Posts Tagged With: France

Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part II

Other parts of this series so far:

Rhine Runaway – Booking Process
Rhine Runaway – Houston to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – A Short Visit to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part I

 

The next day we visited Heidelberg Castle followed by a visit to the town of Heidelberg. The castle was very interesting as it had once been left idle for decades but had since had a lot of restoration work, some of which was still on-going. It houses the world’s largest wine cask – large enough to have once had dance parties on top of it! – though it hasn’t held wine in many years.

World's Largest Wine Cask

World’s Largest Wine Cask

The university town of Heidelberg was a study in contrasts as it had the youth of the university surrounded by buildings dating back five centuries.

Later that afternoon we docked in Speyer and took a stroll into town where we got to visit the incredible Kaiserdom, an 11th century cathedral that’s another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sadly, many of the other sites in town were closed since it was Easter Monday, which is part of the holiday weekend in Europe.

On Tuesday we visited Strasbourg, wandering its streets and visiting yet another gorgeous, massive cathedral. Some of our group took an optional tour of an Alsatian winery and brought back a few bottles to share.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Strasbourg, France

Notre Dame Cathedral, Strasbourg, France

Our final day of the cruise took us into the Black Forest where we saw rolling hills and stopped in a tiny town that had once been a place where carriages stopped. The inn there was painted with a mural of Marie Antoinette, one of the more famous guests. There was a cuckoo clock shop as well as a shop selling blown glass items. In the afternoon there was an optional tour of the medieval city of Colmar, France. We had a delightful guide and enjoyed the architecture differences that he pointed out from various eras.

It was a lovely tour and I would definitely not hesitate to sign up for another Viking tour. In fact, a couple of us have our eyes on a tour in 2016…

Categories: Europe, France, Germany, River Cruise, UNESCO World Heritage Site | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part I

Other parts of this series so far:

Rhine Runaway – Booking Process
Rhine Runaway – Houston to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – A Short Visit to Amsterdam

I must say that Viking knows what they’re doing. Our rooms were on the lower level, below the waterline and very compact, but had what we needed. A lot of forethought had been put into the design of the rooms. There were quite a few US 110-volt plugs as well as the standard European ones. That was great as it allowed us to use all of them since we’d brought adapters along.

Guided tours are included with the price of the cruise and there are optional tours available for purchase. Our longship could carry approximately 190 passengers but we weren’t quite full on this trip so they could divide us into relatively small groups which made our tours much easier. Each cabin has radios that will tune to the guide’s transmitter so they don’t have to shout. That’s great because the average age of passengers on this particular ship was probably early-to-mid 60s so I felt like a young ‘un! There’s also usually a “leisurely tour” group for folks with mobility issues so that they don’t slow down one of the other groups. I thought this was great planning on Viking’s part.

On Friday we were in Kinderdijk, Netherlands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the numerous windmills found there. When we arrived, we thought all the windmills looked the same but our guide soon pointed out differences in the ones on our side of the canal vs. the ones opposite. There was one windmill restored for touring and I was struck again at how compact everything was and how difficult that must have been for a family to live in.

Kinderdijk Windmills

Kinderdijk Windmills

Saturday we stopped in Cologne and docked right next to the city. We had a walking tour in the morning and then had the afternoon to ourselves. The cathedral there is the most-visited tourist site in Germany and it’s easy to see why. It’s a huge building with gorgeous stained-glass windows and fantastic architecture. Some of us also toured the German-Roman museum and viewed a number of mosaics that had been uncovered on the site (right next to the cathedral).

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral

Just about every place we stopped had a magnificent church or cathedral that was several hundred years old. It just reinforced to me how young the US is! It was amazing to think how these huge buildings could have been built 300-500 years ago!

Easter Sunday found us at the port in Koblenz where we boarded motor coaches for the drive up to Marksburg Castle. It was never invaded due to its perch high on a river bend and it’s not close enough to a major city to have been damaged during the World Wars so it’s everything you might imagine a castle to be. They’ve done a great job preserving this castle and it has lovely views out over the river.

Marksburg Castle

Marksburg Castle

Later that day was one of the highlights, cruising down the Middle Rhine. Fortunately the weather was great and we sat up on the sun deck in lounge chairs beneath an awning and watched a number of castles and towns as we cruised past. The cruise director provided narration as we passed. It made for great photos and was a wonderful change of pace.

In the evening, there was an optional excursion to a local restaurant in Rudesheim. We boarded a small tram (made up to look like a train) that wound us through the streets of the town and dropped us off near the restaurant. It’s a quaint town and I wish I’d taken the time available before our outing to walk through it.

The dinner was quite good, served by friendly staff. We were serenaded by a live oompah band and after dinner there were several audience participation activities. From a half-dozen people downing shots off the same paddle at the same time to audience members being recruited to play bass drum & cymbals as the band marched through the restaurant, the staff did their utmost to be sure everyone had a good time. All in all it was worth the extra charge for the visit.

Categories: Europe, Germany, Netherlands, River Cruise, UNESCO World Heritage Site | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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