On the journeys organized by río Wang almost every time there is someone who admits that he or she never intended to take part in package tours, but could not resist the offer of the blog. Which we consider a really great appreciation.
But, in fact, the journeys organized by río Wang are not really package tours, but rather collective expeditions, explorations of unknown regions which do not figure in the tourist office advertisements, or even if occasionally they do, they do not submerge so deeply in the history and everyday life of the site, the tissue of little streets, interior courtyards, hidden staircases, cafés and pubs only frequented by locals, the memories linked to the places.
We invite our readers to such collective explorations on this site which, constantly updated, includes the journeys proposed by us – or sometimes by a reader –, first always with only a comprehensive program and approximate costs, but if enough people gather for a travel, then we also add a detailed program and accurate financial plan. You can apply for a journey at email@example.com, where you can also subscribe to our mailing list to get information about new developments.
And after the current plans we will also soon include the list of the places where we have been or intend to go together, collecting under them the constantly enriched links of our posts on them. So look back very soon.
2015• We begin the new year with a weekend in Prague between 2 and 4 January (Friday–Sunday). In this first occasion of our Prague urban exploration series we walk through the historical center, house to house: the Old Town, with a special focus on the former Jewish quarter, the Lesser Side, the streets under the Castle, the little-known world of Pohořelec and Nový Svět. Our focus is on the structure and historical changes of the city quarters, the medieval “Royal Road” from the Powder Tower to the Hradčany, the stories of the medieval and Renaissance houses, the large-scale city planning in the late 19th and early 20th and its results, and the sites of the commercial, literary and social life around the turn of the century, with special respect to the disappeared German and Jewish inhabitants. In the former Jewish district – the current palace quarter around Parížská and Široká streets – we reconstruct the disappeared, centuries-long structure, history and life of the neighborhood with old maps, photos and reports. Of course, wherever our path leads us, we will not keep silent on the themes planned for our later walks: the buildings of early 20th-century architecture, the sites of Nazi and Soviet occupation, or of late 20th-century and contemporary literary and cultural life. Details and registration: The Secrets of Prague és itt: New Year in Prague.
• Our first longer tour leads to Rome, in two weeks following each other, between 25 February and 1 March, and 4 and 8 March, respectively, so that we could roam the city with two smaller groups, instead of one big. During the five days we will see in the city as much as we can, of course giving its due to the cafés, the trattorie, sitting on church steps during siesta time, without which one surely cannot get to know Rome. We will ramble in the Renaissance and Baroque city center on the Tiber bend, visit the most important churches, palaces, squares and inner courtyards, have an overview of the structure and remaining relics of ancient Rome, and how the imperial concept of Fascism shaped them, go to see the two-thousand-year old ghetto, particularly exploring its hidden corners untouched by modern city planning, make an excursion to the campagna, follow the medieval pilgrim routes, get to know the urban visions of the great Renaissance and Baroque popes following each other, which gradually developed the present-day face of Rome. Details and registration here: Come with us to Rome.
• Further tours organized or planned for 2015:
• urban exploration weekends in Prague and Berlin
• Eastern in Lemberg on the weekend of 12 April
• one week in Georgia, around 1 May
• one week from Albania to Makedonia, in June
• the repetitionof our last year’s Maramureș-Bukovina tour in July
• if there are enough participants: a visit in the villages of the mountain Jews in the Azerbaijanian Caucasus, in August
• and the adventure of the year: a two-week long trip to Iran in late October-early November
• and some more…
We will publish the details on the blog, and will also send out circular e-mails about them. Register for our e-mail list, and check back soon.
2014• Our first tour in this year, by popular demand, is the repetition and expansion of last year’s Maramureș-Bukovina journey. Between 25 and 29 June (Wednesday–Sunday) we leave from Budapest by bus, and arrive through the medieval city of Baia Mare/Nagybánya, the cradle of Hungarian Impressionism and the gate of historical Maramureș, to one of the most archaic regions of Transylvania. We visit its wooden churches included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage and its Hasidic cemeteries, Sighetul Marmației/Máramarossziget, the central town of the region, cut in two by the Tisza river and the Ukrainian-Romanian border, and the “merry cemetery” of Sapânța/Szaplonca. We climb up with the narrow-gauge forestry railway to the virgin forest in the border mountains, to return in the afternoon, along with the wagons loaded with wood, to the Rusyn village of Vișeu de Sus/Felsővisó. We walk to the Horses’ Waterfall and the pass of the Radna Mountains. We visit the Renaissance-style princely monasteries in Bukovina, painted both inside and out with the full symbolism of Orthodox icons, which also feature on the list of UNESCO World Heritage. Our accommodation will be in traditional peasant farms engaged in agroturism, and – if we manage to reserve in time – in the Bukovina monasteries. The participation fee for the five-day tour (accommodation with breakfast + bus from Budapest and back + guide) is about 270-300 euros, depending on the number of participants. If you are interested, please register by 31 May, after which we will publish, on the basis of the certain registrations, the final participation fee and send out the detailed program.
• On our second journey, between 13 and 17 August (Wednesday–Sunday) we will wander all over Western Galicia, today’s South-Eastern Poland, the richest region of the medieval and early Polish kingdom and the traditional center of Polish Jewry. Our road leads through Renaissance cities and castles, shtetls and beautifully carved Hasidic cemeteries. Leaving from Budapest by bus, we first stop in Krakow, where we visit the Renaissance old town, the Wawel and the Jewish suburb of Kazimierz, well off of the tourist routes. Through the medieval town of Sandomierz we arrive at Lublin, a second center of medieval Polish kingdom and formerly its largest Jewish center. From there we turn south to visit the most beautiful old towns along the modern Ukrainian border, the ideal Renaissance Zamość, Leżajsk, the Hasidic pilgrimage site and Jarosław, the seat of the former Jewish “parliament” of Poland, to Przemyśl at the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, a former bulwark of the Austrian Empire, and to the Bieszczady, the most romantic mountains of present-day Poland, where we will also visit the ghost villages of the Rusyns displaced after WWII. Turning back to the west, we will pass through the Renaissance towns of Rzeszów, Tarnów and Nowy Sącz and come to the Dukla Pass, where we also stop at some of the soldiers’ cemeteries of the 1915 Gorlice breakthrough, and from where we will return, through Bardejov/Bártfa and Košice/Kassa to Budapest. Here you can find the planned route of the journey. The participation fee for the five-day tour (accommodation with breakfast + bus from Budapest and back + guide) is about 300-330 euros, depending on the number of participants. If you are interested, please register until 31 May, after which we will publish, on the basis of the certain registrations, the final participation fee and send out the detailed program.
2013We have come to the end of the journeys planned for the first half of the year. We have visited to the Art Nouveau Subotica and the Hasidic cemeteries of Tokaj, defeated the Ukrainian potholes from Subcarpathia through Czernowitz and Kamenets-Podolsk to Odessa and back, participated at the Easter of three denominations in Lemberg, and on the way of the wooden churches and painted Renaissance monasteries we reunited Maramureș and Bukovina, cut in two by a country border. And in the meantime we compiled, visited and discussed, and now publish the journeys proposed for the second half of the year, to the program of whose we also welcome the recommendations of our readers. The planned costs include in each case the trip (by bus), accommodation (in double room), and the guided tour. The language of the guide – optionally, English, Italian, German or Spanish – will depend on the composition of the group.
As usual, I ask anyone interested in one or another trip to write, without an obligation (but with a serious intention) until Saturday, 3 August at firstname.lastname@example.org. Then, when we already know the number of participants, we will publish the dailed program of the trip, the exact costs (including the eventual single room complement), and the application and payment deadline on our page “Come with us”, which, linked to the right margin, serves as a constantly updated travel schedule.
• The lost world of the Estern Galician shtetl, 25–29 August (Sunday–Thursday). The fellow passengers of río Wang may have already accustomed to the fact that in our trips we visit a lot of things that no longer exist, but this is the first time that all our journey is dedicated to a completely vanished world, the network of former Jewish towns from Stryj through Sambór and Żółkiew to Brod and Tarnopol, and from there, through Czortków and Buczacz to the Bukovinian border, thus moving around in the Eastern, now Ukrainian half of Galicia. We visit the beautiful, decaying cemeteries and synagogues, we reconstruct the life and relationships of this network of settlements, we recall the memory of the illustrious personalities and movements. The summary of our posts on the Jewish heritage of the region can be found here. Planned costs: approx. 300 euro.
• Lemberg Klezmer Festival, 30 August – 2 September (Friday – Monday). This is the fifth year that the Jewish Cultural Association of the city organizes a summer klezmer festival with the participation of a number of authentic Eastern European – Ukrainian, Moldovan, Russian – bands as well as invited international celebrities. During the weekend festival we also visit the hidden corners of the city with those who are for the first time in Lemberg, and make an excursion to the Polish Renaissance royal palace of Olesko. An interactive map of the monuments of Lemberg and our posts on the city are collected here. Planned costs: approx. 220-280 euros.
• Western Galicia: shtetls and castles, 2–6 October (Wednesday – Sunday). Continuing our journey of August, now we visit the Western, Polish half of Galicia, where the greater proximity to the cultural and economic centers make it more visible that the Jewish shtetls were born in under the protection and for the service of the landlords’ fortresses, as the 17th-century proverb says: “there is no proper Polish nobleman without his own Jew”. We visit the network of the former shtetls in parallel with the magnificent Renaissance palaces and royal castles, from Kraków’s Kazimierz through the Renaissance towns of Opatów, Sandomierz and Tarnów to Lublin and Zamość, now on the World Heritage list. We will also visit the important Galician sites of the First World War, such as the fortress of Przemyśl. Planned costs: approx. 300 euros.
• The Crimea, 23-29 October (Wednesday – Tuesday). We gradually expand to the East, after Odessa now we have reached the Crimean peninsula (and the Caucasus follows in the next year). We arrive by plane to Simferopol (the tickets should be individually purchased: now, three months in advance you can buy it for about 300 euros from all over Europe), and from there we go around by bus in the ethnically diverse peninsula, rich in stunning natural beauties and historical monuments. We will see medieval Karaite cemetery and a Jewish mountain town, Genovese and Gothic citadel, impressive palaces of the Russian aristocracy along the southern coast between Sevastopol and Yalta, Orthodox places of pilgrimages and Tatar mosques. Planned costs (in addition to the plane ticket): approx. 450 euros
• “Lightning” in Maramureș, 31 October – 3 November (Thursday – Saturday). One of the greatest celebration of the Romanian region is the “lightning” in the cemeteries around All Saints’ Day, when the cemetery hills are full of life, those living far away come home, and the families commemorate together their deads, often hosting the strangers, too. This is why we repeat at this time the Romanian half of our spring tour, by visiting the traditional wooden churches of Maramureș, the “merry cemetery” of Sapănța, the market of Sighetu Marmației, the open air museum of wooden folk architecture in Baia Mare. Planned costs: approx. 220-250 euros.
• The unknown Mallorca, 17–22 January (Friday – Wednesday). The true face of this beautiful and archaic island – of which our old readers know that it is our second home – can be got to know in January, when the flood of the tourists stops for a month, and the island for a short while lives only its own traditional life. The weather is mild, almond trees are blossoming, and orange is ripen, and the settlements celebrate two greatest events, the feasts of Saint Anthony, protector of the farmers, and Saint Sebastian, patron of Palma, in a veritable Mediterranean joie de vivre, with fireworks, the parade of the masked devils who tempted St. Anthony, fires and grilling on the streets and squares. In addition, we walk through the old town of Palma, the ancient Jewish quarter, the Medieval and Renaissance inner courtyards, the Arabic towns along the coasts and the manor houses in the mountains, we taste wine in Binissalem and sail over to the little island of the blue lizards. Our posts on Mallorca can be read here. Planned costs (in addition to the plane tickets, which is usually 200-250 euros from the continent): approx. 450-480 euros.
Our readers have suggested the possibility of a weekend in the former Hasidic villages of the wine region of Tokaj, to follow the centuries old “route of the Jewish wine” from Tokaj through Košice, Prešov and Bardejov to Poland, or to repeat in October the one-week long Czernowitz–Kamenets-Podolsk–Odessa tour. These are also available if enough people apply for them, especially if any of the above tours will have not enough applicants, so we will have to organize something else instead of it. Please feel free to write, to ask, to suggest.