Sunday, May 27, 2012

Your home away from home: Park Inn Mannheim

After a complete refurbishment, the 4-star Hotel Park Inn Mannheim opened in June 2007 and is located only a few hundred meters from the Mannheim city center. With 180 rooms, a restaurant with a sunny terrrace and a garden with an outdoor pool, this will be the home of the Phoenix Girls Choir on Saturday, June 23rd. 
All rooms at the Park Inn Mannheim are equipped with air conditioning, telephone, wireless internet, a safe, flatscreen TV as well as an own bathroom with a bathtup and hair dryer. Breakfast can be enjoyed in the hotel restaurant, which features a sunny outdoor terrace that can be used when the weather is nice. Additionally, the garden and outdoor pool offer a fantastic way to relax and refresh, so don't forget your swim suits! 
For more pictures of your home away from home, check out the Photo Gallery on the hotel's website

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hooked on Yodeling

“Knock, kock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Little old lady.”
“Little old lady who?”
“I didn’t know you could yodel!”

Yodeling is to the Alpine Region what the Beach Boys are to Southern California. But what exactly is it? According to one encyclopedia definition, yodeling is “a style of singing two alternating tones, a lower one with a full voice and a higher one with a lighter falsetto voice.” 
In Austria, yodeling is heard mainly in folklore festivals or sound recordings. The local yokels are too busy to yodel from mountaintops anymore but someone has to take on the responsibility for keeping outdoor yodeling alive. So why not the Phoenix Girls Choir?
Learn how to yodel on Wednesday, June 20th during a cultural exchange at the historical Lainerhof with the Salzburg choir group you will be staying with. Join in on a small concert from both the Salzburg choir and the Phoenix Girls Choir, then learn how to yodel with the locals!

News at the Mozarthaus in Vienna!

Only one of Mozart’s apartments in Vienna still exists today, where the composer lived from 1784 to 1787. Here, the life and works of this musical genius are presented in and around the apartment on four exhibition levels. The exhibition focuses on his years in Vienna, which marked a high point in his creativity. In addition to this permanent exhibition, the Mozarthaus Vienna is once again providing a range of new offers and services:

Special exhibition extended
Due to the high level of public interest, the current special exhibition "Between Fear and Hope - Mozart's rise and fall in the Viennese society" has been extended until January 6th, 2013. Visitors can view the exhibition with the regular ticket for Mozarthaus Vienna. The exhibition features letters and documents that illustrate the musical genuis' varying degrees of success.

Concert program for the 2012/23 season
A comprehensive concert program completes the offer of the Mozarthaus Vienna in the upcoming 2012/13 season. Click on the following link for the detailed program (available in the summer): Mozarthaus Vienna - Events - Concerts

Special "museum and concert" package
Our special "museum and concert" package combines a visit to the museum with an exclusive concert in the concert hall of the Mozarthaus Vienna. The standard package can be upgraded to include a guided tour and can also be booked to take place outside of regular opening hours. 
For further information you can either contact them under or take a look at the website section for special offers for groups.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Innsbruck - The Beauty and The Alps

Situated in between the German and the Italian border, on the western side of Austria, Innsbruck is Europe’s oldest and beautiful city in the state of Tyrol. Capital of its state, the city has got its own beauty with a true Alpine landscape and snowcapped mountains. Innsbruck twice became the home for the Winter Olympics and is also famous for its winter sports. Additionally, with its historic churches, monuments, museums, galleries and scenic atmosphere, Innsbruck has gained the reputation as being an impressive Austrian holiday destination. Historical traces indicate a significant amount of settlers since the early Stone Age and also the names of the pre-Roman places show continuous population of the area. The name Wilten dates back to its fourth century name, Veldidena, an army station established by the Romans for protecting the economically important commercial road from Verona-Brenner-Augsburg. The best-known sight in Innsbruck is the Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof). This golden canopy on top of a spectators’ gallery dates from around 1500 and was built by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (ruled 1493 to 1519). The Golden Roof is at the T-junction of Maria-Theresien-Straße and Herzog-Friedrich-Straße and can be appreciated from any of these streets. The building itself houses the Maximilianeum, a small museum on the life of Maximilian. It is no longer possible to actually go onto the balcony covered by the Golden Roof. The nearby Stadtturm (Belfry) partly dates from the fourteenth century and offers excellent views. Across the road is the Helblinghaus – a rare example of Rococo in an otherwise mostly Gothic old town. The local branch of Café Sacher is inside the Hofburg – an excellent upmarket choice for coffee and cake. Visit the Mausoleum of Maximilian I (Grabmal Kaiser Maximilians I). The lavish grave is empty though. When the time came, Maximilian was so indebted to Innsbruck that the city refused his entourage entry and he was thus buried in Wiener Neustadt near Vienna. The large tomb with a life-size statue of Maximilian himself on top of the tomb and 28 larger-than-life statues surrounding it is in the Hofkirche (Imperial Court Church) – enter through the Tiroler Volksmuseum (Tyrolean Folk Art Museum). Just around the corner from the Goldenes Dachl is the Hofburg (Imperial Palace), which served as residence when the Habsburg emperors visited Innsbruck. The Alps can be seen from almost any vantage point in the Old Town. Going to the top of the mountains is easy, if somewhat expensive. Several options are available but the most popular is ascending the Nordkette Mountains right to the north of Innsbruck. A funicular goes from the south bank of the Inn River to the Hungerburg (this area can also be reached by car or on foot). From here, a cable car goes all the way to the top of the Hafelekar peak (2,334 m / 7,657 ft) in the Nordkette Mountains. Innsbruck hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1964 and 1976. Not surprisingly, the city’s winter sport facilities are impressive. The most popular for visitors is the ski jump arena building at Bergisel, which was rebuilt in 2002 to designs by Zaha Hadid. An elevator zooms visitors up to the top of the around 50 m high building in two minutes. From here, visitors can enjoy excellent views from the very modern coffee shop of not only the ski jump itself but also Innsbruck, the Inn Valley and the routes leading to the Brenner Pass. Schloss Ambras is to the south of Innsbruck and was the residence of the archdukes of Tyrol. The best buildings and art here are from the sixteenth century.
Several buildings are open to visitors and the whole Ambras complex can be seen without guided tours. The museum has sets of armor and other knight-related displays that can be enjoyed by children too. The Spanish Hall is a 43-m banqueting hall – one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture north of the Alps. The older Hochschloss (Upper Castle) has an art museum – mostly portraits by notable artists of the Austrian nobility. The courtyard has interesting Renaissance black-and-white frescoes.

Salzburg - some fun facts

Uh-oh-oh-oh Amadeus!

The world today refers to Salzburg′s most famous son as "Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart". In fact, his name was officially "Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgang Theophilus Mozart" with "Amadeus" being a Latinised variation of "Theophilus".Mozart himself signed in his later years as "Wolfgang Amade", and referred to himself as "Amadeus" only when he was joking. His family and friends called him simply "Wolfgang" or in the abbreviated way "Wolferl". The romantic German poet Hoffmann called himself in honour of Mozart "Ernst TheodorAmadeus Hoffmann" and earned quite a bit of fame in literature himself. Based on Hoffmann′s propagation of this name, music companies and radio station in the 20th century eventually agreed on the convention of called Mozart "Wolfgang Amadeus". In the 1980ies, the Austrian pop-star Falco had his greatest hit with the song "Amadeus", dealing with Mozart′s life as a superstar.

Salzburg gnome or dwarf garden: a Baroque snapshot

The Salzburg gnome or dwarf garden is part of the Mirabell gardens in the heart of the city. It contains statues of gnomes or dwarfs, little people with grotesque faces that look more like caricatures. In fact, some of the models for the gnomes were real people, living at the court of the Prince Archbishop. With Baroque times not being very much into political correctness, the Salzburg gnomes are often arranged in archetypical dresses of peasants or nationalities. Watch out for a Turkish gnome! The Zwergerlgarten or dwarf garden was built under the reign of Prince Archbishop Franz Anton Harrachin 1715. Today, the gnome garden is incomplete - some of the Salzburg gnomes have disappeared over the course of the centuries, others are kept in locations known. Nevertheless, the garden itself is definitely one of the highlights of Salzburg and a great photo-opportunity.
The Zauberflötenhäuschen ("Magic flute house")

The so-called Zauberflötenhäuschen is placed in the gardens of the Mozarteum Foundation in Schwarzstraße 26, more precisely in the "Bastionsgarten". Mozart wrote at least parts of the Zauberflöte, "The Magic Flute" in this little hut. Originally, it was situated in a Garden next to the "Freihaustheater" or "Theater auf der Wieden" theatre in Vienna. The story goes, that libretto-author Emanuel Schikaneder locked Mozart into the Zauberflötenhäuschen to ensure that they would meet their deadlines. Other stories talk about Mozart meeting singers in the Zauberflötenhäuschen to practise parts of the opera. After the original gardens in Vienna were sold, the duke Fürst Starhemberg donated the Zauberflötenhäuschen to the International Mozart Foundation in1873. It was moved to Salzburg and re-erected in the Salzburg gnome garden by Mirabell castle. From there it was moved to the Kapuzinerberg mountain in 1877, where it remained until it was damaged by bombs in WWII. After the war, the Zauberflötenhäuschen was renovated and moved once again, this time to its current location in the Schwarzstraße. In July and August it can be visited with a guided tour through the Mozarteum art university.
Salzburg Stierwascher

During the period of the peasant′s riots of 1525, the city of Salzburg was under a siege. Soon the city′s population was running short of food, and fear spread when only a single bull was left within the mighty city walls. Then the commander of the defending troops is said to have had an idea: he ordered to paint the naturally brown bull with white stain and lead it up and down the city walls on display to the enemy. The next day, they would wash the bull, paint it in black and do the same thing again. The next day, they would paint the bull red, then spotted, and so on. In the end, the enemy thought that the people of Salzburg were slaughtering a bull every day, expecting that the live stocks were still large enough to feed the troops and people in the city for a very long time. Eventually, the troops that kept Salzburg under siege withdrew, leaving Salzburg to freedom. Under cheer and laughter, the bull was led to the Salzach river and washed until he appeared again in his natural brown. Ever since then, people from Salzburg are called "Stierwascher" - bull washers.
Fun facts: The tomb of Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich

Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau was the first Prince Archbishop of Salzburg who shaped the city during its Baroque prime. When his nemesis and successor Markus Sittikus forced him out of his office and even arrested Wolf Dietrich in the Hohensalzburg Fortress, did Sittikus best to make the people of Salzburg forget about von Raitenau. Although somewhat speculative, it can be estimated that this is the reason why Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau is buried at St. Sebastian Cemetery. As a Prince Archbishop, he should have been buried in the crypt of the Salzburg Dom Cathedral. He ended up outside the town centre without much honour. Legend has it, that Wolf Dietrich was buried upright, sitting in a chairsurrounded by blueprints and sketches to plan the construction of even more buildings in his beloved Salzburg. It is said that he will sit like that until Doomsday, when he will stand up and ask the Lord for mercy for himself and his enemies.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Travel Tip: Use of cell phones

Incantato Tours discourage their travelers to bring their U.S. cell phones to Europe on a performance tour because of the high costs for calls ($1/minute or more), text messages (50 cents and up) and data charges for online services. Therefore Incantato Tours will supply a free local cell phone for the tour director to use with free incoming calls and allowance for emergency outgoing ones.If you would like to have more information on this subject, please check the "international section" of the website of your provider:
For T-Mobile:
What do I need to do before using my phone while traveling internationally?
For Verizon:
International Roaming
For Sprint:
Traveling internationally with a Sprint device
For AT&T:
Traveling Outside the U.S.