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Old World Prague & the Blue Danube 2014

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Post-trip: Berlin & Dresden, Germany

Discover two of Germany’s best-loved cities: Berlin, the imperial capital turned epicenter of the Third Reich whose eventual liberation affected us all, and Dresden, a city risen from the ashes of World War II to reclaim its place as an intellectual and cultural center.

It's Included:
Accommodations: for 2 nights in Dresden at the Superior First-Class Westin Bellevue Dresden or similar and for 3 nights in Berlin at the Superior First-Class Andel's Hotel Berlin or similar
6 meals: 5 breakfasts and 1 lunch
Included tours: Berlin, Dresden, Wittenberg
Exclusive services of an experienced Grand Circle Program Director
All transfers
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    After breakfast at your hotel in Prague, you’ll travel overland to Pirna, Germany—stopping for lunch in Litomerice, Czech Republic. You’ll also pass the impregnable hilltop Konigstein fortress, a former royal redoubt and one of the handful of castles in Europe to never fall in battle.

    Then, continue on to Dresden. Once you’ve checked into your hotel, your Program Director will lead you on a short tour of the vicinity to help you familiarize yourself with the city. Your Program Director will point out nearby restaurants where you can savor dinner on your own tonight.

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    Rise early this morning and enjoy a full breakfast. Then you’re off to tour the city of Dresden by motorcoach. Situated in a broad floodplain, Dresden was founded in the twelfth century by Slavs; only in the early 1300s was Dresden given to the Germanic Wettin dynasty. By the late 1400s, Dresden was the seat of Saxon dukes, and a century later, the city was home to the prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire. It was one of these prince-electors, Augustus I, who first called the finest painters, architects, and musicians from across Europe to Dresden in the late 1500s. From that time onward, Dresden gained a reputation as an open, tolerant city of artists. The city was captured by Napoleon during his march across Europe and played a significant role in the continent-wide social revolutions of 1848, but even during its time as the capital of Saxony, Dresden was never heavily garrisoned. The city experienced exponential growth in the 19th century, seeing its population quadruple as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Many of these new residents were, again, artists from across Europe. These artists helped make Dresden a hub of modern art until 1933.

    With the rise of the Nazis in Germany, artists and intellectuals began fleeing the newly proclaimed Reich. Still, Dresden retained its status as an artistic capital and was largely defenseless when war broke out in 1939. Its location far from the front lines and the lack of heavy industry in the Dresden metropolitan area seemed to augur that Dresden would escape the worst wounds of the war. As the tide of the war turned inexorably against Hitler, hundreds of thousands of refugees streamed into Dresden; having escaped Allied bombing, Dresden was perceived as a safe zone. February 13, 1945 marked the beginning of one of the most controversial events in World War II: 1,300 Allied aircraft used incendiary bombs to burn Dresden to the ground. The city was utterly and completely destroyed, and thousands of civilians were killed. Kurt Vonnegut, himself a survivor of the air raids, chronicled these events in Slaughterhouse-Five. Following the war, Dresden was rebuilt from the ground up. Today, the Frauenkirche, whose ruins stood as a stark reminder of the war, has been totally reconstructed, incorporating the charred bricks of the original structure as a tribute to the past. Dresden stands as an eternal reminder of the folly of war and the indomitably of the human creative spirit.

    Explore Dresden on your own this afternoon and evening, perhaps enjoying Saxon cuisine on your own for lunch and dinner.

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    After breakfast today, we depart for Berlin via Wittenberg, where you’ll enjoy a short orientation walk with your Program Director. Then, enjoy free time in the former home of Martin Luther and the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation. Enjoy lunch on your own here and perhaps visit some of the town's splendid churches before we continue on our way. A short two-hour drive through scenic forests and farmlands brings you to Berlin in the early evening. Your Program Director will lead you on a short vicinity walk after checking you into your hotel. Dinner is on your own tonight.

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    This morning, enjoy an included tour of Berlin. The second-largest urban area in Europe, Berlin is an enormous city, but most of its most iconic sites are relatively close together. Divided at the end of World War II, blockaded by the Soviets during the Cold War, riven by a cruel grey wall, and finally delivered by the sledgehammers of freedom fighters, Berlin is once again a united city. The city’s lakes and forests provide bucolic retreats in an urban setting, while its divided history has led to a truly unique collection of architectural styles. If you find yourself in the old Soviet sector of the city, keep your eyes open for extant Ampelmannchen, the “little traffic light man” who adorned East German traffic lights. The Reichstag, site of the final defense of the Third Reich, was rebuilt after World War II and now features an enormous glass sphere, emphasizing the transparency and openness of the new Germany. Like so much of Berlin, the future and past are inextricably mixed.

    Later on today, use your new-found knowledge of Berlin to explore the city at your leisure. Perhaps you’ll explore Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site conveniently located near the city center. Or maybe you’d like to explore Schloss Charlottenburg, the largest remaining palace in the city.

    Or, join an optional tour of nearby Potsdam. The residence of the Prussian kings until 1918, Potsdam is home to the Sanssouci, the former summer palace of Frederick the Great and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even larger than the Sanssouci is the New Palace, built to celebrate the Prussian triumph over Austrian domination in the Seven Years War. Potsdam played an important role in shaping the post-war world. Stalin, Truman, and Churchill met here to determine how to deal with a defeated Germany, and the city’s Glienicke Bridge became known as the “Bridge of Spies” during the Cold War, as the superpowers used its midpoint as a place to exchange captured agents. After dinner at a local restaurant, return to Berlin.

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    Explore Berlin at your own pace today.

    Perhaps you’ll explore Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site conveniently located near the city center. Or maybe you’d like to explore Schloss Charlottenburg, the largest remaining palace in the city. Lunch and dinner are on your own today.

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    • Meals included:

    After early breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home.