9 day tour Jews of Lithuania and Latvia

Day 1. Vilnius

Arrival to Vilnius. Meeting, assistance and transfer to the hotel. Getting acquainted with the city in an orientation tour after checking in at hotel. 

Day 2. Vilnius Morning tour of the historical center of Vilnius (Vilna). Gediminas Castle and Cathedral Square; the history of the Lithuanian Capital. The President's Palace and the historical events connected to that place. The Old Vilnius University. The old Jewish quarter: narrow streets and courtyards of the middle-age Ghetto; the Great Vilna Synagogue and theshulhoyf; Vilna Gaon - the great Jewish scholar; Vilna - a center of the struggle between mitnagdim and hasidim; the famous Jewish sculptor Mordekhai Antokolski; the world-renowned Strashun library, that numbered over 6000 volumes at the end of the 19th century; the territory of the Large Ghetto; the courtyard of the Judenrat; the fight of the Ghetto prisoners against the Nazis.Visit to the Jewish State museum. The present and the past of the Jewish cemeteries, the grave of the Vilna Gaon. The "Cheap Houses" – big dwelling houses built by baron Hirsch for Jewish poor people after the great flood. Building of the world famous printing-house "Widow and Brothers Romm". 

Day 3. Vilnius-Trakai-Vilnius Visit to the only functioning Vilna Synagogue "Taharat Hakodesh” built by the “enlightened” Jews of Vilna in 1902. Continue for Ponar Memorial, near Vilnius, where the Nazis and their local accomplices murdered in the pits many thousands of the Jews of Lithuania and other countries. A tour of Trakai, the ancient capital and the residence of Grand Dukes of Lithuania, famous for the lakes and sights of the area. The 14th century insular castle with a museum of Lithuanian history. The Karaite museum and the story of this small ethnic group (confessing Judaism), brought by Vytautas the Great from Crimea as war prisoners about 600 years ago. 

Day 4. Vilnius-Rumsiskes-Kaunas Departure for Kaunas (Kovna), the second large city, an interim capital of pre-war Lithuania. En route a stop at Zezmariai (Zhezhmer), where a remarkable Jewish community settled before the war with its surviving wooden Synagogue building. Visit to the Open Air Ethnographic museum in Rumsiskes representing the major Lithuanian regions of the 18-19 century, the way of life of the peasants, architecture, traditions and crafts. After check in at the hotel an evening walk in the Old Town of Kaunas with its Gothic and Baroque churches and houses, narrow streets and cobbled squares, art galleries and cosy cafes. 

Day 5. Kaunas Full day tour of Kaunas, including Slobodka, a Jewish suburb of Kaunas and ghetto during World War II, the Old Jewish cemetery. The Great Action at Demokratu square. The Seventh and the Ninth Forts - death sites of thousands of Jews from Lithuania and other countries. The Holocaust museum and the Memorial in the Ninth Fort. The Synagogue and the Children’s Memorial in its courtyard. The house where Leah Goldberg, the prominent Israeli poetess, lived. The Art Gallery of M. K. Ciurlionis, the outstanding Lithuanian artist and composer, the Devil’s Museum with hundreds statuettes of devils. A. Mapu and L. Zamenhoff streets. The pre-war Jewish Real and Shvabe gymnasiums. A walk along the main street, Laisves aleja, boulevard, with its 2-3 storey buildings, restaurants, shops, as they looked before the war.  

Day 6. Kaunas-Kedainiai-Siauliai Departure for Siauliai. En route a short visit to Kedainiai (Keidan), a citadel of Radziwil family, one of the most powerful nobility in Lithuania and also a town where the Vilna Gaon lived and worked. The buldings of three synagogues have remained in Keidan. City tour of Siauliai (Shavli), including Hayim Frenkel’s Synagogue, tannery and residence given to the Hebrew school, the former “Trakai” and “Caucasus” ghettoes in Siauliai. Exposition “The Jewish life of Shavli”.  In the evening: a meeting with the members of the local Jewish community. 

Day 7. Siauliai-Joniskis-Rundale-Bauska-Riga Morning departure for Latvia via the Hill of Crosses near Siauliai, a symbol of Lithuanians’ resistance against foreign rule, with more than 50.000 crosses. A short visit to Joniskis – an example of a pre-war shtettle in Lithuania. Drive to Riga through Bauska (Boisk), the place where Rav Cook comes from. Another stop is at Baroque Rundale Palace with an excellent museum in the former Courland Dukes’ palace, built by Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Late afternoon arrival in Riga. 

Day 8. Riga A tour of Jewish Riga including the Jewish quarter, a memorial for the burnt Great Synagogue of Riga, the Jewish school founded in the XIX c. by Rav Dr. Max Liliental, the Synagogue, the museum “Jews in Latvia”, the Jewish community center, the sites of Shimon Dubnov in Riga. Visit to Rumbula and Bikierniki Memorials, where Nazis murdered many thousands of Jews from Latvia, Germany and Czechoslovakia. Salaspils - the memorial site of a concentration camp. In the afternoon a tour of the Old Town, including the Castle of Riga, the Dome Cathedral, the Swedish gate and the former Swedish barracks, the Great and Small Guilds, Cat’s house, the “Three Brothers”, the House of the “Blackheads”  and St. Peter church to view the city from the tower. 

Day 9. Riga Morning visit to the only functioning Synagogue of Riga. Next the biggest gallery of Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) architecture by Russian-Jewish architect Mikhail Eisenstein. The Central market of Riga. Time for leisure. Departure from Riga.

This is a sample itinerary - private tour,  customized for each client