Vintage Slovakia (and into Poland)
Welcome to our two country holiday of marvellous lands of national parks, mountains, valleys, forests, rivers, castles, churches and ruins.
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’s about time we entered this beautiful fascinating country. Now is the time to 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 northeastern 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 in 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.
Tour Manager: Marion
Day 1 Friday 14 July (D) We meet at London Gatwick airport for our 12.05 Easyjet flight to Vienna airport. Direct flights are also available from Bristol and Manchester. On arrival we transfer to Vienna city centre for a short sightseeing tour of Vienna and a lunch break. We then take the boat down the Danube to Bratislava. We check into our hotel and meet up later for our welcome dinner in a traditional Slovak restaurant with a presentation of a Slovak national music instrument called “Fujara”. Overnight in Bratislava. *Those flying from Birmingham will arrive directly into Bratislava (late evening arrival) for taxi transfer to the hotel.
Day 2 Saturday 15 July (B) This morning we will have our guided tour of Bratislava. A century ago, Bratislava was a modest-sized provincial town. Today although relatively small as a capital city by international standards, it is the country’s biggest city still largely contained within its 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 visit the transport museum before free time to enjoy Bratislava at your own pace.
Day 3 Sunday 16 July (B) Today we transfer to the main railway station from where we catch a train to the central Slovakias, city Banska Bystrica. The route will take three and a half hours. On arrival we will have a coach transfer and a stop for lunch before we travel to 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 Cierny 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 onto the High Tatras. During our journey there will be a short photo stop of the Telgart spiral tunnel and viaducts.
Day 4 Monday 17 July (B,D) Today we take a ride on the cog-rail to Strbske Pleso. Here we have a short walk around the tarn at an altitude of 1300m, a top destination in the High Tatras, 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 Stary Smokovec for the funicular to Hreienok for the beautiful views of the Tatras. Our last visit of today, via coach, will be to the folk museum in Zidar. On our return we meet up for dinner in Koliba restaurant.
Day 5 Tuesday 18 July (B) 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 19 July (B) We transfer by rail to Kezmarok 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 Stara Lubovna where the bus will take us to the National Park Pieniny – the smallest park in Slovakia, where the River Duanjec flows, creating 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 20 July (B) Today we leave Slovakia for Poland. After our brief sighting of this beautiful country yesterday from the raft, it is now time to 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 Namestovo for a boat trip to the Slanica island of art before our final destination of Krakow.
Day 8 Friday 21 July (B) This morning we will have a sightseeing tour of the city. We will visit Wawel castle the cathedral, the maim 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.
Day 9 Saturday 22 July (B) We have a transfer to Kasina Wielka for a historic train ride where you are able to move around and admire the old stock as well as ride on the steam train. After this we return to our hotel for our final night.
Day 10 Sunday 23 July (B) Today we transfer to the airport at Krakow for our flights home.