|Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Slovenia|
Berlin to Venice – a righteously rollicking jaunt through Europe’s edgiest epicentres. Sniff out Berlin’s renowned arts scene, see what’s crackin’ in Krakow and go for a prance about Prague’s pubs. Get your class on in Vienna and Budapest, then leisure it out in Bled.
Berlin’s like an old war veteran who experienced something of an epiphany late in life, and decided to enjoy himself every which way imaginable. Drink up the humbling history, then drink up the nightlife.
Accommodation: Plus Hostel Berlin or similar, Berlin
Guten tag! Welcome to Germany.
Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please check with the hotel reception or the hotels noticeboard for confirmation of where and when this meeting will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early, so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please contact the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your trip leader.
Kick things off in one of the most happening cities in Germany. Berlin's home to raucous nightlife, an edgy arts scene and festivals galore. For a historic perspective, inspect Checkpoint Charlie, pedal through the streets on a cycling tour or see remaining fragments of the Berlin Wall. Surviving pre-World War I attractions include Schloss Charlottenburg (the Prussian queen's summer palace) and the Prussian Victory Column. The Tiergarten, Berlin's largest green space with 23 kilometres of pathways, is also home to the world-famous Berlin Zoo.
Get comfortable on the overnight train to Poland.
Accommodation: Basztowa Guestrooms or similar, Krakow
Possibly the best known of all Poland's cities, Krakow was the residence of Polish kings from the 11th to the 17th centuries, and its old town is a World Heritage-listed site.
In your free time, explore Wawel Castle, which sits atop a hill next to the Vistula River. It provides a magnificent backdrop to Rynek Glowny, the town square. Dating back to the 13th century, the square is surrounded by grand buildings, with the Cloth Hall as the centrepiece.
There will be time to explore the city, so visit St Mary's Church, shop for amber or crafts and be transported back in time by the well-preserved old town.
If you can tear yourself away from the charms of Krakow, visit the Wieliczka Salt Mines, a deep underground network of tunnels and chambers some 135 m below the surface. The Blessed Kinga Chapel is a highlight not to be missed, with its elaborate salt chandeliers and carvings.
You may want to take a day trip to learn more about the history of World War II at Auschwitz (Oswiecim) and Birkenau, sites where some of the worst atrocities were perpetrated.
Krakow has many cellar restaurants and pubs and a thriving cultural scene. You may want to end your day embracing Polish social traditions over a few drinks in one of these cheerful establishments.
Accommodation: Private apartment, Prague
Travel by train to Prague (approx 7 hrs).
Having served as the residence of rulers and archbishops for over a thousand years, Prague has been left with a unique gallery of historic buildings. The 'City of a Hundred Spires' is an architecture-lover's dream - you can trace the history of design from the Middle Ages all the way through to the avant-gardism of the most controversial building in the city, the Gehry-designed Dancing Building (also called the Fred and Ginger Building) on the banks of the Vltava.
In your free time check out Prague Castle, the biggest in the Czech Republic, where you'll find the famous St Vitus Cathedral and Golden Lane.
Wander through the Jewish Quarter to see what remains of the traditions and culture of Prague's formerly large Jewish community and visit the resting place of Franz Kafka.
The Old Town at night is truly special. In addition to the sights, there are many great restaurants and pubs, some in old vaulted cellars. The nightlife in Prague is some of the best in Central Europe. Whether dance clubs, traditional beer-halls or striking up conversations with locals at underground absinthe bars are your speed, there is something for just about everyone in this cosmopolitan city. The city has one of the longest-standing and respected jazz scenes in Europe. If you should find yourself out until the early hours in an atmospheric jazz club, have a wander along Charles Bridge or Old Town Square as the sun rises for magical photo opportunities.
In Prague we stay in our own private apartments. We have several separate apartments located in the city centre so you may be a short walk away from your other group members and your leader. Staying in the city centre allows easy access to all the sights and the restaurants and bars - it's all an easy stroll from your front door. This is your chance to look behind those facades. Each apartment has 2-3 rooms with one or two shared bathrooms. Most of the apartments have fully equipped kitchens and you can choose to buy your own groceries and supplies for meals. Our apartments are not hotels, there's no reception, room service or daily cleaning service, no televisions or washing machines, but plenty of charm and you just can't beat the location.
Accommodation: Pension Vltavin or similar, Cesky Krumlov
Depart Prague and travel by bus to the southern Bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov (approx 4 hrs).
This picturesque medieval town dates back to the 13th century and is straight out of a fairytale. Cesky Krumlov (pronounced 'Che-skee Krum-lov') means 'crooked meadow', which is befitting as the town is nestled in a sharp bend of the Vltava River. It also comes complete with a castle on a hill towering over the quaint old town, which boasts a collection of beautiful old buildings and a confusion of cobbled alleyways.
Explore the castle and its fabulous Masquerade Hall, or climb the tower for aerial views of the town.
Weather and time permitting, take a relaxing 2-3 hour raft/canoe trip on the river that winds right through the centre of Cesky Krumlov, a favourite summer pastime.
A visit to the Cesky Krumlov brewery - where tours are often conducted in English - will give you a glimpse of the brewing tradition that has existed in this town for hundreds of years.
Meals included: 1 breakfast
Accommodation: Do Step Inn or similar, Vienna
Once the centre of the Habsburg Empire, Vienna is today a cosmopolitan city with music in the air and the grandeur of a golden past.
Art lovers will be delighted by the vast array of museums available including the Albertina, the Leopold, Kunsthalle Wien and the Museum of Modern Art. Those with an interest in 19th and 20th century Austrian art should visit the Belvedere Palace, home to Gustav Klimt's famous painting, 'The Kiss', check out Hundertwasserhaus or discover the Secession Building with its gold laurel-leaf dome.
Visit Hofburg Palace, the imposing winter retreat of Habsburg royals and now the official residence of the Austrian president.
You might like to head out to Schoenbrunn for a guided audio tour of the summer palace designed by Empress Maria Theresa herself. The Gloriette Monument has incredible views of Vienna. The palace gardens are free to all visitors but there is a charge for entrance and tours of the palace. Avoid long queues for this by pre-booking your tickets at www.schoenbrunn.at.
Climb the 343 steps to the top of the tower of St Stephen's Cathedral.
Take a spin on the famous Prater Ferris Wheel.
After all this sightseeing, indulge in the great Viennese institution of coffee and Sacher torte, before capping off the evening with some excellent Mozart, Bach or Schubert at the opera.
The Spanish Riding School doesn't operate throughout the summer months. You will need to book tickets in advance to see the performance of the Lipizzaners. Phone: +43 (0)1 505 77 66 55 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange tickets.
Meals included: 1 breakfast
Accommodation: Baross City Hotel or similar, Budapest
Travelling from Vienna by train (approx 3 hrs), arrive in Budapest with time to explore the Pearl of the Danube.
Since the collapse of Communism, Budapest has experienced something of a renaissance. The grand architecture and boulevards evoke a time gone by, while glamorous stores and glitzy restaurants make this one of the truly great cities of Europe.
With so much to see and do, hire a bicycle for a great way to move between the city sights.
Budapest is the perfect city to enjoy from the water. From here you'll be able to see the magnificent buildings that line the banks of the Danube River and the bridges linking Buda to Pest. Take one of the tourist boat trips to see the sights or cross the Chain Bridge for a spectacular view of the Parliament Building and the Castle District. Be sure to head down to the river after dark to enjoy the floodlit spectacle.
Head out to Statue Park to see all the communist monuments that were removed from the city streets after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
One unmissable activity is a soak in the hot thermal baths. There are several around the city centre ranging from the sumptuous and elegant to simple outdoor types. There are pools of varying degrees - some with whirlpools and some even have chess boards so you can exercise your brain while rejuvenating your body.
Meals included: 1 breakfast
Accommodation: Union Travel or similar
Travel by train to the lakeside town of Bled (approx 9 hrs).
Situated on the stunning Lake Bled at the edge of the Julian Alps in Slovenia, there are many outdoor activities to get the blood pumping in Bled: rafting, caving, canoeing, swimming, to name a few.
If feeling active, why not hire a bike and head out to Vintgar Gorge (4 km) and walk through the natural canyon.
Explore Bled Castle, perched atop the 100-metre cliff overlooking the lake.
Catch a pletna (small wooden boat) over to the island in the middle of the lake to ring the wishing bell.
Take a day trip to Lake Bohinj, situated within a glaciated valley in the Julian Alps. There, you can ascend Mt Vogel by cable car for awesome views of the ranges. If the weather is clear you may even see Triglav, the highest peak in Slovenia. Please note that the weather conditions on top of Mt Vogel vary greatly (it's a ski resort in the winter).
For a sample of Bled cuisine, you must try Bled Cake - a vanilla, custard, cream and pastry delight.
Accommodation: Hotel Mondial or similar, Venice
Travel by train through stunning scenery to one of the world's most unique cities - Venice (approx 5.5 hrs).
A grand city of canals, Venice is built over a hundred small islands connected by 400 bridges. Still rich with artistic masterpieces, modern Venice combines history with contemporary life through food, performance, art and architecture.
Use your free time to explore Venice. The best way to do that is by foot, taking in all the famous sights - the Grand Canal, the old-world shops of the Rialto Bridge, the Palace of the Doge (ruler of Venice), the Piazza San Marco and its golden basilica, and the evocative Bridge of Sighs. Wander the narrow, cobblestone streets and spacious piazzas and cross the hundreds of tiny bridges. There are shops, markets, galleries, churches and stunning buildings around every corner - don't miss the opportunity to take a gondola trip through the romantic canals!
Be sure not to miss trying the popular dessert tiramisu - sponge cakes soaked in coffee and arranged in layers with mascarpone cheese - which is the speciality of this region.
On the final day, you are able to depart at any time.
Tour leader, accommodation, transport and sightseeing.
International flights, airport transfers, departure taxes, visas, insurance (compulsory on all trips), meals (except 1 breakfast in Cesky Krumlov and 2 breakfasts in Budapest), any optional tours or activities during free time, camera fees, excess baggage charges, tips and items of a personal nature.
We have chosen a selection of some great optional activities to enhance your travel experience. You will need to cover any additional costs yourself. The below list is not exhaustive and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed below have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, our local operator PEAK DMC - Europe, can be reached on at the following number: +49 8677 918 66 57.
The operator for this Geckos Adventures trip is our experienced sister company Intrepid Travel. Your group will therefore be a mixture of Geckos booked passengers and other like-minded travellers.
The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please ensure that you have the most up-to-date information for your trip. We recommend that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!
2 October 2014