Vacation in Central Europe – Part 1
5 Countries, One Ship – Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Slovakia & Hungary
Voiced by Santa Barbara Travel’s Marketing Manager, Cynthia:
Considering a visit to Central Europe? Why not a river cruise where one can see some of our world’s most historic sites. Buildings dating back to the early middle ages and towns that speak a thousand stories. My husband and I decided to take a 7-night AMAWaterways river cruise down the Danube from Vilshofen, Germany to Budapest, Hungary.
Prior to the cruise, we decided to tour Prague in the Czech Republic on our own. We stayed at the Augustine Hotel, a Luxury Collection hotel that was originally built as a monastery in 1284 AD. The eclectic hotel decorated with hints of Czech Cubism is ideally located in the quiet Malá Strana neighborhood, just below the magnificent Prague Castle and less than a 10 minute walk to the famous Charles Bridge. Most of the monastery was converted to a luxurious hotel, however 4 monks still keep residence on the property. Our room was located at the front of the hotel. If you keep the windows open you can hear the electric street car; however the windows are triple-pane glass and when closed, you can enjoy a good night’s sleep. (Some rooms have a view of Prague Castle or the inside courtyard/sundial garden). The king-sized bed was very comfortable and the bathroom was enormous and luxurious. The marble bathroom had heated floors and heated towel racks (we had three), plus a large soaking tub . . . a perfect solution for a day’s end of cobblestone walking. The hotel sales manager, Pavla gave us the grand tour of the hotel, including other rooms and suites, the downstairs multi-function room (once the monk’s private brewery) is used for private events and receptions, and the hotel’s hip “Refectory” bar offers the delicious St. Thomas Beer (this beer can only be purchased at the Augustine and is a must for beer lovers). Next door, just on the other side of the bar’s wall is the beautiful and ornate St. Thomas Church, part of the Augustinian monastery. The ceiling frescoes are beautiful!
The restaurant is managed by Czech celebrity chef, Executive Chef Marek Fichtner. The daily breakfast buffet was amazingly delicious with the freshest of ingredients. We also enjoyed a relaxing lunch on the outdoor patio overlooking their small garden of herbs. Check out my mango salad.
Charles Bridge – Spend the day and evening on the historic Charles Bridge, crossing the Vltava river, commissioned by King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, to connect Prague Castle to the city’s Old Town. Enjoy spectacular views of the fully lit Prague Castle in the evening and the Baroque statues that line the pedestrian walkway during the day. The bridge towers on each end of the bridge also offer great views of the river and city.
Here are some of our highlights:
Prague Castle –
- Take either a guided tour or self-guided with audio or map. Tickets can be purchased right at the castle if not during peak tourist season; otherwise book with the hotel concierge. Be sure to visit St Vitus’s Cathedral and see the impressive tomb of St John Nepomuk made of 2 tons of silver; the architecture of the Old Royal Palace; and “Golden Lane” a narrow street of archer homes who defended the castle. If weather permits, take the trail through the vineyards down to the main street – a 15 minute stroll downhill, unless you decide to stop at the different wine stops. And if you decide to walk, visit the marvelous Wallenstein Garden at the bottom of the hill – A baroque style palace that is now the House of the Senate with a brilliantly landscaped garden that includes an artificial grotto with stalactites.
Old Town – Every morning at 10am (double-check with the Tourist Office in the square) – free tours are given in the Town Square
- Old Town Square – Jan Hus Memorial
- Astronomical Clock/ Old Town Hall
- National Gallery
- Municipal House is a famous Art Nouveau building and home to one of Prague’s finest concert halls. We attended a concert performing Mozart and Vivaldi, plus opera in the grand Smetana Hall. You will pay quite a bit less than you would for a similar concert in Vienna. Perhaps when you visit Prague, you may hear the music of one of Bohemia’s most famous composers, Antonin Dvorak, who was born very close to Prague.
Old Town Prague
New Town – Wenceslas Square for shopping.
- National Theatre- Famous Opera House
Visit Café Louvre for coffee and pastries (also opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner). Built over 100 years ago, this café has been a gathering place for the town’s luminaries, such as Franz Kafka, Albert Einstein, and Czech/German intellectuals.
And of course try a Trdelník, a snack sold throughout the Czech Republic and Hungary – pastry dough wrapped around a metal rod is dusted with sugar, spice and nuts, and then grilled over an open-flame. Some shops sell them filled with ice-cream or Nutella.
AmaWaterways River Cruise and Budapest experience coming shortly – Part 2 and Part 3.
For more information, please contact Erin Zetter or Tina Slimp:
Erin Zetter, Leisure Travel Advisor
Phone: (805) 869-1140
Tina Slimp, Leisure Travel Advisor
Phone: (805) 869-1112