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1st time to Europe and need advice

I teach a Holocaust unit every year and i finally have the opportunity to visit the places I teach. We are flying into Amsterdam for the Anne Frank House and ending our trip in Aushwitz. My husband, 17 year old daughter, and 14 year old son are going as well so I want this to be a combo trip of history and fun. I know visiting the concentration camps is going to be beyond heavy. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. We are going April 13-24th. I heard it will be cold then.

Posted by
116 posts

Hi Jannie - I toured Aushwitz as part of a Rick Steves tour back in 2011. It does weigh extremely heavy on the heart. After the tour, we stayed in Krakow which is really a fascinating city. Schindler's Factory is there and is a fantastic museum - really helps you understand what it was like at that time. Very much worth the time to see and do. I also enjoyed the salt mine tour. I think the plaza in Krakow's city center is a nice place to "unwind" - but I was there late summer so was able to enjoy being outside and walking around, plus walking along the river and the castle. It took me a couple days to have the heaviness lift some. How exciting it is to explore those areas we grew up hearing about and studying. Have a wonderful journey.

Posted by
6391 posts

Do you mean, you leave on April 13 and you return home (presumably somewhere in North America) on April 24? If so, you have just about 9 full, usable days in Europe - that's very short. Be careful not to try and squeeze in too many places (remember, every time you change locations, you consume most of a day, so minimize those).

Honestly, my first advice would be to try and make your trip longer if you can (even if that costs you a bit to change flights) - for your first trip to Europe especially, it's going to be heart-breaking to bypass so much. you mean April of this year (2017) or next year (2018)? If it's this year...yikes, you are very, very late to do any planning. If it's next year, then perfect - extend your trip a bit and you have plenty of time to plan. If it's this year - like less than 2 months from now - yowza, you need to really get cracking with your planning!!

Posted by
4073 posts

I highly recommend that you visit the Dutch Resistance Museum while you are in Amsterdam. I've seen nothing like it anywhere else. Be sure to see the film first.

You might also want to do the Anne Frank Walk between the Anne Frank House and the museum. Besides this one, there's also a link on the museum's page.

Posted by
1441 posts

Ben de Jong, a retired history professor, leads an Amsterdam walking tour focuses on the Jewish experience during the war. Very educational. I highly recommend it.

Posted by
3857 posts

Jannie how is your family getting from Amsterdam to Krakow, plane, train or automobile? Your answer might influence some of my ideas for you. Second question for you, is this your spring break and you have 10 nights to sleep in Europe? I see that you have already stretched a week into 10 nights, I believe.

Posted by
4 posts

We are going over Spring Break. We are not sure yet how we are getting to Aushwitz from Amsterdam yet. I was hoping to get some ideas from your suggestions. Most likely by train and making stops along the way is what we are thinking of doing but we've never been toEurope before so we have no set plans yet other than flying into Amsterdam and flying out somewhere near Aushwitz. Our travel against wanted us to come up with a more definitive plan of sites we wanted to see.

Posted by
32101 posts


As this is your first trip to Europe, I would highly recommend that you read Europe Through The Back Door prior to departure as that has a lot of good information on how to travel well in Europe, and the differences you'll encounter there. There are a lot of small details that you'll need to get up to speed on - obtaining cash, travelling with technology, plug adaptors, using the trains, etc. Depending on which cell network you're with, your kids may have to get used to "limited access" on their smartphones and social media. I would also suggest having a look at the RS Guidebooks for the places you'll be visiting as they provide lots of information on hotels, transportation and sightseeing.

The easiest and quickest way to get from Amsterdam to Krakow will be via one of the regional airlines. I haven't checked routes and costs, but KLM might be one option.

It would help to have a more detailed view of your entire Itinerary, as that would make it easier to provide more specific suggestions. Where are you flying from? You may have to contend with some "jet lag adjustment".

Visiting the camps is indeed "heavy". I'm an avid historian (especially WW-II) and visiting sights like that is always a very sombre experience for me. As I suggested to someone else in a recent thread, you might want to establish a pre-arranged signal with your children. If they find the material they're seeing too upsetting, they can give the signal and at that point conclude their visit.

Posted by
3857 posts

How many nights are you planning to stay in or near Amsterdam? You arrive on the first day of the big tulip festival in nearby Keukenhof. Will you be visiting the Corrie ten Boom house in Haarlem? Depending on how many nights you have booked in (or near) Amsterdam, I'd take a direct flight to Krakow. KLM has one late night, 2h flight, direct flight per day for about $180 per person. You could easily find a lot to interest you in Krakow for the remainder of your time.

If you want to make this a whirlwind trip (not my usual style of travel) you could spend only 3-4 nights in Amsterdam, travel all day by train to Berlin for 3-4 nights (great museums and history there) then travel on to Krakow via Warsaw by train for 3 nights.

Personally I'd probably only visit the 2 cities with a flight in between.

EDIT: I've been to several concentration camps and holocaust memorial sites in Europe and none prepared me for the powerful emotional response I had in both Auschwitz and especially Birkenau. I'm sure you'll bring back many ways to share your lessons with your students.

Posted by
308 posts

I visited Auschwitz in 2006 with my sister. We took a one-day bus tour from Krakow and that worked out quite nicely. We were the only Americans on a bus full of mostly Brits. We were guided as a group through Auschwitz and had free time to walk around Birkenau.

Definitely visit the nearby salt mine to add some fun into the trip. The Auschwitz day will be really overwhelming.

Schindler's factory wasn't yet open when I was in Krakow but we had a terrific time there. I believe our Rick Steves book had a self-guided walking tour that was really fun. We had a relaxing two hours drinking coffee and eating cake at a cafe in the old Jewish Quarter. We ate outside every night in the main square. And our money went really far at dinner. We basically ate and drank anything we wanted!

I can't say enough about how enjoyable Krakow is. It has castles, churches, Jewish heritage sites, and a lot of history.

Posted by
1305 posts

You would probably appreciate historic sites in Berlin and it's on the way from Amsterdam to the Krakow area (unless you're flying). Prague is beautiful, historic and fun and also convenient to both Berlin and Poland. If you have 10 nights, you should probably stay in Amsterdam, Berlin and Krakow and do a day trip from the place where you spend 4 nights. If you have 11 nights you may be able to squeeze in a place like Prague. I don't think Aushwitz should be the place you visit on your last day - do something uplifting that day before you go home.