The main aim of what became known as my 'Grand Tour' was to take some photos, documenting the trip itself as well as trying to make some 'arty' pictures. Its overall theme was a musical one, visiting some of the centres of 18th and 19th century music and the classical composers. Some sections of the rail journey were chosen to follow good scenic routes: Bonn-Mannheim down the Rhine, for example, Salzburg-Klagenfurt-Vienna through the Austrian Alps, and Prague-Dresden along the River Elbe.

This is a summary of the towns and cities I visited on the Grand Tour, in the order in which I visited them; a pictorial overview of the trip is shown on the Overview page. Click on a place name, or on its » icon, or on an image, to to go to that destination: | map

BonnI travelled from London to Brussels on an early Eurostar, then by a Thalys train to Cologne [Köln], spending a couple of hours around the huge cathedral before the short journey to Bonn. Bonn is where Ludwig van Beethoven was born in 1770, and where he played in the court orchestra (among other things) until his move to Vienna in 1792. Robert Schumann died here in 1856, and is buried – with Clara Schumannin the old cemetery. / »»
MannheimMannheim was critically important in the music scene in the early to mid 18th century – the 'Mannheim School' was a group of progressive German composers connected to the Mannheim Court. Among other things they laid the foundations of the symphony and its orchestration before it was later developed by Haydn and Mozart. The huge palace still exists, with most of it now used by the university. / »»
MunichMunich was the birthplace of composer Richard Strauss in 1864, but there's little to commemorate him apart from the Richard-Strauss-Brunnen in front of the Alte Akademie. My other musical interest was the Cuvilliés-Theater in the Residenz, where Mozart's opera Idomeneo had its first performance in 1781. Plus the red-brick Frauenkirche with its legend of the Devil's footprint, and the charming carillon in the Neues Rathaus in Marienplatz. / »»
SalzburgSalzburg was the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1756, and his home base until his move to Vienna in 1781. It was also where Michael Haydn – younger brother of Joseph Haydn – worked for 43 years from 1763 after moving from Vienna. It's a fabulously attractive city, with outstanding churches and other buildings, all overlooked by the remarkable Hohensalzburg fortress; it was the setting for the film The Sound of Music. / »»
St Florian
St FlorianThe Augustinian Monastery at St Florian – about 12km from Linz – was built in the Baroque style on the site of earlier Norman and Gothic churches. My musical interest was the composer and organist Anton Bruckner (1824-1896), who was a pupil here from 1837-1840, returned as a teacher in 1845, and finally moved to Vienna in 1868. For me, a day trip from Salzburg. / »»
KlagenfurtKlagenfurt is near lake Wörthersee, in southern Austria. From 1900-1907, composer and music director Gustav Mahler spent two summer months here each year, in a house at Maiernigg on the southern shore of the lake. In the single room 'composing cottage' in the woods above the house he worked on the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th symphonies, and this was the main reason for my journey to Klagenfurt. / »»
ViennaWolfgang Amadeus Mozart moved to Vienna from Salzburg in 1781, marrying Constanze Weber in 1782; he died here in 1791. Joseph Haydn had a house here, after moving from Eisenstadt, from 1796 until his death in 1809. Ludwig van Beethoven lived here from 1792 until his death in 1827. Franz Schubert was born here and lived all his short 31-year life here, until his death in 1828. Johannes Brahms was here for 35 years from 1862 until his death in 1897. Johann Strauss, father and son, were born and died here (1804-1849 and 1825-1899). Gustav Mahler was director of the Court Opera 1897-1907, and died here in 1911. An important destination! / »»
EisenstadtJoseph Haydn worked as a court musician for over 30 years at Schloss Esterházy in Eisenstadt, starting here as assistant music director in 1761, and being appointed Kapellmeister in 1766. He moved to live in Vienna in 1795, following the death of his patron Prince Nikolaus Esterházy in 1790 and his successful visits to London. For me, a day trip from Vienna, to visit the Esterházy palace and to see Haydn's house in the old town. / »»
Czech Republic
BrnoI stopped in Brno, on the way from Vienna to Prague, to visit the Leoš Janáček museum. Janáček spent most of his educational and working life in Brno; he founded the Brno organ school around 1890, moving it to its present site in 1910. The museum was originally the organ school Director's house, and Janáček lived here until his death in 1928. / »»
Czech Republic
PragueBedřich Smetana, generally regarded as the founder of Czech music, settled in Prague in 1843 at the age of 19. Later, Antonin Dvořák played under Smetana in the Prague National Theatre orchestra. Dvořák was Professor of Composition at the conservatory from 1891, and later Director, apart from his 3 years in New York as Director of the National Conservatory, where he fixed his reputation worldwide with his 9th Symphony, 'From the New World'. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was (and remains) popular in Prague, and premiered his operas Don Giovanni and La clemenza di Tito in the Estates Theatre. A busy city, and a lot to see. / »»
Czech Republic
Nelahozeves Nelahozeves is a village by the Vlatava river, about 30km north-west of Prague. The composer Antonin Dvořák was born here in 1841, and his parents' house – which they ran as a pub – was first opened as a Dvořák museum in 1951. For me, a day trip (actually a morning trip) by train from Prague, to the station that was being built across the road from the house when he was a youngster; hence his lifelong interest in railways. / »»
DresdenI particularly wanted night-time photos of the Dresden Opera House – known as Semperoper after architect Gottfried Semper. The composer Carl Maria von Weber was appointed Director of the Dresden Opera and court Kapellmeister in 1817. Heinrich Schütz was Kapellmeister 200 years earlier, from 1615-1657. Richard Wagner was Director of the Opera from 1843-1849 following a successful production here of The Flying Dutchman. The other important building for me in Dresden was the Frauenkirche, the iconic Lutheran church which collapsed the day after Allied bombing in February 1945 and was finally rebuilt in 2005. / »»
LeipzigJohann Sebastian Bach was cantor at St. Thomas’s church (the Thomaskirche) from 1723 until his death in 1750, writing the St Matthew Passion, B Minor Mass, the Goldberg Variations, 250 cantatas, and more; his son Johann Christian Bach, 'the English Bach', was born here in 1735. Felix Mendelssohn was conductor of the renowned Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra from 1835 until his death in 1847. Robert Schumann studied in Leipzig and taught at the Conservertoire. Gustav Mahler was second conductor of the Leipzig Opera 1886-1888. Richard Wagner was born here. / »»
WeimarJS Bach was leader of the court orchestra and organist in Weimar from 1708-1717. His sons Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel were born here. Johann Nepomunk Hummel was Kapellmeister a hundred years later, from 1819-1837, followed by Franz Listz, from 1848-1859, who made Weimar into a major musical centre. Weimar was also home to writers Goethe, Schiller, Herder and Wieland, and the philosopher Nietzsche. / »»
EisenachEisenach is where Johann Sebastian Bach was born, in 1685; the house is now the Bachhaus museum. The town grew in support of the Wartburg castle, perched on a rocky outcrop over the Thuringian forest – it was Richard Wagner's inspiration for Tannhäuser and the place where Martin Luther translated the New Testament in 1521. A bonus for me, on my trip from Weimar, was the unusual interior of the Georgenkirche in the market place. / »»
HalleI stopped in Halle to visit the Händel-Haus, birthplace in 1685 of Georg Friederich Händel, who went on to become that most English of composers: George Frideric Handel. So I was more than upset to find the house closed for some serious rebuilding and renovation. But considerable compensation was provided by the superb Marktkirche Unser Lieben Frauen, with its Cranach-school altar paintings, in the city centre. / »»
KöthenJohann Sebastian Bach was Kapellmeister in Köthen 1717-1723, moving here from Weimar to work for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen, himself a competent musician. Among other works, Bach wrote the six Brandenburg Concertos, the Orchestral and Cello Suites, and the Violin Sonatas and Partitas while he was in Köthen. He was appreciated and well paid. / »»
WittenbergNow known formally as Lutherstadt-Wittenberg, the town was the home of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and of his friend and colleague Philipp Melanchthon, and the place where the Protestant Reformation started early in the 16th century. It was also the home of the great and prolific artist Lucas Cranach, friend of Luther, whose works, and those of his son and apprentices, had been striking highlights in many of my earlier destinations. / »»
WarsawI made the 1100km train journey from Berlin to Warsaw and back – frivolously perhaps – to visit the birthplace of the pianist and composer Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849) at Zelazowa Wola, 50km west of Warsaw. Effectively the trip was free, as I was travelling in Europe on a rail pass, but the local journey from Warsaw was not without incident... / »»
BerlinThere were no particular composer connections in Berlin, but before I left home I'd booked a concert with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in the Philharmonie as a suitable musical end to the Tour. My short stay here was intended as a time for winding-down and reflecting on the Grand Tour, with a chance for a quick look at the more obvious sights. In the event I spent a day longer than planned due to last-minute travel problems. / »»
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