Budapest, Debrecen, Satu Mare, Sighetu Marmatiei, Bogdan Voda, Sighisoara, Viscri, Brasov, Azuga, Bucharest
Overnight flight to Budapest, the capital of Hungary.
Arrival in Budapest cited as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Meet your guide, collect your luggage and transfer to your hotel for the remainder of the day at leisure. Your orientation tour includes views of Heroe’s Square with its Millennium Memorial, the Neo-Gothic Parliament Building, keeper of the Hungarian crown jewels and Vaci Utca, one of the main shopping streets lined with well-known retailers. Perhaps a late lunch (not included) at Cafe Gerbeaud, about 5 minutes walk from the hotel. After time to freshen up, let’s gather for dinner at a local restaurant.
Overnight: Intercontinental Hotel Budapest or similar
BUDAPEST JEWISH HERITAGE/DEBRECEN (B/D)
A morning drive along the Danube brings us to St. Stephen’s Park to see the WWII Victim’s Memorial. Created for the 60th anniversary of the Holocaust, this moving monument honors the memory of the Jews who perished at the hands of Arrow Cross militiamen during WW II. Located north of Budapest city center is Leopold Town, one of the most important modern Jewish quarters in Europe. Beginning at the recently renovated Dohany Synagogue is a perfect place to learn about Jewish Budapest. This is the second largest synagogue in the world, its two onion shaped domes reminiscent of the two columns of Solomon’s Temple. The men sitting on the ground floor, the women in the upper galleries.
This enormous restoration project was largely funded by famous Americans Tony Curtis and Estee Lauder, Jews of Hungarian descent.The Jewish Museum located behind the Synagogue commemorates the culture of Budapest’s Jewish community. A walk through the Jewish Quarter takes us to the Jewish Garden, the Holocaust Tree created to remind us of those who perished and the Temple of Heroes serving as a memorial for Hungarian Jews who gave their lives during WW II. Our final stop this morning is at Kozma Cemetery opened in 1891, the largest cemetery in Budapest known for its unusual monuments and mausoleums. We pause for lunch (cost not included) before leaving Budapest and heading to Debrecen, the capital city of the Great Hungarian Plain located near the Hungary/Romania border for overnight. Dinner is included.
Overnight: Hotel Divinius Debrecen or similar
DEBRECEN/SATU MARE/SIGHETU MARMATIEI (B/D)
This morning we cross the Romanian border on our way to Satu Mare, the gateway to rural Maramures, its history going back to the Middle Ages. A panoramic sightseeing tour includes a visit to the Moorish style Great Synagogue built in the 1890’s similar to the synagogue in Oradea which has remained closed for decades until the community reopened it as a concert hall and cultural venue. Arrival in Satu Mare, a center of Jewish Orthodoxy and Hasidism and home to Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, founder and leader of the Satmar Hasidic sect. During the 19th and 20th centuries, Satu Mare was the seat of the Teitelbaum* and Gruenwald Hasidic Jews until World War II who now live in New York City, Jerusalem, London and elsewhere. A memorial to the 18,000 Jews from around Satu Mare who perished in the Holocaust stands near the synagogue.
Continuing north into the Maramures region, we stop at the village of Sapinta at the Merry Cemetery, where in 1935 a local woodcarver Stan Ion Patras started writing witty epitaphs on crosses immortalizing the foibles of the deceased making it one of its kind in the entire world. There are no translations, but the pictures are self explanatory.
A fifteen minute drive brings us to Sighetu Marmatiei on the Ukrainian border, home to one of the most intact peasant cultures in Europe. Dinner included.
Overnight: Casa Lurca or similar, Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania
SIGHETU MARMATIEI (B/D)
Following breakfast we take an exclusively designed walking tour of the village of Iza which includes an icon-on-glass workshop to learn about the amazing technique. Visit a local plum brandy distillery with tasting and see a typical whirlpool used by local women to wash heavy woolen blankets. Drive to Sighet where we can mingle with the locals at the colorful fruit and vegetable market – a wonderful opportunity to sample a wide variety of local products.
Stop at the Memorial to the Victims of Communicism and to the Resistance (Museum of Arrested Thought) where some 180 members of Romania’s academic and government elite were imprisoned. The infamous prison, one of the most oppressive in the country witnessed the torture and starvation of many during the 1950’s and today the museum is dedicated to their memory. This is one of the main memorial sites on the continent next to Auschwitz and the Peace Memorial in Normandy. Arrangements will be made to have the synagogue opened followed by a visit to the Jewish Center.
*A visit will also be paid to the Cemetery with the special tombstones of the Teitelbaum Dynasty.
Later we enter the memorial house of the famous Romanian born Jewish writer and political activist, Eli Wiesel. During World War II, at the age of 15, Eli was deported with more than 38,000 Jews from the Maramures area. In 1984 Eli was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Congress, Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992, the Nobel Prize for peace in 1986 and his name was engraved on the Statue of Liberty amongst numerous other honorary degrees and has written more than 60 books. We have arranged something different this evening, a group home hosted dinner with an exclusively organized Maramures folklore show.
Overnight: Casa Lurca or similar, Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania
SIGHETU MARMATIEI/BOGDAN VODA/SIGHISOARA (B/D)
Today we focus on the historical region of Transylvania. On the way stop in Bogdan Voda built in 1718 to see the Wooden Church of St. Nicholas from Cuhea, located in the middle of the village in the middle of the old cemetery. It is unusual for a church in the Maramures style to be located on a hill. The interior walls were painted in 1754. Driving south across the Carpathians we pass the ancient city of Bistrita which according to archaeological findings, has been inhabited since the Neolithic Age. Fifty-five miles away is Targu Mures, literally named for a market on the Mures River and first documented as Novum Forum Sicolorum in 1322.
The Great Synagogue built between 1899 and 1900 was considered one of the most beautiful synagogues of the Austro Hungarian Empire. The vast interior is richly decorated with shapes and colours. Continue towards Sighisoara, one of the best preserved medieval city in South-Eastern Europe designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dinner included.
Overnight: BinderBubi Hotel, Sighisoara, Romania
Beginning with a morning tour of Sighisoara we see the Church on the Hill with its 500 year old frescoes. The ocher colored Casa Dracul is where Vlad Tepes (also known as Vlad Dracula or Vlad the Impaler) was born in 1431. Vlad Tepes was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Next is The Stag House named after the stag skull on one of the corners of its facade. See the famous Clock Tower Museum with its Weapons Museum showcasing an array of mediaeval weapons and the Torture Chamber where prisoners were tortured and confessions extorted during the Middle Ages.
Next is the Sighisoara Synagogue constructed in 1903 when the town contained over 100 Jews. Over the years the Jewish population declined and today, there are no Jewish residents left. On the road linking Sighisoara and Brasov we find the village of Viscri with its fortified church built around 1100 designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993, part of the villages with fortified churches in Transylvania.
Drive some 90 kms. to Brasov, founded by the Teutonic Knights in the early XI’th century and settled by the Saxons as one of the Seven Walled Citadels. Home to the 4 foot wide Rope Street which has been described as the narrowest street in Europe. On arrival a walking tour includes the Black Church, (Biserica Neagra) the largest Gothic style edifice in Eastern Europe deriving its name from the damage caused by the Great Fire of 1689.
Visit the Jewish Temple erected between 1898 and 1901 by the Austrian Jewish architect Leopold Baumhorn. Close to the temple, several buildings were erected housing a Jewish school, a ritual bath (Mikvah) and living quarters for community employees. The temple was damaged between 1940-1945 and turned into a warehouse, but has since been reconstructed adding an old people’s home and kitchen subsidized by donations from the congregation. Dinner and overnight.
Overnight: Hotel Aro Palace or similar, Brasov, Romania
This morning we set our sights on Bran Castle immortalized by Bram Stoker’s novel as the residence of the mysterious vampire, Count Dracula. Overlooking the picturesque village of Bran, the imposing castle is perched on top of a 200 foot high rock. Its narrow winding passageways lead through some of the castle’s 60 vaulted rooms, many of which are connected by a labyrinth of underground passageways.
Next is the small resort town of Azuga where we will do a tour of the local wine cellars of the Rhein Azuga Wineries built in 1892. Enjoy some sparkling wine and lunch before continuing to Peles Castle considered by many to be one of the most beautiful castles in Europe and the final resting place of several Romanian monarchs. This German Renaissance castle of more than 160 rooms is surrounded by seven terraces decorated with statues. Drive to Bucharest arriving at your hotel for dinner and overnight.
Overnight: Intercontinental Hotel, Bucharest, Romania
Early this morning we get acquainted with the Romanian capital, once nicknamed get acquainted with the Romanian capital, once nicknamed “Little Paris”. Our first stop will be at the Jewish Museum located in the Tailor’s Synagogue. Visit the Great Synagogue founded in the year 1845 by a congregation of Polish Jews. This was the first major worship place by the Ashkenazi who designed it as a multi-purpose edifice. You will also see the History Museum of the Jewish Communities which opened in 1978 adjacent to the Holy Union Temple. The main display of the museum is a sculpture that mourns the Romanian Jews sent to their deaths to the concentration camps during WW II.
Afterwards we visit the colossal Parliament Palace once known as Casa Poporului or People’s Palace built during the darkest days of the Ceausescu regime. The building boasts over 1100 rooms plus an enormous nuclear bunker. Built and furnished with Romanian materials, your tour will take you through a small section of the dazzling interior made up of mosaics, marble, gold leaf, stained glass windows and rich carpets.
Continue to the National History Museum where you will find the National Treasure, a collection of gold items displayed chronologically from the Bronze Age to the Queen Marie’s jewels. Listen how the Romanian people finally succeeded to topple the last communist dictator in eastern Europe in Revolution Square. During our tour we also see St. Caleia Victoria, a major avenue in central Bucharest several times. Our tour will also include an outside view *of the Romanian Athenaeum*, the Opera House* and Triumphal Arch*.
Stop at the Village Museum, an open air ethnographic museum located in the Herastrau Park and showcases traditional Romanian village life. The museum contains 272 authentic peasant farms and houses from all over Romania.
Should the renovations at the Temple Coral be completed by September, a visit of the synagogue will be included. This evening enjoy a farewell dinner at the Restaurant Pescarus with a folklore show.
Overnight: Intercontinental Hotel or similar, Bucharest, Romania
Late morning transfer to the airport for your departure flight.
PLEASE NOTE: DUE TO TIME RESTRICTIONS AND THE SEQUENCE OF TOURS INDICATED, IT MAY NOT BE POSSIBLE TO INCLUDE VISITS TO ALL OF THE SIGHTSEEING POINTS LISTED.
AIRFARE IS NOT INCLUDED – PLEASE ASK FOR DETAILS
YOUR LAND TOUR PRICE INCLUDES:
AIRPORT TRANSFERS/TRANSPORTATION – A modern air conditioned 29 seater tour bus for a group of up to 20 or a 49 seater tour bus for a group of over 20 participants for all airport transfers and sightseeing tours as outlined.
PORTERAGE – Porterage of one normal sized piece of luggage per person at the hotels.
ENGLISH SPEAKING TOUR GUIDE – The services of a fully qualified English speaking tour guide throughout.
ACCOMMODATION – Based on double occupancy in hotels indicated or similar.
SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT – A limited number of single rooms available on payment of supplement indicated.
MEALS – (B) Breakfast (L) Lunch (D) Dinner – three course dinners with one glass of wine or one beer or one soft drink per person, water, coffee or tea.
SIGHTSEEING – As outlined including entrance fees to places of interest as well as the services of fully qualified local guides where required. Possibility of donations to various synagogues at the discretion of the individual traveler.
Porterage of one normal size pieced of luggage per person at hotels.
HOTEL TAXES AND STANDARD SERVICE CHARGES – On accommodation and meals included in the tour price including VAT.
YOUR LAND TOUR PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE:
AIRFARE – Quoted separately.
DEPARTURE TAXES, FUEL SURCHARGES AND AIRPORT IMPROVEMENT FEES – Not included.
PORTERAGE – At the airport not included.
MEALS AND BEVERAGES – Not specified.
OPTIONAL TOURS – Not mentioned.
PHOTO AND VIDEO FEES – Not included.
INSURANCE – At additional cost.
GRATUITIES – For individual services such as laundry and valet service and any other items of a purely personal nature.
TIPPING – To tour escort, bus driver, hotel and restaurant staff not included.
E. & O.E.