DAY 1: DEPART USA
We depart the USA en route to Warsaw, Poland, with complimentary meals and beverages served aloft.
DAY 2: ARRIVE WARSAW
We arrive in Warsaw and are met by our Catholic Travel Centre representative and transfer to our hotel for check-in. Later this afternoon we board our motor coach and transfer to the Church of the Holy Cross where Chopin’s heart is kept in an Urn. Here we celebrate the opening Mass of our pilgrimage. After Mass, we make our way to our hotel for dinner and the evening. (D)
DAY 3: WARSAW: VISIT OF THE CITY & EXCURSION TO NIEPOKALANOW
We begin our day with a drive along the Royal route, stopping at Lazienki Gardens, where we see the Chopin Monument, as well as enchanting gardens, and the Palace on the Water. We continue on to the Old City where we see the Market Square, with its many restaurants, galleries and gift shops. We visit the Royal Palace, originally a Gothic castle dating back to the 15th century. In the New Town we view from outside the house where Marie Curie was born. We also visit St Kostka church, where martyred Solidarity priest Fr. Popieluszko worked and is buried.
This afternoon we drive to the village of Niepokalanow, home to the Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary and a Franciscan monastery founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe, at present one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Poland. Here we celebrate Mass. After a visit of the village we return to Warsaw for the evening. Dinner is at a local restaurant. (B, D)
DAY 4: WARSAW / KRAKOW VIA CZESTOCHOWA & AUSCHWITZ
After breakfast we depart Warsaw for Czestochowa. Czestochowa is a city which has been for the last 600 years the principal centre of Catholic religion in Poland and is a shrine for pilgrims. We visit the Jasna Gora Monastery which has religious, historic and artistic value. Our guide is a local Pauline monk or sister. The oldest building is the Gothic Chapel of Our Lady in which hangs the famous Black Madonna icon on a magnificent silver-and-ebony altar. We celebrate Mass at the Shrine, then tour the Treasury.
After some time at leisure in Czestochowa, we continue to Krakow via Oswiecim, the Nazi Concentration Camp of Auschwitz where we visit the cell of the martyred St. Maximilian Kolbe. We arrive in Krakow for the evening, and dinner is at our hotel. (B, D)
DAY 5: KRAKOW: VISIT OF THE CITY & EXCURSION TO WIELICZKA
We begin today with Mass at “St. Stanislaw on the Rock “, Poland’s second most important pilgrimage site. St. Stanislaw, who dared to chasten the extravagent King Boleslaw, is said to have been beheaded at the site in 1079. He became the patron saint of Krakow. After their coronation, all new kings came to this site to carry out a solemn ritual of penitence and expiation. After Mass, we begin our tour of Krakow starting with a visit to the Gothic Royal Castle and Cathedral remodeled in the beginning of the 16th century according to the new Renaissance style. After the capital was moved to Warsaw in 1596, the importance of the town declined but Polish Kings were still crowned and buried here.
Later we drive to the Old Town, where we see the ancient Market Square and Cloth Hall built before 1349, and later altered in the 16th century. Inside the Hall are many shopping stalls. Later we visit St. Mary’s Church, where we see the wooden altar by Wit Stwosz.
We have some free time for lunch on our own. This afternoon we drive to Wieliczka to see the oldest salt mine in Europe, a world-class tourist attraction. It is a unique place where many generations of Polish miners have created an underground world of underground salt lakes with a rich interior of decorated chapels including the famous Blessed Kings Chapel, plus other galleries and workings made of salt. Wieliczka salt mine is listed by UNESCO as an object of World Cultural Heritage. Tonight, we enjoy dinner and a folklore show at a local restaurant. (B, D)
DAY 6: KRAKOW: LAGIEWNIKI, WADOWICE & KALWARIA
We begin with morning Mass and a visit to the Convent of Sisters of Mercy in Lagiewniki, where Saint Faustina, the Apostle of Divine Mercy, lived and died. Later we visit Wadowice, the birthplace of Karol Wojtla, who would later become Pope John Paul II. A museum is in his family house.
We then continue to a place that was a popular pilgrimage site for the Pope when he was a young man: Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, where in the beginning of the 17th century the Palatine of Krakow founded a Franciscan monastery. The church has very rich Baroque decorations. On the slope of the hill and in the valley is an architectural ‘Way of the Cross, comprising 42 Mannerist and Baroque chapels and some small Calvary churches. The balance of the afternoon is at leisure in Krakow. Dinner is at our hotel. (B, D)
DAY 7: KRAKOW / LEVOCA: VISIT OF THE CITY / GERALACHOV
After breakfast we depart for Levoca, Slovakia, driving through the rich scenery of the Tatra Mountains. The historic town of Levoca was settled in the New Stone Age. The oldest written mention of Levoca dates back to 1249. Levoca was once known as a “free royal town”. As long ago as the early Middle Ages, the town had the right of exemption from tolls and was given other privileges beneficial to trading. With these privileges the town became an important trading center on the route from Hungary to Poland.
We visit St. Jacob’s Temple with its massive sanctuary and beautiful gothic arches. There are also 11 original gothic and renaissance altars conserved in this church. St. Jacob’s contains the famous Altar of St. Jacob made by Master Pavol from Levoca in the early 16th century. It is the highest gothic altar in the world, with a height of 18.62 m. It has been named a National Cultural Monument. We see as well the Town Hall, originally built in the 15th century and partially destroyed by fire in the 16th century. Rebuilt in 1615, the outside walls are decorated by paintings showing symbols of civil virtue such as temperance, precaution, courage, patience and justice. We also see the “Cage of Shame” where criminals were publicly humiliated in a cage.
This afternoon we celebrate Mass at the shrine of Marianska Hora, Slovakia’s most important Marian Shrine. The shrine dates from the thirteenth century, when the local townspeople built a chapel on a steep hill overlooking the village in thanksgiving for being saved from the Tarters. Pilgrimages have continued uninterrupted for several hundred years. Today thousands make the sacred journey to the hilltop sanctuary every year. Dinner and the evening are at our hotel in Geralachov. (B, D)
DAY 8: GERALACHOV / BUDAPEST
Today we depart Geralachov for Hungary and travel to her spirited capital, Buda and Pest, the “Paris of the East”. The Danube River runs right down the middle of this capital city with the Buda side to the West and the Pest side to the East of the river. After some time to rest we enjoy a dinner cruise on the “Blue Danube”. (B, D)
DAY 9: BUDAPEST: VISIT OF THE CITY
This morning our visit to the twin cities of Buda and Pest includes views of the Parliament, the Gellért Hill, where we view a fantastic panorama of the city, the Royal Palace and a visit to the 13th century Church of Matthias.
The Castle District in Buda is the ancient kernel of the capital’s right-bank settlement. Everything that surrounds it was once only suburbs. From whatever direction you reach the Castle District, you cross the ramparts which completely encircle Castle Hill. The whole area within the ramparts is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and protected as an ancient monument: the lines of the streets and the foundations and architectural remains of the buildings retain the atmosphere and memories of the medieval and eighteenth and nineteenth-century capital.
This afternoon we celebrate Mass at the Basilica of St. Stephan. We end today’s tour at the 100-year old Great Central Market, the pantry of Budapest, where we can sample the many delicacies that the Hungarian cuisine offers. Dinner tonight is at our hotel. (B, D)
DAY 10: BUDAPEST / SASTIN STRAZE / PRAGUE
Today we depart Budapest for Prague stopping first at Sastin Straze for a visit of the Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows. The shrine dates from 1564 where a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows was placed by the wife of the Lord of Sastin in thanksgiving for help with difficult family problems. Here we celebrate Mass. Our Lady of Sorrows was decreed the patron of Slovakia in 1927 by Pope Pius XI. We continue on to Prague for dinner and the evening. (B, D)
DAY 11: PRAGUE: CITY TOUR
This morning our visit will begin with a visit to St. Vitus Cathedral; we see as well the Royal Castle. We continue to the Mala Strana (Little Quarter) with Mass at the Church of Our Lady Victorious, where we will view the famous statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague. Nearby is the Church of St. Nicholas, one of the city’s finest. The famous Charles Bridge, lined on both sides by religious statues, leads us out of the Little Quarter into the Old Town. This neighborhood includes the Renaissance Town Hall with its animated astronomical clock, and the Our Lady Before Tyn Church founded in 1385. Tonight we enjoy a festive farewell dinner and folklore show at a local restaurant. (B, D)
DAY 12: RETURN USA
We have breakfast at the hotel, then transfer to the Prague airport for our return to the USA. (B)
NOTE: While no changes are anticipated, there might be occasions when certain alterations become necessary to this itinerary due to changes in airline schedules or for other reasons. All Masses are subject to final church schedules.