Posts Tagged ‘eastern europe’

The Everlasting City: Prague

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010
Old Town Prague, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992

Old Town Prague, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992

It has survived two World Wars and a Cold War. It has lasted through centuries of religious change and transition between Catholics, Protestants and Jews. It’s also the home of the oldest university in central Europe.

It is Prague—now the sixth most visited European city behind London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, and Berlin.

The city, situated in the Bohemian region of the Czech Republic, is believed to have originated as early as 200 B.C. when the Celts created a settlement in the area. By 973 A.D., Prague became the home of Dukes and Kings of Bohemia and an economic center attracting a diverse group a merchants from the region, including an increased number of Jews. In Prague, you can still visit Europe’s oldest active synagogue, built in 1270.

The population and diversity of the city has fluctuated greatly over time, while facing issues like the plague, which killed thousands of people at a time. After recovering from its final outbreak with the contagious disease in the late 17th century, the population rebounded to 80,000 inhabitants in 1771. Over time, the economy of the area grew with industry, and the population stood at 100,000 by 1837. By 1930, the population expanded to 850,000 people, but shrank during World War II, when Jews fled the Nazi invasion of what was then called Czechoslovakia. Today, the Prague is home to over 1.3 million people and is a top tourist destination.

What is your favorite site in Prague? Old Town Square? Charles Bridge? Or is it Prague Castle? Share below.

Prague is one of the many cities you’ll visit on our Old World Europe tour, including Vienna, Warsaw, and Krakow.

Video: Was Dracula a woman?

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

It’s not often that vampires and women’s issues mix, but our Halloween video manages somehow. After all these years, it turns out that Dracula might have been a woman. Check out a sneak peek from the  Smithsonian Channel, of their Vampire Princess program.

We promise you won’t meet any vampires when you travel with us! Click for our newest sales and specials.

What are you going to be for Halloween? Share below.

Lured by Eastern Europe

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Dr. Ursula Rehn Wolfman is a perennially popular Smithsonian Journeys Study Leader. An adjunct professor at Georgetown University, her field of study is the relationship between literature, painting and sculpture, architecture, and music. Here, Dr. Wolfman will introduce you to Eastern Europe, destination of her next tour. Click here for more information on Ursula and travelling with her.

Prague Castle on the Charles River

Prague Castle above the Charles River

A journey through Eastern Europe takes you along ancient trade routes which have existed since prehistoric times, linking the Baltic region to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. The great powers of Europe — Prussia, Austria, Russia and France –have clashed here throughout history, altering borders by changing allegiances, devastating cities and countryside well into the 20th century. With the fall of the Communist system and the rebuilding and restoration of the many cities on our tour, we can experience their past glory, magnificent architecture and extraordinary art collections.

This entire region has nurtured some of the greatest of European arts, architecture, music and literature: having traveled extensively in these countries, I am passionate about sharing my fascination with its many riches.

These cities and landscapes evoke many musical and visual memories – whether it is sitting in St. Katjan, a baroque Church below the Hradčany, Prague’s Castle Hill, listening to a concert on a baroque organ and trumpet with the sounds soaring into the painted heavens, or wandering through the romantic gardens of Zelazowa Wola, Chopin’s Birthplace outside Warsaw, with one of his haunting Nocturnes drifting from the concert hall.

In Krakow resides one of my favorite paintings, Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Lady with an Ermine’ in the Czartoryski Museum, and in Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum the wonderful ‘Brueghel room’, in the extraordinary collections of the Habsburgs.

The Old World coffee house culture is very much alive in Krakow, Budapest and Prague, with many coffee houses retaining their Fin-de- Siècle atmosphere and authentic Art Nouveau furniture and decorations. In Vienna, at Zuckerbäcker Demel’s, one of the 19th century coffee houses, people share an ‘Apfelstrudel mit Schlag and a Grosser Brauner’, watching elegant Viennese walk by.

Where is your favorie cafe? Share below.

Click here for travel to Eastern Europe.

An Interview with a Group Travel Expert

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

MaryBeth Mullen is Deputy Director for Smithsonian Journeys. Here, she interviews David Parry about why he loves to travel and his favorite destinations.

David T. Parry is Chairman of Academic Travel Abroad, Inc., an international tour company and study abroad provider. David and his staff have worked with the non-profit community to create cultural travel programs throughout the world, pioneering travel programs to Russia in the 1970′s and to China in the 1980’s. Click here to learn more about David and traveling with him.

MaryBeth Mullen: How many group tours have you accompanied?

A group of Journeys Alpine hikers on a David Parry tour. Photo: David Parry

A group of Journeys Alpine hikers on a David Parry tour. Photo: David Parry

David Parry: I have been leading the Smithsonian Alpine hiking group each summer for the past 20+ years. But other than that I have left the leadership to our team of talented tour managers; they have the patience and energy one needs!

MBM: What is your favorite destination?
DP: There are too many to have just one. From the 1970′s up until 2000 I visited the Soviet Union, now Russia, as well as Eastern Europe, several times a year. Certainly Central Asia, and especially Uzbekistan with its historic caravan cities, is a fond memory. But I also treasure out-of-the way places in Central Europemost recently Eastern Slovakia and the Baroque towns of Kezmarok and Levoca. And Susan (my wife) and I have always treasured our travels in North America and are currently planning to go back to the shores of Lake Superior where we visited two years ago. The Wind River Mountains of Wyoming aren’t bad either! But of course, year after year I end up somewhere in the Alps where there is always just one more mountain or trail.

MBM: What is one key benefit of group travel that you value?
DP: Access. A well designed tour gets one into places that you can’t do on your own or takes you to out-of-way parts of the world. The fellowship of the other travelers often adds to the pleasure.

MBM: Where are you going next?
DP: After the Smithsonian hike in the Dolomites (incidentally, some of the most stunning mountain peaks in the world), Susan and I are going to the Apostle Islands on the south shore of Lake Superior followed by the annual meeting of the National Railroad Historical Society, where we will ride steam trains all over the Mesabi Range.

Whether you are interested in hiking, biking, or adventure cruising, we have plenty of active tours with space still available this summer. Click above for more info.

What’s your favorite outdoor travel experience? Why do you like to travel with a group? Comment below or click here to share your story.