015. When in Poland eat pierogis. There are little shops that specialize in them and they come with a zillion fillings, from prune to duck. They are delicious and inexpensive.
Also try the Pope’s Cake. So called because Pope JP II said it was his favorite dessert.

We loved this area of Europe and I think it remains our favorite trip ever. We both hated returning home.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2022, 03:20 PM
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We have been to 3 of your destinations: Prague, Cesky Krumlov and Krakow. We have been to Czech Republic twice and to Poland once. Would love to return to Poland. I am of Polish and Ukrainian descent so I grew up having a lot of the same food, such as pierogis. Borscht, golompki, and cabbage soup!

Leely2, we stayed in Telc on our second trip. Loved it!!! The square is so pretty with its pastel buildings.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2022, 04:18 PM
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Looking forward to following your trip! I hope you took off successfully and have begun your adventures!
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Old Jul 2nd, 2022, 05:04 PM
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Climb up Saint Mary's tower when the trumpeter is to play:


Have a tea in this location in Prague:

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Old Jul 3rd, 2022, 02:27 PM
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Leely2 and KarenWoo, hope we recall some good memories for you.

Treesa, Halfapair, and Michael, thank you for your suggestions.

KarenWoo, we will be stopping in Telc on the way from Olomouc to Cesky Krumlov. We hired a driver for the day.

Progol, thank you.

Hopping Across the Pond

As seasoned travelers, we typically don’t think twice about going to Europe. The hop across the Atlantic is usually quite simple, as the time difference is not enough to really cause us jet lag (now, Asia and Australia, that’s another story). These days, we consider about COVID, staff shortages on airlines and at airports, as well as an increase in strike activity. Thunderstorms could also be an issue in the summer, especially come from the Northeast. Perhaps we get lucky.

In addition to packing our bags and getting our travel documents in order, we also went for COVID tests. While not required we still prefer the peace of mind. Our American Airlines flight from DC to NYC departed on time and arrived a bit earlier than schedule in spite of threatening skies on both ends. As we planned a 3-plus hour layover, we had a bunch of time to kill (the additional layover time was intentional given all the potential disruptions these days). We passed most of the time at the American Airlines Flagship Lounge, which was not too crowded considering it was the Friday evening preceding the Fourth of July weekend. Our American flight from NYC to London Heathrow also departed and arrived on time. With another three hours to kill, we grabbed some coffee and sat in a quiet part of what was a very busy Terminal 5. About an hour and a half before our flight, we saw bad news flash on the monitors. Our British Airways flight to Warsaw was cancelled.

We were scrambling on our phones and computers trying to rebook. Unfortunately, there were no other flights on British Airways that day. We looked around and could not find alternative flights on any carriers. Hopping over to Terminal 2 hoping to get on a LOT flight that left London for Warsaw later in the day also proved futile as the flight was completely sold out. In the meantime, British Airways was able to put us on the first flight to Warsaw tomorrow morning. We looked for a hotel close to the airport but couldn’t find something either. So we chose a hotel in Kensington, one of our favorite London neighborhoods. The 100 Queen’s Gate, a Hilton-managed property, on this evening was an eye-watering 500 pounds. Given that there were limited options, we went with it.

We tubed to Kensington, freshened up, and took a late afternoon stroll through central London, going from our hotel over to Buckingham Palace, Big Ben (this time in full view), Trafalgar Square, and Chinatown. We enjoyed dinner at our favorite Chinatown restaurant, Golden Phoenix, before tubing back to our hotel to rest for the night.

Fingers crossed, we complete our journey to Warsaw tomorrow morning.


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Old Jul 3rd, 2022, 02:40 PM
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I’m glad you got across the Atlantic, though I’m sorry to hear the flight to Warsaw was canceled. Still, it sounds like you had a good stay in London, not the worst place to kill some time.

Wishing you the best to get to your first “official” stop of your trip.
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Old Jul 4th, 2022, 01:23 PM
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Progol, you're absolutely right about London. It's one city we never tire of.

Sunday in Warsaw

We awoke at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning and grabbed a taxi back to London Heathrow for our flight to Warsaw. Given that it's Heathrow, we chose to arrive at the airport earlier than we normally would. Even at 5am, the airport was buzzing. The rebooked British Airways flight arrived on time in Warsaw - at 11. We passed through the airport and were in our hotel in the center of the city, the very comfortable Raffles Hotel Europe, before noon. While we could have enjoyed our rooms, the city outside our windows awaited us.

We hit the ground running with a very full day of sightseeing. We walked from our hotel to the Old Town via the pedestrianized Krakowskie Przedmiescie or Royal Way (so named as the king uses it to get from the Royal Castle to his summer home in Wilanow), passing a couple large churches and pleasant sidewalk cafes. Our destination - the reconstructed Royal Castle. Warsaw was busier than I expected. Large numbers of people were out and about, a combination of locals and tourists. The sun was shining. There was a carnival-like atmosphere in the Old Town plaza.

The Royal Castle and all of the Old Town was completed destroyed by the Nazis during World War II as was much of the city. The city was painstakely rebuilt in the subsequent decades, relying on old drawings and paintings. The Royal Castle was much more glorious than I had anticipated, and a pleasant one to tour as palaces go. We spent about an hour here enjoying a number of the artwork. The paintings of the city were among our favorites.

From the Castle we walked to the nearby Cathedral of St. John the Baptist for a quick visit before lunch at Zapiecek across the street. We enjoyed delicious pierogis with various fillings and some Polish sausages, all washed down with compote, a beverage of choice in this part of the world.

We spent about another hour in the Old Town, wandering among its streets and enjoying people-watching on the main square. The architecture gave us plenty to admire. Particularly interesting is the numerous designs and scenes on the buildings, from people to mythical creatures and different scenes. Without having read about it, we could not have known that all of the Old Town was rebuilt.

Between the Old Town and the New (not really new but more recent than the old) lies the Barbican, which formed the walls and the gates that enclosed the old town. Passing through we wandered up the main Freta, enjoying some of the churches and the overall atmosphere. From here we made our way to the Supreme Court and the poignant Monument to the Warsaw Uprising and the church dedicated to the Polish defenders. From here we worked our way back to Krakowskie Przedmiescie and the Church of St. Anne for a survey of the surrounding areas from above. We stayed up there for a bit drinking in the delightful views of the Old Town, the newer buildings rising up post 1989 in the distance, and the soccer stadium built for Euro 2012 on the other side of the river.

After a brief respite at our hotel, we joined the crowd for an evening walk down Krakowskie Przedmiescie and Nowy Swiat before dinner at Mokotowska 69, just south of Jerusalem Avenue not too far from Parliament. The restaurant serves a variety of steaks and Central European dishes, all of which were very good. Our favorites were the duck and the tafelspitz. We walked back to our hotel after dinner.
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Old Jul 4th, 2022, 02:08 PM
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Enjoying your description of Warsaw since we haven't been there yet. What is the compote drink?
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Old Jul 4th, 2022, 09:43 PM
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KarenWoo, compote, sometimes spelled with a K, is a drink made of fruits and spices soaked in water. It can be served hot or cold, but in summer it is common to see pitchers of it cold. We first learned about it on our trip to the South Caucasus, particularly Georgia and Armenia, where it was ubiquitous.

History, with All of the Baggage

We began our day with breakfast at our hotel before venturing out for another very full day in Warsaw. On our agenda for the better part of the day are the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, also called the Polin Museum, and the Warsaw Uprising Museum, both integral to the history of Warsaw and of Poland.

Before visiting the Polin Museum, we viewed the Monument to the Heroes of the (Jewish Ghetto) and the Umschlagplatz Monument, honoring the Jews of Warsaw. It was hard to think about the number of people who lived on these nearby streets or were forced to settle here from all around Warsaw and eventually forcibly put on trains bound for concentration camps. There's a sense of emptiness walking these streets knowing what transpired here. The lonely grass-covered spaces added to this empty feeling.

The Polin Museum chronicles the history of Jews who settled in Poland more than 1,000 years ago; how Jewish communities developed in Warsaw and all around Poland and what is now Lithuania, Ukraine, and Belarus; their relationships with the Slavs; and the immense suffering Jews endured in the last century. In many ways, the museum tells the history of Poland itself. And it is a complex history indeed. On the one hand, several Polish kings welcomed Jews to their kingdom; on the other, Jews were often treated differently, as "others", throughout this history. There are tales of inter-community collaboration and cooperation as well as discrimination and persecution. Most poignant is the recent history with Poland proudly regaining its independence after World War I, the fierce debate concerning the status of Jews in Poland between the two world wars, the different experiences that both communities suffered under Nazi and Soviet occupations, and the difficult decisions by survivors to stay and rebuild or start new lives elsewhere after 1945. What was unknown to me prior to this visit was that Poland hosted the largest population of Jews in Europe for quite some time, or that Poland-Lithuania was a relatively big player in Europe before the partitions.

The visit left us quiet and subdued. We didn't say much, even to one another, as we made our way towards the Warsaw Uprising Museum. We all knew how one another felt. For a while, we felt apart from the streets we were walking on and the city noise all around us. Wandering through the Mirowskie Food Hall and adjacent farmers market cheered us up some.

The Warsaw Uprising Museum was also moving, although it didn't hit us the way the Polin Museum did. Perhaps it was the heavy emphasis on war, which doesn't appeal to us as much. Or it could be the large number of visitors that filled the space and led us to stay masked during the entire visit. The story of struggle was real nonetheless. The account of episode after episode of betrayal by the Soviets left me angry, as much of it reminds me of the events in Ukraine today. The video of the destruction of Warsaw in 1945 looked eerily similar to some of the recent photos of the devastation in Mariupol and elsewhere in recent days.

Speaking of Ukraine there are not many signs of a war next door other than buildings flying the blue and yellow in solidarity and a handful of people raising money in support of the Ukrainian people on busier street corners. There are a couple of Russian tanks outside of the Royal Palace on display, reminding us that conflict is not far away. Perhaps it may be my inability to tell the two peoples apart based on their features or their dress. I surely know neither language to be able to distinguish Polish from Ukrainian.

Our next stop of the day was the Palace of Culture and Science. The palace was erected shortly after the end of World War II as a gift from Stalin to the Polish people. The 30th floor observation deck offered close up views of the nearby buildings that rose up in Warsaw following the fall of communism in Poland (if you only have time for one observation point while in Warsaw, I would recommend the one by St. Anne's Church).


From here we strolled up the Royal Way to the Old Town, where we attended a Chopin recital. Dinner was at Restaurant U Wieniawy near our hotel. Elegant, upbeat, and accompanied by live music, it certainly brightened our mood. The beef with chanterelle mushrooms, chicken Kyiv, zucchini blossoms, and asparagus were exquisite as well as the rhubarb tart and the white chocolate cheesecake. It was a very fun night out.

We capped our night with Warsaw Slings, a variation of the iconic Singapore drink, at the Longbar in our hotel.
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Old Jul 5th, 2022, 01:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Michael View Post
Have a tea in this location in Prague:

https://flic.kr/p/2nprKuU
I have dinner not tea at Café Imperial. Their food is very good.
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Old Jul 5th, 2022, 05:09 AM
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Thoroughly enjoying hearing about Warsaw, which I didn't visit on my trip to Poland.

Nearby Telc is Slavonice, which is a dusty old village with a large collection of sgraffito architecture. As where Telc is beautiful and spotless, Slavonice has that aged feel and is awkwardly divided by a church with its own maze of streets in the middle. So it's like getting two villages for the price of one. If you can swing it, visit both places. .
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Old Jul 5th, 2022, 02:01 PM
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Balthy and Shelemm, thank you. Shelemm, I had not come across oszypek yet. Did try paczki from A. Blikle today though. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Warsaw even though it does not rank high on a list of travel destinations, especially when compared to Krakow. That said, the city felt very real and lived in. I do understand why some would say that Warsaw is not the prettiest, especially given the large number of buildings left over from communism days.

A Walk in the Park

We spent our final morning in Warsaw at Lazienski Park on the south side of the city. From our hotel, we walked to the nearest metro stop for a short ride to Polytechnic University, which is roughly 20 minutes away from the park. Home to the palaces and pleasure gardens of King Stanislaw August II in the 1700s, Lazienzki is a welcome respite from the urban jungle of the city.

We spent about two and a half hours in the park. The highlight is the Palace on the Island / Water, what would be considered by royalty as a small retreat. The palace is tastefully but richly decorated. In addition to furniture you would typically find in a palace are numerous paintings, pottery, and other works of art. The setting on a man-made lake with the home reflected in the water is very visually aappealing. Lazienski Park is also home to Belvedere Palace, used today as a residence of the President of Poland.

Lunch was at nearby Prasowy Milk Bar, an institution dating back to 1954. Set up cafeteria style, milk bars may be found all over Warsaw to provide affordable sustenance to the working class during Communist times. Milk bars serve Polish classics such as pierogis but also stuffed cabbage, meatballs, meat cutlets, salads, and soup. Food and beverages for the four of us cost a whopping 16 U.S. dollars.

After lunch we made our way back to our hotel on foot. We freshened up, rested a bit, and headed over to Central Station for our train from Warsaw to Krakow. The 2-hour train ride, on first class, was very comfortable. We were served light salads and sandwiches along with drinks. Internet was largely good except for a small stretch, which allowed me to catch up on some work and write this report. We arrived in Krakow at around 6:30 in the evening.

We enjoyed dinner at Morskie Oko, just around the corner of our hotel near the Main Market Square. Decorated as a country lodge, the food was simple but incredible and the music livened the place. The breaded chicken dish was good as was the grilled trout and pork knuckles. The pork tenderloin was a little off because of the cranberry sauce. Desserts were the standard apple pie and cheesecake, which were okay.

Our home in Krakow is the Grand Hotel a block away from the Main Market Square. While categorized as a 5-star, the place is old and tired. The rooms are spacious but everything seemed to have served its life.
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Old Jul 5th, 2022, 02:08 PM
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Tripplanner001, Compote sounds delicious!
Thank you for your descriptions of Warsaw and your historical summaries. They are much appreciated.
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