See the best of Eastern Europe on this exhilarating Balkan adventure. Your vacation begins with two overnights in the lively Hungarian capital of Budapest. Board your ship and head south, enjoying guided sightseeing in each city, including inside visits of Kalemegdan Fortress in Belgrade, the eclectic rock formations of Belogradchik, Patriarch’s Church in Veliko Târnovo, Arbanassi’s Ethnographical Museum and Church of the Nativity, and the National Art Museum in Bucharest. Other highlights: an organ concert in Kalocsa, passing through the dramatic Iron Gates gorge, and a visit to Vidin’s medieval fortress. Your journey ends with three overnights in Bucharest, including an excursion to Transylvania to visit Dracula’s Bran Castle—built in 1377—and beautiful Sinaia Monastery in the breathtaking Carpathian Mountains.
Day #1 Arrive in Budapest, Hungary. Welcome to Budapest, Hungary’s lively capital. The remainder of the day is free to start exploring Eastern Europe’s most cosmopolitan metropolis.
Day #2 Budapest. Budapest straddles both banks of the Danube, with eight bridges, including the famous Chain and Elisabeth Bridges, connecting ancient Buda on the right bank with Pest on the left. The massive hilltop castle complex with Fishermen’s Bastion and the Matthias Church is among the many sights your Certified Local Guide will show you. Shop for renowned peasant embroidery, Herend porcelain, and paprika. (B)
Day #3 Budapest (Embarkation). The morning is free for you to explore on your own. This afternoon, board your river cruise vessel and meet your crew at a welcome reception. (B,D)
Day #4 Kalocsa–Pecs. Kalocsa was founded by St. Stephen in 1009 as an archbishopric and has a most turbulent history. This quiet town that is best known for paprika and folklore art is dominated by the Archbishop’s Palace and Kalocsa Cathedral. Here, enjoy an ORGAN CONCERT before continuing to Pecs, Hungary’s fifth-largest city and the richest in terms of Turkish architecture. (B,L,D)
Day #5 Belgrade, Serbia. The capital of Serbia is situated at the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers. A local expert will be proud to show you its main sights, which include the city’s principal landmark, KALEMEGDAN FORTRESS; St. Sava, the world’s largest Orthodox church; and Marshal Tito’s tomb and monument. The city center has a lively pedestrian area and charming outdoor cafés. (B,L,D)
Day #6 Iron Gates. The Serbian fortresses of Smederevo and Golubac and the Trajan Table marking the Roman conquest of Dacia are impressive sights on the right bank of the Danube. The most spectacular scenery must surely be the dramatic gorge of the IRON GATES, a narrow and formerly very dangerous passage dividing Europe’s Alps in the northwest from the Carpathians in the southeast and forming a natural border between Serbia and Romania. (B,L,D)
Day #7 Vidin, Bulgaria. Excursion to Belogradchik. Vidin is an important Danube port, situated in northwestern Bulgaria. Its medieval FORTRESS, known as “Baba Vidin,” is the town’s primary landmark. It served as Vidin’s main defensive installation during the course of the Middle Ages and is the only entirely preserved medieval fortress in the country. It is now a fortress museum and has been restored to its former appearance. In the afternoon, drive to nearby Belogradchik to view the eclectic group of ROCK FORMATIONS on the western slopes of the Balkan Mountains. (B,L,D)
Day #8 Svistov–Excursion to Veliko Târnovo & Arbanassi–Rousse. A comfortable ride from the river port of Svistov is the ancient Bulgarian capital of Veliko Târnovo. Situated on three hills surrounding the Yantra River, the city was a natural fortress with ancient stone houses clinging to the steep slopes. The oldest part is Tsarevets Hill, home of the Royal Fortress, palaces, and the PATRIARCH’S CHURCH. The historic village of Arbanassi is best known for its ETHNOGRAPHICAL MUSEUM and the outstanding collection of frescoes in the CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY. Rejoin your ship in Rousse, Bulgaria’s largest inland port. (B,L,D)
Day #9 Oltenita, Romania (Disembarkation)–Bucharest. Bucharest, Romania’s lively capital, is only a short drive from Oltenita. Its wide boulevards and Arc de Triomphe have gained it the name “Paris of the East.” Much recent history has taken place in the city. During the included tour this afternoon, see the impressive Parliament Building, the second-largest building in the world after the Pentagon. The Royal Palace Square was the scene of riots in 1989, which led to the collapse of the communist dictatorship. The former Royal Palace now houses the NATIONAL ART MUSEUM. (B)
Day #10 Bucharest. Excursion to Transylvania. Head out of the city to your first stop, BRAN CASTLE of Dracula fame, built in 1377 and assumed to be the home of Romanian vampires. Then, into the Carpathians to SINAIA to visit the monastery of the same name, built in memory of Mihail Cantacuzino’s visit to Mount Sinai. This afternoon, head slowly back to Bucharest. (B,L)
Day #11 Bucharest. A day to rest and explore Romania’s capital city. Your Cruise Director will have suggestions for things to do. (B)
Day #12 Bucharest. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)