Beginning on Sunday, August 12, 2012, participants of the Tour sponsored by the Association of the Sons of Poland left JFK airport on Lot Airlines to Warsaw, Poland. The group then transferred to a flight to Gdańsk and began two incredible weeks of seeing the magnificent cities from the north to the south. Some were of Polish heritage while others were interested Americans and they ranged in age from 7 to 87!
Starting in Gdańsk, the group visited the old town surrounding the Neptune Fountain and then traveled to Oliwa to listen to an organ concert and watch the golden angels and cherubs play their instruments and move to the music of the organist. Another stop was the beach at Sopot. Next on the planned itinerary was the castle of the Teutonic Knights in Malbork that left a permanent image on all. After Malbork, it was south to the birthplace of Copernicus in Torun.
Finally, the group was on its way to the capitol city of Poland, namely, Warsaw. There they toured the old and new center of the city, having learned of its total destruction during the war and the rebuilding of each wall and step by the citizens of Poland. The elegance of Łazienki Palace and the surrounding beauty of the park, was the treat of the day.
From the capitol city, the group went southeast through the small city of Lowicz. In the town square, going through the museum into an open courtyard, led to an open-air museum with small houses from the 18th century depicting village life of that era. In the central yard of one of the houses, were folk-artists who showed their talents in embroidery and cut-outs (wycinanki). Afterwards, off to Wrocław and dinner. The following day was dedicated to the Panorama of Racławice, a painting and diorama that has its own circular building and which depicts Thaddeus Kosciuszko’s leading the peasants to battle. Then there was the city tour that included buildings dating back to the 14th century.
The next stop was Czestochowa to see the Kraków Monastery and view the Black Madonna. Then, on to Kraków for three days and three nights of beauty and elegance that is the epitome of Europe. The sights in Kraków included the Wawel Castle and Cathedral; the Church of Saint Mary with its triptych altar in polychrome by Wit Stwosz; the Cloth Hall or Sukiennice and many other special places like the new museum under the Cloth Hall that has unveiled an archeological find of a medieval city under the town square. Everyone felt that they could spend two weeks just in Kraków!
Going south, the next stop was Zakopane and the mountains. The views, the unusual architecture and the folk-art by craftspeople gifted in working with wood and leather were amazing. Then the group traveled to Kolbuszowa and visited another open-air skansen showing the 18th century lifestyle of the region divided into the Rzeszowiacy and Lasowiacy – those who lived near the city and those from the woods.
As an unusual indulgence for a tour, first a stop at one of the most beautiful castles in Poland found in Łańcut and then to go where most never go, a bell foundry celebrating eight generations of the branches of the Felczyński Family with one branch a part of the heritage of the Secretary of the Association of the Sons of Poland. Founded in 1808, the private business has thrived in spite of political changes and their bells, one having been sent to the World’s Fair in 1938, are shipped throughout the world. It then was back to Rzeszów and a farewell dinner then up early the next morning for a flight to Warsaw and the trip back home. On the LOT flight back to JFK were many Polish-Americans who had been visiting relatives but saw little of Poland and asked that the Association of the Sons of Poland plan another tour for next summer, and we will!