Monday, December 10, 2012

Updated Itinerary for the LCHS Danube Cruise

Day 1, Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Overnight flight to Europe

Day 2, Thursday, March 28
Willkommen in Deutschland - Board cruise
Upon arrival in Germany, you will meet your Incantato Tour Manager at the airport and transfer to your floating 4 star superior hotel for the next 7 nights, the beautiful MS Mozart. Upon arrival to the ship, check-in, enjoy a welcome snack and make yourself comfortable prior to dinner. Those on the Lufthansa flights will have some time to explore the town of Passau where the Mozart is docked. After all LCHS travelers are on board, sail away in the direction of Budapest, Hungary. 

Day 3, Friday, March 29 - GOOD FRIDAY
Scenic route to Hungary 
A stunning panorama awaits you as you wake up in Austria and to the scenery of the Danube Valley - made a UNESCO world heritage site for a myriad of reasons. You will be cruising past stunning Melk Abbey, one of the most beautiful baroque cathedrals in the world that you will also be visiting later on in the journey. Most of today is spent aboard as you cruise into Hungary. Lunch and a "black tie" gala dinner feature local specialties, and there will be educational lectures on the towns to be visited and some special surprises. The La Canada Choirs will rehearse for their upcoming concerts and also prepare for a joint crew show with the Mozart staff. A disco party will conclude the day on the Danube.

Day 4, Saturday, March 30
Beautiful Budapest - Sightseeing 
Also known as „the Paris of the East“, Budapest offers so much to see and do. Explore highlights such as the Fishermen‘s Bastion on the Buda side, as well as the historical part of the city with the stunning St. Stephen‘s Cathedral and the lively city center with lots of shops on the Pest side. The La Canada Choral Artists will be learning about Budapest‘s musical side, especially about the most famous Hungarian composers Liszt and Kodaly.  The remainder of the evening is at leisure to get a feel for the city. Another magical moment will be seeing the city all lit up by night from the ship.

Day 5, Sunday, March 31 - NATIONAL HOLIDAY
Easter Mass Performance in Budapest - Journey to Bratislava - Embassy Concert
The La Canada Choral Artists may well be the featured guest choir for Sunday Mass at one of Budapest‘s major cathedrals prior to the ship setting sail again at lunch towards Slovakia and Bratislava. A choral salute at the US Embassy is being planned here in the evening after a brief introductory walk to Bratislava‘s historical town center.

Day 6, Monday, April 1 - NATIONAL HOLIDAY
Willkommen in Wien - Musical Vienna - Concert
This morning, your group wakes up in yet another country, Austria. „Musik macht schlau“, music educates, is the theme for today‘s guided walking tour in the footsteps of Mozart and Beethoven through the Austrian capital city. A highlight will be when the La Canada Choirs are invited to give a special Easter Concert in front of Schoennbrunn Palace as part of the "Voices of the World" series initiated by the city of Vienna. The setting could not be more picturesque as the performance is part of the traditional Easter Market. A formal concert is also scheduled today. Last but not least, there will be plenty of free time for exploring and souvenir shopping (the majority of retail stores will be closed as today is a national holiday) prior to boarding the MS Mozart again in the evening. A special Viennese dinner buffet will be served tonite.

Day 7, Tuesday, April 2
Danube Valley Castles and Cathedrals - Concert in Duernstein
The baby blue church steeple of Duernstein‘s Stiftskirche is one of THE Danube landmarks and the LCHS Choirs will be performing in this stunning baroque church today followed by plenty of free time to explore the town. Why not climb up to the fortress where Richard Lionheart was once imprisoned? 

Day 8, Wednesday, April 3
Melk and Melk Abbey Recital - Cruise Farewell Party
No visit to this part of Europe would be complete without experiencing Melk Abbey. One of the finest baroque buildings in the world, Melk Abbey and the Stiftskirche (abbey church) are must sees. And what better way to say Auf Wiedersehen to the LCHS family and friends than by singing in the stunning church? Upon return to the Mozart, a gala farewell dinner and cruise party conclude the day.

Day 9, Thursday, April 4
Disembarkation in Passau - Travel to Prague for sightseeing 
It‘s time to say Auf Wiedersehen to the MS Mozart after breakfast, but don‘t be too sad as you will be heading to Prague next. After an orientation tour, the travelers will check-in at the NH Prague Hotel that features - believe it or not - a cable-car connects the two parts of the property. Your hotel is also conveniently located next to a major shopping complex and guess what street it is located on? Mozartova Street. Now isn't that a great coincidence.    

Day 10, Friday, April 5
Prague Sightseeing &  Concert at St. Ignatius
There is so much to see and do in the capital city of the Czech Republic and your local guide will show you around town prior to a special farewell concert at the stunning Baroque church of St. Ignatius. Thereafter, the travelers will be dining together and maybe even dance a bit. 

Day 11, Saturday, April 6
Return flight home from Prague
The good news about an early departure from Prague is that you will also be getting home at a decent time and thus have the evening and Sunday to rest and be ready when school starts again.      

Monday, November 26, 2012

An Incantato Favorite: Duernstein, Austria

Dürnstein is a small town on the Danube river in the Krems-Land district, in the Austrian state of Lower Austria. It is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the Wachau region.  The town gained its name from the medieval castle which overlooked it. The castle was called "Duerrstein" or "Dürrstein", from the German duerr/dürr meaning "dry" and Stein, "stone". The castle was dry because it was situated on a rocky hill, high above the damp conditions of the Danube at the base of the hill, and it was built of stone. Dürnstein was first mentioned in 1192. The ruins of the castle fortress, 159 meters above the town, are inextricably linked to the Crusades. Here Leopold V, the Babenberg duke ruling the country at that time, held Richard the Lionheart of England prisoner in 1193. It seems that Richard had insulted the powerful Austrian duke in Palestine during the Crusades to capture the Holy Land. The story is that when Richard was attempting to get back home, his boat foundered on the rocks of the Adriatic and he tried to sneak through Austria disguised as a peasant. The English monarch was arrested and imprisoned by Leopold.
For quite some time, nobody knew exactly where in Austria Richard was incarcerated, but his loyal minstrel companion, Blondel, had a clever idea. He went from castle to castle, playing his lute and singing Richard's favorite songs. The tactic paid off, the legend says, for at Dürnstein Richard heard Blondel's singing and sang the lyrics in reply. The discovery forced Leopold to transfer Richard to a castle in the Rhineland Palatinate, but by then everybody knew where he was. So Leopold set a high ransom on the king's head, which was eventually met, and Richard was set free.
The castle was virtually demolished by the Swedes in 1645, but you can visit the ruins if you don't mind a vigorous climb (allow an hour).  

The fifteenth century Dürnstein Abbey (Stift Dürnstein) was initially an Augustinian monastery and was reconstructed when the baroque style came to Austria. It was established in 1410 by Canons Regular from Třeboň and from 1710 rebuilt in a Baroque style according to plans by Joseph Munggenast, Jakob Prandtauer and Matthias Steinl.The blue tower of this church is one of the best baroque examples in the entire country and a notable landmark in the Danube Valley. There is also a splendid church portal. Kremser Schmidt, the noted baroque painter, did some of the altar paintings.  The monastery was dissolved by order of Emperor Joseph II in 1788 and had been given to the Herzogenburg Priory. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Incantato Destinations: Beautiful Prague

The Czech name „Praha“, or „Praga“ in Old Czech, actually means threshold or doorstep. The oldest records do not mention any place with this name, but rather, they mention a settlement along the river described as „Mezigrady“, meaning „between the castles“. From the 10th to the 12th centuries, the name Prague referred only to the Castle. The name later  came to be used for the settlements on both sides of the river Vltava. People originally used the term Prague Village, then Prague City and later simply Prague. The capital of the Czech Republic has always played an important role in the history of the  country and Europe. Since the Middle Ages Prague has been famous as one of the most beautiful cities of the world and has been attributed adjectives such as “golden“, “hundred-spired“,  “the crown of the world“. The unique character of the city is also partly a consequence of its natural environment: Prague, similar to Rome built on seven hills, was built on nine hills along the Vltava river. The dominant features of the city architecture are reflected in the river: towers, church spires and cupolas, palaces and town houses, along with the greenery of gardens, parks and islands. 
Prague's top monuments are: The Prague Castle: National cultural monument, the symbol of more than millennial development of the Czech state. Since its foundation in the last quarter of the 9th century it has been developing uninterruptedly throughout the past eleven centuries. 
Charles Bridge: The oldest Prague bridge built in the place of the Judita's Bridge that had been badly damaged by a flood in 1342. The Stone or Prague Bridge has been called Charles Bridge since 1870 was founded by Charles IV in the year 1357. 
Old Town Hall with Astronomical Clock: Established in 1338 as the seat of the Old Town authorities. The oldest Gothic part of the complex which includes a tower and an oriel chapel is richly decorated with coats of arms. It was built in the latter half of the 14th century.
Old Town Bridge Tower: The entrance gate to Charles Bridge from the Old Town river bank, the most beautiful gate of Gothic Europe, was a masterpiece of the Court buildings. It was finished before 1380. It is richly adorned with sculptures. And many, many more to explore.
Fun Fact: Tremors under foot:
Many writers and academics have claimed to have felt strange and disturbing tremors coming from under the ground in Prague. Dark alleys and desolate squares have been known to produce many eerie sounds and have spooked many writers, including those such as Kafka and his friends, into thinking ghouls were beating drums underground.  

Some famous people and Prague: Mozart came to Prague with his wife in January 1787 for the first time. In his honor, a large ball was organized in Breitfeld Palace (at the corner of Nerudova Street and Jánský vršek), where Mozart also met with Giacomo Casanova. Mozart himself conducted The Marriage of Figaro in the Nostic Theatre performed by the Italian Pasquale Bondini opera company and he also performed two public piano recitals. He was immediately drawn into Prague social circles and musical events.
The famos writer Franz Kaffka (Letters to Milena, The Castle, Amerika) was born in Prague in 1883 and lived there for a long time until he moved to Austria where he died at age 40 in 1924. His body was transported to Prague and buried in a family tomb at the New Jewish cemetery in Strašnice (grave No. 137).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Vienna City Facts with Incantato Tours

Vienna is the capital of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.7 million (2.3 million within the metropolitan area, more than 25% of Austria's population), and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political center. It is the 10th largest city by population in the European Union. Vienna is host to many major international organizations such as the United Nations and OPEC. Vienna lies in the east of Austria and is close to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Founded around 500 BC, Vienna was originally a Celtic settlement. In 2001, the city center was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in 2005 an Economist Intelligence Unit study of 127 world cities ranked it first, equal with Vancouver, for the highest quality of life. This assessment was mirrored by the Mercer Survey in 2009. Art and culture have a long tradition in Vienna, including theater, opera, classical music and fine arts. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Historical Czech Republic with Incantato Tours

The Czech Republic is situated  in the center of Europe, sharing borders with Germany, Poland, Austria and Slovakia. The country boasts an impressive total of twelve UNESCO World Heritage sites, among which are the historic center of Prague and the town of Cesky Kurmlov. Known personalities of European and world science and art such as Beethoven, Casanova, Einstein, Goethe, Kafka, and Mozart were influenced by or were in some way connected with Czech history.
The capital city of Prague has a population of around 1,213,400 and is situated on hills overlooking the Vltava River. The historic Old Town, with its winding streets, is more than ten centuries old and centers around the Old Town Square with the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn and the Old Town Hall with the famous astronomical clock. Not far away is the Charles Bridge, one of the oldest stone bridges in Central Europe. Perched above the city sits Prague Castle, the ancient residence of the kings of Bohemia. Across from it is Petrin Hill, where you can have a stunning view of the city from the lookout point in the form of a smaller version of Paris' Eiffel Tower. 
Of course experiencing the cuisine will also be a part of your journey. Influenced by German and Austro-Hungarian culinary heritage, Czech food features a great variety of dishes. Possibly the most traditional dish is the dumpling, a unique phenomenon of Czech cuisine. Once the main component of any meal in the Czech Republic, dumplings were used in replacement of meat and are still widely used in Czech dishes today, mostly in combination with a variety of tasty sauces and gravy.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Did you know..? Interesting facts about the Danube

Where is the source of the river Danube?
The Danube begins as a small mountain stream deep in the Black Forest near Donaueschingen, Germany. That small stream soon becomes the second largest river in Europe (the Volga is the largest one).

The Upper Danube is home for how many capital cities?
four: Vienna (Austria), Bratislava (Slovakia), Budapest (Hungary), and Belgrade (Serbia)—more than any other river in the world. 

Through how many countries does the Danube flow?
Ten: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Ukraine 

The length of the Danube:
1,777 miles

Where does it end?
In the Black Sea.

Did You Know?
  • The Danube Delta was first declared a nature reserve in 1938 by the Council of Ministers and recognized as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1992. The area is home to 12 habit types, 300 bird species and 45 freshwater fish species.
  • The Danube is mentioned in the title of a famous waltz by Austrian composer Johann Strauss, "An der schönen blauen Donau" (On the Beautiful Blue Danube), composed as Strauss was traveling down the Danube River. This piece is well known across the world and is also used widely as a lullaby. Listen to Herbert von Karajan conducting "An der schönen blauen Donau" with the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra.
  • Another famous waltz about the Danube is "The Waves of the Danube" by the Romanian composer Ion Ivanovici (1845–1902), and the work took the audience by storm when performed at the 1889 Paris Exposition.
  • The German tradition of landscape painting, the Danube school, was developed in the Danube valley in the 16th century.
  • The Parliament House in Bucharest is the world's largest parliament building at a whopping 3.55 million square feet.
  • The Blue Danube was the name of the first nuclear weapon of the British army.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Incantato journeys the Blue Danube

The ‘meandering’ Danube river rises in the stunningly beautiful Black Forest mountain range close to the town of Donaueschingen in Germany, from whence it takes its name. It then flows a south-eastward course for a distance of some 1,785 miles, passing through four Central and Eastern European capitals and ten countries before emptying into the Black Sea.
Like no other European river, the Danube has influenced the course of history as the Romans, Thrax, Celts, Illyrics and, of course, the Ottomans have all been here. In the space of a week the echoes of this colorful past will come to the fore as you journey through the very historical beating heart of Europe, to experience the cultural delights of Vienna and Budapest or alternatively to gaze at the gently undulating landscapes of the beautiful Wachau Valley, with its charming riverside villages and vineyard-laced hillsides usually bathed in the most glorious of light. Stops along the curvaceous course of the river include Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Duernstein, Melk, and Passau.
Music and musical heritage obviously accompanies us on our voyage. Before the nineteenth century, musicians such as Mozart and Schubert struggled to make ends meet and relied on patronage. This all changed when Johann Strauss the Younger and Elder both became the equivalent of modern musical stars with their popular waltz music, perhaps forever immortalized in ‘The Blue Danube’ which perhaps neatly completes the circle as regards the name of our vessel and majestic river on which she sails.

Melk Abbey - An Incantato Favorite in Austria

Melk Abbey was originally a palace. Located on the banks of the Danube River between Salzburg and Vienna, Melk Abbey stands crowned by towers and resplendent in a golden hue. The impressive Baroque ensemble at Melk was built in 1702-1736 by architect Jakob Prandtauer. Especially noteworthy is the church with magnificent frescoes by Johann Michael Rottmayr and the library containing countless medieval manuscripts. The monastic community of Melk is over 900 years old and black-robed Benedictine monks still stroll amidst the marble sculptures and frescoed walls. It is now also a prestigious coed monastery school with more than 700 students. Melk has played an important role in the Danube region since Roman times, when a fortress was built on the promontory overlooking a tiny "arm" of the Danube. Melk also appears in the German epic poem Nibelungenlied, in which it is called "Medelike". The rock-strewn bluff where the abbey now stands was the seat of the Babenbergs, who ruled Austria from 976 until the Hapsburgs took over. In the 11th century, Leopold II of Babenberg presented the palace at Melk to Benedictine monks, who turned it into a fortified abbey. Its influence and reputation as a center of learning and culture spread throughout Austria, as reflected in Umberto Eco's popular novel The Name of the Rose. Eco researched his novel in the abbey's library. Melk Abbey suffered damaged during the Reformation and the 1683 Turkish invasion, but it was spared direct attack when the Ottoman armies were halted outside Vienna. Reconstruction of the abbey began in 1702 in full Baroque style and was completed in 1736. The abbey church was damaged by fire in 1947, but is now completely restored. The design of the present abbey ensemble (1702-36) is primarily the work of architect Jakob Prandtauer. The Marmorsaal (Marble Hall) contains pilasters coated in red marble and an allegorical painted ceiling by Paul Troger. The library rises two floors and also has a Troger ceiling, along with around 80,000 volumes of priceless works. The Kaisergang (Emperors' Gallery) stretches for 198m (650 ft.), and is decorated with portraits of Austrian royalty. The highlight of the abbey, though, is certainly the Stiftskirche (Abbey Church). The church has an astonishing number of windows and is richly embellished with marble and frescoes by Johann Michael Rottmayr with help from Troger.There are fine views of the river from the abbey's terrace, which Napoleon probably used as a lookout when he used Melk as his headquarters for his campaign against Austria.