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Please help with advice and info on taking teens to Poland/Prague

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Jan 11th, 2006, 11:20 AM
  #1
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Please help with advice and info on taking teens to Poland/Prague

We are in the very early stages of planning a trip for June 2007. This will be a bit different than other family trips for two reasons:

1. We will probably be going as a group of 9 including me, DH, BIL, SIL, my father, and 4 teens (boys 13 and 16, girls 14 and 16).

2. We are wanting to do a Jewish "heritage" tour to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of our son...he said he would rather take a trip than have a huge, expensive party (that's my boy ).

In order to visit the areas our grandparents came from and also see Jewish history, we were thinking Warsaw, Krakow, and Prague (and would love to do Riga, but that looks difficult for this trip).

In addition to some of the old synagogues, Auschwitz, and Jewish quarters, etc..., we would like to soak in the culture and eat well.

However, with 4 active teens along, I am particularly looking for suggestions on fun activities or places to break up our trip with - like swimming, hiking, rafting, lakes/rivers/beach, sporting events, concerts or whatever. Too many museums and churches do not sit well with this bunch. For example, for our trip this summer we will spend several days hiking in the Berner Oberland, a couple of days in Milan, 4 days on Lake Garda, and then 4 days time in Venice.

We will probably have 13 nights plus the overnight flight over. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions or itinerary input as we think about this trip. We are also considering Israel as an alternative destination.

Any thoughts? Thanks!
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Jan 16th, 2006, 11:39 AM
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Sounds like a great idea.
I'm sure you'll love Krakow and Warsaw. I've never been to Prague but I'm sure you'll enjoy it as well.
Anyway, I would highly recommend Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow. It's supossed to be one of the biggest and most important of its kind in the word. You're guys not guying until 2007. I just checked the dates for 2006 and the festival will take place July 1-9, 2006. They don't have the dates for 2007 yet but I would expect it to be around a similar time. Just something to keep in mind when you are ready to narrow down your travel dates. It's a great event. I'm sure your whole family would enjoy it.
Here's the link in English:
http://www.jewishfestival.pl/index_en.php
There is a "gallery" under the "festival" heading on the page. Lots of pictures. The festival is attended by many Poles and other people from around the world.

Of course, don't miss Wieliczka Salt Mines, just outside of Krakow (just like Krakow, Wieliczka Salt Mines are on the Unesco World Heritage list). This is definately one of a kind experience. All ages will enjoy:

http://www.kopalnia.pl/home.php?action=&id_language=2

Also, I highly recommend a day trip to Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains. You could do some hiking (i.e. go to Morkie Oko - Eye of the Sea lake or maybe take a cable cart up Kasprowy Wierch for some spectacular mountain scenery). Also, the wooden architecture in town is beautiful (some great examples are Willa Atma or Jaszczurowka Chapel).
If you want to spend a night in Zakopane (recommended if you have time) I would recommend Belvedere Hotel:
http://www.belvederehotel.pl/index.p...site=belvedere

Or Sabala: www.sabala.zakopane.pl

Here are some entertainment tips for you and your teens:

1. Let's start with Krakow:
First, I think restaurants are great part of enjoyable vacation. So, here are a few good ones:
Szara (www.szara.pl)
Jama Michalika (jamamichalika.pl) - it's more of a cafe; goes back to 1920's; decorated by Mloda Polska or Young Poland artists
Copernicus Restaurant - inside a hotel by the same name, right of Kanoniczna Street
Wierzynek (dates back to 1364)
http://wierzynek.com.pl
Pod Aniolami (www.podaniolami.pl)
golf:
http://www.krakow-valley.com/index.php?lang=ENGLISH
Golf maybe too serious for teens but they have stables and a shooting range there too.

Bowling at Fantasy Park:
http://www.fantasypark.pl/


This water park is suppossed to really good:
http://www.parkwodny.pl/index.php?la...1a2985ad5d22f4


http://www.cracow-life.com/krakow/wh...241-Park_Wodny


Krakow Zoo is supossed to be really nice (the English version page offers only a short disription):
http://www.zoo-krakow.pl/index_en.php

Ars Cinema - a classy cinema:
http://www.cracow-life.com/krakow/wh...344-ARS_Cinema

Horseriding (Poland is famous for its great stables):
http://www.cracow-life.com/krakow/wh...un_Horseriding


Go-Karting in an old tram depot:
http://www.cracow-life.com/krakow/wh...rom_Go-Karting

Muzeum of Natural History:
http://www.isez.pan.krakow.pl/museum/exhib_perm.htm


Ojcow National Park including Lokietek Cave:
http://www.cracow-life.com/krakow/wh...tek's_Cave


Other entertainment with teenagers options in Krakow would be IMAX theatre, cruise on the Wisla River,
walks in Wolski Forrest: http://www.cracow-life.com/krakow/wh...356-Las_Wolski

Now for Warsaw:
I would recommend going to Lazienki Palace and Park complex on a Sunday in summer for a free concert of Chopin music. The concerts take place al-fresco. You can come and go as you please. The park and the buidings are beautiful too. A lunch at Belvedere Restaurant would be great:
www.belvedere.com.pl
Golf:
http://www.warsawgolf.pl/en/opispola.html

IMAX

More restaurant/cafe recommendations for Warsaw:
Dom Polski www.restauracjadompolski.pl
Fukier: www.ufukiera.pl/eng
Deco Kredens www.kredens.com.pl


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Jan 16th, 2006, 01:24 PM
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Wow! Thank you so much! I was beginning to give up the idea that I would get a response to this, but, of course, Fodorites come through.

This is great info and exactly what I was looking for. I will begin my research.
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Jan 17th, 2006, 09:33 AM
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You're welcome.
I'm glad you found my post useful.

It’s almost lunch time for me. So, thinking of food I thought of bagels. This reminds me. While you are in Krakow try obwazanki. Many street vendors sell them. These are the older cousins of American bagels. I found the following info on the origins of bagels. In "The Joys of Yiddish," however, Leo Rosten notes that the first printed mention of bagels came even earlier, in 1610, in the Community Regulations of Krakow. These stated that "bagels would be given as a gift to any woman in childbirth." The ring shape may have been seen as a symbol of life. In Yiddish, they were called beygel; in Polish, obwazanki. Polish Jews brought the bagels with them to New York. Over the years the American bagels evolved (different flavors and the look is a little different too). Another story has it that the first bagel was born in 1683 when a Viennese baker wanted to pay tribute Polish King Jan III Sobieski for saving the people of Austria from Turkish invaders. Since the king was known to have a passion for riding, the baker made rolls in the shape of a stirrup, known in German as beugel.
Also, make sure to visit many of Krakow’s great cafes. I mentioned Jama Michalika in my last post. Poland has very strong café-society traditions. In fact, it was a Pole, Franciszek Jerzy Kulczycki (his name often rendered Kolschitzky in German) who was a Polish 17th century spy, tradesman, diplomat and soldier. He is best known for the fact that, after the Battle of Vienna of 1683 he was the person to open the first cafe in Vienna (first coffee house in Central Europe).
Before I forget, you mentioned "beach" in your post. Well, I would highly recommend visiting Gdansk and Sopot. Gdansk is a beautiful historical town (WWII started there; Solidarity too; if you are American than you might also find it interesting that Fahrenheit was born in Gdansk - but Poland uses Celsius). Anyway, Sopot is a beautiful Baltic beach resort.

Great day trips from Gdansk include:

Malbork Castle (listed by UNESCO as the biggest brick castle in the world)

Torun (also on the UNESCO list; Mikolaj Kopernik = Nicolas Copernicus was born in Torun; also Torun is famous for its centuries old traditions of gingerbread-making.)

Slowinski National Park (great hiking; the park showcases biggest moving sand dunes in Europe)

Hel Peninsula (a bunch of cute little fishing villages and great double beaches - on the side of the Baltic coast and then on the other side by the Gulf of Gdansk; Hel Peninsula is a narrow strip of land so in some spots you have only a few hundred meters separating the two beaches).


I also want to share with you a few Web sites that might be helpful in your research:
Polish Intercity trains:
www.intercity.pl/en
Take an Intercity (IC), EX or EC train from Krakow to Warsaw. The trip will only take 2.5 hours (faster and more convenient than driving). Buses will be better for commute from Krakow to Zakopane, Wieliczka and Auschwitz.

Kazimierz (Jewish neighborhood in Krakow)
http://www.kazimierz.com/ - I actually think at this point this site is all in Polish…

What-where-when.pl – I like this site a lot; they offer good recommendations

ga.com.pl – photo tour of Poland (you can select the places you are interested in visiting for some nice photos)

Warsawvoice.com

Cracow-life.com
Warsaw-life.com
Gdansk-life.com
Sopot-life.com
Poland.com
Insidepoland.com
Poland.pl
Krakow.pl
Visit.pl
Warsawtour.pl


Krakow hotel recommendations:
Hotel Copernicus – Kanoniczna Street 16
Trecius Pension – trecius.krakow.pl (I’m planning on staying there this coming August)

Warsaw Hotel recommendations:
Rialto Hotel
Polonia Palace Hotel – poloniapalace.com

Btw, a nice day trip from Warsaw would be Kazimierz Dolny (a small really picturesque town on the river).

Gdansk Hotel recommendations:
Hotel Krolewski – hotelkrolewski.pl
Gdansk/Sopot restaurant recommendations:
Wieloryb – klub-wieloryb.com.pl (Sopot)
Goldwasser – goldwasser.pl (Gdansk)
Pod Lososiem – podlososiem.com.pl (Gdansk)
Czerwone Drzwi – reddoor.gd.pl (Gdansk)
Blekitny Pudel – bar in Sopot
Pirat Ustka – piratustka.pl (this is actually a dinning cruise)
Café Sanatorium – sanatoriumsopot.pl
Restauracja Gdanska – gdanska.pl (Gdansk)
Image – image.sopot.pl (Sopot)
Aria dining room inside Opera Hotel – hotelopera.pl (Sopot)


Zakopane restaurants:
Sabala Restaurant – sabala.zakopane.pl
U Wnuka – Koscieliska Street 8 (this street has some really nice examples of Zakopianski-style wooden architecture)
Bakowo Zohylina Niznio – Pilsudskiego Street 6

Well, let me know if you have any questions.
I would be happy to help.

Caroline
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Jan 17th, 2006, 09:49 AM
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Two more things...
You mentioned concerts and rafting as something you guys would be interested in.
So, for rafting, please visit:

http://www.flisacy.com.pl/lang/en.html

Now, this is not a white water rafting experience. These rafts are wooden and operated by men dressed in traditional Pieniny Mountains region vests and hats. The ride takes about 2.5 hours and takes you through the twists and turns of the beautiful Dunajec River Gorge. The air, the mountains clifs and the whole atmosphere are great. The trip ends in Szczawnica (a spa in the Pieniny Mountains). A great restaurant in Szczawnica is Koci Zamek (Cats' Castle):
http://www.kocizamek.pl/indexEN.htm
The legent has it that the building used to belong to Janosik (a Polish/Slovak version of Robin Hood).

For concerts in Warsaw, check out pkin.pl (Palace of Culture and Science) Web site. This is a centrally located venue. Of course, the free Chopin music concerts in Lazienki Park are great too.

Good luck planning your trip!
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Jan 17th, 2006, 11:24 AM
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Here are some museums and other Web sites for your Jewish heritage tour:

Good source of info regarding different Jewish organizations in Poland:
http://www.diapozytyw.pl/en/site


The International Youth Meeting Center in Auschwitz:

http://www.mdsm.pl/index.php?language=EN


Galicia Museum:
http://www.galiciajewishmuseum.org/en/muzeum.html (this museum is in Krakow; read really good reviews on this museum at cracow-life.com). The museum explores the history many Polish towns (mainly in the Galicia region) where Jewish life once flourished (and other themes as well). The museum has a kosher café.


Auschwitz Jewish Center:
http://www.ajcf.org/

Warsaw Uprising Museum:
http://www.1944.pl/index.php?lang=en&lang_time=1 (this is a wonderful museum commemorating the heroic Warsaw Uprising in 1944; they have a memory wall and you will see many Jewish last names on there; there was a separate Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that took place in Warsaw as well).

Warsaw Jewish Community Web site:
http://warszawa.jewish.org.pl/engindex.html

Warsaw Jewish Theatre (established in 1950):
http://www.teatr-zydowski.art.pl/


http://www.beit-warszawa.org.pl/inde...age=0&lang=eng (Progressive Judaism organization in Warsaw)
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Jan 17th, 2006, 11:44 AM
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Well this isn't a "fun" idea, but if you are going to Prague, I would consider spending the better part of one day in Theresienstadt (Terezin) for the historical importance of this camp. We left directly after breakfast and returned to our hotel by mid afternoon and I would recommend pre booking the guides here, there are several who are speak english and a few who are relatives of those who had been in the camp or lived in the village, which is now a ghost town. I would also recommend with that many of you hiring a driver/van because the bus to and from Terezin fills fast, and once on a return my cousins family had to return to town in shifts.

Also, in Prague, think of one day renting bicycles and traveling that way around Prague, along the river, stopping at store, buying for picnic lunch- and sight seeing that way (the fun sight seeing, not the old towns/cemetary/synagogue area) and that took the boring out of 'just musuems, buildings and castles"

We found mixing it up a bit w/ "lighter" days in between the Terezin/Synagogues/etc kept them from getting overwhelmed by either type of day.

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Jan 17th, 2006, 12:00 PM
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i'm not home...but now that i'm thinking about Prague things are coming back to me....how about a fun day trip to Cesky Krumlov - they can tube down the river there inbetween such history and under the bridge - so it combines serious with fun - and if they don't want to do the castle, the bil, sil etc can while the kids float around having a ball and join you in town for lunch later - lots of good walking there for the kids, and some great crepes through the take away window.
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Jan 17th, 2006, 12:44 PM
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I am overwhelmed by the incredible responses and thought you have put into making suggestions.

These are just great ideas and you have saved me hours by also providing websites and hotel recommendations. I haven't even had a chance to look through it yet, but I will!

You have renewed my enthusiasm for this trip. We love to see all the great sites, but also love to "break it up" with some active stuff like biking, beach, etc....

You all are the greatest!
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Jan 17th, 2006, 01:23 PM
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Wow, quie a list from Caroline1! She is jumping ahead to tell you about many interesting and fun places. Well, I see that you do call yourself fun4all4! But I almost feel as though you might just as well stay in the U.S. to do the many active sports things.

I do like the idea of taking teens to historic areas where grandparents once lived. And I realize that for teens touring churches, cemeteries, museums etc. could be a real bore. Still history and scenery and cultural events and such (incl. Auschwitz-Birkenau) is a good reason to be in Europe.

What occurs to me is that you really have a challenge for a 2007 trip. Let me see...nine of you, not only your father and other adults but teens ages (then) 14, 15, 17, 17? I just can't believe you are in your right mind!!!
Catering to the whims of just the two of us oldsters on a tour was not always easy. How are you going to decide things?

ozarksbill
(in Eastern Europe June 2005)

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Jan 17th, 2006, 02:46 PM
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Ozarks,
I appreciate your input. You ask good questions. At the time of our trip, the kids will be 13,14, 16, and 16. They are all very well-travelled and get along extremely well.My Dad is a great sport and very flexible. Certainly the reason I am asking questions in advance is because, although we have planned successful trips before (including Europe), I know good planning will be especially important.

The four of us just had a fabulous time in London. We visited the British Museum, St. Paul's, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and other such historical sites. We also went to a football (soccer) match, on a rock n'roll tour, a flight on the Eye and a couple of shows. That is what I mean by a variety of activities. The kids are adventurous eaters as well.

The main reason we are going is because my to be 13 year old is more interested in history and Europe than in a big party here in the US. I am asking specifically about some alternative activities because I have been able to find adequate info on my own on the Jewish quarters, Auschwitz, the Museums,churches, cemeteries etc...The sites and culture are of great interest to us, not just the "active" stuff.

I am a little cautious about such a big group, but all are flexible travelers. We also don't mind splitting up. I have made it clear that everyone is welcome and their interests are valued, but if they come along, I will manage most of the planning and the "Bar Mitzvah boy" and his interests are primary.

I would love to hear any of your favorite or most valued spots from your trip.
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Jan 17th, 2006, 08:53 PM
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Hi fun!

Wow, Carolyn1 and others sure gave you alot to choose from.

I wanted to highlight one or two of Carolyn's suggestions. I enthusiastically endorse the Wieliczka Salt Mines when you are in Krakow - very interesting for all ages and I think the teens would especially enjoy it.

In Warsaw, I also would hope you consider Lazienki Palace and Park - there is a lake where you can pay to ride on the swan boats or I think you can rent your own.

Also think the suggestion of either Zakopane/Tatra or the rafting trip on the Dunajec River Gorge would be fun (we didn't do the raft trip, but had it on our "wish list" - too many things to see & too little time!)
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Jan 18th, 2006, 02:38 PM
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Actually, I think it is great to take those teenagers along with the grown ups for such a trip! To expose the kids to history and culture is wonderful. It seems daunting on the face of it and I do encourage everyone to share in choices to gain ownership (as opposed to one person making decisions and saying nicely "is this OK?") I guess it's the clergyman in me that would encourage concensus building!

On our Grand Circle tour in June we did study with lectures the politics and social situation since the so-called Velvet Revolution of 1989 in Poland,
Czech Republic, Hungary. If only your group could get some exposure to the countries beyond sightseeing as tourists. Well, there isn't room and this isn't the place (except that you might do a search on my earlier comments). There are some good books to read beyond travel guides.

What to see? IMHO, many of the traditional sites are worth seeing/ doing. In Warsaw, marvelously restored Old Town, Lazienki Park with Sunday Chopin piano concert, Castle Square and Royal Castle and nearby churches, various monuments to Ghetto Uprising, etc. We also went out to a country manor for a Chopin recital, visited a ballet school, had dinner in a country home (farmers offer such to make ends meet since the collapse of the agriculture market and I could give you specifics if interested).

In Krakow, en route stop at Czestochowa with Black Madonna Shrine, Cloth Hall in Krakow center square and St. Mary's Church with marvelous Stwosz altarpiece and bugler on the tower, other churches as this was center for Pope John Paul II, Wawel Castle incl. Cathedral, maybe tour of Jagiellonian Univ. not far from square and also maybe the little Czartoryski museum, dinner Pod Aniolami,
definitely a day trip to Auschwitz, also one to charming Zakopane in the mountains, and likely to the Salt Mines which we passed on because of the walking. You could go to Kazimierz once the Jewish quarter with old synagogues and cemeteries with eating at Artistic Cafe where Schindler visited his family also where Spielberg hung out during the filming of "Schindler's List", a must movie BTW, and not far away the famous factory still stands.

In Prague, of course walking the Charles Bridge, over to Hradcany Castle and Square with stop in Strahov Monastery founded 1140, changing of guard at Castle, back to Old Town Square with Town Hall and its astronomical clock, towering Tyn Church, Jan Hus memorial (if you are Protestant you should study about the Hussite Revolt), maybe walking to Maisel Synagogue for a reminder of Jewish presence (Golem restaurant next door...another eatery Kogos and maybe U Fleka Beer Hall ?), maybe Rott Crystal shop, Mucha art nouveau museum, also any number of chamber music offerings in churches, maybe a short trip out to Nosalov village and dinner with polka at Blazena Restaurant. Also we took a trip to the Dvorak summer home, Vysoka u Pribrami, now preserved by the composer's grandson.

See, I can be as wordy (almost) as Caroline1.

ozarksbill
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Jun 16th, 2006, 10:20 AM
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Since you are going to go to Krakow and Auschwitz how about the Tatra mountains? My parents did that as a side trip from Krakow and loved it. They stayed in Zakopane. It's a very popular moutain destination for local people, rather than US tourists. They have river rafting, some kind of dry bob sled run down the mountain, and of course, hiking. It was also very inexpensive as it's more of a locals destination I think. They went in June also and had good weather, too. They didn't book ahead - just found a B&B when they got there - but remember, B&Bs in Europe are not the elaborate affairs that they are in the US. You may well end up in a couple of rooms in somebody's house and a shared bath! Not sure how adventurous you are, but they had no problems with the accomodations. In the winter it's a popular ski resort. Check out this link
http://www.gopoland.com/wheretogo/zakopane/recreation/
Sounds like you have a great trip planned - and this summer too.


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Jun 16th, 2006, 11:17 AM
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She's gone...we'll all have to wait for her great trip report - think her flight was today in fact !
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Jun 16th, 2006, 12:49 PM
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2007 June is a year off! Read Mitchner and Davies plus all the travel guides. Poland is more than Warszawa and Krakow. Czestochowa and Wroclaw are suggestions for history. You and your group should consider a bike tour for its able members. So far all I have seen the teenagers do in places like Oswiecem is talk on their telephones. No one has mentioned the Mazurian Lakes region. The Baltic is there too. Travel with nine people requires logistics of a high order. Will you hire a bus?
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Jun 16th, 2006, 01:24 PM
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Sorry, getting her dates confused ! she left today for her italy, switzerland trip, so she will see your new postings when she returns in 2-3 weeks !
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Jul 18th, 2006, 06:45 AM
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fun4all4 --

What a great discussion you have started. Our family, too, may be planning a trip to Central Europe in June 2007 as a bat mitzvah trip for our youngest daughter. We have been planning all along to have her bat mitzvah in Israel, but realize now that we may need a back-up plan, sadly.

We will probably book either option with an organized tour. Tova Gilead and Ayelet Tours both offer "Heritage" bar/bat mitzvah tours to Central Europe so you could check their itineraries for some ideas, as well.

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Jul 18th, 2006, 07:06 AM
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topping to organize resources and report back--I see that you are getting lots of input for Warsaw and Krakow...will try to get some good resources for Prague for you as well.

One tour to consider when you are narrowing down (even though I know you are finding plenty of these resources yourself), Slyvie Whitman of whitman tours is supposed to be a brilliant glimpse into Prague's Jewish quarter. She comes highly recommended though I haven't taken the tour myself, when I do tour the area, I will almost certainly go through her.

Back in a bit (hopefully today, perhaps tomorrow)--MP
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Jul 21st, 2006, 06:09 AM
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Sorry I have been away from this thread for so long. It is filled with wonderful suggestions and I so appreciate the time you have put into them!

It looks as though our original plans have changed and we will not be going as a big group after all. Our "Bar Mitzvah Boy" has decided that he really would like a party at home to celebrate with his friends and family which will mean planning a smaller trip for next summer.

We are still considering Poland/Prague for next summer, but also looking at some other ideas as well - if we don't make it next year, it will be on the drawing board for the next few years because this thread has me determined to visit this area of the world!

GSteed- Great suggestions - the reading selections are especially appreciated.

gillybrit - Tatras/Zakopane sounds ideal!

Ozarksbill - Thanks for the additional info.

MacPrague- The guide recommendation sounds perfect - just the kind of thing I will want.

adlmllr- Yes, we have considered Israel also. And, we are still hoping to send our 16 year old son with the NFTY program next summer, but will have to wait and see.....
I have checked out Tova Gilead's tour stuff which looked good and will also look into Ayelet. I doubt we will go with a group, but we are open to various options and possibilities. I am happy to do the party thing, but I personally was excited about a big trip. So, we shall see. Hopefully, we can still do some sort of a trip next summer in addition to the Bar Mitzvah in April.

This thread is a great resource for anyone planning a visit to these areas. Again, thank you.

Happy travels!
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