NEW YORK -- The hottest destination in Europe for this spring is
Poland, according to Arthur Frommer, host of the Travel Report
radio show. Tour operators agreed, citing a rush of Poland-bound
travelers in the past year. The country's temptations include a
healthy economy and cheap prices, Frommer said in his show this
"In cities like
Warsaw and Krakow, you can have a high-quality meal for $12, rent a
single room in a tourist class hotel for $30 and pay absurdly
little for public transportation."
Glenside, Pa.-based Gate 1 International, which includes Poland
in eight new tours this year, reported that its central Europe
product has tripled in size over the past three years. The
operator's vice president of sales and marketing for Europe, Ileen
Braun, heralded the country's "wonderful services" and bargain
prices. "Travelers' expectations of Poland are still low, so they
are very surprised with the accommodations and the service," she
Littleton, Colo.-based Cosmos unveiled its first Poland tour
this year. Banking on the success of its eastern European tours,
the operator "figured it was time to focus on Poland," executive
director of marketing Scott Nisbet said.
Portland, Ore.-based Walking Softly Adventures added Poland to
its roster of hiking tours last year. The country became its most
popular destination, surpassing Norway, France, Spain and Italy,
owner and president Amy Osaki said.
The following is a sample of new tours to Poland this year:The Beauty of Palaces & Castles tour, new from Orbis Polish
Travel Bureau and American Travel Abroad, both based in New York,
takes travelers through more than 15 castles and ruins -- most
dating to the 14th, 15th and 17th centuries.
The group will spend the night in several of these castles, some
of which purportedly house ghosts, said Vernon Mosheim, director of
marketing for American Travel Abroad.
Other palaces offer less-spooky entertainment, such as musicians
serenading the dinner table.
Castles that participants explore include the fortified Gothic
cathedral at Frombork, where the Renaissance astronomer Copernicus
spent the last years of his life.
The steep-walled Teutonic castle at Golub Dobrzyn stages a
medieval jousting show.
In Baranow, travelers visit the 17th century Krzyztopor,
Europe's largest official residence before France built
In the city of Czestochowa, participants wander through the
shrine of Jasna Gora, the site of the sacred Black Madonna icon.
When the icon was stolen in 1430, legend maintains, it became so
heavy that the thieves were unable to carry it. When they slashed
the Virgin's face in frustration, the picture began to bleed.
Visitors spend the night at the medieval fortress of Malbork,
built by the Teutonic knights; Czerniejewo Palace; a Renaissance
castle in Baranow Sandomierski, and the Palace at Radziejowice. The
10-night tour is priced from $2,019 to $2,239, including air fare
from New York or Chicago.Cosmos' first Poland tour includes Wroclaw, a city known for
its 100 canals and old-market square. Participants also visit
Torun, a city of narrow streets, medieval churches and the Gothic
mansion -- now a museum -- where Copernicus was born.
The nine-night tour includes the sights of Warsaw and Krakow as
well as two nights in Germany. Prices range from $1,313 to $1,503,
including air fare from New York.Los Angeles-based Tradesco's new Northern Poland Tour
overnights in Mragowo, a resort town in the Mazurian Lake district;
Gdynia, on Gdansk Bay, and Warsaw. Participants explore the
Teutonic castle in Nidzica and the outdoor museum of 18th and 19th
century regional architecture in Olsztynek. The tour stretches to
the towns of Swieta Lipka, which features a Baroque shrine, and
Frombork, the site of a 14th century Gothic cathedral, where
Copernicus is buried. The six-night tour is priced at $744 per
person, double, land only. The tour is also available without the
Warsaw program for $397 per person, double.
Jewish history tours continue to draw travelers, as well.
Tradesco's new Heritage of Central Europe tour (Budapest, Hungary;
Prague, Czech Republic, and Warsaw and Krakow) visits the towns of
Lublin, once home to a large Jewish community, and Majdanek, site
of a former concentration camp. Near Krakow, participants tour the
site of the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps. The
11-night tour costs $3,534 per person, double.American Travel Abroad transformed its escorted Landmarks of
Jewish History tour into an FIT package this year. Travelers spend
four nights in Warsaw and three nights in Krakow. Optional tours
include a half-day excursion to the sites featured in the film
"Schindler's List" ($46 for two) and a full-day excursion to the
site of the Majdanek concentration camp ($146 for two). The
six-night package costs from $569 to $699 per person, double, land
only. It includes a first class train ticket between Warsaw and
Krakow. Most Jewish tour groups opt to stay near restored Jewish
neighborhoods, said Ingrid Bolski, manager of the firm's Poland
department.Catholic travelers, meanwhile, can follow the footsteps of
Poles who became saints. The Sister Faustyna and Other Famous
Saints of Central Europe tour, new from New York-based Air Tours
Poland, traces such saints as Maximilian Kolbe, a Catholic priest
killed at Auschwitz in place of a prisoner. The operator custom
designed the trip for a group of 35 last year, half of which were
of Polish descent, sales manager Dorota Szweda said. The five-night
tour, which spends two nights in the Czech Republic, costs $2,140
per person, double, including air fare from New York.