Category: Experiences & Tours

Category: Experiences & Tours

Wooden Churches of Southern Malopolska

Wooden churches

Wooden churches – updated 10 September 2022

The Wooden Churches of Southern Małopolska inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list are located in: Binarowa (ca 1500), Blizne (mid-15th century.), Dębno (1335), Haczów (14th/15th century), Lipnica Murowana (end of 15th century) and Sękowa (1520). They were built using the horizontal log technique and represent outstanding examples of the different aspects of medieval church-building traditions in Roman Catholic culture.

Wooden churches - All Saints Church, Blizne

These old wooden Gothic churches were all located within the historic region of Małopolska in southern and south-eastern Poland and were sponsored by families of nobility as symbols of their prestige.

Horizontal Log Technique

The horizontal log technique was commonplace in Northern and Eastern Europe during the Middle Ages. The wooden church style of the region was Gothic ornament and painted detail and was very different to the style of stone and brick buildings at the time due to the timber construction, structure and form of the churches.

The form of the churches was influenced by the Greco-Catholic and Orthodox presence in the region. They had an extensive spatial structure initially consisting of a rectangular nave and a narrower chancel to the east, usually terminating in a three-sided apse. Chambered towers of post-and-beam construction were added at the west end later on.

Advanced joinery

The standard of joinery was of the highest quality and the use of advanced joinery solutions allowed for a system of roof trusses binding the log structures of the nave and chancel resulting in tall, shingled roofs.

The Wooden Churches of Southern Małopolska all exhibit diverse techniques and styles of workmanship, rich iconography, outstanding artistic quality and boast valuable décors and fittings.

The oldest church is the 15th century church in Haczów, made of fir-wood and covered with shingles.

The church at Binarowa boasts a very precious wall painting depicting scenes from the New Testament and a carved wood figure of Madonna from the 14th century.

The majority of the wooden churches are located in picturesque mountain valleys and the six trails on the Route of Timber Architecture in the Małopolska region are over 1500km long. They feature 232 timber constructions including 123 Roman Catholic churches, 39 Orthodox churches, 25 rural and small-town complexes, and 27 rural architecture museums that comprise 9 skansens and 14 country manors.

Bialowieza Tours (up to 7 people)

Wooden Churches of Southern Malopolska

What to expect from this tour

Participate in this day trip from Krakow and discover wooden churches of southern Poland listed on the UNESCO World Heritage.

This tour includes the service of a private tour guide-driver who will pick you up from your accommodation in Krakow, so you don't have to worry about a thing!

Visit some of the wooden churches of Southern Malopolska located in charming, picturesque villages. Admire the architecture of the temples in Binarowa, Sekowa, Owczary and Ropica. See the idiosyncratic structural solution used in their construction and appreciate the uniqueness of these Gothic buildings.

Medieval Town of Torun

Torun Medieval Town

Medieval Town of Torun – updated 10 September 2022

The Medieval Town owes its origins to the Teutonic Order, which built a castle in the town in the mid-13th century as a base for the conquest and evangelisation of Prussia. This acted as a catalyst for the growth, importance and popularity of the town and it soon developed a commercial role as part of the Hanseatic League.

Medieval Town Torun

Nicolaus Copernicus

In the old and new town, the many imposing public and private buildings from the 14th and 15th centuries (among them the house of Nicolaus Copernicus) are striking evidence of Torun’s stature.

Toruń is a remarkably well-preserved example of a medieval European trading and administrative centre. The city was founded in the period when Christianity was being spread through Eastern Europe by the military monks of the Teutonic Order, and when rapid growth in trade between the countries of the Baltic Sea and Eastern Europe was being spurred by the Hanseatic League.

The Medieval Town of Torun is comprised of three elements: the ruins of the Teutonic Castle, the Old Town, and the New Town, all surrounded by a circuit of defensive walls.

The castle

The majority of the castle was destroyed during an uprising in 1454, when the local townspeople revolted against the Teutonic Order. The ruins and the archaeological remains have been excavated and safeguarded.

An exceptionally complete picture of the medieval way of life is illustrated in the original street patterns and early buildings of Toruń. Both the Old Town and the New Town have Gothic parish churches and numerous fine medieval brick townhouses, many of which have retained their original Gothic façades, partition walls, stucco-decorated ceilings, vaulted cellars, and painted decoration.

Medieval Town Torun

Townhouses

Many townhouses in Toruń were used for both residential and commercial purposes. A fine example is the house in which Nicolaus Copernicus was reputedly born in 1473; it has been preserved as a museum devoted to the famous astronomer’s life and achievements.

The townhouses often included storage facilities and remarkable brick granaries, some of which were up to five storeys high. Because so many houses have survived from this period, the medieval plots are for the most part still preserved, delineated by their original brick boundary walls.

Today, the Medieval Town of Torun shares the title of capital city of the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship with the city of Bydgoszcz. The entire city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for being an unusually well-preserved example of a medieval European trading and administrative centre.

The Medieval Town of Torun has benefited from numerous renovation projects in recent years, in particular the Old Town area. Buildings, pavements, streets and squares have been painstakingly reconstructed reversing them to their historic appearance.

Torun Tours

Treblinka Concentration Camp

What to expect from this tour

Leave Warsaw for a day and see the birthplace of Nicolas Copernicus! Let your driver pick you up from your accommodation in Warsaw and visit Torun with a private guide.

Learn about the charming city of Torun, one of the few Polish cities to escape major damage in World War II. Snap pictures of the beautifully preserved Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the Old Town, the New City, and the Teutonic Castle. Admire the city defense walls and fortified towers that form part of the skyline. Learn about the founding of Torun by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century and see the ruins of the castle.

Visit St John's Cathedral, home to the seven-ton Tuba Dei (God's Trumpet), one of the largest medieval bells in Europe. Said to be the place where the world-famous astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, was baptized. Next, choose between following in the footsteps of Copernicus in a visit to his former home turned multimedia museum or check out the Gingerbread Museum, a former factory that popularized gingerbread all over the world. Take a break for lunch during the tour before the return transfer to Warsaw.

Tours & Attractions

Historic Centre of Warsaw

Warsaw Historic Centre

Historic Centre of Warsaw – updated 10 September 2022

The Historic Centre of Warsaw is the oldest part of the city. The heart of the area is the Old Town Market Place, which is very popular with tourists and contains many restaurants, cafés, bars and shops. Surrounding streets feature medieval architecture such as the city walls, St. John’s Cathedral and the Barbican which links the Old Town with Warsaw New Town.

Historic centre Warsaw

World War II

In excess of 85% of the historic centre of Warsaw was deliberately destroyed during World War II by Nazi Germany. A meticulous restoration of the Old Town took place after the war and this included its important religious buildings, the Royal Castle, Old Town Market, townhouses, and the circuit of the city walls. It is an outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction of a span of history covering the 13th to the 20th century.

Where possible, original bricks and decorative elements found in the rubble were reused during the reconstruction, which was not entirely accurate to pre-war Warsaw but more of a mix between pre-war Warsaw and an earlier period. The objective was to reconstruct but at the same time, try to improve on the original.

Historic centre Warsaw

Old Town Market Place

The 13th century Old Town Market Place was the true heart of the Old Town and until the end of the 18th century it was the heart of all of Warsaw. Prior to the great fire of 1607, the buildings around the square were Gothic in style, after the fire, they were rebuilt in late-Renaissance style.

Castle Square

When approaching the Old Town from the centre of Warsaw, your first view of the reconstructed Old Town is Castle Square, dominated by Zygmunt’s Column, which towers above the beautiful Old Town houses.

Historic centre Warsaw

Royal Castle

Royal Castle Warsaw is an exceptional copy of the original red-brick castle, which was destroyed by the Germans in WWII. The very first version of the castle was actually a wooden stronghold dating back to the 14th century built for the dukes of Mazovia and since then it has been the residence of Polish kings in addition to being the home of the president and also the seat of parliament.

Warsaw Old Town Tours & Experiences

Historic Centre of Krakow

Krakow Historic Centre

Historic Centre of Krakow – updated 09 September 2022

The historic centre of Krakow has been featured on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1978. Packed full of restaurants, museums, galleries and bars, the medieval layout of the Old Town has not changed for centuries.

Main market square

The heart and focal point of the historic centre of Krakow is its graceful main market square, the largest medieval town square of any European city.

Most visitors to Krakow visit the market square with its Cloth Hall, the Church of the Holy Mary, Wawel Hill and its Royal Castle, Wawel Cathedral with its outstanding Renaissance chapel, the Barbican and St. Florian’s Gate.

Historic Centre of Krakow

Wawel Royal Castle

Wawel Royal Castle and the limestone Wawel Hill are extremely important historical and cultural sites containing one of the most important collection of buildings in Poland. Wawel was once the seat of Polish rulers, the residence of kings and the focal point of many Polish historical events. The hill is a symbol of the Polish nation and has witnessed some of the greatest moments in Polish history. Many Polish kings have been laid to rest below Wawel Cathedral.

Historic Centre of Krakow

Jewish quarter

The Jewish quarter of Kazimierz features a wealth of Jewish heritage with its 16th century cemetery and seven synagogues of which one is now the Jewish Museum.

The historic centre of Krakow was once surrounded by a 3km long defensive wall complete with 46 towers and seven main entrances. Today only a fragment of the old fortifications remains including the Florian Gate, the Barbican and a few towers.

Underground Museum

Beneath the city of Krakow and housed within the underground corridors of the market square, you will find a museum, which showcases how the city looked and felt during the Middle Ages complete with stone roads with potholes made by cartwheels during the 13th century.

Historic Centre of Krakow

Royal Road

The historic centre of Krakow is bisected by the Royal Road, the coronation route traversed by the Kings of Poland. The Route begins at St. Florian’s Church outside the northern flank of the old city walls in the medieval suburb of Kleparz; passes the Barbican of Krakow built in 1499 and enters Stare Miasto through the Florian Gate. It leads down Floriańska Street through the Main Square, and up Grodzka to Wawel, the former seat of Polish royalty overlooking the Vistula River.

Krakow Old Town Tours & Experiences

Churches Of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica

Churches Of Peace

Churches Of Peace – updated 09 September 2022

The Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica, were built in the former Silesia in the mid-17th century. They were named after the Peace of Westphalia, which was the name given to two peace treaties signed in October 1648 that resulted in the end of the Thirty Years War bringing peace to the Holy Roman Empire and closing a calamitous period of European history that killed approximately eight million people.

Churches Of Peace

The peace treaties effectively eradicated the Evangelical Church in the region depriving the Evangelical majority of the population any religious freedom and all of their churches.

After diplomatic intervention by Sweden, permission was granted to build three churches outside the city walls; however, this permission came with strict physical and political constraints. The Lutherans of Silesia were allowed to build three churches from wood, clay and straw without steeples and church bells with a construction deadline of just one year.

Churches Of Peace

Albrecht von Säbisch

The project was handed to architect and engineer Albrecht von Säbisch who had the difficult task of meeting the requirements of the large Evangelical community whilst also adhering to the caveats imposed on the construction of the churches.

The architect created a set of buildings that represented the pinnacle of timber-framing construction technology and architectural solutions. The Churches of Peace are the largest timber-framed Baroque ecclesiastical buildings in Europe and were built to a scale and complexity unknown in European wooden architecture before or since.

Churches Of Peace

Albrecht von Säbisch used traditional materials and technologies and despite the impermanence of the materials used, the building survived for hundreds of years.

Jawor

The Church of the Holy Spirit in Jawor was built in 1654–1655 as a rectangular three-aisled basilica with a three-sided chancel of reduced form.

Świdnica

The Church of the Holy Trinity in Świdnica was built in 1656–1657 as a three-aisled basilica with a Greek cross ground plan. The third of the Churches of Peace allowed under the Peace of Westphalia was built in Głogów in 1652 but burned down a hundred years later. Since 2001, the two remaining churches are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Jawor and Swidnica Tours

Centennial Hall

What to expect from this tour

Visit two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Lower Silesia in one day. Admire the beauty of the wooden church in Swidnica, the largest wooden church in the world and see the largest timber-framed religious buildings in Europe in Jawor.

The wooden church in Swidnica is the largest wooden baroque church in the world. It was built in 1655 and dedicated to the Holy Trinity. It is made of non-durable materials, which survived so far more than 350 years.

The timber-framed religious buildings in Jawor are the largest wattle and daub buildings in Europe, built at the times of the old Silesia in the middle of the XVII century, at a time of religious conflicts. These buildings are a manifestation of the desire for religious freedom and a rare mixture of Lutheran ideology connected to a Catholic church.

Centennial Hall In Wroclaw

Centennial Hall

Centennial Hall Wroclaw – updated 09 September 2022

Centennial Hall was erected in 1911-1913 by the architect Max Berg as a multi-purpose recreational building and is a landmark in the history of reinforced concrete architecture. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006.

Centennial Hall

The building is frequently visited by tourists and the local populace. It lies close to other popular tourist attractions, such as the Wrocław Zoo, the Japanese Garden, and the Pergola with its Multimedia Fountain.

National Historic Monument

The building became one of Poland’s official national Historic Monuments (Pomnik historii), as designated on 20th April 2005, together with the Four Domes Pavilion, the Pergola, and the Iglica. Its listing is maintained by the National Heritage Board of Poland.

The building was designed to respond to emerging social needs and included an assembly hall, an auditorium for theatre performances, an exhibition space and a sports venue.

The hall was built as part of a Centennial Exhibition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig, won by the anti-French coalition against Napoleon Bonaparte.

Concrete technology

Max Berg, who was the Wrocław city architect at the time, designed the massive Centennial Hall using new reinforced concrete technology. It was a pioneering work of modern engineering and architecture and became a key reference in the design of public spaces and in the further evolution of reinforced concrete technology.

The 23m dome was the largest ever reinforced concrete dome in the world at the time and was made from steel and glass. The hall had an inner diameter of 69m and a height of 42m and was the largest building of its kind at the time of construction. It can seat around 7,000 people.

The Centennial Hall (Hala Stulecia) is currently one of the most sought-after places to organise exhibitions, conferences, congresses, and cultural and sporting events within Poland and from overseas.

Wroclaw Tours

Centennial Hall

What to expect from this tour

During your 2-hour trip, discover the most beautiful aspects of Wroclaw in a pleasant and satisfying way. Jump on the Segway and don't miss anything from Wroclaw Old Town has to offer.

While telling you many carefully selected trivia and pieces of information in a compelling way, your guide will take you into picturesque places such as Slodowa Island (Malt Island) and Piaskowa Island (Sand Island). Discover also Ostrow Tumski and an Archcathedral that’s located there (interested visitors might even go inside), or Ksawery Boulevard. Your route goes through the Lovers' Bridge, an exceptionally romantic place, especially in the evening when it’s illuminated by the light of streetlamps.

Get to see the Racławice panorama, the partisan hill, and the National Forum of Music. At the end of your trip, visit the four denominations district and a Synagogue. And don't forget about the dozens of dwarfs that you’ll encounter on the way.

Tours & Attractions

Christmas In Poland

Christmas in Poland

Christmas in Poland – Updated 12 September 2022

A Polish Christmas is very different to Christmas in the UK or USA, but it does have similarities with some other European countries. The Poles take Christmas very seriously and it is mainly focused on family, friends & food, rather than parties, however the work Christmas party is becoming more popular each year.

Christmas markets

Poland is a very popular destination for visitors from overseas during the festive period, particularly in the main cities such as Warsaw, Krakow, Gdansk & Wroclaw where you will find traditional Christmas markets selling an assortment of festive products.

Christmas in Poland

Gingerbread

Traditionally during Advent, families would bake Christmas gingerbread and use it to make their own decorations. Gingerbread was made into a variety of shapes including hearts, animals and St. Nicholas figures (St. Nick is the Polish version of Santa).

Today, most Poles buy their Christmas decorations in the shops and markets as there is always a fantastic selection on offer. Some families still make their own decorations from gingerbread; however, this is more commonplace in the villages of Poland rather than the cities and towns.

Christmas trees

You’ll find Christmas trees in most public areas in Poland and also outside churches and within people’s homes. Traditionally Christmas trees in Poland were decorated with shiny apples, walnuts, wrapped chocolate shapes, hand blown glass baubles, and many homemade ornaments and candles with a star as a top piece. You may still find this in some homes; however today most Poles decorate their trees in a similar fashion to trees in the UK or America.

Christmas in Poland

Unlike the UK where Christmas trees are erected in homes in early December and are usually taken down on the 6th January, the poles decorate their trees just before Christmas and may keep them that way until early February.

It is still commonplace for Christmas trees to be real in Poland; however, many Poles do opt for replica trees, particularly in apartment blocks – to avoid the inevitable clean-up of pine needles on the stairs and in the elevator.

Gwiazdory

During the run up to Christmas, you may see the “Gwiazdory,” or star carriers wandering through the towns and villages. Depending on location, some of the Gwiazdory will sing carols, recite verses or put on puppet shows & nativity scenes. Today, the Gwiazdory are usually a group of men dressed in Santa costumes.

Oplatek

One tradition unique to Poland is the sharing of the “oplatek”, a thin wafer into which is pressed a holy picture. People once carried these oplatki from house to house wishing their neighbours a Merry Christmas. Nowadays, the bread is mostly shared with members of the family and immediate neighbours.

As each person shares pieces of the wafer with another person, they are supposed to forgive any hurts that have occurred over the past year and to wish the other person all the happiness in the coming year.

Christmas Eve in Poland

In Poland, Christmas Eve is the big event, not Christmas Day. Traditionally, everyone would wait until the appearance of the first star in the sky (Gwiazdka) and then a huge feast would begin (Wigilia) followed by an exchange of gifts. Before the sighting of the first star, people would fast. to make the feast more enjoyable. Today, most Poles begin festivities prior to Gwiazdka.

Wigilia

Wigilia (the Christmas supper) is a carefully planned meal packed pull of traditions. Bits of hay are spread beneath the tablecloth as a reminder that Christ was born in a manger and an even number of people must be seated around the table or tradition states, someone may die in the coming year

In some places an empty place setting is symbolically left at the table for the Baby Jesus or for a wanderer who may be in need, or if a deceased relative should come and would like to share in the meal.

The meal begins with the breaking of the oplatek. Everyone at the table breaks off a piece and eats it as a symbol of their unity with Christ. They then share a piece with each family member giving good wishes for the following year. There should be twelve dishes, as a symbol of the Twelve Apostles, or an odd number of dishes for good luck (usually five, seven, or nine). Poppy seed cake, beet soup, prune dumplings, carp, herring and noodles with poppy seed are universal Polish Christmas foods. There is no meat in the Christmas Eve feast.

Christmas Day is a day spent visiting friends.

Christmas in Poland Tours & Experiences

Wolf’s Lair

Wolfsschanze

Wolf’s Lair – updated 21 September 2022

The Wolf’s Lair (Wolfsschanze in German) is hidden in thick forest in the Masurian woods, 8km east of Kętrzyn and was Hitler’s main headquarters during WWII. The complex, which became one of several Führer Headquarters in various parts of Central and Eastern Europe, was built for the start of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. A famous attempt to assassinate the Führer took place here on 20th July 1944.

Wolf’s Lair

Bunkers

Today Wolf’s Lair is 18 hectares of huge, overgrown and partly destroyed bunkers. During World War II, it was a top-secret, high security site surrounded by three security zones and guarded by personnel from the SS-Begleitkommando des Führers, Reichssicherheitsdienst and the Wehrmacht’s armoured Führerbegleitbrigade.

Wolf’s Lair was an impressive feat of engineering with a remote location carefully chosen far away from typical aerial bombing targets such as transport routes and towns. 3,000 German labourers were involved in its construction consisting of 80 structures. These included seven bombproof bunkers for the top leaders of the Third Reich with walls and ceiling up to 8m thick.

Wolf’s Lair

3 security zones

The decision to build Wolf’s Lair was made in the autumn of 1940. Built in the middle of a protecting forest and located far from major roads. The complex occupied more than 6.5 km2 (2.5 sq. mi) and consisted of three separate security zones.

The most important of which was Sperrkreis 1 (Security Zone 1), in which was located the Führer Bunker and concrete shelters of members of the inner circle such as Hermann Göring, Martin Bormann, OKW chief Wilhelm Keitel and “chief of operations” OKW Alfred Jodl.

There was a total of ten bunkers in this area, all camouflaged and protected by 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) of steel-reinforced concrete. Hitlers was on the northern end, with all its windows facing north to avoid direct sunlight. Both Hitler’s and Keitel’s bunkers had rooms in which military conferences could be held.

Sperrkreis 2 (Security Zone 2) included military barracks and housing for several important Reich Ministers like Albert Speer, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Fritz Todt as well as Hitler’s escort battalion, the Führer Begleit Brigade.

Sperrkreis 3 (Security Zone 3) made up the outer security area of the compound, complete with land mines, special security troops and guard houses.

Close by was a facility for the Wehrmacht Operations Staff, and army headquarters was located several kilometres to the northeast of the FHQ complex. All these installations were served by a nearby airfield and train lines.

About two thousand people lived and worked at Wolf’s Lair at its peak, among them twenty women.

Security

The security around the bunkers was impressive and included barbed wire barriers, gun emplacements and minefields in addition to some of Hitler’s most war-hardened troops. The camp included an emergency airstrip and a backup airfield 5km away to allow the Nazi Elite a quick exit if the need ever arose. The natural camouflage of the forest was further enhanced with artificial vegetation-like screens suspended on wires and changed according to the season of the year. The Allies did not discover Wolf’s Lair until 1945.

Hitler

Hitler spent a long time in Wolf’s Lair. He arrived on 26th June 1941 and stayed there until 20th November 1944 with only short trips away.

Wolfsschanze

Having survived an assassination attempt within the complex in July 1944, Hitler left Wolf’s Lair as the Soviet Red Army approached a few months later.

Assassination attempts at Wolf’s Lair

The Wolf’s Lair was the location of the July 20 plot to kill Hitler. During the period of reconstruction of the Führer Bunker in the summer of 1944, the daily strategy meetings were moved to the little building known as the Lager barrack, where staff officer Claus von Stauffenberg carried a bomb hidden in a briefcase into the meeting room and placed it just a few feet away from Hitler.

At 12:43 p.m. the bomb devastated the interior of the building but left Hitler only slightly injured. However, four others died from their wounds a few days later. The force of the blast was diminished because a staff officer unknowingly moved the briefcase on the opposite side of a thick wooden table leg from where von Stauffenberg had placed it, probably saving Hitler’s life. It is believed that had the bomb exploded in the massive concrete Führer Bunker as originally intended, everyone in the structure including Hitler would have been killed.

The Escape

Just moments before the blast, the would-be assassin and his adjutant, Lieutenant Werner von Haeften rapidly made their way from the conference barrack toward the first guard post just outside Sperrkeis 1. After a short delay they were allowed to pass and proceeded along the southern exit road toward Rastenburg airport.

By the time they reached the guard house at the perimeter of Sperrkreis 2, the alarm had been sounded. According to the official Gestapo report, “at first the guard refused passage until von Stauffenberg persuaded him to contact the adjutant to the compound commander who then finally authorized clearance”. It was between here and the final checkpoint of Sperrkreis 3 that von Haeften tossed a second briefcase from the car containing a second bomb which was also intended to explode in the conference barrack.

It is believed that had this bomb also been placed with the other, everyone inside would have been killed. Checkpoint three, the final barrier located at the outer reaches of the Wolf’s Lair, was expected to prove impenetrable, but the two men were simply waved through to the Rastenburg airport.

Operation Valkyrie

Thirty minutes after the bomb blast the two men were airborne and, on their way, back to Berlin and Army general headquarters. It was in this building, called the Bendlerblock, that “Operation Valkyrie”, a covert plan to react to the breakdown in civil order of the nation and suppress any revolt was transformed into the secret plot to assassinate the Führer of the German Reich.

However, when it was discovered that Hitler was still alive, the plan was doomed and along with it von Stauffenberg, his adjutant Werner von Haeften and co-conspirators General Friedrich Olbricht and his chief of staff Colonel Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim, who were arrested and executed in the courtyard of the Bendlerblock on the evening of July 20, 1944.

Red Army

The Wolf’s Lair complex was blown up on the 24 January 1945, just three days before the Red Army arrived. Many tons of explosives were required to do the job; one bunker required an estimated 8 tons of TNT. The minefield protecting the now ruined bunkers was still active with approximately 55,000 mines and it took 10 years to make the complex safe.

Wolfsschanze

What to see

There’s not a lot to see nowadays, but with a little imagination and a site map or tour guide, you will be able to get a flavour of what life must have been like at Wolf’s Lair. The structures of the complex are conveniently numbered so that you can quickly ascertain what purpose they served. Number 13 is Adolf Hitler’s bunker, which is now just one wall but Göring’s home, number 16 is in surprisingly good condition.

Tours

Wolf’s Lair private tour from Warsaw

Visit Wolf’s Liar – Adolf Hitler’s first Eastern Front military headquarters in World War II. The complex, which would become one of several Führer Headquarters in various parts of occupied Europe, was built for the start of Operation Barbarossa.

Your tour begins with pickup from your Warsaw accommodation in a Mercedes-Benz vehicle. From there, begin your comfortable transfer to Wolf’s Lair. This top-secret, high-security site was in the Masurian woods, about 8 kilometers from the small East Prussian town of Rastenburg (Kętrzyn).

Visiting this one-in-a-kind place is a truly remarkable experience and allows you to learn more about the history of World War II and Hitler’s philosophy. The atmosphere of war is still floating through the air of the ruins, and the whole complex is a perfect example of Hitler’s megalomania and entourage – Book now

Visit the Wolf’s Lair website.

Treblinka Concentration Camp

Treblinka Extermination Camp

Treblinka – updated 01 September 2022

Treblinka was an extermination camp, built and operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II. Together with the camps at Bełżec and Sobibor, the camp operated as part of Operation Reinhard, the deadliest phase of the Final Solution, so called in memory of Reinhard Heydrich, a high-ranking German SS and police official during the Nazi era and one of the main architects of the Holocaust.

Treblinka

The camp was located in a forest north-east of Warsaw, 4km south of the village of Treblinka in what is now the Masovian Voivodeship.

Treblinka operated between 23 July 1942 and 19 October 1943 and during this time, it is estimated that 870,000 people were murdered there. More Jews were killed at Treblinka than at any other Nazi extermination camp apart from Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Extermination camp

Treblinka was divided into three parts and was a highly efficient death factory. One part of the camp was for the use of staff and housed workshops, another part was set aside as a reception area for prisoners and the third part was the extermination area.

The pipe

A narrow alley known as the ‘pipe’ connected the reception area with the extermination area allowing for quick transportation of prisoners to the gas chambers. The extermination area also contained mass graves and woodpiles for the cremation of prisoners.

Concentration camp

Unlike other extermination camps, prisoners at Treblinka were murdered almost immediately upon arrival at the camp. There was no tattooing, no huts, no wooden bunks and no forced labour. People went straight to the gas chambers as soon as they alighted from their transport.

Initially, there were three gas chambers at Treblinka with the capacity to asphyxiate 300-500 people per hour. Ten much bigger gas chambers were added in September 1942 increasing the capacity to between 1000-2000 people per hour.

Prisoners arrived in the village of Treblinka by transport trains, each with forty to fifty trucks carrying 6,000 to 7,000 people. From there, they were transported to the camp 4km away by convoys of trucks. On arrival at the camp, men were separated from the women and children and were forced to strip naked.

They were then driven down the, ‘pipe’ into the, ‘bath house’ where they died of gas poisoning within about 15 minutes.

The bodies were initially buried in mass graves but later were cremated on the orders of Heinrich Himmler who was already thinking about how to cover up the genocide. This was also required of the victims that had already been buried, and so the mass graves had to be opened and the bodies burned. The remains and the ash were thrown back into the graves.

The clothes and items left by the victims in the deportation barracks before the ‘shower’ were sorted. Gradually, bankers and goldsmiths were selected from the transports and formed into a commando called the Goldjuden – Gold Jews. Their job was to collect and classify any valuables, which were then vigorously traded by Germans, Ukrainians and the local population.

The first transports to Treblinka came from the Warsaw ghetto. Between the 23rd of July and the 21st of August 1942, a total of 254,000 Jews from Warsaw and 112,000 from other parts of the Warsaw region were murdered here.

Treblinka Tours

Treblinka Concentration Camp

What to expect from this tour

Visit the museum and memorial to World War II in Treblinka, the second-biggest Nazi extermination camp.

Start your tour at the south end of the Warsaw Ghetto, where now the Palace of Culture and Science is. There, with your guide, you will see the memorial to Janusz Korczak, an educator, children-author and pedagogue, who went to Treblinka with his child students. Next, head for the Umschlagplatz, where Warsaw Jews were selected and loaded on the trains to the camp.

Afterwards, head for Treblinka commemoration place. There, in the middle of the forest, visit a museum with a miniature model of the camp and watch moving testimonies of some of the camp survivors. Next, following the symbolic train tracks, you walk towards the impressive Treblinka memorial. Made of over 17,000 stones, the monument commemorates over 700,000 victims of the extermination camp. Learn dire stories of transportation of the European Jews to this camp and find out more about the revolt that took place in Treblinka in the summer of 1943. After the time of contemplation at the Treblinka memorial, you return to Warsaw, to the original starting point.

Auschwitz Birkenau

Auschwitz Extermination Camp

Auschwitz Birkenau – updated 12 September 2022

The Auschwitz Birkenau complex has left its inglorious mark on human history. A symbol of the Holocaust, during its five years of operation over a million Jews, along with Poles, Romani and other groups, were systematically killed by German Occupiers in WWII. Confronting and emotionally charged, a visit to the complex is an essential part of the human experience.

Extermination camp

Atrocities

Both sections of the camp, Auschwitz I and the much larger outlying Birkenau (Auschwitz II) have been preserved and are open to visitors. Everyone should visit Auschwitz at least once in their lives, it is a stern reminder of the horrors that human beings can inflict on each other and the only way to understand the extent and horror of the place and the atrocities that took place there.

Auschwitz Birkenau

Oświęcim

The Auschwitz extermination camp was established in Polish army barracks on the outskirts of Oświęcim by the Germans in April 1940 and was originally intended for Polish political prisoners. It was then adapted for the wholesale extermination of the Jews of Europe in fulfilment of German Nazi ideology and pursuit of the ‘final solution of the Jewish question in Europe.’

For this purpose, the much larger camp at Birkenau was built 2km west of the original site in 1941/1942, followed by another one in Monowitz, several kilometres to the west.

Auschwitz Birkenau

Birkenau

Most of the killing took place in Birkenau and not Auschwitz. The 175 hectares camp was purpose-built for efficiency with 300 prison barracks housing 300 people each and four huge gas chambers, complete with crematoria. Each gas chamber could asphyxiate 2,000 people at one time and were fitted with electric lifts to raise the bodies to the ovens more quickly and conveniently.

Rudolf Höss

From spring 1942 until the fall of 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp’s gas chambers from all over Nazi-occupied Europe. The camp’s first commandant, Rudolf Höss, testified after the war at the Nuremberg Trials that up to three million people had died there (2.5 million exterminated, and 500,000 from disease and starvation), a figure since revised to 1.1 million. Of the 1.1 million people who were murdered in Birkenau, 90 percent of them were Jews.

Auschwitz Birkenau

Medical experiments

Others deported to Auschwitz Birkenau included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Roma and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and tens of thousands of people of diverse nationalities. Those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labour, lack of disease control, individual executions, and medical experiments.

Selections

By July 1942, the SS were conducting the infamous “selections,” in which incoming Jews were divided into those deemed able to work, who were sent to the right and admitted into the camp, and those who were sent to the left and immediately gassed.

Extermination camp

Daily convoys

Prisoners were transported from all over German-occupied Europe by rail, arriving in daily convoys. The group selected to die, about three-quarters of the total, included almost all children, women with children, all the elderly, and all those who appeared on brief and superficial inspection by an SS doctor not to be completely fit. Auschwitz II-Birkenau claimed more victims than any other German extermination camp, despite coming into use after all the others.

Gas chamber

SS officers told the victims they were to take a shower and undergo delousing. The victims would undress in an outer chamber and walk into the gas chamber, which was disguised as a shower facility, complete with dummy shower heads. After the doors were shut, SS men would dump in the cyanide pellets via holes in the roof or windows on the side. In Auschwitz II-Birkenau, more than 20,000 people could be gassed and cremated each day.

Auschwitz Birkenau

Canada

Sonderkommandos removed gold teeth from the corpses of gas chamber victims; the gold was melted down and collected by the SS. The belongings of the arrivals were seized by the SS and sorted in an area of the camp called “Canada,” so-called because Canada was seen as a land of plenty. Many of the SS at the camp enriched themselves by pilfering the confiscated property.

Heinrich Himmler

The last selection took place on October 30, 1944. The next month, Heinrich Himmler ordered the crematoria destroyed before the Red Army reached the camp. The gas chambers of Birkenau were blown up by the SS in January 1945 in an attempt to hide the German crimes from the advancing Soviet troops. The SS command sent orders on January 17, 1945, calling for the execution of all prisoners remaining in the camp, but in the chaos of the Nazi retreat the order was never carried out. On January 17, 1945, Nazi personnel started to evacuate the facility.

Death March

Nearly 60,000 prisoners were forced on a death march toward a camp in Wodzisław Śląski (German: Loslau). Those too weak or sick to walk were left behind. These remaining 7,500 prisoners were liberated by the 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army on January 27, 1945.

Bergen-Belsen

Approximately 20,000 Auschwitz Birkenau prisoners made it to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, where they were liberated by the British in April 1945. Among the artefacts of automated murder found by the Russians were 348,820 men’s suits and 836,255 women’s garments.

On January 27, 1945, Auschwitz Birkenau was liberated by Soviet troops, a day commemorated around the world as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Today, at Birkenau the entrance building and some of the southern brick-built barracks survive; but of the almost 300 wooden barracks, only 19 remain: 18 near the entrance building and one, on its own, farther away. All that survives of the others are chimneys, remnants of a largely ineffective means of heating. Many of these wooden buildings were constructed from prefabricated sections made by a company that intended them to be used as stables; inside, numerous metal rings for the tethering of horses can still be seen.

Museum

The Polish government decided to restore Auschwitz I and turn it into a museum honouring the victims of Nazism; Auschwitz II, where buildings (many of which were prefabricated wood structures) were prone to decay, was preserved but not restored. Today, the Auschwitz I museum site combines elements from several periods into a single complex: for example, the gas chamber at Auschwitz I (which had been converted into an air-raid shelter for the SS) was restored and the fence was moved (because of building work being done after the war but before the museum was established). However, in most cases the departure from the historical truth is minor and is clearly labelled.

The museum contains many men’s, women’s and children’s shoes taken from their victims; also, suitcases, which the deportees were encouraged to bring with them, and many household utensils. One display case, some 30 metres (98 ft) long, is wholly filled with human hair which the Nazis gathered from people before they were sent to labour or before and after they were killed.

Auschwitz II and the remains of the gas chambers there are open to the public. The camp is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The ashes of the victims were scattered between the huts, and the entire area is regarded as a grave site. Most of the buildings of Auschwitz I are still standing. The public entrance area is outside the perimeter fence in what was the camp admission building, where new prisoners were registered and given their uniforms. At the far end of Birkenau are memorial plaques in many languages, including Romani.

Read about the Dentist of Auschwitz.

Auschwitz Birkenau Tours & Experiences