Day 1: Wednesday 22 September, Arrive Berlin
Participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight from Australia are scheduled to arrive into Berlin in the afternoon and will transfer directly to Hotel NH Collection Berlin Mitte Friedrichstrasse. If you are travelling independently to Berlin, you should take an officially marked taxi to the hotel. (check-in time is 3.00pm). In the late afternoon, we shall meet up and take a brief orientation walk around the area of the hotel in the former East Berlin, close to Unter den Linden, one of Berlin’s most famous boulevards. (Overnight Berlin)
Day 2: Thursday 23 September, Berlin
- Brandenburg Gate
- Guided tour by local architect, including Reichstag & government area, DZ-Bank (exterior), Pariser Platz
- Afternoon at leisure
- Group Dinner at a Local Restaurant
This morning, we make our way towards the Brandenburg Gate, the most evocative site in the city, recalling the many stages of the city’s history, from its imperial grandeur, through the turmoil of the 20th century with two world wars, the post-war division of the country and its re-emergence as a unified nation in 1990. Our morning will be spent with a local architect who will take us on an exploration of this central area of Berlin that was recreated following the reunification.
Our first visit is to the Deutscher Bundestag, one of the most interesting constructions in Europe. Sir Norman Foster designed an extraordinary glass dome from which visitors gain a wonderful panorama of the city. Today we view it from the outside (we visit the interior in a few day’s time). Across the road at the Pariser Platz we visit Frank Gehry’s fabulous DZ-Bank, a spectacular modern building that contrasts dramatically with the stately architecture of the Brandenburg Gate. Here we see the vibrant strength of Berlin’s cultural and physical renewal, an explosion of imaginative architecture built on the foundations of the old imperial city.
The afternoon is at leisure. Tonight we enjoy a group Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant. (Overnight Berlin) BD
Day 3: Friday 24 September, Berlin
- Walking tour of the Mitte and Unter den Linden
- Alexander Platz
- Berlin Fernshturm (TV Tower)
- Hackesche Höfe
Today we walk along the Unter den Linten on a tour of Berlin’s Mitte (Central) district, a veritable microcosm of the city’s entire history. Nowhere else in Berlin do the buildings reflect so much of the city’s evolution. We visit the Russian Embassy, built in a typical Stalinist ‘wedding cake’ style (1950), the former palace of Prince Heinrich, now the Humboldt University (1753), Schinkel’s Classical New Guardhouse (Neue Wache, 1818), the beautiful Baroque Arsenal designed by Schlütter (Zeughaus, 1695-1706), the neo-Renaissance Berlin Cathedral (1905) and the Gothic Marienkirche (late 14th century).
We visit the Marienskirsche, founded in the late 13th century and constantly altered over the centuries, until Carl Gotthard Langhans, architect of the Brandenburg Gate, gave it its present Neo Gothic form in 1789. Of special note is the imposing pulpit by Andreas Schlüter (1703). Its most interesting feature, however, is a long 15th-century fresco (c.1484) of The Dance of Death, found under whitewash in 1860, and possibly painted after the city’s population was decimated by plague; it may have been based upon a more sophisticated example in Lübeck.
A brief detour will give us the opportunity to view one of Berlin’s loveliest squares, the Gendarmenmarkt, with its two cathedrals and Konzerthaus designed by Schinkel in 1821. Nearby is what remains of Frederick the Great’s grandiose plans to build a cultural centre called the Forum Fredericianum, and the State Opera House (Deutsches Staatsoper), constructed by Knobelsdorff between 1740 and 1743. Behind the Opera House is the copper-domed St Hedwig’s Cathedral (1747-1773), modelled on the Roman Pantheon by the architects Lequay and Boumann.
We shall spend lunchtime at leisure in Berlin’s – and Germany’s – largest square, Alexanderplatz. Named after Russia’s Tsar Alexander I, it has been a military parade ground, famers’ market, transport hub, scene of revolutionary demonstrations (1848 and 1989) and huge shopping centre. The square, since reunification, has been undergoing constant change.
This afternoon we will visit the Berlin Fernshturm (TV Tower), the iconic tower that rises up from the centre of the former East Berlin. It was built in 1969 and has a revolving restaurant and viewing platform. While the tower attracts many tourists, the spectacular view from the top certainly makes the visit worthwhile!
We shall then visit the extraordinary complex of eight courtyards, the Hackesche Höfe, a social, cultural and commercial hub of the new Berlin. Once a hay storage area outside the city walls, it was incorporated into the city when Friedrich Wilhelm I extended the city walls. (Overnight Berlin) B
Day 4: Saturday 25 September, Berlin. Performance #1
- Deutscher Bundestag Dome, by Sir Norman Foster
- Gemäldegalerie in the Kulturforum, Tiergarten
- Afternoon at leisure
- Evening performance at Berliner Philharmoniker (Subject to performance schedule)
This morning we will first visit the great Norman Foster dome of the Deutscher Bundestag. After completing the formal security measures, we will have an allocated time to visit this extraordinary architectural masterpiece and enjoy the marvellous view of the city.
We will then travel by public transport to the museum complex which houses the art collection of the former West Berlin, the Kulturforum. In this complex is the new Gemäldegalerie. Among the 1200 paintings housed in the Gemäldegalerie are masterpieces by Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, Rogier van der Weyden, Dürer, Holbein, Rubens, Rembrandt (one of the world’s largest collections), Vermeer, Watteau, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Velazquez, Goya and many more. In the afternoon there will be time to remain in this wonderful museum or to explore the other museums in the Kulturforum area. Tonight we meet up again to attend a performance at the magnificent Berliner Philharmoniker. (Overnight Berlin) B
Day 5: Sunday 26 September, Berlin
- Egyptian Museum
- Pergamon Museum
- Alte Nationalgalerie
Today we shall visit three important museums on the Museuminsel (Museum Island), each housing remarkable collections of art. We first visit the redesigned Egyptian Museum to see the celebrated bust of Queen Nefertiti, created about 3300 years ago. The museum also contains the wonderful Kalabasha Gate, which was presented to Germany as a gift for the help given in saving the Temple of Kalabasha during the building of the Aswan Dam in Egypt (1960-70), and another great treasure, the so-called Berlin Green, which is a remarkably realistic portrait bust of a man carved out of green stone (c.500-400 BC).
After a lunch break we visit Berlin’s remarkable Pergamon Museum. This huge building houses an awe-inspiring collection of Greek, Babylonian, Roman, Islamic and Middle Eastern art. We view some of the most important pieces including the celebrated the Gate of Miletus (120 AD), the Babylonian Ishtar Gate (604-562 BC) and the wonderful Aleppo Room from Syria (1600 AD).
Our day concludes with a visit to the Alte Nationalgalerie, which has been restored to its former glory. Designed by August Stüler between 1866 and 1876, the Alte Nationalgalerie stands on a pedestal like a classical Greek Temple, with dramatic red sandstone stairways & pillars. It was planned as a cultural icon of the German nation, a temple to education for the young, and houses a wonderful collection of 19th-century art. Two newly refurbished rooms hold the gallery of romantic painting, with masterpieces by Caspar David Frederich and Karl Frederich Schinkel, previously housed in the Charlottenburg Palace. This is the most significant collection of Friedrich’s work in the world and boasts examples of his style from every period of the artist’s development. (Overnight Berlin) B
Day 6: Monday 27 September, Berlin. Performance #2
- Guided tour with a local architect: the Schloßplatz and Potsdamer Platz
- Topography of Terror Installation
- Checkpoint Charlie
- Evening performance at Berliner Philharmoniker (Subject to performance schedule)
This morning we take a guided tour of two renewed areas of Berlin. Schloßplatz was originally the site of the 18th-century Berlin City Palace (Berliner Stadtschloß), which was extensively damaged during bombing raids in 1945 and demolished in 1950. Following the division of the city into east and west, the Socialist government decided to build the ‘Palace of the Republic’ and construction began in 1973. In addition to serving as the seat of the GDR parliament, the greater portion of the building, however, consisted of various rooms and halls dedicated to cultural events. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the palace was closed and steps were undertaken to dispose of the asbestos in the main body of the building, which was finally razed in 2008. Our architect guide will today explain the controversial rebuilding projects, which combine the reconstruction of the baroque façade with a modern core housing an ethnological museum and other cultural spaces.
Our guided tour continues with a visit to Potsdamer Platz. It is perhaps here more than anywhere else in Berlin that the extraordinary re-invention of the city can best be experienced. Out of a previous wasteland, a whole new urban space has evolved. Nineteen new buildings including shops, apartments, hotels, theatres and offices are being crammed into a comparatively small area of some 60,000 square metres. The list of architects who are contributing to this project reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ in the field of contemporary construction design. The names include Lauber, Piano, Isozaki, Rogers, Moneo, Kohlbecker and the entire square may be regarded as a ‘gallery’ of contemporary architecture.
We shall then follow the line of the Berlin Wall to Checkpoint Charlie. On the way we pass the Topography of Terror installation. Situated around the excavated underground cells of the SS headquarters, this monument tells the story of those who were taken prisoner by the SS during the Third Reich. This chilling reminder of the horrors of pre WWII Germany is situated directly under one of the few remaining sections of the Berlin Wall, a symbol of post WWII Germany. A short walk brings us to Checkpoint Charlie, perhaps one of the most evocative names of the cold-war city. Little remains of the bleak pressure point, but Checkpoint Charlie is particularly important in gauging the changes which have been wrought since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Tonight we meet up again to attend another performance, either at the Berliner Philharmoniker or another of the city’s marvellous theatres. (Overnight Berlin) B
Day 7: Tuesday 28 September, Berlin
- Schloss Charlottenburg (New Wing and Formal Baroque Gardens)
- Bröhan Museum
- Berggruen Museum
This morning we take the U-Bahn to Charlottenburg Palace. Set in a landscaped park, this mansion was built in 1695 as a summer retreat for the ‘philosopher queen’, Sophie-Charlotte, by her husband, Friedrich I. Originally the palace, designed by Nering and Eosander, was comparatively small. Between 1740 and 1748, however, an extensive section was added at the behest of Friedrich the Great. Called the Knobelsdorff Wing after its famous architect, this is the most exciting section of the palace and the focus of our visit. We explore the Royal Apartments, Banqueting Halls, the White Room and the Golden Gallery which were designed in the Rococo style by the interior decorator/sculptor, Johann August Nahl in collaboration with Knobelsdorff. The apartments and halls also contain an excellent collection of masterpieces by French 18th-century painters, notably Watteau and Chardin, which were part of the king’s personal collection.
Across from Schloss Charlottenburg, in one of the former gatehouses, is the wonderful Bröhan Museum, which concentrates on the decorative arts and design. The ground floor contains a series of delightful rooms decorated and furnished in Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles, as well as an exhibition of paintings by members of the Berliner Sezession.
Nearby, we shall visit Berlin’s newest, and one of the world’s greatest, collections of modernist art, the Berggruen Museum, given to the state by the art dealer, collector and friend of Picasso, Heinz Berggruen (1914-2007), who had spent six decades in exile from his native country. The extraordinary collection, now part of the National Gallery of Berlin, includes important works by the Baroque artist Giambattista Pittoni, and modernists like Georges Braque, Paul Cézanne, Alberto Giacometti, Georges Braque, Paul Klee, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso; it has 70 Klees, 30 Matisses and 120 Picassos from most periods of the artist’s life. (Overnight Berlin) B
Day 8: Wednesday 29 September, Berlin
- The Jewish Museum
- Afternoon at leisure
We begin this morning with a visit to Berlin’s Jewish Museum, perhaps the most significant example of contemporary architecture in Berlin. Designed by Daniel Libeskind, it is important for its unique architecture and exhibition layout, which capture the spirit of the exhibition perfectly and have led to a radical new understanding of museum design throughout the world.
This afternoon will be at leisure. (Overnight Berlin) B
Day 9: Thursday 30 September, Berlin – Potsdam – Dresden
- Sanssouci Palace and Garden
This morning we depart Berlin and travel by coach to the historical city of Potsdam, situated just beyond the south-west border of Greater Berlin. Set in beautiful natural woodlands with many lakes and river tributaries, Potsdam boasts an idyllic location, and gained its most impressive monuments during the reign of Frederick the Great (1740-1786), who commissioned a series of palaces set within landscaped parkland.
The entire Sanssouci complex, with its many palaces and beautiful gardens, makes an excellent comparison to the French Palace at Versailles. Although Potsdam was heavily bombed, Sanssouci escaped damage during the last world war and thus the palace is still preserved in its original condition. The artistic importance of Sanssouci has been recognised by UNESCO, which has included the entire complex in the list of world heritage monuments.
Our visit will include an official guided tour of the Sanssouci Palace, a magnificent mansion located at the top of a great staircase ascending through a series of terraces. The exterior is a tour de force of Rococo design. The interior boasts several fine rooms, among them the Ante-chamber, the Library in the form of a rotunda, the Bedchamber and Study of Friedrich the Great (including the armchair in which he died), the magnificent Concert Hall, the Reception Hall with paintings by Coypel and Van Loo and the equally splendid Hall of Marble with its superb decoration of Carrara and Silesian marble. We will also see the Chinese Teahouse, a charming 18th-century pavilion, decorated with gilded statues, which many consider to be the most beautiful building in the park, and the New Chambers (1747), which were built on either side of the Sanssouci Palace. One side was designed in the form of an Orangery, and acted as the palace guest house.
In the late afternoon we travel by coach to Dresden. Dinner will be served at the hotel. (Overnight Dresden) BD
Day 10: Friday 1 October, Dresden. Performance #3
- Dresden: walking tour of the old town centre
- Guided tour of Gottfried Semper’s Opera House (45 minutes)
- Albertinum, Galerie Neue Meister (New Masters Gallery)
- Evening Performance at the Semperöper (Subject to performance schedule)
Dresden contains outstanding art collections and fine 18th- and 19th-century architecture, with a long and proud history as the capital of the Dukes and Kings of Saxony, and as an important Central European cultural centre. It has played a particularly important role in the history of European music: Bach, Schubert, Schumann, Wagner, Richard Strauss, and Rachmaninoff are just some of the major composers who lived and worked here. The city suffered badly in the Allied aerial bombing raids towards the end of World War Two, when blanket bombing on 13 February 1945 almost completely destroyed it. Dresden formed part of East Germany during the post-war period and was an important industrial centre with a focus on research. Following the reunification of Germany, Dresden has reclaimed its place as a major cultural centre. Extensive, almost miraculous, restoration and reconstruction works allow a thorough view of the past beauty of the city. This morning our walking tour will take us past Dresden Castle, the Katholisches Hofkirche and the Dresdener Frauenkirche on Neumarkt Square. The tour will include a 45-minute tour of Gottfried Semper’s Opera House, one of the greatest opera houses in Europe. It was built in 1841, over 10 years before Charles Garnier designed his famous Paris Opera. Gottfried Semper (1803-1879), a close friend of Wagner, designed his magnificent opera house whilst he was Professor of Architecture at Dresden’s Königlichen Akademie der bildenden Künste; at this time, he also designed a gallery at Dresden’s great Zwinger.
This afternoon we visit the Albertina, Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden’s magnificent ‘New Masters Gallery’. Its fine collection includes important works by German Romantics like Caspar David Friedrich, Impressionists such as Lovis Corinth, the Expressionists Emil Nolde, Max Beckman and Ernst Ludwig Kirshner, as well as the realist Otto Dix whose vicious images of the Weimar Republic and War shocked contemporaries. The collection also includes Paul Gaugin’s magnificent Two Women of Tahiti and works by Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Gustav Klimt, Paul Klee, Eduard Munch, Georg Baselitz, A.R. Penck and Gerhard Richter.
In the evening we shall attend a performance at the Semperöper (Opera House). (Overnight Dresden) B
Day 11: Saturday 2 October, Dresden
- Zwinger & Gemäldegalerie des Altes Meister
- Historisches Grünes Gewölbe (Historic Green Vault – subject to reopening in 2021)
- Neues Grünes Gewölbe (New Green Vault)
Today we visit the Zwinger Palace, a German Baroque Palace that was almost completely destroyed in the 1945 bombing raids and carefully rebuilt during the socialist era. Within the Neoclassical Semper Wing is the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister art gallery – fortunately the artworks had been removed to safety at the start of the war. The gallery is small but it houses one of the finest collections of paintings by Old Masters in Europe, gathered by the Electors and Kings of Saxon, including masterpieces by Giorgione, Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian, Vermeer, Van Dyck and Canaletto.
The Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault), located in the west wing of Dresden Castle, is a unique museum that contains arguably the largest collection of precious objects such as dinner services, ornaments and jewellery, in Europe. Founded by Augustus the Strong in 1723, it was named after the malachite green painted column bases and capitals of the initial rooms. The collection features a rich variety of exhibits from the Baroque period to that of Neo-Classicism. The original rooms were destroyed in the bombing of Dresden during WWII. The Grünes Gewölbe has, however, been faithfully restored. Today, its treasures are shown on two floors: The Historic Green Vault (Historisches Grünes Gewölbe) is an accurate reconstruction of the historic treasure chamber as it existed in 1733, while the New Green Vault (Neues Grünes Gewölbe) on the 1st floor is composed of modern exhibition rooms that display precious objects in a neutral museum setting. You will marvel at the extraordinary riches that reflect the importance of conspicuous consumption to the maintenance of a courtly ambience and regal status in the 17th and 18th centuries. Some exhibits include the Cherry Stone with 185 Carved Faces made in 1589 using a magnifying glass. Another extraordinarily intricate work is The Royal Household at Delhi on the Occasion of the Birthday of the Grand Mugual Aureng Zeb. This is a huge gold model of the Indian court encrusted with 4909 diamonds, 164 emeralds, 160 rubies, a sapphire, 16 pearls and two cameos. This orientalist fantasy expressed the Elector of Saxony’s aspirations to equal an eastern court fabled for its fabulous wealth; it cost more than the construction of Moritzburg Castle! The collection’s most valuable exhibit is, however, the Green Diamond bought by August III of Poland from a merchant at the Leipzig fair in 1749. (Overnight Dresden) B
Day 12: Sunday 3 October, Dresden – Quedlinburg – Hamburg
- Quedlinburg castle and St Servatius Church
This morning we depart Dresden and travel across the country to the important city of Hamburg. En-route we stop at one of the most delightful towns in Germany – the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Quedlinburg. This is arguably the best-preserved medieval town with 1300 half-timber houses lining the cobbled streets of the old town, overlooked by the castle set on a sandstone cliff. Within the castle complex is the Romanesque Church of St Servatius. There will be time to wander these charming streets and alleys before we continue our journey to Hamburg. (Overnight Hamburg) BD
Day 13: Monday 4 October, Hamburg. Performance #4
- Walking tour of Hamburg, including St James’ Church, St Michael’s Church and the Town Hall
- Evening Performance at the Elbphilharmonie (Subject to performance schedule)
Hamburg has a proud tradition as a trading city. Founder, with nearby Lübeck, of the powerful Hanseatic League, the city maintained its vibrant commercial life throughout the ups and downs of German history; today it has Europe’s second largest port after Rotterdam.
Today we will explore the city on foot, walking through the centre of town to the church of St Jacobi (St James), dedicated to the saint whose remains are believed to lie at Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The present church is a careful reconstruction of the hall church, which was built in the 15th century and made Lutheran in 1529. Although the church’s fabric is a restoration (the tower has a 20th century design), many of its furnishing were saved from WWII bombing. Its highlight is a famous organ built by Arp Schnitger from 1693. With 60 registers and around 4000 pipes, it is the largest Baroque organ in Northern Europe. The church also has its original 15th century altars.
We shall visit the grandiose Hamburg Town Hall, the most important 19th-century historicist building in the city. It was built (1886-1897) replacing an earlier hall that had burnt in 1842 – when the city was particularly prosperous, sometime after the Kingdom of Prussia and its confederates had defeated France in the Franco-German War and the German Empire was founded. This grand building not only expressed the city’s wealth, but also the independence of the State of Hamburg and Hamburg’s republican traditions.
Hamburg’s largest church, St Michael’s, is one of the finest Hanseatic Protestant Baroque churches ever built. The church spires of Baltic port cities often acted as landfall markers for shipping. St Michael’s 132-metre high Baroque copper-covered spire not only dominates Hamburg’s skyline, but has guided ships sailing up the Elbe for centuries. Within the huge church the pulpit, font and high altar are particularly notable. The church played a vital role in the religious life of the city; among many citizens baptised here was Johannes Brahms.
We also visit the Speicherstadtmuseum, located in an original redbrick warehouse built in 1888, in which goods and tools collected from traditional warehouse companies and business premises of the warehouse district are exhibited. Historical photos and maps illustrate social and economic changes of over a century in this unique historical monument that used to be part of the former free-port and is now part of Hamburg’s UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. The exhibition also covers the architecture of the dockland warehouse district, coffee- and tea-trading, and lighter-boating that carried goods from ships to the warehouses. This evening we attend a performance at the spectacular Elbphilharmonie, or the charming historic Laeiszhalle (subject to performance schedule). (Overnight Hamburg) B
Day 14: Tuesday 5 October, Hamburg
- Kunsthalle Hamburg
- Harbour Boat Tour
This morning we visit Hamburg’s great Kunsthalle, one of Germany’s largest museums. It has an excellent Old Master collection, including Rembrandt, Rubens, the wonderful Dutch 17th-century landscape painter Jacob Isaacksz van Ruisdael, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Its superb collection includes one of the country’s best Caspar David Friedrich corpuses, as well as key works by Goya, Courbet, Manet, Monet, Degas, Éduard Munch, Paul Gaugin, Paul Klee, Francis Bacon, Max Beckmann, Lovis Corinth, James Ensor, Max Ernst, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee, Oskar Kokoschka, Emil Nolde and Pablo Picasso, among others. We shall break for lunch in the Kunsthalle. The afternoon is at leisure to allow you to explore the city further or to remain in this magnificent museum.
It is impossible to understand Hamburg’s history without fully appreciating the importance of the harbour. We therefore begin today with a cruise on Hamburg’s harbour, the second busiest, after Rotterdam, in Europe. It also has a deep, important history, especially as the second most important Hanseatic Port after Lübeck. We shall cruise past warehouses, and see the Elbphilharminie from the water and the church spires that acted as ‘beacons’ to shipping from the water. (Overnight Hamburg) B
Day 15: Wednesday 6 October, Hamburg
- International Maritime Museum
- Tour of the Elbphilharmonie (subject to confirmation in July 2021)
- Afternoon at Leisure
- Farewell Dinner at Die Bank restaurant
The International Maritime Museum is a private museum housed in the city’s oldest preserved warehouse. On display is the story of ship building and development through history, with the oldest item being a 3000 year old dugout found in the Elbe river.
We then visit Hamburg’s revolutionary new Elbphilharminie, situated on the Grasbrook peninsula on the Elbe River. Designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, who also designed Munich’s extraordinary Allianz Arena and the Beijing National Stadium (Olympic ‘birds nest’), it is one of the largest and most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world. Its extraordinary glass façades rise up from the former Kaispeicher building over which it was constructed, to its expressive wave-like rooftop. Within, it holds two concert halls, a hotel and residential apartments. Between the old warehouse and the glass structure above is the Plaza, a public viewing area that extends around the whole building.
We shall convene at our hotel in the evening to end our day with a farewell dinner at one of Hamburg’s ‘hotspots’, Die Bank brasserie and bar. As its name suggests, it occupies the banking hall on the opulent first-floor of this former bank, built in 1897. (Overnight Hamburg) BD
Day 16: Thursday 7 October, Hamburg. Tour Ends.
- Departure transfer for participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight