See the best of Eastern Europe on this exciting Balkan adventure. Your vacation begins with three overnights in vibrant Bucharest, including an excursion to Transylvania to visit Dracula’s Bran Castle and the beautiful Sinaia Monastery in the breathtaking Carpathian Mountains. Enjoy guided sightseeing in each city, including inside visits of the National Art Museum in Bucharest, Patriarch’s Church in Veliko Târnovo, Arbanassi’s Ethnographical Museum and Church of the Nativity, the eclectic rock formations of Belogradchik, and Kalemegdan Fortress in Belgrade. Other highlights: visit the medieval fortress of Vidin, pass through the dramatic Iron Gates gorge, and enjoy an organ concert in Kalocsa. Your journey ends with two overnights in Hungary’s lively capital of Budapest, where you can shop for paprika at the Central Market Hall, explore the extensive hilltop castle grounds, visit the many churches and museums, and delight in the vibrant atmosphere.
Day #1 Arrive in Bucharest, Romania. Welcome to Bucharest! The remainder of the day is free to start exploring this fascinating capital city.
Day #2 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 #3 Bucharest. Welcome to Bucharest! Its wide boulevards and Arc de Triomphe have gained this city the name “Paris of the East.” (B)
Day #4 Bucharest–Oltenita (Embarkation). Much recent history has taken place in Romania’s capital city. During your included tour this morning, 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. A motorcoach ride takes you to Oltenita, where your river cruise vessel is docked. Before dinner, meet your crew at a welcome reception. (B,D)
Day #5 Rousse, Bulgaria. Excursion to Veliko Târnovo & Arbanassi. A comfortable ride from the river port of Rousse is the ancient Bulgarian capital of Veliko Tarnovo. 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 Svistov. (B,L,D)
Day #6 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 #7 Iron Gates. The Trajan Table marking the Roman conquest of Dacia and the Serbian fortresses of Golubac and Smederevo are impressive sights on the left 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 #8 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 cafes. (B,L,D)
Day #9 Pecs, Hungary–Kalocsa. Pecs is Hungary’s fifth-largest city and its richest in terms of Turkish architecture. Enjoy an orientation and some free time before proceeding to Kalocsa. Founded by St. Stephen in 1009 as an archbishopric, Kalocsa has a most turbulent history. This quiet town, which is best known for paprika and folklore art, is dominated by the Archbishop’s Palace and Kalocsa Cathedral, where you will be treated to an ORGAN CONCERT. (B,L,D)
Day #10 Budapest (Disembarkation). Eight bridges, including the famous Chain and Elisabeth Bridges, connect 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 a Local Guide will show you. This afternoon is free to explore on your own. Your Cruise Director will have suggestions for things to do. (B)
Day #11 Budapest. A free day to enjoy Hungary’s exciting capital. Shop for renowned peasant embroidery, Herend porcelain, and paprika. Your Cruise Director will have suggestions for many things to do. (B)
Day #12 Budapest. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)