When planning a heritage trip to central Europe, we had contacted several agents by email. Only Sophia responded and wrote, “Didn’t I plan your trip to Italy and Switzerland 15 years ago?” What a great coincidence, since that trip was fantastic. On this trip we met our recently married daughter and son-in-law in Prague, as they travelled from Israel. Every day was meticulously planned by Sophia, and the guides and drivers in each city were extremely friendly and knowledgeable. Sophia also was able to arrange Kosher meals for us and prepaid our Shabbat meals.

Prague was as beautiful as we expected, and the Jewish history is rich and beautiful. Our guide, Hubert, had a wealth of information, not only about the Jewish heritage, but having lived through the communist era, was able to share personal stories of the Velvet revolution. We travelled to Terezin, which was overwhelming, especially when 3 days after returning we had our son-in-law’s cousin join us for a meal and found out that he survived as a 7 year old boy in Terezin. Sophia suggested that we drive from Prague to Vienna, and a stop at Cesky Kremlov was well worth the trip. Our local guide was even able to tell us about the Jewish history of the village, and show us the synagogue

.Vienna was overwhelming, and our guide Barbara did an amazing job of putting everything in perspective. She also had a personal interest in Jewish genealogy and was able to track down information about Sarah’s aunt (whom she is named after) who perished in the Holocaust. On the day our children flew back to the US, we spent a rewarding day visiting museums and walking extensively.

We were driven from Vienna to Budapest with a stop in Bratislava. A local guide walked with us through the old town, and took us to visit the grave of the Chatam Sofer. In Budapest, our guide Julia, who was a survivor herself, showed us where she had been lined up to go to Auschwitz, when her nanny was able to secret her away and hide her. We stayed in a beautiful hotel, Le Meridien, and had a wonderful Shabbat dinner at Chabad. We prayed at the Dohany synagogue Shabbat morning, and then after a Kosher lunch, Julia took us on a 4 hour walking tour. On our last full day, Julia also took us to a small town outside of Budapest, Saint Andrews, where there was a small Jewish community before the war, and a memorial synagogue still there. Having been in Budapest 40 years ago, as a student, during the Communist era, it is amazing how all the ‘grayness and bleakness’ has been transformed to a lively cosmopolitan city.

The trip was most amazing because of all the detailed planning done by Sophia. She arranged for everything, and worked within our budget and timeframe. What a pleasure to work with. It will certainly be less than 15 years, when we plan our next trip with Sophia


By Stern Family, MD


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