Travel
3 min

Poland and Prague, an all-gay Jewish history tour

Prague Pride is the celebratory finale for a ‘sometimes sombre’ cultural tour

Above the archway at Theresienstadt concentration camp is the phrase “Arbeit macht frei” — Work makes (you) free. Credit: Smerus

This summer, there is an incredible opportunity to experience the sites and sights of Poland and the Czech Republic with an all-gay, all-Jewish tour group. From Aug 8–16, Hebro Travel’s nine-day Poland and Prague Pride trip runs the full emotional gamut as it traverses the two countries’ complex cultural histories.

This is the first organized tour of its kind, exploring gay Jewish history alongside a cultural tour to Poland and Prague. Coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Hebro’s tour will have participants explore, commemorate and celebrate the last 100 years of Jewish experience in these two adjacent countries. The tour takes travellers from sombre experiences, such as a Holocaust survivor-led tour of the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Terezin, to the trip’s celebratory finale at Prague Pride parade — a juxtaposition that truly emphasizes how far things have come since the dark days of Poland and the Czech Republic’s past.

The first four days are spent in Poland, once the Jewish centre of Europe and home to the largest Jewish population in the world. While the Holocaust is rightly an important component, this vacation also looks beyond the city of Kraków before World War II, particularly the Kazimierz Jewish quarter — now a hip neighbourhood of cafes, museums and Jewish sites like synagogues and cemeteries — and celebrates today’s resurgence of Jewish life in the city of 750,000. Kraków’s vibrant, annual Jewish Cultural Festival has now been held in the city for over a quarter of a century.

Warsaw’s Genscher Jewish cemetery and Ghetto Heroes Monument feature on the itinerary when the group reaches the dynamic Polish capital. Warsaw’s increasingly cutting edge and prominent gay nightlife has people talking of it as Europe’s next big gay destination. After a day exploring the city’s Old Town — with its Royal Castle, cathedral and Old Market Square — and New Town, the birthplace of Marie Curie, there’s a night to discover why people think Warsaw will be the next place to party.

After a short flight to Prague, there is plenty of time to walk the narrow streets of Prague’s stunning Old Town, Prague Castle District, Kampa Island and the Jewish Quarter, with its five historic synagogues and the memorial to Czech victims of the Holocaust — and to step back in time to enjoy Prague’s legendary, old coffeehouses and cafe culture before a Shabbat dinner at the King Solomon Kosher restaurant.

This trip also features another first — this will be the first time a gay Jewish group tour takes place in the Auschwitz-Birkenau and Theresienstadt concentration camps. There will be a private memorial service for the thousands of LGBT people who died in the camps. Plus, participants will retrace some of the Schindler’s list route.

The trip ends on an upbeat, celebratory note at Prague’s exuberant Pride parade, the fifth such event to happen in the Czech capital.

Hebro Travel launched in 2014 and offers vacations for “gay Jews and those who love us.” The creation of Jayson Littman, a New York nightlife impresario (Sederlicious, Shvitz Fort Lauderdale, Hebro Nightlife, myhebro.com), Hebro’s overseas trips  aim to share fun and adventurous experiences with other Jewish travelers outside of more traditional settings. Last summer saw the company take 25 participants to Israel for Tel Aviv Pride, and a second group is set to return in 2015.

“I feel extremely excited to offer the Jewish gay community a trip that combines the history of its past with the promise for its future,” Littman says. “I look forward to continuing the tradition of offering dynamic vacations that weave together culture, community and pride into the ultimate getaways.”

For the most up-to-date travel information on gay Prague, see our City GuideListings GuideEvents Guide and Activities Guide.

For more on where to play, dance and cruise in the City of Spires, read Prague After Dark. More a medieval Disneyland than a city, discover Prague’s Quirky Side

For the most up-to-date travel information on gay Warsaw, see our City GuideListings GuideEvents Guide and Activities Guide