2018 Central Europe Trip – Germany, Poland and Czech Republic

Mr. Coan being Mr. Coan

The CCHS Central European trip starts its inaugural year with 23 students led by Social Studies teacher Agatha Wozniak and chaperoned by Social Studies teacher Melissa Carr and Art teacher Greg Coan. The trip is designed to teach both history and culture influenced and affected by the events of WWII, the Cold War and social and political resistance.

The trip starts in Berlin, Germany. From there we travel to three cities in Poland – Torun, Warsaw and Krakow. The trip finishes up in Prague, Czech Republic. Spanning 11 days and 9 nights the students travel via air, bus, tram and rail through history!  This blog should be updated every day (or so) so please follow our journey!

Over the Atlantic, June 11th 2018.

Day One: Travel and Berlin

The CCHS students and teachers left Logan Airport on June 11th. After a brief layover in Amsterdam we landed in Berlin. Meeting our guide and coach driver we had a full first day!!! Our first stop was visiting Checkpoint Charlie and the museum. The students also received a guided tour of the area, the history of the Berlin Wall and its demise, and the modern unified Berlin.

We made our way across the city to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and important and beautiful sculpture near the Brandenburg Gate. The students explored the active street life around the Brandenburg Gate and we set off for more history of the city.

Hotel check in and dinner was nice and relaxing. After 26 showers we had a late appointment with Parliament!  The students were treated to a beautiful evening at the Bundestag with its wonderful rooftop and glass dome. Much sleep was had following our long first day.

Day Two: Berlin and Poland

Our second day began with a guided tour on our bus as we crossed Berlin to the Deutsches Technikmuseum which is a fascinating and huge museum dedicated to various forms of technology developed or important to Germany. A few hi-lights were the large collection of trains and Mr. Coan’s favorite, the very large collection of camera and film technology.

From there we visited Berlin Bike Tours located near the so-called “Culture Brewery” in East Berlin. Old breweries have been converted into various museums and galleries. The bike tours took students to the remains of the Berlin Wall and other sites around the city center. We also visited the Museum in the Culture Brewery which shows life in East Berlin before the wall came down in 1989. Afterwards we enjoyed the famous snack in Berlin, Currywurst!

We left Berlin for a six hour bus ride from Germany to Torun, Poland. The day was calm and many naps were had. Following check-in and dinner we took a short evening walk in Torun.

The Torun fountain at night

Day Three: Torun, Poland

Today began in Toruń, Poland, one of the oldest cities in Poland which also has the honor of its Old Town being an UNESCO World Heritage site. It was mostly untouched during both world wars. The students had a guided introduction to the Old Town and were then free to explore a variety of sites: the Explorer’s Museum, a 14th century basilica, a 13th century Teutonic Knight castle ruins, lots of Gothic buildings, and the home of Nicolaus Copernicus. After an adventure and many hot (and cold!) chocolate beverages were enjoyed in the open town square, everyone walked over to the Gingerbread Museum and baked their own gingerbread! Toruń is most deliciously known for its gingerbread baking tradition dating back a millennia! After a few gingerbread snacks, we headed to lunch for “nalesniki”, or crepes. With full stomachs, we finally boarded the train to Warsaw and headed out. The night ended with a group dinner and conversation.

Day Four: Warsaw, Poland

With another warm day ahead of us we visited a museum, and places that were depicted in the film The Pianist, which the students watched before departing. We started at the Warsaw Uprising Museum, which covered the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, parts of the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto Uprising in 1943, as well as life during occupation in Warsaw. It was an emotional experience for some of the students – the exhibits were powerful and brought to life many aspects of life during WWII that the students had previously only heard about. The students regrouped at a cafe near the memory wall and rose garden then set off to visit spots in the former Warsaw Jewish Ghetto, such as the “Umschlagplatz” where Jews were fenced in by the Nazis before deportation to the Treblinka death camp. We also stopped at memorials to Jewish partisans who were part of the uprisings.

Warsaw Uprising Museum

After such a difficult morning, we decompressed over lunch and fruit at a local market. With plenty of local currants, cherries, and raspberries having been consumed, the group headed for a tour of the Warsaw Old Town – which, unlike Toruń, was entirely destroyed by WWII (most of the city was unrecognizable after WWII). However, the Old Town was meticulously reconstructed to resemble what it looked like. Finally, we had a delicious dinner while being serenaded by a clarinet and accordion player playing an array of music.

Mr. Coan, Ms. Carr and Ms. Wozniak in Warsaw, Poland

Day Five: Krakow, Poland

Our bus ride to Krakow brought us in midday. Our guide gave the group a tour of old town, which included St. Mary’s Basilica in the main square. After lunch we visited Wawel Castle and Cathedral which is a UNESCO Heritage site. The students had free time to relax and shop around old town and Cloth Hall which was a medieval market.

Dinner was a fantastic meal that included traditional Polish folk dancing, which then included the entire CCHS group! The students had free time to shop, relax and enjoy some ice cream on a beautiful evening.

Day Six: Auschwitz-Birkenau

As expected the visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau was a powerful emotional experience.

Birkenau Watchtower

After the trip we spent some quiet time in the park back in Krakow where we wrote or took a quiet walk.

Krakow Park

We spent the evening in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow. At our group dinner (of yummy fish) we were treated to a wonderful concert of traditional Klezmer music. Afterwards we explored the Jewish quarter (coffee, ice cream, treats!) and spent some time by the river. The weather on this trip has been superb!  We then took a local tram back to the hotel which the students enjoyed.

Day Seven: Zakopane

The Zakopane day trip was designed as a relaxing day of decompression. Zakopane is located in the mountains of southern Poland. Before heading there, students took a float trip through the Pieniny National Park which winds across the border into Slovakia (no passports needed!) After the float we headed into Zakopane for an early dinner and shopping along the vast walking boulevards. On our way home our bus was delayed … by sheep!!!

Day Eight and Nine: Prague, Czechia

We are currently on the highway headed to Prague. Goodbye Poland 🙁

Prague was a sightseeing capstone to our European journey. We toured the old town on foot, the awesome Prague Castle, ate local foods, took a boat cruise as the sunset, and visited both the Museum of Communism (a big hit!) and the National Monument to the Heydrich Terror. A beautiful and vibrant city, Prague was a great way to relax as a group, smile a lot and prepare for the trip home.

Special Thanks to our guide Agnieszka Kus who traveled with us and helped ensure everything ran smoothly!

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