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Best of Eastern Europe

Grand Circle Tour

Berlin to Budapest

November 8 - 30, 2004

My last foreign sojourn of 2004 was to Eastern Europe.  I must confess that I learned a lot about travel to Europe and its weather during my trips in October and November.  Europe has lousy weather which includes rain, snow and cold temperatures.  For those conditions, I could have stayed home in Owego!

But putting these travel conditions aside, I had a very good trip and saw many interesting places.  One nice feature of the trip was that we stayed at least 4 nights in each city.  That allowed me the chance to seen and visit many sights at each city. We has many side trip available which added additional insights to our learning and discovery experiences.  I had elected to take the pre-trip extension to Berlin.  This was one of my priorities in this trip as I had not been to Berlin before. 

The first morning in Berlin before a city tour.  My suitcase for the third time in a row stayed behind.  It caught up with me on day 2 of the tour.

In front of the Brandenburg Gate.

This row of bricks marks the location of the Berlin Wall.

Standing in front of one of the sections of Berlin Wall left in place.  As you can see it has been well decorated since its down fall.

Bullet marks left over from World War II.

Berlin Cathedral, built from 1893 - 1905.

Communist government building, now empty and may be razed.

 

A large Christmas tree at the Sony Center shopping mall.  The mall was just like ours in the states.

An outdoor ski hill for snow boarders outside the Sony Center. 

I am at the Palace that served as the site for the famous World War II Potsdam conference.  The participants were Churchill, Stalin and Truman.  They decided the fate of Europe and Germany at this conference.  It was interesting to learn about the maneuvering that occurred between the big three as the made important decisions about the future of Europe. 

I am standing near the dome at the top of the Reichstag.  It was cold, windy and foggy this morning, so I was able to not take many pictures of this building that was reconstructed after the war.

A new memorial to the Holocaust victims, that is under construction in downtown Berlin.

I had the opportunity to visit many museums while in Berlin.  They were excellent in their presentations.  The Berlin Museum, Pergamom Museum and Berliner Gallery are a do not miss collections.

Off to Warsaw on a cold Sunday morning.  We left at 6:30 a.m. by train.  It was fun to cruise through the countryside of Germany and Poland. 

I am standing in front of a statute Chopin in Lazienki Park where the group tour photo was taken.

The Royal Castle in Old Town Warsaw. 

A gold covered Mime in the Old Town area.

A view of the fortification near the New Town Gate.  It was built around 1548 and is the youngest element of the town's fortifications.

The Church of Our Queen of the Polish Crown built in 1660-1682.  At present the church is the Field Cathedral of the Polish Armed Forces and the seat of the Chaplain General.

The monument to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.  It portrays freedom fighters defending a barricade and descending into the sewers.

The Ghetto Heroes' Memorial.  It is erected on the site of clashes between Jewish freedom-fighters and Nazi Germans during the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

On the second floor, left of this building was the apartment of Chopin.  My friend Doc Moore insisted we visit Chopin's apartment.  We had an amusing tour of the one room museum where Chopin lived by a Polish tour guide who could not speak but a little English.  His characterizations were priceless.

One evening we had a Chopin Recital at a rural farm that had created a concert hall for recitals.  It was a very enjoyable evening.

This is a monument to Mikolaj Kopernik in front of the Staszic Palace.

Monument to the Primate of the Millennium, Stefan Wyszynski, in front of the Church of the Visitation Sisters.

Note the walking beer can advertisement in front of the building.  Polish beer was quite good.

The Capuchin Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph was built in 1661-1682.

I am closing out my visit to Warsaw, with a picture of the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  The tomb is located amid the Saxon Palace arcades that were destroyed during World War II.

We bussed to Krakow on a rainy day.  We had a stop at Czestochowa lunch.  After lunch we visited the 14th-century Jasna Gora Monastery. This is the location of the legendary "Black Madonna".  We were shown the Madonna during our Cathedral tour.

This is the entrance to the Monastery.

The sun came out as we left the monastery. 

The next morning we started out for our bus ride city tour.  It was cold and rainy.  After we had traveled a short distance, the fan belt broke on the bus, so we became a walking tour.  This is a picture of Wawel Hill for many years the abode of Polish Princes and Kings.

Wawel Cathedral

The courtyard of the Royal Castle on Wawel Hill.

 

The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in downtown Krakow.

On our third day in Krakow we traveled to Oswiecim or Auschwitz.  I was somewhat concerned about visiting this notorious Nazi prison camp.  I turned out to be a very moving experience.  I cannot understand how one group of people can treat another group with such inhumanity.

Pictured above is the road leading to the camp.

The rail spur where prisoners arrived at the camp.  They often went directly to their deaths.  This site was at Birkenau often referred to as Auschwitz II.

The main gate to the buildings where the prisoners were housed.  The words over the gate mean "Work Brings Freedom" which was a cruel hoax on the prisoners.

The killing wall where prisoners were shot to death.

Electric fences with guard towers at every corner.

Ovens in the crematorium.

One of several crematoriums at Auschwitz.  This stop was one of 40 satellite camps built around Auschwitz.  Our bus ride back to Krakow was very quiet.

The Dominican Church in downtown Krakow.

The main square of Krakow.  The yellow building on the right is the Cloth-Hall.  It was full of small stands selling handy crafts of Poland.  The tower on the left is the Hall Tower.

Krakow was a neat city and easy to get around without using busses or trams.  One evening, I attended a concert of the Krakow Symphony.  It was a most delightful evening.

The morning we left Krakow we were greeted with fresh snow on the ground. 

On to Prague!

Our first morning in Prague, I was greeted by a beautiful sunrise.

The Estates Theatre, the first theatre to be built in the Bohemian capital.  The Mozart opera Don Giovanni was debuted here on October 29, 1787.

The Old Town, Astronomical Clock.  This was a favorite place to be on the hour when the clock chimed and figures appeared.  This was my second visit to Prague.  I was here last June and took many pictures at that time.

I am pictured with Agnes our tour guide in the Old Town Square.  She was a terrific tour guide with excellent knowledge of the various stops we made on the trip. 

The Church of St. Nicholas in Stare Mesto in the Old Town Square.

On afternoon we ventured to the village of Vysoka u Pribrami.  We visited Villa Rusalka, the home of Antonin Dvorak's brother-in-law where there was a museum devoted to the life of Dvorak.  As you can se it was a snowy adventure.

This is the living room of the old granary that Dvorak purchased from his brother-in-law.  Dvorak used this building to compose his many musical works. It was primarily a summer residence. 

Our tour of the Granary was conducted by our host, Antonin Dvorak III, grandson of the composer.  He was a very interesting and gracious host.

Strahov Monastery, the Church of Our Lady.

The front of Czemin Palace, the seat of Czech government.

There are two workmen up on a building roof replacing roofing tile on a cold snowy day.  It had to be very slippery.

Changing of the guard in the snow at Prague Palace.

A last look at Prague Palace.

In the late on the afternoon after our Prague Palace tour, we ventured out of the city to have a tour and dinner at Sychrov Castle.  This tour took us around the various rooms of the castle built by the Rohan family.  The castle was untouched by World War II.

This evening, I attended a Czech National Symphony concert at the Smetana Hall of the National Theatre. It was a stellar performance featuring the large house organ of the hall.

A last photo of downtown Prague.  This was taken in Town Square with the Church of Our Lady of Tyn behind buildings that house stores.

We are traveling by bus to Budapest.  It is a rare sunny day.  We stopped in Bratislava for lunch.  This is a shot of Bratislava Castle above the city. 

Welcome to Budapest,  I have been on the tour two and half weeks.  This is our last stop before flying home.

On our first full day in Budapest, we started out with the traditional city bus tour.  This make believe castle was built in 1894 for the Millenary Celebration.

Kids were ice skating on this large rink near heroes' square.

Two large monuments and column with Archangel Gabriel on top dominate the heroes' Square area.

The Holy Trinity Column near Matthias Church on the Buda side of the Danube River.

The Fisherman's Bastion with St. Stephen's statue.  This area was s destroyed during World War II and has been completely rebuilt.

A beautiful cold day with Budapest in the background.

 

 

On day sixteen, we boarded a River cruiser to sail from Budapest to Danube Bend.  It was a cool morning with a little hint of sunshine later in the morning.  This is one of the many picturesque bridges over the Danube River. 

After disembarking the River cruiser, we toured a village where we were able to shop in small local stores and sightsee.  This is one of the several churches in the village of Szentendre also know as St. Andrew. 

After the village stop we ventured on to a jewelry factory in another town which specialized in gold and diamonds.  It was very rich for my purchasing interest.  We then rode to the bluff overlooking the great Knee of the Danube River.  An awesome sight!  We could see the 15th century castle ruins that were the home of the beloved King Matthias Corvinus.  Then we then bussed to Visegard on the River we had a medieval supper which was an interesting meal.  After our late afternoon meal, we toured the Roman settlement of Aquincum that is shown in the above picture.  The settlement was in a state of various reconstruction following the original plans.

For the last two days in Budapest, we had an open schedule so I did sightseeing in this beautiful city.  Above is the west train station.  The station is to the left and in the rear of the photo.  The building in the middle is a very upscale McDonald's like ours at home.

The Budapest Opera House.  It was opened in 1884.

One of the statues in front of the Opera House.

I am going to close out my photo essay of my trip to Eastern Europe with a photo of St. Steven's Basilica in downtown Budapest.  This was a beautiful structure inside and out.

My trip was very good except for traveling in November weather.  I have learned to

enjoy Europe by traveling in summer months.