Depart home city via your chosen air carrier to Krakow, Poland's International Airport (KRK)
Krakow / Arrivals from USA
Arrive Krakow, the "fairytale city" of Europe. After clearing customs, Carl and his local representative will personally meet and escort you to awaiting transportation. After a short drive, Anne will meet you on arrival at the deluxe Sheraton Krakow Hotel . The Sheraton is perfectly located on the Vistula (Wisla) River and adjacent to the famous Wawel Castle, the residence of Polish Royals since the 11th century.
Just a short stroll away is several old town market squares which will provide you with countless options for sightseeing, shopping, dining and nightlife. All of this and more are at your doorstep!
After check-in at the hotel, the balance of the day is free for you to unpack, unwind and relax or you may want to go exploring and have some fun. Just remember to be back in time for our FoCA dinner function tonight!
This evening, please join Carl, Anne and your fellow Friends of Carl and Anne traveling companions... commonly known as FoCAs, for a special "Welcome to Poland" cocktail reception followed by dinner at the hotel.
Krakow / Half Day Tour
After breakfast, enjoy a fascinating tour of historic Krakow. On your half-day sightseeing tour you'll visit the sites that made Krakow's Old Town area famous. Starting with Krakow's main city gate, known as the Barbican, you will marvel at this awesome structure of military architecture. Its high walls are 9 foot thick and are topped with seven circular turrets. Active since the 16th century, the 500-year-old fortification serves occasionally as a summer concert hall, theater, art expos, etc.
After a brief visit to St. Florian's Gate, which is also the part of the historical city walls, our next stop will be at the spectacular Grand Market Square. There we will visit the Cloth Hall, the world's oldest shopping mall which has been in business for over 700 years. The Cloth Hall's present Renaissance arcade dates from 1555. We will continue on to see the Town Hall Tower (Krakow's own "leaning tower" which was built in the 13th century), the Romanesque church of St. Adalbert and St. Mary's Basilica with the beautiful and unique wooden alter masterpiece. We will finish at the Wawel Royal Castle with its Medieval Cathedral and a visit to view the famous painting "Lady with an Ermine" by Leonardo da Vinci.
Following the tour, we will have lunch at Pod Wawelem, a traditional Polish restaurant serving huge portions of standard Polish fare. When I say huge portions, I mean huge portions...the food literally cascades off the steel pans and wooden boards that your order is served on! Meanwhile, the efficient staff weaves between the bench seating serving frothing steins of cold beer. If you're looking to hit your daily calorie quota in one meal, this is the place!
After the tour, the balance of the afternoon and evening is at your leisure. You are free to explore the many fine shops, unique restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs that are located throughout Krakow's Old Town squares and charming neighborhoods. For this evening, Krakow has many fine dining restaurants from which to choose as well as quaint bistros, bars and night spots that line every neighborhood's streets.
Personal note: Anne and I will provide you with a list of nearby restaurants and their website links before the trip so you can have an idea of which ones you may want to consider before arriving in Krakow.
Krakow / Half Day Tour to Auschwitz Memorial
After breakfast this morning, we will drive for approximately one hour and 20 minutes to the infamous death camp known as Auschwitz-Birkenau. The camp, opened in 1940, was built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II. This was the largest of the Nazi concentration and death camps. Located in southern Poland, Auschwitz initially served as a detention center for political prisoners. However, it evolved into a network of camps where Jewish people and other perceived enemies of the Nazi state were exterminated, often in gas chambers, or used as slave labor.
There is much information that can be found, especially on the Internet, regarding Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps that were established around Europe during World War II. For more information on Auschwitz, go to this link http://bit.ly/1Dc1fwn. After our visit we will have lunch at a local restaurant in the town of Oswiecim before returning to Krakow.
This evening dinner is on your own. To help you find that perfect restaurant, we suggest that you ask for recommendations from our local hosts. They will be happy to help you find the ideal venue for a special evening on the town!
Krakow / Free day for Optional Tour to the Wieliczka Salt Mine / Farewell Dinner
Today is our last day in Krakow and a totally free day for you to do whatever you want. Sleep in, have a late breakfast or take advantage of a very special optional tour that our local host will be offering, the Wieliczka Salt Mine. This historical site is located in the town of Wieliczka (a suburb of Krakow) and was built in the 13th century. The mine is 443 ft. underground and is the one of the world's oldest salt mines still in operation.
Now a museum, the mine's attractions include dozens of statues, three chapels and an entire cathedral that has been carved out of the rock salt by the miners. The mine is a product of the work of generations of miners, and a monument to the history of Poland and to the Polish nation. This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to add "I've done that" to your list of world travel accomplishments!
This evening, please join Carl and Anne and your fellow FoCA travel partners...and now close friends, for a "Farewell to Krakow" cocktail reception followed by dinner at a very special Krakow venue.
Warsaw / Prague, Czech Republic
Another new adventure begins today! After breakfast, we will transfer to the Krakow Airport for a short flight to Prague, Czech Republic. Upon arrival and after clearing customs, we will transfer to our "home" for the next 5 nights, the beautiful Radisson Blu Alcron Hotel. Located close to Wenceslas Square, Charles Bridge and the Old Town, the Radisson Blu Alcron Hotel is a jewel of Art Deco inspired design. The hotel's combination of antique Art Deco and modern amenities make for a wonderful stay...all in the heart of Prague!
After a late afternoon check-in at the hotel, the balance of the evening is free for you to do what you wish. This would be a great opportunity to stroll the neighborhood and have dinner at one of Prague's quaint cafes or top quality restaurants for you to choose from. Once again, our local host will be glad to give you recommendations and make reservations for you, as well as answer any questions that you may have about Prague.
Prague / Half Day City Tour Including Prague Castle
You're in for a treat today! This morning we will have a half day tour of one of Europe's most beautiful cities...Prague, the "City of 100 Spires." After breakfast, we embark on a fascinating journey through time to learn about the people who have shaped the city and to discover the places they built over the past 1000 years. During the tour we will visit the major historical areas of Prague including views of the New Town, the Old Town and the Lesser Town.
The New Town, whose name is a little misleading since it was actually founded by Charles IV in 1348, has the beautiful Wenceslas Square at its heart. The charming Old Town boasts the notable sights of the Old Town Hall Tower and Astronomical Clock (1338), the Tyn Church (1385) and the St. Nicholas Church (1735). The picturesque Lesser Town clusters around the foothills of Prague Castle, across the river from the Old Town (confused yet?) and is a favorite setting for movies and commercials.
The highlight of today's tour is a walk through the Prague Castle Prague Castle complex to discover the major sights within. Prague Castle was founded around 880 AD and is the largest medieval castle in Europe. Our guide will bring the magnificent castle buildings to life, explaining their turbulent history and their royal and presidential connections. We will see the grandeur of Saint Vitus Cathedral, the ancient architecture of the Old Royal Palace, the state apartments, the fortifications and towers, and other historic churches and national treasures. Finally, we enjoy the stunning views over the whole of Prague. With over 4,000 monuments, it's no wonder that Prague is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe!
This evening, please join Carl and Anne and your fellow FoCAs for our "Welcome to Prague" cocktail reception and dinner tonight at the hotel. The food at the Radisson Blu Alcron is Michelin-rated and always exceptional!
Prague / Free Days at Leisure or Optional Tours
Prague and its surrounding countryside have so many varied attractions to offer that we thought it would be a good idea to "set you free" for a couple of days, so today and Friday you can do what you wish. How great is that!
You are free to relax or do a little last minute shopping, visit some of Prague's wonderful museums, take an optional tour (or two) or you may choose to explore this multi-faceted city on your own. The choices of how to spend your days are plentiful! Besides the many wonderful local attractions such as museums, art galleries, parks, etc, here are a few other options outside of the city that you may want to consider...
Nelahozeves Castle - One of Bohemia's finest Renaissance castles, which is located in a small village of the same name approximately 15 miles north of Prague on the Vltava River, was originally a fortress but later turned into an Italian Renaissance Chateau. The Chateau, with interiors richly decorated with frescoes, is among the most beautiful Renaissance buildings in the Czech Republic. It also includes a museum and gallery with the exhibition "Private Spaces: A Noble Family at Home", which displays the lifestyle of the noble Lobkowicz family in the 19th century. This family has played a major role in the history of Central Europe for more than 600 years and also boasted the title of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire.
Karlovy Vary - This is the "Jewel of the West Bohemian Spa Region" and the most visited place in the Czech Republic besides Prague. Karlovy Vary is the incarnation of spa elegance with imposing colonnades, beautifully designed spa buildings, quaint shops and restaurants... all located in the heart of a forested valley. Karlovy Vary is also famous for its local china and glass manufacturing industry. These products are on display at a special exhibition and are also sold at specialized shops. The spa has been visited by many rulers and artists over the centuries including Goethe, Chopin, Beethoven, Brahms and Dvorak. An absolutely stunning village! Kutna Hora "The Town of Silver" - During the Middle Ages, profits from the Kutna Hora silver mines brought fame to the lands of the Czech Crown, and Kutna Hora became the richest and most powerful town in the Czech lands. Today Kutna Hora is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Czech Republic because of its amazing collection of historic buildings, including the ghoulish Sedlec Ossuary (the Bone Chapel), the Gothic masterpiece of St. Barbara's Church and the splendor of the Italian Court. This rich heritage was born in the boom days when Kutna Hora competed with Prague economically and culturally, becoming the favorite residence of several Bohemian kings. Just one hour outside of Prague lays this gem of Bohemian history which is also noted for its many beautiful architectural monuments. Of course our local hosts will be on hand to give you advice and answer any questions that you have regarding what to see and do. They will also be happy to make any lunch or dinner arrangements/reservations that you require. Tonight might be a great night to try one of the charming restaurants located in the quaint Lesser Town.
Prague / Half Day Tour to Karlstejn Castle
This Gothic castle, founded in 1348, has a unique position among Czech castles. It was built by Czech King and Roman Emperor Charles IV as a place for safekeeping the royal treasures, especially Charles's collection of holy relics and the coronation jewels of the Roman Empire. For nearly 200 years, during various wars, the castle became the place for the safekeeping of the coronation jewels. After 1480, the castle was reconstructed in a late Gothic style and then in the last quarter of the 16th century, in a Renaissance style.
The present appearance of the castle comes from the last reconstruction, which was carried out in the purist neo-Gothic style at the end of the 19th century. Very impressive is the original step-like order of buildings. From the Well Tower and Burgrave's Palace located as the lowest you walk up to the majestic five-storied Imperial palace and further up towards the castle's crowning point, the Marian Tower which has extraordinary views of the valley and town below. After the tour we will have lunch at a nearby restaurant. Tonight is your last free evening so make the most of it! Grab some FoCA friends and head to one of the many restaurants that are on your "hit list" but you haven't had a chance to experience yet. Our FoCA hospitality desk host or the hotel's concierge will be happy to make reservations for you.
Prague / Free Day at Leisure or Optional Tours
It's a free day today but because this is our last day in Prague and we have a farewell evening function, we would suggest that if you take an organized optional tour today that it finishes early afternoon. This will give you time to get organized for your trip home tomorrow and time to get ready for tonight's dinner party. Even though our journey has come to an end, there is still time for one last get together before we bring a close to this year's trip. This evening, please join Carl and Anne and your fellow FoCA travel partners...and now close friends, for a very special "Farewell to Prague" reception and dinner. This will be a magical night for all!
Prague / USA
After breakfast, depart for Prague's International Airport for your return flight to the USA and home city via your chosen air carrier.
We hope that you can join us on this year's Eastern Europe adventure and that we will see you next year on our 9th annual FoCA trip to...???
Carl & Anne