Day 1 – Sunday 11th October
Check in at 07:00 at Belfast airport for Ryanair flight to Krakow departing at 09:00 and arriving at 12:35. Coach transfer to hotel for 5 nights, dinner, bed & breakfast. After arrival, we will have a quick introduction to Krakow City and have some free time before returning to the hotel for dinner.
Day 2 – Monday 12th October
This morning we have a tour of Krakow including a visit of Kazimierz and the Dominican Church. Krakow, the ancient capital of Poland, has been settled since the Stone Age. In 1038, the city became the capital, and Polish monarchs took up their residence in its Wawel Royal Castle which we visit. The Old Town historical district in Krakow’s heart is actually the medieval city established in 1257, by Prince Boleslav V, the ruler of Poland at the time. Krakow has preserved its original grid of streets arranged around the huge central Grand Square, with the Cathedral Church of St. Waclaw and Bishop Stanislaus. In the middle of the square is the Cloth Hall, built before 1349, and altered in the 16th century. Inside are many shopping stalls, which we will be sure to visit. The Cloth Hall sits in the shadow of the magnificent gothic church of Our Lady with the famous wooden altar created by Wit Stwosz. We will take a short coffee break at the famous “Jama Michalika.” This coffee shop is popular for its unique history with artists, writers, and other entertainers who have decorated its walls with various drawings, pictures, and other stained glass renditions. At Krakow University, we will see the first map of the world depicting North America as a continent. We will also pass by the shoe factory where young Karol Wojtyla worked during the Nazi occupation of Poland. We will have the opportunity to walk down Kanonicza Street, passing by some of Krakow’s historical buildings. We pause at building 21, “Deanery” where Pope John Paul II resided while in Krakow. We then proceed to Market Square where we visit the Mariacki Church. We take some time for lunch on our own. This afternoon we will visit the Franciscan Church. The Franciscan Order arrived in Krakow in 1237. A monastery was founded on this site of the town, and in 1260 work began on a church. Here we celebrate Mass. Back to the Hotel for Dinner.
Day 3 – Tuesday 13th October
This morning we visit the Convent of Sisters of Mercy in Lagiewniki, where Saint Faustina, the Apostle of Divine Mercy, lived and died. Day at Lagiewniki and visit the shrine of the Devine Mercy. Visit the beautiful Basilica consecrated by Pope John-Paul II in 2002. In the convent chapel we pray before the original picture where 33-year-old Sr Fauistina died in 1938 and where she is buried. We celebrate Mass here, and recite the Devine Mercy Chaplet, visit the churches, viewing tower, pastoral centre, cafeterias and shops. After lunch we visit the new St. John Paul II Shrine next door to the convent. We will return to Krakow and the hotel for an early dinner. After dinner we will attend a Chopin Piano Concert at Chopin Gallery, Krakow
Day 4 – Wednesday 14th October
After breakfast we travel to Wieliczka to visit the oldest salt mine in Europe, in operation since the 13th century. This UNESCO treasure now serves as a museum and contains an impressive display of chambers, galleries, and unique salt works. We will descend 54 floors below the surface to view the labyrinthine mines and the Church of St. Kinga, entirely carved from salt! From Wieliczka, we continue to a place where as a young man, Wojtyla came to pray and reflect upon his life and service to God. In the lush, green hills of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, we find the famous Calvary paths, an intertwining mesh of churches, chapels and wayside shrines originally built to replicate the city of Jerusalem These structures are the only examples (except of Gdansk) of Dutch Renaissance architecture in Poland. Here we celebrate Mass. We return early to Krakow for some free time before dinner in the hotel.
Day 5 – Thursday 15th October
Morning drive to Wadowice to visit St. John-Pauls house, now a museum, and in the near-by church where he worshiped, we celebrate Mass. This afternoons visit is quite austere, a step back into one of the darker moments in the 20th century. We will make our way to Oswiecim to the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Considered one of the largest and most heinous camps, this was the site where approximately 1.5 million people lost their lives, among them mostly Jews. When the camp was liberated in 1945, fleeing German troops attempted to destroy it, but they were unsuccessful. Allied troops discovered about 7,000 remaining prisoners, all in desolate condition. Auschwitz-Birkenau remains an example of the destruction of World War II and the hate of one man. Today the site serves as a museum and is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Our visit will include the cell of St. Maximilian Kolbe, O.F.M. Conv., who gave his life in substitution for a prisoner who was to be executed. We celebrate Mass this afternoon in a nearby church named for this saint. We return to Krakow where the balance of the day is at leisure. Dinner is at our hotel.
Day 6 – Friday 16th October
Morning in Krakow for personal time. Afternoon drive to Czestochowa. Czestochowa is a city in the south of Poland, specifically the Slask region (Silesia), with a religious and important history. The city is known for its famous St Paul’s Monastery of Jasna Góra, which houses the Black Madonna painting, a shrine to the Virgin Mary. Every year, millions of pilgrims from all over the world come to Czestochowa to pay homage to the shrine and enjoy the peace that this holy city provides. It isn’t just Catholic history here though, this city also was home to the Frankism Jewish movement during the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries – after some brief sightseeing we check in to hotel for 2 night sdinner bed and breakfast.
Day 7 – Saturday 17th October
Morning visit the Monastery of Jasna Gora – the most important Marian Shrine in Poland. One of the most historic complexes in Poland, and a famous venue to mark the end of a Catholic pilgrimage, is the stunning Jasna Góra Monastery. This huge monastery is a famous Polish shrine to the Virgin Mary and, as mentioned, also houses the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. This place also contains the Nobel Peace Prize medal received by Lech Walesa, the former Polish president and the organiser of the Solidarnosc movement. The church itself holds normal masses and has a memorable and well decorated interior. Pope John Paul II visited over five times, and more recently Pope Benedict also visited Jasna Góra. We will Celebrate Mass, and see the Icon of the Black Madonna, and visit the Monastery Museum.
Day 8 – Sunday 18th October
Early morning start to Krakow airport, and return Ryanair flight to Belfast departing at 06:30 and arriving in Belfast at 08:25.
*It is our intention to follow the itinerary as outlined above, however due to many factors like local holidays, traffic or weather conditions it may be necessary to make changes to the order of events or even the cancelation of certain events.