Friday the 7th July arrived with much anticipation, and we were off to Europe! After a short stopover in Dubai, we arrived in Frankfurt where we went for a tour of the city’s dynamic financial centre and medieval Römerplatz. The next day we made our way to Berlin, where we got to see the Berlin wall, Reichstag Building, Tiergarten, Brandenburg Gate, Unter den Linden Boulevard and the State Opera House. Thereafter the boys got to explore the city by themselves and to shop.
The following day we crossed the border into Poland and viewed Poznan with its City Hall, Gothic architecture and the little town, where the boys enjoyed exploring for a while. We then went to the capital, Warsaw, where we viewed St. John’s Cathedral, the Royal Palace, the Old Town, the Warsaw Ghetto and the Gardens with Chopin’s statue that had been totally destroyed during the War - and all the diverse history of the country. Our travels continued to Czestochowa, were we viewed the icon of the Black Madonna, followed by a sobering visit to Auschwitz, where the camp exuded a permanent reminder of the horrors that had taken place there. Irrespective of the boys’ ages, they were definitely affected and moved by the understanding of the terrors that had occurred there under the Nazis in World War Two.
Warsaw continued to impress, with viewings of the medieval walls and buildings, the caste and cathedral on Wawel Hill and an unforgettable experience of our descent into the Wieliczka Salt Mines. The boys then again got to explore on their own and to do some more shopping.
Driving through Slovakia - with a visit to a ski resort for lunch - we later arrived in the bustling city of Budapest. There we got to see the Fisherman’s Bastion, Heroes’ Square, St. Matthias’ Church and panoramic views of the city, whilst experiencing the crossing of the bridges from “Buda” into “Pest” and back.
Győr was our next stop, a little town founded by the Romans with evidence of medieval and Baroque charm, with time to explore the area individually.
Crossing another border into Vienna, we were ready to be enlightened with more culture. From visits to Parliament, the Opera, the Hofburg, City Hall, this imperial city didn’t fail to impress. Additionally, a cruise down the River Danube, in the evening, was the “sacker” on the cake, as we got to see that the Danube has never, is never, and never will be “Blue”, but nevertheless the trip was extremely moving.
On our way to Prague, we stopped over in the medieval town of Brno, travelling through the Bohemian countryside and eventually arriving in beautiful Prague. Famed as the best- preserved city in Europe, we got an in-depth insight into the city’s history from our talented tour guide. We got to see the Prague Castle, St. Vitus’s Cathedral, the Old town Square and enjoyed a cruise on the Vltava River.
Our travels then took us across the hills to a medieval town that is impeccably preserved in its original state – Rothenburg. The medieval streets, the fortified walls, the houses and shops with their intricate exteriors and tantalising offers presented us with yet another experience that is never to be forgotten.
Our final stop, before flying back to South Africa, was, again, Frankfurt, where the boys got some time to go exploring and shopping. All in all, the tour allowed the boys to experience European history, World War history, a diverse exposure to European culture, museums and architecture ranging from Classical to Gothic, to neo-Gothic and so much more! It was the experience of a lifetime, where the boys came back with a knowledge and exposure to a life and opportunities that changed them for the better.