Baltics: Jewish Heritage & Shtetl History
This trailblazing tour of two Baltic states is very timely for anyone interested in Jewish history — 2020 will mark 300 years since the birth of Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, an outstanding Lithuanian Rabbi, and the Litvak Misnagdim religious leader known as the Vilna Gaon. The Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament) has designated 2020 as the Year of the Vilna Gaon and the History of the Jews of Lithuania. Lithuania is a tiny country with a big heart. Free from Soviet occupation since 1990, it’s the southernmost of Europe’s Baltic states bordering Poland, Latvia and Belarus. Its capital, Vilnius, near Belarus’ border, is known for its medieval Old Town. It also has Gothic, Renaissance and baroque architecture, and 18th-century cathedral built on a pagan temple site. Hilltop Gediminas’ Tower, a symbol of the city and the nation, offers sweeping views. The amazing architecture that defines the Baltics is complimented by the hard-working and friendly locals who welcome their new way of Western living — as well as you!
You’ll also explore Latvia, a tiny country with a big heart that’s been free from Soviet occupation since 1989. Its ridiculously photogenic capital, Riga, has a reputation in Europe as being the perfect inexpensive getaway to let your hair down. Allow this International Experiences tour help you celebrate Jewish heritage in an unprecedented way.
- Tour of the historical center of Vilnius (Vilna) starting from Gediminas Castle
- Visit the old Jewish quarter’s narrow streets and the courtyards of the middle-age ghetto
- Explore a Jewish cemetery and the grave of the Vilna Gaon
- Ziezmariai, a little shtetl that restored its only wooden synagogue
- Kovna Choral Synagogue, the Children’s Memorial courtyard, and the Golda Mayer school
- Preparations for Shabbat, Shabbat services and Shabbat evening meal
- Riga’s Panevezys (Ponevezh) where you’ll see the building that housed the famous yeshiva
- Riga’s former Jewish quarter, local synagogue, and Jewish Museum
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- Arrival in Vilnius Airport where you'll be met and transported to your hotel for a good night's sleep!
- Jews have been living in Lithuania since the fourteenth century and have left a great cultural heritage.
- This morning you'll tour of the historical center of Vilnius (Vilna) starting from Gediminas Castle and then proceeding to Cathedral Square, President's Palace, and Vilnius University. Later, you'll visit the old Jewish quarter's narrow streets and the courtyards of the middle-age ghetto, Great Vilna Synagogue, and shulhoyf. Vilna Gaon, the great Jewish scholar who was born 1720 in Belarus, spent an important part of his life in Vilnius. This city is a center of the struggle between Mitnagdim and Hasidim. You'll also behold the street of famous Jewish sculptor Mordekhai Antokolski and the world-renowned Strashun library that had more than 6000 volumes at the end of the 19th century. Next, the territory of the Large Ghetto, the courtyard of the Judenrat, the fight of the Ghetto prisoners against the Nazis and finally, a visit to the Jewish State Museum.
- In the afternoon we'll travel by bus and visit a Jewish cemetery and the grave of the Vilna Gaon. You'll also experience the "Cheap Houses," big dwelling houses built by baron Hirsch for poor Jews after the great flood, and the world-famous printing-house "Widow and Brothers Romm." Lucky you!
VILNIUS / KAUNAS / VILNIUS
- Today starts with a tour of Kaunas (Kovna), the interim capital of pre-war Lithuania. En route you'll visit Ziezmariai, a little shtetl that restored its only wooden synagogue, and the charming old city of Kaunas. Also: L. Zamenhof and A. Mapu streets, Slobodka, a Jewish suburb of Kaunas and the ghetto during WWII, and the Old Jewish cemetery. We'll see the building of the famous Slobodka Yeshiva founded by Rabbi Nathan Zvi Finkel and discuss the Musar movement and the influence of R’ Israel Salanter on Slobodka Yeshiva. Also, we'll talk about the personality of Rabbi Isaac Elhanan Spector, after whom was named RIETS, which is part of Yeshiva University in New York. Later, we'll visit Kovna Choral Synagogue, the Children’s Memorial courtyard, the Golda Mayer school, and the Chiune Sugihara house/museum -- a Japanese consul in Kaunas in 1940 who issued several thousand lifesaving visas for the Jewish refugees from Poland.
VILNIUS / TRAKAI / PONAR / VILNIUS
- Morning visit to the site where the Jews of Vilnius were murdered en masse in the Ponary Forest.
- We'll then continue to Trakai, the ancient capital of Lithuania‘s princes which is located among beautiful lakes. We'll visit the Trakai museum and then return back to Vilnius.
VILNIUS / PANEVEZYS / SEDUVA / SAILULIAI / JONISKIS / RIGA
- This morning, we'll set out toward Riga, the capital of Latvia, and travel north to Panevezys (Ponevezh) where we'll see the building that housed the famous yeshiva. Then we'll visit to the new Shtetl Museum in Seduva and continue to the town of Siauliai (Shavli) to see how the Jews lived, especially the renowned Frankel family. We'll also visit the Hill of Crosses, an unusual pilgrimage site.
- Continue to Riga.
- We'll start today's tour with a panoramic view of Riga and continue to the old city entering via the Swedish Gate. Next up, the Dome, Cat House, Blackhead's House, Guild House and Matzendorf House. Wow. This Afternoon will be devoted to Jewish Riga by visiting the former Jewish quarter, the local synagogue, and the Jewish Museum in the communal center that tells the history of the Jews of Latvia -- and, the monument to the Central Synagogue that was burnt down by the Nazis on July 4, 1941. You'll finish your tour by visiting the memorial site at Bikernieki Forest. What a day!
DEPARTURE FROM BALTICS
- Breakfast at the hotel.
- Transfer to the airport in Riga for your onward flight. International Experiences was honored to host you.
DatesUnlike most tour operators, you are not required to choose a fixed date or travel with a group. You can choose to begin your private tour on any date. These are EVERYDAY DEPARTURES.
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|Low Season (Jan, Feb, Mar, Jun, Nov, Dec)||
- Prices are per person based on double occupancy.
- Single supplement price for single room as part of a group of 2 or more.
- One person traveling alone will incur a higher price due to private tour.
- All prices and fares are quoted in U.S. dollars and subject to change.
- Please note: Prices for 5 & more travelers available upon request.