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Eastern Europe to the Black Sea 2015

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Pre-trip: Prague, Czech Republic

A new cultural capital for Eastern Europe, Prague is a booming, bustling city, but much of its Old World charm remains. Wander the city’s twisting cobblestone streets and narrow lanes lined with ancient houses. Experience the museums and cathedrals that make Prague stand out as one of Europe’s finest cities.

It's Included:
Accommodations: for 4 nights at the First-Class Dorint Hotel Don Giovanni or similar
6 meals: 4 breakfasts, 1 lunch, and 1 dinner
Included tours: Prague; Bratislava, Slovakia
Exclusive services of a Grand Circle Program Director
All transfers
Now included for 2015:
Gratuities for local guides and motorcoach drivers on your extension and all optional tours
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    Depart the U.S. today on your flight to Prague.

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    Arrive today in Prague. You are met at the airport by a Grand Circle representative and transferred to your hotel. Your Program Director will advise you of our check-in status and activity schedule for the day when you arrive.

    You have the remainder of the afternoon at leisure to relax after your overseas flight, or venture out on your own explorations. During the afternoon, you can join your Program Director for a walk to get acquainted with the vicinity around your hotel.

    Prague’s regal beauty spreads on both sides of the winding Vltava River, connected by 16 picturesque bridges. Like Rome and San Francisco, the city is built over a series of hills, and its varied architecture spans many centuries.

    Get better acquainted with your Program Director and traveling companions over a Welcome Drink. You can ask your Program Director for suggestions as to where to dine on your own.

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    After breakfast and an orientation briefing, enjoy a tour of the city—a great way to get acclimated and identify the places you may wish to revisit on your own.

    Your tour includes a visit to Josefov (Prague’s Jewish Quarter) and the Old Jewish Cemetery. The Prague Ghetto and vibrant Jewish community have contributed to Prague’s character since the tenth century, and this area once was one of Europe’s main centers of Jewish mysticism and thought. The Old Jewish Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in Europe, documents the rich Jewish heritage that is an integral part of Prague’s culture. The cemetery was spared during Nazi occupation as an “Exotic Museum of an Extinct Race.” Shortly after World War II, the names, birth dates, and death dates of nearly 80,000 Czech Jews who perished in the Holocaust were carved on the stones of one of the crypts. Due to space limitations, and the Jewish tradition that graves never be disturbed, thousands of people are buried in a dozen layers and their tombstones are amazingly crowded together.

    Here is the much-visited grave of the great Jewish scholar, Rabbi Loew, who created the mythical being Golem, a figure he sculpted from clay and animated with magical powers to protect the persecuted. It is said that Golem would perform tasks written on a scrap of paper that was then placed in his mouth.

    In an imitation of the legend, many Jews hid their valuables in the cracks of Rabbi Loew’s tomb before they were transported to concentration camps. Even today, people place scraps of paper, bearing prayers and wishes, into the tomb.

    You’ll also discover the Stare Mesto, Prague’s Old Town, with its many wonderful Gothic and Baroque buildings. See the famous 15th-century astronomical clock at the Old Town Hall. Every hour, crowds assemble below to watch Christ and the twelve Apostles appear at two little windows above the clock face, followed by the skeleton of Death tolling the bell. And you'll walk across the city's famed Charles Bridge—a 15th-century structure spanning the Vltava River that functions as a makeshift performance and gallery space for musicians, artists, dancers, and more.

    After lunch on your own, you can return to your hotel—joining your Program Director on Prague’s subway system—or spend time in the early afternoon exploring Prague at your own pace. Perhaps you'll return to Wenceslas Square to take in the collections of the National Museum.

    Later this afternoon, join us for a charming optional excursion to the Czech countryside. Settled since the Middle Ages, the Kokorinsko region is perhaps best known for its hops fields and small breweries (in the nation with the highest beer consumption per capita in the world). The town of Nosalov, one of the best-preserved historical villages in Bohemia, will transport you back in time with the largest collection of genuine 17th- and 18th-century timber architecture in the Czech Republic. Here, you'll have opportunities to sample the region's beloved Czech beer and Bohemian cuisine, and watch an energetic dance show featuring Czech polkas.

    Dinner is on your own tonight.

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    Perhaps you’ll contrast your discoveries of historic Prague from the previous day with more modern aspects such as the Dancing House, whose unusual contemporary architecture is framed by the Vltava River. Or visit the Mala Strana, the eighth-century market town that today is a quaint neighborhood of cobbled streets, boutiques, and Baroque churches and palaces.

    As it was during the zenith of the Bohemian kingdom, Prague still ranks as the thriving center of the country, with an artistic community reminiscent of Paris in the 1920s. This evening, you might seek out some of Europe’s best jazz venues, excellent opera, and innovative theater groups.

    Or, you might want to join our optional tour of Sychrov Castle, the 18th-century residence of a noble family. During the last ten years or so, an extensive reconstruction and restoration of the manor house’s exteriors and interiors, as well as of the nearby park, has returned the Castle of Sychrov to its former glory. Enjoy an organ concert in the chapel of the palace, followed by a guided walk through the palace. You’ll have the opportunity to view the magnificent woodwork and lush interior of the huge manor. Relax with us over dinner before returning to the hotel in late evening.

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    Continue your independent explorations of Prague this morning. You might take in St. George's Church, with its tenth-century towers and the elegant Royal Gardens with their marble monuments.

    Or join our optional tour for a sobering visit to Terezin, site of the World War II concentration camp of Theresienstadt. Located less than 40 miles northwest of Prague, this entire town, bordered by an 18th-century fortress, was turned into a concentration camp by the Nazis.

    Today's optional tour includes a visit to the fascinating Ghetto Museum.

    This evening, join us for dinner at one of Prague's local restaurants.

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    • Meals included:

    Today you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the variety of scenery and the changing landscapes as you ride for most of the day in a comfortable motorcoach on your way to Budapest. Along your route, we stop in Bratislava for lunch. Afterwards, enjoy a neighborhood walk with your Program Director.

    You'll arrive in Budapest in the early evening to begin your Eastern Europe to the Black Sea River Cruise Tour. Dinner will be onboard your river ship.