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Ginny's Travels

Eastern Europe

2013

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This is a trip we are planning! This page will be updated as we progress.
Look who's going!

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Ginny Bender

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Linda Bryant

DAY 1
Depart U.S.

Depart today for your flight to Berlin. Please refer to your individual air itinerary for exact flight times.

DAY 2
Arrive in Berlin, Germany
Meals Included: Dinner
Accommodations:

Arrive this morning or afternoon in Berlin. A Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport and assist with the transfer to your hotel, where you'll meet your fellow travelers who are joining you from their optional pre-trip extension to Berlin.

Gather this evening to meet your Program Director and traveling companions for a Welcome Drink, followed by a Welcome Dinner in your hotel.

DAY 3
Berlin/City tour/Optional Potsdam tour
Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodations:
Optional Tour:Potsdam 

Discover the city that once represented the Cold War and is now the face of the rebirth of Eastern Europe on an included city tour that will introduce you to Berlin’s rich history and vibrant present.

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The afternoon is yours to explore on your own, or you may want to visit Potsdam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, during an optional tour. You'll begin at the Cecilienhof Palace—constructed between 1914 and 1917 by Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany—here you’ll discover the important role Potsdam played during the post-World War II era. Stalin, Truman, and Churchill met here to determine how to deal with a defeated Germany, and the city’s Glienicke Bridge became known as the “Bridge of Spies” during the Cold War, as the superpowers used its midpoint as a place to exchange captured agents.You will also enjoy a walk through the gardens at Sanssouci Park, which offers a large selection of fruit trees, vegetables, and flowers across the sprawling landscape. The cost of this optional tour includes dinner.

DAY 4
Berlin/Transfer to Warsaw, Poland
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner
Accommodations:

After breakfast, transfer by train to Warsaw.

We arrive in Warsaw late this afternoon and settle into our hotel for our three-night stay.

DAY 5
Warsaw/City tour/Home-Hosted Dinner
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner
Accommodations:

After breakfast this morning, enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series presentation on Modern Poland.

Then set off on a half-day Warsaw city tour. Once a vibrant and glorious capital, Warsaw suffered heavy damage during World War II, and the Nazis virtually destroyed it after the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Its rebirth and rebuilding since the end of the war is inspirational, as you'll see on your visit to the historic reconstructed Old Town, surrounded by 14th- and 15th-century walls. Located on the left bank of the Vistula, the "Queen of Polish Rivers," Old Town's narrow, winding streets, charming houses, churches, and cobblestone marketplace will enchant you. And you'll appreciate the fact that the Old Town is closed to all traffic except pedestrians and horse-drawn cabs.

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You'll travel down the Royal Road, from beautiful Lazienki Park to the Royal Palace, and stand before the Heroes of the Ghetto Memorial, a large but simple slab of dark granite in the heart of the World War II Jewish ghetto.

The best way to peer deep inside a culture is through its people—this is a belief that Grand Circle takes to heart. That's why we've arranged for you to be welcomed into a local home in Warsaw for an unforgettable evening. Tonight, you'll have the opportunity to get acquainted with a local Polish family as you break bread and share conversation with them during an intimate dinner in their home.

Your visit will give you invaluable insight into the daily lives of this region. During this exclusive cultural exchange, you'll witness firsthand the proud traditions of generations past, gain an appreciation of the importance of family in this culture, and perhaps look into the eyes of Poland's future in its young adults and children. And, of course, a highlight of your visit will be a delicious, traditional home-cooked meal, and maybe even some of that famed Polish vodka. This is a unique opportunity to see how the Polish people really live, and the experience is sure to be a highlight of your trip.

DAY 6
Warsaw/Optional Chopin Piano Recital
Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodations:
Optional Tour:Chopin Piano Recital
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This morning, meet with a former Auschwitz prisoner to learn about the strength and courage of a Holocaust survivor. Then the day is yours to relax or explore—or a little of both. You may want to revisit places that you saw on yesterday's city tour. Maybe you'll enjoy a bird's-eye overview from atop the 37-story Palace of Culture and Science. From here, you can gaze across the Vistula River at the Praga, a former artisans' district.

Ask your Program Director for suggestions on where to dine on your own tonight. Warsaw is teeming with kawiarnia (cafes), which move outdoors in the summer. You may want to find one where you can enjoy your evening meal.

Or, in the early evening, you can attend an optional Chopin piano recital with dinner, enjoying the music of Poland's best-known and most beloved musician.

DAY 7
Transfer to Krakow, Poland/Czestochowa tour/Polish Folk dinner
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodations:

After an early breakfast, drive to Krakow, a 200-mile transfer that takes a full day (including stops). During the transfer, you’ll pause for a visit to the shrine at Czestochowa. Religion and spirituality are an integral part of Polish society—deeply felt and solemnly celebrated. And there’s no more holy site to the Polish people than the 14th-century Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa, which you’ll explore during this fascinating visit.

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Once a year, tens of thousands of pilgrims walk from Warsaw to Czestochowa to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption. It’s a nine-day journey, one that dramatically symbolizes the religious devotion of the Polish people. What draws them is the legendary “Black Madonna,” a Byzantine painting of the Virgin Mary that is housed in the hilltop Jasna Gora Monastery. The portrait, which is attributed to St. Luke, has several levels of significance to the Polish people. It became the eternal symbol of Polish nationalism in the 17th century when a small band of soldiers and monks successfully defended the sanctuary against a Swedish assault. Additionally, the portrait is said to have miraculous powers. The slashes on her cheeks are believed to have been wrought by a would-be thief who became enraged during his attempted theft when the painting mysteriously grew heavier and heavier, forcing him to leave it behind.

You’ll find yourself among a community of devout Poles of all ages and classes, the monastery’s religious populace, and the bustling market with religious statues, rosary beads, and mementos.

Upon your arrival in Krakow—the seat of Poland’s oldest university and the capital of the country until 1596—join your Program Director for a vicinity walk to familiarize yourself with the area around your hotel.

Gather with your fellow travelers for dinner this evening and enjoy included entertainment.

DAY 8
Krakow/Optional Wieliczka Salt Mines tour
Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodations:
Optional Tour:Wieliczka Salt Mines

You'll have the opportunity to explore the Krakow's seven centuries of architecture this morning, during an included city tour. In 1978, the city was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s full of cathedrals, churches, and sacred art. Krakow survived World War II with little damage, and the city center stands today much as it did during its medieval days. You’ll visit Market Square, the center of city life for more than 700 years. Admire the elegant plaza ringed with churches and regal medieval buildings, with the enormous Draper’s Hall market as the focal point. You'll also explore the Old Jewish quarter of Kazimierz, and stroll through its narrow streets.

This afternoon, enjoy free time to make your own discoveries, perhaps taking in one of the city’s many fine museums.

Or, join an optional tour to the Wieliczka Salt Mines this afternoon—working mines that have been in operation for more than seven centuries, producing about 700 tons of pure salt per day. These fascinating mines are considered one of Europe’s great wonders and are protected by UNESCO as a historic monument. Here are more than 2,000 caverns of underground beauty on nine main levels—breathtaking chambers, galleries, and salt lakes. After exploring the mines, end the day with a typical Polish dinner in a local restaurant, accompanied by a sample of Zubrowka, the famous Polish vodka. Please note: This optional tour involves extensive walking inside caves that are not brightly lit. You’ll descend into the caves by elevator, but later on there will be steps (always going down) that may be slippery, and return to ground level via elevator.

Dinner is on your own this evening.

DAY 9
Krakow/Auschwitz tour    The Highlight of our tour!
Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodations:

This morning may be an emotional one, as you visit Oswiecim, better known to Americans by its German name of Auschwitz. This is the location of the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, set on the site of the largest of the World War II concentration camps as a memorial to the millions of Jews, Gypsies, and “enemies” of the Nazi regime who were killed here. Grand Circle Foundation has donated generously to assist in the expansion of this educational center.

You’ll visit the infamous concentration camp at Auschwitz and make a brief stop at Birkenau, often referred to as Auschwitz II. This was one of about 40 satellite camps built around Auschwitz.

You'll then return to Krakow and spend this free afternoon any way you please.

DAY 10
Krakow/Optional Zakopane Tour
Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodations:
Optional Tour:Zakopane

Transfer to Zakopane this morning, a lovely town in the foothills of the Tatra Mountains. Zakopane offers a look into the richness of Polish folk culture, as well as some of the region’s most striking wooden architecture. Once there, you’ll enjoy an included tour of the town known as the “winter capital of Poland.” You might also be tempted to try some local delicacies, like oscypek—a rustic, smoked cheese usually made of sheep’s milk—over an included lunch, which is accompanied by colorful folk entertainment.

After checking into your hotel, you’ll have the afternoon to yourself to make your own discoveries in Zakopane. Dinner is on your own tonight.

DAY 11
Krakow/Transfer to Prague, Czech Republic
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Accommodations:
Diplomat Hotel
or similar

After an early breakfast, begin your transfer to Prague, stopping en route in the Czech city of Olomouc for lunch. Upon arrival at your hotel in Prague, enjoy an orientation walk, followed by a Welcome Drink.

Dinner tonight is on your own.

DAY 12
Prague/City tour
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner
Accommodations:
Diplomat Hotel
or similar

After breakfast, set off this morning on a tour of the city, soaking in the spell cast by palaces, churches, and museums in this “City of a Hundred Spires.” Enjoy time to discover Prague on your own this afternoon.

DAY 13
Prague/Czech Republic's Political & Economic Past & Present lecture/Sychrov Castle
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner
Accommodations:
Diplomat Hotel
or similar
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After breakfast at your hotel, enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series lecture discussing the Czech Republic's Political & Economic Past & Present.

Then, spend the morning and early afternoon exploring at your own pace. Perhaps you will follow in the footsteps of Mozart at the Bertramka Museum. Mozart stayed in this delightful villa during his visits to Prague in 1787 and 1791 as a guest of the Czech composer F.X. Dusek and his wife. It was here at Bertramka that Mozart composed the famous overture to his magnificent Don Giovanni.

Later this afternoon, discover Sychrov Castle, an 18th-century aristocratic 
residence built in neo-Gothic style during an included tour with dinner.

DAY 14
Prague/Transfer to Budapest, Hungary/Lunch in Bratislava, Slovakia
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

After an early breakfast, begin your day-long ride to Budapest (about 300 miles). You’ll stop for an included lunch in Bratislava. The capital of Slovakia, Bratislava has a history dating to Celtic and Roman times. Though the Czech Republic and Slovakia were united as Czechoslovakia for nearly 75 years, they each have distinctive personalities, languages, and landscapes. You’ll get a taste of Slovakian fare during lunch here, along with a lovely walk with your Program Director in the Old Town of Bratislava.

After checking into your hotel in Budapest, enjoy a Welcome Drink. Dinner is on your own this evening.

DAY 15
Budapest/City tour/Hungary's Political Past & Present discussion
Meals Included: Breakfast

After breakfast, enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series discussion of Hungary’s Political Past & Present, led by a professor from Budapest University. Then, embark on a tour of Hungary’s lovely capital, situated on both sides of the magnificent Danube River. In Buda, on the right bank of the Danube, you'll view a grand panorama of the entire city. Cross over the Danube bridges and see how the imposing Parliament Building dominates Pest, on the other side of the river.

From the Elisabeth Bridge, the tour takes you to Heroes Square, with monuments to all the Hungarian kings. You’ll also pass by Matthias Church, where the Hungarian kings were crowned.

Your afternoon is free to explore on your own. Perhaps you’ll want to return to Vaci Utca, the shop-lined, pedestrian-only street where you’ll find excellent Herend porcelain, peasant embroidery, and other souvenirs of Hungary. Or you may want to visit Castle Hill, encircled by ramparts that protect the massive castle complex. Destroyed during World War II, the palace has been restored to its original splendor and is now a vast museum complex where remains of the original structure are displayed.

Dinner is on your own this evening.

DAY 16
Budapest
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

You have the full day at leisure to explore Budapest on your own. The city was made for walking, and you may want to stroll along the Danube. You can visit the 19th-century National Museum, perhaps Budapest’s most famous monument.

This evening, join your fellow travelers for a special Farewell Dinner and a scenic cruise along the legendary Danube River.

DAY 17
Budapest/Return to U.S. or begin post-trip extension
Meals Included: Breakfast

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home