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Trip report for BPV tour as well as Budapest, Krakow and Lisbon

We joined the RS Berlin, Prague and Vienna tour in September 23, and then we added some time on our own afterward in Budapest, Krakow and Lisbon. We had a wonderful and busy time. I will try to give an overview first for those who like reports short.

Time of year: We were hoping for some cooler temperatures and smaller crowds, and we got spectacularly lucky with the weather. For the most part, the temperatures were in the 60’s with sunny days and blue skies. In the 23 day trip, I think we had only 3-4 days with some rain, and no days with all day rain, just a few light showers. It definitely wasn’t what I expected for this time of year, as I was prepared for a lot of cool days and plenty of rain. As for the crowds - all of these places except for Vienna were new to us, so I can’t compare, but the major sights were just as crowded if not more crowded than other times we have been to Europe. So, perhaps it is a less busy time to go than the middle of summer, but if you are hoping to beat the crowds anywhere, the beginning of October is probably still too early.

Pace of the trip: We added 1 day prior to the tour to Berlin, giving us 4 nights. After the tour we spent 3 nights in Budapest, 3 nights in Krakow and 4 nights in Lisbon. For us, this was a pretty perfect pace. There were a lot of things that we could have done that we didn’t have time to do, but we got all of our “must-do’s” accomplished with time to relax. The tour itself planned for 3 nights in each of the cities and 1 night in Dresden and Cesky Krumlov, which worked out well. It was nice not to move every 2 nights as we usually do on tours.

Itinerary: I can’t say that I regret this trip, as I loved each stop and we learned and saw so much. However, I did not heed the advice normally given here to pay attention to how many days are spent in cities, and it was definitely noticeable. We walked an average of 25,000 steps per day, with a few days over 30,000, so we were tired. We got a little overwhelmed with the crowds, and with constantly having to figure out a new public transit system, and with all of the things that come along with being in large cities. I don’t feel the trip had too many destinations for us, and it allowed us to see some important cities in places we probably wouldn’t spend a lot of time in the future, but I don’t believe I will plan a trip without stays in smaller towns again. Additionally, by the time we had finished with Krakow, we were very ready for the change in architecture and food that Lisbon provided.

RS tour review: This was our 5th RS tour (we have previously taken Scotland, GAS, Best of Italy, and Greece). Our guide was Jana, and she definitely tied with our Greece guide as our favorite. She was unbelievably sweet and kind, and really bent over backward to make sure everyone was happy and having fun. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone work so hard. She had a vast knowledge of this part of the world, and since she grew up in the Czech Republic, she was able to give some personal insight into their culture and politics that we really enjoyed. Our local guides were also spectacular on this tour, with Kevin in Berlin and Wolfgang in Vienna being two of the best we have had.

The hotels on this tour were decidedly average. There was nothing about them that stood out, either good or bad. They were all well located and clean. On other trips we had always had 1 or 2 hotels that really wowed us, like our hotel in Varenna with a view of Lake Como on the Italy tour or the one in Hallstatt right on the lake on the GAS tour, but we did not have that experience on this tour.

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As always, the details were well planned and everything was taken care of. We got public transit passes for our days in each of the big cities, which we really appreciated. The orientation walks were heavy on teaching people how to use the public transit, which was helpful for people new to using public transit in Europe but felt a little redundant to us.

We thought the food was very good, but will mention that there were many more meals than normal where only one option was served compared to other tours. On most of our other tours we were offered a choice of two or three options or were able to pick from a menu, with only one or two dinners with a fixed menu. On this tour we had two nights with buffets that had tons of options, and then most of our other meals were fixed. Two of the “fixed” meals were actually dinners served family style, so while we didn’t have a specific choice of our meal, there were lots of different dishes to try, so you could find something you like. Our guide always got something special for the vegetarians on the tour, but if you are a picky eater or prefer a lot of choices, this may be something to consider. We are fairly adventurous eaters, so this didn’t bother us at all. It seemed there were more meals included on this trip than on some other tours. We had a normal amount of included meals, and then several bonus lunches. We ate together at a Monastery in Prague where we had a variety of sausages and sides. In Prague we also had a lunch at a brewery where everyone could try a beer and roasting sausages over an open fire pit. Jana brought a ton of different local treats for us to try - pretzels and currywurst and Berliner donuts in Berlin, a layered cake in Dresden, a local alcohol as an aperitif in Cesky Krumlov, some cookies and apricot juice in Vienna, and I am sure I am forgetting others.

I tried to keep a brief overview for those who like that, but I will give a day-to-day review of what we did and our favorite restaurants and things for people who find that helpful. Over all, we learned a ton on this trip about an area of the world we knew nothing out. The scenery and the food and the culture was all wonderful. We also learned about what we would not necessarily do again, which I guess is also part of traveling!

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Day 1: Berlin. We had a reasonably comfortable and easy flight from Tampa to Berlin, connecting in JFK. We flew with Delta and found them to be the best we have flown with recently with decent food, complementary earbuds and sleeping masks, and a lot of great media options. We landed in Berlin at 11, took a taxi to our hotel and arrived by 1230. Our hotel was Hotel Kastanienhof, which was located close to public transit and in a nice quieter neighborhood. We dropped off our belongings, took showers and brushed our teeth. Refreshed we headed out for food and tried currywurst and pommes frittes. I didn’t love the currywurst, although I did like it from another shop later, so it may have just been that one. We walked around museum island and then went to the Pergamom museum to see the Ishtar Gate. Most of the rest of the museum is under construction, but we are still glad we went. We made reservations for Fes, a Turkish bbq restaurant, and enjoyed a dinner with meat that you grill at the table yourself and several sides. We really enjoyed this and would definitely consider that restaurant again. This trip we pre-planned several restaurants with reservations, which we had never done before because we didn’t want to be tied to a plan. We actually loved it and experienced much better food than we had in the past, so we would consider doing this again.

Day 2: This was the day the tour started, but not until 5pm. We decided to take the train to Potsdam for the day, which took about an hour. We visited the Sanssouci Palace, where we really loved the gardens, and then toured the Neues Palace, which was one of our favorite palace experiences yet. There was a room covered in shells and stones, and another with beautiful inlaid marble floors. We thought the decorations here were very unique. It made for a busy day, but we were glad we went. After an orientation meeting with our group, we got our transit passes and Jana took us on a loop around the city using a metro, tram and bus so that people got used to them. Then we had a delicious welcome dinner at the restaurant connected to our hotel. It had several different options including kinds of sausages and pork, chicken, cabbage, pastas, breads, etc.

Day 3: Our morning started with a guided tour that had us walking by the Reichstag, Brandenberg Gate, US Embassy, the holocaust memorial, Hitler’s bunker, Humboldt University, Gendarmenmarkt and Museum Island. It was a very long tour, finishing around 1 pm, but it was fascinating and the time flew by. The local guide was Kevin, a British gentleman who moved to Berlin to study. He was extremely passionate about the history he taught us, really painting a picture. One of the “wow” moments of our trip is when we stood next to a bombed out foundation of a Nazi police building that had been turned into an outdoor museum, that had a piece of the Berlin wall standing above it and an intact Nazi building in the background that is currently used as a German tax office. It just really brought together all the layers of recent history this place has gone through. The other moment we had today was when we had finished walking through the Memorial to the Murdered Jews and then Kevin brought us to a parking lot near an apartment building and told us we were standing on the sight of Hitler’s bunker, where he spent the last 4 months of his life and committed suicide. That just gave us chills, and it is startling to watch how life goes on, how people just live there with their living room windows overlooking this spot.

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We had lunch together at a Turkish restaurant called Hasir, which is reportedly owned by the gentleman attributed with bringing the Donor kebab to Europe. In addition to the meal, Jana had arranged for a Turkish friend to come to our lunch and explain to us why there is such a huge Turkish population in Germany, Berlin in particular, and about the particular challenges they faced. This was fascinating, and I thought a really good touch. We had an afternoon free and David and I decided to go to the Neues Museum. We also wandered through a festival set up in Alexanderplatz for Octoberfest where we got dinner, and we visited the Fassbender and Rausch chocolate shop for some hot chocolate. We took our hot chocolate to sit in the square at Gendarmenmarkt where we watched the sunset, which was a very relaxing way to finish off the day. I highly recommend this stop for hot chocolate if you are in the mood, it was delicious.

Day 4: We had another long walking tour today, starting with the Berlin Wall Memorial, then walking through the Jewish cemetery and ending in the alley outside the Otto Weidt Workshop. I really enjoyed learning about the communist period of history here, and how life was for those living behind the Iron curtain. I am young enough that I don’t remember a time before the wall fell, and I never really learned a lot about this time period in school. After the walk Jana brought us pretzels and currywurst to try, and then we had free time. David and I went to the East Side Gallery to see the street art murals. We also set out to try what are supposed to be the best kebabs in Berlin at Mustafa’s Gemuese Kebab. We had heard there was always a line and were pleasantly surprised when we arrived and there wasn’t. We ordered doner kebabs and enjoyed them thoroughly - easily the best we had ever had, before discovering that this was not THE Mustafa’s Gemuese Kebab, but rather an imposter with the same name. We found it hard to imagine the kebab getting any better than that, but since we had come so far we decided we had to compare so we trekked to a different part of the city to try the “real” thing. We stood in line for an hour to try it, and I gotta be honest, we liked the imposter (located near the East Side Gallery) better. Sometimes advertising wins, I guess! It was a fun adventure. We had enjoyed our hot chocolate at Fassbender and Rausch so much that we returned for another cup, as well as a chocolate cake, before calling it a night.

Day 5: This day we traveled straight to Dresden, arriving around 1130. We immediately went on a walking tour with a local guide. This guide was very sweet, but we are not sure if we were just tired or if her presentation was drier, but we had trouble paying attention to the tour and don’t remember much. We did enjoy the scenery though. After the group tour, we ate at a harvest festival in a nearby square where we had delicious sausage and fresh donuts coated with sugar, and then wandered through the historic city center, taking photos. We had made a reservation for the Green Vault online, so we did that at 4. We had an unmemorable dinner near our hotel and called it a night. Our hotel was Hotel Martha.

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Day 6: On our way to Prague, we visited Terezin. This was a fascinating stop. According to Jana, on past tours they had only been able to visit the prison part of the camp, but due to a change in itinerary we would be able to visit the ghetto of the town too. I am so glad we got this opportunity, as it was fascinating. I had never heard of this town before our arrival, but it was kind of a “poster child” town for the Nazi’s as they tried to prove to the rest of the world that they treated the Jews right. The Jews living here had slightly better living quarters and were encouraged to put on plays and concerts, and to make art. They were filmed doing these activities so the Nazis could use it as propaganda. Some of the unsanctioned artwork was preserved, that showed the real day-to-day lives of the prisoners. The talent was incredible, and as our guide pointed out, reminded us not only of the sheer number of people we lost, but all of the talent. We lost incredible artists and singers, researchers, physicians, and on and on. These were real people with real lives and families and talents. That really hit home for us. Then we went to the prison portion, which was similar to some other work camps we have visited. The most interesting thing here was seeing the actual prison cell where the man who assassinated Archduke Ferdinand was held. History really comes alive in this part of the country! After Terezin, we visited Nelahozeves Castle, which was a palace of the Czech royal family. We had a group lunch here where everyone was served chicken wraps and salad. We would have preferred to have skipped the Castle and arrived in Prague sooner, but it was still an enjoyable stop. We had an orientation walk of Prague’s city center on our way to a group dinner at Relief, which was delicious but only one option was served. We stayed at the Hotel Art Embassy in Prague, which was about a 10-15 minute walk to the main square.

Day 7: This was a long day of group actives. David and I got up for sunrise to see the square and Charles bridge with fewer crowds. We arrived to to the bridge just as the sun was casting a glow on the castle and buildings across the river, and it was one of our favorite moments there. The city is so crowded during the day, that this is definitely worthwhile. We had a walking tour of the Old Town and Jewish Quarter and Wenceslas square. We had lunch as a group at a brewery where we grilled our own sausages over a fire pit. After lunch we went to the Mucha museum, where we were let loose to enjoy the museum on our own. I enjoyed the museum, but was surprised about how small it was. On our own afterwards we used the Jewish quarter pass that had been given to us to visit the Spanish Synogogue, which is just stunning. Then we went up to the top of the clock tower for beautiful views of the city - I was surprised to find out there was an elevator to bring us up, so if you don’t feel like climbing, no worries. To finish off the evening, we walked along the water to see the Dancing Houses, and had dinner at U Kroka, where we had made prior reservations. We shared a delicious goat cheese and raspberry salad for a starter and a chocolate covered honey gingerbread with a plum brandy sauce for desserts that were really stand outs for the meal. The restaurant was on the outskirts of the main town, was super cozy and had great service - I would definitely recommend this spot!

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Day 8: Our group tour today covered the Prague castle, St. Vitus cathedral, the Old Royal palace, and ended at the Strahov monastery where we had lunch at the microbrewery. We especially enjoyed the beautiful stained glass at St. Vitus. Lunch was delicious, a variety of snacks that would normally be served with beer, including different types of cheese dips and sausages. After lunch, David and I visited the libraries in the Strahov monastery, a must if you love beautiful rooms and books. The rooms are roped off so you can only see them from the doorway, but I actually preferred that because we could see all of the beauty without a bunch of people standing in front of the books and shelves. We walked the back way down the hill from the castle, with beautiful views over town and through a vineyard. Jana gave us directions to a hidden baroque style garden that we visited, and then we saw the astronomical clock, which luckily had just been unveiled the day before after being covered for months for restorations. We had dinner at Villa Richter, a really nice restaurant on the hill below the castle with a gorgeous view of the city. The food was delicious, including a deconstructed apple strudel dessert. I would highly recommend this restaurant for a relaxing, quiet place to eat with a beautiful view.

Day 9: We left Prague at 845 to travel to Cesky Krumlov. On the way Jana gave us some Czech treats and we tried Kofola, the communist version of Coke. We were given an orientation walk at 1200 when we arrived in Cesky Krumlov, and then given free time for lunch. We ate at a market in the main square where we tried a fried cheese with cranberry sauce that was delicious. Then we had a group tour of the baroque castle theater. This was so unique, and for a lot of us one of our favorite stops. We were the only people there, and we got a lecture on how the theater was designed and how it is used. They let us try the equipment to make the sound effects, and toured us through the world under the stage to see how the trap doors and curtains work. It was so interesting! The views from the castle of the town were just spectacular, and we had lovely weather. The afternoon was free, and there was an optional rafting trip on the Vltava river that some people took advantage of. We decided not to participate so I could take some photos of the very scenic town. Dinner was a group meal at a restaurant right in the center of town called Pod Radnici, and the entire restaurant was reserved for us. We had a great time visiting with our new tour friends over a delicious meal.

Day 10: Today we visited Melk Abbey and had a cruise down the Danube on our way to Vienna. Melk Abbey was stunning, though unfortunately no photos are allowed. We were able to take some photos of the view over the valley from a balcony, but unfortunately this was one of our worst weather days and everything was foggy and rainy. After Melk, we joined a cruise down the Danube for about 1.5 hours. It was chilly and rainy, but still beautiful. I imagine this would be just stunning on a nice day, as some of the castles and towns were fogged in. We arrived in Vienna late, around 5pm, and had 2 hours free before we joined an orientation walk and a group dinner. Our hotel was Hotel Mailbergerhof, and it had a great, central location. The restaurant was called Brezl Gwolb and we ate in the downstairs area which felt like a cozy cave with old wooden booths - it was very atmospheric. We had salad and weiner schnitzel, which was delicious. Again, there was only 1 choice for this meal.

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Day 11: Our group tour today included a visit to the Vienna Opera house and then a trip to Palace Belvedere where we got guided tour of some of the most important pieces. Our local guide’s name was Wolfgang, and he was one of our favorite local guides yet, he was just hysterical. During a break we went to the cafe at Hotel Imperial and tried their famous Imperial Torte - yummy and overpriced. We had the afternoon and evening free. We visited Karlskirche, which was such a neat experience because there was scaffolding available with an elevator that lets you get right up near the baroque dome. We also walked through Volk Garden, which we had loved so much on our last visit to Vienna for its rose garden. The roses were past their peak, but it was still a lovely walk. For dinner we made reservations at Sixta, which I highly, highly recommend. I had a pumpkin soup followed by a duck breast in a plum sauce and accompanied by nut gnocchi. The gnocchi was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted, and David agreed it was the winner of the meal. The restaurant was very comfortable, kind of upscale casual, with extremely friendly staff. We would absolutely eat here again. For dessert we went to Cafe Central for apple strudel. It was cliche and touristy, but we still loved it. It was a beautiful setting with live piano music playing.

Day 12: Our tour today was to the treasury and apartments at the Hofburg palace. We found the treasury fascinating, with coronation garments of the Holy Roman Empire dating back to the 12th century. After the group time, we went to the Albertina museum, which was having a huge and wonderfully done Monet exhibit. They had arranged his work in chronological order, and had excellent commentaries accompanying each painting. I love Monet and have not yet been to the Marmottan where many of these paintings came from, so I really loved the exhibit. Our final group dinner was at Heurige Schuebel-Auer, about 45 minutes by public transit from our hotel. It was a lovely, large restaurant that felt sort of like a lodge set in a vineyard. Dinner was a large buffet with a variety of Austrian foods, and everything was delicious. We were sad to see the tour end, but excited to set out on our own for the rest of our trip. We would miss Jana most of all, as she had been such an incredible guide, someone you would love to be friends with.

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Day 13: We traveled from Vienna to Budapest today. We had considered taking the train, which was fast and inexpensive, but we wanted to stop in a few places along the way, so we looked into a transfer company instead. We booked a transfer with a company called Daytrip that offers transfers with local drivers all over Europe. The company was great to work with, very organized. The driver was polite and on time. I don’t think I would book this particular transfer again, as the trip is so fast and cheap by train and the stops we stopped at weren’t worth the extra expense, in my opinion. We stopped for a bit in Bratislava and then in Gyor. My enjoyment of these places may have been diminished by the fact that the driver tried to act as a sort of tour guide, but it just made it very awkward, him following us around while we were sightseeing. I would have preferred to just have a spot to meet him at. We did another transfer with this company three days later and it was a much better experience.

In Budapest, we splurged and stayed at Hotel Moments, which was in a spectacular location. Our room was huge and comfortable and there was an included breakfast which was very nice. Upon arrival around 3pm, we dropped our belongings off and took the metro to Szechenyi Baths. Unfortunately, they were closed this day for a refresh, so we couldn’t go inside. We did walk around the park and enjoyed the Vajdahunyad Castle and buildings around it. It was a perfect autumn afternoon and the leaves were beginning to change and we just enjoyed the fresh air. Unfortunately we forgot to visit Hero’s square while we were in the area and never made it back, so we only saw that from the car window.

We had a delicious dinner at Belvarosi Lugas Restaurant. We had not reserved this in advance, but we went early and they were able to accommodate us. After we sat, several people were turned away, so I would recommend reservations. We got this recommendation from one of James E.’s posts, and it was one of our favorite stops of the trip. I had a rosemary pumpkin cream soup, roasted chicken with dumplings and paprika cream sauce, and a pumpkin-carrot cake with caramel sauce. The cake was my favorite dessert of the trip, I had never tasted anything like it. I would absolutely return here again.

Day 14: We did a lot of walking today. We tried to follow one of Rick Steves’ guided walks, but we always have trouble following his directions, I’m not sure why, his method just doesn’t make sense to us. So instead we just wandered on our own. We visited St. Stephen’s basilica in the morning and ended up going up the tower. We met a group of 13 German women who were traveling together, and they asked if we would join them so they could get the group rate. Afterwards we checked out the waterfront and the Szechenyi bridge and then stopped for hot chocolate at Gerbeauds, which was once again overpriced but beautiful and enjoyable.

We tried to visit the Great Market Hall for lunch, but it was unbelievably crowded and unpleasant, so we found a street vendor to try langos instead. After lunch we walked up to Castle Hill and enjoyed the views. We had planned to visit the interior of Matthias Church, but it closed early for an event. We enjoyed the outside instead, and then waited around for sunset for a view of the Parliament building as the lights came on. Such a beautiful skyline!

For dinner we had made reservations at El Asador De Pata Negra. The reviews of the restaurant were positive, but we felt that our dishes were a little underwhelming, which surprised us. The staff also was not terribly friendly, and they had lost our reservation and had to scramble to seat us. I think there have been a problem with their reservation system, because we saw the same scenario play out a few more times. I think it might have just been an off night for them, as we have read good reviews, so I would be willing to try again.

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Day 15: We did a walk thought the Jewish quarter this morning, and we saw the Weeping Willow memorial, which I thought was just spectacular. Unfortunately, we didn’t plan this well because it was Saturday and the memorial and synagogues were closed. But we could see the memorial through the fence, so we at least got a look at it. We made reservations for the New York Cafe for breakfast, mostly just because I wanted to see the inside. The building did not disappoint! The food was outrageously expensive for breakfast, but it was good and I am still glad we did this because I got to sit and soak up the beautiful architecture for an hour or so.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering to soak in the views, visiting the Shoes on the Danube memorial, and touring the Parliament building. We finished our last day in Budapest with dinner at Hungarikum Bistro, another James E. recommendation. This was delicious, and the staff were so friendly. We had dumplings with sausage and sauerkraut for an appetizer, and then I had mushroom paprikas and apple pie. This is another restaurant we would definitely return to. We loved the feel of Budapest and it was such a beautiful city with unexpectedly delicious food - it is definitely on our “must return” list.

Day 16: This was a travel day, and we did another transfer with Daytrip. The drive was around 6 hours, but I am very happy we drove instead of flying. When you consider the transport to the airport and back, the flying time and the waiting/getting through security, flying wouldn’t have saved us much time. Instead this was a door-to-door transfer and we drove through some seriously beautiful countryside. I’m not sure if it would have been as spectacular if there wasn’t so much fall color, but for this time of year it was wonderful. We stopped for 2.5 hours to visit Oravsky Hrad, a wonderful Slovakian castle. The setting was beautiful and the castle was very interesting, but unfortunately they don’t let you visit it without a very long guided tour. The tour takes 2 hours, and it really seemed overkill for the number of rooms you actually see. Unfortunately during the time frame we were there, there were no English tours, so we joined the Slovakian tour and didn’t understand a word. Even if we had been able to understand it, I felt this would have been too long for the size of the place. We would have preferred to visit alone, but I am still glad we stopped because it was beautiful. We stayed at Betmanowska Residence, right on the main square, and our room had a beautiful view. We had dinner at Marmalade and enjoyed soup, peirogies, and sauerkraut.

Day 17: The breakfast at our hotel was our least favorite of the trip, so we skipped out and got paczkis instead. We visited the Wawel castle complex, did a walking tour of the town and Jewish quarter, and then visited the botanical garden, which we thought was a lovely break from city crowds. We had pizza at a restaurant near the University, which was a nice break from the central European style food we had been eating for 2 weeks. We were starting to feel very worn down at this point in the trip, so we made this day a very low-key day, wandering around without seeing many big sites. I feel like we enjoyed Krakow, but do not feel a burning desire to return, and that may just be because of how tired we were. There was a little cafe near our hotel called E. Wendel and we had dessert and hot chocolate there. The salted caramel milk hot chocolate was the best I’ve had in my life, and we returned there the next night for another. They even offer a tasting flight of hot chocolates.

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Day 18: This was a long day of sightseeing, as we booked a full day tour to Auschwitz and to the Salt Mines. The driver picked us up at the hotel and it was just us and one other couple. He drove us to Auschwitz, gave us our tickets, and joined us into an English guided tour. When that was done, he brought us to Birkenau for the second part, allowed us time for lunch, and then drove us to the salt mine were he once again set us up with a guided tour and tickets. We could have done all this for less ourselves, but we were glad we booked it, as we were at the point that we were happy to have someone else take care of the details.

Auschwitz was emotionally draining and horrific. The huge rooms of human hair, glasses, suitcases, shoes, and etc. collected from just a small fraction of the people there really helps give a bit of scale to the unbelievable loss of human life that occurred on this site. Before our trip to Amsterdam this year I had re-read the Diary of Anne Frank and After Auschwitz so it was chilling to stand in the place where these girls suffered so much. The experience of visiting Auschwitz is really indescribable, and I feel that even though it was so difficult, it was important that we visited. I felt a little disillusioned about the experience when we went to an onsite cafe at Birkenau to get something for lunch and watched a group of American tourists nastily berating the sales clerk because they believed she had shorted them money. After a bit, they discovered it was their mistake. I just felt so sad, that if an experience like seeing what humans can do to other humans at a place like Auschwitz can’t impact people to be kind to other people for even 30 minutes, what hope is there? This is the kind of thinking that the raw nature of the visit to Auschwitz provoked for me.

The salt mine was enjoyable, and an easy place mentally to visit, and for me it was a good pairing to help me recover from the horrors of the earlier visit. It was a long day, but it was something my husband had really wanted to see, so I am glad we did both.

Day 19: Our flight to Lisbon was in mid-afternoon, so we spent the morning taking a walk through a park in the center of the city and then visiting the Church of St. Francis of Assisi Krakow. I hadn’t read about this before we went, but I am so glad David did, as it was an extremely beautiful and fascinating Art Nouveau building. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, so I may never have stopped there, but it turned out to be one of our favorite sites in Krakow. Our flight to Lisbon had a short stop in Brussels, and we arrived around 7pm. It was easy to take the metro in to the city, and we stayed at Hotel Lisboa Plaza which was easy to find, comfortable, and centrally located. It had a wonderful complimentary breakfast buffet, including a chocolate fountain! We ate dinner at A Gina, a traditional Portuguese restaurant that is literally tucked away in a parking lot behind the hotel.

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Day 20: We spent the morning wandering through Lisbon, taking photos of the beautiful sidewalks, buildings and tiles, with no real agenda. Then we headed to Belem to visit the Jeronimos Monastery. This was a mistake, as we should have planned to get there right at opening. When we arrived, the line was around the block, and we decided not to visit yet. Instead, we went to Pasteis de Belem to try the egg tart, got some pizza at a nearby restaurant for lunch (along with the most delicious goat cheese salad), and visited the coach museum. This museum was so much fun! They have a wonderful collection of some of the most over-the-top coaches, and it was just a lighthearted feast for the eyes. Afterwards, we returned to the monastery (around 3pm) and the line was much shorter. We ended up waiting in line for about 30 minutes. We so enjoyed the architecture of the monastery! Afterwards we visited the Belem tour and the Monument to the Discoveries, hunted down some gelato, and then returned to the area near our hotel. For dinner we ended up at another small Portuguese style restaurant where we met the most delightful and entertaining Brazilian who was serving there and had a great conversation throughout dinner.

Day 21: We did a day trip to Sintra today. We left Lisbon early and arrived at the Pena Palace very soon after opening. It was unbelievably crowded, so we felt that the advice to arrive early to avoid the crowds was outdated. We loved the outside of the castle, but the inside was too crowded to properly enjoy. However, as we were leaving, we noticed the line for entry stretched halfway down the hill, and we realized that our advice hadn’t been outdated after all, but just that it could get much, much more crowded. We were glad we saw it, but we wouldn’t return. We walked down the hill to visit the Moorish palace ruins, and then the gardens at Quinta de Regaleira, which were much more enjoyable visits due to the much smaller number of visitors. We walked a ton today. We took the train to Sintra and then the bus up to the Pena Palace, but then we walked between the other castles and the town and back to the train station. I think this was one of our 30,000+ step days.

Day 22: This was our final day before returning home. We started the morning with a visit to Castelo De S. Jorge for great views over the city. We wandered through Alfama and then went to a restaurant called Ze da Mouraria that we had read about. This was hands down the best food experience we had in Lisbon. The food was delicious, and the portions were unbelievably huge. We were given cheese and sausage as well as a sort of vegetable salsa dish for starters, and then we ordered the garlic steak and salad for our main. The meals are served family style, so you order one dish for the two of you. I believe it was around 13 euros for the main, it ended up being around 30 euros for the starters, main and drinks. Well worth the value! It is a very small restaurant and you sit in long tables community style. From the reviews we read it gets very busy and there is always a wait, but we arrived right at opening time and it wasn’t too busy at all. I could seriously eat there every day. The menus are only in Portuguese, so be prepared with Google translate, or be prepared to just pick something and see what you get. I don’t think you could go wrong. We spent the rest of our last day wandering the streets to people-watch and tile-hunt, shopping for gifts, and resting. We really loved Lisbon and would definitely like to return to Portugal for a deeper dive in the future.

Posted by
242 posts

Thanks for your trip report. Almost all of the cities that you visited are on my radar for 2019, so I really appreciate it!

Posted by
3452 posts

Bookmarked!! Thanks Tamara for an amazing report. Fun to relive the Portugal part of your journey. Several of your locations are in the works for our future tour. Especially appreciated your comment " I don't believe I will plan a trip without stays in smaller towns again." Good point. We will consider your advice.

**Edit-- Another vote for Hotel Lisboa Plaza & restaurant A Christina! The BEST!!

Posted by
1949 posts

Great report - thanks for sharing!
Can you tell us more about the local aperitif in Cesky Krumlov you mentioned near the top?

Posted by
608 posts

I'm glad it has been helpful!

avirosemail- I believe the drink was called Becherovka. It is a blend of many different herbs, and has a very strong, herby aroma. I am not really an alcohol drinker, so I thought it was very, very strong, but several members of the group really enjoyed it.

Posted by
681 posts

Great report. I really enjoyed reading about your wonderful trip.

Posted by
1102 posts

Great report! By the way, thanks for all your help with our GAS tour, we had a blast!

Posted by
1916 posts

Thank you for all the great detail! I loved reading the whole thing. And I am totally with you on the Becherovka - but I had it on a frozen snowy January night in Prague and I have to admit, it does warm you up. :)

Posted by
608 posts

Thank you guys! And jlkelman, I am so glad you had a great time! Hope to read a report about your trip!

Posted by
9904 posts

Tamara, what a wonderful report!! I hope you’ll do a scrapbook since I know from previous ones your photography is outstanding! It does sound like you could do one just on sausages, 😁😁.

Thanks so much for putting this together. I really enjoyed reading your observations.

Posted by
11292 posts

Thanks for taking the time to post this great trip report! You had a similar reaction to many places that I did (always nice to have one's experiences confirmed).

I will also try to remember to point people to this report when they propose itineraries of 3 days London, 3 days Paris, 3 days Venice, 3 days Rome, etc, and don't understand how much this wears a person down. Even so, it sounds like you had a great trip!

Posted by
12970 posts

Thanks for the lengthy detailed and very interesting report. Yes, Terezin known as Theresienstadt before 1945 had a history going back to 18th century in the Austrian Empire. It was named after the Empress. The assassin of Franz Ferdinand and his wife was held at Theresienstadt after his trial. He didn't get the death penalty because he was a minor at the time of this murder on 28 June 1914.

Posted by
114 posts

Thank you for posting this fabulous trip report! We too are planning a trip to Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and Krakow, so the details you gave are extremely helpful. We also are planning about 3 nights in each city (4 in Vienna), so it is good to hear that number of nights will suffice. Always wish we could stay longer, but I think that's our max. Glad you had a great time!

Posted by
7695 posts

What a wonderful trip report, Tamara. I know most of these places well, and it was a treat to see them anew through your eyes. Thank you for taking the time to post such a comprehensive report.

Posted by
961 posts

Excellent and informative report, Tamara. We're planning on taking the fall BPV tour next year so it was nice to read a more in depth review. Thanks for including the restaurants you enjoyed!

Posted by
1949 posts

thanks again Tamara and Travelmom about mentioning the Becherovka -- I found myself providentially visiting a bar this very Friday night that had it on the menu so I gave it a try, and am glad I did. My eye would have sped by it if not for your mention in this thread.

Like many other old-timey liqueur brands, this one was revived in the last decade or so and brought out by a major conglomerate -- Pernod/Ricard -- in a slightly modernized version that is indeed pretty potent at 38% ABV (76 proof),
yet not as blunt as Jagermeister.

https://becherovka.com/en/history
https://spiritsreview.com/reviews/becherovka/

Posted by
608 posts

Thank you for your kind words, I'm glad it was helpful.

Nance - You will love this tour! So interesting and educational, and the food was great! I hope you have a great trip on your tour!

Posted by
961 posts

Thank you, Tamara. We are planning on arriving a few days early, stay a couple of days in Vienna after, and then train to Budapest - hopefully for a week. We haven't visited any of these cities before.