Welcome to Vienna, Austria. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please confirm with the hotel reception where and when it will take place, or check the reception noticeboards. 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 please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. Vienna is a beautiful city, so if you arrive early make sure you go for a walk. Perhaps even take a spin on the famous old Prater Ferris Wheel. Use the evening getting to know your fellow travellers over dinner.
Your base for two nights in Vienna is Magdas Hotel – an accommodation that is unlike any other hotel you are likely to come across on your travels. Magdas Hotel is a social project bringing refugees from all over the world to work together in one place. Hotel is staffed with refuges so expect to hear different languages and different stories from all over the world. Also the building’s history is interesting – it’s a former old people’s home and homeless shelter which has been completely renovated. Most of the furniture is also re-cycled, renovated and re-purposed. The place is full of love, passion and unity. It’s full of colours and smiley faces. Magdas Hotel ‘brings together what belongs together’
Join your leader for a walk through the city’s compact centre this morning (approximately 2 hours). Stop at the gothic looking St. Stephens Cathedral, wander past the neo-classical grandeur of the Graben and onwards to the Hofburg Palace. Finish your orientation of the city at the State Opera House, one of the world’s most important opera houses and the heart of classical Viennese culture. Art lovers have a vast choice of museums, from the Albertina to those located in the Museum Quarter. You have the rest of today to explore Vienna and its surrounds. You might like to head out to Schoenbrunn for a guided audio tour of the summer palace, designed by Empress Maria Theresa. The Gloriette Monument has incredible views of Vienna and the palace gardens are free to all visitors, but there’s a charge for entrance and tours of the palace. In the evening, perhaps head out for some Viennese cuisine.
Depart Vienna by minivan in the morning and cross the border into the Czech Republic (approximately 3.5 hours). Our first stop is the southern Bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov. This picturesque medieval town dates back to the 13th century and is straight out of a fairytale. Cesky Krumlov (pronounced ‘Che-skee Krum-lov’) means ‘crooked meadow’, which is befitting of a town that’s nestled in a sharp bend of the Vltava River. Venture out on an included cycling trip in the afternoon, across rolling hills and through tiny hamlets (approximately 2-2.5 hours). If you have time, explore the city’s castle and its fabulous masquerade hall, or climb the tower for aerial views of the town. For the active, there’s the option to canoe or kayak down the river.
Today is a free for you to enjoy as you please. Perhaps take an optional guided walking tour of the town, which includes commentary of the mysteries that lie behind every shopfront and house on the crooked little streets. For those who want a bit more culture, and time permitting, visit the Egon Schiele Art Centrum and browse the gallery that’s dedicated to the Austrian painter. If you are an adventurous spirit, jump in to a canoe and discover the town from a perspective of Vltava River.
Farewell this southern bohemian town and travel by bus to Prague (approximately 4 hours). During your stay in Prague, you’ll have share the apartment with other members of the group. Several separate apartments are located in the city centre so you may be a short walk away from your other group members and your leader. Staying in the city centre allows easy access to all the sights and the restaurants and bars. Each apartment has two to three rooms with one or two shared bathrooms. Most of the apartments have fully equipped kitchens and you can choose to buy your own groceries and supplies for meals. On arrival into Prague, head out on an orientation walk with your leader, and spend the rest of your afternoon as you wish.
Today is free to explore Prague. The city offers many possibilities, so perhaps take a walk around the Jewish Quarter and pay respects at the Gothic looking Old Jewish Cemetery. This is Europe’s oldest surviving Jewish cemetery, with 12,000 tombstones and 100,000 graves. Visiting The Museum of Communism can shade some light on this part of dark history shared by most of central European countries which somehow isn’t yet well known to the broader audience. Visiting town hall Clock Tower is a great way to finish off a busy day, before heading out for a dinner, and perhaps discovering another great side of Prague: the longest-standing and respected jazz scenes in Europe. If you should find yourself out until the early hours in an atmospheric jazz club, have a wander along Charles Bridge or Old Town Square as the sun rises for magical photo opportunities.
Spend some time this morning at Prague Castle, the biggest castle in the Czech Republic, where you’ll find the famous St. Vitus Cathedral and colourful alleyway of the Golden Lane. A bike tour through the city is a great way to see a lot of the city’s sights and attractions in a short period of time. If you can make time, take a day trip out of town and visit Kutna Hora. The Bone Church (Sedlec Ossuary) is a particularly unique experience. Perhaps use your evening to head out for dinner with the group.
Heading north by train, arrive in the small town of Broumov from where you’ll cross the Czech–Polish border. From here you’ll be transferred in a private vehicle to the nearby small village in range of Gory Sowie (translated as Owl Mountains). Today’s travel time will be around four hours in total. On arrival, check in to our pension situated at the foot of highest mountain in the range – Wielka Sowa. On arrival, visit a nearby underground city from the tragic times of the II World War. Osowka is a mysterious underground complex where workers from concentration camps were forced to work in order to create huge systems of concrete corridors, fortifications and halls. As the work was kept in secret, until now there is many theories trying to explain what the underground city was meant to be used for. Find out yourself on an included guided visit this afternoon.
Continue east today by private bus and journey to Krakow (approximately 5 hours). Possibly the best known of all Poland’s cities, Krakow was the residence of Polish kings from the 11th to the 17th centuries, and its Old Town is a World Heritage-listed site. Take part in leader led orientation walk and once you know your whereabouts, perhaps go and discover one of the biggest and arguably most beautiful medieval squares in Central Europe. Afterwards make your way to the Jewish Quarter and soak up the easy-going atmosphere of this place. In the evening, perhaps head out for some good Polish grub.
Today, explore the city in your own time. 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 inside St Mary’s Basilica which features an extraordinary wood-carved Gothic altarpiece. There’s also the lovely neo-Gothic St Francis’ Basilica, which has some of Poland’s best Art Nouveau. In Krakow, you will also find the second oldest university in Central Europe (the oldest is in Prague). Jagiellonian Univeristy counts Copernicus and Pope John Paul II among its alumni. If you can tear yourself away from Krakow, 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 was in operation for over 700 year and is listed as the UNESCO world heritage site. 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. Krakow has many cellar restaurants and pubs. Perhaps end the day indulging in a few drinks and a plate of pierogi in one of the city’s cheerful establishments.
Say farewell to Krakow today and travel by local buses through southern Poland to Zakopane where you will switch on to a private transport (approximately 5 hours altogether). The trip may be long and a little slow, but the scenery of rolling hills and tiny villages is soothing. Tatranska Lomnica is your destination in Slovakia. It’s a small alpine resort at the base of the Vysoke Tatry (High Tatra) Mountains. The Tatras, the highest range of the Carpathians, stretch for about 60 kilometres across the Polish-Slovakian border and are a trekker’s dream. The evening is free for you to enjoy as you please. Perhaps the best way to do it is to sit back, kick your feet up and soak in the atmosphere of this beautiful mountainous region.
This morning head out on an included hike in the Vysoke Tatry mountains. The most known route is about 6km in length and it is normally completed in 3 hours, including stops on the way. The route includes gradual hill ascents and descents and walking on gravel and uneven rocky surfaces with some slippery sections. The pace and distance will be decided on the day, depending on weather and group abilities – parts of it will involve travelling by funicular, gondola and electric train. It’s a good idea to bring a snack lunch with you for the day. It won’t be very challenging, but a basic level of fitness will help you to enjoy it to the fullest. An alternative and easier route can be suggested by the tour leader to those that do not wish to complete the long walk. We recommend a good pair of comfortable shoes and clothes for unpredictable mountainous weather. During the walk, you may notice that some parts of the forest have been destroyed. This was the result of a tornado-like storm in 2004 that decimated approximately 10,000 hectares of timberland. In the afternoon, head back to the accommodation and enjoy the remainder of the day in this beautiful location.
You have an early start today for the long journey to Budapest As there won’t be too much free time to explore on arrival, perhaps check in to the accommodation and then go for a brief walk around the city to get your bearings. The grand architecture and boulevards evoke a bygone era, while glamorous stores and glitzy restaurants make this one of the truly great cities of Europe. Take the evening as an opportunity to relax after a long day of travelling. Visiting one of Budapest’s many restaurants or bars is a great way to do it.
Today you have a full free day to explore Budapest. Known as ‘The Pearl of the Danube’, Budapest is a great city to enjoy from the water. Perhaps take a boat trip along the river or catch a funicular up to the castle for spectacular views of the Parliament Building. Perhaps head 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 Budapest’s hot thermal baths. The pools vary in temperature, and some even feature whirlpools or seats where you can enjoy a game of chess. You might like to take part in one of our Urban Adventure day tours, such as the Budapest Custom Tour or Bites and Sights. See more at urbanadventures.com.
Today is free for you to enjoy as you please.
Today enjoy a free day to explore Budapest. Hiring a bike is a great way to move between the sights. Perhaps head 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 Budapest’s hot thermal baths. There are several around the city, ranging from elegant to simple outdoor types. The pools vary in temperature, and some even feature whirlpools or seats where you can play chess while you turn into a prune. You can wander the pedestrianised streets of the old district of Buda with the castle on the hill and the Matthias Church, then perhaps take a cruise along the Danube, discovering the history that unfolded along the riverbanks. Tonight perhaps discover some of the city’s ‘ruin bars’, cool places to grab a drink that are usually located in abandoned buildings in downtown Pest and are filled with thrift-shop décor and mismatched art.
Take a two-hour train east to Eger today. This beautifully preserved Baroque town is surrounded by hills and is home to some of the most renowned vineyards in Eastern Europe. Visit the wine cellars of the seductively-named Valley of the Beautiful Women with the group to sample some of the town’s famous ‘Bull’s Blood’ red wine, which supposedly gave the Hungarian army supernatural strength during their battle against the Ottoman Empire. Among the Turkish soldiers it was rumoured that the enemy army drank blood diluted with wine, as the firm resistance they encountered couldn’t be explained any other way. In your own time, perhaps explore Eger’s 13th-century castle, which was the scene of the historic siege that thwarted the Ottoman Empire’s advancement into Western Europe. Here you can explore the Gothic Palace, a gallery of fine Hungarian art, and tour underground passageways of archaeological finds. You may also like to check out the town’s 19th-century cathedral, the northernmost medieval minaret in Europe for views of the city, or the Minorite church in Dobo Square.
Travel by bus to the pleasant town of Debrecen today (approximately 3 hours). While here, you’ll have time to explore Deri Square with its fountains, colourful buildings, museums, and golden Great Church. Continue on by train and private vehicle across the central plains into the Maramures region of Romania. This second part of the journey should take around six hours. Time in Romania is an hour ahead of Hungary, so don’t forget to set your watch. Maramures is also a place that can feel like stepping back in time. The region may be modernising, but among the traditional wooden houses and churches, the traditional music and forests, you can still find parts of life fairly unchanged since medieval times. Upon arrival, settle into your room at the pension, which is run by a local family, and look forward to some hearty home-cooked fare.
Today you’ll discover more about the region of Maramures (‘mah-ra-moo-resh’) and how it seems frozen in time. Rich in tradition and folklore, the music, costumes, festivals and ancient superstitions of one of the last peasant cultures in Europe continue to thrive here. Each village is distinctive in its colourful outfits and style of hat. Maramures is particularly famed for its wooden churches, many of which are World Heritage-listed. Set out on a guided group tour to explore the region. You’ll visit the unique Merry Cemetery in Sapanta, where the life stories of the deceased – the good and the bad of their lives – are displayed on colourful wooden crosses. There are poems and limericks, and little pictures illustrating how the person died, all single-handedly carved over 40 years by Stan Ioan Pătraş until 1977. The work has continued for the last 30 years by his apprentice. You’ll also see the village museum in Sighetu, an assembly of beautiful local wooden architecture, along with stopping by various other traditional villages.
Today is a long day of travel (approximately 9 hours) through pastoral fields and untouched Saxon towns to Sighisoara in Transylvania. While the name may conjure up images of haunted castles, gothic churches and vampires, this is only a small part of what makes Transylvania such an enchanting and exciting destination. Medieval Sighisoara is likely to seduce visitors more than any other place in Romania. Another World Heritage site, the town was first settled by the Romans but flourished under the Saxons from the 12th century. Take a walk around the old town, which coils up a narrow hill and is surrounded on all sides by fortified walls, and explore the 64 metre-high clock tower that dominates the citadel. The town is famed as the birthplace of Vlad Dracul III, better known as Vlad the Impaler, whose name was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s iconic Count Dracula. Vlad III is revered as a folk hero by Romanians for driving off the invading Ottoman Turks, of which his impaled victims are said to have included as many as 100,000. Maybe have traditional Romanian fare at ‘Casa Dracula’ tonight.
While your next stop is less than an hour away, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a different world. The small Transylvanian village of Viscri was originally inhabited by Saxons from the Luxembourg area, and the whole scene is picture-postcard rural. This idyllic village of red tiled roofs is a World Heritage site, virtually unchanged for 900 years. You’ll visit the town’s fortified church (thought to be the oldest in Transylvania). You’ll also learn about the Sock Project, which supports the local Roma community. Time permitting, you may even like to go for a horse cart ride through the area, over pastures and through wondrous woods of oak and hornbeam. In the evening, indulge in a home-cooked dinner prepared by a local family, sampling fresh produce, homemade wines and schnapps. Tonight, stay in rustic houses that the locals rent out to visitors.
Today continue to the 13th-century Saxon city of Brasov (approximately 2 hours). Also known by its German name of Kronstadt, the town is flanked by mountains and city walls was once a major medieval trading centre. Enjoy free time to explore, checking out the ornate churches, townhouses and squares surrounded by gingerbread-roofed merchants’ houses. It’s worth visiting the town’s main attraction, the gothic (Biserica Neagra) Black Church, which took its name from its blackened appearance after a fire in 1689. Stroll along pedestrianized Strada Republicii, take a cable car up to Mt Tampa, or maybe explore the nearby Rasnov Fortress. The fortification is perched on a rocky hilltop above the town of Rasnov, and was constructed by Teutonic Knights in the 13th century as a place of refuge for the common people from Tartar invaders. Otherwise, you could head to Bran Castle, said to be the inspiration for the home of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Though not exactly super spooky, it is undeniably impressive, perched on a high cliff top and surrounded by pine trees. For those looking for a little nightlife action, Brasov has plenty of funky bars and restaurants to enjoy once darkness falls.
Head south to Bucharest today (approximately 3 hours). The city is increasingly known for its cosmopolitan vibe and energy, and while not the most beautiful or stylish city, there are some wonderful art nouveau buildings, ancient churches and monasteries, lush parkland, lakes and elegant boulevards. Romania’s interesting capital also likes big things. It’s home to one of Europe’s biggest squares, and its Palace of Parliament is the second largest building in the world – former dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu ordered the construction of the 12-storied Palace of Parliament, a building of staggering scale and opulence that includes 1,100 rooms and 4,500 chandeliers. You’ll take a guided walking tour around the city to help you get your bearings, then in free time you can choose to further explore some of the sights pointed out. You can check out the Museum of the Romanian Peasant. Another great way to see the city is by bicycle, perhaps exploring some of the city’s neighbourhoods for a glimpse into the daily lives of Bucharest’s residents. Maybe seek out some traditional home-cooked Romanian food with your fellow travellers on your last night together as a group.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. For those who wish to stay longer in Bucharest please enquire about additional accommodation at the time of booking.
Cesky Krumlov Cycling trip (weather and season permitting)
Visit to Underground City of Osowka
Tatra Mountains Hike (not between Nov and Mar)
Tatranska Lomnica Gondola
Eger Wine Tasting
Maramures Tour with Local Guide
Sapanta Merry Cemetery
Viscri Fortified Church
Bucharest Guided Walking Tour