Rhine Cruise: Amsterdam

Rhine Cruise: Amsterdam

Our Rhine cruise ended at Amsterdam, Netherlands, where we stayed for two days since we wanted to see Amsterdam before our additional extended Germany Trip from Munich to Berlin.

On the first day, we took a hop-on hop-off canal bus as an easy way for sightseeing to get familiar with the city and reduce our walking somewhat. We visited the RijksMuseum which focuses on the paintings of Rembrandt and the Dutch Masters. We had lunch at a sidewalk cafe. The weather was cool and overcast with light rain in the morning, but cleared up nicely for the afternoon.

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There are bikes everywhere! You really have to watch where you walk with them whizzing around; we even saw a 3-level parking garage for bikes near center city which was totally packed.

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On the second day, it was a lovely sunny day in upper 50’s. We rode the canal bus in the morning to see some more of the city since there are so many canals and our 24-hour ticket expired at noon. We had lunch at another nice outdoor cafe, and visited the Van Gogh Museum. We did a lot of walking, and it was interesting to see everything at night.

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Click on the following photo to view the Amsterdam photo gallery (about 96 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site.

Rhine Cruise: Amsterdam

The automatic slideshow displays each photo for 2 seconds with a 1 second fade transition. There are options for full-screen mode in the lower-right corner, and a pause button in the lower-left corner. There are also arrows on the left and right sides to move manually forward and backward through the photos.

Rhine Cruise: Kinderdijk

Rhine Cruise: Kinderdijk

Today on our Viking river cruise, we visited the windmills in the village of Kinderdijk, Netherlands. It’s pronounced “Kinderdike” with a long “i” and silent “j”. They were actually more interesting that I expected. We had a tour which explained the history of the windmills and we went inside one of the windmills. It was located in South Holland below Amsterdam and east of Rotterdam which is the largest port in Europe so we saw quite a few barges, ships, and tug boats in that area where several rivers come together. In the evening on our way north to Amsterdam, we had to go through some locks, which was interesting at night.

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Click on the following Windmill photo to view the Kinderdijk photo gallery (about 16 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site.

Rhine Cruise: Kinderdijk

The automatic slideshow displays each photo for 2 seconds with a 1 second fade transition. There are options for full-screen mode in the lower-right corner, and a pause button in the lower-left corner. There are also arrows on the left and right sides to move manually forward and backward through the photos.

Rhine Cruise: Cologne

Rhine Cruise: Cologne

Today on our Viking cruise we visited the city and cathedral in Cologne (Köln), Germany. We had a walking tour of the Old Town, enjoyed the local Kölsch beer in an outdoor cafe, and explored the city and cathedral. It was a holiday so everyone was off work celebrating so it was quite busy, especially since it was a lovely day.

The Cologne Cathedral dominates the city and is a favorite tourist destination. Its architecture is very detailed and intricate, and really quite impressive. There are several areas where they are doing some repairs and reconstruction so scaffolding is visible in places.

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Inside it’s very high with columns and many intersecting arches which provides interesting perspective looking down the aisles. The cathedral is filled with magnificent stained glass windows everywhere like this one, as well as many statues throughout.

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Click on the following Cologne Cathedral photo to view the Cologne photo gallery (about 66 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site.

Rhine Cruise: Cologne

The automatic slideshow displays each photo for 2 seconds with a 1 second fade transition. There are options for full-screen mode in the lower-right corner, and a pause button in the lower-left corner. There are also arrows on the left and right sides to move manually forward and backward through the photos.

Rhine Cruise: Koblenz

Rhine Cruise: Koblenz

After scenic cruising the Middle Rhine viewing castles all morning, we arrived at Koblenz, Germany. After lunch we toured Marksburg Castle, and then had a walking tour of the old town before dinner.

Click on the following Marksburg Castle photo to view the Koblenz photo gallery (about 42 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site.

Rhine Cruise: Koblenz

The automatic slideshow displays each photo for 2 seconds with a 1 second fade transition. There are options for full-screen mode in the lower-right corner, and a pause button in the lower-left corner. There are also arrows on the left and right sides to move manually forward and backward through the photos.

Rhine Cruise: Middle Rhine – Castles

Rhine Cruise: Middle Rhine – Castles

We spent Day 4 scenic cruising from Heidelberg and Rüdesheim to Koblenz in perfect weather with sunny skies in the low 70’s. We saw castles, castles, and more castles on both sides of the middle Rhine in Germany. I think there were about 23 castles in this area. It was really amazing to see them all, one after another.

 

Click on the following Castle photo to view the Middle Rhine photo gallery (about 89 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site.

Rhine Cruise: Middle Rhine

The automatic slideshow displays each photo for 2 seconds with a 1 second fade transition. There are options for full-screen mode in the lower-right corner, and a pause button in the lower-left corner. There are also arrows on the left and right sides to move manually forward and backward through the photos.

Rhine Cruise: Heidelberg

Rhine Cruise: Heidelberg

On Day 3 of our Viking cruise we visited Heidelberg, Germany. It was a very interesting medieval town with scenic river, castle ruins, old town, cathedral, shops, cafes, and alleys.

Heidelberg has lots to see and we had extra time there. This is a view of the Heidelberg Castle ruins on the hill overlooking the old town. It was very interesting to tour, and I have quite a few photos of it.

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The Neckar river flows right through the city, so there are several bridges crossing over it. Here is the Bridge Gate on the old bridge at the main north entrance to the city. There were lots of interesting buildings and alleys throughout the city, and you can see the Bridge Gate beyond this one.

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This photo from the Heidelberg Castle highlights the Old Bridge across the Neckar river with the Bridge Gate and all the interesting houses on the other side. Apparently, they ceased building over there to preserve the views so they are just along the banks and all the green trees on the hillside remain which makes it quite scenic. The other photo emphasizes the Church of the Holy Spirit with its steeple in the center, which is located in the main market square of the city. The colorful rooftops and Neckar river offer a nice view of the old town from the castle.

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The exterior views of the castle wall are impressive. They show side castle walls left standing.

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These are some of the remaining side walls of the Heidelberg Castle ruins taken from inside the courtyard.

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And here’s another photo of the side of the castle, where you can see statues at different levels, arranged according to their rank with the highest toward the top. The facade view from inside the castle courtyard reveals lots of interesting statues of various important counts and dukes of the time.

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This photo of the corner from the courtyard shows a sundial on the wall, along with a closeup view. It still works and tells the time, although it doesn’t account for daylight savings time (summer time in Central Europe).

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There are several towers at the castle, and here you see one of them that had its side blown away (from lightning, I think, rather than attack). There are several gigantic wine vats located in the Heidelberg Castle cellar. This shows the Heidelberg Tun, which is the world’s largest wine barrel. A tun is an extremely large wine cask, typically around 240 gallons, about 8 times larger than a normal wine barrel. This was so large they built a dance floor on top, and constructed stairs on the side to get up there. It was a status symbol to have the biggest wine barrel.

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Here is the Viking longship Idi docked on the Rhine at Heidelberg, as well as a swan swimming near our ship along the shore. Because of the high waters on the Rhine, which prevented us from boarding our original ship in Basel, Viking decided to switch us back to our original ship Kvasir so they would be able to return to their normal river schedule. We packed our luggage so they could take it by bus to Rüdesheim while we spent a few extra hours than planned in Heidelberg including extra money credit for us to enjoy lunch in town. The other ship’s passengers did something similar coming from the other direction.

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In the afternoon they took us by motor coach through the Riesling wine country about 1 1/2 hours to Rüdesheim where we boarded our ship Kvasir with our luggage waiting for us in our stateroom. All the staff appeared overhead with a “Welcome Home” sign, clapping and cheering as we boarded. It was a slight unplanned inconvenience, and some passengers were annoyed by this change, but it went very smoothly and was probably necessary considering the river conditions, and we got to see more of Heidelberg.

And then we walked around Rüdesheim in the evening as planned, and strolled the Drosselgasse lane in the heart of the old town full of beautifully decorated restaurants. Live band entertainment, brass instruments and dance music play all day and all night during the summer in the many wine taverns and open-air garden taverns along the narrow cobblestone pedestrian street built in the 15th century.

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Click on the following Heidelberg Castle photo to view the Heidelberg photo gallery (about 93 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site, which also includes my Rüdesheim photos.

Rhine Cruise: Heidelberg

The automatic slideshow displays each photo for 2 seconds with a 1 second fade transition. There are options for full-screen mode in the lower-right corner, and a pause button in the lower-left corner. There are also arrows on the left and right sides to move manually forward and backward through the photos.

Rhine Cruise: Strasbourg

Rhine Cruise: Strasbourg

For Day 2 of our Rhine cruise, we visited Strasbourg, France. We saw stork tree nests, European Union headquarters, mix of old and new, lovely canals with narrow alleys and half-timbered buildings, and Strasbourg Cathedral with its magnificent stained glass, carvings, arches, and astronomical clock. Then we returned to our Viking longship, which sailed overnight to our next destination at Heidelberg, Germany.

 
Click on the following photo of the Strasbourg Cathedral to view the Strasbourg photo gallery (about 50 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site.

Rhine Cruise: Strasbourg

The automatic slideshow displays each photo for 2 seconds with a 1 second fade transition. There are options for full-screen mode in the lower-right corner, and a pause button in the lower-left corner. There are also arrows on the left and right sides to move manually forward and backward through the photos.

Rhine Cruise: Breisach

Rhine Cruise: Breisach

We visited Breisach, Germany for Day 1 of our cruise. After getting settled in our veranda stateroom and having dinner, we spent the evening and following morning walking around the city, located right next to where our ship was docked. Here are a few photos with brief commentary.

11063812_966094056745454_1573301792583333471_nThere were lots of swans near the riverbank (we counted over 30). Later we saw one fairly large swan really struggling as it managed to paddle upstream because the current was so strong because of the high water in the river.

10583871_966094036745456_213639558791523439_n This is a view of St. Stephens Church up on a hill overlooking the town, which you can see from almost every direction. We hiked up to visit the church, but it was not open that day so we weren’t able to see inside.

 

11150909_966094016745458_5973204803429883584_nThere were lots of narrow hilly streets and alleys between buildings, especially going up the hill toward the church. Some had cars on them, and others were just for walking.

 

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Here’s a rooftop view of the town from up on the highest hill near St. Stephen’s Church which offers nice panoramic views of distant Black Forest mountains which we visited later in the afternoon.

During the afternoon of Day 1 from Breisach, we went on a tour of the Black Forest. That was more interesting than I thought it would be. There were stories about the location of Hansel and Gretel.

Apparently, stork nests are quite popular in several towns in this area. There is a Stork Camera webcam on the Gottenheim steeple where you can see what’s going on in the nest. You might need to translate the German page).

There was lovely scenery during our ride through the countryside with  interesting houses, pretty fields, and wild flowers. We enjoyed a nice hike on a Black Forest trail along a stream flowing down the mountain as we crossed little bridges and zigzagged up the path.

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Here’s a place where they make cuckoo clocks that has dancers appear every hour. The Black Forest Cake was pretty good too. Here are some cakes on display, and we had it for desert on the cruise that evening.

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There was a cute little outdoor cafe restaurant at the main intersection in town after we walked up the hill from where the ship was docked. It looked interesting, but we didn’t eat there since we had lunch and dinner on the ship that day. Also, there was a popular ice cream place across the street that seemed to attract a lot of people since it was such a lovely sunny day in the low 70’s.

Click on the following photo to view the Breisach photo gallery (about 15 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site, which also includes my Black Forest photos.

Rhine Cruise: Breisach

The automatic slideshow displays each photo for 2 seconds with a 1 second fade transition. There are options for full-screen mode in the lower-right corner, and a pause button in the lower-left corner. There are also arrows on the left and right sides to move manually forward and backward through the photos.

Rhine Cruise: Basel

Rhine Cruise: Basel

Recently, we enjoyed the Rhine Getaway with Viking River Cruises.

We arrived in Europe after flying non-stop overnight on British Airways from Austin, Texas to Heathrow Airport in London, England. The flight departed around 6 pm CDT (US Central Daylight Tim) and arrived at 9 am CEST (Central Europe Summer Time) after 9 1/2 hours all night; since London is 6 hours ahead of Austin, it was more like 3:30 am for the body. We didn’t get much sleep, but we had plenty of meals and snacks and enjoyed the in-seat entertainment with movies and music.

After a 6-hour layover in the London airport, we continued our journey with a British Airways connection to Basel, Switzerland, which was only about 1 1/2 hours, and an additional hour ahead in our destination time zone, for our Rhine cruise and extended Germany trip with visits to Amsterdam (Netherlands), Munich, Salzburg (Austria), Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Leipzig, and Berlin.

So we arrived in Basel, Switzerland late afternoon on the day before our cruise began. We celebrated my wife’s birthday with dinner there, and then several days later Mother’s Day in Koblenz, Germany followed by scenic cruising viewing castles on the middle Rhine. It was overcast with occasional showers during that evening and early next morning, but then the rain stopped and we walked around the Basel old town and city center. There were lots of bicycles and public trams with lots of pedestrians walking everywhere. I was surprised since there was quite a bit more there than I expected and it was interesting to see the town.

Originally the cruise was scheduled to start there, but the Rhine was extremely full from heavy rains for several preceding weeks in addition to heavy snow melt from the Alps. So our ship (Kvasir) was not able to reach Basel upstream in time, and even if it managed to get there it might not have been able to leave because of bridge height with the higher water and thus the cruise might not happen.

But Viking arranged to have us board the sister ship (Idi) just like it in Breisach, Germany which was going to be our Day 1 stop anyway. They scheduled and paid for a taxi to pick us up our hotel, bring us to the airport where they took us to Breisach from Basel in a Viking van (about 45 minutes) and we boarded there instead of Basel. Viking handled it well given the unusual river condition and our cruise departed as planned.

It was good that we planned to arrive a day ahead of the planned departure so we could see Basel, and it allowed a buffer for any unexpected situations.

I included a few photos below of the Old City Hall and Münster Cathedral. Click on any of them to see more photos (about 27) in a Basel gallery slideshow at my SmugMug photo web site.

Rhine Cruise: Basel

Rhine Cruise: Basel

The automatic slideshow displays each photo for 2 seconds with a 1 second fade transition. There are options for full-screen mode in the lower-right corner, and a pause button in the lower-left corner. There are also arrows on the left and right sides to move manually forward and backward through the photos.

Rhine Cruise

Rhine Cruise

Recently, we enjoyed the Rhine Getaway with Viking River Cruises. It was an 8-day cruise along the Rhine river in Germany, which includes Basel (Switzerland), Breisach (Black Forest), Strasbourg (France), Heidelberg & Rüdesheim, Middle Rhine (Castles) and Koblenz, Cologne, Kinderdijk and Amsterdam (Netherlands). This travel post kicks off a series about the cruise featuring my photos for each destination.

For another two weeks after the cruise, we extended our trip through Germany where we spent several days each visiting Amsterdam, Munich & Bavaria (Royal Castles), Salzburg (Austria), Romantic Road (Nördlingen, Dinkelsbühl, and Rothenburg ob der Tauber), Leipzig (wife’s grandmother birthplace), and Berlin (nephew and family). I will also continue the travel photo posts for our Germany Trip.

I wrote a poem as a limerick with alliteration about our journey for the Poetry 201 workshop in February when we were planning our trip:

Germany is a journey to enjoy that I would choose.
Flying overnight to Europe offers time for a snooze.
Oh, I am so excited …
so much fun …
now that we’re both booked aboard a Viking River Cruise!

It was a wonderful three weeks, with lots of opportunities for photos and travel blog posts. I took almost 4,000 photos, but have filtered that down to about 1,000 so far. Also, I established a photo web site to store, organize, and view my photos. It has taken me longer than expected to get it together, but now I think it’s ready.

Although I will continue working on further refinement, I didn’t want to delay my posts any longer. For example, I probably need to reduce the number of photos in the homepage slideshow, and maybe even the destination highlights too. Any suggestions for improvement are welcome and certainly appreciated.

Also, I thought it might be interesting to provide some additional information from the Viking web site for additional background on our cruise about the itinerary, longship, and experience.

Links

These links provide an overview of our itinerary and ship.

Videos

Here are some brief highlights of the Rhine cruise from Amsterdam to Basel (reverse direction).

“Rhine Getaway” on Viking River Cruises – 45 sec

 

This provides a tour of a Viking Longship and the experience:

“Viking Longship Tour” on Viking River Cruises – 2 min 44 sec

 

This offers brief general highlights of Viking cruises:

“The World of Viking 2015” on Viking River Cruises – 1 min 32 sec