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Walking the Danube - Concerts & country walks

The Danube Festival with six country walks and seven concerts in appropriate historic buildings.

Stays in hotels in Vienna and Dürnstein rather than on the ship.

Led by lecturer, critic and musicologist Richard Wigmore.

94% of participants rated this tour as excellent the last time it ran. 

  • Dürnstein, 1820s aquatint by Jacob Alt (1789–1872).
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Overview

This variant on the festival package includes seven concerts and six country walks. The Austrian stretch of the Danube valley is, for much of its length, of considerable beauty, with much variety of landscape – cultivated lowlands, forested peaks, open alluvial plains, vine-clad hillsides, upland pastures, and, of course, the mighty river meandering towards the Black Sea. There are pine and fir and larch, but broadleaves predominate – beech, birch, oak, poplar.

Though hardly classifiable as strenuous, this tour should only be considered by those who are used to regular country walking with some uphill content. There are hills, and a few fairly steep climbs for short stretches, but no mountains, and most of the routes are along gently undulating paths. The durations are between two and three hours.

Find out more about The Danube Music Festival here.

Day 1

London to Vienna. Fly at c. 9.00am from London Heathrow to Vienna (Austrian Airlines). Drive directly to Felbring for an afternoon woodland walk through landscapes of beech and pine, with vistas across the Danube Valley. Walk c. 6 km on a mixture of grassy footpaths and stony tracks, on level terrain with some downhill and uphill sections (sturdy walking boots are necessary). Arrive in Dürnstein, the prettiest little town on the Danube, a compact group of mediaeval, Renaissance and Baroque buildings set amidst the finest wine-producing area in Austria. First of two nights here.

Day 2

Grein, Melk. Drive along the picturesque road beside the Danube before turning into the hills to start the walk (c. 6 km). Begin among upland pastures and farmland before descending through woods of pine, beech and birch to the sound of tumbling streams. Walk on moderately gentle woodland paths and quiet roads, the few steep sections being fairly short. Catch glimpses of the Danube and then of the little riverside town of Grein. Lunch here. Drive to Melk and visit the abbey state apartments and church, which are among the most brilliant creations of the Age of Baroque. Evening concert at Dürnstein Abbey with the Vienna Chamber Choir, Michael Grohotolsky (conductor): Bruckner, Brahms, Schubert and Schumann. Overnight Dürnstein.

Day 3

Leopoldsberg, Vienna. Drive up the Leopoldsberg, a high hill with fine views over the capital and the Danube valley. Walk down through beech woods, vineyards and salubrious ivy-clad suburbs on a 5.5 km walk on footpaths, country roads and quiet streets. Easy terrain. Continue to Vienna for lunch. The afternoon concerts present two Beethoven symphonies in the halls where they were first heard in 1805 and 1813. Orchester Wiener Akademie, Martin Hasselböck (conductor): Beethoven’s Third Symphony (‘Eroica’) in the Palais Lobkowitz and the Third and Seventh in the Akademie der Wissenschaften. As the Lobkowitz hall is small audience members do not sit, and stay for only 15–20 minutes, but the symphony is repeated in its entirety at the next concert. First of three nights in Vienna.

Day 4

Vienna, Bratislava. A free morning in Vienna with the option of a walking tour with a local guide. Drive to Bratislava for some free time before the evening concert at the Primatial Palace with The Wihan Quartet: Dvořák and Suk. After dinner return to Vienna. Second of three nights.

Day 5

Vienna, Kittsee. Morning concert at the Basilica of Maria Treu (Piaristenkirche) with Capella Savaria, Capella Cantorum, Ákos Paulik (conductor): Haydn’s Missa in tempore belli (or ‘Kettledrum Mass’, 1796). Drive to the small town of Berg for a moderate circular walk on the Königswarte which finishes at Schloss Kittsee (6.5 km). The walk offers views towards Bratsilava and over the Pannonian Basin. Early evening concert at Schloss Kittsee with Benjamin Appl (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano): Die schöne Müllerin. Overnight Vienna.

Day 6

Vienna, Göttweig. Leave Vienna and return to Dürnstein. In the afternoon walk to Göttweig Abbey, a magnificent building which crowns a prominent hill. The walk incorporates a segment of the pilgrimage route to Santiago (c. 5 km), traversing vine-clad slopes. Private concert at Göttweig Abbey with the ZRI Ensemble; Ben Barlan (clarinet), Max Baillie (violin), Matthew Sharp (cello), Jon Banks (accordion) and Iris Pissaride (santouri): Brahms. After dinner return to Dürnstein. Overnight.

Day 7

Dürnstein. A morning walk of c. 6.5 km starts with a climb of 15 minutes on a small road into the vine-clad hills overlooking the Danube and dips periodically into shaded gullies with butterflies, abundant wildflowers and red-roofed villages in the valley below. The terrain is easy underfoot as the walk is predominantly on quiet, shaded roads. Return to Dürnstein for some free time before travelling by coach to Vienna Airport. Return to Heathrow at c. 6.45pm.

Price – per person

Two sharing: £2,870 or £2,710 without flights. Single occupancy: £3,160 or £3,000 without flights.

Included

Flights (economy class) on scheduled Austrian Airlines flights; travel by coach for transfers and excursions; 7 private concerts; accommodation as described below; breakfasts, 3 lunches (including 1 packed lunch) and 5 dinners with wine, water and coffee; all admission charges; all tips for restaurant staff and drivers; all airport and state taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.

Accommodation

Richard Löwenherz, Dürnstein: a lovely old-fashioned hotel occupying a historic building with garden and outdoor pool. Hotel Bristol, Vienna: a 5-star hotel in a superb location on the Ringstrasse near the opera house, traditionally furnished and decorated.

How strenuous?

This is a walking tour: it is essential for participants to be in good physical condition and to be used to country walking with uphill content. There are a few moderately steep climbs for short stretches, but no walk is more than 6 miles or 3 hours. There is not always the opportunity to return to the hotel to freshen up before every concert or dinner.

Small group

Between 12 and 22 participants.

Travel advice

Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

The variety of activities and venues together with the quality of the music made this a very enjoyable tour.

Music and exercise are a winning combination, especially with like-minded souls.

The music was a wonderful diversity of high standards in diverse settings. The attention to detail of the tour manager was exceptional.