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Essence of the Elbe: Berlin to Prague 2014

Pre-trip: Hamburg, Germany

Hamburg is Germany’s second-largest city—and its greenest. Nourished by the Elbe and studded with lakes and canals, Hamburg is as rich in natural beauty as it is in history and culture. You’ll discover this Hanseatic port, as well as the historic town of Schwerin. You’ll also enjoy ample time at leisure—whether you choose to explore maritime treasures or revel in the beauty of the city’s parks, you’ll find delights to suit every traveler.

It's Included:
Accommodations: for 3 nights at the Radisson Blu Hamburg
4 meals: 3 breakfasts and 1 lunch
Included tours: Hamburg, Schwerin
Exclusive services of a resident Grand Circle Program Director
All transfers
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    Depart the U.S. today on your flight to Hamburg, Germany. Please refer to your personal air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times.

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    Arriving in Hamburg, you’ll be met at the airport and assisted to your hotel. Later, get acquainted with your Program Director—who will accompany you throughout your trip—and fellow travelers over a Welcome Drink at your hotel.

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    Launch your discoveries of this historic seaport today with an included motorcoach and walking tour of the city’s highlights, including the Altstadt ("Old Town"), which is anchored by the Rathaus ("Town Hall"), a 19th-century neo-Renaissance gem with 647 rooms and a jade-green copper roof. The Rathaus overlooks the Rathausmarkt, the plaza used for local festivals and ceremonial events. The surrounding Alstadt offers visitors a great window onto the past, with its narrow lanes lined by neo-Gothic and half-timbered homes from the 1700s, many still occupied by local families. After lunch on your own, the rest of the day is free to relax or to explore independently.

    This evening, revel in the variety of dining options in this cosmopolitan city, perhaps choosing local favorites—from traditional comfort food dishes like pan-fried fish, to specialties that reflect ancient Hamburg’s trade with Scandinavia, such as Rote Grutze (red berry summer pudding) or Labskaus (a one-pot dish of corned beef, mashed potatoes, and beets).

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    Enjoy a full day at leisure in Hamburg. Many visitors enjoy the waterfront experience of St. Pauli, one of Hamburg’s 105 quarters (districts). St. Pauli is home to the Landungsbrucken, a major port on Hamburg Harbor. Built of volcanic rock at the dawn of the 20th century, the 660-foot long structure makes a striking impression, with a series of domes and arches leading to a clock tower that rises above the piers. After soaking in this national treasure, dedicated as a historic monument in 2003, head underground into the Alter Elbtunnel, which connects St. Pauli with the Steinwerder, a shipyard island. After descending 80 feet beneath the ground on a motorized lift, you’ll stroll beneath the Elbe through a tunnel decorated with terra cotta tiles and artwork.

    You might also experience the charms of the other body of water that defines this riverside city—Alster Lake, a 400-acre lake right in the heart of Hamburg. Outlined by some of the city’s most beautiful homes and many of the local foreign consulates, this gleaming lake offers boat rides, and canoe and sailboat rentals, for a leisurely afternoon in a true urban oasis. Back ashore, if you venture to the lake’s western banks, the lush 180-acre Alsterpark is perfect for an afternoon stroll through manicured gardens.

    Or, perhaps you'll join us for an optional Village on the Elbe tour. You’ll transfer to Blankenese, where you will be joined by a local guide who will lead your discoveries on a walking tour. Then savor a freshly prepared waffle and coffee at a family-owned café and garden, where you will learn about their 100-year-old brewing methods. Sit back and enjoy the vista, or enjoy a leisurely independent stroll, before returning to Hamburg this afternoon.

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    • Meals included:

    After breakfast at your hotel, transfer by motorcoach to Schwerin, the capital and largest city of the northern German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The town is best known for Schwerin Castle, located on an island in the lake of the same name, and the Gothic-style Schwerin Cathedral. You'll enjoy an informative stroll of the city, followed by free time to explore on your own.

    After lunch in a local restaurant, you'll transfer to Berlin, where you will join your fellow travelers on Day 2 of your Essence of the Elbe River Cruise Tour.