Raves about Eastern Europe
|"'Outstanding' does not do justice to Honza Vihan..."|
Europe's eastern edge hits a traveler with so much that's new: languages, history, foods, cultures, customs, and insights. What better place to travel with a great guide? Take it from our tour members: each of our tours in Eastern Europe — from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic — comes filled with unforgettable experiences...
St. Petersburg was a big wow. From the location of our hotel (across the canal from the Hermitage) to the wonderful and colorful churches to the hustle and bustle of "Russia Day" — a super, super city. And the people were so friendly!
— Carol in Mount Airy, MD — St. Petersburg, Tallinn & Helsinki in 9 Days
We sat in the Museum of Occupation at the end of our walking tour of Tallinn, Estonia. Our local guide, Mina, described the "singing revolution" and tears came to her eyes. I not only learned the facts about Estonia's long road to independence, I could feel the patriotism and pride of its people through Mina's tears.
— Leslie in Fair Oaks, CA — St. Petersburg, Tallinn & Helsinki in 9 Days
Our guide, Renee, was a joy. Personable and knowledgeable — also so excited to be showing off these places to us. She WANTS us to get to know contemporary Russia and to admire what these people are doing in building a new country with a new (to them) political system. I'd sort-of considered Russia as the Soviet Union but smaller, not really getting it that this is genuinely a new country with an extraordinary energy for building something up. The trip sure made me get it, and Renee was a huge part of that.
— Harry in Ann Arbor, MI — St. Petersburg, Tallinn & Helsinki in 9 Days
Ben was an excellent guide in every respect. I can't imagine anyone being more qualified to lead this tour, e.g. how many Americans are fluent in Estonian? I will always remember Ben walking up and down the aisle on the train to St. Petersburg quizzing us on how to say the Russian words he taught us. I also appreciated him giving suggests for our free time. Any of the activities or restaurants he suggested that we did do were worthwhile.
— Rosemarie in West Chester, PA — St. Petersburg, Tallinn & Helsinki in 9 Days
Every day was accompanied by a "wow" moment, even if it was the simple experience of tasting yet another wonderful regional beer. However, the visit to the rooms of the Hofburg Treasury in Vienna that contain the coronation regalia of the Holy Roman Emperor resonated with the collection's physical splendor and its historical importance to 900 years of European history. To a history buff, that realization was startling and unmatched.
— Colin in Calgary, AB — Berlin, Prague & Vienna in 12 Days
Nygil, our guide, was outstanding in every way! He made everyone feel completely at ease and has a knack for making everyone feel important to him. He encouraged questions and was very thorough. He's a skilled teacher with wonderful communication and people skills. He creates an atmosphere of teamwork and graciousness. He went above and way beyond what would be expected of a tour guide and that's a reflection on his character, not his training!
— Patricia in Windermere, FL — Berlin, Prague & Vienna in 12 Days
The word "Outstanding" does not do justice to Honza Vihan. Perhaps "extraordinary" would come a little closer to describing his leadership as our guide. In every way imaginable, he was extraordinary. His knowledge of history, culture, art, music, literature — you name it! — is stunning; and he is a truly great teacher. (I say that from the perspective of a lifetime spent in education, and I rarely use the word "great.") Beyond that, however, Honza is a truly compassionate, thoughtful, personable young man. He was aware of, and attentive to, individual needs and concerns; and he addressed all such concerns with seeming effortlessness. In short, he did his job as a guide with remarkable excellence, but somehow, it never seemed as though he was "just doing his job" — he actually seemed to enjoy being with us, and he clearly loves the countries and cultures that he led us through. A truly remarkable person!
— Jonel in Lexington, KY — Berlin, Prague & Vienna in 12 Days
I think it was the combination of the expanse of this tour's experience that was my "wow" — the completely different countryside and the different cultures was eye opening. One of my favorite times was walking during free time in Split and discovering a beautiful park with views of the city. Bled was lovely — a fairytale. The history in Kobarid was fascinating (afterward, I read "Farewell to Arms" on the bus.) Istria was gorgeous. I also loved the beaches of Dalmatia. We were fortunate to be in Korcula during the June 30th half-year celebration, complete with costumes and live music. It was also incredible to visit Mostar and see the destruction of the recent war and the efforts to go on. Dubrovnik was breathtaking.
— Jill in Bellevue, WA — Best of the Adriatic in 14 Days
I thought our guide, Saso, was terrific. He loves to meet new people and get their stories — an excellent personality quality to have as a tour guide. He was always available for questions and concerns, giving out his room number and cell phone number. I left the Adriatic region with a MUCH clearer understanding of the complex history and culture of the region — with much thanks to Saso as a teacher and leader. Plus, he is a fun person to hang out with. Yay, Saso!
— Carmen in Omaha, NE — Best of the Adriatic in 14 Days
Here is my Top 10 list (chronological rather than in order of wow-ness): 1. Almost everything about Prague. It was not as crowed as anticipated and more beautiful, interesting, and accessible than I thought it would be. Wish I could have gone a day or two earlier. 2. Krakow's Main Market Square was great, but my rainy visit to Nowa Huta with three other intrepid tour members felt like a time-traveling trip behind the Iron Curtain, as well as a chance to see how many Poles live their everyday lives. 3, 4, 5, 6 all happened on the day we traveled to Budapest including the charm of Eger; the visit to the school and listening to the teacher's challenges of educating diverse students followed by visit to the gulag; and then the rollicking fun of wine tasting at Istvan and Ibolya's. Then riding into Budapest and seeing (and later relaxing by) the flooded Danube. 7. In Budpapest, the current pool at the Szechenyi Baths, the moonlight cruise on the Danube, and the beautiful views of Pest from the Buda side. 8. The total sensory experience of hiking in Plitvice Lakes. 9. Everything about our stay on Rab, especially walking along the Adriatic in the moonlight, hearing kids playing in the sea, while a Frank Sinatra song played in the background. I get goosebumps thinking about it. 10. The fairytale beauty of Lake Bled, especially our accordian serenade in the pletna boat, and the "Cocktails and Dreams" sign on Bled Pub. Huge runner-up: Our foggy, then stormy, pilgrimage hike in Moravia definitely felt more like Transylvania. The fire in the "shephards hut" was great for getting warm and dry.
— Jane in Bellbrook, OH — Best of Eastern Europe in 17 Days
Can't say enough about Marijan's abilities as our guide. Since this was our fourth Rick Steves tour I expect to have an exceptional guide — but he surpassed my expectations in every way. He was endlessly patient with our repeated queries and just great about interacting with all of us on a personal level. He seemed to enjoy sharing his countries with us as much as we enjoyed being there with him. He is an incredible ambassador for Central Europe and Rick Steves. Just love you, Marijan!
— Christie in Hood River, OR — Best of Eastern Europe in 17 Days