Escorted tour for a Holocaust surviver

“My first trip abroad was to Auschwitz.”

That's what my client told me when we were driving from Kaunas to Klaipeda in Lithuania.

First contact on the phone

To my surprise, when we first spoke on the phone, Mr. Al had mentioned that he’d survived Auschwitz. The next thing he askes was  He wanted to know what happened in the Baltic States during WWII. The next thing he askes was to book an individual escorted tour in the Baltics.

I have asked him, as usual, how many people are going to participate in an individual tour? “Just me” was a short answer. 

– With my please, Sir – was my short answer. 

– Can I send you an e-mail with the offer?

– No, only on the phone.

It is nice when clients know what they want

Then, Mr. Al insisted that I have to be his guide for the entire trip. I tried to offer him another guide from our good team, but he said that I can choose a date myself, but then he will come only if I will guide him myself. 

I do not like when clients do not trust my team of 5 experienced guides. At the same time, I believe that the client is almost always right, so I have agreed. Although, I had some other important duties to fulfill during that period.

Jerulita Team organized a private tour just for him.  My team has booked all the hotels and I was a driver and a guide. Here you can see the almost exact program we made with Mr. Al.  The tour is covering 3 countries, so we have booked 2 single rooms in all the hotels outside Vilnius, where I live. Every day we have spent 7 or 8 hours traveling, taking breaks for lunch and coffee. I showed him a whole lot of places, and on top of that, he asked to add here and there some extra museums or other visiting places.

What do travelers expect from individual escorted tours?

I would say, privacy would be one of the major reasons to choose such a service. It is for you and for your companion. No other opinions, no other unwanted emotions. Just the guide and the client.

Second, the flexibility of the program and travel arrangement. It does happen often that people change the program on the spot, but on an individual tour it is possible and also adding extra attractions is much easier.

Third, clients want a feeling of being a very important person. It may sound funny, but if you give a second thought, you will understand that there is a lot of truth in this VIP thing.

You can create a much more intimate and emotional atmosphere on an individual escorted tour. And this is what happened to me and my client Mr. Al.

Conversations on the Road

A one-on-one private tour is an interesting experience, to say the least. You either become friends or enemies. Fortunately, Mr. Al and I became friends and had many intimate conversations. He spoke mostly about his past. He told me that for years after the war, he wasn’t even interested in thinking about the Holocaust. It was not a time to remember. However, around 30 years ago, he suddenly, somehow, began to change his mind. Though he lives in Germany today, he even started to detest Germans.

“My first trip abroad was to Auschwitz.”

That’s what my client told me when we were driving from Kaunas to Klaipeda in Lithuania. It’s a long way, and we filled the time with a light conversation on the scenery and the country. 

After a while, we fell into a restless silence. Not many people can keep silence, it makes them a bit uncomfortable. I am one of these people. Looking to break the tension, I found myself asking more about my guest’s life. My curiosity eventually revealed that he had quite a story of his own.

Holocaust Survivor tells his Story

When WWII broke out, Mr. Al lived in Romania. He was deported to Auschwitz in 1944, he has spent 3 months there before being sent to a different camp. He survived the death marches and terrible living conditions. In one of the camps, Al was fortunate enough to reunite with his father – a real miracle in the reality of 1944-45.

“What was the best day of your life?” I asked Mr. Al once.

His hesitation was not more than a second: “When I came from Auschwitz to that second camp. No doubt. There was soup and a towel given, and the food was much better.”

Such an answer shocked you. Makes you rethink your own life values, changes and resets your own scale of preferences. Makes you think, What was the best day of my life?

I have learned so much from Mr. Al, a handsome person with an Auschwitz tattoo under his shirt on his arm. This story will remain with me forever. I find myself often recollecting his stories, and rethinking the reality of that time.

Did you take an Auschwitz tour?

I was very curious to know more about his life. But did not want to ask uncomfortable questions. Nevertheless, I have asked if Mr. Al has been to Auschwitz after the war. He said that in his opinion Auschwitz today is too different from the time he was there and that it would not make any sense for him to take a second tour to Auschwitz in his life. After a moment of hesitation, he said: “Maybe, one day, if you come with me”