We have partnered with R. Crusoe, one of the leading luxury tour operators to Europe to present these curated pre and post World Cup tours to come sightsee and take in the local flavours of Poland, Norway, or the Baltic Countries. They will arrange for exceptional, well situated luxury hotels for you; hand-pick the top local guides; get you off the beaten path and deep into your destination. Consider the following ideas as jump-off points, and remember that they will customize any journey to fit your specific desires.
Non-stop flights are available between Moscow or St. Petersburg, Russia, and marvelous Poland. The Polish state began in the mid-10th century as a busy cluster of fortified towns. It would spend the next millennium or so struggling to keep itself out from under the thumb of Germans, Mongolians, Hungarians, the SS, and the Soviet army. Poland today has blossomed into an independent nation, the first in Eastern Europe to shake off the shackles of communist rule. Don’t miss this dynamic country.
Begin in the capital city of Warsaw, focusing on the old town. Stroll Lazienki Park, a baroque beauty. Take a private walking tour of the Royal Castle. Enter 13th-century St. John’s Cathedral, whose crypt holds the remains of prominent countrymen. Visit Marie Curie’s birthplace. Learn about the 1942 Jewish resistance at the Warsaw Uprising Museum. Czestochowa is home to the holiest relic in Poland, the “Black Madonna.”
Fascinating Krakow, next, whose layered history stretched back to the seventh century. No wonder UNESCO named its Old Town a World Heritage site. We suggest you stay in a boutique hotel that often hosted Nicolaus Copernicus. You’re in good company. Tour Jagiellonian University, founded in 1364. Copernicus was its most famous student (1491-1495). See his scientific instruments. Stroll Europe’s largest medieval square. From there, we fan out to Florianska Street, historic St. Florian Gate, and the Barbican to learn about Ottoman threats to invade Poland in the 15th century.
The Royal Castle is a treasury trove of history, from its enormous Sigismund Bell to the winged armor worn by Polish hussars. Daytrip to Auschwitz-Birkenau, if you’d like. A visit is haunting and sobering but tremendously important. Back in Krakow, stroll the streets of Kazimierz, the old Jewish ghetto, now undergoing a tremendous renaissance. Enter Oskar Schindler’s factory to round out your history lesson. Daytrip to Wieliczka, another UNESCO site, this one listed for its ancient salt mines. Enter excavation chambers to see reliefs, altars, and statues sculpted from salt. Then return to Krakow.
We suggest a seven-day journey.
Another destination that’s a short, non-stop flight from Moscow? Norway, a crescent of gorgeous turf that separates the Scandinavian peninsula from the Atlantic Ocean and shields it from the Arctic chill. Norway’s natural scenery and cultural highlights deserve a firsthand look. Fly to Oslo, Norway’s capital and its largest city. The rich and nuanced history comes alive on a private tour of the Royal Palace, Akershus Fortress, Vigeland Sculpture Park, and City Hall (site of the annual Nobel Prize ceremony). View Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” hanging in the National Gallery. The city’s Bygdoy Peninsula boasts excellent cultural museums.
Depart Oslo on the scenic Flam Railway into splendid mountain scenery. Then board a boat to Aurlansfjord and Naeroyfjord, Mother Nature at her finest. Overnight in a country hotel overlooking Vangen Lake that’s hosted visitors since 1864. Handangerfjord is Norway’s Queen of the Fjords. See why as we follow to Bergen, the charming and bustling capital of western Norway. Get to know this delightful city on a private tour, including a Cistercian abbey built in 1146 and the home of composer Edvard Grieg, where we hear a short concert.
Beyond the city limits, a small ship takes us to Rosendal to tour an important barony, manor house and all. Enter one of Norway’s oldest medieval churches. Finally, a dramatic fjord cruise to Mostraumen, Nordhordalandsbrau, Osteroy, and Heskjedalsfossen waterfall before doubling back to Bergen.
We suggest an eight-day journey.
THE BALTIC COUNTRIES: LITHUANIA, LATVIA, AND ESTONIA
Perhaps you once knew them as the Baltic States – Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. That was their moniker during the Socialist era, when Moscow claimed this slice of the pie around the Baltic Sea, much to the Balkans’ consternation. Today, as three free nations, they much prefer the loose label “Baltic Countries.” It hints at the vast cultural differences each enjoys.
There are 90-minute non-stop flights between Moscow and Vilnius, Lithuania, the capital city whose Old Town is a UNESCO site. Explore the highlights of Europe’s oldest Baroque city: medieval Gediminas Castle, Eastern Europe’s oldest university, and the city’s former Jewish ghetto, among them. Daytrip to Trakai, Druskininkai, and Grutas. Medieval Trakai is home to a minority sect, the Judaic-Turkic Karats. Trakai Castle exemplifies Gothic style. Druskininkai, a 19th century spa town, was a magnet for comrades with aches and pains. Grutas has one of the strangest museums we know: Stalin World, a collection of Soviet-era statues in what’s meant to look like a Siberian concentration camp.
Lithuania’s second largest city, Kaunas, is a thriving cultural center and was once a powerful Hanseatic hub. There are art museums to peruse, a marketplace, a former temple dedicated to the Thunder God. Palanga, a seaside resort, has a cache of amber on display. Klaipeda, a port city, was once the Prussian capital of Memel. Explore the Curonian Spit. Here, divide your time between a unique, fragile ecosystem and four traditional fishing villages.
Latvia, next. In Pilsrundale, tour Rundale Palace, outstanding Baroque and Rococo confection. It opened to the public not long ago. Riga, Latvia’s capital, has a history that stretches back eight centuries, and its Old Town, too, is a UNESCO site. Poke around on a guided tour of the most important sites – including medieval guild houses, Jugendstil showpieces along Alberta Street, and 13th-century Dome Cathedral.
Then into Estonia. The city of Tallinn has been sacked, pillaged, and bombed so many times over the centuries, it’s a wonder anything is still standing. Yet it is known as one of the most intact of any medieval European cities. UNESCO has listed it as a World Heritage site. A local guide shows you around—to artists’ studios along St. Catherine’s Passage, inside 14th-century Toompea Castle and Nevsky Cathedral, a remnant of Estonia’s Russification. Enter Czar Peter the Great’s Kadroig Palace, and stroll through museums filled with ancient and contemporary art. Now you know the Baltics.
We suggest a nine-day journey.