Our Tour Philosophy
To begin with…
Before we suggest an itinerary for your proposed tour, we would like to point out a few aspects of our operation. Here, we will not be concerned with the question where you'll be at what time, or how long it will take to get from A to B. Rather, we will outline some things that apply to all the tours we do.
The way in which people do what they do, is determined by the understanding they have of the world at large, and by their implicit philosophical assumptions about people and life. Ultimately, by the spirit in which they dwell.
As you're considering investing your confidence in us, we owe it to you to reveal our personal basis. This is easily done, and it involves one name: Jesus Christ.
As persons who try to make sense of the world, we think that HE, as a teacher, introduced the most radical revolutionary concept that has ever existed in the world: The revolution of love.
As Christians, we believe that HE was not just an outstanding moral teacher, but also the one person in history that had the ultimate insight into what cannot be seen, or as the bible puts it, he was and is the "Son of God".
This for us is not a pious statement made in church on a Sunday morning, but it has a direct and visible influence on the way we will design and conduct a tour for you. We hope that this will shine through on the next pages. And by the way - you don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy our tours.
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Perishing for lack of knowledge? No way!
We believe in keeping you well informed at all times. This includes submitting a detailed list of hotels many months before arrival - together with their web sites. So you and your group can start enjoying the places even before you're actually there. Closer to departure we will even have included the dinners that we have lined up for you.
Upon arrival, every tour member gets a pocket size "Tour Booklet" which, apart from general information, contains an updated itinerary, possibly with last minute additions.
We also like to provide maps and brochures of areas and places to our customers - in English wherever possible. And any other printed material which may seem useful.
You will know where you're going.
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The obvious choice for moving around is a tour bus. We don't own our own buses, but hire them from specialized German companies that we've been working with literally for decades. It goes without saying that our buses have all the facilities you would expect - air conditioning, a bathroom, refrigerated drinks, a PA system, a cell phone, and so on. What's more important: We know the drivers personally. Over the years they've become our friends. And therefore they'll be yours, too.
Apart from the bus, we don't shy away from incorporating other means of transportation into our tours: trains, streetcars, cable and cogwheel cars, boats - all have been used from time to time.
So - let's get moving!
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Of course, there is an abundance of hotels in Europe to choose from, and of course, there are the big names like Sheraton, Hilton, Ramada, Holiday Inn and so forth. While these are, no doubt, fine hotels, we don't quite believe that such hotels convey the real taste of the country they happen to be in.
On the other hand, there is a rich variety of family run hotels here that, while offering a similar standard of service and facilities, are simply "more European".
Yes, there can be some "disadvantages" to such hotels: rooms will not all look alike. (Some may have bay-windows, others may have four-poster- beds). And yes, there may not always be an elevator all the way up to the top floor (because the building may happen to be an ancient castle.) If you're prepared to live with such idiosyncrasies, you'll get character. You'll get atmosphere. You'll get face.
We personally think that this is the better choice.
As examples, we have included some pictures of hotels we're talking about. Also please note that with some tours published on this site we have included links that take you to the respective place at a mouse click.
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It is said that a tour guide can make or break a tour. That's very true. When we choose our guides, the first rule we apply is this: Your permanent tour guide should be a member of the culture he/she will be guiding you through. A simple rule - but not in the least followed by all tour operators.
Naturally, we expect our guides to be perfectly fluent in English. They usually have some strong ties to the English speaking world, be it through their own family, be it through extended stays in English speaking countries, be it through professional studies - or all of this combined.
You will also find that our guides don't do this work day in, day out; rather, they typically have a second or even third career, and do the guiding basically "for the fun of it". This is good for them. It is good for you, too.
We have a code of conduct that our guides subscribe to:
- Treat your guests as friends. Because if you do, they'll be your friends.
- Be available at all times. Guides work 24 hours a day - and that's the bare minimum.
- Listen to requests. Be flexible. Make it happen. Guides are expected to work miracles, if not more.
- You will not be judged just by your knowledge. Rather, by the way in which you make your knowledge available and palatable to your guests.
- There are no stupid questions your guests can ask. Only stupid answers you can give.
- You receive a fair salary. Therefore...
…strictly no "hunting for commissions" in souvenir stores. Take your guest to the stores that offer them the best value - not to those that offer you the best commission.
... strictly no selling of extra side trips. In the case that extras are requested, you will only charge costs that are actually incurred, e.g. admission fees that were not originally included in the tour package.
... strictly no "fishing for tips". If you receive a tip, it must be a genuine token of appreciation for your work.
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Little extras mean a lot
How does one actually experience a foreign country? What can possibly generate the feeling that expresses itself in statements like "I've really been there", said with a little sparkle in the eye. We think it's a variety of things that can bring this about.
Firstly, we don't restrict you, our customer, to viewing the country through the window of your tour bus, occasionally herding you to some sight, or (worse still) to a prearranged visit of an overpriced souvenir shop. This is, of course, not to say that we object to visiting sights, nor do we wish to talk you out of buying souvenirs. It's just that we don't stop there. In our minds, experiencing a foreign culture is not just seeing it, but also listening to it, tasting it, smelling it, feeling it, being involved in it.
So here is a little box of tricks we use to make it happen:
The guide will bring along music that belongs to the country and area you're traveling in. (None of our groups has ever approached Salzburg, Austria without listening to Mozart's Kleine Nachtmusik).
Your guide will bring all kinds of treats and samples on the bus. You'll get candy typical of the country, like the little guys on the right. Fruit that happens to be sold along the roadside. Brandy that is distilled in the area. Bacon in the Black Forest. Marzipan in Lübeck. Ginger bread in Nürnberg. And. And. And. (One of our guides was recently seen "borrowing" a bunch of grapes from a vineyard on the Rhine - just to let his group taste...)
Your guide will also take you to places and events as and when the chance arises. This may be an open air concert in front of a castle in Munich. A wedding in a gothic church on a Saturday morning. A wine festival that happens to be on in a village on the Mosel. A visit to an interesting factory like the Steiff establishment, where the famous teddy bears are made. (Good shopping there, too.) A visit to the BMW car plant in Munich. A brewery perhaps. A winery. A traditional lace making workshop. A family in the Erzgebirge who produce those wonderful nutcrackers literally in their living room.
These are but a few examples. More will appear as the tour unfolds. But rest assured: You will experience, with all your senses, the area you are in.
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Now that you are already familiar with the major features of our approach, it will come as little surprise to you that the food on our tours is also special.
We like to include typical dishes of the area. Some you will have heard of, or even tried at home. Others will perhaps be new to you. It goes without saying that we will not visit the Rhine without offering Sauerbraten. When in Bavaria, somewhere along the line dumplings will most certainly appear on the dinner schedule. In Austria, our first choice is always a Wiener Schnitzel. Spätzle, Kasseler, Roularden, Sauerkraut, and dozens of other specialties are all candidates for your dinner schedule.
We also carefully co-ordinate dinners so that no repetitions occur. Something you would do for your visiting friends, too, wouldn't you? Well - many tour operators simply don't.
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