Our Prague to Budapest journey begins in the Czech Republic as we arrive at the Prague Airport and then take a shuttle to our beautiful hotel in the historic center of the city. Having escaped serious damage during the two world wars, Prague has an enormous collection of well preserved historic buildings and medieval neighborhoods. There are actually four “towns” within this fascinating city: Castle Quarter (Hradçany), Little Quarter (Malá Strana), Old Town (Staré Mesto), and New Town (Nové Mesto). We have time to rest from our flight or explore before our first gourmet dinner in a wonderful Czech restaurant with violinists entertaining us while we dine.
Our guide shows us around the 9th century Prague Castle, home of the Czech rulers for many centuries, high above the Vltava River. Within the castle walls are the beautiful St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, the Basilica of St. George, and the fun shopping street Golden Lane. At the foot of the castle hill we explore the Little Quarter, a Baroque town of mansions and gardens built by the aristocracy who wanted to be near the king. We can stroll through the beautiful castle gardens, known for their rare and exotic plants. Not to be missed is the picturesque narrow street called Nerudova Ulice, with a splendid collection of beautiful old houses and palaces, grand Baroque buildings, and of course dozens of enticing shops. Instead of house numbers, many of the buildings have wonderful signs adorning the facades, painted or carved, made of stone, stucco or metal, indicating the profession of the former occupants. The magnificent Charles Bridge connects the Little Quarter with the Old Town, the commercial heart of Prague since the 14th century. In Old Town Square we have many restaurants and cafés to choose from for lunch. This lively, colorful square from “Old World Prague” contains a spectacular Renaissance astronomical clock, which attracts crowds of tourists for its hourly show to chime the hour. After some free time to explore on our own or relax back at our hotel, we head out for an entertaining evening of folkloric dance and music while we dine on delicious Czech cuisine.
We continue our explorations of this magical city with a visit to the famous Wenceslas Square, which is actually a boulevard with fabulous ornate, colorful buildings showing a variety of decorative Czech styles. We also visit the old Jewish Quarter with its interesting cemetery and well preserved historic synagogues. The 18th century Kaunicky Palace houses the Mucha Museum, where we see many of the Art Nouveau works of Alfons Mucha, one of the greatest 20th century Czech artists. In the afternoon a visit to the open-air Havelská Market puts us in the right frame of mind for our gourmet Czech cooking class, a fun way to learn about the best of Czech cuisine. Tonight we dine on our creations.
This morning we leave Prague and drive south through the regions of Central Bohemia and South Bohemia to arrive at our next Czech destination, the beautiful medieval village of Ceský Krumlov. Founded in the 13th century, the historic center of the town has been lovingly restored and is a delight to explore. The Vltava River winds like an S through the quaint streets, offering us many options for relaxing and dining with a view. Our hotel for the next two nights is a charming boutique hotel, centrally located so that we can wander freely and are never far from home. Paddling a canoe through the center of town is a popular activity we are welcome to try.
Today we visit Cesky Krumlov’s fairytale castle and have time to soak up the atmosphere of this idyllic village. It’s the kind of place you’ll want to return to when you can stay a few months!
Saying goodbye to the Czech Republic, we head east through Austria to have lunch in Bratislava, capital of Slovakia, where we stop for the night in a quaint centrally located hotel. Situated on the Danube River, Bratislava has a charming Old Town with plenty of sidewalk cafés to choose from. We have time to explore this beautiful city before dinner.
Arriving in Krakow, Poland in time for lunch, we check into our beautiful boutique hotel in the historic center of this beautiful city. A guided walking tour takes us to the highlights of the old center and gives us a glimpse into Poland’s interesting history. Dinner tonight is a wonderful affair with mouth-watering Polish specialties.
This morning is an unforgettable educational excursion to the Auschwitz death camp. Our guide is outstanding as she takes us through this black period of history, intended to shock visitors into vowing that nothing like this must ever be allowed to recur. In the afternoon we detour to an unusual experience of a tour of the ancient salt mines. This evening is another special Polish feast.
Departing Krakow, we drive south through the beautiful Slovakian mountains and into Hungary. Our first two nights in Hungary are in the picturesque town of Eger. Lying in a fertile valley between the Mátra Mountains and the Bükk Range, Eger is surrounded by vineyards and has more than 175 historic monuments, including a fabulous castle. It is a picture-book baroque town begging to be explored. Our lovely hotel is conveniently located in the old center, perfect for strolling the cobblestone streets. Here we visit a special wine cellar for a unique wine tasting dinner where we begin to appreciate Hungary’s ancient acclaimed reputation for excellent wines.
Today we visit two nearby UNESCO World Heritage sites. The first are the caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst, which display an extremely rare combination of tropical and glacial climatic effects that make it possible to study geological history over tens of millions of years. After a guided tour of the largest tourist cave in the world, we drive toward the Tokaj Wine Region, designated a UNESCO site for its intricate pattern of vineyards, farms, villages and small towns, with their historic networks of deep wine cellars. We drive through the region and stop for a wine tasting lunch at a local vineyard. We return to Eger for a light dinner.
This morning we leave Eger and head for Budapest – our final stop on this Prague to Budapest tour . Along the way, we stop to explore another UNESCO site, the deliberately preserved traditional settlement of Hollókő. This village, which developed mainly during the 17th and 18th centuries, is a living example of rural life before the agricultural revolution of the 20th century. After lunch we continue to Budapest, where we check into our elegant boutique hotel in the historic center of Buda. (Buda is on one side of the Danube River and Pest on the other.) We take an orientation tour of this fascinating city you are bound to love.
This morning we visit the Great Market Hall, a colorful lively indoor market with hundreds of stalls of Hungarian made products. Here in the market we participate in a one-of-a-kind cooking class: The Grand Prix class. This fun-filled event has us compete in teams to create traditional culinary dishes: we each are given the same allocation of shopping Forints (money) and a recipe written in Hungarian, and we must scout the market for retailers who can understand our requests and sell us what we need, and then we will follow our recipe and compete for the prize!
Today we enjoy a full day to explore the glories of Budapest. Then, our Prague to Budapest tour comes to an end in the evening with a grand farewell Hungarian dinner.
After breakfast we drive to the Budapest Airport for the return flight.
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