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2020 will be a very special year for Golden Compass Tours, as we celebrate our 25th anniversary. Our very own Kiwi, Louise Shave, is leading a special Silver Anniversary A Journey through New Zealand tour very soon, in February, and our own proud Welshman, Mark Goodwin, will be leading a celebratory tour to Discover Wales, his native land, later in August. We have also already guaranteed a number of tours for 2020 and these can be seen by clicking here.
 


Oberammergau Passion Play - Jesus arrives in Jerusalem

2020 will also mark the third occasion that Golden Compass Tours has taken groups to the world-famous Passion Play in Oberammergau, Bavaria. We are excited that our contacts in the village have informed us that rehearsals for this culturally important and probably once-in-a-lifetime event (the next performance will not be until 2030!) began just before Christmas, when the 150 actors entrusted with speaking roles by director, Christian Stückl, came together for the first time. In addition to the double-casted 42 main actors, such as Jesus, Mary, Judas, Caiaphas or Pilate, all the minor roles: the apostles, the Roman and Jewish soldiers, the High Council and the women in the wake of Jesus were also present at the rehearsal.


Stückl at an early rehearsal of the Oberammergau Passion Play

We have been told that Stückl has comprehensively edited the text for the 2020 Passion Play in recent months. In the tradition of the Passion Play, the story of Jesus has always been the focus of the performance and already, in the past, Stückl has put a greater focus on the message and the life of Jesus of Nazareth, but this will be further extended in the 2020 Passion Play, as Stückl especially highlights the social aspects in Jesus' message. Jesus' work on the margins of society, his commitment to the forgotten, the displaced and the poor, forms the centre of the production.


Making new costumes for the 2020 Passion Play

Soon, at the end of January, the first big rehearsals, with the people of Jerusalem, take place on the stage of the Passion Play Theatre. The stage and costume designer, Stefan Hageneier, has again redesigned the stage of the Passion Play Theatre for the 2020 production, conceptualising the scenery and the 12 Living Images (tableaux vivants) and has created new costumes for the more than 2,000 actors. The musical director, Markus Zwink, has also revised parts of the passion music and composed new pieces of music for this Passion Play, which are currently being rehearsed by the choir and the orchestra.

As you can see, the entire community of this tiny and atmospherically scenic Alpine village of Oberammergau are intimately involved in all the preparations for another Passion Play, which is truly a significantly awe-inspiring and moving religious and cultural event, not to be missed.

At Golden Compass, we too have been making our careful preparations for this ten-yearly event and have secured some very comfortable accommodation for our comprehensive two-night package within the pretty village of Oberammergau itself, along with good quality tickets to attend the Passion Play. This all ensures you will have the best possible experience of this unique world event.

Your understanding of the Passion Play and the colourful events in the village will be further enhanced by your Golden Compass Program Leaders, Mark Goodwin and Hugh Morgan, who are both fluent German speakers and have both attended many more Passion Plays in Oberammergau than even they can remember!


Charles Bridge, Prague

Mark will be leading our popular Hapsburg Cities with Oberammergau tour, which features the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria and Bavaria including, of course, the Oberammergau Passion Play. This tour explores the great cities of the Hapsburgs, the golden trio of Vienna, Prague and Budapest, which influenced not only the body politic but also the awesome outpouring of creativity from composers such as Mozart, Haydn, Liszt and Dvorak to Smetena, Bartok and Janacek. During Mark's tour we consider the great works of art and outstanding architectural heritage of these cities, as well as the impressive Bavarian capital, Munich. This tour allows us to listen to some impressive music and to view some outstanding artworks.

Of the Hapsburg cities, Prague is considered the jewel in the crown with its UNESCO listed architecture. We explore Budapest’s great Neo-Gothic buildings and the Neo-Classical splendours of Vienna. We also discover the Slovak capital, Bratislava, another of the great, elegant Hapsburg cities, with a charming mediaeval old town dominated by a hill- top castle overlooking the Danube, as well as staying in the charming Austrian lakes to visit elegant Salzburg.


Jungfrau, Switzerland

Hugh will be leading our European Alpine Discovery with Oberammergau tour, which features the stunning scenery of Bavaria, Austria, Italy and Switzerland as well as the Bernina (Heidi) and Glacier Express Trains. On this tour, we explore the European Alps, which form both a great barrier and a link between the flat lowlands of the Northern European Plain and the coastal regions of the Mediterranean. In this stunning mountain range we learn about a rich mix of peoples, cultures and heritages reflecting the isolation of this Alpine region and the diverse cultures with which they came into contact. Almost each village has its own traditions, dialect and customs.

Hugh's program compares and contrasts the peoples and traditions of the Alpine countries of Switzerland, Austria, Bavaria, and northern Italy. Here we explore the differing regions of Switzerland, from the wooden mountain villages of the Jungfrau to the sophisticated Alpine resort of Davos and to the mediaeval towns of the Rhine Valley. We discover the differing regions of Austria, from the cosmopolitan city of Salzburg to the fiercely independent province of the Tyrol. We also experience the Dolomites, the former Hapsburg domain now an autonomous region of Italy, as well as the former Kingdom of Bavaria.

Both our tours commence in early June 2020 and come together to attend the same performance at the world-famous Passion Play in the Bavarian village of Oberammergau.

If you wish to combine either of these tours with further adventures in Europe, they are designed so that you can explore more of Italy with Hugh prior to our Oberammergau tours, on our Undiscovered Italy and Taste of Campania, or you can learn more about Germany after these tours with Mark's Highlights of Germany. Other tours, such as our Adriatic Discovery or Corsican Discovery can also be combined with a tour to include Oberammergau in 2020.

With such high demand to experience the Passion Play, we only have a very few spaces remaining on our special Oberammergau departures, so please do not miss out on your chance to reserve your very own special place with Mark or Hugh. Contact us today and reserve your seat at the 2020 Oberammergau Passion Play!


We look forward to hearing from you,

With best wishes,


Mark Goodwin and Hugh Morgan
Golden Compass Program Leaders

Commences Munich 27 June and ends Berlin 10 July 2020

 

I have always been fascinated by Germany and its place in European history and culture. Its geographic location has, since time immemorial, made the German speaking world a crossroads of both trade and cultures. Moreover, the loose framework of the Holy Roman Empire permitted a myriad of social and political forms and cultural traditions to flourish and this has resulted in deeply rooted regional differences that are still to be found. This variety also found expression in the patronage of music. Ruling houses of greater and lesser wealth and powerful merchant city states all supported musical development in different ways.


Bavarian State Opera House, Munich

Our delightful 13-night tour is designed to give you a sampling of some of the more important cities that make up Western Europe's most populous country with visits to the great merchant town of Leipzig and to some of Germany's most significant royal capitals: Munich, Dresden and Berlin. We aim to give you a taste of the highlights of this great and diverse country, as we listen to some of Germany's fine musicians, learn about its history, view its wide variety of architecture, soak up its culture and sample some of its fine local food and wine.  

We start our tour in Munich, one of the great cultural centres of Europe. This traditionally Catholic city is the largest in southern Germany. Here great monuments and palaces of its royal past as the Bavarian capital sit side by side with the symbols of one of Germany's most affluent cities. It is a modern business city but also a fun loving one, hosting both the headquarters of BMW and site of the famous Oktoberfest. Opera was introduced to Munich through the Italian Princess Henriette Adelaide of Savoy who in 1650 married Ferdinand Maria von Wittelsbach, the Elector of Bavaria. Unimpressed with the cultural life of the court she introduced Italian musicians, artists and architects. Under her direction the Court Opera was established in 1653.

Our tour of Munich introduces us to the story of the Wittelsbachs, the ambitious ruling family of Bavaria. Great patrons of the arts they did much to secure the place of Munich, their capital, as the leading German city for painting and music. We will visit the interiors of the Residenz, the city palace. Begun in 1385, the palace was added to and embellished by successive generations of the family right up to the early 19th century. As part of this tour we visit the Court Opera Theatre completed in 1753. Now known as the Cuvilliés Theatre after its architect, it is one of the few Court Opera Houses to survive. Its delightful Rococo interior provides an insight into the setting of opera performance for the aristocracy in the 18th century.

There will also be free time in Munich to visit some of the city's great art collections and, naturally, we follow the historic musical traditions of the city by attending a performance which forms part of the world-famous Munich Opera Festival. This year the city is celebrating the French composer, Rameau, with a revival of his tragic opera, 'Castor and Pollux' at the Prince-Regent Theatre.


Zwinger Palace, Dresden

From Munich, we travel on to Dresden, ‘The Florence on the Elbe’, which has a long history as a centre of culture, rising to prominence during the first half of the eighteenth century when the Electors Augustus II and Augustus III turned it into a showpiece of Baroque style. Destroyed in the dreadful Allied bombing of February 1945, the historic centre has been largely rebuilt. Dresden's various collections of artworks are not to be missed, as they are amongst the finest in Germany. There are also superb walks along the Elbe with wonderful views of the town.

We learn about the importance of Dresden as the residential town of the Wettin family, who were electors, then kings of Saxony and on occasion kings of Poland. Wettin dynastic ambitions were expressed in the artistic eminence they strove for at their court. We see the reconstructed Frauenkirche. This was the principal Protestant Church of Dresden and its great dome known as the ‘stone bell’ was a key element in the celebrated skyline of the town from 1738 till 1945 when the dome collapsed following the Allied bombing. After 50 years as a ruin and as a memorial to the destruction of the town, the Church has been rebuilt using as much as could be salvaged from the ruins. We also visit the exceptional 'Green Vault' collection housed in the Royal Palace of Dresden, as well as attending a performance of Rossini's lively 'Barber of Seville' at the city's famed Semper Opera House and a gala concert in a wing of the Zwinger, the exuberant Baroque pavilions which surround the outdoor pleasure grounds of the palace.

From Dresden we also make an excursion to Schloss Pillnitz, an extraordinary ensemble of architecture and garden design set in the vineyards of the Elbe valley to the east of Dresden. It is the largest and most important example of the Baroque taste called Chinoiserie. From 1765 to 1918, Pillnitz was the official summer residence of the Saxon royal family. The gardens include an English Garden with an English Pavilion, a Chinese Garden with a Chinese Pavilion and a theatrical ‘ruin’. There is a wealth of botanical interest including impressive glasshouses with plants from Australia and New Zealand and a famous camellia more than 230 years old. Our journey back to Dresden will be by steamboat with coffee and cake aboard.

From Dresden we continue our journey to Leipzig but not before a pause in Meissen, where we visit the world-famous porcelain factory to learn how this 'white gold' came to Germany and to see how it is made. Always an important commercial city, Leipzig was never the seat of a princely family, its proud heritage is a legacy of its industrious townsfolk. While much was destroyed in WWII, it is once again a vigorous economic centre, its success much in evidence with new construction activity and reconstruction of historic buildings.

In Leipzig we have a guided tour, including St Nicholas Church, significant for its role as a focus for the opposition that finally ended the communist regime in East Germany in 1989. We also visit the Bach Museum and attend a short concert at St Thomas Church where Bach was Cantor and where he is now buried. We also visit the home and museum of Mendelssohn in the city, where we also enjoy a short concert.


Leipzig's historic stock-exchange

Bach in Leipzig

We also take the opportunity, while in Leipzig, to visit nearby Colditz Castle. In its thousand-year history, the castle has witnessed a diverse range of use: from a Royal Hunting Lodge to a psychiatric hospital. Yet, the castle is more probably most famously known as the notorious German military prison camp which held Allied Prisoners of War Officers. Considered escape-proof by the German authorities, the POWs were determined to prove otherwise.

Finally, we arrive at one of my favourite cities. Berlin has, since 1990, been the capital of re-unified Germany. It is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city of 3.5 million people set on the banks of the Spree and Havel Rivers. It is crisscrossed by canals and surrounded by woodlands and lakes, indeed with its large city parks like the Tiergarten, it is said to be the greenest capital in Europe. It was a small town of no particular importance till the 17th century when the Hohenzollern family under whom Germany would eventually be united made it their principal town. After becoming the capital of the German Empire in 1871, it experienced phenomenal growth more than quadrupling in population, becoming an important industrial and cultural centre, in addition to its importance as home of the Imperial Court and Parliament. It was extensively damaged during WWII and then divided between East and West. East Berlin became the capital of the communist German Democratic Republic and West Berlin remained an island wholly surrounded by East Germany and sustained by supplies and support from West Germany. Since 1990 the rebuilding of Berlin has been carried out on a scale unprecedented in Europe. Sites empty for 50 years along the no-man’s land that marked the city's division are now being filled and empty wastelands like the Potsdamer Platz are now showplaces for some of the most prominent names in contemporary architecture.


Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Reichstag Dome, Berlin

While in Berlin, our itinerary includes visits to a wide range of sites, which evoke the chequered past of the city. We see the palaces of the Prussian kings, whose descendants became German emperors, the Unter den Linden and the Brandenburg Gate so overlaid with conflicting symbolism. We will see Sir Norman Foster’s brilliantly restored Reichstag, visit the interior of the enormous glass dome and take coffee and cake at Käfer Restaurant there. We also see the two competing architectural showcases of Cold War Berlin; in the East the Alexanderplatz with its sky tower and parks and the Karl-Marx-Allee that was to be the Champs Élysée of East Berlin; in the West the glittering commercialism of the Kurfürstendamm and the modernist concert halls and art galleries of the Kultur Forum. We view the Gendarmenmarkt, the most beautiful square in Berlin. There will be free time to explore the famous Museum Island with its world-renowned collections. We also discover some of the masterpieces of contemporary architecture for which Berlin is becoming famous.

Berlin also provides a base to visit Potsdam, only a short distance southwest of the city. Potsdam was chosen, at the beginning of the 17th century, as the official residential town of the Electors of Brandenburg. Frederick the Great turned the site into the Prussian Versailles, utilising its woods, lakes and canals in the extensive gardens that provide the settings for the French inspired palaces.

In Berlin we also learn something of the city's musical history with a visit to the Museum of Musical Instruments and attend a performance of Mozart's 'Marriage of Figaro' at Berlin's lavishly restored Staatsoper Unter den Linden.

I hope you agree that our tour will give you a wonderful introduction to the Highlights of Germany, or, if you have visited Germany previously, allow you to revisit some of the country's most historically and culturally significant places. Naturally, we shall also enjoy some of the local German cuisine and taste some of Germany's well-known wines and beers.

To find out more about this tour, please just click below or to secure your place on this Highlights of Germany tour please just call us now.

 

I should love to share my experiences of Germany with you and look forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes,


Mark Goodwin
Golden Compass Program Leader

 

Program Includes

  • 13 nights in en-suite hotel accommodation
  • Typical local breakfast daily and 6 dinners
  • Touring by comfortable and modern coach
  • Transport, lectures and field trips as indicated
  • 6 musical performances
  • Services of a Program Leader
  • Applicable entry fees and services of local guides/li>
  • Gratuities and necessary tips
  • Detailed Program Information Booklet

Price from: $6,870
Single Supplement: $930

Highlights of Germany

Dear Educational Travellers and Friends,  

 

Amidst all the uncertainty and upheaval in the world at present, our wonderful team around the globe is thinking of you, your families and your friends and we hope that you are safe and well.

We have been in regular contact with our many participants due to travel in the first half of 2020 and they are all aware of our inevitable cancellations. They fully appreciate that our main concern is their safety, along with the well-being of our Program Leaders and suppliers. These are trying times and we would particularly like to say a heartfelt thank you to all our valued participants for the many emails and calls of support we have received in recent weeks.

Regardless of where we live, it is clear that we are facing this challenge together. We are living through an extraordinary world event and it’s certainly not the way we expected to celebrate our Silver Anniversary year!

For many of us, travel fulfills a basic need in our lives and, as Hilaire Belloc once wrote: “We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment”. We think we do ‘travel’ pretty well at Golden Compass Tours.

We’ve kept our e-newsletters to a minimum in recent weeks, as our priorities have been to be in constant contact with all our participants due to depart on our many tours during May through to August, providing updates and reassurance. We thank our loyal participants for their understanding during this tumultuous period.

For those of you travelling with us on tours beyond 01 September 2020, we will, in the coming weeks and months, provide you with updates as and when we have them. Thank you all for your patience and understanding as we work through this volatile period.

We are still looking forward to 2021 and many more years of providing you with exciting travel opportunities. We plan to reschedule most of the tours lost from this year’s program at about the same time next year. The Passion Play in Oberammergau has been postponed until 2022 and so we will also be looking at tours to include this extraordinary event in good time. We are also using our time to look at other fascinating possibilities which may be of interest to you. Further details will be sent to you in the coming months.

Although no one has any idea when the threat of the virus will pass, it will – and when it does, we will be here to welcome you on another Golden Compass Tour packed with fulfillment.

Perhaps just a thought for us all in these anxious times! One positive thing to come out of the current situation we are all facing is that people seem to be making much more effort to stay in touch with each other. Perhaps take the time to contact some of your fellow travelling companions to say ‘hi’. We would be happy to put you in touch (complying with all privacy requirements, of course) if you have lost the contact details of those you have travelled with in the past.

In the meantime, stay safe.


Szeged, Hungary 2018

Trans-Caucasus 2019

The 'Stans' 2017


Adriatic Discovery 2019


Singapore in Depth 2018 
 


Bulgaria and Romania 2019

New Zealand 2020

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2020 Guaranteed Departures

2020 Guaranteed Departures

New guaranteed departures for 2020!

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Refer a Friend Rewards

Refer a Friend Rewards

Receive a $250 discount off any Golden Compass tour when your friends or family book with us! Your friends will also save $250 off their own booking and there is…

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Early Booking Discount

Early Booking Discount

Early Booking discounts are available for all our 2020 tours but please make sure toy don’t miss out! Registering before the Early Booking deadline secures a saving of up to…

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Meet Our Program Leaders

Meet Our Program Leaders

Our Program Leaders are based in Australia and New Zealand, so have an understanding of the needs of our Australian and New Zealand participants. They are all well-travelled with a…

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Journey to the 'Stans' in Central Asia:

05 September - 02 October 2020

Our 27-night program explores the heart of the great golden trade route across Central Asia. Our program is designed with multi-night stays in the historic cities of Bishkek, Khiva, Mary, Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent. These open-air museums are beautifully preserved Silk Road wonders, filled with mosques, tombs, monuments and bazaars.

 



Inclusive of field trips, local guides, gratuities and many meals.