Guten Tag! Welcome to Germany. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. There are no activities planned until this important meeting, so feel free to arrive at any time during the day. There are many significant memorials and historical sites dotted around Berlin including the Jewish Memorial, the empty shelves of Bebelplatz and the confronting Topography of Terror – some of which you may like to visit this afternoon. Tonight, after your welcome meeting, why not join your newfound travel pals for dinner. Berlin’s food is a mix of classic German with Bavarian, Italian and Middle Eastern influences. But who can go past a traditional currywurst, schnitzel or pretzel together with a stein of beer?
Berlin / Overnight Train
This morning and early afternoon are yours to explore Berlin at your leisure, so perhaps wander through the Brandenburg Gate or walk past the crumbling remnants of the Berlin Wall that once divided the city. Checkpoint Charlie and its museum overlook the former border checkpoint between East and West, explaining how the city came to be split. If you’re feeling energetic, maybe you’d like to cycle the city, visiting the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag building and the sobering Holocaust Memorial. There is also some great street art in Berlin, notably on sections of the Berlin Wall and around the neighbourhoods of Mitte, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. In the late afternoon, board an overnight train for Krakow, Poland. Be sure to check in with your group leader about train times and where to meet your group.
Arrive in Krakow, your base for the next two nights. Upon arrival, store your luggage and follow your leader on an orientation walk. Step back in time as you wander the World Heritage-listed Old Town, perhaps stopping to shop for amber jewellery or local crafts in the stores. 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. Another beautiful church is the Neo-Gothic St Francis’ Basilica, which boasts some of Poland’s best Art Nouveau interiors. This city is also home to the second-oldest university in Central Europe, Jagiellonian University. Among many (many) others, it counts Copernicus and Pope John Paul II among its alumni.
If you can tear yourself away from Krakow on your free day, why not 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 to the town of Ostrava (approximately 2.5 hours), then board the train to Prague (approximately 3 hours). After arrival and check-in at your hotel, you’ll see the highlights of this beautiful city on a leader-led 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. Continue on to wander through the old Jewish Quarter to see what remains of the city’s formerly significant Jewish community.
Another day in Prague and so many possibilities. Perhaps 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 the Church of Santa Barbara and Sedlec ossuary or The Church of Bones – a small Roman Catholic chapel that contain the skeletons of between 40,000 and 70,000 people. At night, Prague’s Old Town comes alive with many great restaurants and pubs, some in old vaulted cellars. The nightlife in Prague is some of the best in Central Europe. Whether you’re after dance clubs, beer-halls, jazz clubs or underground absinthe bars, there’s something for everyone.
Leave 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. A great way to discover the town is 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 and admire the sensational views that can be seen from the tower. Weather and time permitting, your group may take a relaxing two-to-three-hour rafting or canoeing trip along the river which runs right through town.
Take another public bus to the cosmopolitan city of Vienna. After arrival, your leader will help you get your bearings by showing you the city centre on foot, and then you’ll have a free afternoon 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. No visit to Vienna is complete without attending an opera or concert. Check out well in advance what Vienna State Opera House has on offer and immerse yourself in the city’s musical pedigree.
A 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 the elegant Schoenbrunn Palace, which was designed by the empress Maria Theresa. Today’s also the perfect opportunity to check your Lonely Planet app for a stack of recommendations to fill your time in the Austrian capital. After all this sightseeing, you might like to indulge in a traditional Viennese coffee and sachertorte this afternoon – a pastime fit for the most sophisticated of travellers.
Travel from Vienna to Budapest by train (approximately 3 hours). Budapest’s grand architecture and boulevards evoke a bygone era, and your leader will introduce you to the stunning city by taking you on an orientation walk. With so much to see and do in your free time, why not head out to Statue Park to get an insight into the city’s past or take a soak in one of the many thermal bath complexes around town. The baths feature pools of varying temperatures, and some even have whirlpools or built-in seats where you can relax or play a game of chess. Tonight, get a group of friends together for a Hungarian feast – a hearty bowl of goulash or a decadent pizza-like langos is waiting. Afterwards, why not stroll to the Jewish quarter and check out some ruin bars: unique nightlife hubs that are great for groups and feature a whole heap of weird and wonderful decor.
Enjoy a free day in the self-proclaimed Pearl of the Danube. Perhaps explore the historical Buda Castle and palace complex. Forget about the bustling city and lose yourself in the history of the winding streets of the Castle District, which dates back to the 13th century. In the afternoon, you could take a slow cruise along the Danube for some pretty epic views of the riverside Parliament Building, the Castle District and the bridges linking Buda to Pest. The spectacle is particularly beautiful, especially at sunset and at night.
Buckle up for a solid day of travel into Slovenia. 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 the late afternoon and follow your leader to the shore of beautiful Lake Bled, from which many of the town’s attractions can be seen and explored. For a taste of the local cuisine, some Bled cake made of vanilla, custard, cream and pastry is essential. After settling into your accommodation tonight, why not get together with your group for dinner, feasting on local specialities.
There’s no better places to get active than in Bled! Today you have a free day to go for a walk along the lake 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. Your group leader will have all the options, so be sure to chat with them for their recommendations and how to book any optional activities. If you’d prefer to have a relaxing day and just enjoy the beauty of Lake Bled, find a quiet spot near the lake and spend the day reading a 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. On arrival, head out for an orientation walk with your tour leader – the best way to see Venice is by foot – passing by the Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge, Palace of the Doge, Piazza San Marco and the Bridge of Sighs. Wander the cobblestone streets and spacious piazzas, crossing bridges and stopping for a gelato on your way, if you’d like. There are shops, markets, galleries and churches around every corner. After a pretty jam-packed few days, why not gather with your travel pals and celebrate being in Italy with a meal?
With no activities planned for today, you are free to leave your accommodation at any time, provided you comply with the hotel’s internal check-out policy. That doesn’t mean your adventure has to end! Italy’s city of canals is an extraordinary place to see on foot, and if you’d like to spend an extra day or two exploring, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).