Guten Tag!Welcome to Germany. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the evening of Day 1. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please check with the hotel reception where and when it will take place, or check the reception notice boards. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. Join your fellow travellers for a group dinner at a local restaurant of your leader's choice and maybe the first chance to try some speciality dishes! Say Munich and most people think of swilling beer while wearing lederhosen, eating sausages and listening to oompah bands. But this cosmopolitan metropolis houses an extraordinary array of sights for travellers more interested in art, architecture, history and music. Of course, if it's your wish to clink steins and make merry, it is also the home of Oktoberfest and enough beer halls to fill anyone's cup. Founded in the 12th century, Munich has had its share of medieval and modern history. Home to Wittelsbach dukes, princes and kings for hundreds of years, the city has been decimated by the Black Plague, was the scene of Hitler's failed 1923 coup, rose from the devastating bombings of World War II with extensive rebuilding and threw the Israel-Palestine conflict in to sharp relief during the 1972 Olympics, when 11 athletes were murdered by terrorists. Now a publishing and technology powerhouse, Munich is amongst the most liveable of the world's cities.
Promenade through Marianplatz, checking in at the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) and its Glockenspiel, which brings crowds to a halt as it peals out over the square. For a taste of old Munich, make a circuit of the three medieval city gates still standing: Karlstor, Sendlinger Tor and Isartor. Stretching from the city centre to the northern outskirts is the sweeping Englischer Garten, one of the largest urban parks in the world. A wonderland in winter and a nude-sunbather's paradise in the summer, the park is perfect year-round for a stroll or a drink in the beer garden. You may even catch surfers on the standing wave at Eisbach, an artificial brook.
Travel to Prague by train, the capital of the Czech Republic (approx 5 hrs). Having served as the residence of rulers and archbishops for over a thousand years, Prague has been left with aunique gallery of historic buildings. The 'City of a Hundred Spires' is an architecture-lover's dream - you can trace the history of design from the Middle Ages all the way through to the avant-gardism of the most controversial building in the city, the Gehry-designed Dancing Building (also called the Fred and Ginger Building) on the banks of the Vltava. The Old Town at night is truly special. In addition to the sights, there are many great restaurants and pubs, some in old vaulted cellars. The nightlife in Prague is some of the best in Central Europe. Whether dance clubs, traditional beer-halls or underground absinthe bars are your speed, there is something for just about everyone in this cosmopolitan city. The city has one of the longest-standing and respected jazz scenes in Europe. If you should find yourself out until the early hours in an atmospheric jazz club, have a wander along Charles Bridge or Old Town Square as the sun rises for magical photo opportunities.
Spend time at Prague Castle, the biggest in the Czech Republic, where you'll find the famous St Vitus Cathedral and Golden Lane. Wander through the Jewish Quarter to see what remains of the traditions and culture of Prague's formerly large Jewish community. Go to Kutna Hora by train (approx 2 hrs each way), once one of the richest and most significant towns of medieval Bohemia due to its rich deposits of silver. Visit the World Heritage-listed Sedlec Ossuary (also known as the Bone Church) and have time to wander the streets and see the gothic church of St Barbara (built by local miners long ago as a rival to St Vitus) before heading back to Prague.
Depart Prague and travel by bus to the southern Bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov (approx 4 hrs). This picturesque medieval town dates back to the 13th century and is straight out of a fairytale. Cesky Krumlov (pronounced 'Che-skee Krum-lov') means 'crooked meadow', which is befitting as the town is nestled in a sharp bend of the Vltava River. It also comes complete with a castle on a hill towering over the quaint old town, which boasts a collection of beautiful old buildings and a confusion of cobbled alleyways. Cycle across the rolling hills of the countryside exploring the tiny hamlets (approx 3 hrs).
Explore the castle and its fabulous Masquerade Hall, or climb the tower for aerial views of the town. Take an optional guided walking tour of Cesky Krumlov that includes a commentary of the magic and mysteries that lie behind every shop front and house on the crooked little streets. A visit to the Cesky Krumlov brewery - where tours are often conducted in English - will give you a glimpse of the brewing tradition that has existed in this town for hundreds of years. Weather and time permitting, take a relaxing 2-3 hour raft/canoe trip on the river that winds right through the centre of Cesky Krumlov, a favourite summer pastime.
Depart Cesky Krumlov by minivan and cross the border into Austria and onto Vienna (approx 3 hrs). Once the centre of the Habsburg Empire, Vienna is today a cosmopolitan city with music in the air and the grandeur of a golden past. With an array of architectural marvels, a cuisine to relish and a refined arts scene celebrating both the classic and modern, Vienna is a joy to discover. Join your leader for a walk (approx 2 hrs) through the city's compact centre. After a photo stop at the 14th-century, gothic St Stephens Cathedral, wander past the neo-classical grandeur of the Graben and onwards to the Hofburg Palace, winter residence to the Habsburg emperors. Take time to relax at the monument to Empress 'Sisi' Elizabeth in the famous Volksgarten before continuing on to the Ringstrasse. Finish your orientation of the city at the State Opera House, one of the world's most important opera houses and the heart of classical Viennese culture.
Art lovers have a vast choice of museums, from the Albertina to those located in the Museum Quarter.Take a short walk over to Belvedere Palace to see Klimt's famous painting 'The Kiss' or the Secession Building (a classic example of Viennese Art Nouveau architecture) to see his panorama 'Beethoven Frieze', inspired by the composer's Ninth Symphony. Those with an interest in Austrian art should visit the Leopold, home to an important Egon Schiele collection as well as major works by Oskar Kokoschka and Gustav Klimt. Head out to Schoenbrunn for a guided audio tour of the summer palace designed by Empress Maria Theresa herself. The palace gardens are free to all visitors. The Gloriette Monument has incredible views of Vienna. Avoid long queues at the palaces by pre-booking your tickets at www.schoenbrunn.at. Take a spin on the famous Prater Ferris Wheel. The Spanish Riding School doesn't operate throughout the summer months. You will need to book tickets in advance to see the performance of the Lipizzaners. Phone: +43 (0)1 505 77 66 55 or e-mail email@example.com to arrange tickets.
Travel by train to Budapest (approx 3 hours). Since the collapse of Communism, Budapest has experienced something of a renaissance. The grand architecture and boulevards evoke a time gone by, while glamorous stores and glitzy restaurants make this one of the truly great cities of Europe. With so much to see and do, hire a bicycle for a great way to move between the city sights. For art and history buffs, Budapest has museums to occupy you for days including the Museum of Fine Arts at Hero's Square, which offers free English tours of the permanent collections (Monet, Manet, Dutch Masters, Gauguin, Goya, El Greco) from Tuesday through to Saturday from 11am daily. Head out to Statue Park to see all the communist monuments that were removed from the city streets after the fall of the Iron Curtain. If you're interested in communist history, try the locally-guided 'Hammer & Sickle' tour. One unmissable activity is a soak in the hot thermal baths. There are several around the city centre ranging from the sumptuous and elegant to simple outdoor types. There are pools of varying degrees - some with whirlpools, chess boards and seats where you can enjoy it all while recuperating in the therapeutic waters.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart our accommodation at any time.