Arrive at the airport for your flight to Berlin. On arrival, we transfer to either the four-star superior Hotel Maritim Berlin or the four-star superior Maritim Pro Arte for two nights.
Berlin is an incredible place. Originally two separate 14th-century towns, it has long been a city of contrasts and never more so than in its recent past, which makes it such a fascinating place to visit. This morning we have a guided tour taking in many landmarks, including Checkpoint Charlie, a poignant symbol of the Cold War when the city was divided between East and West. You’ll see the Brandenburg Gate – one of Germany’s most iconic landmarks – and the Reichstag, the parliament of the reunified Germany that is steeped in history and partially reconstructed by Norman Foster. We also take in Unter Den Linden, the city’s most famous boulevard, the imposing cathedral and of course what remains of the Berlin Wall – now a protected historical monument. The afternoon is free for you to explore. Berlin’s turbulent political past makes it such an absorbing place, but it is also an incredibly vibrant city with a character and optimism to match. It strongly rewards exploring on foot – visit the impressive 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 synonymous with the heroic art of escape: Colditz. The supposedly escape-proof castle towers on its clifftop, looming over the town below. Our guided tour and the related exhibition offer intriguing insights into the lives of both inmates and guards. We see escape tunnels, a home-made radio, false uniforms and other escape equipment, all ingeniously crafted from whatever materials were to hand. Much was secreted about the buildings and, like the ‘radio room’, was discovered by maintenance workers after the war. Some of the most moving exhibits are postcards sent by prisoners to their children, whom they were not to see for many years. Next we visit nearby the town of Meissen, famous for producing the first porcelain to be made outside of China. We have a remarkable tour revealing how, since 1710, highly skilled artisans have created these unique works of art. Many porcelain pieces take weeks or even months to finish, and in the museum you can enjoy many of the splendid examples from throughout the company’s existence. We soon arrive in Dresden for two nights, at the centrally located four-star superior Hotel Steigenberger.
Sitting majestically astride the stately waters of the River Elbe and dating from the 12th century, Dresden is a strikingly beautiful place to visit. It rose to artistic prominence during the early 18th century when August the Strong, ruler of Poland and Saxony, gathered many of Europe’s best musicians, architects and artists in his capital. Its pre-eminence as a centre for art, classical music 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 former glory. This morning we have a walking tour around these revitalised architectural gems, and in the afternoon you’re free to explore as you wish. Absorb the ambience of Dresden’s many enchanting shops, seek out a cosy restaurant down one of the quaintly cobbled streets, or simply enjoy the numerous talented street musicians that keep Dresden’s musical heritage alive.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home.