Land of the Blue Rider - Mediaeval to modern in southern Bavaria

Prices from £2,725


10 Jul 2019 - 16 Jul 2019
Duration: 6 nights
Ref: 19BLUE
With: Thomas Abbott


Prices from £2,725
Single Supplement: £390
Deposit: £200

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The symbiosis of art and nature in the land between Munich and Garmisch-Partenkirchen evokes an intense experience. Lakes, moors and woods are bathed in ever-changing light, and occasionally the entire Alpine mountain range to the south appears in infinite hues of pastel blues. This atmospheric palette attracted artists of the Expressionist group of the Blue Rider — Vassily Kandinsky, Gabriele Münter and, above all, Franz Marc who coined the term of ‘das Blaue Land’. They were drawn to this enchanted landscape around Murnau, and no fewer than four museums in the area provide a stunning overview of German Expressionism.

Somewhat paradoxically, the country that inspired their radically modern style on the eve of World War I is a land steeped in tradition where powerful abbots and fabled princes have left their mark. The glorious churches dotted across the countryside have given the area its other epithet: ‘Pfaffenwinkel’ — priests’ corner. Their onion domes are a characteristic feature, sometimes marking ancient monasteries, sometimes pilgrimage churches set in lush meadows. With its sumptuous, nature-inspired ornamentation, Bavarian Baroque perfectly complements the lush landscape.

Even in the tiniest villages, the style manifests itself. Economic prosperity after the recovery from the Thirty Years’ War gave rise to a flood of architectural commissions that continued well into the 19th century, when the Bavarian kings built their extravagant castles. Our tour combines the natural and artistic highlights of this reassuringly old-fashioned part of the world.


Tom Abbott is an independent art and architectural historian. He graduated in Psychology and Art History at Carleton College, Minnesota, and studied at the Louvre School of Art History in Paris. He is a specialist in architectural history from the Baroque to the 20th. In 1987 he moved to Berlin leading tours mainly in Germany, specialising in the German capital.


Morning flight with BA from London Heathrow to Munich. By coach to Kloster Schäftlarn south of Munich, for a Brotzeit, a ‘light’ savoury lunch in the pleasant beer garden. A visit to the church introduces the joyful exuberance of Bavarian Baroque and Rococo architecture, designed and embellished here by Munich’s finest court artists. Stroll through the little Prelate’s Garden before continuing to Murnau and your five-star hotel.


A morning coach excursion through the ‘Pfaffenwinkel’, stops at some of the region’s most outstanding religious foundations: Wessobrunn and Steingaden, two mediaeval abbeys in Baroque ‘dress’, the former once a training ground of many 18th-century stucco artists, above all Dominikus Zimmermann. Continue to Füssen, past the castles of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, fairy-tale creations for King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The dazzling pilgrimage church of the Wies, set in the midst of luxuriant meadows against a stunning Alpine panorama, epitomises Rococo art.


A day dedicated to the German Expressionist artists of the Blue Rider and their contemporaries. At Bad Kochel visit the Franz Marc Museum, with an outstanding collection housed in a contemporary building. In Murnau, the Schlossmuseum features works by Gabriele Münter and Vassily Kandinsky, as does the idyllic ‘Russian House’ where the couple spent much of their time between 1908 and 1914.


Morning walk through a dramatic gorge (a cable car alternative is available) to one of the majestic summits surrounding Garmisch-Partenkirchen to enjoy the stunning scenery and a view of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. At the top, a light lunch will be provided in a typical mountain hut, before returning to Garmisch-Partenkirchen by cable car. Enjoy a free afternoon in Murnau.


A boat excursion on the Starnberger See, weekend domain of Munich’s wealthy, will take us to Bernried, and the Buchheim Museum. This collection centres on works by artists of the Expressionist association of The Bridge (‘Die Brücke’), founded in Dresden in 1905. The museum in Penzberg focuses again on artists of the Blue Rider group active in this area. Landscape, nature, art and culture come together in a lake district of unique scenic beauty, where painters of the early 20th century discovered a new means of pictorial expression, developing with particular intensity the vivid and powerful images of Expressionism in all its facets.


All-day coach excursion: at Schloss Linderhof, Ludwig II’s first and most complete fantasy creation, experience the over-the-top Louis XIV revival palace and explore the beautiful gardens and follies, such as a Turkish Kiosk and an extravagant grotto, the latter created as the enchanted abode of Venus for Wagner’s early opera Tannhäuser. In nearby Oberammergau, world-famous for its passion play, walk through the historic centre past the many painted house façades. From there, continue to the Benedictine monastery at Ettal, a 14th-century foundation rebuilt in the 1700s with a spectacular domed church at its centre.


By coach to Munich for a visit to the Lenbachhaus with its famous collection of German art of the 19th and 20th centuries. After lunch, transfer to Munich airport for our flight to London Heathrow.


Twin/double share: £2725 per person
Double room for sole use supplement: £390
'No flights' price: £2525
Deposit: £200


  • Return flights with BA from London Heathrow to Munich
  • Private coach transfers and in Germany
  • Six night’s bed and breakfast in the 5* Hotel Alpenhof Murnau
  • Three dinners and two lunches
  • Guided visits to all sites listed in the programme
  • Services of the Lecturer and Tour Manager
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes & gratuities for coach drivers & waiters


The five-star Hotel Alpenhof Murnau located in the Bavarian Alpine countryside. This spa hotel set in beautiful grounds has an outdoor pool and terrace, as well as a full health centre with indoor pool. The restaurant serves Bavarian cuisine and there is a bar and lounge area. Bedrooms include satellite television, safe, bath robe, slippers, complementary internet connection and a hairdryer.