Eastern Europe | Classic Journeys Blog
  • Hotel Ruze, Czech Republic

    Hotels We Love: Hotel Ruze in Czesky Krumlov

    <p>Visiting Eastern Europe is like taking a walk through a deep tome of history that stretches as far back as the Renaissance, maybe farther. In the big cities of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank" title="Travel to Prague, Budapest and Vienna">Prague, Budapest and Vienna</a>, the ornate Romanesque and Gothic architecture of the Medieval period dominates the skyline, but it is the more-recent history of two World Wars and the Communist era that seem to dominate the conversation as you view and learn about the cities’ pasts. At day’s end, you’re all too happy to retire to a bright, sleek, modern 21st century hotel.<br><br><img alt="Hotel Ruze" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7mL&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002rnW" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><br>In the quaint countryside town—village, really—of Cesky Krumlov, there’s hardly an indication of the region’s “dark days.” The village, nestled in a crook of the Vlata River, emerged from World War II mostly unscathed, and before Communism took hold, the townspeople dedicated themselves to preserving its cultural and historic relics so that even today, it looks almost exactly like it did hundreds of years ago. In fact, its authenticity is so unspoiled, it almost feels like you’ve stumbled into the manufactured Epcot version of the Czech Republic at Disney World.<br> </p> <h3><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank" title="Prague to Budapest cultural walking adventure">STEP BACK IN TIME ON AN 8 DAY/7 NIGHT CULTURAL WALKING ADVENTURE IN PRAGUE, BUDAPEST AND VIENNA.</a></h3> <p>At Classic Journeys, we’re all about truly immersive travel experiences. That’s why we chose the historic and charm-riddled <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank" title="Visit Cesky Krumlov, Prague">Hotel Ruze as our home during our visit to Cesky Krumlov</a>. At the 16th century Jesuit dormitory, the staff dress in period costumes and the menu consists of whatever fresh delights are caught from the river each morning or gathered from the surrounding countryside. The Renaissance architecture of the hotel—its original dark-wood paneled walls and arched stone ceilings—and the surrounding structures of the town’s meticulously preserved castle complex make visitors feel like they’ve truly stepped back in time and into the page of a history book.<br><br><img alt="Hotel Ruze" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7mL&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002rnb" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>In addition to the amazing architecture and historic details throughout, the hotel also features a state-of-the-art spa with massage treatment rooms and unique peat baths in traditional wooden tubs. This is the perfect home base from which to explore the rich heritage of Bohemia, starting with its working glass factories right here in Cesky Krumlov and ending with a peaceful stroll through the working farm fields of the nearby countryside.</p>

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  • Hillside view in Czech Republic

    Discovering Venerable Treasures

    <h2>Europe’s Other Half – Exploring the Continent’s Eastern Cities of Prague, Budapest and Vienna</h2>   <p>You’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but let’s be honest: The ones that are most aged usually hold the best stories. And so it is with the countries of Eastern Europe. Historic treasures—medieval cathedrals and walled cities—are peppered with evidence of the more recent past. At first blush, it seems a shame such magnificent historic treasures have been mired by war. But it is through these tangible details that <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/past-is-present/" target="_blank" title="A vivid story unfolds">a vivid story unfolds</a>.</p> <p>Exploring the narrow alleyways and cobbled streets on foot, rather than from the seat of a motor coach, is truly the best way to understand the cities’ dynamics, but it’s the authentic first-person narratives you get from <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/local-tour-guides/" target="_blank" title="Classic Journeys local guides">Classic Journeys local guides </a>that truly bring these destinations into vivid Technicolor reality.</p> <h3><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank" title="Learn more about our Prague to Budapest cultural walking adventure">LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR PRAGUE TO BUDAPEST CULTURAL WALKING ADVENTURE.</a></h3> <img alt="Prague - Cesky Krumlov" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7my&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002pWx" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br>  <p>Classic Journeys guides Martin and Zsófi were born during the Cold War, when their hometowns Vienna and Budapest, respectively, were separated by the Berlin Wall. Martin grew up in the “free” West, while Zsófi knew only the isolated East. When the wall came down in 1989, their worlds collided and have been integrating ever since. Taken together, their <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank" title="cultural tours through Vienna, Budapest and Prague">cultural tours through Vienna, Budapest, Prague</a> and the immaculately preserved medieval town of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/say-chess-key-kroom-loff/" target="_blank" title="Český Krumlov">Český Krumlov</a> deliver an immersive history lesson.</p> <p>Classic Journeys <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank" title="Prague trip package">Prague trip package</a> includes all the sites and experiences you’d expect but it’s the unplanned detours and unexpected encounters— cruising the Danube, enjoying a lunch of homemade specialties with a local craftsman, and walking through vineyards to Durnstein Castle where Richard the Lionheart was held captive during the crusades — that give <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/world/" target="_blank" title="Classic Journeys vacations">Classic Journeys vacations</a> texture and detail. On a recent tour, for example, Martin’s group and a few dozen locals were invited into a small, historic theater in Český Krumlov for an impromptu opera performance.</p> <p>Veering off course and off itinerary isn’t just something we tolerate; it’s something we encourage to help our guests experience the special stories and characters that hide between the pages of the history books.</p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/between-prague-and-budapest-a-walk-in-the-wachau/" target="_blank" title="Read more about our Prague to Budapest walking tour">Read more about our Prague to Budapest Walking Tour.</a></p>

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  • Cesky Krumlov, Prague

    Past Is Present

    <p><b>An intimate look at the sites and cities of Eastern Europe recalls ancient history and reminds us that the region’s story is still unfolding</b></p> <p>Zsófi was born in the east—Szombathely, Hungary, to be exact—and she lived in sight of the barbed wire for 18 years. Just six miles away, Austria and the West were a mystery shrouded behind the Iron Curtain.</p> <p>On the other side, in “free” Vienna, Martin also felt isolated. “We were always exposed to the curtain,” he says. “We were just an hour car ride from ‘the end of the earth,’ and we were living with our back to it.”</p> <p>And then, in 1989, the wall fell, the border opened and the curtain pulled back. Zsófi’s East and Martin’s West turned to face each other and begin reconciling a common past that goes much deeper than the Berlin Wall. While the world celebrated what appeared to be the last chapter in a long war story, a visit to the region today reveals deep complexities.</p> <p>“History hasn’t stopped here,” says Martin, the lead guide on <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank">Classic Journeys’ Prague to Budapest trip</a>. “We have a lot of shared history, because we were part of the same empire for 600 years. From that base you can detect how the different political systems and digressions affected the region through the 20th century.”</p> <p>To that end, Martin and Zsófi weave guests into a narrative that began with the Habsburg Dynasty and continues today.</p> <p>The picturesque Czech town of Ceský Krumlov, for example, transports visitors to medieval times. Its orange rooftops, baroque houses, cobbled streets and royal palace are seemingly unchanged since the 16th century. “It’s like good old Europe, how many people expect it to be,” says Martin. “But if you look behind the façade, you see something very different.”<br><br><img alt="Cesky Krumlov" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7nN&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002prU" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>Describing the itinerary, he continues, “we follow the winding Vltava River through time and space toward the former forbidden area. We see pristine nature, and then, behind some bushes, we see the ruins of villages that were destroyed during the Cold War because they were too close to the border. Most people only think of the Berlin Wall, but there were barbed wire and towers for hundreds of miles. You feel the brutality of the Communist system,” he says, and it stands in sharp relief against the picture-perfect scenes in eský Krumlov and the bustling thoroughfares of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank">Prague and Budapest</a>, which bookend the trip.</p> <p>“When the Communist system collapsed and free-market systems were introduced, two radically different lifestyles just a few miles apart came together,” says Martin. “There was and still is a clash, and that’s something guests can detect when taking the trip with Classic Journeys. We go from a former Eastern Bloc country to a Western country back to an Eastern country.”</p> <p>With that perspective front-of-mind, guests experience the region in a more profound way, says Zsófi, who leads the tour of Budapest. “We can now walk freely around the city and not have secret police officers following us. If Westerners had come during Communism, that would have happened.”<br><br><img alt="Group exploring the city streets" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7nN&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002pre" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>Zsófi left her border-town home in 1990, at the height of the transition, to attend university in Budapest. “It was an exhilarating time,” she says. “I voted in my first free election, and my party won. Everyone was very happy and looking forward to new things.”</p> <p>But in the next breath, Zsófi juxtaposes that hope with today’s reality: “Here, you still see war wounds” on the buildings and on people’s faces as they’ve realized prosperity isn’t something you can just switch on. People who were once provided for suddenly have to make their own destiny amidst a struggling free economy. The enthusiasm of the ’90s has faded. Other tour companies shield guests from those wounds, but Martin and Zsófi think they’re crucial to understanding the region.</p> <p>In Budapest, Zsófi takes her groups on public transit rather than private buses or vans, so they can mingle with locals. On the way to the Royal Palace, she stops at the former Ministry of Defense and points out the bullet holes from the 1956 uprising. The building has remained in ruins for decades, left not only as a reminder of the past but also a reminder to the citizens and visitors that Central Europe’s story isn’t over: It is constantly unfolding.</p> <p>_____________________________________________________________________________________________</p> <p>For more information on Classic Journeys 8-day walking tour of Austria, Prague and Budapest, visit <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank">www.classicjourneys.com/prague</a> or call 1-800-200-3887 to speak with a Guest Services Coordinator.</p>

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