Eastern Europe is fast becoming an exciting new tourist destination. Travel through picturesque terrain from forested hills and valleys, past unspoiled lakes, along sweeping coastlines, and among Europe's largest sand dunes. Visit the capital cities of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, each with its own charming Old-Town Square, magnificent architecture, impressive churches and palaces. This area was part of the Eastern Front during WWII and visits to the former Auschwitz and Birkenau Concentration Camps, and a KGB museum are among the dramatic and historic sites that are included. Descend into the Wieliczka Salt Mine, a magnificent "underground city" chiseled out of rock salt, see the world famous Black Madonna of Czesstochowa, and stop at the hills of crosses. Venturing out into the countryside will provide insight into rural life. Visit a grain, cattle and goat farm, along with equipment dealers in Poland and Lithuania. Meet with locals and discuss farming practices and enjoy a taste of their local meat and milk products. Embark on a wooden boat and sail along the Riga Canal and Daugava River. During an open air museum experience, you are introduced to life in the 18th and 20th centuries.
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Day 1: Thursday, July 14 Depart the USA
Meet your Rupiper Tour Manager and your fellow travelers at the Chicago-O’Hare airport for your flight to Krakow, Poland. Meals: In-flight meal service
Day 2: Friday, July 15 Arrive in Krakow, Poland / Auschwitz
Welcome to Poland! Upon your mid-morning arrival in Krakow, you are greeted by our English speaking tour guide. Our motor coach takes us right into the heart of Krakow for a brief orientation tour. There is time to stroll the Old Town square and have lunch in one of the many side-walk cafés. Late afternoon we transfer to Auschwitz for a sobering tour of the former Nazi Concentration Camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau. Tonight, enjoy a Welcome Dinner at the hotel. Meals: In-flight Meal Service, Dinner
Day 3: Saturday, July 16 Krakow, Poland
Today’s excursion begins with a guided tour of Old Town Krakow. Krakow’s Market Square, called Rynek Glowny, is the largest medieval town square in Europe. Poland is one of the few countries not damaged during World War II. Prominent architectural features around the market square are the Renaissance Sukiennice (Cloth Hall or Drapers’ Hall) and the Church of the Virgin Mary, which houses a beautiful 15th century wooden altarpiece carved by Wit Stwosz. This afternoon descend into the Wieliczka Salt Mine, a magnificent underground “city” chiseled out of rock salt with corridors constructed of mighty timbers, a majestic cathedral, and an underground lake. Conclude the day with dinner at a local restaurant, where young musicians and dancers, clad in traditional garments, will entertain you with folk music and dances while you dine. Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Day 4: Sunday, July 17 Krakow / Warsaw, Poland
En route to Warsaw, stop at the Jasna Gora Monastery which houses the world famous icon, Black Madonna of Częstochowa. Numerous legends have been told about its mysterious origin. One tells that the picture was painted by St. Luke on a plank from a cedar table in the house of the Holy Family. Late afternoon, enjoy a panoramic city tour followed by a typical Polish dinner in a unique restaurant. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 5: Monday, July 18 Warsaw, Poland
Today we begin with a guided tour of Warsaw’s historic city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walk the narrow cobblestone streets around Old Town Market Square and admire the colorful medieval houses with their uneven roofs and wrought-iron grillwork. Warsaw’s city center was bombed by the German Luftwaffe in 1936 but was painstakingly restored to its original charm. Your guided tour continues with an inside visit of the Warsaw Royal Castle and a drive along the Royal Route with its noble residences and splendid palaces, and then to Lazienki Park, Warsaw’s largest park, sprawling across 188 thousand acres. Lazienki means Royal Baths or Baths Park. The park links the Royal Castle with numerous smaller palaces and pavilions, a Roman theatre, and contains beautiful water features and statues. Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Day 6: Tuesday, July 19 Warsaw, Poland / Vilnius, Lithuania
Sit back and enjoy the countryside on our drive to Lithuania, the largest of the three Baltic States and one of the hidden jewels of Europe. Before reaching our destination, we stop near Bialystok to visit a grain production farm and dairy. Their hospitality is incredible, great hors d’oeuvres and wine as well as a detailed tour of the farm. See life on this family farm firsthand and learn about their dairy and crop production that includes corn, wheat and barley.
The Lithuanian state was formed in 1253 and during the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe. Present-day Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia were territories of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1569, Lithuania and Poland formed a voluntary two-state union, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, ruled by a common monarch. The Union prospered for almost two centuries before it fell into a period of military and economic decline during the late 18th century and was finally divided among its more powerful neighbors, Austria, Prussia and the Russian Empire. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 7: Wednesday, July 20 Vilnius, Lithuania
Vilnius is a city of great beauty. Begin your tour at the century old Gates of Dawn, one of the most important religious, historical and cultural monuments in the city. Of the nine city gates only the Gate of Dawn survived the government ordered destruction at the end of the 18th century. Each gate displayed a religious image to safeguard the city from enemies. View a variety of historic landmarks, including the Vilnius Cathedral, Gediminas’ Tower, the University, the Town Hall Square and the Presidential Palace. Finally, experience a very interesting visit to the KGB museum. Tour the KGB prison that was established in the basement, where dissidents and fighters for human rights were detained. Celebrate this evening with a Lithuanian folklore dinner. Meals: Breakfast, Dinner.
Day 8: Thursday, July 21 Trakai / Kaunas / Kernave / Vilnius
This morning we visit an organic farm in Griciunai, which is home to more than 400 white goats. The owner, Dalia Emuzyte, produces and sells goat’s milk, cheese, meat and hides, as well as offspring for breeding purposes. Enjoy sampling their products before continuing on to the Trakai National Historic Park, where we are guided through the magnificent Trakai Castle. The castle was destroyed and re-built several times throughout the last seven centuries and Lake Galve serves as a protective moat. In the 1950s the Soviets authorized its latest reconstruction to celebrate Lithuania’s glorious past. We return to Vilnius for dinner and overnight.
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Day 9: Friday, July 22 Vilnius, Lithuania / Riga, Latvia
Depart Vilnius and stop near Kaunas to visit LYTAGRA, one of the largest companies in Lithuania, with 20 branches and eight subsidiaries. They trade in metals, building materials, agricultural machinery, tractors, spare parts, tools, electrical and farm goods. LYTAGRA is the importer of Case New Holland farm equipment and has a private farm to test new Ag technologies. See their facilities and learn how they market their equipment in the Baltics. Tour one of their farm stores and see the different items for sale, its always very interesting. Near Pasvalys, Lithuania we visit the Nissen Farm. The owner, Hans Christian Nissen, emigrated a few years ago from Denmark to Lithuania, where he acquired close to 9,000 acres of arable land. Half of his farmland is under cultivation for small grains – wheat, canola, barley
and oats. He also milks 650 cows. You’ll learn a lot on this very interesting tour that exposes you to some of the old Russian four-wheel drive tractors as well as new American and European articulating tractors.
We cross the border into Latvia and stop in Rundale to visit the magnificent baroque Rundale Palace. The 18th century palace was designed by the famous Italian architect Rastrelli, who also designed the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Continue on to Riga, the capital of Latvia, which is inhabited by more than one third of Latvia’s population. Riga is the largest city in the Baltics and also an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial, cultural and financial center. Dinner is served at the hotel tonight. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 10: Saturday, July 23 Riga, Latvia
Enjoy an all-day sightseeing tour of Riga which was nominated the European Capital of Culture for 2014. Ride along the city’s noble boulevards, enjoying significant sights such as the City Canal parks, Bastion Hill, the Powder Tower, the Latvian National Theatre, the Fine Arts Museum, the Freedom Monument, the University of Latvia, the Opera House, and the Daugava River with its bridges and Passenger Terminal. During our walking tour in Old Town Riga, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we discover the beauty of this historic Hanseatic city. This afternoon we embark on a nice wooden boat and sail along the Riga Canal and Daugava River. Tonight’s dinner is at a local restaurant. Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Day 11: Sunday, July 24 Riga, Latvia / Tallinn, Estonia
Along our journey to Tallinn we visit the Gauja National Park with its castles and sandstone caves along the Gauja River banks. Estonia is the smallest country on our tour. The low-lying country and its many islands are bordered by the Gulf of Finland to the north, by the Baltic Sea to the west, and by Lake Peipus to the east. Before reaching our final destination, Tallinn, we drive along the Baltic Sea’s shoreline and stop in the coastal town of Pärnu, Estonia’s summer capital. Stroll along streets lined with historic buildings, pastel colored wooden houses, and 19th century villas. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 12: Monday, July 25 Tallinn, Estonia
During our morning sightseeing tour of Tallinn we catch views of the Parliament House, Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral, and the Dome Church. From Toompea Hill we enjoy a panoramic view of Old Town Tallinn where we head next. There we walk past the Town Hall and across its Square which is surrounded by majestic churches, the Old Pharmacy, Big Guild, and the Blackhead’s house. This afternoon we visit Rocca al Mare and its Estonian Open Air Museum. The life-sized reconstruction of an 18th-century rural fishing village consists of 72 separate buildings, including a church, inn, schoolhouse, several mills, a fire station, and twelve farmyards. Enjoy a fun dinner and entertainment before returning to our hotel in Tallinn. Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Day 13: Tuesday, July 26 Tallinn - USA
The time has come when we must say goodbye to the Baltic States! Unique cultures and sights have been a rich and rewarding experience for us. Depart early morning and arrive in Chicago by early-afternoon which leaves ample time to connect to your homebound flight. Meals: In-flight meal service
Special Events and Sights
"Eastern Europe was a very enjoyable tour. We really liked it. From the concentration camp and KGB museum to the farms and implement dealership, it was all really interesting. This was a part of the world that I haven't seen, and I am glad I got the chance to visit and experience it for myself. I always enjoy traveling with Rupipers. We've met so many new people and lifelong friends on their tours. In fact, the people and ability to meet great new friends is sometimes almost as goo as the trip itself."
- Ken D. (Illinois)
"It was nice of you to send the DVD for our tour to Eastern Europe. The places we visited were just great... We will always remember the wonderful mean on the farm in Latvia, especially the grilled steak! We will never forget Auschwitz or the Salt Mine! Very good! We are anxious to hear from you about your upcoming tours."
- Marilyn & Richard (Nebraska)
"Thanks for an incredible tour of the Baltic States. The sites, the food and your guides were all wonderful. I seemed to have forgotten that Krakow, Poland was one of the few cities that wasn't destroyed during WWII. This original architecture was amazing, as well as the unbelievable salt mine and the interesting farm visits. I didn't know much about this area, but after traveling on this Baltic tour with Rupiper Tours, I would recommend it to everyone!"
- John & Betty B. (Nebraska)
"Hi, the mail just arrived and right away we sat here and thoroughly enjoyed the memory trip of Poland and the Baltic countries. Thank you so much and it is so well done. Loved the music too! Yes, I was amazed at the development in the 20 years since I was first there."
- Clarie & Dennis (Minnesota)