C'ya and Happy Holidays!
Monday, December 7, 2009
C'ya and Happy Holidays!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
During day 8 of our tour in Budapest, Hungary, there is an option to cruise the gorgeous Danube River at Euro 20 dollars per pax (SGD 42).
Oddly enough, the waterway is not called “Danube” in any of the countries through which it runs. In German, it is the Donau; in Czech, the Dunaj; in Hungarian, the Duna and so forth. Worshipping a god of the same name, the ancient Romans called the waterway Danubius. All these names derive from the Celtic word danu, which means “to flow” or “to run.
The Hungarian Parliament Building on the bank of the Danube
One-third of the Danube’s total length is in Hungary. Budapest, is often called “the Queen of the Danube.” From the water on a cruise, the city is particularly spectacular at night, with lights illuminating Budapest’s Chain Bridge, Parliament Building and other famous structures.
During the last day of our tour in Vienna, Austria, we are given an option to attend a Mozart music concert at Euro 50 dollars per pax (SGD 104).
Probably the most famous composer of all time, Mozart began his musical career as a child prodigy. He performed on violin at the age of four, wrote his first symphony and four sonatas for piano and violin when he was eight, and held the position of a concertmaster at thirteen. Before his premature passing, Mozart composed more than 600 works, among which there are masterpieces in numerous musical forms – concertos, symphonies, ensembles, sonatas, string quartets, ballets and music for church ceremonies. He gained immense fame for his compositions that include 'Piano Sonata No. 11' (1783 or 1778), 'Eine Kleine Nachtmusik' (1787), the unfinished 'Requiem' (1791), the operas 'The Marriage of Figaro' (1786), 'Don Giovanni' (1787) and 'The Magic Flute' (1791) as well as the 'Jupiter Symphony' (1788), which was his last.
We do not have much information on the concert at this moment. Will definitely try to get more details at the pre-departure briefing. Normally concert venues are old Imperial style Palaces from the Hapsburg era., which provide the chance for audience to experience the style of music in the home of classical music and in the city where these great works were composed.
Overall, the 3 optional tours look appealing. Will probably join the 2 scenic tours and leave out the Mozart concert as we don't understand classical music :)
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
For us, we'll factor in all the hidden costs like optional tours, tips for tour guides, airport taxes, etc. Of course, we'll do some background research on the optional tours whether they are worth our time and money.
In our upcoming tour of Eastern Europe with Chan Brothers Travels, there are three optional tours available. Below are some information which we have gathered.
During day six of our tour in Kraków, Poland, we are given an option to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine at Euro 40 dollars per pax (SGD 83).
Thursday, October 1, 2009
We have done some research on Qatar Airways and are quite pleased with what we have read so far... Fingers crossed! Here are some of the comments plucked from the web...
1. "...service was excellent, food very good and cabin crew very helpful. Could be better if the seats are wider and TVs a bit bigger..."
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Assemble at Singapore Changi Airport for your flight to Berlin.
Berlin is the capital city and one of sixteen states of Germany. With a population of 3.4 million within its city limits, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city and the eighth most populous urban area in EU. Located in northeastern Germany, it is the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg metropolitan area, comprising 5 million people from over 190 nations.
The Berlin winter (December-February), is notoriously grey, cold and windy. Daytime temperatures tend to hover just above or below freezing and although snow is not uncommon it generally turns to dirty slush within hours.
Day 2: BERLIN (Meals on Board/Lunch/Pork Knuckle Dinner)
Upon arrival, embark on a tour of Berlin, the heart of Germany.
See the site of the Berlin Wall at East Side Gallery, an open air museum with a section of the wall covered by approximately 106 paintings from all over the world in a memorial for freedom. The Berlin Wall was erected in September 1961 to prevent the outflow of skilled manpower from the German Democratic Republic and other Soviet bloc countries into the Western-controlled sectors of the city and thence into the West as a whole. It came to symbolize the Cold War and the rigid division of Europe into two armed camps. Its removal in November 1989 had precisely the opposite implications, culminating in Germany unification and the end of the Cold War.
The East Side Gallery is an international memorial for freedom. It is a 1.3km long section of the Berlin Wall located near the centre of Berlin on Mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg.The Gallery consists of approximately 100 paintings by artists from all over the world, painted on the east side of the Berlin Wall.
Continue your tour to get a grand view of Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and Reichstag Building which was built in the 19th century in Italian Renaissance style and comprises a redesigned glass dome.
The Brandenburg Gate is a former city gate and one of the main symbols of Berlin and Germany. It was commissioned by King Frederick William II in 1788 and was completed in 1791 when traffic passed through it for the first time and the the King himself was present at the opening.
Built by Carl Gotthard Langhans senior, it was modelled on the Proplaea on the Acropolis in Athens. 203 feet wide and 65 feet high it is only 36 feet from one side to the other. The twelve Doric columns, six on each side, allow for five carriagways, but only the two outside ones on each side were used by ordinary people, the middle passage was used only by carriages of the Royal Court.
After the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc and the reunification of Germany, the building at Checkpoint Charlie became a tourist attraction. It is now located in a museum outside Berlin.
The Reichstag building was constructed to house the Reichstag, the first parliament of the German Empire. It was opened in 1894 and housed the Reichstag until 1933, when it was severely damaged in a an arson attack.The building remained in ruins until the reunification of Germany, when it underwent a major reconstruction. After its completion in 1999, it became the meeting place of the modern German parliament, the Bundestag. The Reichstag is one of the most visited attractions in Berlin, not least because of the huge glass dome that was erected on the roof as a gesture to the original 1894 cupola, giving an impressive 360-degree view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape, especially at night.
In the middle of the city, you will see the Victory Column in Tiergarten Park, the famous park where many Berliners spend their time.
Tiergarden Park during winter time
Stretching from the Brandenburg Gate in the east to Zoo Station in the west, Tiergarten park is one of Europe's largest and most beautiful inner-city parks. Originally conceived as a hunting ground for Prussian kings, the Tiergarten was transformed into a romantic landscape garden in the early 18th Century by Peter Joseph Lennè, who designed a series of winding paths, lakes, bridges, sculptures and flower beds. The park was devastated in the Second World War and during subsequent winters. Replanted in the 1950s, the Tiergarten is now as beautiful as it ever was and very popular with locals and visitors alike.
The Victory Column in Tiergarten Park is a famous monument in Berlin. Designed by Heinrich Strack after 1864 to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War, by the time it was inaugurated on 2 September 1873, Prussia had also defeated Austria in the Austro-Prussian War (1866) and France in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), giving the statue a new purpose. Different from the original plans, these later victories in the so-called unification wars inspired the addition of the bronze sculpture of Victoria, 8.3 meters high and weighing 35 tonnes, designed by Friedrich Drake.
Day 3: BERLIN – DRESDEN – PRAGUE (Breakfast/Dinner)
After breakfast, travel to Dresden, the most beautiful city in Germany. Dresden is located on the left bank of Elbe River at a graceful river bend. Despite being 75% damaged during the devastating bombing campaign of World War II, the old part of the city has since been restored and regained its beauty. City can look a bit gloomy, as most of old pre war buldings are black and burnt, but this is also one of the must see features of city, as there is no place in Europe, where evidence of WW2 is so much visible.
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated on the River Vltava in central Bohemia, Prague has been the political, cultural, and economic centre of the Czech state for more than 1100 years. The average winter temperature is 5 degrees C.
Day 4: PRAGUE (Breakfast/Lunch)
Begin your tour of Prague with Hradcany Castle (Prague Castle), Cathedral of St Vitus, Golden Lane and the famous Wenceslas Square, which is the hub of cultural, social and business activities in Prague.
The Prague Castle is the most popular visited sight in Prague. Measuring 570 m long, 128 m wide on average, with an area of 7.28 hectares, it is the largest ancient castle in the world.
Constructed in the 9th century by Prince Bořivoj, the castle transformed itself from a wooden fortress surrounded by earthen bulwarks to the imposing form it has today. Rulers made their own additions so there is a mixture of styles. Prague castle has had four major reconstructions, but it keeps its classical facelift it took on in the 18 century during the reign of Maria Theresa. The castle has three courtyards and it has always been the seat of Czech rulers as well as the official residence.
St. Vitus Cathedral is the most important and the largest church in Prague. It is situated at the Prague Castle and it is a burial place of former Czech Kings. The Czech Crown Jewels and a large treasure are kept there. St. Vitus Cathedral has two parts: the Gothic eastern tract with the main tower, built in the 14th and 15th century, and the western neo-Gothic part with two spires, built in the 19 th century and at the turn of the 20 th century.
Golden Lane was created when a new outer wall was added to the existing Romanesque castle complex. It was originally known as Zlatnicka Ulicka (Goldsmith's Lane), due to the many goldsmith's residing here.
Wenceslas Square in Prague is a vibrant area of hotels, apartments, restaurants, bars, clubs and shops. The 750m long and 60m wide boulevard that makes up Wenceslas Square was laid out over 600 years ago during the reign of Charles IV. It was originally used as the Prague horse market.
Over the years the square has been a regular parade ground for all kinds of organisations and political parties. From anti-communist uprisings to celebrations of national sporting achievements, Wenceslas Square is where the Czech's come to let off steam. It can comfortably hold up to 400,000 people! At the top of Wenceslas Square, the statue of St. Wenceslas on his horse cuts a striking figure. This is good King Wenceslas (Vaclav), murdered over a thousand years ago by his brother, and now a Czech national hero.In front of St. Wenceslas are two plaques in memory of those killed during the Communist era. One is dedicated to Jan Palach, who set himself on fire in protest at the Soviet invasion.Behind St. Wenceslas is the monumental National Museum, and just off to the left is the Prague State Opera.
Not to be missed is the medieval Astronomical Clock which adorns the southern wall of the Old Town City Hall in the Old Town Sqaure, where a crowd gathers at the start of every hour to admire the procession of the Apostles and other allegorical figures.
Take a stroll on the medieval Charles Bridge, the symbol of the city of Prague and admire the baroque statues that decorate both sides of the bridge. The Charles Bridge is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Prague. Built between the 14th and 15th century, It is the oldest bridge in the city, and it spans the river with 16 pillars. The Charles Bridge is decorated with 30 statues on the parapets on both sides. Most of them were placed there between 1706 and 1714. Some of the statues were damaged by floods during the centuries and they were replaced by replicas.
After lunch, spend your day at leisure to explore this historical city further.
Day 5: PRAGUE – KRAKOW (Breakfast/Dinner)
Journey into another part of Polish history and see the charming Old Town of Krakow, the old capital of Poland. It is a multi-faceted modern city filled with medieval old towns and horse-drawn carts.Kraków is one of the oldest cities in Poland, with evidence showing settlements there since 20,000 BC. Legend has it that it was built on the cave of a dragon whom the mythical King Krak had slain. However, the first official mention of the name was in 966 by a Jewish merchant from Spain, who described it as an important centre of trade in Slavonic Europe. Kraków has a temperate climate. Average temperatures in summer range from 17 °C to 19 °C and in winter from 0 °C to 5 °C. The average annual temperature fluctuates between 6 °C and 10°C. Kraków usually sees between 23 and 58 days per year with below-freezing temperatures.
Day 6: KRAKOW (Breakfast/Lunch)
Today, you will continue to tour Krakow. The tallest structures on Krakow's skyline are not skyscrapers but the spires of old churches. Historical buildings, musuems and churches also flank the Main Market Square.
The main landmarks of the square are the St. Mary's Basilica, the Sukiennice (Cloth Hall), the St. Adalbert's Church, Town Hall Tower, and the Adam Mickiewicz Monument.
Cloth Hall with City Hall Tower on the right
The Cloth Hall is one of the city's most recognizable icons. It was once a major centre of international trade. Traveling merchants met there to discuss business and to barter. During its golden age in the 15th century, Sukiennice was the source of a variety of exotic imports from the East – spices, silk, leather and wax – while Kraków itself exported textiles, lead, and salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Church of St. Wojciech (St. Adalbert's Church)
St. Adalbert's Church is one of the oldest stone churches in Poland. Its almost one thousand year old history goes back to the beginning of the Polish Romanesque architecture of the early Middle Ages. Throughout the early history of Kraków the Church was a place of worship first visited by merchants travelling from across Europe. It was a place where citizens and nobility used to meet.
Adam Mickiewicz Monument
The statue of Adam Mickiewicz, the greatest Polish Romantic poet of the 19th century, was unveiled on June 16, 1898, on the 100th anniversary of his birth. In 1940 the Monument was destroyed by the Nazis following German invasion of Poland. It was not to be seen in the Square until its restoration in 1955. However, most of the figures were recovered from a Hamburg scrap metal heap in 1946, which allowed for restoring of the Monument's original appearance.
The influx of visitors from all over the world coming to explore the film locations convinced the Cracow authorities of the touristic interest of Kazimierz, encouraged its renovation and attracted investments such as the brand new Jewish Community Centre or the Galicia Jewish Museum.
Jagiellonian University in Krakow
The Jagiellonian University was established in 1364 by Casimir III the Great in Kraków. It is the oldest institution of higher education in Poland, the second oldest university in Central Europe and one of the oldest universities in Europe.
Lady with an Ermine is a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, from around 1489–1490. The subject of the portrait is identified as Cecilia Gallerani, and was probably painted at a time when she was the mistress of Lodovico Sforza, Duke of Milan and Leonardo was in the service of the Duke.
The painting is one of only four female portraits painted by Leonardo, the others being the Mona Lisa, the portrait of Ginevra de' Benci and La Belle Ferroniere. It is displayed by the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków.
Day 7: KRAKOW – SLOVAKIA – BUDAPEST (Breakfast/Hungarian Folklore Dinner)
Travel across the Tatra region to Slovakia for a short stop before heading to Budapest, capital of Hungary.
The Tatra region, constitute a mountain range which forms a natural border between Slovakia and Poland. They occupy an area of 750 km², the major part (600 km²) of which lies in Slovakia. The highest mountain is Gerlach at 2,655 m, located in Slovakia just north of Poprad. The north-western peak of Rysy (2,499 m) is the highest Polish mountain.
Slovakia (long form: The Slovak Republic) is a landlocked country in Central Europe with a population of over five million and an area of about 49,000 square kilometres. Slovakia borders the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south. The largest city is its capital, Bratislava.Slovakia is a high-income advanced economy with the fastest growth rates in the EU and OECD.
Budapest is the capital of Hungary, and with a population of 1.8 million citizens, it is by far the largest city in the country. The city is often referred to as the Paris of the east, and deserves this name.Budapest has a temperate continental climate. Seasons are usually well defined, with July and August the hottest months (28-30° C, 82-86° F) and December and January the coldest, when temperatures may fall to –15° C or just +5° F.You will discover that Hungarian art and architecture are a mix of Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Art Nouveau influences. Hungary’s rich musical background ranges from the rhapsodies of Franz Liszt and the operas of Ferenc Erkel to gypsy and folk music. Tonight, enjoy a traditional Hungarian folklore dinner.
Day 8: BUDAPEST (Breakfast/Lunch)
This morning, explore Budapest, the administrative, business and cultural centre of Hungary. The Castle District is the premier destination for visitors and contains some of Budapest's most important monuments and museums.
Towering a couple hundred feet above the Danube River, the Castle District in Budapest is a special place. Surrounded by gothic churches with stain glass, a visit to the Castle District is like stepping back into the renaissance. Situated in the Buda section of Budapest, the Castle District sits on the eastern side of the Danube. Positioned a couple hundred feet above the Danube, the entire city of Budapest can be seen from the numerous vantage points. The view is so amazing, the Italians coined a saying, “Europe has three gems – Venice on the water, Florence in the plains and Buda in the hills.” The Italians definitely got it right.
The main sights of the twin cities of Buda and Pest include Heroes' Square, Fisherman's Bastion and Gellert Hill, all of which offer panoramic views of the city.
From the towers and the terrace a panoramic view exists of Duna, Margaret Island, Pest to the east and the Gellért Hill. Its seven towers represent the seven Magyar tribes that settled in the Carpathian Basin in 896. The Bastion takes its name from the guild of fishermen that was responsible for defending this stretch of the city walls in the Middle Ages. It is a viewing terrace, with many stairs and walking paths.
Citadella, Citadel- BudapestAfter lunch, you can spend your time at leisure or take a stroll along Danube River.
The Danube is the longest river in the European Union and Europe's second longest river after the Volga. The river originates in the Black Forest in Germany as the much smaller Brigach and Breg rivers which join at the German town Donaueschingen, after which it is known as the Danube and flows eastwards for a distance of some 2850 km, passing through four Central and Eastern European capitals, before emptying into the Black Sea via the Danube Delta in Romania and Ukraine.
Known to history as one of the long-standing frontiers of the Roman Empire, the river flows through—or forms a part of the borders of—ten countries: Germany (7.5%), Austria (10.3%), Slovakia (5.8%), Hungary (11.7%), Croatia (4.5%), Serbia (10.3%), Romania (28.9%), Bulgaria (5.2%), Moldova (1.7%), and Ukraine (3.8%).
After crossing the border into Austria, you will arrive at the city of Vienna. Vienna represents the glorious legacy of the Habsburg dynasty, and during that time, the Habsburgs were great builders.Austria is a landlocked country of roughly 8.3 million people in Central Europe. Austria's terrain is highly mountainous due to the presence of the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 metres, and its highest point is 3,797 metres. The majority of the population, about 90% speaks German, which is also the country's official language. In the winter the mean Austria temperature for December has been recoreded to be on average in the range of -0.5 and 4.0 degrees celcius.Vienna is the capital of Austria. With a population of about 1.7 million, it is Austria's cultural, economic, and political centre.
Day 10: VIENNA – SINGAPORE (Breakfast/Meals on Board)
If time permits, you can do some last-minute shopping before you transfer to the airport for your flight home.
Day 11: ARRIVE IN SINGAPORE