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A corner of Europe: Faith, History and Art in the Baltics

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Key Information:
Tour Duration: 12 - 14 day(s)
Group Size: 15 - 30 people
Destination(s): Estonia   Latvia   Lithuania  
Specialty Categories: Cultural Journey   Sightseeing  
Season: September
Airfare Included: No
Tour Customizable: No
Minimum Per Person Price: 2350 Euro (EUR)
Maximum Per Person Price: 3200 Euro (EUR)

Tour Itinerary:

Day 1 - Sunday, September 15
Departure from the US.

Day 2 - Monday, September 16
Meals: Dinner. Arrival in Tallinn. Transfer to hotel. Check in. Overnight and dinner at the hotel.

Day 3 - Tuesday, September 17
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch. City tour of Tallinn, a picturesque old city, where whole districts date back to the Middle Ages. You will visit the Old Town with its quaint narrow streets and beautiful merchants' houses exemplifying the best of Gothic architecture. The tour includes viewing from outside Toompea Castle, the 13th century Dome Church, the 19th century Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky, the 15th century town hall square, the Old Guild built to celebrate Tallinn's membership in the Hanseatic League, and St. Olaf's Church. Continue the tour with a visit to the Convent of St. Bridget, which was the largest convent of Old Livonia. Established by Tallinn’s wealthy merchants in 1407 and fully built shortly thereafter, the church was destroyed in the second half of the 16th century. Today only the western limestone gable, and side walls remain standing. After lunch enjoy a Dominican Monastery Tour. During the program the host tells about the monastery’s history and architecture, monastic life, lost fortunes and legends related to Dominicans. At the same time the guests can admire the work of local stonemasons. The program is often ended by Gregorian Chant in the superb acoustics under the vaults of the cloister. Overnight in Tallinn. Optional: dinner in restaurant Pepeprsack.

Day 4 - Wednesday, September 18
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch. Transfer to Rakvere. Short city tour upon arrival and entrance to Rakvere Castle. The early settlement on the site of the castle dates back to the first centuries AD, but structures of stone were first constructed in 1220. In its 800 year history, the castle changed owners many times and witnessed all of the turbulent history of the Baltics. Lunch in a local restaurant. From Rakvere we will drive south and arrive to the town of Tartu. City tour of Tartu, the second largest city of Estonia. The center of Tartu gets its distinctive character from the neo-classic style of the buildings. Tartu is also home of a university that has ten faculties and offers a wide range of courses at the Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral levels. In Tartu we will spend overnight.

Day 5 - Thursday, September 19
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch. This morning we will head to Latvia and our first stop will be Cesis. Cesis Castle is the most impressive and best-preserved in Latvia. Built in the 13th century, Cēsis Castle was the seat of the Livonian Order’s masters and was one of the strongest fortresses that the Livonian Order held in the entire Baltic region. From Cesis we will transfer to one of the most picturesque towns in Latvia - Sigulda, often called the Latvian Switzerland. Sigulda is situated in the Gauja National Park and is known as the most popular tourist and leisure destination as well as a famous winter sports resort in Latvia because of its bobsled track and the skiing routes. Experience a genuine whiff of the Middle Ages, a time of romantic legends, castles and heroic figures. Here we will visit the ruins of the 13th century Crusader Castle and Turaida Church, one of the oldest wooden churches in Latvia, built by the local rural craftsmen. A graveyard was established here for the first baptized Liivs. Under an old linden tree there is a legendary tomb of Roze that commemorates a girl who sacrificed herself in the name of love. Overnight in Sigulda.

Day 6 - Friday, September 20
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch. Today we will leave picturesque Sigulda and head to Vilnius. On our way we will make a stop at the Rundale Palace, the most magnificent masterpiece of baroque architecture in the Baltic States, which was built in the first part of the 18th century by the Italian architect Bartolommeo Rastrelli. This baroque genius from Italy created many of St. Petersburg’s finest buildings including the Winter Palace (the Hermitage) and the Summer Palace of Empress Catherine II. The professionally restored interiors are decorated with authentic 18th century furniture, paintings and china. The most impressive are the Golden Hall, the White Hall, and the bedroom of the Duke of Courland Johan Ernst Biron. The palace boasts a beautiful French-style park. One more stop on our way will be at the Hill of Crosses near Sauliai. The Hill of Crosses is the Lithuanian national pilgrimage center. Standing upon a small hill are many thousands of crosses that represent Christian devotion and a memorial to Lithuanian national identity. Overnight in Vilnius.

Day 7 - Saturday, September 21
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch. Today we will explore the city of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Vilnius’ Old Town that looks like a maze of small streets is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In the center of the Old Town stands the cathedral with its bell tower. In the narrow old streets one will see numerous pieces of historical heritage, like St. Anna's Church - a gem of Gothic architecture, university buildings (Entrance), St. Peter-Paul Church, as well as the ruins of the Upper and Lower Castle. After lunch we will travel to Trakai, the former capital of Lithuania, which is situated on an island in the middle of a lake. The 14th century red brick castle that was beautifully restored in the 20th century now houses the Art Museum. Of special note is a visit to the Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with the oldest image of the Mother of God in Lithuania. Return to Vilnius for overnight. Optional: dinner with folk show at dinner.

Day 8 - Sunday, September 22
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch. Lying on the confluence of the rivers Nemunas and Neris, Kaunas with its population of 430,000 inhabitants is the second largest city in Lithuania. Kaunas is a city which was not destroyed during the Second World War; thus now it has a number of ancient architectural monuments. The Old Town is a concentration of the most important ancient city architectural monuments: the 13th century Castle, the Old Town Hall, nicknamed the “White Swan”, the Archcathedral Basilica, the Church of St. Francis Xavier and the Jesuit monastery, Perkunas House and Vytautas Church. The most outstanding monument of the Baroque epoch is the architectural complex of Pazaislis Monastery. It is one of the most beautiful Baroque style erections in Lithuania. The ensemble devoted to Camaldolli Abbey was built in the 17th century under supervision of Italian masters from Florence. Transfer and overnight in Klaipeda.

Day 9 - Monday, September 23
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch. Klaipeda is often called "Gateway to The Sea", because it is the main Seaport of the Lithuanian State. A city tour including the Old Post Office, historical Old Town full of handicraft shops, the Old Theatre and Simon Dach Square are worth seeing. From Klaipeda we will head to the fishermen's village of Nida. After the tour of the village, we’ll take a ferry to Neringa for a sightseeing tour of the National Park of the Curonian Spit - a peculiar unique patch of land, washed by the Baltic Sea in the west and the Curonian Bay on the east side. After lunch we will visit the house of a famous German writer Thomas Mann. Here he spent several years with his family and here he wrote his most famous novel “Joseph and his Brothers”. Overnight in Klaipeda.

Day 10 - Tuesday, September 24
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch. Palanga is the biggest seaside resort of Lithuania. Originally a fishermen’s village, Palanga was first mentioned in written sources in the 12th century. The inhabitants also were engaged in gathering amber which later would reach the distant lands in Europe and Asia. In the 19th century, Palanga developed into a health resort. One of the most beautiful places in Palanga is the Tishkevichius Palace, now the Amber Museum which holds a great variety of amber pieces and collections. From Palanga we will transfer to Liepaja, the western most city of Latvia. We will visit the city center and the environment of the city. Being a seaport, Liepaja for generations was the home of a large Russian Navy Base. Thus, the city reflects the interaction of tsarist Russian military elegance and Soviet militarism. One of the landmarks of the city is St. Nicholas Orthodox Naval Cathedral that was built in 1903. The foundation stone was laid by Tsar Nicholas II. For the first time a new technology of monolith concrete casting was applied in the construction of the church by architect V. Kosyakov, hence there are no support columns inside the spacious cathedral and its entire weight is held by the walls only. For overnight we will remain in Liepaja.

Day 11 - Wednesday, September 25
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch. The town of Kuldiga is considered one of Latvia’s most beautiful, and is the only one in the country to have preserved the traditional wooden buildings. It escaped the many destructive wars and fires, thus representing a true image of a Latvian provincial town of the 16th and 17th century. An ancient bridge, the rapids of the Venta River on the approach to the town, the 13th century castle ruins - all this adds peculiar charm to the town. Visit Venta Rumba, the widest waterfall in Europe. The old brick bridge across the Venta built in 1874 is one of the longest of its type in all of Europe. The bridge was built according to the road standards of the 19th century so that two carriages could pass each other on it. From here we will transfer to Jurmala, a resort town possessing 150-year-old resort traditions. Jurmala with its romantic art nouveau style wooden houses, wide white sand beaches, forests, and calmly flowing Lielupe River is especially attractive to people who are tired of the hectic life of a depersonalized megapolis. For overnight we will transfer to Riga.
Optional: Fish tasting in Jurmala open-air museum. A 19th century fisherman’s farmstead has been created in the museum with old, characteristic buildings – the dwelling house, the cart-house with a barn, a net shed, a shed for curing fish, a bathhouse, and other buildings. The museum tour may include tastings of smoked fish and Latvian beer.

Day 12 - Thursday, September 26
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch. Today Enjoy Riga- Capital of Latvia. A medieval Hanseatic town, will include St. Peter's Cathedral from whose steeple will be the best views in the city, Riga Castle with its three wonderful museums, Dome Cathedral, which boasts one of the world’ s largest pipe organs, and the old Guild houses. Visit St. Jacobs Cathedral, the seat of the Catholic archbishop. You will see why Riga came to be known as one of Europe's leading exponents of the late 19th and early 20th century architectural style of Art Nouveau. Riga boasts Europe's greatest concentration of jugendstil (German Art Nouveau) buildings. An architectural historian will highlight details of the finest city facades. Overnight in Riga.
Optional: Tour to traditional black bread bakery Laci. When Latvians talk about the national identity of their country, nothing can characterize it more precisely than genuine rye dark bread. The bakery "LACI" has been working already 16 years. The pride of the company is its high-quality genuine rye bread. Optional: Opera backstage excursion. The quests are invited to an exclusive Latvian National Opera backstage tour to get to know the secrets of actors’ real lives.

Day 13 - Friday, September 27
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch. Today visit Riga Nativity of Christ Orthodox Cathedral. Built between 1876 and 1884, this yellow-brick church capped with five gilded cupolas was turned into a planetarium during the occupation but was finally returned to its congregation in 1990. The Soviets destroyed many of the church’s ornate works of art including wall and ceiling frescoes by the famous Russian painter Vereshchagin. Much of the cathedral has now been restored to its former glory. After visiting the Orthodox Cathedral, visit Old Believers’ Prayer Chapel. Byzantine-style Riga Grebenschikov Old Believers' Prayer Chapel features a modest exterior and an Art-Nouveau-style tower with the only golden dome in Riga. Besides, the building is the world's biggest Old Believers' church, housing a congregation of 25,000 people. The Old Believers became separated from the official Russian Orthodox Church after 1666-1667 as a protest against church reforms introduced by Patriarch Nikon. Their liturgical practices are the same as the Russian Orthodox Church maintained before these reforms. At the time of reforms, many of those who split from the Russian Orthodox Church had to run away from persecution. They mostly found their shelter in the northern Russia, and also in Latvia, which then was partially Polish and Swedish. Some free time in afternoon for souvenir shopping and relaxation time in one of the most beautiful cities on the Baltics. Overnight in Riga
Optional: Chocolate tasting and work shop at Kuze café
In 1910 Vilhelms Kuze opened a little pastry shop. In 1912 he bought a few chocolate-making machines and started to produce chocolate. During WWI all of his factories were destroyed and he had to start everything anew. Soon his products became very popular again due to their highest quality and unique taste. Today a few charming cafés hold his famous name and continue the tradition of chocolate producing.
Optional: Evening transfer to local restaurant Lido. The building is one of the largest and most beautiful log buildings in Europe. It is characterized by a Latvian environment, tasty and various dishes. Farewell dinner in Lido restaurant.

Day 14 - Saturday, September 28
Meals: Breakfast. Check out. Transfer to airport. Departure back home.

Airfare is not included in the tour price.

Price includes:

Accommodations in "****" hotels.
Two or three meals daily, as per itinerary.
Private bus transportation.
All admissions to the scheduled museums.
Professional English speaking tour guides.
English speaking guide/escort during the entire tour.

Price excludes:

Personal health/accident insurance.
Airfare tickets.
Airport transfers.
Private transfers, optional tours, shows or presentations.
Tips to bus drivers and tour guides.
Anything that is not specifically mentioned in “Price Includes”.