I love river cruises! Who knew?! And although I never really “dreamt” of cruising on the Rhine, when the opportunity presented itself a few years ago, I jumped on it and my friend Arline jumped with me!
One has to remember that for over 2000 years the Rhine was the main route through Europe, so we were going to be retracing historic ancient routes taken by the Romans and so many others. I was ready and couldn’t wait! Was the Rhine ready for us…let’s find out!
Swiss Start…Basel & Lake Lucerne
Our two week adventure started in Basel, Switzerland where we stayed a few extra days to acclimate to the time change, enjoy this delightful Swiss town (did someone say Swiss chocolate?) and to take a day trip to Lake Lucerne (where I had been eons before).
Basel is definitely worth a visit – and we had the pleasure of being there during a Tattoo. No, not that kind…a Tattoo gathering of marching bands from all over the world and we enjoyed watching a marvelous parade through town.
Boarding our ship, the Uniworld River Queen, we were graciously greeted and quickly settled into our stateroom. Unpacking for the duration of our trip , we coul
d now just sit back and, well, cruise! Because river cruises are relatively small (we only had about 85 passengers), it’s easy to meet and make new friends. All that plus a fabulous crew added up to a wonderful and memorable experience.
Although we were traveling in July/August, we had some rainy days, but it didn’t dampen our spirits or stop us from enjoying the unique charms of these towns.
A Touch of France: Colmar and Strasbourg
Our first stops, Colmar and Strasbourg, were actually in Alsace-Lorraine. This is that area along the Rhine in southeastern France that you read about in history books – France and Germany tug-of-warred over it for centuries. Right now, it’s French, but the blend of French and German influences and flavors is unmistakable.
Colmar is also the birthplace of Auguste Bartholdi, sculptor of the Statue of Liberty. Old Town welcomes us with its carefully restored medieval, early Renaissance buildings, and twisting twisting streets.
Strasbourg, which is actually 2 miles from the river, was also a Roman fort and trading post. Those Romans got around! The medieval masterpiece, Cathédrale de Notre Dame took over three centuries to build and boasts a 469 foot spire and breathtaking stained glass windows.
At the “crossroads of Europe”, today Strasbourg is considered a continental capital.
Castles and More Along the Rhine…
What I also love about river cruising is that the view is always engaging. The Rhine, famous for its picturesque villages and castles, didn’t disappoint. Every morning we found ourselves greeted in still another … From pretzels to sauerkraut and strudel, from Reisling to Spatburgunder… we enjoyed the full experience!
Speyer and Rudesheim…and don’t forget Heidelberg!
Speyer means “spire” and was a Celtic settlement, later re-settled by (guess who?) the Romans. Destroyed, rebuilt..so it went for centuries (a theme for settlements along the Rhine) and today is a bustling river port and industrial center. For me, I’m also enjoying my first real pretzel!
Rudesheim, famous for its wine, sits at the center of the Rhine wine industry. Yes, it was a Roman settlement at one time, too (and they did love their wine) so the “wine culture” is many centuries old.
The “train ride” through the town gives us a perfect overview. We pause for a famous Rudesheim coffee (spiked with a local brandy) and then take the cable car ride over the vineyards and enjoy a panoramic view.
Docking here overnight we enjoy the Drosselgasse, a 6 foot wide street lined with shops, cafes, and a wine tavern…after all, when in Rudesheim…!
Heidelberg sits on the Neckar River Valley along Germany’s Castle Road and is a relaxing motor coach drive from our port. Perfectly preserved, it’s the home of Germany’s oldest university. After a guided tour of the Heidelberg Castle, we have time to enjoy strolling along one of Germany’s longest pedestrian streets, Hauptstrasse, lined with busy cafés and shops. We meet for lunch and local fare and then meet our ship to continue…
Turn Left at Koblenz and Meander Along the Moselle…
Cochem, Ediger-Eller, and Trier
Cochem is our first port on the Moselle. With its medieval and appealing medieval ambience, we look forward to our stop along the the “Moselle Wine Road”.
The Reichsburg Castle gives us a glimpse of medieval life – what we consider a stunning view was all about fortifications against the enemies and over the centuries, like many fortress/castles, Reichsburg changed hands many times. Today we get a glimpse into medieval life…challenging at best!
Ediger-Eller turned out to be one of the more special visits on our trip. First, we are personally welcomed by the Major and his “page” – both in full medieval attire. Then, with great fanfare, we are led through the delightful winding streets. A warm welcome awaits us along with music and singing to accompany a very special wine tasting.
But there’s more, we are then guided to the local church, greeted with trumpet fanfare and then treated to an organ recital. What more could you ask for?!
Trier is Germany’s oldest town, once the home of an Assyrian prince who arrived around 2000 B.C. Nothing remains of that ancient settlement but in 16 B.C., Julius Caesar arrived and set up camp. Trier became one of the four capitals of the Roman Empire, second only to Rome in importance.
Its stature resulted in construction of all of the usual Roman buildings giving Trier the distinction of having more Roman ruins than anywhere north of the Alps. Once the site of Apostle Matthew’s missionary activities, it is also the birthplace of Karl Marx. Today, in addition to wine, Trier is also a major cigarette production location.
And there’s more – join me as I continue my Rhine River Cruise Adventure…
Ready to take a river cruise?
If you’re still not sure, this might convince you!
And, if you’re ready, I can help you!