Baltics and Beyond

Tour Cost ($AUD): $16,450.00

Tour Dates: 28 August 2017 - 25 September 2017

Single Supplement ($AUD): $3,400.00

Tour Duration: 29 days

Entering the Baltics from the sea is a breathtaking way to plunge into this unexplored pocket of Europe. Our 29-day tour is a heady mix of natural beauty, remarkable architecture and diverse cultures as we travel through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and Poland.

Our tour begins with a comfortable overnight ferry journey from Stockholm to Estonia, the starting point for our Baltic adventure. Embarking on a new era of independence, the people of the Baltics are warm and open-hearted. We cross a region rich in architecture dating back to the Middle Ages that is today forging its way back into Europe. Leaving the Baltics we cross into Belarus. Still steeped in Soviet traditions, the country is a wonderful time capsule which transports us back into the USSR. From here we enter Poland and the unspoilt nature reserve known as the Polish Lake District. Here thousands of lakes shimmer in the shadow of majestic forests. These forests are also home to the sinister ‘Wolf’s Lair’ – Hitler’s first eastern front military headquarters. This large complex, which boasted more than 80 buildings, a runway and a railway station, was Hitler’s base for more than three years and was the site of the ill-fated attempt on his life. A visit to the derelict bunker complex is a must-see for anyone with a passing interest in modern history. We then move to Gdansk, the great shipyard town that is home to Lech Walesa and the birthplace of the Solidarity movement. Travelling south we reach the delightful city of Wroclaw, the capital of Lower Silesia, before heading to the architectural wonder that is Krakow. Finally we move on to the Polish capital, Warsaw, at the end of our momentous tour.  Baltics and Beyond is an amazing journey into ancient cultures and traditions, and open-hearted hospitality.

Tour Fitness Level: Active

Estonia

  • Stroll through the cobbled streets of Tallinn
  • View the astonishing defensive fortifications of Tallinn from Patkul lookout

Latvia

  • Visit Latvia’s beautiful Gauja National Park
  • Walk through the amazing art nouveau city of Riga
  • Experience an organ concert in Riga’s world famous Dome Cathedral
  • Marvel at the Baroque and Rococo architecture of Rundale Palace

Lithuania

  • See Vilnius from above in a hot air balloon
  • Walk amongst the Gothic and Renaissance architecture of Vilnius
  • Visit Napoleon’s house in Kaunas where he resided in 1812
  • Enjoy a boat ride to the island castle of Trakai

Belarus

  • Travel across one of the last Soviet-style borders in the world
  • Explore Minsk, a masterpiece of Soviet planning
  • Delve into the defensive fortification of the ‘Stalin Line’, the Maginot Line of the east

Poland

  • Enjoy a three-night stay at the Masurian Lake District, one of the last unspoilt wildernesses in Europe
  • Visit to ‘The Wolf’s Lair’, Hitler’s hidden bunker-city deep in the Masurian forests
  • Two-night stay in Gdansk, the city where the first shots of the second world war were fired
  • Visit the world-famous Gdansk shipyard where Lech Walesa’s Solidarity movement was born
  • Stroll through Krakow’s wonderful centuries-old Market Square
  • Full-day visit to Auschwitz concentration camp
  • Exclusive Chopin piano recital in Warsaw

Inclusions

  • All flights between Australia and Europe/Europe and Australia
  • All accommodation (twin-share)
  • All transfers
  • All meals as specified
  • Travel Directors tour leader throughout
  • Expert local guides throughout
  • All entrance fees for specified sightseeing
  • All ticketable air taxes (NB. may be subject to change)
  • All visas and courier fees
  • All tips and gratuities

Please note that whilst every effort will be made to adhere to the above pricing, currency fluctuations beyond our control can affect final costs. A booking form is to be completed by all passengers, and a non-refundable deposit of AUD $3,000 per person paid at the time of booking. All escorted tours are based on a minimum group size of 10 people travelling.

28/08/2017 Australia – Dubai

Depart from your chosen Australian airport on the flight to Dubai.

29/08/2017 Dubai – Stockholm (D)

Depart Dubai, Emirates EK 157, 08.00

Arrive Stockholm 12.30

On arrival in Stockholm we transfer to our hotel.

First Reisen Hotel

Stockholm

30/08/2017 Stockholm – Tallinn (BLD)

Today we enjoy a walking tour of the old area of Stockholm, known as Gamla Stan. This is where the city was founded in 1252, and is a fine example of a medieval city centre. Late afternoon we transfer to the docks for our overnight ferry journey to Tallinn.

Depart Stockholm Tallink Ferries, 17.45

31/08/2017 Tallinn (BLD)

Arrive Tallinn 10.45

Situated on the Gulf of Finland and dating back to the 10th century, Tallinn is the oldest capital in Northern Europe. In 2011 it was named European Capital of Culture and is one of the most beguiling walled cities in Europe. Its maze of cobbled streets, looming spires and brooding battlements conspire to create a Gothic masterpiece. On arrival in Tallinn we start to explore this ancient city starting with the open-air museum Rocco Al Mare. Later we explore Kadriorg Palace, built for Catherine the 1st of Russia by Peter the Great.

Telegraaf Hotel

Tallinn

01/09/2017 Tallinn (BLD)

Today we continue to explore the city. More than a mile of the original city wall remains, showcasing medieval fortifications and 26 defensive towers. We visit the Patkul lookout point where the fairy-tale views entrance the visitor. From here we explore the labyrinth of lanes that make up the heart of the old city.

02/09/2017 Tallinn – Riga (BLD)

Heading south to Latvia, we stop en-route at the beautiful Gauja National Park and visit the magnificent medieval Turaida Castle. Here we experience the scent of the middle ages where legends, castles, sandstone grottos and heroic figures span some eight hundred years. We then skirt the Riga Bay before reaching the Latvian capital.

Radisson Ridenze Hotel

Riga

03/09/2017 Riga (BLD)

After breakfast we begin a walking tour of Riga. The beating heart of the Baltics is situated at the mouth of the Daugava River and has an ancient history and rich cultural heritage as a result of its location at a juncture of trading routes. A UNESCO World Heritage city, Riga boasts one of the largest collections of art nouveau buildings in the world. In fact the entire history of Riga from 1201 to the present day is evident.

04/09/2017 Riga – Jurmala – Riga (BLD)

Today we board a boat and travel up the Lielupe River to the spa resort town of Jurmala. The town itself is especially interesting because of its architecture and tranquil setting. It is renowned for its wooden houses in various interesting styles, quiet green streets, age-old trees, endless sand dunes, and mineral springs. After lunch we return to Riga by bus.

05/09/2017 Riga – Vilnius (BLD)

Leaving Riga we head south to the fertile Zemgale Plains. Here we visit Rundale Palace – perhaps the most outstanding monument of Baroque and Rococo architecture in the Baltics. Built between 1736 and 1740 as a summer residence, it was designed by the famous Russian court architect Francesco Rastrelli and built under his supervision. After lunch we visit the Hill of Crosses before crossing the border into Lithuania. We reach the capital, Vilnius, by early evening.

Kempinski Hotel

Vilnius

06/09/2017 Vilnius (BLD)

Immediately south of Cathedral Square lies Old Town, which has developed over the course of many centuries and is where the first period of growth in Vilnius took place. Today it is an eclectic mix of Baroque, Gothic, Neoclassical and Renaissance architecture with many Soviet-era masterpieces. The Old Town of Vilnius is one of the largest surviving medieval old towns in Northern Europe with an area of more than 3.5 sq km and gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 1994. In the morning we enjoy a walking tour of the city and later visit the KGB Museum.

07/09/2017 Vilnius – Trakai – Vilnius (BLD)

Today we drive to the ancient capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Trakai. Here we visit the 15th century Trakai Castle. Located on an island, the castle houses a museum of local history and has a vast collection of object d’art including furniture, ceramics and snuff boxes.

08/09/2017 Vilnius – Minsk (BLD)

After breakfast we leave Vilnius and travel to Minsk, capital of Belarus. As we leave the Baltics we cross into one of the last Soviet-style countries in the world. A small country in Eastern Europe, Belarus has a rich and controversial history and is home to some of the most hospitable and open-hearted people in the world. In the afternoon we enjoy a city tour of Minsk including the metro.

Hotel Europe

Minsk

09/09/2017 Minsk (BLD)

On the eve of the Second World War, Stalin ordered a network of defensive fortifications to be built along the western border of the USSR, from the Baltic to the Black Sea. It included 23 fortified zones – four of them in Belarus. The concept and design of the network mirrors the Maginot line in France and became known as the ‘Stalin Line’. In June 2005, a precise reconstruction of a section of the Stalin Line was unveiled 35km from Minsk. Complete with trenches, anti-tank obstacles and ditches, tanks, anti-aircraft personnel and machine-gun pillboxes, the Stalin Line is a fascinating walk back into history. After breakfast we head out for a full-day excursion to the Stalin Line.

10/09/2017 Minsk (BL)

Today we head out of Minsk to the rural area of Lolua, where we enjoy a walking tour through the village and forests. After a BBQ lunch we enjoy a relaxing afternoon before returning to Minsk.

11/09/2017 Minsk – Masurian Lake District (BLD)

This morning we leave Minsk and travel to the Belarus/Poland border, heading for the magnificent lake district of Northern Poland.

Zamek Hotel

Ryn

12/09/2017 Masurian Lake District (BLD)

The lake region of Masuria has more than 2,000 lakes which are surrounded by huge forests and dotted with beautiful historic towns. It is a paradise for nature lovers and hikers. Many of the lakes are connected with each other by rivers and canals. A sparsely-inhabited region, the area is the most famous Lake District in central Europe. The Masurian region has a great variety of wildlife, edible berries and mushrooms, and is a breeding area for European Bison. Today we explore the beautiful lake area by boat as we cruise through canals and narrow channels. This area, which was once part of Prussia is now one of the last pockets of unspoilt wilderness in Europe.

13/09/2017 Masurian Lake District – Lidzbark Warminski (BLD)

This morning we head out into the heart of the Masurian forest and the ruins of Adolf Hitler’s eastern headquarters. Known as the Wolf’s Lair, it is a hidden town comprising of 200 building shelters, barracks, 2 airports, a power station, a railway station, water supplies and heat generating plants. In 1944, 2000 people lived here and this was the place of the failed assassination attempt on Hitler. All decisions were made here concerning the use of prisoners in the German armaments industry and about the construction of concentration camps. Among those who resided and worked here were Adolf Hitler, Herman Goring, Heinrich Himmler, Martin Bormann, Joseph Goebbels and Albert Speer. After lunch we drive onto Lidzbark Warminski for our overnight stay.

Hotel Krasieki

Lidzbark Warminski

14/09/2017 Lidzbark Warminski – Gdansk (BLD)

Leaving the Lake District behind we head west to the Baltic city of Gdansk. Dating back to 997, Gdansk is where the first shots of the Second World War were fired. In the early hours of 1 September 1939 the battleship Schleswig-Holstein carried out an assault on the Westerplatte peninsular in the harbour of Gdansk – known in German as Danzig. The conflict and the fierce struggle for liberation left Gdansk completely devastated. It took almost twenty years of reconstruction before Gdansk regained its former splendour and once again became the biggest Baltic port. By the 1980s the city again came under the world’s spotlight, as the birthplace of the Solidarity movement led by Lech Walesa. Subsequent events here transformed the map of Europe as history turned full circle.

Hanza Hotel

Gdansk

15/09/2017 Gdansk (BLD)

Gdansk, with a population of more than 500,000, is a vibrant city and is deservedly referred to as the ‘Pearl of the North’ having a rich and magnificent architecture. It is also Poland’s principal seaport and a popular summer destination for many Poles and international tourists. After breakfast we explore Gdansk beginning with a walk down Long Street and past the magnificent Artus Court and onto Neptune’s fountain.

16/09/2017 Gdansk – Torun – Wroclaw (BLD)

Cutting across Poland we head to the south of the country and the delightful city of Wroclaw. En-route we stop at Torun. A UNESCO town, Torun has the greatest number of retained, authentic Gothic monuments in Europe. Its medieval centre is a stunning reminder of Poland’s antiquity.

Sofitel Wroclaw Hotel

Wroclaw

17/09/2017 Wroclaw (BLD)

Wroclaw is, in many ways, an undiscovered gem in Lower Silesia. Today we embark on a walking tour of the city and see fascinating architecture, many rivers and bridges and feel a lively and metropolitan cultural centre. Prior to the Second World War, Wroclaw was the capital of the German province of Prussian Lower Silesia. It was annexed by Poland when, after the war, the Soviets moved the German/Polish border westward to the Oder/Neisse Line. Wroclaw was almost completely destroyed during the end of the war as the Red Army fought its way into Germany towards Berlin, being declared a ‘Fortress City’ by Hitler. Today the city has been wonderfully restored and is, in many ways, one of the highlights of Central Europe.

18/09/2017 Wroclaw – Auschwitz – Krakow (BLD)

After breakfast we bid farewell to Wroclaw and begin our journey towards Krakow. En route, some 70km from Krakow, we visit what was the largest Nazi concentration camp formed from an army barracks during the Second World War. More than 1.1 million people died here – more than the entire combined losses of British and American soldiers. A visit here is a moving experience as we walk through prison blocks and see the gas chambers and crematorium before climbing to the top of the watch tower. After our visit we continue south to the old capital of Poland and seat of Polish Kings – Krakow.

Hotel Grand

Krakow

19/09/2017 Krakow (BLD)

Krakow is a city that is filled with history and architectural wonders from different epochs and throughout its long history has attracted scholars and artists from all over the world. One of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Krakow has arguably the best-preserved medieval centre on the continent and the layout of the Old Town has not changed for centuries. In the morning we visit the pedestrianised Old Town. A cavalcade of churches and palaces, at its heart is one of the largest city squares in Europe known as Market Square. After lunch we have free time to explore the city on our own.

20/09/2017 Krakow (BLD)

This morning we visit Kazimierz, the historic Jewish Quarter of Old Krakow. Strolling old narrow streets, we can still feel the unique atmosphere of the Jewish past in this area. In March 1941, the German War Administration forced all Krakow Jews to resettle in this newly created ghetto area. In recent years it has been revived and is now a bustling suburb with fashionable shops and busy cafes, restaurants and nightlife. Early this evening we will travel to the town of Wielczka where the oldest salt mine in Europe is located. The mine, which has been working for 700 years, is a labyrinth of underground tunnels stretching for 200 kilometres. Here we discover a mysterious underground city housing chapels with amazing salt structures, massive high-ceilinged caverns, dark-watered lakes and the breathtaking Chapel of St Kinga that is carved out of a huge block of salt.

21/09/2017 Krakow – Warsaw (BLD)

Leaving Krakow we continue on to Warsaw via a magnificent open-air museum of regional architecture. Here there are farm buildings that are surrounded by windmills and granaries. After lunch here we head onto the Polish capital, Warsaw. The largest city in Poland is located in the centre of the country and is situated on the banks of the Vistula River. After the Second World War, only 20% of the city remained. Yet, wonderful reconstruction has placed the city on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Polonia Hotel

Warsaw

22/09/2017 Warsaw (BLD)

Today we set out along the city’s medieval defensive walls and head into the Market Square. After leaving the centre we continue through beautiful and fashionable streets and avenues, palaces and parks before reaching the Jewish Cemetery and Umschlagplatz. This is the spot where some 300,000 Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto were loaded on trains bound for the extermination camp of Treblinka, and today a memorial wall on the spot bears witness to those who died.

23/09/17 Warsaw (BLD)

The legacy of Warsaw’s most famous son is very much in evidence in the Polish capital, and today we embark on the ‘Chopin trail’ visiting the house where Frederic Chopin lived for 20 years. The house today features furniture from that era as well as an Erard piano that belonged to Franz Liszt. Later we enter the Holy Cross Church which has an urn containing the heart of Chopin.

24/09/17 Warsaw – Dubai (B)

The morning is at leisure before we transfer to the airport for our flight to Dubai.

Depart Warsaw, Emirates EK 180, 14.40

Arrive Dubai 22.20

25/09/17 Dubai – Australia

On arrival in Dubai we connect with our Emirates flight to Australia.

Why is the Tour Fitness Level rated as ‘Active’?

This tour involves a reasonable amount of walking, climbing steps and stairs and getting on and off boats and ferries. A number of the towns we visit are best explored on foot and many have narrow cobbled streets and uneven surfaces. In addition there is some exploration on foot of nature reserves and parklands.

How much is a single supplement in the hotels?

The cost of a single supplement in the hotel is $3,190.

If I travel alone, do I have to pay the single supplement?

If you do not want to share a hotel room with another person in the group, you will have to pay the single supplement. However, if you are willing to share we will team you up with another passenger of the same sex and similar age in the hotels. If a match-up is not possible, we will upgrade you at our expense.

How long is the flight from Australia to Stockholm?

Total flying time to Dubai is between 11 and 15 hours, depending on your Australian capital city of departure. Flight time from Dubai to Stockholm is 7 hours.

Can we extend the return part of our journey? Can we come back from another European city?

The return ticket is valid for one year and therefore it is possible to extend your stay in Europe as well as come back from any of the ports in Europe that Emirates fly to. The only stipulation is that the return city is nominated prior to departure from Australia.

Why do you use the train from Lithuania to Belarus?

Because the Lithuania/Belarus border is a Soviet style border, it is far easier for immigration procedures to take place on board the train, rather than on the road border.

I have heard that the Belarus visa is very difficult to obtain. Is this correct?

We expedite the Belarus visa in Vilnius with prior invitations and agreements from the Belarus consulate. This visa in these circumstances takes us one day to obtain.

What are the average temperatures along the route?

Typically, temperatures range from 18C – 26C with good hours of light and stable sunny weather.

What is the best currency to take on this journey?

The best currency is Euros, in small denominations. ie 100, 50, 20, 10s.

How much spending money do I need for the entire trip?

Because almost everything is included, we would suggest an amount of 700 Euros per person as being ample for the whole month-long journey.

Are credit cards acceptable?

Credit cards are widely accepted throughout the journey and ATMs are available along the entire route. However it is not recommended to rely on these as your main source of funds.

Do I need vaccinations for this journey?

No vaccinations are mandatory on this route but we would recommend you seek advice from your doctor. Tetanus should certainly be up to date.

Do I need any visas for this tour?

Australian and New Zealand passport holders require a visa for Belarus but do not need visas for the Baltic States and Poland.

A lot of companies have many expensive optional extras on their tours. Do you?

We don’t believe in a lot of expensive ‘optional tours’. Our itineraries are designed to make the best possible use of time and to include all the must-see sights, plus additional surprises. Therefore, practically everything is included in the tour cost.

Is the water safe to drink en-route and what is the general standard of hygiene?

Drinking tap water throughout the whole of this journey is safe and in addition we also provide bottled mineral water throughout the tour. The standard of hygiene is high along the entire route.

What is the standard of the hotels?

The hotels are generally 4 to 5-star quality, comfortable, clean and all with en-suites. Many of the hotels we use are unique boutique properties located in the centre of the cities or towns.

Are there internet facilities en-route?

Most of the hotels we use have internet facilities. There are also many internet cafes in the near vicinity of the hotels offering even cheaper access.

Do mobile telephones work?

Telstra and Optus mobiles work throughout the entire journey. You will need to ensure you have global roaming. Contact your service provider for further details.

How much should we tip the guides and porters?

There is no need to tip guides or porters as all tips and gratuities are included in the tour cost.

Listed below is a selection of books which you may wish to read prior to, or during, your journey.

Impression of Estonia

Hans Tammemagi

The Baltics Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Independence

Anatol Lieven

Flashes in the Night: The Sinking of Estonia

Jack Nelson

Battle in the Baltics 1944-45

Ian Baxtor

Belarus: The Last European Dictatorship

Andrew Wilson

The Last Soviet Republic: Alexander Lukashenko’s Belarus

Stewart Parker

The Wolf’s Lair: Inside Hitler’s Germany

Roger Moorhouse

Inside Hitler’s Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich

Joachim Fest

Poland: The Mazurian Lake District

Aleksandra Koniorowa

The Struggle and the Triumph: An Autobiography

Lech Walsea

Auschwitz and After

Charlotte Delbo

Poland

Steven Otfinski