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Russia, The Baltic States, Eastern Europe and Danube River 2022

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OVERVIEW:

We are operating this tour for the sixth successive year due to popular demand. There are so many spectacular sights to see as we journey through the region. Starting in Moscow, the economic and political capital, we then travel by high-speed train to the imperial city of St Petersburg. The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania exude a mixture of old-world charm and youthful exuberance having shaken off the shackles of Soviet domination. Through to Poland and the ancient and historic cities of Warsaw and Krakow then on to Budapest, the starting point for our 7 nights cruising through the heart of Europe up the Danube to Vienna. Finally, magical Prague, no better place to conclude such an exciting and interesting tour.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

RUSSIA:

The largest country in the world, we visit the cities of Moscow and St Petersburg each offering differing perspectives of modern and imperial Russia. Moscow, the economic and political hub of the country and, at its heart, the Kremlin from where the iron fist of Communism controlled much of Eastern Europe. St Petersburg, the beautiful “City of the Czars” dotted with stunning palaces, world famous museums such as The Hermitage and bisected by romantic canals. We travel between the two cities by the new high-speed “Sapsan” train.

ESTONIA, LATVIA, LITHUANIA:

Estonia is a small gem of a country on the shores of the Baltic and Tallinn, its dynamic capital, boasts a medieval Old Town rated as one of the best in Europe. Further south is Latvia and its capital, Riga, the largest of the Baltic capitals and a transport hub for many centuries. Finally, to Lithuania, often referred to as Europe’s best kept secret. The little capital of Vilnius contains perhaps the highest concentration of baroque architecture in Northern Europe.

POLAND:

A fiercely proud nation with a history dating back over 1000 years. Today’s Poland is flourishing after centuries of domination from different sources. Its energetic and vibrant capital, Warsaw, has rebuilt itself following it’s mauling during WWII. The former royal capital of Krakow displays an array of architecture developed over the centuries in its near perfectly preserved Gothic core.

DANUBE RIVER CRUISE:

In the beautiful city of Budapest, we board our luxury river cruise ship “Amadeus Silver III”,  for 7 nights cruising up the Danube travelling through Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany. Highlights include the “City of Music”, Vienna, Melk Abbey, Passau and Regensburg. In the course of the cruise, enjoy:

  • Accommodation in river-view staterooms with drop down panoramic window
  • Sumptuous cuisine including complimentary regional wines with dinner
  • On-board entertainment, special tastings, educational lectures
  • Note ship organised excursions are not included in tour cost

After the cruise, we travel to magical Prague, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. A great place to finish our tour.

Sunday 31 July                        Home – Dubai

We commence the tour with an overnight flight to Dubai.

 

Monday 01 August                  Dubai      (D)

We arrive in Dubai early this morning and after clearing Customs and Immigration formalities, we are met and transferred to our hotel for a two-night stay. There is time to rest up after the flight until mid-afternoon when we visit the Palm Jumeirah – one of the world’s most daring developments. Jutting out into the Arabian Gulf, this man-made archipelago was built in the shape of a palm tree, with a 3-mile-long trunk and a fan of fronds lined with luxury villas and five-star hotels. From water parks and wildlife encounters to beach clubs and restaurants, there is an array of different activities on offer. One of the first things that strike you when visiting the Palm Jumeirah is its size. This giant archipelago is visible from space and the outer crescent is more than 10 miles long. Afterward, we visit the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world at 160 stories high. We travel to the observation deck which will provide you with a breath-taking unobstructed 360-degree view of the city, desert and ocean. We return to the hotel where we have dinner this evening.

 

Tuesday 02 August                  Dubai      (B,D)

This morning we take a sightseeing tour of the city – a fascinating historical excursion which takes you to the magnificent Jumeirah mosque and past modern palaces sprawled along the coast. In Bastakiya, see the old wind-towered houses built by wealthy merchants and the 150-year old Al Fahidi Fort. We continue our journey coach to the gold and spice souks, where we see bustling alleys with the aromas of the numerous spices and dazzling jewellery. Next up, we visit the area of La Mer – a new area nestled between Pearl Jumeira and the upcoming Jumeira Bay. There is time to explore this artsy community and to get some lunch at one of the trendy cafes before we  return to the hotel to relax & freshen up prior to our evening activity – a four-wheel drive excursion over rolling dunes deep into the heart of the desert. Watch the sun cast its orange glow over the shimmering sand and enjoy dinner and entertainment under the stars in Bedu tents.

 

Wednesday 03 August            Dubai – Moscow    (D)

This morning, we transfer back to Dubai Airport in time to report for our mid-morning flight to Moscow. Welcome to Russia as we arrive into its capital, Moscow, early afternoon. This vast and elegant city is dominated by its historic heart around Red Square where the imposing Kremlin sits alongside St Basil’s Cathedral with its colourful domes. We are transferred to our hotel to commence our 3 night stay. Dependent on availability of rooms, there will be time to freshen up and relax before this afternoon we enjoy an easy orientation walk to Red Square where we see the famous GUM store, Lenin’s mausoleum and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Dinner at the hotel this evening.

 

Thursday 04 August                Moscow     (B,L)

A later start this morning as we tour the renowned Moscow Metro system. Travel with the locals and see a number of the elaborate metro stations beautifully decorated with marble, mosaics, works of art, murals, chandeliers and the like. After a visit to Christ Our Saviour Cathedral, we enjoy lunch before touring the grounds of the Kremlin and the Armoury Museum which houses a remarkable collection of jewels, royal thrones, carriages and ceremonial items. Our day concludes with a spectacular folklore performance.

 

Friday 05 August                    Moscow     (B.L)

This morning, our city sightseeing tour takes us to the Sparrow Hills area where Moscow University is located, for great views over the city. We visit the Novodevichy Convent and the adjacent cemetery where many of Russia’s prominent writers, poets, scientists and politicians are buried. There is time for a bit of shopping in the Old Arbat Street area before we join our luncheon cruise on the Moskva River which will take us past the White House, Kremlin and many other landmarks. After the cruise, we visit Victory Park celebrating Russia’s victory over Napoleon and in World War II. The evening is free – an opportunity for those that are keen to maybe enjoy a night at the opera or ballet.

 

Saturday 06 August                 Moscow – St Petersburg    (B,L)

A very early start today as we join the high speed “Sapsan” train to St Petersburg. Sit back and relax in Business Class reserved seats for the 4-hour journey as we speed through the countryside. On arrival later this morning, we are met by our local host who will show us some of the highlights of the city. Founded by Peter The Great in 1703, the city eventually spread over 100 islands, linked by 700 bridges. It suffered severe damage during WWII when a cruel 900-day siege claimed the lives of more than one million inhabitants. We visit the Peter and Paul Fortress which dates back to the foundation of the city and later enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. This afternoon, we visit the Church of the Spilt Blood, built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated, and St Isaac’s Cathedral with the statue of the Bronze Horseman representing Peter the Great. Later, we check-in to our hotel for a 3 night stay.

 

Sunday 07 August                   St. Petersburg       (B.D)

This morning, we start our day with a visit to the gardens of the Peterhof Palace, sometimes referred to as the “Russian Versailles”. A feature of the gardens are the many fountains with the star attraction being The Grand Cascade which falls 16 metres from the bluff where the palace is located and flows via a canal through the gardens into the Gulf of Finland. This afternoon, we travel to the town of Pushkin just a few kilometres south of the city, the residence of the Russian Czars from the beginning of the 18th century. We visit the impressive baroque palace and gardens of Catherine II. Enjoy the splendour of the Gold and Amber Rooms and take a stroll through the immaculately kept alleys and gardens of Catherine Park. This evening, we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant with entertainment before we return to our hotel later this evening.

 

Monday 08 August                  St. Petersburg    (B.D)

Certainly one of the highlights of the tour, we enjoy a special guided visit to the former Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum which houses nearly 3 million works of art by Masters such as Rembrandt, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and the like. There is no other place quite like it. There is some free time this afternoon before we enjoy a cruise through the canals of the city and into the Neva River. Dinner this evening is at a local restaurant.

 

Tuesday 09 August                  St. Petersburg – Tallinn      (B,D)

We leave St Petersburg this morning and drive southwest to the town of Nava located on the Russian / Estonian border. The town is dominated by the mighty Hermannsburg Fortress. We cross the border and journey down the Gulf of Finland coast to the capital, Tallinn, for a 2-night stay. This evening, we enjoy an orientation walk together before dinner at a local restaurant.

 

Wednesday 10 August            Tallinn     (B,D)

A small city with a big heart. This morning, a local guide shows us the most interesting parts of the city including the medieval Old Town with one of the best-preserved Hanseatic town centres in Europe. We also see, Toompea Hill and Castle, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Dome Church. The afternoon is at leisure before dinner at a local restaurant.

 

Thursday 11 August                Tallinn – Riga    (B.L)

Our journey south takes us through the Estonian countryside. Enjoy a morning break at Parnu on the shores of the Gulf of Riga before crossing the border into Latvia and continuing to the capital of Riga. Riga is the largest of the Baltic capitals dating back to the 13th century and is often referred to as the “Paris of the Baltics”. On arrival, we enjoy lunch together before taking a walking tour of the old town which has a wonderful display of large and small guild houses. We also see the Freedom monument, the National Latvian Opera House and the Dome Cathedral which dates back to 1211. The evening is at leisure.

 

Friday 12 August                    Riga – Vilnius      (B.D)

Leaving Riga, we travel first to Rundale Palace, built in the 17th Century for the Duke of Courtland by the baroque master, Rastrelli. After a tour of its staterooms, we cross into the last of the Baltic countries that once formed part of the Soviet Union, Lithuania. We stop at the “Votive Hill of Crosses” near Siauliai. Over the centuries, not only crosses but giant crucifixes, carvings of Lithuanian patriots, statues of the Virgin Mary and numerous effigies have been brought here by pilgrims, notwithstanding the efforts of Soviet authorities to remove them. We continue on to the capital, Vilnius, for a 2-night stay.

 

Saturday 13 August                 Vilnius     (B,L)

This stylish little city seduces visitors with its Old Town charm. Our sightseeing tour includes both coach and a walking tour of the Old Town. We see the baroque church of Sts Peter and Paul, the Jesuit University, the 16th century “Gates of Dawn”, the former Soviet KGB Headquarters, now the Museum of Genocide Victims, and the neo-classical St Stanislav’s Cathedral with its distinctive bell tower. After the city tour, enjoy a visit to the splendid Trakai Castle, built on a fortified island in Lake Galve and dating back to the 14th century. The evening is at leisure.

 

Sunday 14 August                   Vilnius – Olsztyn      (B.D)

Leaving Vilnius, we continue our journey southwest and cross the border into Poland. Our destination is the picturesque Mazury Lake District for an overnight stay, but first we stop at Wigry National Park for a cruise on the lake to see Cameldolite Monastery with its 17th century church and hermitages. After lunch, we continue to Gierloz or Wolf’s Lair which was Hitler’s main headquarters on the eastern front during WWII. Whilst much of the structure was destroyed as the Nazis retreated, the imposing ruins of the thick walls of the bunkers make for a fascinating visit.  After that, we continue on to Olsztyn

 

Monday 15 August                  Olsztyn – Warsaw     (B,D)

After breakfast we have a short orientation walk of Olsztyn to see St. Jacob’s Co-cathedral Basilica(was erected in the 14th century in the Gothic style, and in the 16th century its tower was added to the height of 70 m.) and The Gothic castle dates back to the 14th century, After we visit The Folk Architecture Museum and EthnographicPark in Olsztynek (one of Poland’s oldest open-air museums. Its beginnings date back to 1909), we will have lunch at Mazury before continuing to the Polish capital. In the late afternoon, we arrive at Warsaw for a 2 night stay, with tonight’s dinner served at the hotel

 

Tuesday 16 August                  Warsaw       (B,D)

The city was almost totally destroyed during WWII and today’s city is testament to its post-war restoration. Our morning tour will take us past the Palace of Culture, affectionately known as the “wedding cake”. A stroll through Lazienki Park brings us to the Chopin Memorial. Then there is time to reflect at the Memorial of the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto. The tour concludes with a walk through the Old Town to the Market Square. The afternoon is at leisure and this evening, lets enjoy a private piano recital featuring the music of one of the cities favourite sons, Frederic Chopin before dining at a local restaurant.

 

Wednesday 17 August            Warsaw – Czestochowa – Krakow    (B,L,D)

Leaving Warsaw, we travel south through Poland with our first visit being at Czestochowa and Jasna Gora Monastery, home to the iconic Black Madonna, Poland’s most famous shrine to the Virgin Mary. After a tour of the monastery, we continue south to Krakow for a 3-night stay. This evening, we enjoy dinner in the old town.

 

Thursday 18 August                Krakow – Auschwitz   (B,L)

On our morning tour of Krakow see the once thriving Jewish district of Kazimierz including entry to its Remuh synagogue. Continue to the former Schindler factory, made famous in the movie “Schindler’s List” and now a museum recalling wartime Krakow under Nazi occupation. After lunch, we visit the former concentration camp at Auschwitz, now a permanent reminder of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazi regime against the Jewish people and others during WWII.

 

Friday 19 August                    Krakow     (B,D)

Krakow is one of Poland’s oldest cities and its second largest. It was the capital for over 500 years during the late Middle Ages and today is regarded as a major academic and artistic centre. On our morning tour, we see the Royal Castle and Cathedral on Wawel Hill and enjoy a walk through the Old Town visiting the Renaissance “Cloth Hall” in the Market Square and the Mariacki Church. The afternoon is left free to relax or maybe wonder the streets of the old town. Alternatively, you may wish to visit the unique UNESCO “World Heritage” Wieliczka Salt Mines.

 

Saturday 20 August                 Krakow – Slovakia – Eger, Hungary    (B,L,D)

Leaving Krakow this morning, our scenic drive takes us first to Zakopane, Poland’s major ski resort and gateway to the Polish Tatra Mountains. We enjoy a tour of the town and take the chair lift to the lookout. After a light lunch, we cross over into Slovakia and visit Spis Castle, once one of the largest castles in Europe which dates back to the 12th century and proudly dominates the surrounding landscape Then, it’s into Hungary and an overnight stay in Eger, a town known for its beautiful baroque architecture including a Turkish minaret. This evening, we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant and taste some of the local wines for which the region is renowned.

 

Sunday 21 August                   Eger – Budapest      (B,D)

Join Danube River Cruise

We start the day with a walking tour of the Eger’s historic old town before continuing through to the Hungarian capital Budapest. There is time to explore the central markets and take a lunch break before we visit the magnificent parliament buildings on the banks of the Danube and modelled on the Westminster parliament. Later this afternoon, we board our floating home for the next 7 nights, the river ship “Amadeus Silver III”. Enjoy a welcome dinner aboard while we cruise the river city and are entertained by local musicians.

 

Monday 22 August                  Budapest – Danube Cruise      (B,L,D)

This morning, you can opt to join a city tour of Budapest if you wish, which is divided by the Danube with Buda on the West Bank and Pest on the East Bank. During the tour you will see the city from the lookout at Fisherman’s Bastion on Castle Hill. This afternoon there is the opportunity to enjoy an excursion into the countryside to the towns on the “big bend” in the Danube. Szentendre is a picturesque town, often called the artists village because of the number of galleries and craft shops. Esztergom is a small town but it played an important role in the establishment of the Hungarian state 1000 years ago. From the dome of the largest Roman catholic church in Hungary, you can enjoy an amazing view of the town and the Danube bend. The ship will sail up the Danube from Budapest and join you there.

 

Tuesday 23 August                  Bratislava         (B.L.D)

The morning sees us in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.  Bratislava Castle, from its impressive site almost 300ft above the river, dominates the skyline as we approach the city which borders both Austria and Hungary. The optional morning city tour includes a guided walk through the old town. During the afternoon we continue our cruising up the river arriving into Vienna this evening.

 

Wednesday 24 August             Vienna     (B.L.D)

Vienna is known as the “City of Music” and inspired the creative genius of Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss. Once the centre of the mighty Hapsburg Empire, the city boasts some wonderful sights including the lavish Hofburg Palace, the magnificent Opera House, St Stephens Cathedral, the majestic Ringstrasse and much more. You will see many of these sights if you opt for the morning tour. This afternoon, there is the option to visit the impressive Schoenbrunn Palace, the former imperial summer residence. The history of the 1441 room baroque palace spans over 300 years of the Hapsburg dynasty. And finally, what visit to Vienna would be complete without the music of Strauss or Mozart – this evening, you can choose to enjoy the “Sounds of Vienna” at the opulent Kursalon venue located in Stadtpark.

 

Thursday 25 August                Durnstein – Melk      (B.L.D)

This morning, opt for a guided walk of Durnstein, situated in the heart of the Wachau wine region and known for the magnificent baroque Stiftskirche with its blue façade. Above the town are the ruins of the castle where England’s King Richard The Lionheart was imprisoned in 1192. This afternoon, you have the opportunity to visit Melk and the magnificent Benedictine Abbey which is one of Europe’s largest monasteries and dominates the town from its commanding hill site.

 

Friday 26 August                    Linz – Passau   (B.L.D)

Linz is located on both banks of the Danube and is an important industrial town and busy river port but it has also developed into one of Europe’s leading cultural capitals. There is the chance to enjoy an optional walking tour through the city before re-joining the ship at Aschach.  Passau, ideally located at the confluence of the Rivers Inn, Ilz and Danube, is a city of graceful arcades and cobblestone streets as we will discover in the guided walk. St Stephens Cathedral houses one of the world’s largest church organs with more than 17,000 pipes. For any “Sound of Music” fans, there is the opportunity to join an optional tour to Salzburg.

 

Saturday 27 August                 Regensburg      (B.L.D)

Regensburg is one of Germany’s best-preserved medieval cities. Architectural highlights on the optional guided tour include the Old Town Hall and Porta Pretoria, gates to an ancient Roman fort built in 179AD. The city is the capital of Upper Palatinate, a bustling university town, and also home to Germany’s oldest restaurant, the 12th century “Old Sausage Kitchen”. This afternoon why not take an excursion cruising through the Danube Gorge to Weltenburg Abbey, the oldest monastery in Bavaria and also home to the world’s oldest brewery founded in 1050. This evening, our final aboard, we enjoy a Bavarian evening.

 

Sunday 28 August                   Passau – Prague (Disembarkation)      (B.L.D)

Sadly, this morning it’s time to disembark as we join our coach and travel to the Czech border in the Bohemian Forest. Our journey across the country takes us first to the town of Cesky Krumlov, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with over 300 protected medieval buildings towered over by its castle. Surrounded by hills and the Vltava River, its cobblestone streets wind past townhouses, inns, shops and cafes. After lunch at a local restaurant, we continue our journey through to magical Prague for a 2 night stay.

 

Monday 29 August                  Prague      (B.D)

Prague is a city with a 1000-year-old history preserved in time. During our tour this morning, we see some of its best known treasures including the Old Town’s Astronomical Clock, once the envy of all of Europe, the Charles Bridge with its many statues, St Vitus Cathedral and of course Hradcany Castle which has a history dating back as long as the city itself. The remainder of the day is free and this evening, our last in Europe together, we enjoy a special dinner at Restaurant Amade in the heart of the old town.

 

Tuesday 30 August                  Prague – Dubai     (B)

Time to say our farewells to Prague and Europe as we transfer to the airport for our flight to Dubai.

We arrive into Dubai late evening and overnight accommodation is reserved at the airport.

 

Wednesday 31 August             Dubai – Home

This morning, we join our aircraft for the homeward flight.

 

Thursday 01 September                      Arrival Home

Our flight touches down mid-morning

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  • "Excellent. Of special interest to me was the history. Personal highlights overall were history, architecture, food. Specific highlights being Moscow underground metro, GUM, Red Square, St Basil's, Peterhof, canals of St Petersburg, Mazury Lakes District, Krakow, Cesky Krumlov, Parnu beach walk, Kursalon concert, Danube cruise, and Prague. Totally exceeded value for money expectation. I like the way that before departure you have covered virtually all costs and have no hidden expenses."

    JM

  • "I hadn't expected to feel so emotional when I saw the Red Square. The members of our tour group are all my new best friends."

    Pamela M

  • "A wonderful, well organised, stress free holiday.  We came home very happy & relaxed with lots of fabulous memories."

    TH

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