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Which cities for a history buff - Germany and Poland?

Which cities for a history buff - Germany and Poland?

May 19th, 2012, 06:15 AM
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Which cities for a history buff - Germany and Poland?

Hello, I am starting to plan a trip for my husband's 40th birthday. A friend has suggested the following locations:
Munich —
Nuremberg —
Krakow —
Prague —

Assuming we have 10 days this feels like too much. What destinations can you recommend for someone who is a history buff? Auschwitz for certain but I am lost beyond this. I'd like to use the train system assuming it covers some of this territory.

Is there a better airport to fly in and out of? (We're based in the U.S.).
Thank you for your help! Mary
MaryT22 is offline  
May 19th, 2012, 06:27 AM
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For a trip based on WWII or Third Reich history, I would skip Munich.
While Hitler started in Munich, you will find more traces of history and relicts in Nuremberg and especially and above all in Berlin.

Not sure if the "rest" would be good to handle in just 10 days.

IMO, a basic itinerary would be 3 locations, Berlin and Krakow / Auschwitz. Possibly stopover in Wroclaw on the train ride to Krakow.
If I had to add more destinations, I would add Prague, Nuremberg and Munich. In that order.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
May 19th, 2012, 08:31 AM
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I agree that Munich doesn't fit the ambition of your trip.

Berlin is number 1. Krakow number 2 and Auschwitz is a brief day-trip from Krakow.

If you agree with that and have 10 days, then Wroclaw makes sense for a brief stop on the way to Krakow as Cowboy suggests. Time begins to be a constraint, but either Nuremberg or Prague would be a good addition.

Some of these recommendations would depend on where you were flying in and out of. You ask if there is better airport - better than what?
Aramis is offline  
May 19th, 2012, 10:46 AM
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I'd chose Berlin and Nuremberg for sure. The reason for Berlin is obvious, but Nuremberg had the big party rallies which were photographed by Leni Riefenstahl, and it also has the hall of justice where the war crimes trials were held. It's also just a really interesting city.
Pegontheroad is online now  
May 19th, 2012, 01:13 PM
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Well of these most survived the second world war though Prague was knocked about a lot and Berlin was close to flattened. So you have to accept that most of those two are copies rather than the real thing. Berlin's museums are world class. Warsaw (not on your list) was flattened completely but that is another story.

Krakow has a central golden area which is worth a visit and Auschwitz is just down the road and the salt mines is worth another half day out.

Munich seems to be an American thing, I found it dull but take advice from others.

Nuremburg (why? the sports field?)

Of more obvious interest is Dresden and Leipzig and both on the road between Berlin and Prague.
You might also like to add Wurzburg and Bamburg to your visit
bilboburgler is offline  
May 19th, 2012, 02:10 PM
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I was going to say Dresden and Leipzig but bilbo got in before me. of course, a lot o the buildings there have been rebuilt too, but they are still delightful and fascinating. Brandenburg is also in the same area and could be combined with a trip in this area.

Those 4 would be enough for 10 days, IMO.
annhig is offline  
May 19th, 2012, 02:45 PM
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Not so much a city recommendation as a guidebook recommendation: if you are into history generally and not specifically WWII, I highly recommend using the Michelin guidebooks - they are green. They give excellent historical background, talk about architecture and rate cities in terms of stars. Very detailed, with some maps given. And because of the kind of information they give (i.e. not where you can buy a pizza or stay the night), they don't go out of date that much.

lavandula is online now  
May 19th, 2012, 05:42 PM
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Hi MaryT22

“…but Nuremberg had the big party rallies which were photographed by Leni Riefenstahl, and it also has the hall of justice where the war crimes trials were held.”

I agree with Pegontheroad about Nuremberg. The decaying structures of the Nazi rally grounds provide an eerie reminder of Hitler’s spectacular rise and ignominious fall.

One can climb up the stairs of the stadium and stand on the platform from which Hitler gave his histrionic rants to hundreds of thousands before WWII. If I recall, there are also the remains of a coliseum like structure nearby which was abandoned as the tide of war turned.

Of course EAGLE’S NEST near Obersalzberg above Berchtesgaden near the Austrian border is fascinating for WWII buffs. The structure (not impressive in itself) was built as a gift for the Furher’s (sp.?) 50th birthday – although he seldom used it because he was afraid of heights. Views of Sound of Music country from its pinnacle are spectacular.
latedaytraveler is offline  
May 19th, 2012, 06:09 PM
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For the long view, and not just WWII, you might check whether he has seen

Microcosm; Portrait of a Central European City
[the former German Breslau, which became the Polish Wroclaw after WWII]

by Norman Davies and Roger Moorhouse

farrermog is offline  
May 21st, 2012, 12:07 PM
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Thank you all for your wonderful advice and for the recommendations of the movie and guidebook. I will look into both.
I appreciate your help in narrowing down the list. If we were to visit Berlin and Krakow / Auschwitz.

other options include
Dresden and Leipzig

I wonder what other places I should try to fit in. Can you recommend where we should fly in and out of? I'd like to use the train system. Is this possible given our destinations?

MaryT22 is offline  
May 21st, 2012, 01:14 PM
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You can't add any place else for a 10 day trip. These two cities are worth 5 days each. The train between Berlin and Krakow takes 10 hours. If you fly between the cities it will take a half day.

Your first day is going to be getting from the airport, checking in, resting, etc., particularly if you have an overseas flight. That leaves 8 or 8.5 days for Berlin and Krakow (depending whether you take the train or fly) - 4 days in each city.
adrienne is offline  
May 21st, 2012, 01:33 PM
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Perhaps the best place no one has mentioned for interest in WWII is Gdansk, which is where the war started and which has additional importance as the birthplace of the Polish Solidarity movement. It's a great town, and the enormous Malbork Castle is nearby, but it is not easy to get to and the train ride from Gdansk to Krakow is long.

Prague is excellent. You'd need some time there.

Train connections between Prague and Krakow basically suck because the rail lines were laid out so as to minimize tunneling - you have to go around the mountains and then east. So what would be a relatively medium-size trip physically (245 miles on crow-flies basis) is a long trip by train (more than 8 hours) or even by car (340 miles).

Berlin to Prague is the easiest train run - under 5 hours. The trains east of Germany are NOT the high-speed ICE or similar that roll along at > 150-180 mph.

Dresden was basically annihilated in the war, so you won't see what existed, just what was rebuilt.

Where do you live in the US? Get an open jaw ticket and don't backtrack.

You should go east to west or west to east. The only direct flight to the US from Krakow is to Chicago (because Chicago has the second-largest Polish population of any city in the world, larger than Krakow). That flight is on LOT, which isn't known for its spectacular planes (although it sucked less than Olympic in general or American's 767-300s). You may want to do your shorter transatlantic flight on the crappier airline - so if you fly to Krakow on LOT and home on Lufthansa, that would suck less than flying to Berlin on Lufthansa and slogging home on LOT.
BigRuss is offline  
May 21st, 2012, 02:27 PM
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Your open jaw cities depend on where you plan to go and how you plan to get between them.

Krakow is hard to get into and out of by rail from you desired cities, even from Berlin. It can be done in 08:45, not 10:00 hours, with one change in Warsaw. So, if you arrive in Berlin, you can take the train to Krakow. Once in Krakow, if you want go somewhere else -Prague, or Nuremberg, for example, it is another painful train ride (08:15 to Prague, one change in Katowice) or you could fly.

Finishing in Prague makes it the preferred exit point - finishing in Nuremberg makes Frankfurt the best option.

All this may make you decide that Krakow is the preferred exit airport; visit Berlin. Dresden, Prague (Nuremberg is difficult this way as it take over 12 hours by train to get to Krakow) and then take your one long train ride (from Dresden - 9 hours on fastest route) to Krakow, finish and fly out.

And all that may make you decide to fly to Krakow from wherever you are before flying home.

Arriving in Frankfurt and traveling to Nuremberg and/or Prague and/or Dresden and then on to Berlin is direct and fast. You could then fly to Krakow from Berlin and fly home from Krakow
Aramis is offline  
May 21st, 2012, 02:50 PM
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Air Berlin has cheap flights to Krakow
and around Germany
danon is online now  
May 21st, 2012, 04:44 PM
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You might be interested in seeing "Triumph of the Will," Leni Riefenstahl's film about Hitler and specifically about the Party Congress held in the Nuremberg stadium.

Reprehensible though Nazism is, the depiction of the rally (rallies?) is masterful.

In the past I've seen the film in Blockbuster stores.
Pegontheroad is online now  
May 21st, 2012, 08:27 PM
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I thought that this was only allowed to be screened with a proper academic introduction - or is that only if it's screened publicly?

lavandula is online now  
May 22nd, 2012, 06:01 AM
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Hi M,

With only 10 days, I suggest 3 nights in Prague (Terezin) Plus
Vienna and Munich (Dachau), or
Dresden and Berlin,
Krakow (Auschwitz) and Berlin

I think that that is more than enough concentration camps.

Enjoy your visit.

ira is offline  
May 22nd, 2012, 09:00 AM
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Not in the United States. Seriously? You think there would be such a requirement in the US? Check out U.S. Const. Amd I.

To the OP:

What is the historical interest? Is it general history, WWII history, medieval history, post-WWII history or what? Simply said, you are not a "history buff" if you only care about WWII history - in such a case you are a "WWII history buff." That's not a criticism, it's just a narrower classification.

Going to three camps (Terezin was a ghetto/concentration camp, Dachau and Auschwitz/Birkenau were extermination camps) in one trip like Ira suggests would be a bit much unless you left your humanity in the US whilst you traveled. Terezin is more "interactive" than Auschwitz and to that degree can be more disturbing.
BigRuss is offline  
May 24th, 2012, 05:31 PM
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The history buff (or mug, like me, for whom virtually everything is a revelation) might also look at Timothy Snyder's New York Review of Books article on recent publications about Galicia, in which he draws attention to the role of Auschwitz in late nineteenth-century emigration to the New World -


(subscription only; Nov 10-23 2011, VolLVIII, Number 17 if you can find a hard copy)

"... Auschwitz was the train station that permitted Galicians to travel the province from east to west, to Germany - and so to the Baltic Sea, and the wider world. The main shipping companies had offices in Auschwitz; the Hamburg line, Hapag, used a hotel across the street from the Auschwitz train station, located in a neighbouring settlement called Birkenau. Those who passed through the town found it hard to leave Auschwitz without booking passage to the New World. People who looked like peasants were arrested by the bribed police, taken to the Hapag offices for a mock interrogation, strip-searched, deprived of whatever money was found on their persons, and given a ticket that they usually could not even read."
farrermog is offline  
Jun 14th, 2012, 10:42 PM
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FWIW another well reviewed recent publication which may be of interest -

Forgotten Land: Journeys among the Ghosts of East Prussia, by Max Egremont

farrermog is offline  

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