30 Days in Germany, Poland, Hungary, Bratislava, Austria, and the Czech Republic Since we'll be spending time in both Germany and Eastern Europe, I'm posting this in two forums. Four years ago we traveled to Germany. For the first time and LOVED it. Many of you (Jo, James, Tom, Andrea, Terry, Lee, and others) gave us some valuable suggestions that made the trip so worthwhile (if I had acted on more of the suggestions, it would have been even better). So, please, chime in with whatever tips, nuggets, questions, words of caution, etc. Here's an order of importance of experiences for us : 1. History 2. Religion 3. Art and Music (classical and jazz). While we appreciate the beauty of nature, whatever we see we'll be happy with, but we haven't planned anything with "beautiful sites" in mind. We also don't drink, except the occasional beer, so all the opportunities for wine are out. Prefer classic art to modern.
We'll be flying in and out of Berlin. Got a good price of less than $800 RT from Los Angeles. Arriving in Berlin on June 11. Jet lag has not been an issue. Day One. June 10-11. Fly to Berlin. Catch a 5 hr train to Warsaw. Sleep. Day Two-Day Four. June 12-14. Warsaw. Chopin Museum. National Museum. Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Warsaw Uprising Museum. Jewish Ghetto. Royal Castle. Day Five-Day Eight. June 15-18. Train to Krakow. Aushwitz-Birkenau. Salt mine. Wawel Cathedral. Wawel Castle. Jewish Quarter. Schindler's Factory. Day Nine-Day Twelve. June 19-22. Fly to Budapest. Mathias Church. Memento Park. Hospital in the Rock. Parliament. Great Synagogue. Opera House. House of Terror. Heroes Square. Holocaust Memorial Center. Day trip to ? ? ? Day Thirteen. June 23. Train to Bratislava. Take Rick's Walking Tour. Day Fourteen-Day Seventeen. June 24-27. Boat to Vienna. Opera House. Classical Concert (not opera). Hofburg Palace's Imperial Apts. St. Stephen's Cathedral. Palace's Treasury. Kunsthistorisches Museum. Royal Apts. New Palace Museums. Haus der Musik. Augustinian Church. Judenplatz Memorial and Museum. Day Eighteen. June 28. Train to Brno. Capuchin Crypt and Church. Spilberk Castle. Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul. Old Town Hall. Freedom Square. Day Nineteen. June 29. Train to Kutná Hora. Sedlec Bone Church. St. Barbara's Cathedral. Silver Mine. Day Twenty-Day Twenty-three. June 30-July 3. Train to Prague. Jewish Qtr., Museum of Medieval Art. Museum of Communism. St. Vitus Cathedral. Castle. Church of St. James. St. Vitus Cathedral. Day Trip to Terezín.
Day Twenty-four-Day Twenty-five. July 4-5. Train to Leipzig. Museum Runde Ecke. Gondola Ride. Nikolai Church. Thomas Church (we'll miss the Bachfest by a week). Voelkerschlachtdenkmal. Gewandhaus. Day Twenty-six-Day Twenty-nine. July 6-9. Train to Berlin. Second time to Berlin. First time there, we went to Memorial to Murdered Jews of Europe. Pergamon Museum. Egyptian Museum. Old National Gallery. Walked along much of where the Berlin Wall stood. Checkpoint Charlie. Jewish Museum. New Synagogue. Day tripped to Wittenberg. This time we'll make reservations for Reichstag. Any day trips? Already been to Dresden. Can we do Hamburg in a day? Day Thirty. July 10. Fly home from Berlin. All the cities are must dos, with the exception of Brno and Kutná Hora. We wouldn't mind staying in a small town for a day, if anyone has a jewel to recommend. As you can see, Berlin is pretty much wide open, we just need to end up there for the last couple of days. Looking forward to everyone's input.
Here are some miscellaneous comments: We took an overnight train from Krakow to Budapest. There were no train changes and, as they say, it saved the cost of one hotel night. From Budapest you might consider a day trip to Szentendre on the Danube. We did it by train. In Vienna, if you are interested in this sort of thing, you can attend a so-called "practice" of the Lipizzaner Stallions. Cesky Krumlov is a small town in the CZ about 3 hours south of Prague. Most folks give it a day, but we spent three nights there and relaxed. Have a great trip.
Tim, If you haven't had your fill of "history" after visiting Auschwitz, you could also visit Orienenburg and Sachsenhausen when in Berlin. The Original Berlin Walks also has some very interesting walking tours. There's also an interesting and significant WW-II historic site in Prague if you're interested. Happy travels!
You mentioned you've visited Berlin before, so I don't know if you've been there yet, but Potsdam is an easy and worthwhile daytrip. Would fit your history requirement well, and serve as a reminder that the history of the greater Berlin area encompasses other time periods besides the 3rd Reich and Cold War. Also if classical music is important, and if you're there at the right time of year, it would be a pity not to attend a performance of the Berliner Philharmoniker- missing them would be like taking a baseball themed tour of the US, and not seeing a Yankees game when in New York. There's plenty of classical music performances in Prague, but other than the two professional orchestras, the rest tend to play much of the same limited repetoire. If you like zoos (I do!), the one zoo not to miss in Europe is in Berlin. There's probably larger or more elaborate zoos elsewhere in Europe, but the menagerie in Berlin is huge. The total travel duration from Berlin to Hamburg (including time to get to and from both central rail stations) is about 2 hours. Although Hamburg is my favorite city in Germany, there's plenty of other daytrips that would be easier.
Have you looked at going on some themed walking tours while in Berlin? There are plenty of high quality, professional tours available, that usually cost about 12-15 euro. You can choose from themes such as Cold War, 3rd Reich, Jewish Berlin, Stasi Prisons, Berlin Underground, and as well as day tours to Sachsenhausen or Dresden. Check out the various companies listed on Trip Advisor, because frankly, the Rick Steves book doesn't list very many, nor give good, objective reviews of the many tour companies there.
Since you are interested in history and religion... the train from Leipzig to Berlin stops at Wittenberg. The town is small and can be done in a few hours. The highlights are Luthers house (which can be visited) and the castle church of course, but there are also the houses of Melanchthon, Bugenhagen and Cranach, the place where Luther burned the bull of excommunication and so on.
Your itinerary looks great, and is very adventurous. Maybe you'll see some oxcarts before they disappear. My only real comment is that after visiting a few churches, they all get to looking generic. I too no longer drink, but a night in the Vienna Woods wineries is a trip listening to Oom-Pah music. The city is a mecca of classical waltz music.
Looks like a fun and ambitious itinerary...if it were me I would try to work in a smaller city/village if possible. Cesky Krumlov is a gem and very beautiful as well as relaxing. Also the boat trip on the Danube from Budapest is a relaxing way to spend some time. I have been to the bone church and while it is not my thing I had a friend who loved it and photographed every bone in it! Loved Krakow and although it is a city, was so walkable it seemed smaller than it is. Even if you don't drink a visit to a winery is still fun (there were years where I just got a headache if I drank wine, but thankfully that has passed and I can have my one or two glass limit of red wine) As far as beautiful sights...they will be everywhere! I drove from Prague to Krakow and then to Cesky Krumlov and back to Prague and there were some of the most beautiful wooded areas and fields of poppies that I have ever seen. It was such an easy drive and that allowed us to take side trips to the bone church as well as any little town we decided to stop in for lunch. Edit...just re-read you post and see you will be using train, but if you do decide to rent a car for any portion it is easy driving there.
Just to comment on the advice from David, who said after a while, all churches look generic. I beg to differ. If you are going to churches built at different time periods, they certainly will look different. Huge difference from Baroque to Gothic, to Romanesque or even Carolingen. Some people like to see the altars, the stained glass, the wood carvings, some the vaulting and filigree tracery on the windows, or sculptures or even the pillars. Others like the paintings in them and the rest of the inner decor. Still others enjoy the outside architecture and stone work, or like to climb up in the steeples. In a one day time period, I can take you to at least 8 different churches that differ so widely from each other, you will hardly believe you are in the same country. The other point is the historic meaning to some churches. In Aachen, it is because Charlemagne had it built and is buried there. In Frankfurt, it is because the Holy Roman Emperors were elected and crowned there. In Seligenstadt, you have a basilica built by Charlemagnes biographer who was married to Charlies daughter, Emma. In Mainz, you have a church where the Archbishop ruled territory all the way to Prague, and who was also a king maker. Frankfurt Hoechst has the only church in Germany that has been used as a church ever since it was consecrated in 850. Perhaps these are things that some people aren't interested in, but some of us do like this kind of stuff, so to just tell someone that all the churches will soon look the same, may not be true for the OP.
This is an endorsement for the walking tours from berlinwalks.com. I've traveled a lot in Berlin and other parts of central Europe, and I really like this tour company. Check them out for areas of Berlin you haven't seen. Their website is fun for other things, like restaurant recommendations.
Galan and Terry: Seriously looking into Cesky Krumlov and perhaps renting a car for a few days if we do several one nighters in Czech Republic. Ken: Sachsenhausen is on my radar. I see Original Berlin Walks has a tour. I' 'll be checking them out. Tom: Thanks for the heads up on Potsdam. I completely overlooked that. Yeah, we may have to do Hamburg on another visit to give it a few days. I've been to 17 MLB ballparks, but never Yankee Stadium! When I do go, will I survive if I wear my Dodgers cap? I'll look into the Berlin Philharmonic . . .I' m sure it would be a memorable performance. David: I know what you mean by seeing so many churches. But Jo nailed it. When one has knowledge of the history, the art, the architecture . . .it just makes those edifices much more interesting and "Oh, really, so THIS is where that happened. Jo and Sue: I''ll be checking in to guided walks.Thanks! Martin: We visited Wittenberg last time. Very memorable. Keep the ideas coming, please!
In answer to your question,don't wear Dodgers cap in Yankee Stadium! Too bad you never got to the real Yankee Stadium. In my mind,some things can't be replaced. I know this has nothing to do with Europe but he asked the question so I was obligated to respond.