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Dramatic History Along the Balkan Explorer Route

Visiting some of the most pivotal sites in European history, find out how the Balkan Explorer has become one of our most significant tours.

On this route, you’ll move through areas which have been shaped by momentous conflicts, experiencing first-hand the juxtaposition and unique character brought about by the collision of great nations and empires, all from the world-class comfort of the Golden Eagle Danube Express.

Of course, times have moved on and these locales have enjoyed considerable rejuvenation over the past decades. What were once scenes of great strife are now cities bursting with growth and optimism. As we move towards spring, there’s a strong comparison to be made between the rebirth of the year and the regenerative, hopeful mindset these places evoke.

The journey begins in Venice with a two night stay in this romantic and culturally iconic city. With time to explore at your leisure you can take in this inspiring starting point and get to know your fellow passengers before boarding the train and venturing east.

On the afternoon of your fourth day you’ll come to Zagreb, a real highlight when it comes to cities with a rich past. Capital of the German and Italian-backed Independent State of Croatia during World War Two, its people remained stoic in the face of adversity.

Nowadays the capital of Croatia is a vital centre for culture, host to almost all of the country’s largest media and scientific institutions. On your afternoon visit you can take a walking tour of the historic upper town centre and around the ornate buildings which decorate the lower town.

On the morning of day five you’ll arrive in Sarajevo. In terms of cities defined by struggle, this is a real highlight of the trip. As the world marked the centenary of the First World War in 2014, it’s interesting to note that Sarajevo was the scene of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the spark which ignited the conflict. The Siege of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1996 was also the longest siege in the history of modern warfare.

Despite all this, the city is now the shining jewel of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Lonely Planet has named it the 43rd best city in the world and 2014 saw it attain the status of European Capital of Culture. On a morning tour you’ll be able to follow a native guide who lived through the siege and hear the story of this traumatic time brought to life as well as experience the sense of ambition and promise which drives the people of Sarajevo today.

Moving further east, the seventh day of your journey brings you to Belgrade. Here you’ll find a city which is no stranger to rising from the ashes, having been fought over in 115 wars and burned to the ground 44 times over the course of its history! Bloody but unbowed, the city is now a thriving centre for the arts, straddling the meeting point of the Danube and Sava Rivers.

With a full day to explore the city, you’re free to join our tour which takes in the mausoleum of Josip Tito, known as the House of Flowers, Republic Square and the imposing Kalmegdan Fortress among other landmarks. Due to its history of repeated rebuilding, Belgrade boasts some interesting architectural juxtapositions. With Neoclassic, Romantic and Neo-Byzantine influences mixing with the brutalist architecture popular under communist rule, this is aunique opportunity to see a level of architectural variety seldom found in one city.

With the dawning of day ten, you’ll pull into Istanbul. Here is a city which has truly endured the rise and fall of some of the mightiest empires on the planet, spanning millennia of history. As rich in cultural interest as it is historic, the peculiar borderline climate of the city leads to the northern city being shrouded in thick fog during the colder months, producing a unique and striking view of the skyline.

Those wishing to end their trip with a shopping spree could hardly find themselves in a better place. Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s oldest and largest covered markets, in operation since 1461.

These are just some of the highlights along a route steeped in grandeur and historical turning points for civilisation. By journeying along the Balkan Explorer route, you’ll be able to feel the scope of this prestigious and powerful lineage for yourself and see the many sights of a part of the world which has been in every way reborn.

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