Old World Charms of Eastern Europe
Spring 2020 • 14 Days • Price TBA
Germany * Czech Republic * Austria * Slovakia * Poland
This historically and culturally rich walking adventure starts in Berlin and showcases selected highlights in former East Germany. We continue south into the Czech Republic for walks and sightseeing in the area historically known as Bohemia—famous for lead crystal, great beer, and spa towns. We return through Poland with stopovers in Kraków and Warsaw, including memorable city walks with historic and thoughtprovoking stops and attractions.
Traveler Rewards Program: New Travelers receive a $300 discount on the Eastern Europe tour! Returning travelers receive our Alumni Traveler Discount of 5-10% off the main tour price. Terms, exclusions and conditions apply. Check out our Traveler Rewards page for more details.
Now accepting Early Bird deposits on this 2020 tour! If 25 Early Birds are received for this departure, we’ll add it to our official 2020 Schedule. An Early Bird is a $50 deposit that holds your spot during the planning stages of a trip, when we don’t have a set itinerary or dates. Early Birds are always refundable!
We are excited to be returning to this region of Eastern Europe! It’s a profound experience! Less than thirty years ago, a repressive way of government that resulted in two generations of brutal oppression collapsed. Our first trip behind the former Iron Curtain in the early 90’s made us wonder: Can a society recover from more than 50 years of such abuse? Communism destroyed personal liberty and responsibility from 1945 to 1989. Preceding communism was six years of devastating Nazi atrocities. In the case of Poland, these two eras of heartbreak followed over 120 years of complete partition by stronger, militant neighbors—the complete loss of national autonomy and identity during which “Poland” officially ceased to exist!
Though it took time to adjust to the perils and pitfalls of democracy and a free enterprise economic system, the countries through which we travel, former East Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland, are quickly closing the standard of living gap with their Western neighbors. Though struggles remain, this part of Europe is a vibrant testimony to the resiliency of the human spirit.
We look forward to sharing the fascinating history, heartwarming culture, and surprisingly striking scenery of Eastern Europe! This travel program was developed in concert with German/Austrian guide, Hildrun Mathies, who will be our national guide for the adventure. Our days will be filled with rich cultural experiences and walks that connect us with the heart of Eastern Europe. Lots of surprises lay in store… Eastern Europe has changed!
A Few Tour Highlights:
- Berlin – traditional capital of Prussia, then of the newly reunited German nation in 1871; Berlin was a focus of the Cold War and a site of great rejoicing in 1989 at the dismantling of the hated Berlin Wall
- Dresden – famous for porcelain and architecture, this capital of the medieval kingdom of Saxony is situated pleasantly on the Elbe River
- Český Krumlov – delightful medieval village on the banks of the Vltava River inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List
- Prague – best experienced on an excellent walk that explores Lesser Town, Old Town, the Jewish Quarter, and the Hradčany Palace complex overlooking the Vltava River
This is a draft itinerary. Revisions will be made, and an updated itinerary with dates and pricing will be made available!
- All land travel by motorcoach as outlined
- Superior tourist-class or better hotel accommodations
- 23 meals: 13 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 8 dinners as denoted (BLD)
- All listed walks
- Fees for walking credit for walkers collecting IVV credit
- Cultural and historical expertise of local and national guides throughout program
- WAI guide service throughout (2 guides)
- All tipping for national and local guides and coach drivers
- Pricing is based on Double Occupancy. Single accommodations are available for a supplement.
- Guided walking tour of Berlin – Germany
- Guided tour of Potsdam – Germany
- Guided walking tour of Wittenberg – Germany
- Guided walking tour of Dresden – Germany
- Meissen Porcelain Factory tour with lunch – Germany
- Lunch cruise on Vltava River – Czech Republic
- Guided walking tour of Prague – Czech Republic
- Prague Castle and gardens – Czech Republic
- Guided walking tour of Český Krumlov – Czech Republic
- Driving and walking tour of Wachau Valley – Austria
- Guided visit of Ždiar Museum – Slovakia
- Guided tour of Wieliczka Salt Mines – Poland
- Guided walking tour of Kraków – Poland
- St. Mary’s Church – Poland
- Tempel Synagogue – Poland
- Cultural dinner in Kraków – Poland
- Guided walking tour of Warsaw – Poland
- Plus more fun and educational stops than we can list!
- Schindler Factory Museum (Krakow) – Poland (Day 11)
- Auschwitz Concentration Camp – Poland (Day 12)
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Tour Pace: 1 2 3 4 5
Walk Challenge: 1 2 3 4 5
Hildrun Mathies is one of our favorite overseas guides! She has a wealth of knowledge and experience, with a Master’s Degree in Art History and Religious Science; fluency in English, French, Spanish, and her native German; and over 20 years of experience guiding groups through central Europe. But it is Hildrun’s special blend of in-depth knowledge, lighthearted presentation style, passion for sharing, and her commitment to making the travel experience the best it can be for her travelers, that makes a trip with her so memorable. Hildrun will be accompanied by a Walking Adventures guide team.
This is a draft itinerary. Revisions will be made, and an updated itinerary with dates and pricing will be made available!
Click on each day to see more details.
Day 1: Arrive Berlin, Germany (D)
Our Adventure in Eastern Europe begins today in Berlin, Germany’s capital and center of culture. Travelers arrive throughout the day at our meeting point – our hotel on historic Alexanderplatz. The first group activity is this evening’s Welcome Orientation followed by dinner at our hotel. We look forward to exploring this region, telling Europe’s fascinating story of hope, hardship, and hospitality.
Day 2: Activities in Berlin (B)
Berlin Historic Walk – 11 km, rating 1B
Today’s walk is led by Hildrun Mathies, our German/Austrian guide. It starts from our hotel and offers a cornucopia of Berlin’s past and present on an all-day event arranged around multiple breaks and a lunch stop. Alexanderplatz, a cattle market in the Middle Ages, served many functions over time, and was the site where over one million people demonstrated against the communist region of the GDR shortly before the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall. Other stops on our walk include Museum Island, home to five internationally significant museums and a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Brandenburg Gate, one of Germany’s most iconic monuments; the Reichstag building, traditional venue for the German government, refurbished to resume its intended function after the reunificaton of East and West Germany in 1990; and Gendarmenmarkt, arguably Berlin’s most magnificent square, renowned for its trio of architectural masterpieces – the German and French Cathedrals and the Konzerthaus (Concert Hall).
Day 3: Berlin – Dresden, Germany (BD)
Only a few miles west of Berlin, Potsdam is most notable as a centuries-old winter residence for local rulers, subsequent kings of Prussia, then emperors of Germany. Our visit here passes several sites inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, including the New Gardens and the Chateau of Cecilienhof, where Allied leaders Churchill, Stalin, and Truman met to consider the fate of post-war Europe. Wittenberg, our next stop, is forever connected with Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. A walking tour here passes a number of UNESCO sites connected with the reformer, including his home and the church on which he nailed his incendiary Ninety-Five Theses in 1517. We continue to lovely Dresden for a two-night stay.
Day 4: Activities in Dresden (BL)
Dresden is the capital of the German state of Saxony, and boasts a long and illustrious past as medieval duchy, electorate of the Holy Roman Empire, kingdom, and twice a republic. Hildrun, our guide, leads us on a walking tour past city highlights including the Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady), Germany’s most important Protestant Church; Brühlsche Terrasse, with views over the Elbe River; and the Semper Opera House, to name a few. One of Dresden’s themes is the apocalyptic destruction suffered during Allied bombing raids at the end of World War II. Another theme is Meissen porcelain, which we experience this afternoon with lunch in the factory, then a well-regarded porcelain tour introducing this centuries-old industry.
Day 5: Dresden – Prague, Czech Republic (BD)
Elbe Mountains Walk – 3 km, rated 2C (unsanctioned)
We transition today out of Germany and into the Czech Republic. En route, we enjoy a nature walk in the spring green forests of the Elbe Mountains. This range straddles the border of Saxony and the northern Bohemia region of the Czech Republic. It is set aside as a national park in both countries, and in both languages it is referred to as Saxon or Bohemian Switzerland, due to dramatic terrain caused by evocative, eroding sandstone formations. Upon arrival in Prague, we find that our lovely hotel is situated in a quiet corner of the grounds of Strahov Monastery, yet another UNESCO site. An early arrival allows time for a Hildrun-led walking tour of the Hradcany Castle area just around the corner.
Day 6: Activities in Prague (BL)
Prague Walk & Cruise – 9 km, rated 2B
Straddling the Vltava River, Prague is truly one of Europe’s most lovely cities, with Hradcany Castle dominating the hill above town and the medieval center nestled in the bend of the river below. Our walk explores the fascinating castle, one of Europe’s largest, in the morning. The complex houses several major attractions, including St. Vitus Cathedral and the Royal Palace. As in Berlin, the walk requires the bulk of the day to introduce us to a plethora of the city’s intriguing sights. We break in the middle, however, for a relaxing two hour lunch cruise in a chartered vessel, then continue with Old Town highlights like Town Hall Square and Josefov, the Jewish Quarter. The walk concludes with a gentle stroll through green spaces above Lesser Town. The evening is free to explore further on your own or relax in the environs of our hotel.
Day 7: Prague - Český Krumlov, Czech Republic (BD)
Medieval Český Krumlov Walk – 5 km, rated 2B
We continue south through Bohemia today to a jewel in the crown of medieval Europe. Český Krumlov is a time capsule of 14th to 17th century architecture – one of those classic European cities that fell into a plague or war-induced hibernation, only to be rediscovered in the 19th century during the advent of modern tourism. From our hotel, we engage in a memorable walk through town, once more along the Vltava River, including a stroll past the delightful Český Krumlov Chateau. Enjoy a buffet dinner at our lovely hotel before taking time to savor the evening ambiance in this timeless town!
Day 8: Český Krumlov - Trenčín, Slovakia (BD)
Danube Walk – 5 km, rated 1B
Today begins with a scenic drive in Austria along the Danube River. Our first destination is the Wachau Valley, listed by UNESCO for its cultural landscape of architecture (monasteries, castles, ruins), towns and villages, and the agricultural cultivation of vineyards dating back to prehistoric times. A walk in this region is a perfect way to connect with one of the Danube River’s prettiest stretches, followed by lunch on our own near imposing and impressive Melk Monastery. Continuing our drive eastward past the outskirts of Vienna, we spend this evening at a classy hotel in Trenčín, Slovakia, a great place to relax before tomorrow’s foray into the Slovakia Tatras!
Day 9: Trenčín - Ždiar, Slovakia (BD)
Slovakian Tatras Walk – 4 km, rated 2B
The Tatras are the highest and westernmost range of the Carpathian Mountains. Today’s walk is a short stroll from a ski resort around an alpine lake at the base of some of the tallest peaks of the High Tatras. This afternoon, we arrive in the tiny village of Ždiar, anticipating a memorable cultural program in this unpretentious enclave of the Gorals, indigenous highlanders with a way of life distinct from their more Slavic neighbors. A matchbox–sized museum introduces us to the unique dress and customs of the Gorals, including their colorful marriage ceremonies. Our hotel in Ždiar is another one-of-a-kind accommodation offering views of the surrounding mountains.
Day 10: Ždiar – Kraków, Poland (B)
Ždiar Cultural Walk – 4 km, rated 3B
With good weather, today’s walk offers stunning vistas of the Tatras. We also pass several groupings of wooden Goral homes built in the appealing, traditional, log-cabin style. Saying farewell to our friends in Ždiar, we cross into Poland and arrive in Wieliczka to explore salt mines so elaborately decorated with salt sculptures that they earned a listing on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The day ends in Kraków on the edge of old town.
Day 11: Activities in Kraków (BD)
Kraków Trials & Triumphs Walk – 10 km, rated 1B (unsanctioned)
Kraków is the cultural, religious, and historical heart of Poland. Our walk here is another all-day exploration that takes us to regal Wawel Hill, for centuries the seat of royalty and site of the national church; along leafy Planty Park where once stood the city’s fortifications; and into bustling main square, one of the largest of medieval Europe. After lunch, the theme turns to World War II and the sad story of the Holocaust. Our walk routes us through Kazimierz, a Kraków district with a large pre-war Jewish population. Here, we visit Tempel Synagogue, lovingly restored. An optional afternoon visit showcases the somber Schindler Factory Museum, where German businessman Oskar Schindler found himself rescuing the oppressed even while his factory turned out supplies for the Nazis. Estimated price: TBA. Dinner this evening is back in the Kazimierz district, where we’ll enjoy traditional Eastern Europe Jewish fare and the lilting melodies of Klezmer music.
Day 12: Kraków – Warsaw, Poland (B)
Following the 1939 invasion of Nazi Germany, Kraków was made capital of Germany’s General Government in Poland. Not far to the west, their most prolific death camp, Auschwitz, began its sinister work. Though a ghastly reminder of the potential depths of human depravity, this optional visit to Auschwitz is highly recommended. Estimated price: TBA. Those who prefer to remain in Kraków will rendezvous with the group later this morning and continue to Warsaw. En route, we stop briefly at Jasna Góra Monastery to visit the most famous Polish shrine to the Virgin Mary in the town of Częstochowa. Our hotel in Warsaw is strategically located in the center of the city.
Day 13: Activities in Warsaw (BD)
Story of Warsaw Walk – 9 km, rated 1B (unsanctioned)
The final walk of our Adventure begins in lovely Łazienki Park at the sweeping monument to Poland‘s beloved national composer, Frédéric Chopin. We wander amongst beautifully designed gardens, Warsaw’s largest, and through several neighboring parks to join the Royal Route. A short detour takes us to the somber Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, then on past several national monuments to Warsaw’s Royal Palace. With so much to see, we break for lunch in Old Town Market Place, then continue to the Warsaw Uprising Monument, dedicated to the dramatic 1944 Polish resistance to Nazi occupation that resulted in the systematic destruction of 90% of Warsaw’s buildings. After one more park stroll, our walk ends at an equally poignant reminder, the Ghetto Heroes Monument, commemorating an earlier 1943 uprising of the Jews in the Jewish Ghetto. Having seen much of historic Warsaw on foot, we return to the hotel to relax before this evening’s farewell activities and dinner.
Day 14: Depart Warsaw (B)
Our journey through Eastern Europe has captured much of the beauty, culture, and historical drama of this multi-faceted region of Europe. We return home grateful for new experiences, new insights, new friends, and the privilege of a life lived in freedom. Thank you for sharing this walking adventure in Eastern Europe!
Click on each heading for more details.
How do I lock in my place on this Adventure?
Call or mail in your Early Bird ($50) to save your spot! A maximum of 30 travelers will be accepted on this Adventure.
Traveler Rewards Program
New Travelers receive a $300 discount on the Eastern Europe tour! Returning travelers receive our Alumni Traveler Discount of 5-10% off the main tour price. Terms, exclusions and conditions apply. See the Traveler Rewards page for more details or contact us with any questions at 800.779.0353 or [email protected].
How is airfare arranged?
The official start point for this Adventure is our hotel in Berlin, Germany, about a 25 to 35 EURO taxi ride from one of Berlin’s two airports: Tegel Airport (airport code TXL) and Schönefeld Airport (airport code SXF). The finish point is Warsaw, Poland. More details will be available after this itinerary has been finalized.
What about the walks?
We generally walk at a pace of 2 to 3 miles per hour. In most cases, we are not “strolling.” We are walking at a relaxed but steady pace. Your experience will be significantly affected by your level of physical fitness. The success of the walks is therefore predicated upon walkers having this minimum level of fitness. If not walking regularly at home, we strongly recommend that you make a priority of “training” beforehand in order to both enjoy the trip and avoid medical issues due to overexertion. If you have questions about your ability to participate, please talk with our office at 1.800.779.0353.
We have adopted a walk difficulty rating system which contains a numeric indicator for trail incline and an alpha indicator for trail terrain. The explanation for this system is presented below:
1. Very small hills or very little stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: up to 200 feet.
2. Some moderate hills and stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 200-1000 feet.
3. Some significant hill or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 1000-2000 feet.
4. Lots of significant hills or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 2000-3500 feet.
5. Many steep hills. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: more than 3500 feet.
A. Almost entirely on pavement.
B. A significant part of the route is on well-groomed trails with very few obstacles.
C. A significant part of the route is on somewhat difficult terrain (rocky / rooted paths or soft sand).
D. A significant part of the route is on very difficult terrain.
E. The majority of the route is on very difficult terrain.
What happens next?
We are currently developing the itinerary for this Adventure. Once the itinerary is released, we will accept registration deposits ($500) to save space.
If you have Early Birded with a refundable $50 deposit, your spot on the tour will be held for 2 weeks after the itinerary is published while you make a decision on whether or not you’d like to register with an additional $450 fee, bringing your deposit on tour up to $500. If you decide not to join us for this tour, your Early Bird can be refunded or transferred to another tour.
Wind your way through Eastern Europe in your imagination as your read through this exciting program. Walking provides the magic for you to better experience the history, culture, and scenery of this special part of the world in 2020.
We look forward to sharing the Old World charms of Eastern Europe with you!