EUROPEAN EXPEDITION PROGRAM

EUROPEAN EXPEDITION PROGRAM

European Expedition Map

European Expedition –

Fall 2022

Dates September 7th to November 21st
Arrive Dublin
Depart Italy (TBC)
Length 77 Days
Group Size 14
Tuition USD $26,050

European Expedition – Fall 2023

Dates  September 6th to November 22nd
Arrive Dublin
Depart Italy (TBC)
Length 77 Days
Group Size 14
Tuition USD $26,050

 

European Expedition – Locations

Ireland, Norway, Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Croatia, Italy

European Expedition Program

What’s it all About?

The European Expedition Program brings students on an epic journey across Europe, broadening their horizons through exposure to the continent’s deep cultural and historical roots infused with an exhilarating mix of outdoor adventure in some of the world’s most iconic locations. From the Arctic Circle to the Adriatic Sea, this will be the journey of a lifetime!

The European Expedition Program is designed to expand students’ knowledge of Europe and build independence, confidence and cultural competence through the four cornerstones of Immersive Travel, Experiential Learning, Outdoor Adventure and Cultural Exchange.
We will travel slowly across Europe by train, yacht and ferry. This will give you plenty of time to soak up the experience and enjoy the lifestyle and people of each of the countries we visit.

This program is as much about the journey as the destinations. From Norway to Amsterdam to the islands of the Adriatic Sea and points between, the European Expedition Program will provide students with a once in a lifetime adventure and a fascinating insight into European culture and history, all while building their independence and confidence.

The friendships and memories made during this program will last far beyond your time with Irish Gap Year.

Highlights

  • Travel by train, yacht and ferry from the Arctic Circle in northern Scandinavia to the Dalmatian Islands off Croatia in the Adriatic Sea, logging over 2,000 miles of travel in Europe’s most scenic places.
  • Delve deep into Europe’s iconic cities such as Amsterdam, Berlin, Rome, Prague, Dubrovnik and Venice for 5 weeks backpacking on the continent’s inter-rail train system. This is a classic rite of passage for any young traveller to Europe.
  • Kayak and Camp your way through Norwegian Fjords, sleeping under the Northern Lights and explore glaciers with climate change scientists.
  • Spend a week learning to sail in the Adriatic Sea on our own chartered yachts which will island hop from Split to Dubrovnik along the Croatian Dalmatian coast.
  • Get to know the locals in each country and develop your cultural competence as you gain insights into European history, culture and current events.
  • Rest assured you are in good hands. Irish Gap Year has an impeccable safety record and is Gap Year Association Accredited, meaning all of our programs operate to the highest industry standard.

 

Find Out More About our European Expedition Program

The goals of our European Expedition Program are to connect our students with the people, culture and current events of the countries we visit and to facilitate a journey of self-discovery.
A journey that is about expanding your worldview and contextualizing cultural identity which will ultimately lead to greater self-confidence and independence in students.
We achieve these goals through our four-cornerstones of Immersive Travel, Cultural Exchange, Experiential Learning and Outdoor Adventure.

Our 4 Cornerstones

These 4 Cornerstones are interwoven throughout our European Expedition Program. Find out more about our 4 Cornerstones by clicking on each of the icons below, or by clicking under the dropdown menu titled “Grow” at the top of every page.

Oudoor Adventure

Immersive Travel: A journey of thousands of miles begins with a single step

To us immersive travel means travelling the way locals do every day throughout Europe, by train, tram and ferry. Immersive travel means taking the time to be present on your journey, connect with your fellow travellers and to look within.

These journeys by sea and rail will come to be some of your fondest memories and provide great time for conversation with fellow travellers. They will also see you passing through some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes like the Northern Railway that passes along fjords and mountains into Norway’s Arctic Circle or taking funiculars up steep mountain sides into the Austrian Alps or sailing in the azure blue waters of the Adriatic Sea along the Croatian coast.

Train and ferry travel throughout Europe is also an excellent way to build your independence and confidence. When was the last time you met someone who navigated their way from Norway to Dubrovnik by train, sailboat and ferry?
With the support and experience of our Program Leaders you will voyage well over 2,000 miles of the world by train, sail and ferry. You will experience many of Europe’s ‘must-see’ locations, meet interesting people from all over the world and be absorbed in local culture. All while building your independence and travel skills along the way.
Suffice to say, that the skills, friends and insights you develop on this journey will last a lifetime.

Leadership

Cultural Exploration: Creating connection

The meaningful exchange of ideas, sharing of backgrounds and creating connections across borders is at the heart of the European Expedition Program.

Authentic cultural exchange happens when you take the time to slow down and get to know the locals. You will make meaningful connections with some very interesting people along your journey. From Norwegian boat-builders, to Italian art curators, to Syrian-refugee-entrepreneurs, to Croatian sailboat captains to Dutch singer-songwriters. Our friends across Europe will open doors for our students to understand European cultures on a deeper level.

Through this exchange students will become more aware of their own cultural identity and worldview, develop a knowledge of different cultural practices and attitudes and come away with a better understanding of themselves and Europe.

Cultural Immersion

Experiential Learning: Hands-on & On-Site

An experiential education of the history, culture and current events of Europe allows our students to explore and connect first-hand with places that have helped shape the modern world.

This means on-site lectures with local historians, touring castles, temples, UNESCO Heritage sites, medieval town squares, war memorials and more. This is learning purely for the sake of learning and out of genuine interest in building your knowledge.

Experiential learning also means building new skill sets, such as independent travel skills, cooking, learning to sail, time management and other independence-building skills that you will develop throughout the program. There are no tests or formal assignments on this program, but students will keep a travel journal reflecting on their time in Europe and memories of the people and places.

As educators we understand the power that hands-on experience has and the impact that it leaves on our students. Through an experience-based education, your time spent on this program will not only help you develop into a more independent adult, but also act as a masterclass in the history, culture and current events of Europe.

Experiential Learning of Culture and History

You will be surrounded by history, you will literally be able to reach out and touch history, climb on it, explore its lesser known nooks and crannies, ponder and connect with it in a way that is not possible by distance. The same is true for experiencing the wide variety of cultures that you will encounter during the program.

In Norway, we will cook traditional Norwegian cuisine that students catch fresh from the sea. You will have free range to explore ancient megalithic tombs while learning about Ireland’s history, learn to sail from accomplished Croatian sailors and experience the culture of the Adriatic Sea. You will smell a thousand years of wood-smoke and sit in the dim light of real Viking cabins in Norway. Lasting impressions and connections with history and culture will be made, you will have breathed in the history, lived the culture and felt both with your own hands and heart.

Current Events

Students on our European Expedition Program will also discuss current events unfolding in Europe with locals as we connect with our friends, hosts and guides throughout our travels. Be prepared to have some of your preconceived ideas of Europe challenged as we get to know people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

We will spend time with Syrian refugees turned entrepreneurs touring Berlin through their eyes and learning about parallels between modern day Syria and 1930’s Germany. You will participate in the ‘Refugee Experience’ workshop testing your own problem solving, ethics and values as you are forced to make very difficult decisions along your virtual journey from Syria to Germany. In the evening, our Syrian friends will host us at their house for a traditional Syrian meal and casual conversation to debrief on the day and get to know one another better.

You will trek to glaciers in Norway’s Arctic Circle where you will see the effects of climate change in real-time as you discuss with our local guides the glaciers recession and the changing climate in their region.
you will participate in a workshop discussing the different approach of Norway to managing their natural gas and oil. Students will be asked to discuss whether they agree the measures implemented have been successful and are fair.

In Amsterdam we will learn how The Netherlands has manipulated sea-level change over the centuries to their advantage while we compare the difficulties being experienced by rising sea levels in Venice, Italy. We will learn about the breakup of the former Yugoslavia during the Balkan Wars in the 1990s and more particularly the Croatian War of Independence. We will also see first-hand how this has affected the geography and people of the region.
Overall, students on the European Expedition Program will benefit from first-hand experience and knowledge of Europe’s history, culture and socio-political events. A knowledge that is only available to those who’ve invested their time and effort to travel the lands and meet the people with an open mind along the way.

Community Volunteering

Outdoor Adventure: Good for the body, mind and spirit

We are passionate about the outdoors and believe that time spent in nature is good for the body, mind and spirit! For our European Expeditioners nature will become a place for adventure, education and realization. We use outdoor activities and adventures to get students out into Europe’s epic landscapes, experiencing all there is to offer and allowing them to become immersed in these environments.

Outdoor adventure will also be used as a means of pushing your comfort zone and perceived limitations. You don’t need to have any previous experience as an outdoor adventurer, but it is essential that our European Expedition students are motivated to try new things, resilient and up for the activities that are part of the program.

You will be learning to surf in Ireland and in Norway (don’t worry, you will have very good wetsuits!), you will climb sea-stacks on Ireland’s rugged northwest coast, you will cycle-tour the lakes of the Italian Alps exploring villages as you go, hike the amazing thousand-foot-tall sea-cliffs of Ireland’s northwest coast and the forests of the Austrian Alps, you will learn to sail by island hopping along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, you will kayak-camp under the Northern Lights in Norwegian fjords and trek to glaciers where you will see for yourself the effects of climate change in real-time. There will be daily walking tours of cities and excursions out into the surrounding countryside as well.

Ultimately, we hope that our students will take away an appreciation for nature as a refuge for the mind, body and spirit as well as wonderful memories.

The European Expedition Journey in 4 Parts

The Journey

The European Expedition Program is divided in to four distinct stages, each with its own theme and goals.

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PART I IRELAND

Part I – Ireland: Orientation and Adventuring on The Path Less Travelled

Student on Boat

We can think of no better place to begin our European Expedition Program than in our own hometown of Bundoran, county Donegal, located on Ireland’s pristine northwest coast.

You will spend a glorious week in residence at our amazing 19th century manor home, Bundrowes House, right on the edge of the Atlantic. During your time in Donegal we will be bonding the group with icebreakers, workshops, team-challenges, cultural day-trips and lots of adventuring in our wild landscapes.

You will literally jump in the deep end with our polar dip challenge, emerging from the icy mountain-top lake ready to take on the world! The group will hike to remote camping locations, teach you to surf on our golden-sand beaches and hike through panoramic vistas in the coastal mountain ranges of the northwest.

There will also be plenty of cultural day trips throughout the northwest to connect you with the region’s history, culture and people through first-hand experience by visiting castles, museums and some of the oldest megalithic tombs in the world. you will get to know the locals through our “Humans of Bundoran” project.

Our time in Ireland will also include a two-night trip to everyone’s favourite Irish city, Galway. Here you will enjoy Ireland’s best pub culture with live music, street buskers and soak up the City’s lively, free-spirit personality. From Galway City we will take a day trip to the world famous Aran Islands where we will rent bikes and explore the ancient Dun Aengus fort that was built in 1100BC.

Ireland Takeaways:
Your time in Ireland will prepare and bond the group for the journey ahead while giving you an authentic experience of our town and region. After your time on Ireland’s ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ you will be thirsty for even more adventure and the rest of Europe that awaits you!

PART II ARCTIC EXPLORER

Part II – The Arctic Explorer: Journey through Norwegian fjords under the Northern Lights

Your journeys by rail, ferry and kayak in Norway will take you to the most astonishing places you’ve ever been in your life.
You will kayak and camp in the fjords under the Northern Lights, learn to surf in the crystal-clear waters of the arctic circle, trek to glaciers and hike mountains affording you breathtaking vistas over the Fjords of western Norway.
You will also learn much about Scandinavian culture and history as we stay with our fantastic hosts and tour our favourite museums, fortresses and castles in Oslo.

Arctic Explorer Takeaways:
Your time in Norway will be one of tranquillity and sereneness, of immersion in immense natural beauty and of personal growth. You may realize that you are capable of more than you imagined physically and mentally as you push your comfort zone kayaking and surfing in the far northern latitudes. You will also leave Norway with a better understanding of the culture and of Norway’s contribution in shaping modern Europe.

PART III THE GRAND TOUR

Part III – Inter-Railing and The Grand Tour of Europe

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The Grand Tour of Europe started as a rite of passage for young people in the 17th century and continues to this day. Our fashion and music may have changed since those first Grand Tour travellers way back when but the purpose of this journey through mainland Europe remains. Exploration, enlightenment and the search for knowledge of culture, history and the arts.

The inter-railing part of our program gives you the opportunity to experience the joys of slow-travel and backpacking through Europe, experiencing its multiplicity of cultures, food, scenery and people. We’ll travel in style and comfort on the inter-rail train network from Amsterdam to Berlin, Prague to Salzburg, through the Austrian Alps and then on to Venice in northern Italy.

Making our way through the continent, students will survey the grandeur of Europe’s iconic cities and discover the interlocking histories and diverse cultures.

At each stop on the inter-railing portion of the program we take a walking tour with local guides who will share their in-depth knowledge of their city with us. This helps you to get your bearings, ask questions about current events and history and understand more about where you will be staying.

During the inter-railing portion of the program there will be a healthy balance of daily activities, excursions and free-time.

Inter-Railing & The Grand Tour of Europe Takeaways:
Navigating your way by train from the Netherlands to Italy, through Europe’s capital cities gives you the chance to enhance your travel skills and build your independence. The inter-railing portion of the program will also act as an experiential education of European history, culture and current events. You will have the opportunity to explore places that shaped world history.

PART IV SOUTHERN EUROPE BY SAIL AND RAIL

Part IV – Southern Europe by Sail and Rail: Croatian Islands, Dubrovnik and Rome

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On the final leg of the European Expedition Program we will be exploring the ancient southern European capitals of commerce and power.

We’ll Island hop along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast while learning to sail, walk the fortified castle walls of Dubrovnik and witness the awesome might of the ancient Roman Empire.

We will explore the rich history of the Adriatic Sea while learning about Europe’s ancient maritime cultures, learning to sail in a yacht as we navigate around the islands along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast en-route to Dubrovnik, a fairy-tale city described by George Bernard Shaw as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’.

Making our way across the Adriatic by ferry to mainland Italy we’ll journey by train to the ancient port city of Salerno, spending time exploring cathedrals, haunted crypts, white sandy beaches and winding cobble-stone streets.

Our final destination on the European Expedition Program is Rome, the Eternal City, the centre of one of the largest and most powerful empires the world has ever seen. We will visit the power centres of ancient Rome and survey the city’s antiquities with local historians while also getting a feel for modern day Rome as we divert to the city’s contemporary culture.

Rome will also act as a place to reflect and debrief on your journey of over 2,000 miles. This journey will be rounded off on the last night with a sumptuous meal, lots of laughs, maybe some tears and plenty of new friends and memories that we hope will last a lifetime.

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European Expedition Map with Parts
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Part I - Ireland: Orientation and Adventuring on The Path Less Travelled

We can think of no better place to begin our European Expedition Program than in our own hometown of Bundoran, county Donegal, located on Ireland’s pristine northwest coast.

you will spend a glorious week in residence at our amazing 19th century manor home, Bundrowes House, right on the edge of the Atlantic. During your time in Donegal we will be bonding the group with icebreakers, workshops, team-challenges, cultural day-trips and lots of adventuring in our wild landscapes.

you will literally jump in the deep end with our polar dip challenge, emerging from the icy mountain-top lake ready to take on the world! The group will hike to remote camping locations, teach you to surf on our golden-sand beaches and hike through panoramic vistas in the coastal mountain ranges of the northwest.

There will also be plenty of cultural day trips throughout the northwest to connect you with the region’s history, culture and people through first-hand experience by visiting castles, museums and some of the oldest megalithic tombs in the world. you will get to know the locals through our “Humans of Bundoran” project.

Our time in Ireland will also include a two-night trip to everyone’s favourite Irish city, Galway. Here you will enjoy Ireland’s best pub culture with live music, street buskers and soak up the City’s lively, free-spirit personality. From Galway City we will take a day trip to the world famous Aran Islands where we will rent bikes and explore the ancient Dun Aengus fort that was built in 1100BC.

Ireland Takeaways:
Your time in Ireland will prepare and bond the group for the journey ahead while giving you an authentic experience of our town and region. After your time on Ireland’s 'Wild Atlantic Way' you will be thirsty for even more adventure and the rest of Europe that awaits you!

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Oslo - Velkommen til Norge:

Our time in Norway starts in Oslo, the trendy and architecturally rich capital of Norway. We’ll get oriented with a walking tour of the City centre and learn about the history of Oslo as we explore the docks, the Akershus Fortress, The Viking Museum and Embassy row. You will have lunch in the city’s street food district and enjoy free time in the afternoon to settle in and explore the city for yourself.
On our second day in Oslo you will walk along the water’s edge of Oslo Harbour to the King of Norway’s Castle and grounds, where one of our favourite museums in Norway is located - The Norwegian Folk museum. Here you will find original homes and buildings collected from all over the country, ranging from Viking log cabins from the 900s to 1950s farmhouses. you will have free rein to explore and connect with these amazing buildings. We will enjoy a group meal and time in one of our favourite Oslo bars on our final evening before we make our way west into the Fjords.

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Bergen by way of Europe’s most scenic train journey

The train from Oslo to the western port city of Bergen has consistently been voted one of the world’s most magnificent train journeys. you will pass through lush regions with pristine rivers, lakes and snowy mountains eventually arriving at the fjord lands of south-western Norway.
While in Bergen we will tour the colourful wooden houses of the old wharf in the downtown, learning about the Hanseatic League (once headquartered on this very old wharf) and its influence on the shaping of modern north European commerce and culture. We will then take the funicular to the top of the spectacular Fløyen Mountain and take in the vast views over the fjords and city below.
Bergen will also provide you some much needed rest before and after our week-long kayaking and camping expedition through the fjords.
Kayak-Camping Under the Northern Lights
Your time kayaking and camping in the Norwegian Fjords will be something you will never forget and probably one of the most amazing awe inspiring of your life.
On this 7-day kayaking, camping and hiking expedition through Norway’s fjords you will paddle your way through some of the world’s most striking landscapes. You will camp on beaches where Viking villages once thrived, eat and sleep under the stars as the northern lights dance overhead.
On our expedition through the fjords we’ll hike to glaciers, zipline through gorges and learn about the effects of climate change at first-hand from Norwegian climate scientists.
The kayak-camping expedition is where you push your limits. It is where you realize what you’re made of and it is where you will face true moments of realisation.
Remember this program is designed for students who want to push themselves. You don’t need to be an ultra-fit, experienced outdoors-person to enjoy this expedition. All you need is a willingness to try, enthusiasm and a dash of determination.

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Hoddevik: The Land that Time Forgot

After our camp-kayak adventure in the fjords we will make our way back to Bergen where we’ll enjoy a much-needed rest day before we board a passenger ferry and make the 5-hour passage along the west coast of Norway to the small, coastal town of Måløy.
You will pass through many fjords beneath snow-capped mountains as we steam up the coast. These are the same waters that the Viking ships you saw in the Oslo Viking Museum once sailed while leaving Norway on their way to Europe to raid and pillage.
From Måløy you will make the short journey to the remote valley village of Hoddevik.
While in Hoddevik we will be staying in a chic and picturesque 19th century Norwegian farmhouse owned and operated by personal friend of Irish Gap Year and eccentric Norwegian boat builder and adventurer, Torkild Strandvik. Torkild’s house is a blend of traditional Norwegian culture and outdoor enthusiasts coming from all over Norway. Located a mere 100 feet from a white sand beach and surrounded by majestic, snow-capped mountains, this is a place that will leave a lasting impression.
While at Torkild’s house you will be learning to surf in the clear blue waters in front of his house. You will be in the care of an experienced team of surf instructors and conditions are absolutely ideal here for learning. – Besides, who can legitimately say that they learned to surf in the arctic?!
We will also be hiking in the mountains directly behind the house, fishing for some of our own meals and warming our bones in one very scenically located hot tub.
Dinners in Hoddevika will be home-cooked, traditional Norwegian cuisine, which is hearty, healthy and very tasty. At night the northern lights will illuminate the evening sky overhead and as we share in the awe of their beauty.nd city below.
Bergen will also provide you some much needed rest before and after our week-long kayaking and camping expedition through the fjords.

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Amsterdam: Art, Progressive Culture and of course Canals

Amsterdam is known for its rich artistic heritage, progressive culture, distinctive narrow gabled houses and elaborate canal system.
Here you will explore the heart of Amsterdam with the local Dutchman, Julius, our friend, local historian and tour guide. you will discuss the very interesting and oftentimes dark history of the Netherlands as we spend a wonderful day walking the city.
In true Irish Gap Year fashion, you will be venturing a bit off the beaten track in subsequent days as we cycle the beautiful islands and villages surrounding Amsterdam. On return we will take part in a ‘fishing for plastic’ tour of the city, where we will discuss the impact of plastics in the world's oceans while also learning about Holland's progressive environmental stance.
As with all of the stops on our interrailing journey, you will also have ample free-time to get out and self-explore all that Amsterdam has to offer.

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Berlin: Iron Curtain to Cultural Wonderland

Divided by the Berlin wall in 1961, Berlin has had a tumultuous history. The fall of the wall and the city’s reunification in 1989 heralded the start of a creative and cultural regeneration which continues today. Berlin is a hub of creativity, industry and culture. The city expertly melds its difficult history with a new modern outlook. It’s easy to understand why Berlin is one of Europe’s most popular travel destinations.
While in Berlin, you will have the opportunity to check out the city’s most iconic historical locations and explore the lesser known hotspots of Germany’s capital city.
The Classics:
The Berlin Wall and more specifically Checkpoint Charlie were the physical and ideological border that defined a generation of Berliners and infamous crossing point from East to West Berlin during the Cold War era.
The Brandenburg Gate was built in the 18th century when the city was part of Prussia to represent the entrance to the city. It was appropriated by Nazis during World War II and badly damaged during the Allied bombardment of the city. After the fall of the Berlin Wall the east and west governments worked together to restore it and it now stands as a symbol of peace and reunification.
The Reichstag Building is Germany’s national parliament building. It was severely damaged by fire during World War II. When Berlin became Germany’s new capital city this 19th century building was fantastically restored with an amazing modern addition which you will tour and hopefully parliament will be sitting on that day and you can have a peek at all the political heavyweights through the glass ceiling.
Off the Beaten Track:
Refugee Voices Tour is a powerful, controversial and moving tour of Berlin’s city centre as told by Syrian refugee guides. This tour speaks of Syria's own secret police, government repression, and natives fleeing for safer destinations, drawing parallels between modern day Syria and 1930s Germany. Following the tour, our Syrian friends will host us for a traditional dinner and conversation at their home.
The Swimming Pool in the Spree is a harboured barge that functions as a swimming pool with unique panoramic view of the river Spree, the Oberbaumbrücke and Berlin’s iconic TV tower. Besides bathing, the beach area around the Badeschiff has become an urban recreational area and a focal point of urban culture and entertainment for many Berliners at any time of the day.
The Urban Garden in Berlin is self-described as “a piece of nature in a concrete jungle”. You will visit the artisan cafes in these city centre organic gardens where trendy Berliners like to hangout.
The Prinzipal Bar allows you to drink in the past in this real life 1920s speakeasy. The Prinzipal Bar is typical of pre-war Germany and has become an underground icon of Berlin in recent years.

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Prague: Medieval Europe at its Finest

A thousand shades of terracotta, hundreds of spires reaching for the blue sky, colourful baroque buildings leading from one medieval town square to another, the sound of church bells ringing out as they’ve done for hundreds of years. Prague is a bohemian fairy tale.
Our visit to the capital city of the Czech Republic will be a dive into the past. You will visit the old town square, tour the Prague Castle and enjoy the show that’s been going on since 1402 at the medieval astronomical clock.
We will also speak with locals about Prague’s recent history and the Prague Spring movement and the velvet revolution in 1989 as the former Soviet Union collapsed.
Of course, no time in Prague is complete without a visit to a beer hall for a tasty dish of Vep'o knedlo zelo (roasted pork)

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Salzburg: Baroque Architecture and Austrian Culture at its Finest

Salzburg is a magnificent city of antiquity and grandeur nestled on the Salzach River in the Austrian Alps. Its cobble stoned streets, lined with medieval and baroque buildings and surrounded by snow-capped alpine peaks makes this city impossibly picturesque, as if it’s sprung straight from a fairy tale.
The city centre (A UNESCO World Heritage Site) is one of the best-preserved old town centres in all of Europe and feels very much like a fairy-tale setting.
You will tour the enchanting city and the surrounding countryside, exploring the striking 1,000-year-old Salzburg Fortress and learning about its significance in Austrian history, touring the Old Town Centre, cruising the Salzach River by power-boat, admiring the ornate intricacy of St. Peter’s Abbey and visiting one of Austria’s best outdoor markets.

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Zell am See: Adventure in the Heart of the Austrian Alps

Zell am See is a small Austrian town located on Lake Zell, in the heart of the Austrian Alps. Surrounded on all sides by towering, forested and snow-capped mountains, Zell am See is a place of great natural beauty and a mecca for outdoor adventure.
The town offers excellent alpine hiking, water-sports on the lake and rural Austrian culture. There are many excellent cafés, traditional beer halls and shops in the area.
We will be staying in a traditional, mountainside, Austrian chalet close to the town centre and the start of mountain trails. We’ll cycle around the lake, stopping in the nearby villages to explore castles and learning about the local history, we will tour the infamous ‘Eagles Nest’ located nearby, learn about Austria’s role in WWII and enjoy easy hikes in the mountains and gorges that surround Zell am See.

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La Machina Fissa: A unique perspective on Northern Italy and The Dolomites


La Machina Fissa is unlike anywhere you’ve been before. This 18th century, converted agricultural pumphouse is nestled among national parks in the plains of northern Italy and is just a short drive from the Dolomite mountains and Lake Garda. This is the perfect place to relax, immerse yourself in Italian culture and cuisine, and reflect on your incredible journey through Europe so far.
We will be staying with one of our favourite hosts on the entire program, Clark Lawrence, a witty and talented artist and personal friend of Irish Gap Year. Clark has hosted art retreats at La Machina Fissa for the past ten years and opens his doors exclusively to our group. Here we will enjoy wonderful traditional Italian breakfasts, lunches and dinners each day.
While in this part of Italy you will explore the Lake Garda region on bikes, take a few easy day hikes in the Dolomites, tour the nearby historical city of Mantua with Clarke, getting the local history and insights, and enjoy garden projects at Clarke’s place such as harvesting the autumn crops and tending to the garden.
This is truly an amazing place, run by an amazing person in one of Europe’s most spectacular regions.

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Venice: The Floating City

Built on over 100 small islands, Venice is home to more beautiful canals, Gothic Palaces, Basilicas and impressive architecture than just about any other European City.
We will be staying at the Generator Hostel right on the water’s edge in the city centre of Venice. This smartly converted 18th century public library comes with amazing views of the city and plenty of other like-minded travellers to socialize with.
While in Venice we will be discussing the issue of climate change and the impending threat to Venice as sea-levels rise. You will have the opportunity to compare the Venetian approach to the issue as compared to other European cities you’ve visited on the program.
Our time in Venice will also include walking tours giving you an overview of Venetian history, a day-trip to the nearby island city of Burano to take in its amazing sights and culinary delights. You will be able to have lots of delicious meals, plenty of free time for you to get lost in the amazing labyrinth that is Venice and take a trip to Venetians’ favourite outdoor market for lovely fresh foods. You will also take part in our very own ‘Venice Challenge’.

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Learning to Sail: A timeless journey on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast

Your journey into southern Europe begins with the beautiful train ride from Venice to the coastal city of Split, on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. We have chartered the group’s own yachts and you will set sail from Spilt island hopping along the coast to the capital city of Dubrovnik.
The yachts each have an experienced, local skipper who will teach you the basics of seamanship and sailing. It will literally be all hands on deck as you glide through the azure waters of the Dalmatian Coast and Adriatic Sea. You will learn to cook fresh Croatian cuisine and you will receive an in-depth, first-hand education on the history of Croatia and the Adriatic Sea from our Croatian skippers.
you will be living, eating and sleeping on these boats as we make our way south from Split to Dubrovnik. On our way, you will anchor in the evenings in harbours on the islands either making our way into coastal villages or enjoying the secluded, spectacular beaches of the coves all to ourselves.
After a glorious, educational and adventurous week on the sea you will say goodbye to our skippers and our sea legs as we arrive at the medieval port-city of Dubrovnik.

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Dubrovnik: Fairy tale city and ancient empire

The City of Dubrovnik sits on the warm, shimmering waters of the Adriatic Sea where its ancient, fortress walls have protected her position of wealth, sophistication and progression since the times of the Byzantine Empire.
Entering the Old City of Dubrovnik is like stepping back in time a thousand years, to another world where you can reach out in any direction and touch history.
As is often the case, fact is far more interesting than fiction when it comes to Dubrovnik. Its recent popularization as a film location for the Game of Thrones series pales in comparison to the incredibly rich history of the city.
While in Dubrovnik we will be touring the city with local guides and learning about the city’s ancient past, recent conflict and status as a UNESCO World Heritage city. We’ll discuss with our local guides and hosts the evolution of Dubrovnik’s identity in recent times along with the Croatian War of Independence during the 1990’s.
We will also explore the magnificent palaces, fortresses and cathedrals built by an ancient society that rivalled Venice for the control of commerce in the Adriatic Sea. The group will kayak out to beautiful island of Otok Lorum just 2 kms from Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is always a favourite destination among European travellers and for good reason. Visually Dubrovnik is a feast for the senses with its red terracotta rooftops, the glistening Adriatic Sea under its giant medieval city walls, narrow cobblestone streets and cathedrals around every corner.
Our students will take more than just memories and great photos with them from Dubrovnik though. We aim to delve into the city’s influential past in the shaping of southern Europe, its modern history of conflict and resolution and emergence as a peaceful and vibrant modern city.

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Salerno

From Dubrovnik we will make our way towards Rome via a ferry journey across the Adriatic followed by a train ride and a sojourn in the Italian seaside town Salerno. Here, we wi;; tour one of Europe’s oldest medical schools (which opened its doors in the 1400’s and is still teaching medicine), explore the old town center, amazing beaches and ruins of Arechi Castle.

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Rome: The Eternal City

Rome holds a unique position in the history of Europe and indeed the world and its influence can be felt in every corner of Europe. It has a long and varied history and is the perfect ‘last-stop’ on our European Expedition Program.
In Rome we will tour some of the city’s most significant ancient sites as we tie together the historical and cultural influences that connect The Eternal City to all of the other locations you’ve travelled through on the program.
Rome and its treasures of antiquity will act as your experiential masterclass in early European history. We will tour the Pantheon with local historians and learn about the temple’s mysterious connection to barbarian raids of the 5th century and its honouring of ‘all gods’. We will also tour The Colosseum and discuss its role in ancient Roman culture while drawing parallels to modern day spectacle and sport. We’ll will also spend a day exploring the Vatican City where so many of the decisions that shaped Europe and the modern world have been made over the centuries.
In addition to the iconic sites of Rome, we will also be getting off the beaten track with street-food tours, group meals in our favourite restaurants, exploring antique markets and a brief tour of Rome’s lesser-known fascist architecture.

A Day in the Life of our European Expedition Program

There’s a lot of variety on our European Explorer Program. What a ‘typical’ day looks like depends on whether you’re sailing, camping, traveling by train or in residence. That said, nearly every day begins at 9am with a group breakfast, followed by a morning activity and free time for lunch. We then have an afternoon activity, free time and a group dinner around 8pm followed by free time in the evening.
Here is one example of typical day in Berlin on our European Expedition Program:

9am: Group breakfast at a café and briefing with the Program Leaders on the day’s plans.
10am -1pm: Refugee Voices Walking Tour: See Berlin’s infamous WWII era sites through the eyes of a former Syrian refugee, drawing parallels between Nazi Germany and modern day Syria.
1pm – 2pm: Free time for lunch in the Urban Garden.
2pm – 5pm: Cycle to Berlin Spy Museum and tour the museum.
5 – 7pm: Free time at the hostel
7pm: Home-made dinner at Akmed’s house with our Syrian friends for an evening of conversation and delicious food.
9pm: Back to hostel and free time
12pm: Curfew

Gappers in Belfast Restaurant