Italian Süd Tyrol & the Dolomites – A Passenger's View

The Dolomites

Amazing, Beautiful, Spectacular, Wonderful, Fantastic, Stunning…. You really do run out of words to describe some of the places you visit and sights you see on this Dolomites tour, but I think the coach crew would sum it up in their own word ‘Amazeballs’ as that’s just what this tour was.

Day One – Outbound to Liege

We were lucky enough to join our tour coach at our pick-up point and were able to sit in our allocated seats from the start. Once on board, Mum had a lovely surprise as her seat had been decorated by our drivers, Paul & Lisa, to celebrate her birthday. This was a lovely gesture and Paul & Lisa also made sure that they presented each passenger who celebrated a birthday on tour with a personal card & gift. This made the tour extra special for those 3 passengers who celebrated their birthdays on this tour of the Dolomites with us.

Following the usual efficient service at the interchange, we re-joined our tour coach and continued on to our overnight hotel in Liege. We arrived at a reasonable hour and were able to enjoy a drink at the bar and the chance to get to know our fellow travellers. One thing we love about Leger tours is the opportunity to make new friends and discover wonderful new places. This tour was no exception!

Day Two – Liege to Uttenheim

It’s an early start and a long day, but travelling through some wonderful scenery, as we did, it’s a very enjoyable journey. There were plenty of refreshments available on board, regular stops to stretch your legs and the lounge on board is a great place to spend some time getting to know the new friends you meet on board. During the journey, Paul explained the itinerary and provided additional information & interesting facts about the planned excursions and places we passed during the day. His knowledge of the area and enjoyment of the tour was obvious and both he & Lisa were more than happy to answer any questions about the tour, or indeed any other tour we were thinking of booking after perusing the brochures on board.

At the end of the day, we arrived at the lovely Zum Schlossl hotel in Uttenheim to find a warm welcome from our hosts Anna & Peter along with a lovely 3-course dinner waiting for us.

Day Three – Dolomites

I think this Dolomites tour has to be one of the highlights of the holiday. Stunning scenery around every bend, and plenty of stops for that perfect picture postcard photo opportunity. Our lunch stop on the Pordoi Pass, in the Dolomites, was fantastic with more than enough time for those who wanted to take the cable car to the top. I can thoroughly recommend doing this if you get the chance as the views were stunning…. snow, ice, blue skies and amazing vistas. The first of many lunches with a view this week….

After dinner, those who didn’t want to watch the football tonight had a fun evening of Bingo provided by Lisa & Paul …. It did get a bit competitive but was a great end to our day. There were a lot of laughs and everyone really enjoyed the fun end to a wonderful day exploring the mighty Dolomites.

Pordoi Pass, Dolomites
Pordoi Pass, Dolomites

Day Four – Lake Garda

This optional excursion was well worth booking. We travelled to Lake Garda and had time to explore Riva before catching our first boat of the day to Limone. Once there, we had plenty of time to explore this lovely town and enjoy lunch in one of the many cafes offering views of the lake. Our last boat ride of the day took us to Malcesine where there was time to visit the castle, browse the local shops and of course enjoy the obligatory ice cream in the Italian sunshine before re-joining the coach for our journey back to the hotel. On board the coach for our return journey we enjoyed our first taste of Meloncello which was lovely and the perfect end to the excursion.

Riva, Lake Garda

Day Five – Brunico & Lake Misurina

In our opinion, this was the best day of the tour and is an optional which really should not be missed. Our first stop of the day was Brunico, where we were given plenty of time to explore both the new and old parts of town and enjoy coffee & cake in one of the many cafes.

Some of us climbed up to the Woodland Soldier Cemetery which Paul had suggested we visit and the castle and I can recommend both on a visit to this beautiful town.

Brunico Soldier Cemetery is a forest cemetery and is unlike any other war cemetery I’ve seen. Set amongst the woodland, overlooking the town, all of the graves are carved from trees. Amongst them, you can find Hungarian-Austrian & German army next to Russian & Serbian Prisoner of War graves. Every one of them, whether Catholic or Orthodoxy, Mohammedan or Jewish, were buried according to their religious rites, and all of the graves are equally cared for and decorated all year round by the town. When visiting Brunico it is well worth the walk up to visit this woodland cemetery and we were so glad Paul told us about it.

Brunico Soldier Cemetery
Brunico Soldier Cemetery

Walking across the bridge from the Woodland Cemetery we found Brunico Castle, which overlooks the town. We had the time to go in and explore the castle and were glad we did. There is so much to see within it that we could have spent a lot longer there and would definitely go back again. The views from the castle over the town and surrounding area are worth climbing the stairs of the tower, although a lift is also available if the thought of the stairs is too daunting.

Brunico Castle
Brunico Castle

Lake Misurina

What a place for a lunch stop! There was the chance to walk around the lake if you wanted, which many of the group did. We chose to take our first chair lift ride and enjoyed a very nice lunch (& being at the top of the mountain we couldn’t not try the apple strudel for dessert!) with a spectacular view overlooking this beautiful lake and the surrounding snow-topped mountains.

Without a doubt we would recommend that you do this optional excursion if you get the chance….it’s just Wow!

Lake Misurina

Day Six – Venice

This is a long day with an early start and because of that, not all the passengers joined this optional excursion. Those of us who did had a lovely day in Venice with perfect weather. We enjoyed our first gondola ride and enjoyed wandering around the streets of Venice exploring before finding a lovely local restaurant for lunch. There was time after that to take photos at the Rialto Bridge and enjoy another ice cream while we walked back via St Mark’s Square to catch the boat for the optional Lagoon cruise.

Rialto Bridge, Venice
Rialto Bridge, Venice

Venice is a lovely place to visit and we enjoyed our day, but because of the long drive, it deters a lot of passengers from booking the excursion. It may be worth changing this day and including some of the other wonderful places in the Tyrol which are closer to the hotel. Some of the passengers who didn’t come to Venice had a lovely day exploring the local towns or going for walks from the hotel. Whether they joined the excursion or not, everyone enjoyed their day.

Day Seven – Bolzano

A nice short day after Venice but we still had plenty of time to explore this lovely town. The architecture of the buildings and the beautiful surrounding countryside provide some great photo opportunities. We took time to look around the local shops, visit the castle and enjoy lunch soaking up the sun with overlooking the Cathedral with its beautiful mosaic roof which stands at one end of the central square, Piazza Walther. In the centre of the square is a statue of the poet and bard, Walther von de Vogelweide and we found it was a wonderful place to sit and enjoy lunch whilst watching the world go by.

Bolzano
Bolzano

Hotel Zum Schlossl, Uttenheim

There is not one bad thing to say about this hotel. We had a room in the annexe which had a balcony with fantastic views over the mountains. The hotel is run by Anna, Peter and their son and is just across the quiet road from the annexe. The food is all fresh and homemade by Anna and, believe me, you will never leave the dinner table hungry. After dinner, there is a very nice terrace where we enjoyed a drink in the evening with our fellow passengers and I am being totally honest when I say we really can’t fault anything about this hotel or the wonderful staff. We only wish we could have stayed there longer!

Coach & Crew

There is not one negative thing to say about the coach or Paul & Lisa, our fantastic crew for this Italian Sud Tirol and the Dolomites tour.

The coach was always kept spotlessly clean inside & out, and with plentiful refreshments on board, there was no chance of spending any part of the tour thirsty or hungry.

Paul & Lisa are a wonderful team and they work extremely well together. Their obvious love of their work and knowledge of the tour and the places we visited was infectious and I don’t think one person left the tour without having a thoroughly enjoyable time.

Throughout the week, both Lisa & Paul were happy to answer any questions about any tours that we saw in the brochures on board the coach. Then, on the Friday night, they had the great idea of a ‘Booking Night’. This gave the whole group the chance to talk to each other and ask any questions of Paul & Lisa about future tours they were thinking of booking. We were lucky enough to make some wonderful new friends this tour and by the end of the night, we had booked another 3 tours to look forward to with our new friends.

To find out more about our Summer in the Italian Süd Tirol & the Dolomites tour, click here to find out more. 

Oberammergau 2020: Get to know the Passion Play

Once again, the world-famous Passion Play returns to the Bavarian Alps as Oberammergau 2020 marks this magnificent play’s 42nd performance.

So, why not make 2020 the year you experience this ‘play of life and death’, combined with the beauty of Bavaria, Germany, Austria and Italy on one of our fully-escorted tours? We have a collection of tours which combine the performance of the Passion Play and the picturesque Bavarian town of Oberammergau with visits to some of Europe’s most wonderful towns, cities and stunning scenery. 

But, if you’re not sure about why, or how the Oberammergau Passion Play came about, and why it is a highlight of each decade in this picturesque part of Europe, then why not take a look at our infographic, explaining the history and the importance of this unique experience.

Oberammergau 2020 - The world famous passion play
Come visit Oberammergau 2020 – The world famous passion play

Oberammergau 2020 - The world famous passion playOberammergau 2020 - The world famous passion playAfter months of suffering, and death, from the plague, the Oberammergauers swore an oath to God that, on the promise he would spare them, they would perform the "Play of the Suffering, Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ".Oberammergau 2020 - The play is performed every 10 years, the next to be in 2020, running from May to October.Oberammergau 2020 - The world famous passion playOberammergau 2020 - The world famous passion playOberammergau 2020 - The world famous passion playThe play attracts over 500,000 from around the world. Oberammergau 2020 - The world famous passion play

Easily one of our most popular tours, this once-a-decade experience sells out extremely quickly.

With a fascinating collection of tours to choose from, discovering some of Europe’s most incredible destinations, including the Austrian Tyrol, as well as Rome, The Vatican and Lake Garda, now really is the time to get on board.

So, if you’re thinking about joining us for Oberammergau 2020, be sure to book your place now. Visit our website at leger.co.uk/oberammergau to find out more.

Tickets for the Passion Play are allocated along with the accommodation, and whilst we can’t advise on the exact location of the seats, as a general rule, the higher the grade of accommodation, the better the seats. See the seating plan below which illustrates the location of each ticket category.

Tempting Wine Regions: Europe’s Top 5

Have you been true to your word and not touched a drop of wine, beer or your favourite spirit throughout the whole month of January? Well, there’s some good news in store… the end of dry January is nigh!

And, to all those who’ve soldiered on through the month, abstaining from alcohol, this one is dedicated to you.
We all know that a holiday just isn’t a holiday without a little – or a lot – of overindulgence, and for all you wine connoisseurs out there, there’s no better place to sample the local delicacies than within the wine regions of Europe!
So, if you’re more than ready for that first tipple of your favourite beverage, but you’re still trying to power through those last remaining days, turn those cravings into wanderlust and find out about the fascinating places behind your favourite glass.

The Loire Valley – France’s Picturesque Wine Region

The Loire Valley - France
Deep within central France, marking the border between the north and south, and just a short distance away from the capital city of Paris, lies the lovely Loire Valley.
Or, should we say the ‘Garden of France’? A name awarded to the region due to the abundance of vineyards lining the banks of the river. And, that’s a great start, right?
The Loire Valley produces grapes such as the popular white Chenin Blanc and the red Grolleau and amongst the stunning natural scenery, you’ll find châteaux, castles and palaces dotted along the river… but it’s the 4000 wineries that we’re most interested in.
Producing an array of world-renowned quality wines, from light rosés to deep reds and sparkling whites, there’s something for everyone to enjoy, whatever your tipple of choice.

La Rioja – The Famous Wine from Spain

La Rioja, Spain's famous Wine Producing Region
If you’re a glass of red sort-of-person, then Spain could be the one for you… Situated at the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains, La Rioja is close to the ‘Way of St. James’ pilgrimage route and is centred on the Ebro River Valley.
With beautiful views of medieval villages, endless vineyards and olive groves – not to mention the unbroken blue skies – the La Rioja region produces an abundance of full-bodied red wines.
And, the wines from Rioja are as age-worthy as those from the Chianti and Bordeaux regions – they’ve even been produced since Roman times!
Rioja’s main grape is the Tempranillo, however, most wines are blended with smaller amounts of others, such as the Garnacha and the Mazuelo grapes, but, one thing is certain, they always taste divine!

The Douro Valley – Portugal

The Douro Valley - Portugal
Often overlooked as a wine region within Europe, we say the Douro Valley in Portugal is amongst one of the best!
It’s home of the world-famous Port and, as a matter of fact, was the first wine region in the world to have a formal demarcation. Yes, just like Champagne, the Douro Valley is the world’s only producer of Port.
History played a huge part in the production of the sweet tipple. When England was at war with France in 1756, it was decided that they would import wine from Portugal instead.
However, due to the long journey, the wines would often become spoiled by the time it reached England. So, in order to preserve them, they were fortified… and in the city of Porto, Port was born!
And, due to its deliciousness, the sweet, red dessert wine is still extremely popular to this day.

Tuscany – Italy’s Iconic Region

Tuscany, Italy's famous wine producing region.
It’s true what they say, it really is hard to find a bad glass of wine in Tuscany! And, not only does Tuscany produce one of the most beautiful wines in the world, the Chianti, it is also one of the most beautiful places on earth!
Unique landscapes of lush green, sloping hills full of olive groves and vineyards, are scatted with tiny traditional villages, seen for miles and miles.
Chianti, typically and traditionally presented in a bottle known as a ‘fiasco’, wrapped in a straw basket, is a dry red wine, which goes very well with the delicious cuisine that you can enjoy in Italy!

The Moselle – Germany’s Top Wine Region

The Moselle Wine Region - Germany
Germany is home to thirteen different wine regions which make the country one of the top producers in Europe. But, out of all thirteen, the Moselle is arguably the most famous… and for good reason.
Vineyards cover the steep hillsides that border the Moselle River, and it’s here where the celebrated Riesling grapes are produced, along with the Elbling, Pinot Blanc and Kerner, to name a few.
These grapes create some of the most delightful light and crisp wines you’ll ever taste. And, they’ve been made here since the 15th century, when the Romans planted their crops along the Rhine and Moselle rivers in order to supply their garrisons with wine.
Add to that the fact that the Moselle Valley looks like something straight out of a fairy tale, you’ve got the perfect destination for wine lovers and old romantics alike.
Visit these impressive wine regions and much more on a Leger Holidays escorted tour – we even offer wine tasting excursions, if this blog has whet your appetite.

2018: Our 5 Top Travel Trends

New Year, new you, you’ve probably heard that a lot. Yes, It’s that time of year again where everyone seems to be kick-starting those New Years’ resolutions for 2018…

Joining the gym, eating healthily, maybe even giving up your usual tipple for a dry January… but is there a truer tonic for pressing that reset button, introducing yourself to new experiences and enlightening yourself, than heading off on a new adventure?
Travel is said to be the only thing you can buy that makes your richer, but with so many places to visit and so much to see and do, choosing where to book for your next holiday is quite the decision.
But, in the spirit of trying new things, and enjoying new experiences, we’ve put together our top destinations to travel to in 2018. Perfect if you’re looking for a little travel inspiration.

Vietnam

Vietnam
If you’re looking for somewhere exotic, packed with plenty of memorable experiences and that once-in-a-lifetime feel, Vietnam has it all. From the serene views over Ha Long Bay, dotted with junk boats to the buzz of the capital city Hanoi.
With waves of moped cyclists weaving through the traffic, some with pigs strapped to the back (yes, really), pyjama fashion and cà phê Chồn, a rather curious coffee, partly digested by the weasel-like civet. You will feel a world away from normality in this fascinating country.
But, beyond the outstanding natural beauty and unique cultural experiences, Vietnam also has a complex and diverse history. The impact of the infamous 19-year-long Vietnam War can still be felt this day, from the War Remnants Museum to the Dien Bien Phu War Cemetery.
A fascinating destination and one that will leave you awe-struck, gratified and completely enchanted by what it has to offer.

Berlin

Berlin, a top city break for 2018
Another hub of culture and history, the German capital is a must when it comes to places to visit in 2018. Whether it is part of a longer holiday or even a short break (especially for the Christmas Markets), Berlin’s combination of charisma and character is certain to appeal to almost anyone.
The iconic buildings, such as the Reichstag and the Fernsehturm TV tower are high on many visitors to-do list whilst in the city. But, digging a little deeper, there’s much more on offer than the popular postcard places.
The Treptower Park is host to an impressive Soviet War Memorial, set amongst a huge cemetery for 5000 Soviet soldiers. You can visit Checkpoint Charlie, the former crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin and the nearby Mauerpark, a former part of the Berlin Wall and its death strip.
And, of course, you can visit the East Side Gallery, a 1316m long section Berlin Wall itself, or see the impressive Brandenburg Gate. There’s so much to fit into your time in Berlin, it will more than likely leave you wanting to visit again.

Sicily

Sicily
Are you talkin’ to me? Yes, we are! If you’re a fan of The Godfather, that is. Or, just anyone who is looking for a taste of the less trodden parts of Italy, really, Sicily could just be your cup of tea in 2018.
Yes, the small Italian island is the famous ancestral home of the notorious Corleone family, who you’ll know from being at the centre of the classic cinematic saga.
Perfect for any film buff, you can head to the foothills of the Peloritani Mountains where you’ll find some rather recognisable surroundings in the town of Savoca. You can even watch the world go by on the shady terrace of Bar Vitelli itself. And, best of all? The bar hasn’t changed since the film’s release in 1972!
But, it’s not all movies and the Mafia in Sicily, in fact, it’s one of Italy’s most beautiful islands.  Taormina offers beautiful views of the east coast and a perfect perspective of Mount Etna. It’s easy to see why this has become the summer playground of the rich and famous
Many big names have been spotted seeking the dolce vita in the Taormina, from Oscar Wilde to Elisabeth Taylor, and a whole host of big-screen stars jetting in for the Taormina Film Festival, you’ll certainly be in great company wandering the streets of this glitzy hill-top retreat.

The Azores

The Azores
When you think of Portugal, you’ll be forgiven for thinking the sun, sand and the Algarve. But we’re thinking somewhere a little more exotic. The Azores islands are an autonomous region of Portugal, sitting deep within the North Atlantic, and offer a truly unique and really quite breath-taking experience.
It’s been called Europe’s answer to Hawaii and one of Europe’s best-kept secrets, a cavern of volcanic enchantment, you will bear witness to some pretty spectacular scenery, and who could say no to that?
Furnas City is host to botanical gardens, hot and cold springs and a lush, green, mountainous setting. The mystical lake, Santiago, is almost other-worldly, with its green waters sitting 334 metres above sea level, surrounded by the borders of a small crater, it’s a must-see whilst in the area.
You can even head over to Pico Island, the largest of the Azores. Dominated by Pico Mountain, it became a nature reserve in 1982 and has been producing delicious wine since the 15th century.
You won’t be disappointed by these beautiful islands, in fact, they could just prove to be the exotic adventure you’re looking for, all without leaving Europe in 2018.

Santorini

Santorini, Greece, a must-see for 2018.
A bucket list destination by the very definition, the remarkable island of Santorini is stealing hearts and keeping travellers flocking in for the 2018 season.
The world-famous view over the iconic caldera, whilst perched in the popular cliff-side towns of Fira and Oia, is one that you won’t get over for a while, especially at sunset. It’s a scene you’d see on postcards picked up throughout Greece, and that’s how you know you’re in an incredible location.
With the beautiful blue church domes scattered around the whitewash towns, seemingly clinging to the cliff edge, met by black, volcanic beaches at the foot, you’ll certainly get the best of Greece in Santorini.
Not to mention the old saying that there is more wine than rain on the island, and you have the delicious Greek cuisine to pair it with, from mezze to a moussaka, it’s a holiday for your taste buds as well as your sense of adventure.
If these incredible destinations have whet your appetite for a holiday to remember in 2018, why not see more on an escorted tour? At Leger Holidays, we have tours that encompass all of the above and lots, lots more. So what are you waiting for? Head over to www.leger.co.uk, today.

A Spring Fling: The Best of the Dutch Bulbfields

When Christmas is out of the way and the New Year’s resolutions are in full swing, we all need something to look forward to. And, if spring is your thing, you’re probably already counting down the days until those first buds start to appear

We know many people will have their hearts set on that summer holiday, but we think why wait? When spring comes knocking, it’s time to get packing because the Dutch Bulbfields offer the perfect post-winter getaway.
It’s the time that Holland transforms into a sea of colour, from the brightest of yellows, to the deepest of pinks, it’s not just an anthophile’s dream.
First comes the crocus season, followed by daffodils and hyacinths, then the grand finale, the tulips! From mid-March to mid-May, Holland’s green spaces get a whole lot more impressive and the Dutch Bulbfields are a worthy inclusion on any persons bucket list.

The Dutch fascination with tulips certainly isn’t new. First introduced to Dutch Merchants from the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, unlike any other flower at the time, the intense petal colour fascinated Europe and the flower grew rapidly in popularity – and so did the price.
In fact, at there was a time that the flower was so valuable, it was even used as currency. That’s why they called it ‘Tulip Mania’.

Amsterdam


Although the value of a tulip will no longer buy you a house by the canal, throughout April, the Dutch capital still honours the humble tulip with its very own festival, showcasing an impressive 500,000 of them throughout the city!
From the EYE Filmmuseum, Hermitage Amsterdam and Hortus Botanicus to the Museum Van Loon, Rijksmuseum and many more public spaces throughout the city, you can be sure to spot some spectacular displays whilst in Amsterdam.
And, of course, as the hours of sunlight grow steadily longer, there really is more time in the day to enjoy the best of Amsterdam. Maybe having a leisurely break, sipping on a Dutch beer by the canal? Albeit, with the help of a patio heater every now and then.

Keukenhof Park


Just a short hop away from Amsterdam, you can reach the real holy grail of the tulip itself, the stunning Keukenhof Park. 79 acres of flowers and fragrance, the park is considered the ‘Garden of Europe’, a well-deserved title, we must say.
Unlike anywhere else, the park has attracted a whopping 50 million people since it first opened, with almost 75% of those visiting from other countries.
It’s one of the world’s largest flower gardens, with more than 7 million Tulips, Hyacinths and Daffodils on display over 8 weeks of spring.
Surprisingly enough, the bulbs are provided for free by over 1000 Dutch growers, and at the end of the show season at Keukenhof, the team of gardeners have orders to dig out the millions of bulbs and destroy them, ready to start fresh for the next year.
Although, the bulbs don’t go entirely to waste, maybe in stark contrast to the Tulip Mania era, most will be used as food for farm animals.
The gardeners will then hand plant next year’s bulbs in Autumn, taking 3 months to create a brand new design. So, if you’re wondering is it worth going back and visiting Keukenhof again, it sure is!

The Bulbfields


But, it’s not just Keukenhof where you can enjoy mass amounts of tulips all in one place, the bulbfields themselves are just as impressive.
Fields of vibrant colours line canals and road sides, with windmills rising up from the sky line, the growing fields of this fabulous flower are certainly a sight for sore eyes. Even Vincent Van Gogh thought them worthy of a masterpiece, as the fields feature in many of his paintings.
Every spring draws huge crowds, with cameras to capture the spectacular sight in their own snap shot. Even if you’re not particularly into flowers, this one makes a great photo.
Even though these fields are beautiful, and attract tourists in their droves, they are also economically valuable to the Netherlands. A high proportion of the country’s exports are freshly cut flowers.
In fact, Holland holds the title of the biggest player in the flower game, making up two thirds of the world’s flora sales! You can even buy tulips in New York that were cut in Holland that very morning! Now, that’s impressive.
So, if people in New York are enjoying a little piece of Holland, why not try some for yourself? Our popular Dutch Bulbfield tours will be departing through March and April so why not book your getaway today?

The Weird and Wonderful: Superstitions of Europe

Black cats, horse shoes and not walking under ladders, we’ve all encountered some strange superstitions in our lifetime, and whether you believe in them or not, when Friday the 13th comes around, you can never be too careful.

But, it’s not just here in the UK that we’ll try out little techniques to try our luck, our European neighbours are just as superstitious. But, you guessed it, they’re completely different to ours. So, in honour of this day, why not delve deep into the superstitions of Europe?

Spain


Here we are, worrying about what Friday the 13th can bring, but our Spanish friends are more than likely left scratching their heads, because they believe that Tuesday the 13th is the unluckiest of days.
Tuesday, or Martes in Spanish, is a word derived from the name Mars, which in the middle ages was called ‘Little Evil’. Mars is also the God of War and Destruction, therefore Tuesday is ruled by Mars – and to think we dread Mondays.
But, on Tuesday the 13th, the consensus is Spain is to not get married or board a ship or a plane, as luck may not be in your favour.

Portugal


Spilling wine on any day would be considered bad luck, especially if it’s been a bad day already, but not in Portugal. It’s thought to actually bring happiness to the whole table if you topple your tipple.
But, walking backwards is a no-go. They say that by doing so, you’re teaching the devil the way you’re walking. Also, your left foot is said to be unlucky, so you should always enter someone’s house with your right.

Norway


Ward away the bad luck in Norway by setting a bowl of porridge outside the door. Why, you ask? It’s said to sweeten the old, small barn trolls. And, if it’s a nice day in Norway, don’t whistle towards the sun, it’s said to bring rain.
And, maybe a superstition we can believe in… apparently if there’s ice on the lakes on May Day, then spring will be late. Which, we think is a fairly good observation, given may day is actually in spring.

Italy


The Italians are particularly fond of their superstitions. For a start, if you hear a cat sneeze, expect good luck to be coming your way.
But, interestingly enough, the number 13 is actually considered to be good luck in Italy! But, the number 17… not so much. Friday the 17th is an unlucky day, some Alitalia planes don’t have a row 17 and hotels can skip out the 17th floor all together.
It all comes from the roman numerals for 17, XVII. Change it anagrammatically to VIXI which translates in Latin to ‘I have lived’. Or, looking at it a little more objectively ‘My life is over’. We’ll give them that one, that is pretty spooky.

Czech Republic


In the Czech Republic, throwing a shoe over your shoulder and smashing a glass is meant to be good luck, although, maybe not for the people around you at the time…
But, it’s also custom for brides to smash a plate on their wedding day and have their groom clear it up. The fragments are distributed to the guests and the newlyweds keep a piece for themselves. Quite the unusual favour.
But, on the other side, pouring beer into an old glass isn’t quite so prosperous, especially if it has the remnants of another type of beer in it. That’s said to be very unlucky, and maybe not as refreshing.
 
One thing is for sure, strange customs and cultures make for some interesting and exciting places to visit. Have you heard any unusual superstitions on your travels?

Best European Cities to Visit in the Winter

Winter is coming… and, no, we’re not talking about Game of Thrones. More the crisp air, thick coats and the smell of Christmas treats galore, lingering around the cities of Europe.

The summer crowds are a distant memory yet these European cities are still very much alive, so what better time than to pack your bags and head off on an exciting winter escape to these incredible cities?

Cologne


The star of the Rhine, Cologne well and truly comes alive in the wintertime. There’s a magical air about as its many Christmas markets open their shutters to a new season and the smell of roast chestnuts waft through the air leading revellers to one of the most festive destinations on earth.
With plenty to see and do,  even beyond the Christmas markets, from the mighty cathedral to intriguing museums, you could even warm up a little by joining the locals by strapping on those skates and taking to an ice rink.
Or, if you fancy something a little less energetic, why not grab a hot chocolate and follow the route of the nativity scenes? There’s over 100 of them to find across the city.
As it is the season for giving, or even if you just fancy treating yourself after a long year of staying on the nice list, you’ll be happy to know that Cologne is one of the most popular cities for shopping.
From the well-known Schildergasse and Hohe Straße to something a little more luxururous at the Mittelstraße, you will certainly be spoiled for choice.
We love Cologne at any time of year, but there’s something about the winter season that warms our hearts.

Brussels


 
We’re giving you the chance to leave the Brussel sprouts once and for all, because this year you could well and truly have your portion of Brussels by visiting the winter wonderland that is the Belgian capital.
No longer will you have the dreaded sprout fear that the festive season brings, it’s all about chocolate, beer, waffles, fries and the sumptuous setting to the magical Winter Wonders, an unmissable event right in the heart of the city.
Spreading from the Grand Place to the Marche auz Poissons, you’ll enjoy an abundance of Christmas trees, ice-skating, Ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds, colourful stalls great tasting foods and a magical atmosphere that’s hard to beat.

Vienna


You’ll want to waltz right into this one! The music city, where Mozart wrote some of his finest work, where Beethoven enjoyed most of his success and the birth place of Schubert, you’re not short of culture in the Austrian capital.
But, it’s not just the culture that makes it worth visiting this magnificent city, the wintery hues and sparkling Christmas lights in every direction give the Vienna the cosiest of atmospheres, and with a warm heart, who cares about the cold?
Vienna comes alive with the spirit of Christmas, with the sounds of carol concerts and waltzes heard throughout the city. The December Market, or “Krippenmarkt”, now has over 20 official advent markets selling an array of gifts and mouth-watering treats.
With people wandering the twinkling streets sipping on Glühwein, nibbling on schnitzel and Apfelstrudel, it’s hard not to be filled with seasonal joy in Vienna!

Prague


Prague, the home of Gothic romance. Medieval architecture reaching from the ground, high up into the winter’s sky, glistening in the icy moonlight. Sounds like something from a romantic vampire novel, right?
But, you don’t have to be a fan of Twilight-esque stories to appreciate Prague in the winter time. Yes, it’s chilly, but wrap up in warm layers and enjoy the spectacular setting in the low winter sunshine.
From Prague Castle to the Astronomical Clock, the winter weather doesn’t stop this city and with frosty walks across the Charles Bridge and stunning views of the Municipal House to look forward to, you might be wondering what took you so long to visit Prague in the winter months.

Salzburg


Ah, Salzburg… where the hills are alive with, well, absolute perfection. If there was ever any city that truly looked like a picture postcard winter wonderland, this is it.
Crisp weather with a good chance of snow-capped mountains to set the scene, this beautiful city is not just a pretty face, there’s also plenty to see and do.
The birthplace of Mozart and the origin of the ‘Silent Night’ Christmas carol, the city comes alive around Advent. The Lebkuchen Christmas cookies are in the oven and the Glühwein is in full flow.
The Christmas Market in Salzburg are well known throughout Europe, and for good reason. Of course, in the setting of the main square, overlooked by Hohensalzburg Castle, it’d be hard not to fall for the charm.
But with caramel almonds roasting and plenty of culinary delights and crafts to pick up whilst you’re there, the magical atmosphere is certainly a winner when it comes to choosing your winter holiday.
So, if you’re lost without your fix of Game of Thrones and are longing for your next spot of winter fun, we all know that Jon Snow knows nothing… but, luckily, we do. Embrace the winter and enjoy a Christmas market, fabulously festive break or a true winter wonderland experience with Leger Holidays.

10 interesting facts about Germany

Germany is proudly the seventh most visited country in the world and it sure is packed with so many things to see and do, so there’s no wonder people flock there in their droves.

Whatever you are looking for, whether it’s a city break, Christmas market trip, a cross country tour or even a historical pilgrimage, there’s something for everyone in Deutschland.
So, if you’re still in the research phase of your holiday planning, or just wanting to brush up on you knowledge before heading off on your German adventure, we’ve compiled our top 10 interesting facts about Germany just for you.

Here are our facts about Germany…

1. Germany is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe

The country has a staggering population size of 80,636,124 people, which means even though Germany is a rather large country, there are actually 231 people per square kilometre!

2. One third of Germany is still covered in Forest and Woodland

Despite the population density, a good proportion of Germany is actually still covered in foliage, and boy is it spectacular. If you’re a fan of the Brother’s Grimm fairy tales, you might just want to pay a visit to the beautiful Black Forest… the setting of many of their stories.

3. Berlin is nine times bigger than Paris and has more bridges than Venice

Did you realise how big Berlin actually is? Dating back to the 13th century, the city spans a whopping 891.8 km², which gives plenty of room for the 1650 bridges it houses.

4. During JFK’s famous declaration of “Ich bin ein Berliner” he actually likened himself to a jam doughnut.

Yes, you read that right… What JFK should have said is “Ich bin Berliner” meaning “I am a citizen of Berlin”, as a Berliner is actually a type of jelly donut made in Berlin, so “Ich bin ein Berliner” can actually be translated to “I am a jam doughnut”.

5. Germany’s Capital City has shifted 7 times!

Now here’s one to remember for the pub quiz! Germany’s capital has shifted from Aachen during the Carolingian Empire to Regensburg, Frankfurt-am-Main, Nuremberg, Berlin, Weimar (unofficially, during unrest in Berlin), Bonn and East Berlin, and, since 1990, Berlin again!

6. Germany is sometimes known as the land of poets and thinkers

German writers and have won 13 Nobel Prizes and Germany was home to world-renowned writers such as Friedrich Schiller, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Günter Grass and Maria Stona.

7. Germany is Europe’s second largest beer consumer

Just behind the Czech Republic, the German’s are known to consume a fair amount of ‘liquid gold’. However, given the Bavarian’s consider beer to be a basic food and drink an average of 150 litres per person per year, so we think they’re giving the Czech’s a good run for their money.

8. The longest word published in the German language is Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft

This loosely translates to Danube steamboat shipping electricity main engine facility building sub clerk association. It is a law delegating beef label monitoring, was removed from the German language in 2014.

9. The German football team is the second most successful football team in the world

The beautiful game is a British sport and a hard fought rivalry in the football world. We have to hand it to Germany on this one, falling just behind Brazil, winning four world cups and three European championships, so they certainly can play us at our own game.

10. The first book to ever be printed was the Bible by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1450s in Germany

The first mass produced printed book was the Latin Bible and was originally published in February 23, 1455 in Mainz.

Are you tempted by Germany? Then join one of our many escorted tours for a great value holiday to some of the best destinations. Click here to see what’s on offer.

A Breath of Fresh Eire

Shamrocks, leprechauns and whiskey… Ireland is awash with culture, myth and, well, spirits. But, not just that, it’s also packed full of fun and frolics.

Swathes of stunning countryside, mountains and castles, cities, coastlines, just a short hop across the Irish Sea. What more could you ask for? Guinness? Well you’re in luck because there is plenty of that on offer, 10 million pints are produced daily in Dublin alone!
But, if you’re planning to jump on over to Ireland, let us tell you about our top 5 hotspots of the beautiful Emerald Isle.

Dublin

The Dublin Spire

If Ireland is the land of craic, then this is certainly the capital of craic! Obviously, you can’t have a blog about Ireland without mentioning the mighty Dublin. Home of the Leprechaun museum, Jameson’s distillery and the world famous Guinness Storehouse, it’s a diverse city with plenty to see and do… for everyone!
From cathedrals, to the impressively sized Phoenix Park (it’s so big it even has a Zoo inside!), Ha’penny bridge, O’Connell bridge – the only traffic bridge in Europe that is wider than it is long – and Ireland’s oldest pub, The Brazen Head.
You can even sail down the River Liffey on an amphibious bus wearing Viking helmets. Like we said, it’s the capital of craic.
Even our CEO has been caught enjoying the craic on St Patrick’s Day in Dublin.

It’s the resting place of the patron saint of love, St. Valentine, and has been given a UNESCO City of Literature title, one of only 6 in the world.
If you’re wondering why, here’s a scratch in the surface of who called this wonderful city home… playwright Oscar Wilde, Dracula creator Bram Stoker, Nobel Prize and Oscar winner George Bernard Shaw and, of course, Ulysees writer, James Joyce. A talent pool you couldn’t turn your nose up at.

Wild Atlantic Way

Slieve League

From the most northern point to the southern peninsulas, the Wild Atlantic Way is a 2500km stretch of western coast line. We  may have been a bit sneaky having this as a ‘hot spot’, with 157 discovery points, 1,000 attractions and more than 2,500 activities along the way, but a visit to any part of the Wild Atlantic Way is a must for anyone wanting to explore more of Ireland, outside of the Dublin hub.
From the northern headlands, with highlights such as Slieve League, some of the highest cliffs in Europe with an impressive 609m drop into the churning Atlantic below, to the rocky natural beauty of the south.
One must-see, reaching far into the Atlantic, is the Dingle Peninsula, one of southwest Ireland’s final fanfares and a great place to visit. The rugged landscape, the dramatic, swirling waters at the cliff foot and the sandy coves, if you’re looking for spectacular scenery, this is the place for you.
Dingle Peninsula

Stopping off in the town of Dingle, you may notice the houses, like a pastel patchwork of pretty buildings. Why? You ask. Well, it’s all down to Ireland’s ‘Tidy Town’ competition, held over 30 years ago, that inspired the makeover, and it’s still just as impressive today.
And, we can’t forget the Ring of Kerry. And no, despite it being the land of the leprechaun, that isn’t a piece of jewellery stashed away in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it’s actually the most frequently travelled tourist route, around the Iveragh Peninsula.
It’s one of the most mythical and unspoilt areas of the Emerald Isle and is well worth a visit. Even if you’re just seeing what all the fuss is about, you won’t be disappointed.

Donegal

Fanad Head Lighthouse, Donegal.

Dubbed the ‘coolest place on the planet’ by National Geographic Traveller magazine. In fact, it was actually used as the setting for the upcoming Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, due to be released in December 2017.
Ireland has become a hit with the Lucas film cast and crew having shot scenes from The Force Awakens in the country, but, the trailer already shows us the breath-taking scenery shot on location in the Irish town itself.
But, beyond the scenes of the silver screen, Donegal has a lot more on offer. Rugged coastline, serene beaches, castles and mountains, just to name a few. The bustling town is the crown jewel of the area, a true Gaelic great. There’s plenty of fantastic souvenirs to grab whilst you’re there, too, with hand-woven tweed a popular product of the area.
Even if you’re looking to have a crack at enjoying the ‘craic’, being outside of Dublin will not do you any disservice. The pubs of the Diamond Area of Donegal are a great stop off to rest your feet and enjoy some of the local culture and a tipple or two.
So, whilst in Donegal, “Go mbeidh an fórsa leat!” Or, may the force be with you, if you’re not fluent in Gaelic.

County Wicklow

Glendalough

The capital’s favourite playground, stretching south of Dublin, County Wicklow is an area of natural beauty, and is one not to be missed.
The picturesque Wicklow Mountains National Park offers an impressive backdrop to one of the country’s most popular walking trails. Laraghs (lakes), mountains (obviously) and traditional Irish pubs (of course), there’s plenty on offer in the serene wilderness that is Wicklow.
And, as the old saying goes, in the beautiful Irish village of Ballykissangel, everybody knows each other’s business… and you can get to know it too. If you’re a fan, visiting Avoca village the set of the popular BBC One series, is one of the exciting attractions on offer in the county.
Ballykissangel… sorry, Avoca.

A small village with pretty buildings and, yes, stepping in the footsteps of a young Colin Farrell can be part of the attraction, but the village itself is simply a treat to visit. You can visit the Fitzgerald’s pub, the church, the shops and the Garda train station and see exactly what drew film crews to this stunning pocket of Ireland.
But, if that’s not enough scenery for you then why not hop over to Glendalough? Hands down one of Ireland’s most beautiful destinations.
Home to one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland, the spot is full of impressive ruins from early churches, a graceful round tower and plenty of sites relating to the life of Saint Kevin – the founder of Glendalough.

Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher

You’ve probably heard of the Cliffs of Moher, or at least seen photos of them, maybe you didn’t even know their name at the time? But, the image sticks in your mind because, well, they’re pretty impressive to say the least.
For anyone who’s interested in geology, the cliffs date back to over 300 million years. They’re mostly sandstone and shale and their individual layers that have rested over the millions of years lead to variations in the erosion rate from the powerful waters below, giving them that famous ragged edge.
Attracting over 1 million visitors a year, they’re fairly famous too. Remember the Holy Stone of Clonrichert in Father Ted? Yep, this was on the Cliffs of Moher. You can see the natural beauties in all their glory in the “Tentacles of Doom” episode.
But, they’ve also made cameos in The Princess Bride, Into the West and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, to name a few.
They’re also a nature spotting haven! It’s even protected by EU legislation as an area of importance for bird species. So, what can you expect to see? Atlantic puffins, Guillemot, Razorbill and Kittiwake, to name a few.
The sea is rich with plankton that attract whales and whale sharks, seals are common and occasionally, you may be lucky enough to spot a pod of dolphins.
Atlantic Puffin

If Ireland sounds like your sort of thing, then why not visit for yourself? We’ve got a great selection of Emerald Isle tours, from St Patrick’s Day in Dublin to the Ring of Kerry. So, why not take a look and see if we’ve got the experience that suits you: Escorted Tours to Ireland.

5 Big Reasons to Visit Eastern Europe

Think of Europe, and we know what would spring to mind, popular holiday and sightseeing destinations, such as the likes of Italy, France, Germany and Portugal, for example. But what about those destinations a little further east?

It may not have the most glamorous reputation, when you have the glitz and glamour of western Europe heavy weights like the French Riviera and the sunny Spanish coast to compare it to, but there’s a lot more to Eastern Europe than stag do’s and a cheap pint.
In fact, we don’t think we’re alone when we say it’s actually one of the most fascinating pockets of Europe.

The view over Budapest from the Fisherman’s Bastion

From the Czech Republic to Russia, there’s plenty to see and do, and if you aren’t mesmerised by it all, we’ll eat our hat! But, as we’re not ones to keep things like this to ourselves, here are our top 5 reasons to enjoy a holiday in Eastern Europe.

History

Eastern Europe has more historical tales than you can shake a stick at. It is complex, it’s gruesome and it’s fascinating. The good, the bad and the downright ugly, from the Red Army to the Iron Curtain, there’s a lot to be learnt. And, you don’t have to be a history buff to be astounded by what can be found here.
Auschwitz, for example, is a place where the word ‘visiting’ simply does not explain the wave of emotion and the feelings that you experience when you are where the most deadly of the concentration camps stood.

Auschwitz

In 2016, a record 2 million visitors, from all over the world, came to Auschwitz. Walking into the site, you’re met with the eerie reality of what happened there, not all that long ago, allowing us to re-live to the darkest echoes of the past.
Budapest offers a unique look at how previously independent communities of Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube, have come together to create one of Eastern Europe’s most popular cities.
From medieval castles to memorials built in honour of the Soviet liberation of Hungary from Nazi forces, it’s one of many fascinating cities that should be on every European explorer’s wish list.
In Berlin you can still learn about the reality of the segregation, including the Iron curtain that lead to the Cold War.
Brandenburg Gate

With parts of the Berlin Wall still visable, and Brandenburg Gate now one of Berlin’s most popular attractions, the reminders of the past that separated the communist countries of Eastern Europe and capitalist countries of the west are still apparent and give us an interesting opportunity to learn about the history of Europe as a whole.

Variety and Culture

Within a relatively small area of Eastern Europe, you can enjoy a variety of different cultures. From Finland to Russia, the cultural landscape is diverse. You can even cover a whole spectrum of exciting destinations is just a short time, as there are plenty of exciting countries in close proximity to each other.
Even though the east is rapidly becoming more westernised, enjoy the Bohemian lifestyle in the Czech Republic, the rich culture of Russia with its outstanding arts, music, and of course, ballet.
Even cities such as Prague and Krakow are still steeped in fascinating tradition. Cobbled streets, horse and carts and plenty of museums and theatres, you can be sure to get a cultural feast in either of these cities.

Krakow

But, it’s certainly doesn’t end there. With the likes of Vienna, Ljubljana and Dubrovnik, there’s plenty to see for all the culture vulture’s out there.
And, best of all, you’ll get more for your money! In most areas you’ll find a vast difference in costs between Eastern Europe and its western counterpart. A pint of beer a relative steal, and a tasty meal just a snip at what you’d expect to pay, even at home.

Sight-seeing

A real crowd pleaser, Eastern Europe doesn’t fall short when it comes to photo opportunities. Forget about the Eifel Tower, here we’ve got the un-sung heroes that might even top the list when it comes to sightseeing opportunities.
As Winston Churchill once said “The Balkans produce more history than they can consume” – and that’s just the start of what’s on offer! In fact, Vogue called Eastern Europe 2017’s hot travel destination. Ooh, you trendsetter, you!
As we’ve already stopped off there, let’s delve a little deeper into Prague… it is host to a wonderful selection of landmarks, most famously the Astronomical Clock, and of course, Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge, Prague

In fact, in 1989, the largest number of tourists were recorded at Charles Bridge, coming in at a whopping 1562 people. Doesn’t sound like a lot? Considering the bridge is only 1600 feet in length, and with four lanes of traffic, that’s almost one person per foot!
But, of course, that’s only dipping your toes into this amazing city. There’s also Prague Castle, Petřín Park and Wenceslas square right on your doorstep. Luckily, there’s also a host of fantastic bars, restaurants, and cafes, if you need to take the weight off for a minute or two.
The imperial city of Vienna gives you a chance to see incredible architecture, such as the Hofburg Palace, in all of its glory. And, of course, we have to mention the Giant Wheel.
What better way to see the city than from the top of a 64 metre tall Ferris wheel? It’s also one of the oldest operating wheels in the world, so it has its historical value, too.
Hofburg Palace, Vienna

Whilst in the ‘City of Music’, for all you Musicophiles out there, there’s plenty of sights that sing to your tune, having been home to Mozart, Beethoven, Johann Struas and Brahms, you can even head over to Schoenbrunn Palace where Mozart presented his first concert at the age of six!
And what about the UNESCO world heritage site of Warsaw’s old town? With the Royal Castle and King Zygmunt III Waza Column, there’s plenty to see whilst you’re there.
That’s before we even mention the spectacular sights of western Russia. With plenty to see in Moscow and St. Petersburg from the Kremlin to the Bronze Horseman statue, you will certainly leave with a lasting impression.
Phew! That’s enough to fill any photo book, and that’s just skimming the surface…

Food and Drink

If you’re into hearty and wholesome foods, you’ll be very excited by the Eastern Europe cuisines. You can find and array of traditional and unique dishes in each of the countries you visit, and if local cuisine is your thing, you’re in for a treat when you’re touring the east of the continent.
Soups, meats, fresh fish and vegetables, you’re on a tour of the taste buds as the food in eastern Europe is renowned for its spectacular flavour. A tasty goulash in Hungary, catch of the day on the Dalmatian coast, or maybe a hot or cold borsht in Poland (Beetroot soup, if you were wondering.).

Goulash & Borsht

But, as with many places in relatively close proximity, of course you’ll get some overlap. Stuffed cabbage, stews and even a tasty chicken schnitzel will be on the menu in many Eastern European countries.
And, if you’re not one to turn down the opportunity to try a new tipple, there’s plenty of local spirits to quench a thirst. From Russian Vodka to Polish Wódka, you can get a taste for Schnapps in Austria, Becherovka in the Czech Republic and a Palinka in Hungary.

Geography

From picturesque beaches to stunning mountain scenery, and all that is in between, Eastern Europe has it all.
Heading over to the coast of Croatia is fast becoming one of the top travel plans of many Brits and it’s easy to see why. White, sandy beaches and the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic, it’s far from the dull and dreary scenes we’re so used to at home.

Heading inland, if you’ve got a head for heights, the Tatras Mountains are certainly a good shout. Forming the border between Poland and Slovakia, their granite peaks were formed over 60 million years ago and attract over three million visitors a year!
But, even with the heavy footfall from inquisitive tourists, the mountains have maintained their pristine state and well worth a visit if you want to see nature at its finest.

We’re even treated to some of the most amazing waterways offering some incredible river cruising opportunities along the River Danube. Flowing through Germany, Austria and Hungary, you’ve got the perfect opportunity to embark on possibly some of the most relaxing sightseeing trips in Europe.

 
We could go on for days, but don’t let us just tell you how great Eastern Europe is, let us show you. Take a look at our exciting range of eastern European coach tours, here.