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Old World Prague & the Blue Danube 2015

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Pre-trip: Berlin & Dresden, Germany

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

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
Now included for 2015:
Gratuities for local guides and motorcoach drivers on your extension and all optional tours
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    Fly from one of several U.S. gateway cities to Berlin, Germany today.

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    Your Program Director will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. After a short orientation walk, your Program Director will be happy to suggest a restaurant for dinner on your own.

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    This morning, join 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 us this afternoon for an optional tour of nearby Potsdam, which includes dinner at a local restaurant. 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.

    Lunch and dinner are on your own today.

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    Explore Berlin at your own pace today.

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    Following breakfast, check out of your hotel and board a bus for Dresden. Before noon, you'll stop in Wittenburg and enjoy a short orientation walk with your Program Director. This city is famous for its connection to Protestant leader Martin Luther, and you will have free time to visit some of the city's many historic churches and have lunch on your own.

    A short two-hour drive through scenic forests and farmlands brings you to Dresden in the early afternoon. Your Program Director will lead you on a short vicinity walk after checking you into your hotel. The rest of your afternoon is at leisure in Dresden. Dinner is on your own tonight.

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    Rise early this morning and enjoy a full breakfast. By mid-morning, 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 indomitability 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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    • Meals included:

    This morning after breakfast onboard, you’ll board a bus for your transfer to Prague for your Old World Prague & the Blue Danube River Cruise Tour. En route to Prague, you’ll stop for a walk in Pirna, Germany and an included lunch in Litomerice, Czech Republic.