A Tale of 5 Cities: Insider Knowledge about Berlin, Prague, and Beyond

A Tale of 5 Cities: Insider Knowledge about Berlin, Prague, and Beyond

Who says the only capital cities to visit in Europe are London, Paris, and Rome? Travel off the “beaten path” and see the capitals of Central Europe for a deep-dive into the continent’s history and culture.

These more obscure cities of the Old Continent have seen the rise of many famous figures as well as important historical events. You’ll love learning all about the unique cultures and peoples, who make Central Europe a thriving region.

Here’s a look at five capital cities and their surrounding towns that are must-sees in Central Europe:

 

1. History abounds in Berlin and its surrounding cities.


A Tale of 5 Cities: Insider Knowledge about Berlin, Prague, and Beyond

Germany’s capital city, Berlin, is most known for its World War II history and the Berlin Wall. But since Ronald Reagan famously told “Mr. Gorbachev” to “tear down this wall,” Berlin has become a buzzing metropolis waiting to be explored.

Sightseeing highlights of Berlin include the grand Reichstag Building, magnificent Brandenburg Gate, and the site of Checkpoint Charlie, the best known Berlin Wall crossing point. Definitely stop by Kurfürstendamm Avenue, affectionately called Ku’damm, for a look at the bombed tower of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a reminder of World War II.

During your tour of the city, be sure to stop in one of the world-class restaurants for fantastic food and beverages. You can’t miss out on trying traditional German fare, like schnitzel, bratwurst, and beer.

Outside of Berlin lie towns known for their religious history. Ever heard of Martin Luther, the religious reformer? Of course you have. He nailed the 95 Theses to a chapel door in Wittenberg, which isn’t too far from Berlin. Eisenach’s Wartburg Castle was Luther’s hiding place after becoming a wanted man by the Catholic Church.

Eisenach is also the birthplace of Johann Sebastian Bach, and to continue with the music theme, visit Leipzig, the birthplace of Richard Wagner and last home to Bach. There, you can visit the grave of the “Toccata and Fugue” composer.

 

2. Krakow may not be Poland’s capital city, but it’s the country’s capital for science, culture, and art.

A Tale of 5 Cities: Insider Knowledge about Berlin, Prague, and Beyond

Krakow is probably one of those cities you’ve heard of, but don’t really know much about. And that’s okay! There’s no time like the present to discover Poland’s gem.

Many centuries ago, Krakow was actually a major trade centre, but after the capital was moved to Warsaw, the city deteriorated. Poland lost its control of Krakow for over a century—it remained under Austria’s rule from 1795 to 1918.

Krakow did not escape World War II. The city was under Nazi control for many years, and over 55,000 Jews were taken from the city to Auschwitz, the horrific concentration camp. After the War, Poland once again gained Krakow. The city became an industrial mecca and helped bolster the country’s economy after the fall of communism in Poland.

These days, Krakow is a vibrant city full of art, architecture, and science. If architecture is your thing, be sure to head to the Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Get a taste of Polish culture with a visit to salt mines just outside of Krakow, followed by a delicious dinner. Art enthusiasts should head to the National Museum for a look at famous paintings, sculptures, and more.

 

3. Did you know Budapest is actually split into “Buda” and “Pest” by the Danube?

A Tale of 5 Cities: Insider Knowledge about Berlin, Prague, and Beyond

Budapest, known as “the Queen of the Danube,” is actually split into two parts across the River. Buda is on the west bank, and Pest is on the east bank. The sections are connected by many bridges across the Danube, creating Budapest. And between the two of them, there is so much to see and do.

In Buda, have your camera at the ready while visiting Castle Hill. The Old Town is covered with beautiful buildings and the Royal Palace is a stunning sight. Fisherman’s Bastion is arguably the most photographed spot in Buda. Its seven spectacular spires tower over the side of the Danube.

Pest, the larger section of the city, holds much of the modern-day culture. Here, the Hungarian Parliament resides. Music is a huge part of the capital’s make-up. Swing by the Vigadó (romantic concert hall) for ornate architecture and a possible performance. Pest is also home to the National Theatre, Neo-Renaissance State Opera House, and Franz Liszt Academy of Music. And for even more examples of architecture, stop by Gresham Palace for a fine example of the Art Nouveau style.

Nothing compares to a cruise down the Danube for breathtaking views of the city. With Buda on one side and Pest on the other, is there really a better way to take in Hungary’s capital?

 

4. Vienna holds all of the charm Austria is known for.

A Tale of 5 Cities: Insider Knowledge about Berlin, Prague, and Beyond

Austria may be famous in the United States for The Sound of Music, but while visiting Vienna, you’ll gain a new appreciation for the country and its capital.

Certainly the “can’t miss” site in Vienna is St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The massive house of worship is a gorgeous and grand spectacle in the city center. Another breathtaking building is the Vienna Opera House.

Just outside of Vienna is Schonbrunn Palace. Think of it as Vienna’s version of Versaille. It was originally constructed as a hunting lodge, and then become a Habsburg summer residence. Wouldn’t that be the life?

Looking for something to do? Head to Museumsquartier for your pick of different museums. There is something for everyone here, including art museums, children’s museums, and a natural history museum.

The best way to ensure you see all you desire in Vienna (or anywhere abroad for that matter) is by booking your tour well in advance. A little planning ahead can take your trip from great to fantastic.

 

5. Prague is one of the few cities the Germans kept mostly intact during World War II.

A Tale of 5 Cities: Insider Knowledge about Berlin, Prague, and Beyond

The final capital of Central Europe to see is Prague, the Czech Republic’s pride on the Vltava River. Despite destruction occurring all around it in World War II, Prague mostly remained intact, which adds to the city’s popularity as a travel destination in the 21st Century.

Begin your tour of Prague with Staromestské námesti, the most photographed square in the whole capital. Head next to the Old Town Hall and Church of St. Nicholas for traditional Czech architecture.

The remarkable Charles Bridge takes you across the Vltava River to Malá Strana and the Prague Castle. Visiting these historic sights transport you from reality into a fairytale, if only for a minute or two.

 

Central Europe Awaits…

Don’t miss out on your opportunity to see the exceptional capitals of Central Europe, get in touch to start planning the adventure of a lifetime today.

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

“This was the most meaningful tour I have ever been on. I wish every American had the chance to go on this tour.”
G. Brown – Moline, IL

It would be hard to miss the marks left across Europe from the effects of World War II. The war hit the continent hard, destroying much in its path. Many monuments, buildings, cultural artifacts, and of course lives were lost during this time.

While the war significantly changed the 20th century, we wouldn’t be where we are today without it. It’s important to take time to visit the places where the world was so drastically altered, and there’s no better way to see it all than with a European World War II Memorial Tour.

 

1. Learn about the Nuremberg Trials where they actually took place.

In 1945, the war was finally over. But the leaders of the Nazi party still needed to answer for their crimes. And so, the Nuremberg Trials took place in Germany, bringing many to justice. Nuremberg was chosen for a few reasons—its Palace of Justice remained relatively undamaged and had a large prison to keep the war criminals, and Nuremberg was an important platform for Nazi rallies; having the trials there marked the end of the Nazi era.

The trials began with the Trial of Major War Criminals, bringing 24 Nazi leaders in front of the court. Unlike most trials, there was no jury, but rather a group of judges (tribunal) who decided the Nazi leaders’ fates.

While visiting Nuremberg, stop by the Nazi Party Rally Grounds where many of the propaganda speeches took place to get an idea of the scope of these rallies. You can also visit the Palace of Justice to see exactly where the trials occured and justice prevailed.

 

2. Reflect on the incomprehensible at Dachau Concentration Camp.

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

It’s unimaginable. It’s incomprehensible. And yet it happened. During the time of the concentration camps, 11 million people were killed. The world cannot and should not forget what happened at places like Dachau—and maybe visiting them will help the world never let it happen again.

Dachau Concentration Camp was the first of its kind in Germany. It opened in 1933, as a prison for political prisoners, but was soon turned into a death camp. And those who were not executed worked as slaves, suffering from malnutrition and injuries. While the prisoners consisted mainly of Jews, other groups of people including Jehovah’s Witnesses, artists, the mentally and physically disabled, and homosexuals were also held captive.

As you walk through the camp, reflect on what happened here. Think of how you can ensure the world will not abuse or kill people simply for their heritage, beliefs, disabilities, etc.

 

3. Don’t miss out on seeing Salzburg, filming location for The Sound of Music.

One of the most beloved movies of all time takes place during World War II—The Sound of Music. The Austrian Von Trapp family escapes from the Nazis by crossing the border into Switzerland, but not before the audience learns how to sing “Do-Re-Mi” and all about “My Favorite Things.”

Many old Hollywood films were filmed on sound stages, but The Sound of Music was greatly filmed on location in Salzburg. While visiting Austria, be sure to check out the many places like the gazebo where Liesl sings “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.”

Near Salzburg is Eagle’s Nest, a hideaway mountain home of Hitler’s. It was presented to him in 1939 as a gift for his 50th birthday. An ornately decorated elevator takes guests the final 124 meters to the top of the mountain for entry. Inside you can see the remains of a red, marble fireplace. The marble was a gift from Mussolini, but Allied soldiers chipped off pieces as souvenirs after their victory.

 

4. See the grave of the wily Rommel, aka the “Desert Fox,” and ponder his defeat at El Alamein.

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

Erwin Rommel played a significant role in World War II. He was a German general, forced to choose death after being suspected of a murder plot against Hitler. Rommel bit into a cyanide capsule in exchange for immunity for his family. But did he actually plan to kill Hitler? Likely no. Rommel was just another casualty thanks to the Nazi party and its leader.

He earned his nickname “Desert Fox” during his time in North Africa. Initially, Rommel was able to push back the Allies. His most famous battle there, a loss at El Alamein, turned the tide of the war for the Allies in Africa. Two months later, Rommel was back in Europe.

Visit his grave near Ulm, a German town known for its record-breaking church steeple at Ulm Minster—it’s the tallest in the world.

 

5. France’s eastern border with Germany created a big stage for World War II.

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

In the Vosges Mountains lies a French town with an important history. Saverne and its liberation bolstered the French Army and other Allies towards winning the way just a year later. Pushing the Germans out of Saverne and nearby Strasbourg was not an easy fight, but it greatly helped the Allied forces and France.

Also in France is the Lorraine American Cemetery. Stop to pay your respects to the almost 11,000 fallen American heroes laid to rest there. It is the largest American World War II cemetery in Europe, covering 113.5 acres. As you walk around, be sure to check out the many monuments and memorials throughout the cemetery, paying homage to those who lost their lives for our freedoms.

Later, visit Fort Hackenberg, which is part of the Maginot Line. The Maginot Line was supposed to prevent German forces from crossing into France, but alas, it did not succeed.

 

6. The small country of Luxembourg was right in the middle of the war.

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

Every American knows the name George S. Patton. He was instrumental in winning the war for the Allies and liberating Germany from the Nazis. And he is buried in Luxembourg of all places. You can see his grave when you visit the country’s American Cemetery. Before leaving Luxembourg, check out the Luxembourg National Museum of Military History in Diekirch for even more World War II history.

Belgium’s Ardennes Region holds the Mardasson Memorial, a star-shaped tribute to the soldiers who were injured or died in the Battle of the Bulge, the bloodiest battle for Americans in World War II. All 50 states are inscribed on the walls as well as 10 passages commemorating the battle. If you’ve seen “Band of Brothers,” you will be interested to see the fox holes used by Easy Company, who the show is based on.

 

7. Witness where World War II finally came to a close.

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

See Reims, the city where the Second World War ended. German General Alfred Jodl signed papers ending the war in both the East and the West on May 7, 1945. With the Soviet Union and Allied Forces coming at the Nazis from both sides, there was no other option. General Jodl was tried, convicted, and subsequently hanged during the Nuremberg Trials, but later found not guilty in 1953.

Reims is famous for more than just World War II—all French royalty have had their coronations held at the Cathedral since the 9th century.

 

8. Find peace while exploring Caen, less than an hour from Omaha Beach.

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

At the north of France is Caen, whose bridge played an important role in stopping the germans. The British captured Pegasus Bridge, keeping the Germans from a counter-attack after the Normandy invasion. See the bridge and think of our United Kingdom friends, who helped us out significantly.

In the spirit of friendship, head on to the Caen Peace and Memorial Museum, which recognizes all who favor peace and continue to fight for it.

 

9. Spend a solemn day strolling the Normandy Beaches.

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

If you’ve ever watched the opening of Saving Private Ryan, you know the arrival to the Normandy Beaches was a gruesome day. But unless you were there, you could never truly understand what our soldiers experienced.

While you can’t travel back in time, you can travel to the beaches of D-Day: Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno, and Sword. These bloody battles opened up the possibility of an Allied victory. Walking on the same sand upon which the combat took place is humbling and solemn, but it helps keep alive the memory of those who died for their fellow citizens.

Pointe du Hoc, a German fortification, is also nearby. See where the Germans set up their fortification and how the Allies captured it.

 

10. Holland played a big part in liberation efforts during the War.

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

Holland’s position next to Germany made it a great location for war efforts for both sides. The Allies’ Operation Market Garden’s air and ground strikes set out to liberate Arnhem, but the ground troops never made it to the bridge, coining the battle “a bridge too far.” The bridge and other sites of this failed operation are still around today.

Nijmegen, however, was liberated by American troops during the war. Visit the Waal River bridge, where the crossing by American paratroopers was decisive in taking control of this strategic asset.

 

11. Finish your World War II journey in the Rhine River region of Germany.

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

Close to the end of the war, Americans captured Ludendorff Bridge, the last standing bridge on the Rhine River. That was March 7, 1945, exactly two months before the end of World War II. And so you end your time visiting the European sites of the Second World War.

Enjoy a river boat ride past enchanting castles, idyllic vineyards, and charming villages. Taste the distinctive Rhine wines and end your evening with a festive dinner before your return home. Germany is a different country today, thanks to the heroics of so many decades ago.

 

Remember the fallen…

If you would like to see these important places for yourself, get in touch to sign up for our World War II Memorial tour today.

European Holiday Traditions

Our 2017 Photo Contest Winners

The votes have been tallied and we now have our top three Europe Tour photos of 2017:

3RD PLACE – Canal in Venice by Linda Sartorius on the HEART OF EUROPE Circle Tour  (Advance Tour & Travel)

venice-gondola-linda-sartorius-345-shores-parkway-rogersville-mo-65742-randysartoriusyahoo-com

 

2ND PLACE – Eiffel Tower by Hannah Yowell on the London, Paris & Rome Tour  (Turner Coaches)

seine-river-cruise-in-paris-eiifel-hannah-yowell-8724-pheasant-run-terre-haute-in-47805

 

1ST PLACE – Dutch Windmill by Monah Doyle on the HEART OF EUROPE Circle Tour  (Escape World Travel)

windmill-monah-doyle-400-holcomb-circle-las-vegas-89107

Winners will be notified by mail shortly.  Thank you to all our travelers who sent in your photos!

 

9 Top Experiences for the 50+ Traveler in the Heart of Europe

9 Top Experiences for the 50+ Traveler in the Heart of Europe

Ever wanted to see the highlights of Europe in one trip? It’s entirely possible on a 17-day tour. By flying into one city and leaving from another, you maximize your travel efficiency. Your tour operator will be there to pick you up and drop you off at both airports, meaning you are in good hands.

Find yourself falling in love with Paris, drinking beer in Germany, and eating delicious dishes in Italy. But that’s not all—here are nine exciting European experiences for the 50+ traveler:

 

1. Explore the Waterways of Holland.

9 Top Experiences for the 50+ Traveler in the Heart of Europe

Famed for its windmills, and its waterways, there are many other spectacles to see and delicacies to try in Holland, such as the stroopwafel which has been deemed as one of the world’s greatest cookies!

When you touch down in the capital of Amsterdam, make sure you hire a bike for the day. For every car in Amsterdam, there are four bikes. This means less traffic, less pollution, more calories burned, plus it’s great fun cruising around a new city by bike! Amsterdam is also home to the only museum in the world that you can cycle through.

The medieval, canal-lined streets of Delft is a must-see for arts and craft lovers. Home to its famous ‘Delftware’, blue earthenware ceramics, you can find endless pretty pottery to add to your collection, or maybe take home as gifts. Delft is also the birthplace of the Golden Age painter Johannes Vermeer, who created some of the most beloved and well known paintings in the history of art. You might recognize him as the painter of the ‘Girl in the Pearl Earring’, but he also painted some beautiful landscapes of the city, leaving a permanent image of what Delft looked like in 1660.

If you’re an empty nester shopping in Europe, you’ll appreciate the ability to take as long as you want to find the perfect souvenir. No matter where you go in Amsterdam, Delft, or Rotterdam, be sure to stroll through the shops, even if you’re just window shopping.

 

2. Germany’s storybook landscapes and towns will enchant you.

9 Top Experiences for the 50+ Traveler in the Heart of Europe

Germany may only be about the size of New Mexico, but its cities, culture, and castles are larger than life. Cruise along the Rhine, Germany’s second longest river, for fantastic views of enchanting villages, picturesque vineyards, and medieval fortresses.

Let the university town of Heidelberg and its castle take you back in time to the Middle Ages. Roam ancient streets, through buildings of old, to Heidelberg Castle, a massive structure overlooking the city. Take a tour of the castle and learn about its harsh history. Much of the castle was destroyed in the 17th and 18th centuries, some of which is still in disrepair today.

Ever wanted to step into a storybook? You’ll feel like you have while visiting Rothenburg, a tranquil town, which could be straight out of a fairytale. As you walk through cobblestone streets, age-old inns, and cozy shoppe fronts, you’ll think you’re in a Disney movie. But the magic of Germany doesn’t end there—head down the Romantic Road for a look at historic castles and spectacular sights.

You can’t go all the way to Germany and not have a tall glass of beer! Stop in one of Munich’s many beer gardens for a pint (or two!). You can even find certain beer halls with an Oktoberfest-feel all year round.

 

3. Immerse yourself in Innsbruck, Austria’s alpine wonderland.

9 Top Experiences for the 50+ Traveler in the Heart of Europe

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Austria? Let me guess, something to do with the hills being alive…

Well there’s way more to discover in Austria’s Alps than just a singing nun, and Innsbruck is the perfect place to start. No matter the season, Innsbruck’s amazing alpine scenery will take your breath away. During the winter, it’s a skier’s paradise, as the Bergisel Ski Jump towers over the city, impressing on the skyline and providing a viewing platform with immense views of the surrounding mountains. In the summer, there are plenty of activities to enjoy such as hiking the amazing scenic trails.

White and gray mountain peaks rise against the bright blue sky. Below lies a town full of life, culture, and historical sites. Innsbruck has played host to the Winter Olympics twice, and is one of the venues for the International Four Hills Ski Jump Competition. The dining and shopping are to die for and the architecture is awe-inspiring.

Immerse yourself in Innsbruck’s Tyrolean culture with a few extra excursions, and by sampling the tasty Tyrolean cuisine. Sample the typical Austrian dinner of schnitzel, french fries, and apple strudel. A special show featuring traditional Tyrolean dancing and folk music follows dinner and is a must-see!

 

4. An extravagant palace in Bavaria awaits.

9 Top Experiences for the 50+ Traveler in the Heart of Europe

Go on an excursion fit for a king or queen! Just across the border from Tyrol lies the Bavarian Palace, Linderhof. You’ll find extravagant gardens, and an ornate interior.

Within the palace, the Hall of Mirrors room never fails to enchant. With a mirror covering each wall, there is a new reflection everywhere you look. King Ludwig II, who built the palace, would read, by twinkling candlelight, in the Hall of Mirrors into the night.

 

5. Eat and drink to your heart’s content in Northern Italy.

9 Top Experiences for the 50+ Traveler in the Heart of Europe

Northern Italy, bordering countries like Austria, Switzerland, and France, is not Rome. There is no hustle and bustle, but rather, a peaceful landscape of mountains, lakes, and countryside. Lake Garda, known for its subtropical climate, is Italy’s largest lake. It also is home to olive groves, citrus orchards, and oleander bushes.

It is, however, still Italy, which means you are in for some of the best food and wine of your life. Culturally, the region is divided by those in the north (culturally Germanic) and those in the south (culturally Italian), meaning you get the best of both worlds. Meals rely heavily upon fish from the nearby lakes. Alpine cheeses are also commonly served. Stewed game, knödel, and sauerkraut can also be found here.

Wine-wise, you’re looking at many whites, and some reds. Amarone, a sweet, white wine, uses grapes that have been drying for four months. It pairs well with game-birds. Barbaresco, a red, is produced with Nebbiolo grapes. It’s a dry, tannic wine, which pairs well with cheese, game, or even barbecue.

 

6. Ascend Mount Stanserhorn for views of spectacular Swiss scenery.

9 Top Experiences for the 50+ Traveler in the Heart of Europe

Take a cable car to the top of Mount Stanserhorn for gorgeous views of Lucerne, its lake, and the surrounding mountains. No physical exertion needed! These cable cars are the only ones in the world with open-top roofs, greatly enhancing your viewing experience.

At the top, take in the panoramic sights before lunching at a mountain top restaurant. There are many paths to walk upon, leading you to new scenery worth capturing. And on that note, be sure to have your camera with you! You’ll want to remember these views for years to come.

Want to know one of the best parts of using a tour operator? They know about cool opportunities like ascending Mount Stanserhorn. Isn’t it nice to have someone looking out for you during your travels?

 

7. Have a glass of champagne in the Champagne region of France.

9 Top Experiences for the 50+ Traveler in the Heart of Europe

Sure, it’s an iconic drink at New Year’s, but Champagne is also a beautiful region of France. Just a 45 minute train ride from Paris, Champagne is an easy day trip (although it should be more!). There are many wine houses to tour and taste samples of wine at during your stay. Each have their own history, adding to the excellence of their wines.

While it may be all about the wines for many in Champagne, it’s important to remember the region’s history. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Reims Cathedral has been the site of royal coronations for centuries. The architecture is reminiscent of Notre Dame Cathedral, but with a majestic flair. The area also experienced difficult times during World War I, but was able to recuperate and flourish in the decades since.

 

8. Forget blending in—be a full-on tourist in Paris!

9 Top Experiences for the 50+ Traveler in the Heart of Europe

Paris just may be the most romantic city in the world. As you take a river cruise down the River Seine, you can’t help but think of some classic movie where two characters begin to fall in love upon its shores.

There are just too many amazing places to go in Paris to act like a local. Go ahead, pull out your camera at Notre Dame Cathedral! Walk along the Champs-Elysees from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. Grab a crepe from a street stand or see Paris from Montmartre.

Art-lovers have to go by the Louvre, home to many famous classical works like the Mona Lisa. It is so big, you could spend hours there and still not see everything. The Musee d’Orsay features more modern art, like paintings from Impressionists Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. No matter where you visit in Paris, you are sure to fall in love with the City of Light.

 

9. London’s calling you, and you’re going to want to answer!

9 Top Experiences for the 50+ Traveler in the Heart of Europe

Your final stop on this European adventure is London, a historic and modern city at the same time. Go shopping at Harrod’s Department Store for floors and floors of incredible items. Head to Piccadilly Square for a view of London’s version of Times Square. Or catch a classic double-decker bus for an amazing tour of the city.

Looking to get away? Stroll through Kensington Park. Stop by the pond for a serene scene—swans swimming right off shore. At Buckingham Palace, you don’t want to miss the changing of the guard. And see the Queen’s jewels at the Tower of London, along with many other artifacts from England’s history.

The best way to ensure you see everything you want is to book your trip well in advance. You’ll get the best deals that way, and secure your spot!

 

Picturing your European adventure?

It’s time to get away and explore all that Europe has to offer! Ready to book? Get in touch to reserve your spot today.

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