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Poland-Germany Itinerary

I have done a lot of research on this already, wondering about your thoughts on this itinerary (for travel in April or May 2018):

Krakow (4 nights)
Wroclaw (2)
Goerlitz (2)
Dresden (2)
Berlin (4)

What I like about this plan: easy connections by train, somewhat off the beaten path (compared to London/Paris/Rome), not the same places my wife and I have already been on over a dozen Europe trips. Countries/areas formerly behind the iron curtain hold a certain fascination. Good value traveling in this area, from what I can tell. The pace of this itinerary is very manageable. I have my heart set on Goerlitz and visiting Saxon Switzerland as a day trip out of Dresden. Wife and I like museums quite a lot and Berlin is a great museum city.

Unsure of: skewed toward big cities. A lot of these places are totally rebuilt after WWII. It might be superficial, but part of the reason we travel is seeing really old stuff (architecture, among other things). This plan excludes Gdansk, not sure about that. It's another rebuilt city, but looks great and Rick says it's his #2 in Poland after Krakow. Adding that city would rush the itinerary quite a bit. This itinerary may not have as much sizzle or pizzazz as others we have done.

We like history, art, architecture, and just being in places different than back home. Discovering different sensibilities about the way things would be presented in the U.S, from store windows to anything you might encounter out and about on the streets of a foreign city. Not into transcendent dining experiences, but like healthy-ish eating. We did fine with food in Hungary, Czech Republic, and previously in Germany so we are not too picky.

I thought about different places on the front end, instead of Germany on the back end--Helsinki/Tallinn, even St. Petersburg. But NE Germany seems to fit better with this itinerary, and Russia is an advanced topic. We're not too keen on flights within Europe during an itinerary.

The only place either one of us has visited before was Berlin--I was there on business for five nights in the late 2000s and had a day and a half free time. This was in the late fall, so the city was cold and rather bleak. It was moderately appealing even then, I think it would be much better in May. We are a 50s/early 60s couple and have seen most of the "wow" sights in Europe, in some cases multiple times. Now we tend to optimize around a measured pace and just enjoying being there, vs. knocking ourselves out to see the iconic sights. (Don't get me wrong though, I will return to Rome, Paris, etc.)

So, what do you think of this itinerary?

Posted by
4700 posts

I've been to all of these places. The only place I might suggest you add a night would be Dresden. I didn't in fact care for it all that much...but I'm also not a big museum person, and if you are, you shouldn't cut corners here, because there are some amazing museums in Dresden, and you might wish not to rush through them. Two nights probably means one full day. You'd be trying to see Saxon Switzerland plus all the museums in that time? If you don't do three nights, at least plan early arrival from Görlitz and/or late departure to Berlin - and if you have been to Berlin before, maybe that's the one where you leave late for Berlin, if need be, to give yourself the long last day in Dresden.

Görlitz is lovely and untoursity; I think Rick cut it out of his Germany book in recent additions for some reason a few editions ago (book too long?). It's fun to walk across the bridge to Poland - but of course, you will just have come from there anyway. I visited Görlitz on a different trip two years after visiting Poland proper, so it was fun to eat at a Polish restaurant right across the river and pay in Zloty. It's amazing how different the two sides of Görlitz (Polish and German side) are - the German side is prosperous, the Polish side pretty run down. Your stop here seems pretty long compared to everywhere else. As lovely as Görlitz is, it's small and there isn't really a lot to see. Your time here will probably just be lingering and enjoying the small town vs. the faster pace of sightseeing in the bigger towns - and if that's what you want, that's perfectly fine.

I assume the Racławice Panorama is high on your list of things to see in Wrocław - if not, it should be.

I guess I would put Gdansk #2 too in Poland after Krakow. (I have not been to Warsaw.) If you could add a few extra days, you could start there perhaps then fly to Krakow and continue - I think there are cheap flights between major cities within Poland. But if you can't fit it in, you can't fit it in. Can't see everything. I really loved Wroclaw too, though, and I see it is more practical by train in your itinerary, but it really lacks the historical significance of Gdansk.

Posted by
4671 posts

Agree about not spending enough time in Dresden and doing Goerlitz as a day trip. In one day in Saxon Switzerland, you'll basically just have enough time to visit the Bastei and maybe one or two other places close to public transport.

Posted by
3159 posts

Sorry to throw a monkey wrench into this - Given your interest in Art and architecture , I think you are cutting this way too close . I spent just under two weeks in Berlin , a week in Dresden , and as I am also an architecture buff , four days in Gorlitz , this past Autumn . The two large museum complexes in Dresden ( Zwinger and Residenz Schloss ) have so much to offer , one full day ( two nights ) won't even come close . I would cut the six nights in Poland and divide them between Berlin and Dresden . You could do Gorlitz as a day trip from Dresden but start early , and go when the forecast is agreeable . There is a wide variety of architecture in Gorlitz , you don't want to rush it .

Posted by
6774 posts

I would take a day from Krakow and give it to Berlin. The two cities are not comparable in terms of size and sites to see, so allowing the same time to them seems a bit off to me. Four nights in Krakow is overly generous (unless you have all-day side trips planned or you really want too take it slow), but 4 in Berlin is not enough. If not Berlin, I would add an extra day to Wroclaw. Just so you know, Poland is (generally) much nicer in May and could be quite cold in April. What are you planning on doing in Krakow for 5 days?

Bottom line: both Poland and Germany are huge countries so lumping them together in one trip will present trade-offs no matter what. Folks who are interested in Germany will pull you toward Germany and those interested in Poland will pull toward Poland. There's no way around it. I think your trip is logistically sensible, but you could also decide just to focus on one country at a time. I wouldn't add any more cities to your trip, it's already pretty tight "as is". Gdansk is great, but it's out of the way and don't really go with the flow of your itinerary.

Check out In Your Pocket Guides for (most of) these cities. They're available online for free, just have to Google them.

Posted by
1878 posts

Thanks for your feedback. I am surprised at the reservations about this itinerary though, I thought it was pretty solid. I understand that we could spend a much longer time in many of these places, we like museums but don't have to see every one. Four nights in Krakow--I anticipate a tour to Auschwitz, and the first jet lagged day is a virtual throwaway. Plus, I think we are less likely to every return there (sadly). And the pictures of Krakow I see online just speak to me, like a place I'd want to linger a bit. We could probably add one more night in Dresden and stretch it to 15 days on the ground. Rick seems to think day trip to Saxon Switzerland on public transit is worthwhile. Goerlitz is the Rick Steves-ian vacation from our vacation (even though it's omitted from his recent Germany books) since it's the only smaller city and the rest are big cities. Also all of these are maximum 2.5 hours or so apart, even though the countries are big. I think it's a good call to leave Gdansk off for expediency though, too far away from the main corridor of our travel. Forgot to mention, we have been to Germany two other times, more in the southern part though.

Posted by
868 posts

In general that's pretty good itinerary. If you really like museum you shouldn't underestimate Dresden however, since the Green Vault(s), the Armory with the Turkish Chamber, the Porcelain Collection, and the Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments are quite unique in Europe. And the Hygiene Museum is strange, but interesting.
I like the idea of spending a night or two in Görlitz. I highly recommend Frenzelhof, a hotel with just six rooms or so in a Late Gothic merchants home, which includes a 15th century chapel... just aks the owner for a tour.
In Görlitz you can easily spend a full day, especially in you are interested in architecture. If you decide to see Wroclaw too I highly recommend to visit the Silesian museum in Görlitz afterwards, since Wroclaw is quite a strange city. Basically German since the Middle Ages, but turned into a Polish city by the commies after 1945. The museum explains it quite well.
Wroclaw is partly reconstructed. There are some very beautiful parts, like the main square, and some pretty ugly areas with Commie buildings. But in general the Poles did a very good job in this respect, since it was a huge propaganda project to polonize these cities... it's the same with Gdansk.
If you are really interested in Wroclaw and want to understand how a once German city can now feel completely Polish I highly recommend "Uprooted: How Breslau Became Wroclaw during the Century of Expulsions" by Gregor Thum.

Posted by
3159 posts

VS , I didn't think there was anything wrong with your plans , My remarks were solely reflections of my personal thoughts . I also confess that I have not been to Krakow and Wroclaw , and they do look appealing . I have just ordered a copy of the book that Martin recommended , it piqued my interest . I also tend to take things at a more relaxed pace , and being retired ,that also informs my travel choices . Before you get to Gorlitz , be sure to watch Wes Anderson's brilliant 2014 film " The Grand Budapest Hotel " While on the surface , it appears a madcap comedy , there is great depth to it , and repeated viewings will expose the inner meanings . It was shot almost entirely in Gorlitz ( some filming in Dresden , and Karlovy Vary ) and seeing the city " live " is a real treat .

Posted by
203 posts

Your trip sounds fantastic! I've been to all of those places except Wroclaw. My husband and I are in our mid 60's, and in 2013 we spent two nights in Saxon Switzerland in Schmilka at the Biohotel Helvitia, which specializes in healthy eating. We traveled to there by a steamer from Dresden and returned by train. We spent one day hiking on the Malerweg (artist's way). My inspiration was the German Romantic painter Casper David Friedrich. That was one of the best days of my life. I would not say that I am athletic or in great shape. The Dresden war museum is one of the best museums that I've been to. In 2005 we were in Goerlitz, which we also found very interesting. At that time part of the town was run down and part was rebuilt. It's a good place to buy Polish pottery. In 2006 we visited Krakow and spent one day at Auschwitz. We went to a concert at the Jagiellonian University, Copernicus' alma mater. In Poland you might have to relax your standards on healthy eating. I remember bacon grease sandwiches. I have traveled to Berlin in 1972, 1992, 1994, 2005, and 2013. It is a totally different city every time I go. Enjoy!

Posted by
933 posts

Keep the 4 nights in Krakow!! It is a wonderful city that I have been to twice and would like to go to again. There is a lot to do in and around and you will need the time. Take a walking tour, the Plonty, the Castle and Cathedral, St. Mary's on the square, the square, the Underground Museum, nighttime on the square, the museum on JP2, Kazimierz, the Schindler factory museum, the nearby Salt Mine, and Auschwitz to name a few.

Posted by
1 posts

We will also be spending 4 nights in Krakow in August but having difficulty deciding on hotel. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Posted by
692 posts

VS, if you like Polish pottery you can see gobs of it in Boleslawiec, a short, easy day trip from Görlitz. Have a great trip.

Posted by
868 posts

This "Polish pottery" is actually just good marketing. Pottery like this is a traditional product of Lusatia, roughly the area between Dresden and Boleslawiec, where "Polish pottery" comes from. The city became Polish in 1945, "Polish pottery" started in the 1970s. In the rest of Lusatia the tradition is 300 years older.
Görlitz is located in this region, and there even is a big pottery market each year in July.

Posted by
19492 posts

Google tells me this year's pottery market is on July 21 and 22.

I went to such a market in Sibiu, Romania, in 2015. It was probably smaller than the market in Görlitz, but I enjoyed it a lot. It was wonderful to see local folks buying handmade functional pottery for everyday use.