Daily Itinerary

History 3385: Czech and Germany in  WWII and the Cold War
A Travel Course for Students, Alumni & Friends of SMU

May 17-27, 2021


Day 1, Monday, May 17th: Arrival in Prague

  • Arrival and check into our central Prague lodgings.  

  • Time on your own to explore Prague. Dinner on your own. 

  • Group classical musical performance at one of the extraordinary venues, some of the finest in all of Europe. Mandatory for students; optional for alumni/friends.

Day 2, Tuesday, May 18th: Prague Old Town and Jewish Quarter

  • Walking tour of central Prague’s Stare Mesto (Old Town) focused on Habsburg and Jewish history. The Habsburgs dominated the Holy Roman Empire for much of its millennium and were one of the great dynasties in European history.
    • Old Town Square – a market since the 11th century and scene of incredible bustle today. The fabulous 500 year old Astronomical Clock, the memorial to Jan Hus (an early Catholic dissident) and the Czech people, and in incredible array of architectural styles will astound all.
    • Church of our Lady before Tyn – grandly Gothic across from the musical Church of St Nicholas. 
    • Eastern end of the fabulous Charles Bridge at sunset, the iconic view of Prague.
  • Lunch on your own in Old Town Prague. 
  • Afternoon walking tour of the Jewish Quarter, one of Europe’s largest and most important, is also worth an extended visit. Over 120,000 lived here in 1939; 10,000 survived the war:
    • Old Jewish Cemetery – a beautiful, haunting site, with 12,000 graves and more than 100,000 burials.  
    • Old-New Synagogue – since 1270, Europe’s oldest active synagogue, heart and soul of the community. 
    • Spanish Synagogue – Prague’s most beautiful and a museum to Jewish history
  • Group dinner and introductions. SMU’s Director of Presidential History Dr Jeffrey Engel and Essential History Expeditions’ Dr. Brian DeToy will provide opening remarks. 
  • Prague hotel: Residence Agnes

Day 3, Wednesday, May 19th: Prague in WWII and the Cold War

  • Breakfast 
  • Morning walking tour of Prague’s Nove Mesto (New Town) and its role in WWII and the Cold War, focused on the revolutions of 1968 and 1989.
    • Wenceslas Square – the “heart” of modern Prague, this is where the people celebrated the creation of the state in 1918, the Soviets crushed the Prague Spring of Alexander Dubcek in 1968, and 300,000 Czechs marched for freedom with Vaclav Havel in 1989! The statue of the “Good King” Wenceslas dominates the square.   
    • The Memorial to the Victims of Communism on the spot where philosophy student Jan Palach self-immolated in protest against the state in 1969. 
    • Walk along Narodni Trida, the street where the students of 1989 began their fight, literally with the police, for freedom. This was the beginning of the Velvet Revolution. 
    • National Theatre – the Cradle of Czech Culture. 
    • Walk along the Vitava River to the Dancing House and Greek Church where Czech’s most famous WWII soldiers were finally run down and killed by the Nazis but only after they had assassinated the notorious German Reinhard Heydrich. 
  • Group lunch in central Prague. 
  • In the afternoon, time for you to explore on your own the incredible array of museums and sites in the gorgeous old city, including crossing the fabulous Charles Bridge that connects the city and Castle Quarter, Lennon Wall (gathering place for dissidents and poets and lovers since 1980), Prague Castle (home to Bohemian kings for centuries) and its gorgeous St Vitus Cathedral, and more. 
  • Dinner on your own. 
  • Prague Hotel: Residence Agnes

Day 4, Thursday, May 20th: Prague to Nuremberg

  • Breakfast 

  • Check out of hotel and load luggage on bus. 

  • Drive to Nuremberg.  

  • Afternoon visit at the Nazi Rally Grounds, where 150,000 screaming supporters cheered Hitler’s every word; Nazi Documentation Center; and then across town to the Nuremberg Trials Courtroom & Museum, where the Allies tried the most senior Nazis in 1945-46 for crimes against humanity.  

  • Group lunch in Nuremberg. 

  • Arrive at hotel and check-in. 

  • Evening walking tour of Old Town Nuremberg with sites to include places important to both the First Reich (Holy Roman Empire) and Third Reich (Nazi) – the Konigstrasse, Monument to German WWII Refugees, St Lawrence Church, Hauptmarkt (Main Market), Imperial Castle and Albrecht Durer House.  

  • Dinner on your own in Old Town. 

  • Nuremberg hotel:  Le Meridien Grand Hotel (Marriott) or similar 

Day 5, Friday, May 21st: Nuremberg to Jena and Dresden

  • Breakfast

  • Load luggage and depart hotel 

  • Drive to Jena.  

  • A famed university town in Thuringia, Jena was a focal point of the German intellectual revolution of the first half of the 19th century, including the student liberal and unification movement and German Romanticism. Notable persons were Friedrich Schiller, Alexander von Humboldt, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Novalis and August Wilhelm Schlegel. •

  • Group lunch in central Jena. 

  • In the afternoon we will visit the battlefield of Jena, one of Napoleon’s twin victories on October 14, 1806, that enabled the French to destroy the Prussian Empire and brought them to the borders of Russia. Usually described as one of Napoleon’s most impressive battles, this examination will allow us to consider how the ideas of the French Revolution and Napoleon impacted future warfare and politics. 

  • Drive to Dresden. 

  • Check-in to central Dresden lodgings.  

  • Dinner on your own in Old Town. 

  • Dresden hotel: Hilton Dresden or similar

Day 6, Saturday, May 22nd: Dresden

  • Breakfast

  • On our morning walking tour of central Dresden we will discuss the old Saxony of the Wettin dynasty that ruled much of eastern Germany until the end of the Great War in 1918; along with the August 1813 Napoleonic campaign (the French Emperor’s last victory in Germany) that gave us our first Allied commander-in-chief, the Austrian Field Marshal Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg; as well as the horrific February 13, 1945, WWII fire-bombing, that American POW Kurt Vonnegut survived to write about in his classic novel Slaughterhouse Five. Twenty-five thousand Dresdeners perished that single night. 

  • Visit to the KGB headquarters where, in November 1989, Lt Col Vladimir Putin frantically destroyed records and files as the Berlin Wall fell.  •Group Lunch in Dresden. 

  • Afternoon on your own to explore the sights of Old Town Dresden, including: the Zwinger art museums, Theatreplatz, the Frauenkirche cathedral, Parade of Nobles, and the Military History Museum (the largest museum in all of Germany!), among other notable sites. For students, the Military Museum is a required visit. 

  • Dinner on your own in central Dresden. 

  • Dresden hotel: Hilton Dresden or similar

Day 7, Sunday, May 23rd: Leipzig

  • Breakfast 

  • Drive to Leipzig.  

  • Visit the grand memorial, one of Europe’s biggest,  commemorating the pivotal October 1813 Battle of Leipzig, known as the Battle of Nations and the largest European battle until WWI, in which the weight of the combined allies defeated Napoleon’s army and drove it back to the gates of France.

  • Group lunch in Leipzig. 

  • Visit Cold War sites of this city that was the epicenter for German resistance to the Soviet Union and DDR in the 1980s – Augustusplatz, St Nicholas Church (where a decade-long prayer movement was the central focus of the Peaceful Revolution that brought down the DDR) and the Stasi Museum (detailing the Cold War East German secret police) 

  • Visit Johan Sebastian Bach sites in St Thomas Church and Bach museum nearby. Bach is one of the world’s greatest and most important composers. 

  • Dinner on your own in the Old Town. 

  • Leipzig hotel: Leipzig Marriott or similar

Day 8, Monday, May 24th: Leipzig to Berlin

  • Breakfast 

  • Load luggage and depart hotel. 

  • Begin drive to Berlin with stop in Torgau to see where Americans and Soviets first joined hands in April 1945, encircling the Nazi forces in the Berlin region and signaling the regime’s approaching end.  

  • Continue drive with stop in Wittenberg to view the Castle Church, upon the door of which Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on October 31, 1517. This act brought the Protestant Reformation into full bloom and the western world has not been the same since.   

  • Lunch on your own in Wittenberg’s charming old Market Square. 

  • Continue drive with a stop in Potsdam, just outside of Berlin and the capital of the Brandenburg state. It was also the home of Prussian monarchs for 200 years. 

  • Potsdam – discussion of 18th century King Frederick II (The Great) who made modern Prussia a state to be reckoned with;  and the final WWII Allied Conference in July 1945 in the Cecilienhof palace where Harry Truman, Churchill, Atlee and Stalin made final plans to defeat Japan all the while setting the course of the Cold War. Other nearby sites include the Wannsee lake where the Nazis developed the Final Solution plans and the Bridge of Spies where the Soviets and the Allies exchanged prisoners (made famous in the Tom Hanks movie of the same name). 

  • Continue drive to check-in to lodgings in central Berlin. 

  • Group dinner at hotel or nearby restaurant.  

  • Berlin Hotel: Berlin Marriott or similar

Day 9, Tuesday, May 25th: Historic Central Berlin

  • Breakfast  

  • Full-day walking tours of historical central Berlin, “the Mitte,” from Prussian days through the Wilhelmine Empire and WWI and on through the heady cabaret days of Weimar and beyond. From its days as capital of the Third Reich to the final battles of World War Two, and then on through the Cold War – the Airlift, the Wall going up in 1961 and coming down in 1989.  

  • Group lunch mid-way through the walk. 

  • Highlights include: the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, Tiergarten, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, site of Hitler’s Bunker, Wilhelmstrasse, walking down famed Unter den Linden, Friedrichstrasse, Bebelplatz, Museum Island (in the Spree River), the Berlin Cathedral to Alexanderplatz where in November 1989 half a million East Berliners demanded their freedom.    

  • Dinner on your own. 

  • Berlin Hotel: Berlin Marriott or similar

Day 10, Wednesday, May 26th: Berlin in the Cold War

  • Breakfast 

  • We’ll start the morning with a walking tour of Cold War Berlin events and personalities, with numerous sites including Checkpoint Charlie, part of the original Berlin Wall, and Tempelhof Airport where the AirBridge Memorial commemorates the brave pilots of the 1948-49 Airlift that kept West Berlin supplied under the Soviet noose.  

  • Lunch on your own and additional afternoon time to explore the plethora of Berlin’s wonders on your own.  

  • Tonight, we will enjoy a farewell group dinner and wrap-up lecture with SMU’s own Dr. Jeffrey Engel.  

  • Berlin Hotel: Berlin Marriott or similar 

Day 11, Thursday, May 27th: Departure and Onward Journeys

  • Breakfast

  • Check-out of lodgings and begin onward journeys

Contact Information

Sheryl Shafer: sheryl@historyexp.com or 303.517.9676

Dr. Brian DeToy: brian@historyexp.com or 253.468.7374