Berlin, Dresden, Meissen & Colditz
On this intriguingly varied tour, we visit two of Europe’s great cultural cities, Berlin and Dresden, both having endured violent interludes in an otherwise glittering history and now returned to their former glory at the heart of the new Europe of the 21st century. The outpouring of joy and energy that accompanied the fall of the Berlin Wall now staggeringly over twenty years ago, has rekindled Berlin’s legendary vibrancy and the city throbs with new life whilst doffing its cap respectfully to the lessons of the past. Here iconic locations abound from the spy stories of checkpoint Charlie to the magnificent avenue of Unter den Linden with its thriving cafés and magnificent museums, the great monuments of the Brandenburg Gate and the instantly recognisable Reichstag – symbol of the new Germany. Dresden is perhaps more sedate yet equally revelling in its renewed splendour, its architecture, opera and museums a cultural jewel reborn as a beacon for hope and peace. Before the last war it was Germany’s most beautiful city due to its amazing art treasures and imposing baroque buildings. After huge bomb damage, it has now been almost completely restored after one of the world’s most extensive such projects ever undertaken, spanning over 60 years, but the results are magnificent. The Zwinger Palace, opulent residence of the Kings of Saxony, houses one of the world’s most extensive art collections; the Semper Opera House is stunning, and probably the finest of them all, the Frauenkirche, is the final major building to have been rebuilt. But our tour is much more than two cultural cities, magnificent though they are. We experience the traditional Germany of small towns and picturesque villages too, rolling countryside plus reminders of the former East Germany even the occasional ‘Trabant’ – and, as you would probably expect, these distinctive cars are rapidly becoming collector’s items! Another face of Germany is medieval Meissen where the most stunningly beautiful porcelain is crafted by highly skilled artisans in the only factory in Europe where the processes are still completed entirely by hand. Finally and in complete contrast we visit Colditz Castle, the famous Second World War Prisoner of War camp for serial would-be escapees including the legless fighter pilot Douglas Bader. This tour contains some fascinating insights to Germany, its vibrant and remarkable cities; striking countryside; and its past, present and future.
- Return flights
- Four nights four-star superior accommodation with breakfast
- Guided tour of Berlin, rapidly becoming one of the world’s most fascinating cities
- Walking tour of Dresden, ‘Florence of the Elbe’, home to one of the world’s greatest art collections, formerly capital of the Kings of Saxony
- Visit and tour of the Meissen porcelain studio
- Visit to Colditz Castle of Second World War prisoner of war fame
- Escorted by our experienced tour manager
- The price of this holiday is person based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are available at a supplement. The price includes return flights, two nights at both the Hotel Maritim in Berlin and the Hotel Steigenberger De Saxe in Dresden with breakfast, return transfers, guided tour of Berlin, walking tour of Dresden, visit and tour of Colditz Castle and museum, visit and tour of Meissen porcelain factory, all touring as mentioned, services of a Riviera Tour Manager.
You should arrive at the airport to take your flight to Berlin. On arrival a coach will take you to your hotel either the four-star superior Hotel Maritim Berlin or the four-star superior Maritim Pro Arte for two nights. The four-star superior Hotel Maritim Berlin, ideally located very near the famous Potsdamer Platz in the heart of the centre and very convenient for visiting the sights. This international standard property is part of one of Germany’s finest hotel chains, is of very high quality and beautifully furnished with an excellent restaurant, comfortable bar with live music, indoor pool and sauna. The four-star superior Maritim Pro Arte is a beautiful modern hotel is perfectly located between the Brandenburg Gate and the Gendarmenmarkt, and just a stone’s throw from Unter den Linden with its elegant shops – perfect for exploring on foot. The hotel is spacious, very comfortable and houses a wonderful art collection. Facilities include two restaurants, a bistro, bar, indoor pool and spa area and all. Rooms in both hotels are tastefully furnished, air-conditioned with private facilities, mini-bar and wifi connection.
Berlin is an incredible place, originally two separate 14th century towns; it has always been a city of contrasts and never more so than in its recent past which makes it such a fascinating place to visit. Germany itself has existed only since 1871 with Berlin becoming its capital from then until 1948 where it stood at the very crossroads of the Eastern Bloc and the Western Democracy’s and their respective political systems. Who can forget the standoffs at ‘Checkpoint Charlie’, President Kennedy’s ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech and those tumultuous events of 1989 when probably the world’s most famous ‘Wall’ was peacefully breeched. Berlin is united once more and although every year the evidence and the memory of past contrasts fades, it remains a remarkable and intensely fascinating place and there is still time to experience some of the unique atmosphere pervading the city today. This morning we have a guided tour seeing amongst the many sights the iconic “divided city” location – Checkpoint Charlie; symbol of the city, the Brandenburg Gate; the parliament building, the Reichstag partly designed by Norman Foster; the Unter Den Linden, the city’s most famous boulevard; the cathedral and of course what remains of the ‘Wall’ - ironically now a protected historical monument. The afternoon is free for you to explore the city and there’s plenty to explore!! It would be very wrong to think Berlin is all about politics, but it is one of the most vibrant cities you will ever visit, with an atmosphere and optimism to match. Galleries and museums abound – there is even one dedicated to life in the former East Germany or you may like to take a cruise on the rivers and lakes bisecting the city or visit one of the parks to see Berliners at play: indeed over one third of the city is green. Perhaps, go for a drink in one of Berlin’s famous bars and maybe enjoy a Weisse – one of the characteristic local tipples. There’s also the magnificent Charlottenburg Palace and the legendary Olympiastadion stadium or you may wish to take a short train ride to Potsdam, and the Sanssouci Palace, home of the famous Prussian king, Frederick the Great.
After breakfast we drive through gentle rolling woodland and fields into Saxony, crossing the mighty River Elbe en route to somewhere that is synonymous with the heroic art of escape – Colditz, towering above the town atop a river cliff and seemingly impregnable! For a thousand years a series of fortifications crowned this ideal defensive position, but it is best known for its role as a prisoner of war camp during the Second World War. The massively walled castle was so secure it was selected to confine serial escapees, but Colditz “boasted” one of the war’s highest rates of successful ‘home runs’ as they were called, probably due to having so many ardent escapers who could pool their expertise to great effect. Our guided tour and the related exhibition offer a truly fascinating insight into the lives of both inmates and guards, and we see escape tunnels and a home-made radio, false uniforms, diaries, papers, fake documents and other escape equipment ingeniously created from whatever materials were to hand. Much was secreted about the buildings and, like the ‘radio room’, were discovered by maintenance workers after the war. Some of the most moving exhibits are postcards sent by prisoners to their children who they never saw for many years. For a complete contrast, next we visit nearby Meissen, famous of course for its exquisite porcelain, the first to be made outside China, in 1708. The rarity and cost of the factory’s products meant that it was the preserve of the rich and famous and Europe’s wealthy amassed vast collections – many of which grace the world’s great museums. We have a remarkable tour discovering how highly skilled artisans create these stunning works of art many of which take weeks, sometimes months to finish. Quite often referred to as Dresden porcelain, this is the only factory in Europe in which all the processes are completed by hand and we see the complete cycle from clay to finished article, after which there is a stunning museum displaying pieces from throughout the company’s existence. We soon arrive in Dresden for two nights, at the centrally located, four-star superior Hotel Steigenberger. Beautifully designed, this modern and very well managed property throughout makes extensive use of marble; the rooms are superbly decorated and have all the facilities you would expect of a hotel of this quality. Some dates will stay at the four-star superior Maritim Hotel, situated on the banks of the River Elbe and just a few minutes’ walk to the historic city centre. This modern conversion of a historic building offers fully air-conditioned spacious rooms. Both properties have a very good restaurant, a comfortable bar at both international standard hotels – your utmost comfort is assured.
Dating from the 12th century, Dresden is a stunningly beautiful place, sitting majestically astride the stately waters of the River Elbe. It rose to artistic prominence during the early 18th century when August the Strong, ruler of Poland and Saxony, gathered many of the Europe’s best musicians, architects and artists to his capital. Indeed, many of Wagner’s works were first performed here, whilst Canaletto captured Dresden for posterity on numerous occasions, from many different views. Its pre-eminence as a centre for art, classical music, culture and science saw the emergence of fine Renaissance, Baroque and Classical buildings, the majority of which – though destroyed by the allied bombings of 1945 – have been wonderfully restored in recent years, returning Dresden to its stunning former glory in probably the world’s most remarkable such project ever. This morning we have a walking tour around this stunning array of revitalised architectural gems. There is the grandiose Frauenkirche whose bell shaped dome has for centuries been an iconic landmark on the city skyline, and whose inside decoration is an outstanding display of baroque art at its best. We also see the Renaissance Stallhof with its amazing Fuerstenzug – a 100m long Meissen tile mural depicting Saxony’s Monarchs, the Residenz-Schloss with its many museums and the Semper Opera. Most remarkable of all is the incredible Zwinger Palace, amazingly home of the world’s twelfth largest art collection with works by Rubens, Canaletto, Van Dyke, Rembrandt, El Greco and many others. Also there is one of the world’s finest porcelain collections, a superb display of modern art and an astonishing collection of medieval armour and weapons. A lovely ambience pervades through the city with tasteful shops, cobbled streets and cosy restaurants and with numerous talented street musicians keeping Dresden’s musical heritage alive. This afternoon you are free to explore as you wish.
After breakfast a coach will return you to Berlin airport at the appropriate time for your return flight.