Guten Tag! Welcome to Germany. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on the first day of the trip. There are no activities planned until this important meeting so feel free to arrive at any time during the day. Please check the hotel notice boards or with reception about where and when it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arriving at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend the meeting. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. In the evening, you might like to get out and mix with the local hip young things in one of the city's many bars.
Morning and part of the afternoon are free, so perhaps check out the remaining fragments of the Wall scattered around the city, dropping by Checkpoint Charlie to see where the main gate between East and West Berlin used to stand. Or visit the Brandenburg Gate, the iconic Reichstag building or the powerful Holocaust Memorial. There also is some great street art in Berlin, especially around the neighbourhoods of Mitte, where our hotel is, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain (where our hotel is). In late afternoon, you'll board an overnight train for Krakow in Poland. Don’t be late!
Arrive into Krakow, your base for the next two nights. After arrival, follow your leader on a city orientation walk and step back in time as your wander the World Heritage-listed old town, shopping for amber jewellery or local crafts. Discover Wawel Royal Castle which sits atop a hill next to the Vistula River. Check out the 13th-century town square of Rynek Glowny and get a glimpse of the impressive St Mary's Basilica (which features an extraordinary wood-carved Gothic altarpiece). Another beautiful church is the neo-Gothic St Francis' Basilica, which boasts some of Poland's best Art Nouveau. This city is also home to the second oldest university in Central Europe, Jagiellonian Univeristy (the oldest is in Prague). It counts Copernicus and Pope John Paul II among its alumni.
If you can tear yourself away from Krakow on your free day, head out to the Wieliczka Salt Mines, a network of tunnels and chambers some 135 metres below the ground. This is a salt mine that has been in operation for over 700 years. The mine has a labyrinth of tunnels, pits and chambers, all hewn by hand from solid salt, with beautifully adorned chapels and underground lakes. Don't miss a look at the elaborate salt chandeliers and carvings in the Blessed Kinga Chapel. Alternatively, you might like to take a sobering day trip out to Auschwitz and Birkenau, the sites of some of the Holocaust's worst atrocities. Perhaps end the day in one of Krakow's many cellar restaurants for a plate of pierogi and a drink.
Take a minivan trip to the town of Ostrava (approximately 2.5 hours), then board the train to Prague (approximately 3 hours). After arrival and check in to our hotel, the leader will show you the highlights of this beautiful city on an orientation walk. Prague's architecture can be traced from the Middle Ages through to the avant-garde of the Gehry-designed Dancing Building (also called the Fred and Ginger Building). Spend your free afternoon at Prague Castle, the biggest in the Czech Republic, where you'll find the famous St Vitus Cathedral and Golden Lane. Wander through the old Jewish Quarter to see what remains of the city's formerly large Jewish community.
Another day in Prague and so many possibilities. You have a free day to discover the Bohemian Prague; extravagant, political, passionate, and fueled with Czech Water. Learn how the Bohemian artists, writers, dissidents, and the Bohemian mentality shaped the nation. Don’t forget to sample some of the best Czech beers and traditional and modern Czech snacks along the way. If you feel like going for a day trip out of the city, ask your leader to help you organise a trip to Kutna Hora. See Church of Santa Barbara and Sedlec ossuary or The Church of Bones if you like, a small Roman Catholic chapel that contain the skeletons of between 40.000 and 70.000 people. Back in Prague remember that the Old Town at night is truly special. There are many great restaurants and pubs, some in old vaulted cellars. The nightlife in Prague is some of the best in Central Europe. Whether dance clubs, beer-halls or underground absinthe bars are your thing, there's something for everyone. The city also boasts one of Europe's most respected jazz scenes. If you find yourself out until the early hours in a jazz club, have a wander along Charles Bridge or the Old Town Square as the sun rises for magical photo opportunities.
Depart Prague and travel by bus to Cesky Krumlov (approximately 4 hours). This picturesque medieval town dates back to the 13th century and appears to be plucked straight out of a fairytale. Wander the cobbled alleyways of the old town and admire the buildings. Great way to discover the town is with to join a tour guided by a local. You will learn about the architectural symbolism and old town mysteries from an expert. Climb up to the castle perched on a hill and check out its fabulous Masquerade Hall. Sensational views can be seen from the tower. Weather and time permitting, take a relaxing 2–3 hour rafting or canoeing trip along the river that runs right through town.
Take a minivan to the cosmopolitan city of Vienna. There is so much to explore here! After arrival, your leader will help you take your picks by showing you the city centre on foot. Afternoon will be free to explore the city. Art lovers will be delighted by the vast array of museums on offer, including the Albertina, the Leopold, Kunsthalle Wien and the Museum of Modern Art. Those with an interest in 19th and 20th century Austrian art should visit the Belvedere Palace, home to Gustav Klimt's painting 'The Kiss'. Check out the colourful Hundertwasserhaus or admire the dome of the Secession building. Perhaps visit Hofburg Palace, once the imposing winter retreat of Habsburg royals and now the official residence of the Austrian president. Apparently no visit to Vienna is complete without attending an opera or concert. Check what Vienna State Opera House has on offer (worth doing that in advance) and immerse yourself in the city’s immense musical pedigree.
Free day in Vienna will give you more time to visit places you didn’t manage to get to yesterday. Climb the tower of St Stephen's Cathedral, take a spin on the Prater Ferris Wheel or catch a dressage show at the Spanish Riding School. Head to Schoenbrunn Palace, which was designed by Empress Maria Theresa herself. The gardens are free to all visitors but there is a charge for entrance and tours of the palace. Avoid long queues by pre-booking your tickets at schoenbrunn.at. After all this sightseeing, you might like to indulge in a traditional Viennese coffee and Sacher torte, before capping off the evening with a spot of Mozart, Bach or Schubert at the opera house. Note: The Spanish Riding School doesn't operate throughout the summer months. You will need to book tickets in advance to see the performance of the Lipizzaners. Phone +43 (0)1 505 77 66 55 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange tickets.
Travel from Vienna to Budapest by train (approximately 3 hours). Known as the 'Pearl of the Danube', Budapest's grand architecture and boulevards evoke a bygone era. Your leader will introduce you to the city by taking you for an orientation walk. With so much to see and do, in your free time head out to Statue Park to see the communist monuments that were removed from the city after the fall of the Iron Curtain. One unmissable activity is a soak in one of the city's many hot thermal baths. The baths feature pools of varying degrees; some even have whirlpools or built-in seats where you can relax or play a game of chess. Dinner comes, best way to feats in Budapest is to grab a bowl of hearty Hungarian goulash.
Enjoy a free day in the Pearl of the Danube. Perhaps explore the historical Buda castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings. Forget about the bustling city and lose yourself in the history of the winding streets of Castle District, which dates back to the 13th century and soak up the atmosphere of a beloved mid-19th century local pastry shop. In the afternoon perhaps take one of the tourist boat trips along the Danube River for spectacular views of the Parliament Building, the Castle District and the bridges linking Buda to Pest. The spectacle is particularly beautiful at night.
Take a train (approximately 8 hours) to Ljubljana, followed by a connecting bus to the town of Bled , situated at the edge of the Julian Alps. Arrive in late afternoon and follow your leader to the shore of beautiful Lake Bled, from where all of the town’s attractions can be seen and explained. For a taste of the local cuisine, some Bled cake is a must, made of vanilla, custard, cream and pastry. Alternatively, join the group for dinner (optional) to taste some Slovenian specialties.
No better place to get active than in Bled. You have a free day to go for a lake walk (or run if you feel like!) in the morning, and perhaps enjoy a full day adventure around Triglav Massive. There are many outdoor activities available here to get the blood pumping, such as rafting, caving, canoeing and swimming. Why not hire a bike and head four kilometres out of town to Vintgar Gorge, where you can take a walk through a beautiful natural canyon. Perhaps explore Bled Castle, perched atop the cliff overlooking the lake, or catch a pletna (small wooden boat) over to the island in the middle of the lake to ring the wishing bell. Another option is to take a day trip to Lake Bohinj, situated in a glaciated valley. There, you can ascend Mt Vogel by cable car for awesome views of the ranges. If the weather is clear, you may even see out to Triglav, the highest peak in Slovenia (note that the weather on top of Mt Vogel varies greatly; it's a ski resort in the winter). Check with your leader for all the options and book in advance not to miss out. If you don’t feel like going crazy, just enjoy the beauty of the place; perhaps find a quite spot near the lake and spend a day reading your book.
Travel by train through stunning scenery to one of the world's most unique cities, Venice (approximately 5.5 hours). A city of canals, Venice is built over a hundred small islands connected by 400 bridges. Head out for an orientation walk with your tour leader. The best way to do this is by foot, taking in all the famous sights – the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge, the Palace of the Doge (the ruler of Venice), the Piazza San Marco with its golden Basilica, and of course the evocative Bridge of Sighs. Wander the cobblestone streets and spacious piazzas, crossing hundreds of tiny bridges. There are shops, markets, galleries and churches around every corner. Don't miss taking a gondola trip through the romantic canals or sampling a slice of region's desert speciality, tiramisu (coffee-soaked sponge cake). Conclude the day by tasting delicious Italian food during the farewell dinner with your group, toasting to all the adventures and great memories made.
On the final day of the trip, there are no activities planned and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.