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Day by Day Itinerary

This Danube River Cruise Tour follows in the footsteps of the Habsburgs, showcasing the historic European river port cities of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire—among central Europe’s most riveting destinations. Among this trip's unique included features are a tour of Austria’s renowned Melk Abbey, charming Durnstein, dramatic Bratislava, Slovakia—a destination often missed by American travelers—and included tours of such scenic capitals as Prague, Vienna, and Budapest. You'll also enjoy free time to explore these unforgettable locales on your own. Round out your Central European River Cruise with our exclusive Discovery Series events and a selection of optional tours. 

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    Fly from one of several U.S. gateway cities to Budapest, Hungary.

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    View Budapest from aboard the MS Adagio

    Arriving in Budapest, you'll be met at the airport by a Grand Circle representative and transferred to your ship.

    Gather in the early evening and mingle with your fellow travelers. Throughout your River Cruise, you’ll enjoy “port talks” every evening. Your Program Director will describe the approaching port area and town prior to arrival so you can prepare for the next day’s tour and any free time you may have at the next port-of-call. Tonight you’ll learn a bit about Budapest before enjoying dinner aboard ship. Then enjoy a scenic cruise as the ship crosses from the Buda side of the Danube to Pest.

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    After breakfast, set off on a tour of Hungary’s lovely capital, situated on both sides of the magnificent Danube River. In Buda, on the western bank of the Danube, you’ll see Castle Hill, encircled by ramparts that protect the massive castle complex. Destroyed during World War II, the palace has been restored, approximating its original splendor, and it is now a vast museum complex, where remains of the original structure are displayed.

    Discover new friendships during a river cruise along the Danube

    Later, cross the Danube and see Heroes’ Square, with its Millennial Column set off by equestrian statues of historic ninth-century Magyar conquerors. The adjoining colonnade displays more statues of kings, dukes of Transylvania, and liberty fighters who influenced the history of Hungary. 

    Following lunch onboard, enjoy free time in Budapest to explore on your own. Perhaps you'll visit the Church of Our Lady, formerly used for the coronations of Hungarian kings. Its popular name of Matthias is in recognition of the Renaissance king who ruled in the 15th century and whose heraldic sign—a raven—is displayed on one of the towers of the church. Dating back to the 13th century, the structure is an interesting mix of architectural styles used during reconstruction of the building at different times in its history. Note that during the 150-year Turkish occupation of Hungary, the church served as Eski Djami (Old Mosque) for the Turks. Inside the church you can view art of Bertalan Szekely and Karoly Lotz, 19th-century Hungarian painters.

    Tonight, enjoy a Captain's Welcome Dinner.

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    Enjoy the morning at leisure to continue exploring Budapest, or choose to join an optional tour to discover the fascinating Hospital in the Rock. Connected to underground caves below Castle Hill in Buda, this hospital that tended to scores of sick and wounded during World War II, and again during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. It was even concerted into a nuclear fallout shelter during the Cold War. Today, it is a museum, with wax figures in period clothing and vintage medical equipment giving visitors a feel for the intensity of the work performed here.

    Then, return to the ship for lunch on board and begin your Danube River Cruise towards Bratislava. As you do, you'll enjoy scenic views of the historic city of Esztergom, along with riverside views of the remarkable 16th-century basilica that stands near the banks of the Danube.

    Tonight, enjoy a port talk about Bratislava, Slovakia, which you'll discover tomorrow. Savor dinner onboard tonight as you continue cruising.

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    Explore Slovakia's capital city Bratislava

    Arrive in Bratislava this morning. After breakfast onboard, you'll enjoy an included walking tour of Slovakia's capital, the famous Danube city with a picturesque setting at the foot of the Little Carpathian Mountains. Once the capital of Hungary, Bratislava has a history going back to Celtic and Roman times. The Slavs settled here in the fifth century under their ruler Bretislav.

    Under Hungarian rule, the city was called Pozsony. Its German-speaking settlers called it Pressburg, and since 1918 it has been called by its Slavic name: Bratislava. Your tour of the city features the Old Town, the historic heart of Bratislava, where you view beautiful St. Martin’s Cathedral, built in the 14th and 15th centuries. Walk through the pedestrian zone to Michael’s Gate with its 15th-century tower, offering excellent views of the city.

    You’ll also stroll by the Old Town Hall and the Neo-Classical Archbishop’s Palace. In the Palace’s Hall of Mirrors, Napoleon and the Austrian Emperor Francis I signed the historic Peace of Pressburg after the battle of Austerlitz in 1805. Bratislava is dominated by its massive square castle, which was a favorite residence of the Habsburg Queen, Maria Theresa, and other aristocrats whose lovely houses cluster in the old town below the castle.

    Then, enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series event when you visit a local school that is supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation. Please note: The school visit is not possible on weekends or during the summer and national holidays, when school is not in session. If the school visit is not available, you will join a group of students for a roundtable discussion about life in today's Slovakia during an alternative exclusive Discovery Series event. Immerse yourself further in local life when you visit the home of an area family for a Home-Hosted Visit complete with coffee and cake.

    Tonight, enjoy dinner onboard with your fellow travelers.

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    Explore the grounds of the Belvedere Palace in Vienna

    After breakfast, set off on an included tour of Vienna, including the Ringstrasse—Vienna’s grand main boulevard—one of the many achievements of the Emperor Franz Joseph. In 1857, the Emperor ordered the demolition of the ancient city walls, which were no longer needed as fortifications and were impeding the growth of the city. In their place was constructed an elegant 2.5 mile-long boulevard, encircling the city center. The Neo-Classical buildings along the Ringstrasse bring together all the greatest architectural styles in an exuberant celebration of all that seemed possible during the Industrial Revolution.

    Our stroll continues along the city sidewalks, passing by the well-known Imperial Palace, home to many generations of the Hapsburg family, and the renowned Spanish Riding School.

    After returning to the ship for lunch, the balance of your day is free for relaxing or exploring on your own. You may want to stroll through the old Jewish Quarter to see the only Viennese synagogue to have survived the 1938 Kristallnacht.

    Perhaps you'll explore Austria's capital aboard a fiaker. These horse-drawn carriages have been in business since the 17th century, and your driver will show you the sights and delight you with Viennese anecdotes. You'll also find out for yourself whether or not it’s true that drivers whistle strains of Mozart’s beloved Magic Flute as they conduct passengers through the city.

    After an early dinner onboard, enjoy free time on your own.

    OR

    Join us tonight for an unforgettable optional excursion to one of Vienna’s famed concert halls, where you’ll be enchanted by the classical Austrian music of Strauss and Mozart.

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    See Schonbrunn Palace on an optional tour in Vienna

    This morning, discover more of Vienna's charms on your own.

    OR

    Join us for an optional tour of the expansive summer estate of Habsburg royalty, Schoenbrunn Palace (whose name means “beautiful spring”). Featuring 1,400 rooms, meticulously maintained gardens, and an architectural legacy that stretches back to the 17th century, the palace is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your visit includes a tour of palace highlights and free time to spend exploring the palace’s stunning park and gardens.

    As you cruise this afternoon, learn the secrets of Apfelstrudel during an exclusive Discovery Series baking demonstration—and sample the delicious pastry hot from the oven. Then tour the galley to see where your chef creates his sumptuous meals.

    After dinner tonight onboard, relax with your fellow travelers.

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    View Melk Abbey while touring Austria

    This morning you will disembark and visit the picturesque city of Durnstein, which is said to take its name from both the area's rocky terrain and the medieval castle overlooking the town proper (the German words duerr and stein mean “dry” and “stone,” respectively).

    In the late twelfth century, Britain's King Richard the Lionheart was held captive in this castle by Duke Leopold V, an Austrian noble who had fought alongside the king during the Crusades—and who was reportedly seeking retribution against Richard for slighting him during the siege of Acre.

    Return to the ship later this morning and enjoy the stunning scenery moving past your eyes while cruising along one of the most beautiful parts of the Danube—the Wachau Valley. This UNESCO World Heritage Site consists of a landscape of sculpted hills and medieval towns built along the river.

    You'll arrive in Melk in the mid-afternoon to discover the historic, 900-year-old Baroque Melk Abbey on an included tour. This magnificently ornate structure has a long and storied history. Strategically situated on a steep, cliffside perch, Melk Abbey's earliest incarnation was as a Roman border post. Later, it served as a tenth-century Babenberg fortress. It became a Benedictine monastery in 1089 and earned a distinguished reputation for medieval scholarship. Its library includes more than 70,000 books and 2,000 manuscripts, chiefly from the ninth through the 15th centuries.

    The Abbey houses a remarkable cherub-filled library of thousands of books and manuscripts, and 365 windows—one for every day of the year. The interior of the Abbey's church is a kaleidoscope of red, orange, and gold—with a magnificent carved pulpit and shimmering ceiling frescoes. During your tour, you'll get the chance to observe and explore up close, learning more about Melk Abbey's fascinating story.

     

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    Continue to discover Linz on your own today, or set off on a full-day optional excursion to Salzburg, the beautiful medieval city where the musical genius Amadeus Mozart was born. Those who remain forever enchanted by the film classic The Sound of Music may feel like they’ve been here before, as many of the movie's scenes were shot here.

    Your day begins with a scenic two-hour motorcoach ride, during which you'll take in the picturesque Austrian countryside. Nestled along the border of the Alps, Salzburg has been settled for thousands of years and remains a center of culture and education to this day, with three universities and a thriving arts community. It is also rich with historic churches, palaces, and castles.  

    The city’s skyline is dominated by the imposing Hohensalzburg fortress and adorned by the delicate Baroque steeples of its churches. On your walking tour, you'll view many of Salzburg's historic landmarks and discover the charm of Salzburg’s romantic lanes, picturesque alleyways, and wrought iron guild signs.

    After lunch at a local restaurant, you’ll have free time to explore on your own. You might want to visit the small museum in the house where Mozart was born in 1756, located on the Getreidegasse in Salzburg’s Old Town. And, while in Old Town, be sure to take in the magnificent Salzburg Dom, where the great composer was baptized. Spend time in some of the city's many museums and galleries, or explore Schloss Mirabell, whose enchanting gardens were constructed by the Baroque master builder Lukas von Hildebrandt. Perhaps you will view the Felsenreitschule, an impressive Baroque theater that is today the home of the Salzburg Festival, or the city's beloved Schloss Hellbrunn, whose wasserspiele section is home to a series of unique fountains and water-powered displays.

    You’ll return to Linz in the late afternoon. Tonight, gather with your fellow travelers for a special Captain's Farewell Dinner.

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    View the soaring towers of Prague

    This morning, disembark in Linz and begin your transfer to Prague in the Czech Republic. Along the way, you’ll stop in the medieval town of Cesky Krumlov, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for an included lunch at a local restaurant.

    You arrive in Prague in the late afternoon and check into your hotel. Your evening is at leisure. Dinner tonight is on your own.

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    Explore Prague's Golden Lane

    After breakfast, we set out to explore Prague. During the reign of Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Moravia, Prague was the seat of the Holy Roman Empire. Later, it was the vital center of the Habsburgs. While other European capitals were leveled during World War II, Prague survived virtually intact.

    You'll visit Stare Mesto, the Old Town, with its many wonderful Gothic and Baroque buildings, and 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. You'll also 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 choose to spend some more time in the early afternoon exploring Prague at your own pace, or return to your hotel by subway, accompanied by your Program Director.

    Tonight you’ll enjoy dinner on your own.

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    Enjoy the morning at leisure to explore Prague on your own. 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. Here you'll find one of Europe's most notable Jewish quarters, world-class museums and cathedrals, and architectural masterpieces that span a thousand years.

    Or, discover Prague Castle on an optional tour. Perched regally over the Vltava River and offering stunning views of the city, Prague Castle is more than 1,000 years old and features residential quarters, chapels, galleries, and gardens. You'll also walk through Prague's Castle District, a massive complex including palaces, galleries, churches, and museums, and have the opportunity to visit the 14th-century Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral and other iconic sites, before enjoying an included lunch. Please note: This optional tour may not be available on all departures, and an alternative Czech Village Life optional tour will be offered. 

    Tonight, join your fellow travelers for a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

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    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, you'll be transferred to the airport for your flight home.

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    Fly from one of several U.S. gateway cities to Prague, Czech Republic.

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    Explore Prague's Old Town Square and view Tyn Cathedral

    Arriving in Prague, you'll be met at the airport by a Grand Circle representative and transferred to your hotel. Depending on your arrival time and hotel check-in policy, you may not be able to check into your hotel immediately upon arrival. Your Program Director will advise you of your check-in status and activity schedule for the day when you arrive.

    You have the balance of the day to relax after your overseas flight. You may want to join your Program Director for an orientation walk to get better acquainted with the area around your hotel. Celebrate your arrival in Prague with a Welcome Drink and a short orientation briefing, and get acquainted with your traveling companions and your Program Director. This evening, enjoy dinner on your own.

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    View the soaring towers of Prague

    After breakfast, we set out to explore Prague. During the reign of Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Moravia, Prague was the seat of the Holy Roman Empire. Later, it was the vital center of the Habsburgs. While other European capitals were leveled during World War II, Prague survived virtually intact.

    You'll visit Stare Mesto, the Old Town, with its many wonderful Gothic and Baroque buildings, and 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. You'll also 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 choose to spend some more time in the early afternoon exploring Prague at your own pace, or return to your hotel by subway, accompanied by your Program Director.

    This evening, savor a special Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.

  • hidden

    Enjoy the morning at leisure to explore Prague on your own. 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. Here you'll find one of Europe's most notable Jewish quarters, world-class museums and cathedrals, and architectural masterpieces that span a thousand years.

    Explore Prague's Golden Lane

    Or, discover Prague Castle on an optional tour. Perched regally over the Vltava River and offering stunning views of the city, Prague Castle is more than 1,000 years old and features residential quarters, chapels, galleries, and gardens. You'll also walk through Prague's Castle District, a massive complex including palaces, galleries, churches, and museums, and have the opportunity to visit the 14th-century Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral and other iconic sites, before enjoying an included lunch. Please note: This optional tour may not be available on all departures, and an alternative Czech Village Life optional tour will be offered. 

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    View scenic Cesky Krumlov while cruising through the Czech Republic

    After breakfast at your hotel, transfer to Linz, Austria. Along the way, enjoy a walking tour of Cesky Krumlov—a medieval town and UNESCO World Heritage Site—followed by an included lunch at a local restaurant.

    Embark your ship in Linz late this afternoon. Then, gather to mingle with your fellow travelers. Throughout your River Cruise, you’ll hear “port talks” every evening. Your Program Director will describe the approaching port area and town prior to arrival so you can prepare for the next day’s tour, and so you’ll be able to make the best use of your free time at the next day’s port-of-call.

    After this evening’s port talk, enjoy the Captain’s Welcome Dinner.

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    Discover Linz, Austria on your own today, or set off on a full-day optional excursion to Salzburg, the beautiful medieval city where the musical genius Amadeus Mozart was born. Those who remain forever enchanted by the film classic The Sound of Music may feel like they’ve been here before as many of the movie's scenes were shot here.

    See Hohensalzburg fortress located in Salzburg

    Your day begins with a scenic two-hour motorcoach ride, during which you'll take in the picturesque Austrian countryside. Nestled along the border of the Alps, Salzburg has been settled for thousands of years and remains a center of culture and education to this day, with three universities and a thriving arts community. It is also rich with historic churches, palaces, and castles.  

    The city’s skyline is dominated by the imposing Hohensalzburg fortress and adorned by the delicate Baroque steeples of its churches. On your walking tour, you'll view many of Salzburg's historic landmarks and discover the charm of Salzburg’s romantic lanes, picturesque alleyways, and wrought-iron guild signs.

    After lunch at a local restaurant, you’ll have free time to explore on your own. You might want to visit the small museum in the house where Mozart was born in 1756, located on the Getreidegasse in Salzburg’s Old Town. And, while in Old Town, be sure to take in the magnificent Salzburg Dom, where the great composer was baptized. Spend time in some of the city's many museums and galleries, or explore Schloss Mirabell, whose enchanting gardens were constructed by the Baroque master builder Lukas von Hildebrandt. Perhaps you will view the Felsenreitschule, an impressive Baroque theater that is today the home of the Salzburg Festival, or the city's beloved Schloss Hellbrunn, whose wasserspiele section is home to a series of unique fountains and water-powered displays. You’ll return to Linz in the late afternoon.

    Enjoy dinner onboard ship this evening.

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    This morning, enjoy an included excursion to the historic, 900-year-old Baroque Melk Abbey. This magnificently ornate structure has a long and storied history.

    Strategically situated on a steep, cliffside perch, Melk Abbey's earliest incarnation was as a Roman border post. Later, it served as a tenth-century Babenberg fortress. It became a Benedictine monastery in 1089 and earned a distinguished reputation for medieval scholarship. Its library includes more than 70,000 books and 2,000 manuscripts, chiefly from the ninth through the 15th centuries.

    View Wachau Valley from aboard the MS Bizet

    The abbey houses a remarkable cherub-filled library of thousands of books and manuscripts, and 365 windows—one for every day of the year. The interior of the abbey's church is a kaleidoscope of red, orange, and gold—with a magnificent carved pulpit and shimmering ceiling frescoes.

    Then, after lunch onboard, relax and enjoy the stunning scenery moving past your eyes while cruising along one of the most beautiful sections of the Danube—the Wachau Valley. This is a landscape of sculpted hills and medieval towns built along the river.

    Alight later this afternoon in the Austrian town of Durnstein, where you'll disembark for an included tour of this picturesque city, which is said to take its name from both the area's rocky terrain and the medieval castle overlooking the town proper (the German words duerr and Stein mean “dry” and “stone,” respectively).

    In the late twelfth century, Britain's King Richard the Lionheart was held captive in this castle by Duke Leopold V, an Austrian noble who had fought alongside the king during the Crusades—and who was reportedly seeking retribution against Richard for slighting him during the siege of Acre.

    We enjoy dinner onboard ship this evening.

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    After breakfast, set off on an included tour of Vienna, including the Ringstrasse—Vienna’s grand main boulevard—one of the many great achievements of the Emperor Franz Joseph. In 1857, the Emperor ordered the demolition of the ancient city walls, which were no longer needed as fortifications and were impeding the growth of the city. In their place was constructed an elegant 2.5-mile-long boulevard, encircling the city center. The Neo-Classical buildings along the Ringstrasse bring together all the greatest architectural styles in an exuberant celebration of all that seemed possible during the Industrial Revolution.

    Discover Vienna during a river cruise through Austria

    Our stroll continues along the city sidewalks, passing by the well-known Imperial Palace, home to many generations of the Hapsburg family, and the renowned Spanish Riding School.

    After returning to the ship for lunch, the balance of your day is free for relaxing or exploring on your own. You may want to stroll through the old Jewish Quarter to see the only Viennese synagogue to have survived the 1938 Kristallnacht.

    Perhaps you'll explore Austria's capital aboard a fiaker. These horse-drawn carriages have been in business since the 17th century, and your driver will show you the sights and delight you with Viennese anecdotes. You'll also find out for yourself whether or not it’s true that drivers whistle strains of Mozart’s beloved Magic Flute as they conduct passengers through the city.

    After an early dinner onboard, enjoy free time on your own.

    OR

    Join us tonight for an unforgettable optional excursion to one of Vienna’s famed concert halls, where you’ll be enchanted by the classical Austrian music of Strauss and Mozart.

  • hidden

    See Schonbrunn Palace on an optional tour in Vienna

    This morning, explore more of Vienna at your Leisure. Or, join us for an optional tour of the expansive summer estate of Habsburg royalty, Schoenbrunn Palace (whose name means “beautiful spring”). Featuring 1,400 rooms, meticulously maintained gardens, and an architectural legacy that stretches back to the 17th century, the palace is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your visit includes a tour of palace highlights and free time to spend exploring the palace’s stunning park and gardens.

    As we sail this afternoon, you'll learn the secrets of Apfelstrudel during an exclusive Discovery Series shipboard baking demonstration—and sample the delicious pastry hot from the oven! You are then invited to tour the ship’s galley to see where the chef creates your wonderful meals.

    You'll arrive in Bratislava this evening. Dinner tonight is onboard.

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    Explore Slovakia's capital city Bratislava

    After breakfast onboard, you'll embark on an included tour of Slovakia's capital, the famous Danube city with a picturesque setting at the foot of the Little Carpathian Mountains. Once the capital of Hungary, Bratislava has a history going back to Celtic and Roman times. The Slavs settled here in the fifth century under their ruler Bretislav.

    Under Hungarian rule, the city was called Pozsony. Its German-speaking settlers called it Pressburg, and since 1918 it has been called by its Slavic name: Bratislava. Your tour of the city features the Old Town, the historic heart of Bratislava, where you view beautiful St. Martin’s Cathedral, built in the 14th and 15th centuries. Walk through the pedestrian zone to Michael’s Gate with its 15th-century tower, offering excellent views of the city.

    You’ll also stroll by the Old Town Hall and the Neo-Classical Archbishop’s Palace. In the Palace’s Hall of Mirrors, Napoleon and the Austrian Emperor Francis I signed the historic Peace of Pressburg after the battle of Austerlitz in 1805. Bratislava is dominated by its massive square castle, which was a favorite residence of the Habsburg Queen, Maria Theresa, and other aristocrats whose lovely houses cluster in the old town below the castle.

    Then, you'll enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series event when you visit a local school that is supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation. Please note: The school visit is not possible on weekends or during the summer and national holidays, when school is not in session. If the school visit is not available, you will instead join a group of students for a roundtable discussion about life in today's Slovakia during an alternative exclusive Discovery Series event. Immerse yourself further in local life when you visit the home of an area family for a Home-Hosted Visit complete with coffee and cake.

    Tonight, enjoy dinner onboard with your fellow travelers.

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    Discover new friendships during a river cruise along the Danube

    As you sail towards Budapest, you'll enjoy scenic views of the historic city of Esztergom, along with riverside views of the remarkable 16th-century basilica that stands near the banks of the Danube River.

    After lunch onboard, set off on a tour of Hungary’s lovely capital, situated on both sides of the magnificent Danube. In Buda, on the western bank of the Danube, you’ll see Castle Hill, encircled by ramparts that protect the massive castle complex. Destroyed during World War II, the palace has been restored, approximating its original splendor, and it is now a vast museum complex, where remains of the original structure are displayed.

    Later, cross the Danube and see Heroes’ Square, with its Millennial Column set off by equestrian statues of historic ninth-century Magyar conquerors. The adjoining colonnade displays more statues of kings, dukes of Transylvania, and liberty fighters who influenced the history of Hungary. 

    Tonight, you’ll return to the ship for dinner onboard.

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    View Wachau Valley from aboard the MS Bizet

    Enjoy today at leisure to continue exploring Budapest. Perhaps you'll visit the Church of Our Lady, formerly used for the coronations of Hungarian kings. Its popular name of Matthias is in recognition of the Renaissance king who ruled in the 15th century and whose heraldic sign—a raven—is displayed on one of the towers of the church. Dating back to the 13th century, the structure is an interesting mix of architectural styles used during reconstruction of the building at different times in its history. Note that during the 150-year Turkish occupation of Hungary, the church served as Eski Djami (Old Mosque) for the Turks. Inside the church you can view art of Bertalan Szekely and Karoly Lotz, 19th-century Hungarian painters.

    Or choose to join an optional tour to the Hospital in the Rock. Connected to underground caves below Castle Hill in Buda, this hospital that tended to scores of sick and wounded during World War II, and again during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. During the Cold War era, it was outfitted as a nuclear fallout shelter. Today, it is a museum, with wax figures in period clothing and vintage medical equipment giving visitors a feel for the intensity of the work performed here.

    Tonight, gather with your fellow travelers for a special Captain's Farewell Dinner.

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    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, you'll be transferred to the airport for your flight home.

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Want to know more about one of our vacations? Now, when you post a question, travelers who have been on that trip can provide you with an honest, unbiased answer based on their experience—providing you with a true insider’s perspective.

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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.

Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Pacing

  • 12 days, with 8 nights aboard a private Grand Circle river ship; and 1 hotel stay
  • Return flights to U.S. often require departing from ship or hotel in early morning hours

Physical requirements

  • Not accessible for travelers using wheelchairs or scooters
  • Travelers using walkers, crutches, or other mobility aids must travel with a companion who can assist them throughout the trip
  • You must be able to walk 1-3 miles unassisted and participate in 2-3 hours of physical activities each day, including stairs

Climate

  • Daytime temperatures range from 58-82°F during cruising season
  • June-August are the warmest months
  • March and November weather can be unpredictable and change quickly within a short period of time

Terrain

  • Travel over diverse terrain and uneven walking surfaces, including steep paths, hills, riverbanks, 25-50 stairs without handrails, and cobblestones, which can be slippery in wet or colder conditions

Transportation

  • Travel by 49-passenger coach, and 140- to 164-passenger river ship

River Cruising

  • Throughout the River Cruise season, weather conditions and tides affect European river depths; water levels may require adjustments to your itinerary

Cuisine

  • Meals will be a mix of local specialties and familiar American standards
  • Meals onboard feature a variety of entrée options, including vegetarian

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens do not need a visa for this trip.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your vacation, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Program Directors and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • Private Grand Circle River Ship

    All of our Rhine, Main & Danube river ships made Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll.

    Custom-built for Grand Circle with our travelers’ needs in mind, your private river ship has a passenger capacity of 140-164, with all outside cabins. Complimentary wireless Internet access is available in select common areas, but connectivity is limited in certain locations. Your cabin features a flat-screen TV, direct-dial telephone, individual heating and air-conditioning controls, twin beds that convert to sofas, and private bath with shower and hair dryer.

  • M/S River Adagio

    The M/S River Adagio was ranked #26 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll.

    One of the largest ships in Grand Circle's own deluxe fleet, the M/S River Adagio was built specifically for cruising the widest part of the Danube and the deeper waters leading to the Black Sea. Enjoy personalized attention from the ship staff, and up to four experienced Grand Circle Program Directors. And with no more than 164 fellow Grand Circle travelers aboard with you, you'll find it easy to make friends and share your experiences.

  • M/S River Aria

    The M/S River Aria was ranked #35 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll

    Launched in 2001, the M/S River Aria has a capacity of 164 passengers in 82 cabins, all with outside views. Ship amenities include an elevator, restaurant, bar and lounge, library, and Sun Deck. Your ship has an international crew of 38 and up to four English-speaking Program Directors.

  • M/S River Rhapsody

    The M/S River Rhapsody was ranked #19 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll

    The M/S River Rhapsody was launched in 1999. This ship has a capacity of 140 passengers in 70 cabins, all with outside views. Ship amenities include an elevator, restaurant, bar and lounge, library, Sun Deck, fitness center, and sauna. Your ship has an international crew of 34 and three English-speaking Program Directors.

SEE THE ENTIRE GRAND CIRCLE FLEET

Main Trip

  • ParkHotel Praha

    Prague, Czech Republic | Rating: Moderate First Class

    The ParkHotel Praha is a short subway ride from Prague's city center and Old Town Square. Enjoy the hotel’s two on-site restaurants and bar. Your air-conditioned room has a telephone, cable TV, minibar, safe, and private bath with hair dryer.

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  • Westin Bellevue Dresden

    Dresden, Germany | Rating: Superior First Class

    This elegant hotel stylishly combines contemporary and 18th-century architecture with manicured gardens and a scenic, riverside locale along the Elbe. It features concierge service, a currency exchange, a hair salon, and gift shop, while each of its 339 air-conditioned rooms offers a telephone, cable/satellite TV, high-speed Internet, safe, minibar, and a private bath with shower.

  • Andel's Hotel Berlin

    Berlin, Germany | Rating: Superior First Class

    This modern, Superior First-Class hotel includes three restaurants, spa and fitness center, and relaxation terrace, plus panoramic views of Berlin on the twelfth and 14th floors. Each of the 557 rooms and suites features a telephone, TV, high-speed Internet access, coffee- and tea-making facilities, minibar, safe, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Courtyard by Marriott Budapest City Center

    Budapest, Hungary | Rating: First Class

    Located on Blaha Lujza Square in the city center, this First-Class, 235-room hotel is within walking distance of many local cafes and features an on-site restaurant and health club. Your air-conditioned room includes a refrigerator, flat-screen cable/satellite TV, high-speed Internet access, safe, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Park Inn Krakow

    Krakow, Poland | Rating: Superior First Class

    You’ll find Wawel Castle and the Wisla River within a ten-minute walk of this Superior First Class hotel, which boasts clean and colorful modern design throughout. Whether you want to explore the city or relax, Park Inn Krakow is convenient to public transportation and offers a restaurant, sauna, and health fitness center on-site. Your air-conditioned room features cable TV, coffee- and tea-making facilities, minibar, high-speed Internet, and a private bath with shower and hairdryer.

  • The Westin Warsaw

    Warsaw, Poland | Rating: Deluxe

    Located in the heart of the city, the Deluxe Westin Warsaw is within walking distance of Warsaw's Old Town, Market Square, and many verdant parks. Hotel amenities include a fitness center, spa, and restaurant, featuring international cuisine. Each air-conditioned room includes satellite TV, telephone, safe, and private bath.

  • Sheraton Warsaw Hotel

    Warsaw, Poland | Rating: Deluxe

    This deluxe six-story hotel is conveniently located in the city center—an ideal location for discovering many of Warsaw’s major sites. Renovated in 2009, this contemporary facility offers several on-site restaurants, a fitness center, spa with massage services, and more. And after a day of exploration, you can retire to one of its 350 air-conditioned rooms, each featuring a telephone with voicemail, cable/satellite TV, Internet access, safe, minibar, and private bath with shower.

Flight Information

Your Flight Options

Whether you choose to take just a base trip or add an optional pre- and post-trip extension, you have many options when it comes to personalizing your air—and creating the Grand Circle vacation that’s right for you:

Purchase Flights with Grand Circle

  • Work with our expert Air Travel Consultants to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Customize your trip by staying overnight in a connecting city, arriving at your destination a few days early, or spending additional time in a nearby city on your own
  • Combine your choice of Grand Circle vacations to maximize your value

Make Your Own Arrangements

  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline
  • Purchase optional airport transfers to and from your hotel
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent flyer miles

OR, leave your air routing up to us and your airfare (as well as airport transfers) will be included in your final trip cost.

Estimated Travel Times

Traveling to Prague, and from Budapest (or to Budapest, and from Prague), will involve long flights and some cities will require multiple connections. These rigors should be a consideration in planning your trip.

The chart below provides estimated travel times from popular departure cities. Connection times are included in these estimates.

Photos From Our Travelers

On location in Europe

Here’s how Grand Circle travelers have captured moments of discovery, beauty, friendship, and fun on previous departures of our Old World Prague & the Blue Danube vacation. We hope these will evoke special travel memories and inspire you to submit your own favorite Grand Circle Travel trip photos.

   

Louise Milacek, and Lavonn and Dick McKnight, 7-time travelers from Enid, Oklahoma, take in the sights and sounds of Old Town Prague from the Charles Bridge. “On this day we had free time and walked around Old Town, had lunch, and enjoyed a special concert at the Klementinum, the Chapel of Mirrors.” Louise and her husband, photographer George Milacek, are 5-time travelers from Waukomis, Oklahoma.

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How to submit your photos:

Please submit individual photos in jpeg format to: GCTtravelerphotos@gct.com.

Please be sure to include the name of your Grand Circle vacation, along with the travel dates. Tell us where you took the photo and, if you’d like, tell us why. And don’t forget to include your name and contact information.

Please note: By submitting a photo, you (i) represent and warrant that the photo is your original work created solely by yourself and does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any party; (ii) grant to Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, in any and all related media whether now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, anywhere in the world, with the right to make any and all commercial or other uses thereof, including without limitation, reproducing, editing, modifying, adapting, publishing, displaying publicly, creating derivative works from, incorporating into other works or modifying the photo and (iii) hereby release and discharge Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates, officers and employees from and against any and all claims, liabilities, costs, damages and expenses of any kind arising out of or relating to the use by Grand Circle LLC of any photo submitted.

Partner since: 2010
Total donated: $12,000

Supporting a World Classroom: Slovakia

By funding improvements at local schools, Grand Circle Foundation's World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society's most precious resources: its children. While traveling through Slovakia, you'll visit the United School of the Holy Family, which the Foundation recently began visiting.

United School of the Holy Family

Grand Circle Foundation began visiting the United School of the Holy Family in September of 2014. There are currently 436 children attending the school, ages 6-15 years old, with 16 faculty and staff members. The Foundation’s initial contribution helped to purchase chairs for group events and performances at the school, and they look forward to continuing their support of the students, teachers, and staff members.

School in session:

September through early June

Gifts to bring if you're visiting:

  • Pencils
  • Educational activity books
  • Storybooks for children 6-15 years of age
Alan and Harriet Lewis founded Grand Circle Foundation in 1992 as a means of giving back to the world we travel. Because they donate an annually determined amount of revenue from our trips, we consider each one of our travelers as a partner in the Foundation’s work around the world. To date, the Foundation has pledged or donated more than $97 million in support of 300 different organizations—including 60 villages and nearly 100 schools that lie in the paths of our journeys.

Read More

The best vacations are worth repeating—and sharing with others

By Philip McCluskey for Grand Circle Travel

Discover Old World Prague & the Blue Danube through the eyes of LaVelle Froboese, who embarked on this River Cruise Tour as her first Grand Circle vacation, and see why it is one of our most popular trips.

Things are better the second time around, or so the saying goes. For LaVelle Froboese, that adage rings true—especially when it comes to travel. In fact, she enjoyed her first Grand Circle Cruise Line vacation,—Old World Prague & the Blue Danube—so much that she had to do it again.

“I loved the trip. It’s one of the best,” says LaVelle, of Laguna Niguel, California. “I took it in April 2013 and decided to take it again that September. Sometimes you miss things the first time.”

LaVelle, who has now taken six Grand Circle vacations, has fond memories of both of her trips along the Danube, from cruising along the Wachau Valley to enjoying music at one of Vienna’s legendary concert halls. “I’m very much into music, and I used to be a dancer. So when I got to see a ‘Blue Danube’ waltz and cruise on the Danube in the same day, I was saying to myself ‘What more could you want?’”

She loved the whole trip—both times—but it was the smaller towns that really enchanted her. “Vienna and Budapest are beautiful, but in the small towns it was easier to assimilate myself into the culture,” she says. “Like Cesky Krumlov … what a precious little town that was. So delightful.”

These small-town experiences are what hooked LaVelle on Grand Circle: “I’ve taken a couple of the big ship cruises, but River Cruises are what I’m interested in. I want to go out and see what the rest of the world is about, and on the River Cruises you get to go off and actually see the country.”

But intimate cultural experiences aren’t the only reason LaVelle keeps returning to Grand Circle—and repeating her favorite trips. She also enjoys getting a chance to see some old friends: the crew. “When I’ve gone back, some of the crews are the same as the last time I went,” she says. “They greet me like I’m family. Even the captain the last couple of times: He was so surprised and happy to see me. It makes you feel good to be welcomed like that.”

One of the friends LaVelle was most excited to see again on Old World Prague & the Blue Danube was her Program Director, Daniel. “Daniel was the sweetest guy. When I saw him before I got on the boat for the second trip, he said ‘It’s so good to see you!’ You would have thought we were related.”

She laughs as she recalls a favorite memory with Daniel: “It was 10am, and he said, ‘Time for a beer’ to our group. I told him I thought it was too early and with a chuckle he said ‘Not here it isn’t!’ I’m not much of a beer drinker, but Daniel convinced me to try this beer called ‘Zlaty Bazant,’ which means ‘Golden Pheasant.’ I tried a small one and … it was delicious! When I came back home I saw it in a store and got some. It’s a very good beer!”

With so many great memories like these, LaVelle can’t help but share her experiences with other people. And Grand Circle’s Vacation Ambassador Referral Program makes it easy—and rewarding. “Everybody is so impressed that I’m going back on these trips all the time,” she says. “I tell them to try it, too. Even if they’ve gone on trips with other companies, I tell them to check out Grand Circle. The company really goes out of their way to please.”

It’s easy to earn rewards as a Vacation Ambassador:

REFER: Inspire new travelers to reserve any vacation and they’ll save $100 instantly
when they mention your name and Customer Number

EARN: You’ll earn $100 CASH for your first referral, and up to $5900 for eight referrals

REPEAT: Enjoy increasing CASH rewards for every additional new traveler you refer—
it’s unlimited

Find tips and tools for sharing your love of travel—and start earning rewards!


Travel Parties

Hosting a travel party is an easy—and fun—way to earn a free trip

LEARN MORE

Referral Cards

Print your own referral cards so you’ll always have some handy

DOWNLOAD CARDS

Referral Kit

The complete guide to referring and earning as a Vacation Ambassador

DOWNLOAD KIT

A new traveler is a person who has never traveled with Grand Circle or Overseas Adventure Travel and does not have a current departure reserved with Grand Circle or OAT. Standard Terms & Conditions apply. Every effort has been made to represent this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors.

The Healing Waters of 1,300 Springs

Hungary’s rejuvenating spas

by Juraj Varady, Operations Manager, European River Cruises

Several of the facilities founded during the Ottoman occupation are still open and in use to this day.

Few nations can boast of geo-thermal resources to rival Hungary’s: Every day, more than ten million gallons of naturally warm, mineral-rich water pour forth from the springs of Budapest alone. These waters have formed the basis of a spa tradition that stretches back more than 2,000 years.

The Romans first took advantage of the waters’ curative and relaxing effect in the first century AD, and ruins of their ancient baths have been found in the Obuda section of Budapest. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Hungary was occupied by the Ottoman Turks, who established Turkish bath houses along the banks of the Danube River in Budapest—where the river water’s interaction with a geographic fault results in an especially high concentration of thermal springs. Several of the facilities founded during the Ottoman occupation are still open and in use to this day.

While numerous amenities are available at most Hungarian baths—including foot and body massages, aromatherapy treatments, pedicures, and more—the prime activity is to simply enjoy the waters in outdoor and indoor pools, steam rooms, and saunas. The water emerges from the springs at temperatures ranging from 70 degrees Fahrenheit to nearly 170 degrees, depending on the spring. Chemically, notable deposits of calcium are present in Budapest’s thermal waters, along with traces of magnesium bicarbonate, sulphate chloride, fluoride ion, and sodium.

One of the most popular of Budapest’s baths is the Gellert Spa, which is located next to the Gellert Hotel. From where your ship is docked, you can get to the Gellert on foot or via inexpensive taxi ride—consult your Program Director for more information. While the springs here have been in use since the 13th century, the current spa was built in 1918, and features impressive Art Nouveau architecture and intricate tile work. There, you can enjoy the use of many indoor and outdoor baths, invigorating steam rooms, and the sauna—along with a private locked stall (called a “cabin”) for changing.

In addition to a soothing soak, whichever spa you choose to visit will provide a memorable cultural experience. The locals and fellow visitors are congenial and welcoming, and bathing suits and flip-flops are required. You’ll find that observing the families, couples, and friends who gather regularly to recharge amidst the thermal waters is nearly as engaging as the waters themselves.

Prague: Conflict & Creativity

How a wartime history led to a flourishing artistic landscape

By Julia Hudson, for Grand Circle

Czech art and culture is closely connected to Czech history …

Prague, the ancient “City of a 100 Spires,” is known for its landscape filled with churches and red terra-cotta roofs … its subterranean pivovars (beer cellars) … its connection to such great legends as the Golem … and architecture that seems lifted straight from a child’s fairy tale. Prague also cultivates a rich creative life, from black-light theater and puppet shows to music clubs and a late-night energy that rivals any other city in the world.

But for many, Prague also conjures images of a war-torn Czechoslovakia—and it may be hard to reconcile the dark and often violent 20th-century history of the Czech capital with the colorful and friendly city that stands today. The two, however, are closely intertwined. Czech art and culture is closely connected to Czech history, and these resilient people have long used their history as inspiration for some of their most iconic artworks.

A historic city of conflict

Prague was, luckily or unluckily, spared from destruction in World War II when Hitler, using the Munich Agreement, officially annexed the regions containing the most ethnic Germans and renamed them the Sudetenland after the nearby Sudetes Mountains.

Even after the fall of the Nazis, the pain of war would re-enter Prague with the Warsaw Pact of 1955, under which the Soviets occupied the entire region that was then Czechoslovakia. The Pact was designed to strengthen the communist countries’ ability to defend themselves against a potential Western invasion. But for the Czechs and Slovaks, the Warsaw Pact was an unwelcome intrusion onto their sovereignty, and it met with deep resistance. Residents refused all aid to the Soviet military, which they viewed as another invader on their land.

In 1968, the Soviet Union launched a full-scale invasion of Czechoslovakia to put an end to a series of liberal reforms known as the Prague Spring. The leader of these reforms, Alexander Dubcek, was taken into Soviet custody. A year later, a university student named Jan Palach self-immolated in protest in the middle of Wenceslas Square. This tragedy was in many ways a reflection of the larger attitude about the occupation: Rather than commit violence against the invaders, the residents of Prague turned their sorrow inwards.

Twenty years later, a series of anticommunist demonstrations in Palach’s memory became known as “Palach Week.” These gatherings became so large that the police began to beat people and use water cannons and other violence to suppress the groundswell of opposition. But the Czechs had had enough. Within a year, the Velvet Revolution, so named because of its lack of violent action, ended the Soviet regime in Prague.

Language as a tool for freedom

Despite—or perhaps because of—years of having communication monitored and regulated, the use of language has always been important to the Czech sense of identity, as evidenced by a prolific literary scene. After World War II and throughout the Soviet occupation, Czech literature became sharply divided into three different segments: literature written and published domestically, literature published illegally during the war, and literature produced by exiles and expatriates. There was always a deep emphasis on communicating identity and solidarity, and novels focused more and more on psychology and how the individual fit into the group.

One writer who has examined these themes deeply is Milan Kundera, who was exiled in 1975 and since then has lived in France. His works began as pro-communist pieces, as Kundera himself was a member of the Communist Party, but over time—as he was kicked out of the party, and then readmitted, only to be kicked out again—his writing began to show signs of disillusionment. Now, he rejects his earliest writings totally, and his subsequent novels examined both the humorous and tragic aspects of communism. Today he is seen as an anti-totalitarian figure, having himself gone through the same evolution as his homeland, from occupation to freedom, from inherited dogma to creative exploration.

Though his writings may be less famous on the world stage, Vaclav Havel personifies the struggle for freedom of expression in the Czech Republic. Havel was no stranger to the power of language, as he began his career as an acclaimed playwright. Branded a dissident during the Warsaw Pact invasion for his opinionated radio programming, and banned from the theater following the Prague Spring, he continued to write essays about the plight of modern man when expression is curtailed. The political situation of the time deeply influenced his work, epitomized by his essay “The Power of the Powerless.” His passionate viewpoints—and the eloquence with which he expressed them—were at the heart of the Velvet Revolution, and he was elected the first president of the Czech Republic after its split from the slovaks.

Painting for peace

This same creative spirit buoyed those still living in Prague during the Soviet occupation. In 1988, while the Soviet forces still retained a tight grip on all media, graffiti of any kind was banned as an uncontrolled means of communication. But one morning, on a wall in the Mala Strana (Lesser Town) neighborhood, there appeared a painting of John Lennon. The story goes that the Soviets immediately painted over the portrait. But the next day, it was back.

The soldiers painted over it time and again, and each time it came back—along with more and more graffiti speaking to freedom and nonviolent resistance, as well as poems and flowers. The graffiti writers ironically espoused “Lennonism” as the antidote to decades of foreign occupation and the erasure of free speech. Nowadays, the wall is still there, but there are many, many layers that conceal the original paintings. The people of Prague and its many visitors have continued to add messages of peace and tolerance over the years, an enduring symbol of the Czechs’ strength of will.

A building’s, and a people’s, changing identities

Part of this strength undoubtedly came from the curious blend of tradition and mutability that is to be found in Czech culture, and nowhere is this clearer than the Prague State Opera. Originally founded in 1883 as the New German Theatre, this institution in central Prague was conceived as a German-speaking complement to the Czech-speaking National Theatre. There were a significant number of German-speaking residents in what is now the Czech Republic, since at that time the land was controlled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The debut performance was a Wagner opera—Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg—to celebrate Germany’s artistic heritage.

As the Nazi influence spread in the 1930s, the New German Theatre welcomed artists who were leaving Germany, and provided them with a safe place to continue working. However, a combination of financial problems and the signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 caused the theater to shut down. The Nazis assumed control of the building once they invaded the city. They renamed it the German Opera House, and used it for political assemblies and propaganda.

In 1945, the theater was renamed the Theatre of the Fifth of May, after the date of the Prague uprising that ousted the remaining Nazis. It became a center for Czech opera—marking the first time since its founding that the building hosted performances in a language other than German. The first piece performed under the new ownership was Brandenburgers in Bohemia, an opera by Bedrich Smetana and an obvious reference to the departed Nazi forces. Smetana’s nationalist musical style became intertwined with Czech sentiment—so much so, in fact, that the Czech Communist Party renamed the opera house Smetana Theater in 1949.

But this building still had one transformation left. When the Soviets left the Czech Republic in 1989, the city of Prague was ready to refresh and distance itself from the severe policies of communist governance. The theater was renamed the Prague State Opera, and it has been a stronghold for creative efforts in this city ever since. In stark contrast to its much-politicized history, now the space is often used for charity events and shows works from artists of all nationalities.

Art in unlikely circumstances

The people of Prague have known for generations the importance of maintaining their culture and traditions, even when harsh circumstances force it underground. It is this spirit of preservation and innovation that visitors to Prague can still see today: a city where a Baroque building and a Gothic building sit side by side … where the same plaza that once housed massive student protests now hosts shoppers and diners … and where authors, activists, and even theaters have had to transform themselves to survive the changing times.

But Alan Levy, the American writer and expat to Prague, perhaps said it best: “For some of us, Prague is Second Chance City; for others a new frontier where anything goes, everything goes, and, often enough, nothing works. Yesterday is long gone, today is nebulous, and who knows about tomorrow, but, somewhere within each of us, we all know that we are living in a historic place at a historic time.”