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Christmas Markets Along the Danube 2014

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Pre-trip: Munich, Germany

Join us on an optional extension to explore one of Europe’s most culturally rich cities, with more museums than any other city in Germany. The Alte Pinakothek (Old Picture Gallery) alone has nearly 900 paintings on display, with major works by Durer, Rubens, and da Vinci. The largest university community in Germany, Munich offers enchanting contrasts, from sidewalk cafes serving mouth-watering sausages and locally brewed beers to public squares graced with historic churches, monuments, and statuary.

It's Included:
Accommodations: 3 nights at the First-Class Sheraton Munich Arabellapark Hotel or similar
3 meals: 3 breakfasts
Included tours: Munich city tour, including Christkindlmarkt; Rothenburg
Exclusive services of an experienced Grand Circle Program Director
All transfers
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    Depart today on your flight to Munich.

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    Arrive in Munich this morning, where a Grand Circle representative meets you at the airport and helps you transfer to your hotel.

    Enjoy a brief walk with your Program Director to get acquainted with the area around your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure to relax after your overseas flight, or venture out to explore on your own.

    Join your Program Director and fellow travelers for a Welcome Drink before enjoying dinner on your own this evening. Your Program Director can assist you by recommending a restaurant.

    Munich offers a wide variety of cuisines. And, you’ll certainly want to sample some of the traditional Bavarian specialties such as Bratwurst, Sauerkraut, and potato or bread dumplings. Perhaps you'll wash down your meal with good local beer or Franconian wine, or keep a time-honored tradition by having an after-dinner schnapps.

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    Today enjoy a tour highlighting the major sights of this exciting city. See the city’s main square, Marienplatz (with its magnificent Christmas tree), the center and heart of the city since its founding in 1138. Jousting tournaments were held here in the Middle Ages—today there are street performers and musicians to entertain you. The main feature of the square is the New Town Hall with its beautiful Glockenspiel. The carillon’s bells play folk tunes every day, year-round. Its nearly life-size figures perform scenes from Munich’s history, including a jousting match (celebrating the 1568 wedding of Duke Wilhelm V) and a coppers’ guild dance, performed every seven years since 1517 in thanks for the end of the Black Death plague.

    See St. Peter’s, the Romanesque basilica that was Munich’s first parish church, and the Church of Our Lady: with its twin onion domes, it is the city’s symbol and one of the largest churches in Europe. You also visit the city’s Christkindlmarkt (Christmas Market), the oldest in Munich, located on the Marienplatz.

    The balance of your day is free to relax or do some more exploring independently, with free shuttle bus service available to you in the afternoon. You have lunch and dinner on your own. Ask your Program Director for suggestions and assistance.

    You might spend your time exploring the city’s Christmas Markets. You may want to stroll through the Old Town pedestrian zone. Here, you’ll find Theatinerstrasse, a street full of designer clothing shops, and a variety of department stores, restaurants, sidewalk cafes, and bakeries.

    Or, gain insight into Munich’s history and culture with a visit to one of the city’s fine museums. The New Picture Gallery houses an extensive collection of works by Monet, Cezanne, and Degas—and the Old Picture Gallery offers a collection of works by old German and Flemish masters.

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    Enjoy your final day in Munich exploring on your own.

    Or, join an optional excursion to Neuschwanstein Castle. After arriving in Neuschwanstein in late morning, you take a carriage ride to the elaborate castle of Ludwig II of Bavaria, known as Mad King Ludwig. The Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disney World is modeled after this fanciful and fantastic structure, decorated with towers and spires, full of elaborate and richly embellished rooms, and set spectacularly on a high point over the Pollat River Gorge.

    Begun in 1869 and left unfinished at Ludwig’s death in 1886, the castle is like a fairy tale come to life. A classic example of 19th-century Romanticism, the castle was built with many technological innovations that were revolutionary at the time—including automatic flush toilets on every floor, hot air heating and hot running water systems, and an elaborate room service system in the king’s bedroom.

    During your excursion, you have free time to have lunch on your own and do a little exploring at your own pace. You return to Munich in the late afternoon.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    • Meals included:

    Today you transfer from Munich to Nuremberg, stopping en route in Rothenburg, a charming town still protected by its medieval walls and strategically situated on the Tauber River. On arrival, you stroll through the town’s Christmas Market. You have time for making discoveries on your own, as well as for a lunch of your choosing.

    You depart Rothenburg for Nuremberg mid-afternoon.

    Before dinnertime you arrive in Nuremberg and embark your waiting cruise ship. You now join the travelers on the main trip, following Day 2 of the main itinerary.