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Eastern Europe to the Black Sea 2015

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Post-trip: Transylvania, Romania

Discover the Transylvania region of Romania—a castle-dotted landscape whose well-preserved, Old-World character transports you back to the era of bygone, macabre figures both mythical (Count Dracula) and actual (Vlad the Impaler). Your home base will be the historic resort town of Sinaia, known for centuries as the "Pearl of the Carpathians.”

It's Included:
Accommodations: for 3 nights at the Superior Tourist-Class New Montana Hotel or similar
4 meals: 3 breakfasts and 1 lunch
Included tours: Peles Castle, Brasov
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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    After breakfast today, you will depart your Eastern Europe to the Black Sea Cruise Tour in Constanta and transfer by motorcoach to Bucharest. Stop for lunch (included on your main trip), then continue your motorcoach ride to Sinaia.

    With its sub-Alpine climate and the protection of surrounding mountains, Sinaia has long convinced visitors of its ideal location for recreational mountain sports. The atmospheric pressure is low, the air is free of allergens and pollutants, and the water is rich in minerals. Some people even believe the sunshine feels different here. This combination of natural curative factors and geographic beauty has helped make Sinaia "the Pearl of the Carpathians"—the favored destination of Romanian royalty and a region rich in palaces, luxury hotels, fine dining, and skiing.

    After you check into your room, your Program Director will lead a brief orientation tour of the neighborhood of your hotel. Spend the balance of the afternoon and evening at leisure exploring more of Sinaia or simply relaxing. Dinner tonight is on your own. Please note: If you have chosen this extension, you will return to Bucharest (Day 12 of your main trip) after your 3-night stay in Sinaia to enjoy the remainder of your primary trip.

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    Before its most famous landmark, Peles Castle, was constructed, Sinaia was a quiet monastery settlement in the Prahova Valley. Afterward, it quickly became a booming resort town—with help from the subsequent creation of a direct train line from Bucharest. With the king in Sinaia to avoid the heat of the nation's capital in summer, the nobility swarmed to this mountainside city.

    The day is yours to relax and to explore this exquisite resort community on your own. Perhaps you'll visit Sinaia Monastery. Founded by Romania's Prince Mihai Cantacuzino after a pilgrimage to Mount Sinai, this 17th-century abbey in turn lent its name to the town. Admire the gold mosaic paintings and gold-plated thrones in the Great Church here, as well as its collections of religious icons, books, and porcelain. You might also pay a visit to the Sinaia Casino, built in 1912 and inspired by the glamorous casinos along the Cote d'Azur.

    Or come with us on an optional tour to Bran Castle, often referred to as Dracula's Castle. Prince Vlad Tepes, the son of Vlad Dracul and the person who inspired Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula, used this castle as headquarters for his incursions into Transylvania. This 15th-century ruler became known as "Vlad the Impaler" for his practice of impaling enemies of the kingdom, which was greatly threatened by the Ottoman Turks at the time. Stoker's work of fiction drew inspiration from this bloody practice, the family name, and the castle-dotted mountain landscape of Transylvania.

    You’ll see the interior and exterior of Bran Castle, which was built in 1377 to protect nearby Brasov from invaders and also served as a customs station. In 1920, the people of Brasov, who owned the castle, offered it as a gift to Queen Maria of Romania, and the castle soon became her favorite residence. After an included lunch, you return to your hotel, arriving in the late afternoon.

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    After breakfast, you'll tour Peles Castle, set dramatically in the hills above Sinaia. Completed in 1914 for the first Hohenzollern king of Romania, Carol I, this 160-room palace was built in neo-Renaissance style, and represented the king's attempt to imitate the styles of his former homeland—creating a Bavarian setting in the mountains of Romania.

    The castle’s sculptured terraces, art displays, and historic armories make it one of Romania's most important and beautiful museums. The palace is ornately decorated, inside and out, with intricate woodcarvings and paintings of scenes from Wagner's operas. Fortunately, as you'll see, it is one of the best-preserved royal palaces in Europe.

    Then, join us on a tour to the fascinating city of Brasov. Continuously settled since the Bronze Age, the region that is now Brasov has been enriched by people of many heritages—Romans, Saxons, and Hungarians among them—as well as by traders from all over Europe and beyond who arrived in this long-thriving economic center. You'll see some outstanding medieval architecture in Brasov, which is not far from the geographic center of Romania and is the largest city in the Transylvania region. Please note: If Peles Castle is closed, we will instead visit Pelisor Castle.

    After lunch on your own, you’ll have time on your own to discover Brasov. During your free time, perhaps you'll visit the Black Church. Built between 1384 and 1477, it is the largest Gothic church in Romania and one of Eastern Europe's finest. Seeing this famed and ancient church, you might feel as if you've stepped back into the Middle Ages.

    The evening is yours, with dinner on your own.

    Or join us for an optional evening excursion to the famed Azuga Wine Cellars. We'll begin with a walk through the wine cellars, where an excellent sparkling wine is produced and bottled, pause for a wine tasting, and then tour the small wine museum. We then sit down to dinner in a dining room across the courtyard from the wine cellars.

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    After breakfast, we transfer to Bucharest and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. We'll begin a city tour upon arrival in Bucharest. This is an old city that has served as the capital of Wallachia and later Romania since 1659. Today, it is noted for its broad, tree-lined boulevards, well-kept parks, and mix of architectural styles that combine Neo-Classical structures with monumental 20th-century edifices (the latter built for the most part to satisfy the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu).

    You'll view the Arc de Triomphe commemorating the exploits of World War I soldiers, and drive along Victory Avenue to Revolution Square, where recent events in history are inscribed. After the tour, you'll transfer to your hotel with some time to settle in and relax before dinner.

    This evening, join your fellow travelers for dinner at your hotel. Please note: If you choose this optional post-trip extension, you'll spend the one day in Bucharest from the base trip after the Transylvania extension. Days 4 and 5 of this extension correspond to Days 12 and 13 on your main program.

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    After breakfast, you are transferred to the airport for your flight home.