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Commences Munich 27 June and ends Berlin 10 July 2020

 

I have always been fascinated by Germany and its place in European history and culture. Its geographic location has, since time immemorial, made the German speaking world a crossroads of both trade and cultures. Moreover, the loose framework of the Holy Roman Empire permitted a myriad of social and political forms and cultural traditions to flourish and this has resulted in deeply rooted regional differences that are still to be found. This variety also found expression in the patronage of music. Ruling houses of greater and lesser wealth and powerful merchant city states all supported musical development in different ways.


Bavarian State Opera House, Munich

Our delightful 13-night tour is designed to give you a sampling of some of the more important cities that make up Western Europe's most populous country with visits to the great merchant town of Leipzig and to some of Germany's most significant royal capitals: Munich, Dresden and Berlin. We aim to give you a taste of the highlights of this great and diverse country, as we listen to some of Germany's fine musicians, learn about its history, view its wide variety of architecture, soak up its culture and sample some of its fine local food and wine.  

We start our tour in Munich, one of the great cultural centres of Europe. This traditionally Catholic city is the largest in southern Germany. Here great monuments and palaces of its royal past as the Bavarian capital sit side by side with the symbols of one of Germany's most affluent cities. It is a modern business city but also a fun loving one, hosting both the headquarters of BMW and site of the famous Oktoberfest. Opera was introduced to Munich through the Italian Princess Henriette Adelaide of Savoy who in 1650 married Ferdinand Maria von Wittelsbach, the Elector of Bavaria. Unimpressed with the cultural life of the court she introduced Italian musicians, artists and architects. Under her direction the Court Opera was established in 1653.

Our tour of Munich introduces us to the story of the Wittelsbachs, the ambitious ruling family of Bavaria. Great patrons of the arts they did much to secure the place of Munich, their capital, as the leading German city for painting and music. We will visit the interiors of the Residenz, the city palace. Begun in 1385, the palace was added to and embellished by successive generations of the family right up to the early 19th century. As part of this tour we visit the Court Opera Theatre completed in 1753. Now known as the Cuvilliés Theatre after its architect, it is one of the few Court Opera Houses to survive. Its delightful Rococo interior provides an insight into the setting of opera performance for the aristocracy in the 18th century.

There will also be free time in Munich to visit some of the city's great art collections and, naturally, we follow the historic musical traditions of the city by attending a performance which forms part of the world-famous Munich Opera Festival. This year the city is celebrating the French composer, Rameau, with a revival of his tragic opera, 'Castor and Pollux' at the Prince-Regent Theatre.


Zwinger Palace, Dresden

From Munich, we travel on to Dresden, ‘The Florence on the Elbe’, which has a long history as a centre of culture, rising to prominence during the first half of the eighteenth century when the Electors Augustus II and Augustus III turned it into a showpiece of Baroque style. Destroyed in the dreadful Allied bombing of February 1945, the historic centre has been largely rebuilt. Dresden's various collections of artworks are not to be missed, as they are amongst the finest in Germany. There are also superb walks along the Elbe with wonderful views of the town.

We learn about the importance of Dresden as the residential town of the Wettin family, who were electors, then kings of Saxony and on occasion kings of Poland. Wettin dynastic ambitions were expressed in the artistic eminence they strove for at their court. We see the reconstructed Frauenkirche. This was the principal Protestant Church of Dresden and its great dome known as the ‘stone bell’ was a key element in the celebrated skyline of the town from 1738 till 1945 when the dome collapsed following the Allied bombing. After 50 years as a ruin and as a memorial to the destruction of the town, the Church has been rebuilt using as much as could be salvaged from the ruins. We also visit the exceptional 'Green Vault' collection housed in the Royal Palace of Dresden, as well as attending a performance of Rossini's lively 'Barber of Seville' at the city's famed Semper Opera House and a gala concert in a wing of the Zwinger, the exuberant Baroque pavilions which surround the outdoor pleasure grounds of the palace.

From Dresden we also make an excursion to Schloss Pillnitz, an extraordinary ensemble of architecture and garden design set in the vineyards of the Elbe valley to the east of Dresden. It is the largest and most important example of the Baroque taste called Chinoiserie. From 1765 to 1918, Pillnitz was the official summer residence of the Saxon royal family. The gardens include an English Garden with an English Pavilion, a Chinese Garden with a Chinese Pavilion and a theatrical ‘ruin’. There is a wealth of botanical interest including impressive glasshouses with plants from Australia and New Zealand and a famous camellia more than 230 years old. Our journey back to Dresden will be by steamboat with coffee and cake aboard.

From Dresden we continue our journey to Leipzig but not before a pause in Meissen, where we visit the world-famous porcelain factory to learn how this 'white gold' came to Germany and to see how it is made. Always an important commercial city, Leipzig was never the seat of a princely family, its proud heritage is a legacy of its industrious townsfolk. While much was destroyed in WWII, it is once again a vigorous economic centre, its success much in evidence with new construction activity and reconstruction of historic buildings.

In Leipzig we have a guided tour, including St Nicholas Church, significant for its role as a focus for the opposition that finally ended the communist regime in East Germany in 1989. We also visit the Bach Museum and attend a short concert at St Thomas Church where Bach was Cantor and where he is now buried. We also visit the home and museum of Mendelssohn in the city, where we also enjoy a short concert.


Leipzig's historic stock-exchange

Bach in Leipzig

We also take the opportunity, while in Leipzig, to visit nearby Colditz Castle. In its thousand-year history, the castle has witnessed a diverse range of use: from a Royal Hunting Lodge to a psychiatric hospital. Yet, the castle is more probably most famously known as the notorious German military prison camp which held Allied Prisoners of War Officers. Considered escape-proof by the German authorities, the POWs were determined to prove otherwise.

Finally, we arrive at one of my favourite cities. Berlin has, since 1990, been the capital of re-unified Germany. It is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city of 3.5 million people set on the banks of the Spree and Havel Rivers. It is crisscrossed by canals and surrounded by woodlands and lakes, indeed with its large city parks like the Tiergarten, it is said to be the greenest capital in Europe. It was a small town of no particular importance till the 17th century when the Hohenzollern family under whom Germany would eventually be united made it their principal town. After becoming the capital of the German Empire in 1871, it experienced phenomenal growth more than quadrupling in population, becoming an important industrial and cultural centre, in addition to its importance as home of the Imperial Court and Parliament. It was extensively damaged during WWII and then divided between East and West. East Berlin became the capital of the communist German Democratic Republic and West Berlin remained an island wholly surrounded by East Germany and sustained by supplies and support from West Germany. Since 1990 the rebuilding of Berlin has been carried out on a scale unprecedented in Europe. Sites empty for 50 years along the no-man’s land that marked the city's division are now being filled and empty wastelands like the Potsdamer Platz are now showplaces for some of the most prominent names in contemporary architecture.


Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Reichstag Dome, Berlin

While in Berlin, our itinerary includes visits to a wide range of sites, which evoke the chequered past of the city. We see the palaces of the Prussian kings, whose descendants became German emperors, the Unter den Linden and the Brandenburg Gate so overlaid with conflicting symbolism. We will see Sir Norman Foster’s brilliantly restored Reichstag, visit the interior of the enormous glass dome and take coffee and cake at Käfer Restaurant there. We also see the two competing architectural showcases of Cold War Berlin; in the East the Alexanderplatz with its sky tower and parks and the Karl-Marx-Allee that was to be the Champs Élysée of East Berlin; in the West the glittering commercialism of the Kurfürstendamm and the modernist concert halls and art galleries of the Kultur Forum. We view the Gendarmenmarkt, the most beautiful square in Berlin. There will be free time to explore the famous Museum Island with its world-renowned collections. We also discover some of the masterpieces of contemporary architecture for which Berlin is becoming famous.

Berlin also provides a base to visit Potsdam, only a short distance southwest of the city. Potsdam was chosen, at the beginning of the 17th century, as the official residential town of the Electors of Brandenburg. Frederick the Great turned the site into the Prussian Versailles, utilising its woods, lakes and canals in the extensive gardens that provide the settings for the French inspired palaces.

In Berlin we also learn something of the city's musical history with a visit to the Museum of Musical Instruments and attend a performance of Mozart's 'Marriage of Figaro' at Berlin's lavishly restored Staatsoper Unter den Linden.

I hope you agree that our tour will give you a wonderful introduction to the Highlights of Germany, or, if you have visited Germany previously, allow you to revisit some of the country's most historically and culturally significant places. Naturally, we shall also enjoy some of the local German cuisine and taste some of Germany's well-known wines and beers.

To find out more about this tour, please just click below or to secure your place on this Highlights of Germany tour please just call us now.

 

I should love to share my experiences of Germany with you and look forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes,


Mark Goodwin
Golden Compass Program Leader

 

Program Includes

  • 13 nights in en-suite hotel accommodation
  • Typical local breakfast daily and 6 dinners
  • Touring by comfortable and modern coach
  • Transport, lectures and field trips as indicated
  • 6 musical performances
  • Services of a Program Leader
  • Applicable entry fees and services of local guides/li>
  • Gratuities and necessary tips
  • Detailed Program Information Booklet

Price from: $6,550
Single Supplement: $890

Highlights of Germany

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Inclusive of field trips, local guides, gratuities and many meals.