From Liszt, Lehar, Bartok and Chopin to modern-era performers such as Leopold Stokowski, Andris Nelsons, Lucia Popp, Emanuel Ax and Arthur Rubinstein, Central Europe and the Baltic States have a fine musical heritage. Inspired by the landscape and traditions of the region, this musical history is also influenced by the neighbouring Germanic and Russian worlds. Take a trip from Budapest through the Tatra Mountains and north to the shores of the Baltic, enjoying performances at a range of historic venues in Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Latvia, culminating with three performances at the Riga Opera Festival.
Nine performances are included, in a range of impressive historic venues. The tour prices includes the best available tickets to five operas, three orchestral concerts and one evening of chamber music.
Concert by the National Philharmonic Orchestra in the Grand Hall of the historic Liszt Academy
Wagner’s Parsifal by the Hungarian State Opera at the Erkel Theatre
Chamber music by Brahms and Fauré played by members of the renowned Budapest Festival Orchestra
A performance at the Krakow Opera House, announced early 2020
Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra plays Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
Massenet’s Werther by the Polish National Opera at the Wielki Theatre
Three performances at the Riga Opera Festival, including Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spadesand Latvian composer Imants Kalnins’ opera I played, I danced
Days 1–4: In Budapest, with performances and walking tours of Buda and Pest, visits to the Liszt museum, and the Empress Elizabeth’s castle at Godollo.
Day 5: Travel north through Slovakia, with a night in the Tatra Mountains.
Days 6–8: In Poland stay in Krakow, enjoying a performance and walking tours.
Days 9–12: In Warsaw, tour the Royal Route, visit Wilanow Palace and attend performances.
Days 13–17: Fly to Riga. Attend performances at the Riga Opera Festival, enjoy a walking tour and trips to Rundale Palace and the seaside town of Jurmala.
The tour begins at our hotel in Budapest and ends at our hotel in Riga. Finnair and British Airways have the best routing into Budapest and out of Riga, from most Australia cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D, plus C for canapés.
Thursday May 28: Arrive
The tour starts in the late afternoon, when we meet in the hotel for drinks and canapés. If you have booked your air travel through Academy Travel, we will organise a transfer from the airport to the hotel. Overnight Budapest (Canapés)
Friday May 29: Budapest – Performance I
Budapest’s reputation as the jewel of the Danube is well earned, and the city extends elegantly from the riverbanks along its belle époque boulevards. The Danube is the dividing line between the two cities of Buda and Pest, joined by a bridge in 1873. There’s a clear geographical difference between the two, with Buda’s hills and Pest’s flat terrain. This morning there will be a talk in the hotel before we explore the Pest-side of the city, including a visit to St. Stephan’s Cathedral, Parliament and Heroes’ Square. This is followed by a visit of the Liszt Memorial Museum – a fine reconstruction of Liszt’s final residence in Budapest. After a welcome lunch, the afternoon is at leisure. This evening, we enjoy a performance at the historic Liszt Academy. Overnight Budapest (B, L)
Performance details Venue: Liszt Academy
Program: Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp minor, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor
Performers: Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra
Saturday May 30: Budapest Panoramas – Performance II
After a talk in the hotel, we take the coach to the Buda side of the city, which has a much more relaxed atmosphere than busy Pest. We take in the sights such as Gellert Hill with its views over the Danube and visit Fisherman’s Bastion, one of Budapest’s top attractions, for the best panoramic views of Budapest. This afternoon is at leisure, followed by an evening performance. Overnight Budapest (B)
Performance details Venue: Erkel Theatre
Program: Wagner’s Parsifal Performers: Hungarian State Opera
Sunday May 31: Imperial Hungary – Performance III
This morning we depart by coach to visit the Gödöllö Palace and its surrounding gardens. The palace is one of the largest baroque manor houses, as well as one of the most important monuments of Hungarian palace architechure. Built in the 1730s as a summer retreat, it was later gifted to Emperor Franz Joseph, and soon became the favoured residence of the Empress Elisabeth, affectionately known as ‘Sisi’. In the late afternoon, back in Budapest, we enjoy a concert of chamber music. Overnight Budapest (B)
Performance details Venue: Budapest Festival Orchestra rehearsal hall
Program: Piano trio by Fauré & Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet
Performers: Members of the Budapest Festival Orchestra
Monday June 1: Budapest – Tatra Mountains
After breakfast, we depart by coach to Slovakia. There will be a lunch stop on the way in Banska Bystrica (own expense). The Tatra Mountains create a magnificent natural border between Slovakia and Poland. It’s the highest range in the Carpathian Mountains. Both sides are protected National Parklands and home to wildlife, including marmot, lynx, bears and Tatra chamois. This evening we have dinner at the hotel. Overnight Tatra Mountains (B, D)
Tuesday June 2: Tatra Mountains – Krakow
This morning, we depart by coach for Krakow, stopping to visit the town of Zakopane which is famed for hiking in summer and skiing in winter. We have a short walking tour of the town, where you will see the unique wooden houses in Krupowki Street and visit the wooden Church of our Lady. This will be followed by a traditional Polish lunch. We then continue our journey to Krakow, arriving in the late afternoon. Overnight Krakow (B, L)
Wednesday June 3: Krakow
For several centuries the capital of the Polish kingdom, Krakow boasts one of Europe’s finest historical centres. After breakfast we enjoy a walking tour of the city, visiting Market Square with its medieval church of St Mary’s containing the magnificent Veit Stoss altar, the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world. We also visit an impressive cloth hall, focal point of Krakow’s thriving commercial life in the Middle Ages, and visit the Copernicus University, one of the oldest universities in the world. The afternoon is at leisure for you to further explore this fascinating city. Overnight Krakow (B)
Thursday June 4: Castle & Cathedral – Performance IV
This morning we have a talk in the hotel. Afterwards, we tour the gothic Cathedral and Royal Castle on Wawel Hill, overlooking the city. Wawel Cathedral is the national sanctuary and has traditionally served as the coronation site of the Polish monarchs. The Wawel Royal Castle was the political and cultural heart of Poland throughout the 16th century. It’s now a museum showcasing the crown treasury and armoury. We visit the State Rooms which are the formal, public rooms of the palace. Displayed throughout the rooms are the exquisite King Sigismund II Augustus’s woven gold tapestries. This evening, enjoy a performance at the Opera House. Overnight Krakow (B)
Performance details Venue: Krakow Opera House
Program: to be announced early 2020
Performers: to be announced early 2020
Friday June 5: Krakow To Warsaw – Performance V
This morning, we depart by coach for Warsaw, stopping for lunch on the way (own expense). This afternoon we arrive in Warsaw. This evening we attend a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony Overnight Warsaw. Following the performance, we enjoy supper at the hotel. (B, S)
Performance details Venue: Concert Hall of the Warsaw Philharmonic
Program: Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 Performers: Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
Saturday June 6: Warsaw
This morning we explore Warsaw’s Royal Castle which, having been completely destroyed in World War II, was rebuilt as before. We visit the so-called ‘Canaletto Room’ containing about 20 paintings of the city (actually by Canaletto’s nephew Bernardo Bellotto) of such precise detail that they were an invaluable historical resource in the reconstruction of the city centre after the war. Overnight Warsaw (B)
Sunday June 7: Chopin In the Park – Performance VI
After a talk in the hotel, we make our way to Lazienki Park, which is the largest park in Warsaw. At midday, we hear a piano recital of music by Chopin, performed in front of the dramatic Chopin Monument. Following this short concert, we enjoy lunch at a local restaurant within the park. In the evening, we attend a performance of Massenet’s Werther at the opera house. Overnight Warsaw (B, L)
Performance details Venue: Wielki Theatre
Program: Massenet’s Werther Performers: Patrick Fournillier (conductor)
Monday June 8: Wilanow Palace
This morning we visit the baroque, Wilanow Palace, known as the ‘Versailles of Poland’, situated on the outskirts of the city. A royal residence of King John Sobieski III, the palace contains many fascinating rooms including the White Hall, King’s Library, Grand Vestibule, and the King’s and Queen’s Bedrooms. There is also a gallery of portraits, showing the Polish monarchs over the centuries. The later afternoon and evening are at leisure in Warsaw. Overnight Warsaw (B)
Tuesday June 9: Warsaw To Riga
This morning we head to Warsaw airport for a mid-morning flight to Riga, where we transfer to our centrally located hotel. The later afternoon is at leisure, before repairing to a local restaurant for dinner. Overnight Riga (B, D)
Wednesday June 10: Riga – Performance VII
After a talk in the hotel, we have a guided walking tour of the historic centre of the city. We see the 800-year-old gothic church of St Peter, and the House of the Blackheads, which was originally built to house unmarried foreign merchants. Riga is also famous for its relatively small but flamboyant Art Nouveau district, and we stroll down its most important street to enjoy the wealth of elaborately decorated façades. The later afternoon is at leisure for further explorations. This evening we attend our first performance at the Riga Opera Festival, a new work by a Lativan composer. Overnight Riga (B)
Performance details Venue: Riga Opera Festival
Program: Imants KalniIņš, I played, I danced
Performers: Andris Ludvigs (Tots), Marlêna Keine (Lelde), Andris Veismanis (Conductor)
Thursday June 11: Rundale Palace – Performance VIII
Today we have an excursion to one of the finest palaces in the Baltic region, Rundale Palace, which was designed by the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli who later designed the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. Our guided tour showcases the sumptuously decorated staterooms of the palace, including The Gold Hall, The White Hall and The Grand Gallery. The gardens feature an elaborate French parterre design with fountains, a rose garden and a green amphitheatre. This evening we attend our second performance at the Riga Opera Festival. Overnight Riga (B)
Performance details Venue: Riga Opera Festival
Program: Mozart’s, Don Giovanni Performers: to be announced
Friday June 12: Jurmala – Performance IX
Today we travel to the seaside resort of Jurmala on the Gulf of Riga, a town which features the delightful and typical wooden architecture of the region. We enjoy our farewell lunch in a beachside restaurant before returning to Riga, where this evening we attend our third and final performance at the Riga Opera Festival. Overnight Riga (B, L)
Performance details Venue: Riga Opera Festival
Program: Tchaikovsky’s, The Queen of Spades Performers: to be announced
Saturday June 13: Departure
The tour ends this morning after breakfast. Departing group members transfer to Riga International Airport for outgoing flights. (B)
One of Australia’s leading music tour leaders and music educators, he has designed and led more than 90 tours.
Since 1987, Robert Gay has managed to combine his passion for music and his love of teaching with his enthusiasm for travel. He has visited the great opera houses and concert halls of Europe and America and heard most of the great singers and instrumentalists of the last half-century. Robert was President of the Sydney Schubert Society for eighteen years, and for several years was a guest lecturer for ADFAS.
After gaining a BA, Dip. Ed. from the University of Sydney, Robert trained as a lyric baritone in London and Munich before turning to the field of music education with a position at 2MBS-FM. He has taught music history courses at Sydney University’s Centre for Continuing Education since 1985. Robert’s musical expertise ranges wide, from baroque to modern. He particular enjoys placing works in their larger contexts – musical, biographical, social and historical.
In the early days, Robert always designed his tours to include a visit behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ – whether it was Berlin, Dresden, Prague or Budapest – thereby providing fascinating insights into a world which has now largely disappeared. His tours, which total nearly 90, have regularly featured the great musical cities of Austria, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Russia, as well as Scandinavia and the United States of America.
“It has been an enormous privilege to have travelled the world for the last 30 years taking groups of music lovers to the great musical and cultural cities of Europe and America,” Robert says. “There is something magical about music – an art form which only truly lives as it is performed – which seems to bind people together so effortlessly and harmoniously.”
“I have always been a great believer in ‘the spirit of place’,” says Robert. “You can read and research and google all you like, but it cannot for a moment match the thrill of standing in the beautiful villa on the shores of Lake Lucerne where Wagner and his beloved Cosima first lived together; or of hearing a service in Bach’s unassuming St Thomas’s church in Leipzig; or seeing a performance in the old Paris Opéra, the auditorium ‘crowned’ by its superb Chagall ceiling celebrating both opera and ballet. Such experiences are treasurable and unforgettable!”
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate, taxis or public transport are also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required and when stated as included
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price?
Our tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller. We aim to be fair and reasonable in all our dealings with our clients. We aim to provide full and accurate information about our tours and promptly provide information of any changes or alterations that take place before departure.