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.