The following itinerary describes a range of sites which we plan to visit. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits and special exhibitions. Meals included in the itinerary are indicated where B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meal.
Istanbul - 5 nights
Day 1: Saturday 29 August, Arrive Istanbul
- Optional Afternoon Orientation Walk at 1600hrs
- Evening Orientation Talk & Pre-dinner drinks at 1800hrs
- Welcome Evening Meal at the Balikçi Sabahattin Restaurant at 1900hrs
Our tour commences in Istanbul. Those arriving on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred by private coach to the Armada Hotel, located in the heart of the old city. If you are travelling independently to Istanbul, ASA can arrange a private transfer for you, or you should take an officially marked taxi to the hotel.
For those who have arrived earlier in the day, time permitting, there will be an optional orientation walk to the Hippodrome, the site of the old Byzantine Palace and the 16th century ‘palace’ of Ibrahim Pasha, a walk around Aya Sofya and along picturesque Sogukçesme Street (‘The Street of the Cold Fountain’) with its restored wooden houses, past the main gate of the Topkapi Palace and back to the hotel.
There will be a short orientation talk with pre-dinner drinks for all participants before dining together at one of the old city’s best fish restaurants. (Overnight Istanbul) D
Day 2: Sunday 30 August, Istanbul
- Topkapi Palace Museum, including the Harem and Çinili Kiosk
- Aya Sofya
- Süleymaniye Mosque complex
- Tombs of Süleyman the Magnificent and his wife, Roxelana, and Sinan
- Evening meal at the Matbah Restaurant at 1930hrs
We spend the whole morning in the Topkapi Palace Museum complex with its airy pavilions set in large open courtyards and extensive gardens. First we’ll visit the protected zone of the palace – the harem – where the sultan’s family and an array of concubines, eunuchs and slaves lived in luxurious privacy beyond the outer and inner zones of the palace complex and away from prying eyes. The Topkapi Palace was begun by Mehmet the Conqueror with scope for grand ceremonies and for the increased seclusion that he believed befitted his role as a ruler straddling ‘two worlds’, that of the East and the West. We’ll enjoy a sampling of the palace’s spectacular collections of ceramics, tiles, jewels, armour, manuscripts and carpets. A highlight will be the Çinili Kiosk, the oldest of the Palace buildings still standing, built by Mehmet the Conqueror in the 15th century in Persianate style. Today it houses an outstanding collection of ceramic tiles and objects.
After lunch at leisure in the Topkapi Palace grounds we’ll walk along the Hippodrome, the most significant remnant of Constantine’s early development of the city. Once a site for sporting contests and festivals, the Hippodrome is related spacially to the Byzantine ceremonial route along the present-day Divan Yolu, along which Istanbul’s efficient tram system now moves thousands of passengers every day. The ceremonial route terminated at Aya Sofya (Haghia Sophia, the church of Holy Wisdom, 531–537 AD), now a museum where we’ll view it’s spectacular mosaics, soaring pillars and pendentives and exquisite light.
The city of Istanbul, currently one of the largest urban centres in the world, has evolved over centuries in the historic political and religious centre of the eastern Mediterranean. Inaugurated by the Emperor Constantine in 330 AD on the site of ancient Byzantium, the city of Constantinople was the capital of the eastern Roman Empire and later the holiest city in eastern Christendom. It was all but destitute in 1453 when the Ottoman sultan, Mehmet II, ‘Mehmet the Conqueror’ (r. 1451– 1481), stormed the ancient defence walls, wrested control from the final Byzantine emperor, and began the process of transforming the stricken city into the third and last Ottoman capital, Istanbul. By the 16th century, during the reign of Süleyman the ‘Magnificent’ as Europeans called him, Ottoman and art and architecture achieved its ‘golden age’.
Today’s program ends with a visit to the Süleymaniye, the great mosque complex commissioned by Süleyman and designed and built by the greatest Ottoman architect, Sinan. The complex was begun in 1550 and completed in 1557. Built high above the Golden Horn, the Süleymaniye remains Sinan’s finest work in Istanbul. The dome stands 48 metres above the ground and 26.5 metres wide – still smaller than that of Aya Sofya from which it took its inspiration – but the Süleymaniye is perfectly unified geometrically and is generally considered to have the edge in terms of architectural harmony.
In the extensive grounds are the tombs of Süleyman and his wife, Roxelana. Nearby, along one of the outer walls of the mosque complex is the tomb of Sinan. The dome and four elegant minarets of the Süleymaniye are visible from all over the city and mark the outer edge of Istanbul’s distinctive and unrivalled imperial skyline. The building was a step up in size in terms of the monumental architecture of the Ottomans, and it also introduced a new style in the decorative arts used in the decoration of both religious and secular buildings throughout the empire. It was the first royal mosque to use underglaze painted tiles from Iznik in a colour scheme that was new to Ottoman art and new to Islamic tilework in general. The warm tomato red colour developed in Iznik tiles in the 1550s and the exuberant style of their decoration became the preferred form of embellishment for all buildings constructed under court patronage in Süleyman’s era – a time when many of the Ottoman art objects that are now housed in significant world collections were being produced in unprecedented quantities.
This evening we dine together at the Matbah Restaurant, specializing in so-called ‘Ottoman Palace Cuisine’. Matbah offers dishes that were first devised in the palace kitchens between the 13th and 19th centuries. (Overnight Istanbul) BD
Day 3: Monday 31 August, Istanbul
- Kariye Cami (Church of St. Saviour in Chora)
- Lunch at Asitane Restaurant
- The Golden Horn
- Grand Bazaar: visit to carpet and textile wholesalers
This morning we’ll visit the beautiful Byzantine Church of Saint Saviour in Chora, or Kariye Cami, as it’s known to the Turks. Situated inside the Theodosian Walls on the Sixth Hill of the city, the first church and monastery on the site were out in the countryside. The words ‘in Chora’ refer to its original siting in the country. The present church dates from the 11th century, was remodelled in the 12th century and again in the early 14th century, continuing in use as a church until 1510 when it was converted into a mosque by Atik Ali Pasha, the Grand Vizier of Sultan Beyazit II. The church’s mosaics and frescoes, considered some of the best in the world, were covered over but not destroyed in the conversion. In 1948 restoration commenced under the sponsorship of the Dumbarton Oaks Centre for Byzantine Studies in Washington, D.C. The restoration is now complete and the building is open as a museum.
After lunch at the Asitane Restaurant, famed for its traditional Ottoman cuisine, we’ll drive along the Golden Horn towards the Bazaar district past the Eyüp Mosque, one of the city’s most sacred sites. The mosque complex was built by Mehmet the Conqueror over the supposed tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, the Prophet Muhammad’s companion and standard-bearer. Tradition says he died in the first Arab siege of Constantinople from 674 to 678 and was buried somewhere outside the city walls. Turkish Muslims regard Eyüp as the third most sacred place in the Islamic world after Mecca and Jerusalem. After the mosque was built at the place where the tomb was accidentally ‘discovered’ during Mehmed II’s siege of Constantinople, it became the place where the Ottoman sultans were girded with the sword of Osman on their ascension to the throne.
The last stop of the day is at the Grand Bazaar. Inside its labrynthine streets, literally thousands of shops offer a dazzling variety of goods from antiques to plastic toys, utilitarian bath towels to priceless jewellery and works of art, trinkets to treasure. We will focus on the vast array of carpets and textiles from Turkey and the Middle East, Central Asia and Iran. We will visit several of the long-established dealers in the Bazaar who deal in high-quality carpets and also wander in the quiet alleys and courtyards towards the periphery where, from hidden warehouses, more recent arrivals wholesale quantities of embroideries, ikats, shawls, and other weavings. Afterwards we’ll return to our hotel via the vibrant commercial area that leads from the Bazaar to Divan Yolu. Here, international cafés and retail chains stand alongside more traditional merchants and craftsmen whose forebears have operated in the vicinity since the Bazaar was built in the 15th century. (Overnight Istanbul) BL
Day 4: Tuesday 1 September, Istanbul
- Dolmabahçe Palace
- Sadberk Hanim Museum
- Bosphorus Cruise & Lunch
- Rüstem Pasha Mosque in the Spice Bazaar area (optional)
- Performance of Istanbul’s Whirling Dervishes, Hodjapasha Dance Theatre (1900-2000hrs)
This morning we drive to the opulent European style Dolmabahçe Palace completed by Sultan Abdul Mecit in 1856 and to which the Ottoman sultans moved in the dying days of their once great empire. We’ll see the impressive entrance gate; the crystal staircase built in the shape of a horseshoe; the great Ceremonial Hall with what is reported to be the heaviest chandelier in the world; and reception rooms such as the luxurious Süfera Salon and the ‘Red’ Room used to receive foreign ambassadors. Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish republic died in his bedroom in the Dolmabahçe Palace in 1938.
Next we’ll visit the Sadberk Hanim Museum, a private house museum that occupies adjacent waterfront villas on the shores of the Bosphorus near Sariyer. This type of wooden mansion was built for wealthy residents of Istanbul during the 18th and 19th centuries. The highly ornamented buildings served as summer residences and usually incorporated a jetty and boathouses. The museum is named after the wife of the late Vehbi Koç, one of Turkey’s wealthiest businessmen. It houses her private collection of archaeological and ethnographic material and also hosts changing exhibitions of Ottoman art.
For lunch we board our private boat for a 3-hour cruise along the Bosphorus back to the old city. We’ll enjoy a selection of mezze (small plate) dishes accompanied by various fruit juices and wines as we meander past historic villas – or yalis as they’re known in Turkish – that have been restored in recent years and make a great display. The Bosphorus is a natural waterway that divides the Asian and European sides of Istanbul, providing a passage from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and hence via the Dardanelles to the Aegean Sea that leads into the Mediterranean. The Bosphorus is the world’s narrowest strait used for international shipping. From the water there is an unrivalled view of the Istanbul skyline and its landmark bridges and monuments.
Following lunch there will be an optional visit to the beautiful, small mosque that Süleyman’s Grand Vizier, Rüstem Pasha, endowed and built in the lively market quarter that surrounds the Spice Bazaar. It was designed and built by Sinan, and is a fraction of the size of the great imperial mosques such as the Süleymaniye and the so-called ‘Blue’ Mosque, built by Ahmed I in the early-17th century. The Rüstem Pasha mosque marks the high point of Iznik tilework in the 16th century. Completed two years after the Süleymaniye in 1561, the year that Rüstem Pasha died and five years before Süleyman’s death, almost every vertical wall surface inside the mosque, and part of its exterior, is tiled from top to bottom.
Early this evening we’ll attend a short recital of Sufi music and a sema ceremony of the Mevlevi dervishes held in a beautifully restored 16th century hamam (bathhouse) complex in a residential neighbourhood near the Istanbul ferry terminals. (Overnight Istanbul) BL
Day 5: Wednesday 2 September, Istanbul
- ‘Intersecting Worlds: Ambassadors and Painters’ exhibition, Pera Museum
- Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art
- Vakiflar Carpet and Flatweave Museum
- Reception and viewing of private collection of carpets and textiles at the Mehmet Çetinkaya Gallery, Arasta Bazaar
- Evening Meal at the Armada’s roof-top terrace restaurant (1930hrs)
This morning we’ll drive cross the Galata Bridge to the Pera Museum in Beyoglu to view an elegant exhibition that highlights the extensive contacts between Europe and the Ottoman Empire from the 17th to the 19th centuries as portrayed by various court painters. Drawn entirely from a private Turkish collection and including noted artists such as Jean-Baptiste Vanmour and Fausto Zonaro, the paintings were designed to accompany the detailed written reports about the Ottoman Empire that European delegations sent home on a regular basis.
In the afternoon we visit two museums renowned for their outstanding collections of manuscripts, miniatures, carved wood, metal objects and especially oriental carpets of an age and type rarely seen in the rest of Europe.
The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art is housed in the ‘palace’ of Ibrahim Pasha, Süleyman the Magnificent’s first Grand Vizier. Constructed in 1520 on the west side of the Hippodrome, the building’s magnificent reception hall and numerous rooms leading off long, cool corridors have been recently refurbished and display the rare works in a setting completely in tune with their aesthetics. We will focus on the display of carpets, some of them dating to the Seljuk empire based in Central Anatolia in the 12th and 13th centuries. These rare pieces were brought to Istanbul for safe keeping in the early 20th century from a number of mosques in Konya after German archaeologists recognised their importance.
The survival of large numbers of beautiful old carpets in Turkey is a result of the traditional custom of vakif, or pious donation to mosques. In recent years the Turkish government has recognised the unrivalled artistic expression of the national heritage amassed in this way and has opened a number of museums in which to house its treasures. One such is the Vakiflar Carpet Museum, recently opened in the buildings that once operated as the soup kitchens attached to Aya Sofya when it was a mosque from the 15th century until the demise of the Ottoman empire after WWI. The new museum currently displays about 60 carpets mostly dating from the 16th to 19th centuries, with some early examples from a group found in the architecturally unique Ulu Mosque in Divigri near Sivas in eastern Turkey.
Later in the afternoon we’ll stroll through the Arasta Bazaar, part of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque complex (‘Blue’ Mosque) and enjoy a reception and viewing of a private collection of outstanding textile art. This evening we dine at the hotel’s terrace restaurant overlooking the Bosphorus. (Overnight Istanbul) BD
Budapest - 4 nights
Day 6: Thursday 3 September, Istanbul – Budapest
- Fly PC457 Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport (dep 0955hrs) – Budapest (arr: 11115hrs)
- Museum of Applied Arts
- Welcome to Budapest: Dinner at the Art Deco style Callas Café (1930hrs)
After breakfast we take our flight to Budapest which is due to arrive in the late morning. After clearing customs we board our coach and transfer directly to the Museum of Applied Arts. Here, we take a guided tour of the building as well as a tour focussing on textiles and treasures of the Islamic art collection.
The 17,000 items in the museum’s textile and costume collection represents a wide range of techniques and periods of textile art. Complementing the textiles themselves is a historical collection of equipment used in their production. The oldest items, forming a section of their own, are the Coptic textiles. Also notable are the medieval priest’s robes, and particularly well represented is the uniquely Hungarian form of embroidery practised in 16th and 17th century noble households, the so called úrihímzés.
The museum also holds the world’s second most important collection (after the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul) of Ottoman Turkish carpets, especially the fine types known as “Transylvanian” carpets after the area where most of them have been found. Among the textiles of the Esterházy Treasury is a very famous Persian tapestry, many Hungarian ceremonial costumes and special saddle covers and saddles.
In the late afternoon we transfer to our hotel, where following some time at leisure to check-in to our rooms, we dine together at the Art Deco style Callas Café, located only a few metres from our hotel on Andrássy Avenue. (Overnight Budapest) BD
Day 7: Friday 4 September, Budapest
- Orientation Walking Tour of Pest including St Stephen’s Basilica & House of Hungarian Art Nouveau
- Morning coffee break at the Secessio Café
- Parliament House Tour
- Museum of Ethnography
This morning we take an orientation walk of Pest. We begin with a visit to the splendid interior of Budapest’s largest church, the Basilica of St Stephen, designed in 1845 by Jozsef Hild and Miklos Ybl. Apart from its value as an imposing piece of architecture, the basilica also houses a precious relic; the arm of St Stephen, the first Christian king of Hungary circa 975–1038.
Continuing past Liberty Square we reach the House of Hungarian Art Nouveau. This stunning apartment block was designed by Emil Vidor in 1903, for the Bedö family. Its three levels display furniture, porcelain, ironwork, paintings and objets d’art.
Following a coffee break at the lovely Secessio Café we continue our walk to Parliament House, an eclectic masterpiece designed by Imre Steindl (1902). Here, we take a guided tour of the magnificent interior (our visit is subject to Parliament not being in session).
This afternoon we visit the Museum of Ethnography which is one of the oldest institutions in Hungary. The collection includes pieces from everyday Hungarian life from before World War II, including pottery, costumes, boats, and furniture. (Overnight Budapest) B
Day 8: Saturday 5 September, Budapest
- Coach Orientation tour of Pest including Andrássy Avenue, Heroes’ Square, Gresham Palace, Inner City Parish Church & The Palace of Arts
- National Museum with Ottoman Specialist
- Jewish Quarter
- Evening performance of the Danube Symphony Orchestra and Cimbalom Show, Danube Palace (2000hrs)
We start the day with a coach orientation tour of Pest, beginning with a visit to Andrassy Avenue. Lined with spectacular Neo-Renaissance mansions and townhouses featuring fine facades and interiors, this boulevard was recognised as a World Heritage Site in 2002. We also visit the lovely Gothic-Baroque Inner City Parish Church which still boasts a mihrab dating from the period of Turkish occupation; Heroes’ Square with its vast monument of the seven Magyar tribes; and view the façade of the Gresham Palace located in Roosevelt Square. This palace is one of Budapest’s finest commercial buildings (Zsigmond Quittner, 1906). Our tour concludes with a view of the Palace of Arts (Művészetek Palotája or MÜPA), the new cultural hub of Budapest, located within the Millennium Quarter of the city. Opened in 2005 the palace is home to three institutions – the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall, the Ludwig Museum and the Festival Theatre.
In the afternoon, we visit the National Museum, dedicated to the history of Hungary. En route to the hotel we pay a visit to the historic Jewish quarter which was established in the 18th century. The district boasts many fine houses and religious buildings including the enormous Central Synagogue (Lajos Forster, 1854-59), Imre Varga’s Holocaust memorial (1991) and Otto Wagner’s Rumbach Sebestyan utca synagogue (1872).
Our day is planned to conclude around 4.30pm so that you may have time at leisure to arrange an early dinner. This evening we attend a performance. The Danube Symphony Orchestra presents in their Cimbalom Show great works by Mozart, Brahms, Beethoven, Liszt, Bach, Albinoni, Tchaikovsky, and Gershwin at the neo-Baroque Danube Palace. (Overnight Budapest) B
Day 9: Sunday 6 September, Budapest
- Fishermen’s Bastion & Mátyás Templom (Castle Hill)
- Medieval town of Buda
- Afternoon at leisure
This morning we make our way by bus to Castle Hill. We tour the Neo-Romanesque Fishermen’s Bastion, and visit the great Mátyás Templom, tracing the original Gothic form of the church on the much-restored façade as well as exploring the spectacular 19th century interior.
We spend the rest of the morning exploring the medieval town of Buda. The entire area, which is protected by UNESCO, has been carefully restored since World War II and much of the original street pattern of the medieval city still exists together with many of the original buildings. For those wishing to taste Hungarian pastries, there will be an opportunity to do so at the little coffee house, Ruszwurm Cukrászda, which dates from 1827 and is the only classic coffee house in the Castle District.
The afternoon is at leisure. You may wish to join an optional excursion to the Veli Bej Bath, which is one of the recently restored thermal Turkish baths in Budapest. The core of the historical (and now contemporary) bath complex is the octogonal main bath from around 1574 built by Sokollu Mustafa Pasha, the Ottoman Turkish-Bosnian dignitary. He was the pasha, and Turkish leader in Buda who built most of the now famous Turkish baths in Budapest, including Rudas Baths and Racz Baths (at that time Budapest was Buda, Pest and Obuda separately).
Alternatively you may wish to visit the Hungarian National Gallery housed inside the Royal Palace. In addition to its treasury of Hungarian art history, in 2015 it is expected to include a number of paintings currently held in the Museum of Fine Arts (scheduled to be closed in 2015 for redevelopment as part of the “Liget Budapest” project – Budapest’s new museum quarter in City Park).
Another option is to visit the tomb of Gül Baba, a renowned Sufi poet who died on the battlefield during the 1541 conquest of Buda as part of Süleyman the Magnificent’s Ottoman army. The 16th century octagonal building in its garden setting remains a place of pilgrimage, and is considered to mark the northernmost extent of Muslim control in Europe. (Overnight Budapest) B
Vienna - 4 nights
Day 10: Monday 7 September, Budapest – Esterházy Palace – Sopron – Vienna
- Esterházy Palace, Fertöd
Today we travel from Budapest to Vienna via one of the palaces of the great Esterházy family located in Hungary, at Fertöd. This palace was built in the 1760s for Prince Miklós Esterházy (1714-90). Designed in the Louis XVI style and surrounded by extensive French gardens, its interior boasts ornate Rococo panelling with stucco decoration and frescoes by Johann Basilius Grundemann (Apollo of the Chariot of the Sun) and Josef Ignaz Mildorfer.
In the afternoon we visit Sopron which has a large number of Gothic churches. Its centre is made up of fine streetscapes of mansions from the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo periods, many of which incorporate elements of more than one style, having been slowly transformed from the thirteenth to the eighteenth centuries. We may also view remains of the old Roman city walls which were strengthened by the Hungarians between the ninth and eleventh centuries. (Overnight Vienna) B
Day 11: Tuesday 8 September, Vienna
- Schönbrunn Palace
- The Dorotheum with expert Wolfgang Matschek
A short subway ride takes us to Schönbrunn (commenced 1696). The core of this palace, built upon the site of an earlier hunting lodge, was the Habsburg response to Versailles. The present design took shape under the Empress Maria Theresia and reflects her refined tastes. Although Schönbrunn was inspired by the great palace of Louis XIV, it was not conceived as a grand statement of the semi-divine status of a Sun King. Instead, it was designed to be a somewhat homely residence, reflecting a more casual, less rigid court etiquette than that which dominated that of the court of the French king.
We’ll walk through many of the rooms of this large complex with its luxurious interiors and treasures of art and furniture, in order to gain a sense of the ideals espoused by the Habsburg court at the time. We then explore the palace park, which is laid out upon an axis between the palace and the Gloriette, a Neo-Classical triumphal arch perched upon the top of a hill, and the site J. B. Fischer von Erlach originally chose for the main palace building. From here a fine vista takes in Schonbrunn’s gardens and the mass of the palace.
Following time at leisure for lunch we return to central Vienna by U-bahn to visit the Dorotheum. Established in 1707, this is one of the world’s oldest auction houses. Here, Wolfgang Matschek, an expert on oriental carpets, textiles and tapestry, will give us a talk and show us some of their interesting items coming up for auction. (Overnight Vienna) B
Day 12: Wednesday 9 September, Vienna
- Künsthistorisches Museum
- Afternoon at leisure
- Evening performance of La Traviata at The Vienna State Opera (1900-2130hrs)
We’ll spend the morning in the Künsthistorisches Museum, one of the great art galleries in the world. The Habsburgs were great collectors of art and, drawing on the cultural riches of their extensive empire, were able to amass a huge collection of works from Bohemia, the German territories, the Low Countries, Italy and Spain. We view a selection of the paintings, not only from the point of view of style but also as visual ‘historical documents’, illustrating the manner in which the Habsburg dynasty grew into one of the greatest ruling families in Europe.
Following an afternoon at leisure, this evening we attend a performance of La Traviata, an opera by the Italian Romantic composer Giuseppe Verdi, at the magnificent Vienna State Opera. (Overnight Vienna) B
Day 13: Thursday 10 September, Vienna
- Museum of Applied Arts (MAK): Guided tour of the Textiles and Carpets Collection with Dr Barbara Karl, Head of the Textiles Department
- Hofburg Schatzkammer (Treasury)
- Hofburg Crypt in the Capuchin Church
- Evening performance: String Quartet at St Anne’s Church (2030-2130hrs)
This morning we take the U-bahn across to MAK, the Museum of Applied Arts, which contains an exceptional collection of textiles and carpets. The collection’s main emphases lie in medieval fabrics, Safavid and Ottoman carpets, lace, Biedermeier textiles, and textiles from around 1900, with a further prominent group of objects being late-ancient Egyptian (so-called “Coptic”) textiles which were acquired early in the collection’s development.
One of the collection’s highlights is the group of Wiener Werkstätte textiles. The artists associated with Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffmann, who founded the Wiener Werkstätte in 1903, had great success with the innovative fabrics which they began creating around 1910; these were mostly printed fabrics meant for use in fashion design and interior decorating. The MAK owns the material legacy of the Wiener Werkstätte, and its almost 16,000 fabric patterns designed by numerous artists thus amount to a nearly complete documentation of Wiener Werkstätte textile production.
The MAK’s collection of classic knotted carpets, which includes almost 200 objects, is one of the world’s most famous and most valuable. At its centre are the unique Safavid, Ottoman, and Mamluk rugs of the 16th and 17th centuries, which are considered some of the most outstanding examples of this art form. They include the famous silk hunting carpet (Kashan, Central Persia, first half of the 16th century) and the world’s only extant Mamluk carpet that is made of silk (Cairo, Egypt, ca. 1500). Most of these world-famous pieces had entered the possession of the Austrian Imperial Court before the conclusion World War I, after which they were officially transferred to the new Austrian state in 1919. An additional source was the former Imperial and Royal Austrian Trade Museum, from which carpets and carpet fragments were purchased in 1907.
Following some time at leisure for lunch we visit the Hofburg Schatzkammer (treasury) to view the superb collection of Habsburg treasures. This unique store of regalia, jewellery, precious garments and portraits charts the progress of the Imperium from the 10th to the 19th century. The various items in the Treasury functioned as visible symbols of the Habsburg rulers’ legitimacy and power. The objects reflect the way in which ritualistic finery and precious works of earlier imperial dynasties were accumulated by the Habsburgs in order to provide a visual manifestation of their status and position. Here you will see such treasures as the Imperial Crown (German, 10th century), the Imperial Cross (German, 10th century), the regalia of Rudolf II (Prague, 1602) and the Burgundian Chain of the Golden Fleece (Burgundy, 1429).
In the Treasury we’ll also see the famed coronation mantle of the Norman King, Roger II of Sicily. This beautifully preserved, embroidered masterpiece was made in the first half of the 12th century in the royal workshops in Palermo, Sicily and became part of the historic insignia of the Holy Roman Empire.
Our day concludes with a visit to the crypt in the Capuchin Church, located in the nearby Neuer Markt. After 1633, most of the Habsburg monarchs and their families were buried here. Many of the tombs are beautiful works of art and are among the finest funerary monuments in Europe. We take particular note of Balthasar Moll’s grand tomb for Maria Theresia and her husband, Franz Stephan of Lorraine, completed in 1753.
This evening we attend a String Quartet concert at St Anne’s Church. The concert includes works by great classical composers such as Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. The string ensemble is comprised of graduates from Europe’s top conservatories who now perform in renowned orchestras in Vienna. (Overnight Vienna) B
London - 4 nights
Day 14: Friday 11 September, Vienna – London
- Fly BA697 Vienna Airport (dep. 1150hrs) – London Heathrow (arr. 1315hrs)
- Royal Asiatic Society
After checking out of our hotel, we transfer by coach to the airport for our flight to London Heathrow. We are scheduled to arrive into London in the early afternoon, where upon we transfer directly to the headquarters of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain founded in 1823. We will enjoy refreshments and a tour of their renowned library, followed by a private viewing of some rare examples of Persian, Arabic, Ottoman, Pali, Sanskrit, Malay and Javanese manuscripts.
Afterwards we transfer to our hotel in South Kensington where there are numerous choices for an independent dinner. (Overnight London) B
Day 15: Saturday 12 September, London
- Leighton House with Senior Curator, Daniel Robbins
- Afternoon at leisure
This morning we visit the Leighton House Museum, the former home of the Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896). The only purpose-built studio-house open to the public in the United Kingdom, it is one of the most remarkable buildings of the nineteenth century, containing a fascinating collection of paintings and sculpture by Leighton and his contemporaries. Built to Leighton’s precise requirements, the house was extended and embellished over the 30 years that he lived in it. From modest beginnings it grew into a ‘private palace of art’ featuring the extraordinary Arab Hall with its golden dome, intricate mosaics and walls lined with beautiful Islamic tiles. Upstairs, Leighton’s vast painting studio was one of the sights of London, filled with paintings in different stages of completion, the walls hung with examples of his work and lit by a great north window. Following our visit to this extraordinary studio-house, the afternoon will be at leisure. (Overnight London) B
Day 16: Sunday 13 September, London
- Victoria & Albert Museum
- Afternoon at leisure
Today we spend the morning at the Victoria and Albert Museum. We’ll enjoy a guided tour of highlights of the Islamic, Indian and Renaissance Galleries with a special focus on rare oriental and European carpets and textiles and related artworks. We will view the 16th century ‘Ardabil’ Carpet, the largest and oldest ‘signed’ oriental carpet in the world, gaining an understanding of how it came to be in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection and learning about its structure and dyes. The afternoon is free for you to further explore this museum at leisure. (Overnight London) B
Day 17: Monday 14 September, London
- Embroiderer’s Guild House, Walton-on-Thames
- National Gallery
- Evening Farewell Meal in the Vanderbilt Suite, Radisson Edwardian Vanderbilt Hotel (1900hrs)
This morning we travel by private coach to Walton-on-Thames to visit the Embroiderer’s Guild House. Founded in the early 20th century, it houses a collection of over 11,000 embroidered objects dating from the first millenium BC. A private guided tour gives us a unique opportunity to experience textiles from a range of cultures.
Following some time at leisure for lunch we visit the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square, built in 1838 to house the national collection of paintings and artwork in the Western European tradition. During our tour we will focus particularly on oriental carpets and textiles used in portraits and other works. Highlights will include Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait of 1434 and the intriguing work known as The Ambassadors painted in 1533 by Hans Holbein the Younger.
This evening we walk to the Radisson Edwardian Vanderbilt Hotel. Here we enjoy a farewell evening meal in the Vanderbilt suite, a sumptuous room with a beautiful, painted glass window, dark wood panelling, and frescoed ceiling. This is a step back in time, reminiscent of old-world glamour! (Overnight London) BD
Day 18: Tuesday 15 September, London
- The Clothworkers’ Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles and Fashion, Blythe House
- Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
This morning we visit Blythe House in West London to take a private guided tour of the Clothworkers’ Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles and Fashion. There are over 104,000 objects stored at Blythe House ranging from small archeological textile fragments from Egypt to enormous tapestries created for medieval European palaces. Our special access will include the opportunity to view artworks usually held in storage. These include textile fragments excavated in north-west China by Sir Aurel Stein (1862–1943) in the early 20th century, rare carpets from the Persian classical era, luxurious velvets from the Ottoman court and from Renaissance Italy, and a selection of William Morris carpets and textiles.
Our tour officially ends this afternoon. Passengers travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport for the return flight to Australia. Alternatively you may wish to extend your stay in London. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B