Highlights of Bohemia. 15 days, six spectacular countries (Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic), seven towns and seven cities (Frankfurt, Berlin, Poznan, Warsaw, Auschwitz, Czestochowska, Kraków, Banska Bystrica, Budapest, Gyor, Vienna, Brno, Prague, Rothenburg, Frankfurt). A life-changing experience for 48 boys and girls.
It filled one with a sense of awe to experience thousands of years of history in these countries that are the interface between East and West. They have been the scene of some of humanity’s most violent and appalling atrocities, whether they were invasions by the Romans, Huns, Ottoman Empire, 30 year war, Mongols, the World Wars or the Cold War. Yet, each of these countries still has an extraordinary sense of national pride and identity. After each revolution, partition by the West or invasion by the East, they rebuild their towns and their economies and move forward. And they are each quite beautiful and unique.
Each town has, at its centre, a square flanked by the Town Hall, a magnificent church and restaurants. They all have statues of the Madonna in remembrance of the Black Plague, and a statue of tribute to some remarkable person who unified their town or country – Charles IV in Prague, Maria-Theresa Habsburg in Vienna, King Saint Stephen in Budapest, King Casimir the Great in Kraków.
The most moving experience was certainly the visit to Auschwitz and Birkensau. The scale, efficiency and inhumanity of this genocide was simply beyond human comprehension. It struck home that the Nuremburg trials were barely over when white South Africans voted in a government who then proceeded to implement similar policies of racial superiority and forced removals.
The beautiful night time tours in the long, summer evenings, the unique food, the informative guided tours of the cities, the churches and monuments, bus rides through the countryside, and the experience of different cultures and lifestyles all contributed to a most worthwhile and enjoyable tour. And we thank Mrs Roodt and Mrs Stretton for setting up the whole tour and making it such a wonderful experience.