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Monday, July 27, 2009

Treasures of Central Europe Tour (May 2010) Itinerary
for more information contact Jessica South at jessicadebra@gmail.com
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This is the itinerary for our upcoming May 2010 tour of Germany and Central Europe. Participants can sign up through January 15, 2010. Our tours are open to anyone 18 years and older. For more information including a current price quote, please e-mail me at jessicadebra@gmail.com.

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Day 1 - Fly overnight to Germany
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Day 2 - Berlin
• Arrive in Berlin
Since the Berlin Wall came down in late 1989, the city has continued to evolve into a thriving metropolis. One place to easily recognize Berlin’s emergence is in Potsdamer Platz. This area filled with cafés and restaurants, was a hub for artists and poets prior to World War II, which destroyed most of it. Today, Potsdamer Platz once again bustles, thanks in part to the sprawling Sony Center, as well as DaimlerCity, which boasts an observation deck with the continent’s fastest elevator. After clearing customs, you are greeted by your bilingual EF Tour Director, who will remain with you throughout your stay. A private motorcoach takes you to your comfortable hotel for check-in.
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Day 3 - Berlin
• Take a guided tour of Berlin including Brandenburg Gate
• Visit Checkpoint Charlie Museum
• Optional: Potsdam
Ride past the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche (left unrestored as a reminder of the ravages of war) and down the glittery Kurfürstendamm, Berlin’s liveliest street. Pass the Rathaus Schöneberg, where 1.5 million West Berliners flocked to hear President Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in 1963. On your way to the Eastern sector, pass the Reichstag, former seat of the parliaments of the German Empire and the Weimar Republic. Arrive at the Brandenburg Gate, once the symbol of the undeclared Cold War and now the symbol of a eunited Berlin.
On the site where Checkpoint Charlie once guarded the border between East and West Germany, you’ll visit a museum devoted to the era of the Berlin Wall. Inspect the “escape cars” once used to cross the border. See if you can find the secret compartment where escapees hid. Then view a photo exhibit that evocatively portrays the 30-year separation of East and West Germany, reunified in 1989.
Opt to take a guided journey to Potsdam, the pride and joy of former East Germany. Potsdam was the royal playground of Frederick the Great, king of Prussia. The emperor lavished his fortune on the Brandenburg Gate (1770) and several palaces, including Sanssouci Palace (1745-47) and the New Palace (1763-69). Your excursion includes entrance to either Sanssouci or Cecilienhof.
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Day 4 - Berlin • Dresden • Prague
• Take a walking tour of Dresden
Travel by way of Dresden, once considered by many to be the most beautiful city in the world. A local tour guide will introduce you to the renovated Semper Opera House and statue of Martin Luther. You’ll also have free time to visit other cultural attractions, such as the magnificent Zwinger Palace. Destroyed by the Allies’ infamous Dresden firebombing in 1945, it was later rebuilt and remains one of the most impressive examples of Baroque architecture in Eastern Europe.
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Day 5 - Prague
• Take a guided tour of Prague
• Take a walking tour of Prague
Your tour begins at the celebrated Prague Castle (Hradcany). In the castle’s courtyard, you’ll visit the magnificent St. Vitus Cathedral, which took more than 600 years to complete. On the nearby Golden Lane, royal alchemists once labored (unsuccessfully) to turn lead into gold. More recently, on the same street, Franz Kafka turned his angst into some of the 20th century’s finest fiction. You’ll also stroll through the quaint, cobbled streets of the Mala Strana, the backdrop for Milos Forman’s Amadeus. Cross the Charles Bridge, adorned with 30 beautiful Baroque statues, to the 13th-century Old Town (Stare Mesto). Here, you’ll see Market Square, famous for its 15th-century astronomical clock. You’ll also wander through Josefov, the traditional Jewish Quarter, home to the oldest synagogue in Europe (built in 1270).
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Day 6 - Budapest
• Travel through Slovakia to Budapest
Continue on to Budapest, capital of Hungary. At the heart of the Carpathian Basin and flecked with natural thermal springs, Budapest has attracted nomadic cultures from across Europe for centuries. The Danube River actually divides it into two cities: the old city of Buda and the "newer” city of Pest.
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Day 7 - Budapest
• Take a guided tour of Budapest
• Visit Matthias Church
• Visit Budapest Basilica
• Take a walking tour of Budapest
• Take a cruise along the Danube River
Begin your tour at Heroes’ Square, where you will see the Millenary Monument and statues of famous Hungarian personalities. Drive down Andrassy Boulevard, past the State Opera House to the Hungarian Parliament, modeled on London’s Houses of Parliament. Step inside St. Stephen’s Basilica, named in honor of St. Stephen, the first king of Hungary. Journey up Castle Hill for a look at the Royal Palace, former home of the Hungarian monarchs. The castle has witnessed several invasions—the most recent occurred during WWII. Look for bullet holes in the outer walls, blasted by Russian tanks during the 1956 uprising. Visit the 13th-century Matthias Church, famous as the site of several coronations and for its colorful tiled roof. Your tour ends with a stop on Gellért Hill, from where you can take in some of the best views of the city. Today’s walking tour takes you past the Parliament and to the Fishermen’s Bastion for a wonderful panoramic view of Hungary’s capital.
Enjoy a cruise along the historic Danube River this evening. Depart from the center of Budapest and absorb the enchanting history of this legendary area. Hear about its Hungarian past, including its kings, queens, poets and inventors. Cap off your memorable evening listening to the Blue Danube Waltz as you return to port.
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Day 8 - Vienna
• Take an orientation tour of Vienna including Opera House
Welcome to the lovely capital of Austria. Pass the city’s worldfamous Opera House and the 450-foot-high, Gothic St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a venerable symbol of the city. Also see the Sacher Hotel—the esteemed chocolate Sachertorte was invented here, by order of Prince Metternich.
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Day 9 - Vienna
• Take a guided tour of Vienna
• Visit Schönbrunn Palace
The residence of the imperial court for six centuries, Vienna is marked with the seal of the Hapsburgs, a family who once ruled over half of Europe. In-depth sightseeing takes you down the Ring, a series of wide boulevards commissioned by Emperor Franz Josef in 1857. Ride past the Parliament, the flower-adorned Rathaus (Town Hall) and the Hofburg, where the powerful Hapsburg dynasty ruled until 1918.
You’ll also visit beautiful Schönbrunn Palace, where Marie Antoinette (the most famous of Empress Maria Theresa’s 16 children) spent her childhood. After viewing the elegant interior, stroll through the palace’s beautifully landscaped gardens.

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Day 10 - Salzburg • Munich
• Take an orientation tour of Salzburg including Old Town
• Continue on to Munich
Orient yourself with Salzburg, a town known for its cobblestone streets and famous cafés. You might also recognize Salzburg as the backdrop for The Sound of Music. Journey through the Old Town and past the Residenz, once home to Salzburg’s prince-bishops. Walk by the birthplace of Mozart. The famed composer is buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave somewhere outside of Vienna. Experience the Gemütlichkeit of Munich, capital of Bavaria and site of the legendary Oktoberfest. “Munich” derives from the city’s German name, München (little monk), so named because the original settlement bordered a monastery.
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Day 11 - Munich
• Take a guided tour of Munich including Marienplatz
• Visit Dachau
• Take a walking tour of Munich
Your guided tour takes you past the Olympic Stadium, BMW’s headquarters and the fashionable Schwabing district. You’ll also pass the Residenz (once home to the Wittelsbach dukes of Bavaria), the Deutsches Museum, the university and the Alte Pinakothek. Your tour concludes at Marienplatz, Munich’s medieval heart, home of the city’s famed Glockenspiel. Visit Dachau, a WWII Nazi concentration camp built in 1935 and liberated by the Allies in April 1945. It now serves as a memorial museum. Stroll through the very heart of Munich as you pass the twin copper domes of the Frauenkirche, a long-standing symbol of the city. Arrive at Marienplatz, once the intersection of medieval trade routes. Here you can see the neo-Gothic Rathaus and the golden Mariensäule, a monument commemorating Munich’s divine salvation from rampaging Swedish hordes. Then continue past the Hofbräuhaus, Munich’s most famous beer hall. On a good day, almost 30,000 liters of beer are sold here.
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Day 12 - Munich • Heidelberg
• Transfer to Heidelberg
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Day 13 - Heidelberg
• Take a guided tour of Heidelberg
• Visit Heidelberg Castle wine barrel
• Optional: Neckar Valley
Become acquainted with Germany’s oldest university city—the university dates back to 1386. See Heidelberg’s 700-year-old Schloss (palace) and its famous Fass (wine barrel), the world’s largest. From the castle’s historic battlements, you’ll enjoy a stunning view of the Neckar Valley, where Homo heidelbergensis roamed 500,000 years ago. You’ll also see the town’s medieval streets and Marktplatz, where witches were once burned at the stake. Writers as diverse as Mark Twain (who once floated down the Neckar on a raft) and Goethe (who was inspired by the view from the Schloss) have long praised Heidelberg’s enduring beauty. Join an optional excursion to the Neckar Valley. Enjoy a meandering cruise along the Neckar River, where you’ll drink in commanding views of the many Old World castles that perch along the riverbank. The excursion includes a visit to 13th-century Dilsberg Fortress. Set on a high hill overlooking the Valley, Dilsberg was once the most powerful fortress in the region.
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2 DAY TOUR EXTENSION ~~ OPTIONAL
Day 14 - Colmar • Lucerne Region
• Take a guided tour of Colmar
Your tour director introduces you to Colmar, home of Auguste Bartholdi, who designed the Statue of Liberty. You can see many of Bartholdi’s statues as you meander through this small, picturesque town. Sometimes nicknamed Petite Venise, you might be reminded of a famous Italian city as you stroll along the canals and through the many small town squares. Pass the cathedral and the Musée Unterlinden, which houses great Alsatian artifacts.
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Day 15 - Lucerne Region
• Take a guided tour of Lucerne
• Visit Mount Pilatus
• Optional: Swiss Folklore Evening
The majestic Alps provide a stunning backdrop to your tour of Lucerne, where composer Richard Wagner wrote several of his major works. You’ll view the captivating Löwendenkmal (Lion Monument), a sandstone statue commemorating the Swiss Guards slain in the 1792 Paris storming of the Tuileries. According to Mark Twain, it is “the saddest and most compassionate piece of rock on earth.” Stroll down narrow, winding streets and across the Kapellbrücke, a covered bridge whose history dates back to medieval days—the murals lining its walls are nearly identical to those painted in the 14th century. Be on the lookout for the colorful, hand-painted façades along the cobbled streets of the Old Town. Take an excursion to Mount Pilatus. This exciting half-day adventure takes you to the top of Mount Pilatus, the majestic mountain dominating the Lucerne skyline. In the summer months, travel to the foot of the mountain by boat across the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake Lucerne); then ride the famous Pilatus cog railway—the steepest in the world—to the top. During the other seasons, you’ll journey to the mountain base by motorcoach before ascending by cable car. After 45 spectacular minutes and 6,387 feet, you’ll reach the summit and be rewarded with a splendid panorama of Lucerne, its lake and the glorious snow-capped Alps. On a clear day, you can see for more than 200 miles! Alternatively, enjoy free time to stroll along the shores of Lake Lucerne, view the fairy-tale exteriors of local homes or sample Switzerland’s unsurpassable chocolate. Opt to join us for our special Swiss Folklore Event. Enjoy cheese fondue, the country’s most popular dish. Dip your long forks into the caquelon and be treated to lively Alpine entertainment—including authentic flag swinging, alpenhorn playing and yodeling.
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Day 16 - Depart for home
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itinerary is from EF Educational Tours (www.eftours.com)
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photographs by Jamie Lackey Stefko