Monday, October 19, 2015

River Cruising in Europe (Part 5 - Final)

This will be the final in this series of blogs on River Cruising in Europe. We will take it from Wertheim all the way to our terminus in Amsterdam.

Traveled through the night on the deep enough for passage...and arrived in Wertheim in the early morning.  We had our typical - and very good - breakfast aboard the Vili and set off on a day touring and shopping.

Wertheim is a small and very charming city set at the intersection of the Main and Tauber Rivers.  At one point in the middle ages it was overlooked by an imposing castle, which today, unfortunately, is a mere set of ruins.

Timber Framed Building
Touring the town, with our expert guide, we notice the preponderance of timber framed, Franconia styled, buildings of 3-4 stories.  It is a marvel that they have survived this long. 

Unique Glass Pieces
We visit the glassworks studio of the artist we met on the ship the prior evening and viewed some very nice works for sale.  We also tour the local (and historic) marketplace with numerous shops, restaurants and coffee houses, stopping for an additional kick of caffeine!

Coffee and Shopping in Wertheim
After a morning well spent - and I mean that, because there were a number of shopping opportunities of which Dianne took advantage (and to a greatly lesser degree, I may have done some too...) - we headed back to the ship for lunch. Once all were aboard, we set off on a relaxing afternoon and overnight sail that brought us to the juncture of the Main and the Rhine in Mainz.  We headed to our next destination, Koblenz.

Castle towering over Rhine River
Before reaching Koblenz, we were afforded the most scenic part of the Rhine, called the Middle Rhine.  Here is where the preponderance of castles and fortresses can be seen and photographed as you slowly drift by.
Another Castle on the Rhine

(As an aside, I have to go back a few decades to the time I spent living in Europe, just out side of Amsterdam. That era being what we refer to as "BD" (uh, Before Dianne), I would take almost all of my holidays in Europe.  One of my fondest memories was a brief river cruise where, for the first time I saw the splendor of the "Middle Rhine".  I sat on the deck of my ship - a ferry, really - in the late Spring afternoon with my camera on my lap and a bottle of weiswein at my feet as we traveled from Mainz to Koblenz. Not much has changed in the decades is still very much as I fondly remember it!)

Castle with Vineyards
We had taken a Viking Rhine River cruise a couple of years ago - from Basel to Amsterdam - so we had seen all of this area before...but that didn't lessen the enjoyment and wonder.  There were certain castles (really toll barriers) we wanted to focus on having seen them once! 

Mid-River Toll "Booth"
The vineyards cover the hillsides, the towering castles above the towns and villages, Lorelei Rock (luring sailors to their death), the mid-river toll stations are wonderful sights as we leisurely made our way to Koblenz.

Marksburg Castle
Arriving in Koblenz mid-day, some of us set off for a somewhat physically challenging tour of Marksburg Castle. This is the only hilltop castle on the Rhine that has never been destroyed. It has been occupied for over 700 years and today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It lies just upstream from the juncture of the Rhine and Mosel Rivers above the town of Braubach. 

The views from the castle are commanding! 

After a climb up the very rugged castle entry, we toured most of the rooms including a well stocked kitchen and wine cellar, cannons ready to fire on any approaching enemy, a
The Blacksmith's Keep
tiny chapel, the blacksmith's workshop and finally, the dungeon and its torture paraphernalia!

The ship remained in Koblenz most of the evening.  We were entertained by some local musicians and especially enjoyed an incredible demonstration of four handed piano!

Cologne's Cathedral 
Stained Glass Window
The following morning brought us to Cologne and its magnificent Gothic Cathedral. Begun in 1248 and finally completed in 1880, this is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the largest cathedral in Northern Europe and was lucky enough to sustain only minor damage, while the rest of the city was destroyed in World War II. Its stained glass windows are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen.

Ship's Galley
After some leisure time in the city, we headed back to the ship for the Captain's farewell dinner. The dinner was a traditional German fare complete with pretzels, bier, weiswein, and dirndl clad hostesses.  One added benefit was that we got a tour of the galley. It is amazing to see how much can actually get accomplished in a VERY small space.

The next day was the final full day of our cruise.  We left Germany and were now in The Netherlands, in the very picturesque town of Kinderdijk, with its plethora of working windmills.  As we had done this tour before we opted for another option...about which I have already written...see my August blog: "Cheese...from the very beginning...and I do mean the beginning!"

Bicycles in Amsterdam
The following morning we arrived in Amsterdam (the only city I know of where there are more bicycles than there are people). It was with a bit of sadness that we disembarked the Vili...but with the expectation of new adventures to follow.  

We were spending the day and evening (meeting a friend who lives in Amsterdam - see my August blog: "Amsterdam with Stuart..."). In the morning we were heading off - via fast European train and the Eurostar - to a few days in London and the UK...but more on that in another blog!


  1. Really enjoy reading about your travels.Your descriptive narrative really adds to the beauty of the countries you have visited..Can't wait for more