25th June – 2nd July 2015, led by Mgr. Paul Fisher
On Thursday 25th June we left our homes at 4am to arrive at Leeds Bradford for our flight with Ryanair to Krakow. We were met by Krystyna Witek who was to be our local guide for the week. We were taken to our hotel, which was about 15 minutes from the main square in Krakow. Our first Mass was at 5.30pm, at St. Nicholas’ Church, a short walk away from the hotel. Dinner was back at the hotel.
Friday 26th June
Our guide met us for a tour of Krakow exploring Krakow’s Market Square and to hear the silver trumpet of the bugler from St. Mary’s Tower. The surroundings of the square have remained unchanged for almost 700 years and contain buildings of historic value such as the Town Hall Tower, the Cloth Hall and the Burgher’s houses. We toured the Cathedral where you may pray before the extraordinary Wit Stwosz Altar.
In the afternoon we visited Wieliczka Salt Mine. This unique attraction was once described as being as remarkable as the Pyramids and more useful. This historic cultural site, which is included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, began 65 metres under the earth and lead through rooms, corridors, and chambers to a depth of 135 metres. During this fascinating tour we saw underground lakes that change into variety of colours, wonderful chapels, including the famous chapel of St. Kinga, original tools and equipment. Well-preserved traces of the past allowed you to imagine the working conditions of the people who worked in the mine and their struggle to overcome the elements.
To get to see these sights we had to climb down over 800 steps. Thankfully there was a lift to use half-way down.
Our Mass today was at 7.00pm at St. Thomas’s Church, back in Krakow.
Saturday 27th June
We met our guide at 9.30am for the long journey to Czestochowa. Upon our arrival at Jasna Gora Monastery we were met by Fr. Simon, an English-speaking priest in Czestochowa; a place of pilgrimage for thousands every year, this is the most important Marian shrine in Poland. The focal point is the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin with its miraculous icon – the Black Madonna. St. Pope John Paul II was known to make frequent visits to the monastery throughout his life. The museum with its Treasury and the Arsenal, is well worth a visit. Our Mass today was in the Rosary Chapel here at the shrine.
Sunday 28th June
Today we departed for Lagiewniki, the capital of the Divine Mercy. It was here that the message of the Divine Mercy originated, which Christ Himself wished to pass on to our generation through the mediation of St. Faustina. Our Mass was in the old church where the relics of St. Faustina were laid at the side chapel. After Mass and lunch we visited the newly constructed Shrine of Divinity, dedicated by St. Pope John Paul II on his last visit to Poland in 2002. Here we were met by a Nun from the convent who explained the meaning of the Divine Mercy. Each of us was given a phrase from St. Faustina’s diary to take away and ponder on.
After this visit we departed for Auschwitz-Birkenau – Museum of Martyrdom
. We were again met by a local guide who took us through the many cabins and we witnessed here one of the most memorable lessons of modern European history. The visit to the flower strewn Death Wall, the national memorials, the rail line, ramp and remains of the hundreds of barracks, a moving testimony to the number who lost lives through Nazi activities across occupied Europe.
We also saw the cells for certain prisoners as well as the cell where Maximilian Kolbe stayed until his death. He was later canonized as saint by Pope John Paul II.
Monday 29th June
Today we visited Wadowice, the family home of Karol Wojtyta. ‘...In this city, in Wadowice everything began.’ Pope John Paul II wrote ‘Both life began and my education began and my priesthood began ...’ We saw the Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the market square as well as the old building of the secondary school which Karol attended as a teenager. We visited Pope John Paul II’s family home, nowadays a wonderful museum.
This started at the time of his birth through to his Sainthood with documents and photos of his life and work as a priest in Poland up till the time when he was elected Bishop of Rome and left the country for good.
We continued to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska where we had our Mass today.
Dinner and overnight back in Krakow.
Tuesday 30th June
The weather changed today to sunshine rather than overcast and showers we had seen (never getting wet though). We departed for Zakopane, a town lying in the Tatra National Park in the heart of the magnificent Tatra Mountains. Karol Wojtyta’s love of the Tatras and Podhale region was fostered in his youth when he used to trek through the mountains with his father and brother. The Pope hiked along all the tourist trails and his favourite skiing areas were Dolina Chochotowska Valley, Kondratowa and Gasienicowa mountain pastures and Polana Rusinowa clearing. It was easy to see why the Pope enjoyed visiting this area. It was beautiful. We had our Mass in Krzeptowki Church in Zakopane. After lunch in a family restaurant we boarded a cable car to the top of a mountain to see the view over the valley. Back down and into the market place with its many treasures to buy for family and friends back home.
Wednesday 1st July
Today was our one and only free day in Krakow and time to take to the shops, museums or whatever you fancied. After a late breakfast, we all went together into the square. It was decided to meet up for a tour of the area on the little buggies. You could visit one of 3 sites or all the sites. We opted for all sites. This proved to be very interesting. Too far to walk for some so going this way meant we saw a lot more interesting sites of Krakow. After lunch some chose to return to the hotel but some stayed for more shopping and a lazy afternoon drink.
This was our last evening so we went to St. Thomas’ for our final Mass. During all the Masses this week everyone took a part either reading, Eucharistic Minister, serving or choosing the hymns. Fr. Paul asked if for the last Mass everyone could be involved. We asked if our guide Krystyne would like to join us and she accepted.
Following Mass we went to a local restaurant for our final dinner together, then for a walk in the square and then back to the hotel for a last drink and pack for our early start on Thursday.
Thursday 2nd July
We left our hotel at 7.30am for our return flight back to Leeds Bradford Airport.
Thanks to Fr. Paul for his spiritual leadership and thanks to all the pilgrims for making this a wonderful trip.