Eastern Europe History Tour

October 16, 2016 | Girls’ College

This year’s History tour to Eastern Europe and Russia was a great success, ably assisted by Roman Pietrasik from Vervic Travel. 31 excited Saints girls, along with the History department, set off from OR Tambo airport at the beginning of the August holidays to begin two weeks of learning, fun, and adventure. Our first city was beautiful Prague, where, after a delightful boat trip on the Vltava River, we marvelled at the Medieval history and art, and learned about Jewish life in Europe.

Prague

We also sampled the local delicacies, including ice-cream served in cones made of doughnut! From Prague we headed into Poland and paid our respects at Auschwitz. Although harrowing, the experience brought the reality of the Holocaust home for everyone. We were then able to explore the city of Krakow before moving on to Berlin. A highlight of Krakow was the ability to tour Wawel Castle and see the famous Da Vinci painting, Lady with an Ermine. In Berlin we toured the city on bicycles, exploring both Cold War and Second World War History.

Bicycle tour outside the Reichstag building in Berlin

The girls were also delighted to go on a tour of Berlin’s world-famous street art, and learn to do graffiti of their own.

Street Art tour and workshop in Berlin

A highlight of our stay in Berlin was a chance to go to the Pergamon Museum, the premier antiquities collection in the world. We also visited the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag building, bunkers of World War Two and the remains of the Berlin Wall. Berlin enchanted us all – a city steeped in History and always exciting to explore.

East and West - the path of the Berlin Wall

Our next stop was Moscow and immersion into the history of the Cold War as well as imperial Russia. We toured the Kremlin and Red Square, getting to see the iconic St Basil’s Cathedral with its multi-coloured onion domes as well as the mausoleum of Vladimir Lenin. A highlight of Moscow was the Kremlin Armoury, which houses the jewellery, clothing and other collections of the Russian monarchs. We also toured some of the major subway stations – the Moscow subway being the most beautiful and ornate in the world.

Soviet Architecture in Moscow

An overnight train took us to magical St Petersburg where we had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see some of the world’s most famous artworks at the Hermitage Museum, the old Winter Palace of the Russian monarchy. We were also lucky enough to see an outstanding performance of the classic ballet Swan Lake. St Petersburg astounded us all with its beauty, history, and culture, especially at the exquisite Peterhof Palace with its beautiful gardens.

Outside the Winter Palace in St Petersburg, site of the 1905 uprising

After two busy, fulfilling, and very historical weeks, we headed back to South Africa. The participants all had the time of their lives, and agreed that this tour was really a once in a lifetime opportunity. The strength of this tour was in the fact that it covers so much of the History syllabus and brings the past to life for the participants. For this reason, we are hoping to take this tour again in 2018.

Soviet Tank in Nowa Huta

Written by: Leanne Horwitz