Nestled in the heartland of Europe, Poland has been both a bridge and a front line between Eastern and Western Europe. Today the country has bounced back from the turmoil of the 20th century and reinvented itself as a must-do fixture on every traveller’s wishlist. Monuments attest to a stormy history, but Poland is famed for its virtues, especially its many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, classic architecture, diverse culture, fabulous scenery, the generosity of its people, good food and the excellence of its vodka. Somerset Tours & Travel have put together a captivating itinerary to visit Poland in September 2016, and extend their invitation to you to join us in our journey of discovery to this fascinating country.

Departing South Africa on 02 September 2016, the tour flies on Lufthansa into Warsaw via Frankfurt. Two nights will be spent in Warsaw exploring this modern yet ancient city.

From Warsaw the tour continues east to Bialowieza Forest and National Park on the borders of Poland and Belarus. Besides tall ancient trees which reach great heights and vast diameters, the forest is home to a variety of large mammals, including elk, roe deer, wild boar, lynx, wolves, beavers and the uncontested bison.

From here, the tour takes us to Ryn in the Mazury Lake District. Here we will stay in Ryn Castle for a night before heading for Gdańsk on the Baltic Sea . En route we will visit Malbork Teutonic Castle and Wolf’s Lair, Hitler’s Headquarters during World War II.

Two nights will be spent in Gdańsk, which has a unique feel to it that sets it aside from all other cities in Poland. As a centuries-old port city, the architecture is distinctly un-Polish with styles of Teutonic Prussia and Slavic Poland reflecting in the buildings of the Old City. Visits to neighbouring cities of Sopot and Gdynia are also included.

The itinerary then proceeds to Torun in central Poland, birthplace of Renaissance mathematician and astronomer, Nicholas Copernicus. We’ll explore Torun, visiting the Gingerbread Museum, the Old Town and spend a night in this Teutonic and picturesque city before heading to Wroclaw, situated in Lower Silesia province for two nights. At various times in history, Wroclaw has been part of the Kingdom of Poland, Bohemia, Hungary, the Austrian Empire, Prussia and Germany. It became part of Poland in 1945, as a result of the border changes after World War II. Because of its colourful history, the city has a unique architectural and cultural make-up, symbolised by its magnificent market square. Wroclaw’s location on the Odra River, with its 12 islands, 130 bridges and riverside parks, is idyllic, and the beautifully preserved ecclesiastical district is a treat for lovers of Gothic architecture.

While in Wroclaw, we’ll make an excursion to visit the Church of Peace in Swidnica and Ksiaz Castle. The following day we’ll continue on to Krakow for 3 nights, visiting Boleslawiec Pottery Centre en route. A mythical atmosphere permeates the attractive streets and squares of the former royal capital of Krakow. Wawel Castle is a major attraction, while the Old Town contains soaring churches, impressive museums and the vast Rynek Glówny, Europe’s largest market square. In the former Jewish quarter, Kazimierz, remnant synagogues reflect the tragedy of the 20th century, just as its lively western quarter symbolizes the renewal of the 21st. While in Krakow we’ll visit the impressive UNESCO Human Heritage Site of Wieliczka Salt Mine as well as the poignant reminder of the Holocaust, Auschwitz Concentration Camp, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tour returns to Warsaw for a night, visiting the famous pilgrimage site, Jasna Gora Monastery, en route. We’ll fly out of Warsaw on 16 September to arrive back in South Africa on 17 September 2015.

Liz Cotton will be accompanying the group from South Africa and a professional local guide will be escorting the group from arrival in Warsaw through to the end of tour. This will be a unique and unforgettable experience for every member of the group.

Space on this tour is limited to 17 participants.

Poles have their feet firmly planted in tradition while rushing head-long into the modern world. The time is now ripe to visit Poland. I do hope you will be able to join us.