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Enjoy a 22-day odyssey through Central Europe on this Lonely Planet Experience powered by Intrepid, including time in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy. See the remains of the Berlin Wall and the Trevi Fountain in Rome. Unearth medieval secrets in Cesky Krumlov and rest on the banks of Budapest's River Danube. Bask in Bled's beauty and discover pastel-coloured villages along the Cinque Terre. From the backstreets of Prague to the canals of Venice and beyond, this journey is the perfect way to experience the diverse offerings of Europe's delightful middle.
BerlinGuten 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 TrainThis 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.
KrakowArrive 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.
KrakowIf 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.
PragueTake 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.
PragueAnother 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.
Cesky KrumlovLeave 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.
ViennaTake 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.
ViennaA 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.
BudapestTravel 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.
BudapestEnjoy 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.
BledBuckle 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.
BledThere’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.
VeniceTravel by train through stunning scenery to one of the world's most unique cities, Venice (approximately 5.5 hours). Renowned for its canals, Venice is comprised of hundreds of small islands connected by nearly 400. Its famous sights – such as the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge, Doge's Palace (the ruler of Venice), the Piazza San Marco and the evocative Bridge of Sighs – are easily explored by foot. Wander the cobblestone streets and spacious piazzas, crossing hundreds of tiny bridges and you’ll find shops, markets, galleries and churches around every corner. Don't miss the chance to take a gondola ride through the romantic canals and sample a slice of tiramisu (coffee-soaked sponge cake), the region’s specialty.
VeniceEnjoy free time in this watery wonderland of bridges, towers, piazzas, canals, churches and gondolas – practically unchanged for 600 years. Rich with artistic masterpieces, modern Venice combines history with contemporary life through food, performance, art and architecture. Take a walk around the maze of streets behind San Marco square and begin to understand the complex canal system of Venice.
VeniceToday you will have another free day to delve deeper into this beautiful city. The Grand Canal is a great place to start, as you can stroll over the Rialto Bridge and browse the endless amounts of boutique shops that sell Venetian masks and handmade Murano glassware. Venice is famous for its specialities of fresh lobster and squid ink spaghetti dishes – make sure to give one a try.
La SpeziaBoard a morning train through the scenic north of Italy to the once important naval base of La Spezia (approximately 6–7 hours). La Spezia is known mainly as the gateway to the gorgeous Cinque Terre (Five Lands). The name comes from the five tiny villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – positioned on a series of coves between sheer cliffs. On arrival in La Spezia there won't be too much time to explore (that’s what tomorrow is for), but after checking into your hotel perhaps get your bearings with a short walk around the pedestrian zone on Via del Prione or head out for dinner with the group.
Cinque Terre / La SpeziaSpend today exploring winding footpaths and pastel coloured villages with your included Cinque Terre Pass. The pass gives you access to the paths and trains of the area for 24 hours. Please consult your leader on which section is right for you, as some have challenging uphill stretches, narrow paths, steep cliffs and foot bridges. It's also possible to take the train between any of the villages, or back to the group's base in La Spezia whenever you want. After working up an appetite, maybe take advantage of an optional pesto class. Focaccia is also a speciality in this area and makes a great start to lunch, if you’d prefer.
FlorenceDepart La Spezia today and catch a train to Florence (approximately 3.5 hours). On arrival, check into the hostel and go for a brief walk around the immediate area to get your bearings. Florence is one of the most culturally rich and beautiful cities in Italy, known to many as the beating heart of Tuscany. The Medicis, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Brunelleschi, Machiavelli, Donatello and Michelangelo all lived in Florence at the height of their creative reign. Food is a major part of the city's identity and the optional activities on offer reflect this. Maybe explore the city’s culinary history (and taste some local treats) on a Florence Foodies Walk with Urban Adventures. Carnivores might be drawn to try the Bistecca alla Fiorentina, the Florentine Beef Steak, essentially a huge T-bone steak that comes with classic sides.
FlorenceEnjoy another day in beautiful Florence. It's impossible to see everything in this Renaissance wonderland, so the best idea is to relax and pick a few things you really want to do. Maybe start with a visit to the Galleria dell'Accademia where you can see Michelangelo's famous statue of David, or perhaps stop by the Uffizi, one of the world's oldest art galleries. Active types might want to walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo, which is set on a hill on the south bank of the Arno River, to take in beautiful views of the city – a lovely way to while away the day. There are plenty of optional activities on offer during your time here, so be sure to grill your leader for the details on each so you can get a sense of what interests you.
RomeTake the morning train to Rome (approximately 2 hours). Join your leader on an orientation walk around the city to see icons such as the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine, the Forum (centre of ancient Rome), the Victor Emmanuel Monument, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, Via Dei Condotti and Piazza Venezia. Phew. After all that history it’s probably time for lunch. Maybe grab a slice of the good stuff and a strong espresso at the Piazza Navona. You can spend your afternoon how you wish and there are plenty of heavy hitters to choose from. Maybe enter the Vatican and check out St Peter's Basilica. Art lovers could visit the Sistine Chapel to admire the timeless work of Michelangelo, while history buffs may enjoy a jaunt through the ancient halls of the Pantheon. Rome is packed full of trattorias that cater to every taste and budget, so this evening maybe link up with the group for dinner.
RomeYour adventures come to an end today. There are no activities planned and you're free to depart the accommodation at any time after check-out. As there is so much to see in Rome, we recommend you stay a little longer to soak it up. We are happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). Please speak to an agent at the time of booking.
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Our guide Tarang chandola was exceptional. Courteous, knowledgeable, organized, polite, professional and went above and beyond taking care of our needs and requests offen anticipating what that might be. He made sure we all had the best possible time and offered suggestions to meet the needs of everyone on the tour. This made the trip even more enjoyable.
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