Culture

Vintage Slovakia (and into Poland)

13 to 22 July
Slovakia

Welcome to our two-country holiday featuring marvellous national parks, mountains, valleys, forests, rivers, castles, churches, ruins and of course, railways!

Slovakia’s geographical position between two superpowers of the middle ages, Austro-Hungaria and Russia, has left its mark plainly in its historical architecture. Of the two, the traditions of Germanic Austro-Hungary dominate, often tied to the Roman Catholic faith with some hints of Protestantism. However, especially in the east, the Orthodox Christian religion of Russia and other eastern European cultures play a role in the architectural landscape.

Towards the end of our tour we will experience just a little of Poland. Being so close to where we are in the Tatras it will be fascinating to visit another beautiful country. Compare the cultures and scenery and sample a taste of perhaps a future Polish adventure.

Most towns have historic churches, and many of these have features of special significance. For those seeking a truly eastern European experience, the centuries-old, still-functioning wooden churches of north-eastern Slovakia and southern Poland are amongst the greatest treasures.

We will tour around the country, where possible by rail, and visit some of the cultural highlights. Along the way we will have a steam hauled trip on the historic Ciernohronská forest railway in Slovakia and the Vychylovka open air museum and switchback railway in Poland. Also, a trip on a cog railway in the High Tatras National Park.

Highlights

  • Ciernohronská forest railway
  • Cog-rail to Štrbské Pleso high in the Tatras
  • The enormous Spis castle
  • Vychylovka open-air museum and switchback railway.
  • Incomparable Kraków
  • Chabówka steam railway and museum

Tour Manager: Marion    marion@ptg.co.uk

Itinerary

Day 1 Friday 13 July (D) We meet at London Gatwick for our Easyjet flight to Vienna airport. Direct flights are also available from Heathrow and Birmingham*, and indirect flights from Manchester. On arrival, we transfer to Vienna city centre for a short sightseeing tour and a lunch break. We then take a boat down the Danube to Bratislava. After checking into our hotel we will meet up later for our welcome dinner in a traditional Slovak restaurant with a demonstration of a “Fujara”, a uniquely Slovak musical instrument. Overnight in Bratislava. *Those flying from Birmingham will arrive directly into Bratislava (late evening arrival) for taxi transfer to the hotel.

Day 2 Saturday 14 July (B, D) This morning we will have a guided tour of Bratislava, which a century ago was a modest-sized provincial town. Today, although relatively small as a capital city by international standards, it is the country’s biggest city though still largely contained within the boundary of its (now demolished) fortifications. We will visit the Old Town, its inviting streets lined with the Baroque residences of a long-gone aristocracy. After our lunch break we continue to the transport museum before free time to enjoy Bratislava at your own pace.

Day 3 Sunday 15 July (B, D) After breakfast we transfer to the main railway station from where we catch a train to the central Slovakian city of Banska Bystrica, a journey of three and a half hours. On arrival, we will have a coach transfer and a stop for lunch before we arrive  at Chvatimech for one of the greatest attractions of central Slovakia, the historic Ciernohronská forest railway which once hauled timber down the picturesque valley of the river Čierny Hron. The railway was opened in 1908 and expanded until it once had a network of an unbelievable 132 km. We will have a steam hauled ride on the restored lines and finish in Čierny Balog where we can visit a small railway museum before we travel on to the High Tatras. During our journey, there will be a short photo stop at the Telgart spiral tunnel and viaducts.

Day 4 Monday 16 July (B, D) Today we take a ride on the cog-rail to Štrbské Pleso where we have a short walk around the tarn at an altitude of 1300 metres, a top destination in the High Tatras and also a sports centre. The surface of the tarn remains frozen for around 155 days a year. After our lunch break we take the electric tram to Starý Smokovec for the funicular to Hreienok from which there are beautiful views of the Tatras. Our last visit of today, via coach, will be to the folk museum in Zidar. On our return to Starý Smokovec we meet up for dinner in the Koliba restaurant.

Day 5 Tuesday 17 July (B, D) Today we will explore some Gothic and Renaissance jewels of the Spis region with the Spis Castle and Church of St. Jacob (both listed by UNESCO) and the highest Gothic wooden altar in the world. Spis Castle is the largest castle complex in Central Europe.

Day 6 Wednesday 18 July (B, D) In the morning we transfer by rail to Kežmarok and visit a wooden church listed by UNESCO, renaissance merchant houses and a castle just a few metres from the town square. We continue by train to Stará Ľubovňa where the bus will take us to the Pieniny National Park – the smallest park in Slovakia – where the River Dunajec forms the border between Poland and Slovakia. Here we have a short walk to visit the Carthusian-Carmelite monastery, dating from the 14th century. For those who feel up to it we travel on wooden rafts down the river canyon, taking in the wonderful scenery and wildlife created by this magnificent river.

Day 7 Thursday 19 July (B, D) Time to leave Slovakia for Poland. After our brief sighting of this beautiful country yesterday from the raft, it is now time for a proper visit. Our transfer will take us to Vychylovka where we will visit the open-air museum and switchback railway. After a lunch break we transfer to Námestovo for a boat trip to the Slanica island of art before our final destination, the delightful and historic city of Kraków.

Day 8 Friday 20 July (B, D) This morning we will have a sightseeing tour of Kraków. We will visit the Wawel Castle, the cathedral, the main square, St. Mary’s Basilica, the old University district and Florian’s Gate. After our tour, the afternoon is free for lunch and exploration of this wonderful city. Perhaps take a horse and coach ride around the city, or retrace our steps and visit the sights we have passed on our way during our walk.

Day 9 Saturday 21 July (B, D) We have a transfer to Kasina Wielka for a historic train ride to Chabówka and the railway museum where you are able to walk around and admire the old locomotives and carriages.

Day 10 Sunday 22 July (B, D) Today we transfer to the airport at Kraków for our flights home.

You can also join us by using the ‘Rail all the way’ facility. It is possible to travel from London to Vienna in a day, albeit a long journey. Alternatively, you could break your journey in Munich for an overnight stay if you so wish to make the long journey more relaxing.

As well as our PTG Tour Manager, we will also have a local English speaking guide with us throughout the trip. Our tour is “shadowed” by a coach which will transfer our luggage between the hotels for us.

This is a moderately active tour.  To fully enjoy this program, participants should be able to climb a flight of stairs and walk at least a half-mile on uneven ground during several of the sightseeing trips.

Place(s) available

Holiday Prices (per person)

  • Full 10 day holiday, including flight from London Stansted: £1,850
  • Own flight arrangements: £1,650
  • Overland from St Pancras: POA

Options

  • Single room supplement: £390

Deposit

  • Travelling by air: £500
  • Own travel: £300

Price includes

  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • Accommodation in good quality hotels
  • Breakfast and dinner every day
  • Services of our tour manager. Holiday is fully escorted from London

Flights

  • Direct flights with Easyjet from Gatwick, Bristol and Manchester.
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