Painted by a poignant history, Poland is now embracing a bright and welcoming epoch. Monuments of its tragic past, reminders of all Poland has overcome, dot the landscape alongside signs of progress. Warsaw holds vestiges of its regal past as well as culinary delights and chic cafes. Medieval Cracow retains its timeless charm, and the pilgrimage site of Czestochowa continues to draw the masses. Having stood the tests of time and tyrants, Poland has many, many tales to tell.
Eastern Europe Expedition - Poland, Hungary, Austria, and the Czech Republic: 13-Day Sample Itinerary
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Days 1 & 2: Wonders of Warsaw, Poland
Take a guided tour of Warsaw on which you will explore the fashionable Royal Route, and visit sites such as the landmark Palace of Culture; the Jewish Ghetto Memorial, which commemorates the Jewish uprising of 1943; and the beautiful Baroque and Renaissance Old Town burghers' houses, which were so fastidiously and accurately reconstructed after the World War II destruction that the area was named a World Heritage Site.
Day 3: Pilgrimage to the Black Madonna, Poland
Wend your way into the Polish countryside to the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa, the sacred site where Catholics from around the world pilgrimage to view the Black Madonna. According to legend this painting saved the monastery from being burned to the ground, but was blackened by the fire.
Day 4: Medieval Cracow and Solemn Auschwitz, Poland
Enjoy medieval Cracow! A former capital of Poland, Cracow remains a cultural and artistic center. The Main Market Square dates back to the 13th-century and is the largest medieval market in Europe. Visit UNESCO sites such as Wawel Castle.
In the afternoon take an excursion to Auschwitz, the infamous extermination camp where 1.5 million people were tortured to death. Today the site remains as a solemn reminder of the atrocities man is capable of inflicting on his fellow man.
Day 5: Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland
Journey to the UNESCO Wieliczka Salt Mine, which has been in continues operation for nearly 800 years. This cavernous labyrinth of passages and chapels is carved out of crystalline salt and is a truly fascinating underworld experience. Return to Cracow to visit Kazimierz, the former Jewish Quarter and current UNESCO Site, with the Remu Synagogue and Museum.
Day 6: Slovakia and the Tatra Mountains
Sojourn briefly in Slovakia for a refreshing midday meal, sampling the national dish of bryndzove halusky (potato dumplings with sheep's milk cheese). Continue through the idyllic Tatra Mountains to Budapest, Hungary. Upon arrival admire the city's nighttime illuminations from aboard an evening cruise. For dinner enjoy authentic Hungarian goulash, which contains no tomatoes!
Day 7: The East of Budapest, Hungary
Elegant Budapest is divided in two by the sinuous Danube River, with "Buda" to the west and "Pest: to the east. Today follow your guide through Pest, exploring the Embassy District, Heroes' Square, and the lake surrounded Vajdahunyad Castle. Visit the Underground Railway Museum, which reflects Budapest's turn-of-the-century atmosphere.
Day 8: The West of Budapest, Hungary
Today explore Buda, admiring the Neo-Gothic design of the Parliament, and the stained glass windows of Matthias Church, located in the Castle District. Gain marvelous views of the city from Fisherman's Bastion and the cobblestone streets of Castle Hill. Tonight enjoy a delectable dessert of palacsinta, reminiscent of American crepes.
Day 9: Palatial Vienna, Austria
Journey to regal Vienna, once one of the largest political and cultural centers in Europe. View the iconic paintings in the Church of St. Charles, and the other sites of Karlsplatz, and then behold the imperial relics of the Habsburg Empire at the Museum of Fine Arts. Enjoy a lunch fit for a king at Schonbrunn Palace, the summer palace built to rival Versailles and contains a Hall of Mirrors and over 1,000 other rooms. Tour the surrounding gardens and State Apartments.
Day 10: The Sonorous Side of Vienna, Austria
Explore the architectural splendor of Vienna as you walk the winding roads. Walk the Hofburg Imperial Palace grounds, historical home of Austria's most powerful people. Visit its imperial treasuries, six museums, and gorgeously constructed buildings.
Visit musical monuments such as the Mozart Memorial, the 17th-century house where Mozart composed his opera The Marriage of Figaro; the Pasqualai House, a former residence of Beethoven; and Haydn's House, where Joseph Hayn gave lessons to Beethoven. Later this evening attend an orchestra performance featuring the music of these great composers.
Day 11: Pleasures of Prague, Czech Republic
Enter Prague, capital of the Czech Republic. Begin by touring Old Town, and then viewing the city from the Charles Bridge. View the astronomical clock, which marks the phases of the moon, the equinoxes, and other celestial passings. Stroll through historic Jan Palach Square and then to the Neo-Classical Estates Theatre. Explore the Jewish Quarter (Josefov); and the Old-New Synagogue, the oldest standing synagogue in Europe
Day 12: Castle District in Prague, Czech Republic
Continue exploring Hradcany (Castle District), and tour the stunning Prague Castle complex. Constructed in the 9th century, Prague Castle is one of the largest castles in the world, and the surrounding grounds contain the royal coronation site, the Cathedral of St. Vitus, and the Strahov Monastery Libraries, whose 125,000 volumes comprise some of the world's best philosophical and theological collections.
Day 13: Journey home
Enjoy your last breakfast of kolache (fruit or cheese filled pastry) before boarding your plane for a safe flight home.
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