Well, a few days to go and today is castle day! Our scenic cruise through the most famous stretch of the Rhine River with no less than 30 castles or castle ruins are found in this short stretch of river valley, the Rhine Gorge – more than anywhere else in the world! But first, another delicious lunch and then we dock in the wine town of Rudesheim, famous for Reisling, taverns and Siegfried’s Musical Cabinet Museum. With a small population of 7,000, this small and utterly charming port town dates back to the Romans and is the self-declared home of the famous Reisling wine. Before we are let loose to experience the quaint shopping and entertaining street of Drosselgasse (a short street of only 450 feet but with many restaurants, cafes, shops and traditional wine bars), we had decided to go to the Musical Cabinet Museum. I really went on a whim thinking it would be boring but in fact it was very fascinating. There were some very interesting self playing musical instruments and I was amazed at the “technology” of that era!
On the River Rhine, the passion for building castles skyrocketed around the 12th century…every Lord wanted one for himself and while castles cost them a lot to build, they also made money for their owners as each castle would demand custom money from whomever passed, no matter if by land or by water.
The Rhine is an international river since it traverses and borders no fewer than 6 countries: Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands!
I must admit, the castles were very cool and it remains for me, what the Rhine River is all about and the quintessential image of Germany!
This day, despite its wondrous sightseeing so far, is not over. We still have the port city of Koblenz to explore. Koblenz does not have any tours available from the ship, however, our Cruise Manager Dijan has offered to walk around the city and give some commentary along the way. I don’t think he expected 80% of the ship to take him up on his offer…so it was a big group. One of the advances in group tours in recent years has been the introduction of quiet audio devices. This device allows you to hear the group leader through a headphone as he talks about the sights through a microphone and really only the group can hear him. It’s a perfect way to hear what is being said without having to stand beside him. With a group this size, it’s a necessity and it allows you freedom to break away for some pictures, etc without missing a thing.
As it happens, there was some sort of celebration in Koblenz that night with a variety of bands and street vendors almost around each corner. It certainly was a party in the streets of Koblenz that night. We decided to have a little party on the sun deck of our ship when we got back that night.
Saturday, Sept 14 – This morning we enjoyed a pleasant cruise continuing up the Rhine River passing by the remains of the Bridge of Remagen. My WW2 history is a little weak but the railroad bridge of Ludendorf was an important point in the advancement of the Allied forces in Germany across the Rhine. It survived many bombings and there is nothing left of the actual bridge which collapsed during the war after allowing the Allies the crossing point they needed. On both shore sides the pillars of the bridge serve as a reminder of WW2.
The key highlight of the day is our stop in Cologne. For us, it’s a chance to visit more relatives! We had 2 cousins, their spouses and one of their children meet us at the dock and take us on a tour of the city. The city’s most recognizable landmark is certainly the Cathedral which is a UNESCO Work Heritage site. We did take in this and some of the other sites of the city, see the pictures below, but the best part of the stop was our time visiting with family. It was so great to see them again and enjoy some time together.
In addition to the Cathedral, we through the old town and across a marvelous bridge. The custom of couples dedicating their love with padlocks on the railings was very evident and perhaps the most we have ever seen on any bridge. We also went up a tower for a bird’s eye view of this magnificent city. A picture is said to be worth a thousand words…here are a few thousand captured in these shots.
Sept 15 – Our final stop on the cruise is Amsterdam. When we arrive, we go on a city tour including a canal cruise which is a great introduction to this wonderful capital of the Netherlands. There are many sights to see and do in Amsterdam…the most famous are the Anne Frank House, the historic canals, the flower market, the Red Light District, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh museum and of course, the many cannabis coffee shops. The tour gives us a great canal cruise showing us how the canals are an important part of the Amsterdam landscape.
After the tour, we have some free time to wander around and are simply amazed at the number of bicycles in the city. With special bike lanes everywhere and the known fact that bicycles have the right of way in every case, you really have to be careful not to be hit or run over by the thousands upon thousands of bikes in the street. Young, old, professionals, students…everyone rides a bicycle!
We stopped by the Flower Market to see the thousands of tulip bulbs for sale along with hundreds of other flower types. Included were Cannabis starter kits. We passed on that kit but we did buy some tulip bulbs which were certified disease and bug free for transport into Canada and the USA…let’s hope they grow next spring!
Our final night on the ship and a chance to say goodbye to the many wonderful people we met aboard. This was one of the highlights of the cruise…spending 14 nights with 162 other passengers meant that we had the opportunity to meet, dine and enjoy the sights with almost all of them.
Final day on Sept 16 means disembarkation. We have ordered a taxi through the ship to take us to our hotel – Delta City Centre. Here’s the problem. When I looked for a hotel in the city centre of Amsterdam, I had a very difficult time finding any availability due to a large conference in the city. I really wanted something close to the action of Dam Square and the only reasonably priced hotel I could find was the Delta City Centre (not to be confused with the Delta chain in Canada). When I say reasonably priced, this was $275CAD per night. The hotel is rated 3 stars.
On our tour yesterday, we happened to drive by the hotel and I pointed it out to Karen. The location was excellent but the hotel looked awful, at least from the exterior.
So, on the day of disembarkation, we talked to several people about their post cruise stay and happened to talk to a couple from Colorado who had rented a 2 bedroom apartment. We told them about our doubts about our hotel and arranged with them that if our hotel was as bad as it looked, we could stay with them.
As it happened, we shared a taxi with them. Our first stop was the Delta City Centre and we asked the driver to wait for us while we had a quick look at the hotel. The lobby wasn’t too bad but we ran up to see our hotel room. Yikes…the carpet was very dirty and the room was really a 1-2 star quality at best. We cancelled our room forfeiting the first night payment and thankfully and gratefully went with the other couple to their apartment. The apartment was quite a way from the city centre but it was very convenient to the tram. So, we happily traded convenience for cleanliness and safety…we will forever be thankful to Rick and Grace of Colorado for their hospitality and understanding.
As mentioned the tram was very convenient and very easy to use. We purchased a 2 day pass for 12 Euro each and off we went to visit the Anne Frank House. We purchased our tickets on line and that saved us from having to wait in the lengthy line ups at the memorial house.
The house itself is extremely well presented. If you have read the book, you know the story of the 2 families hiding in the back of the building that housed their father’s business. It was very touching and emotional…I will want to read the book again. I only hope that we can learn from the mistakes of human history and avoid this kind of persecution ever again.
We had an amazing supper at a restaurant called Moeder’s (Dutch for Mother’s) and had a wonderful, typically Dutch supper before heading back to the apartment to enjoy some time with our new friends.
Tuesday, Sept 16…a full day to enjoy Amsterdam. We decide to take the tram to an area called Jordaan which is a quiet, almost residential area but hear they have some nice shops and restaurants. We literally walked around the area stopping at a coffee shop for a break before touring a houseboat museum. That was extremely interesting because Amsterdam has many, many houseboats of every size and shape in all the canals. In fact, I believe that all the possible berths available are taken. It’s a very interesting lifestyle and we quite enjoyed seeing how some people live on the canals.
A pub lunch before heading out to the Van Gogh museum. We won’t have time to do both the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh, so we opt for the latter. Again, this museum is very well laid out with great exhibits and explanations of his work. The cost is 15Euro each to get in and we opt for the audio tour equipment for another 5 Euro each. We are typically not art museum people…a quick walk through and we are usually done. However, this museum was very interesting and we spent a full 2 hours there, seeing many of his famous works and learning much more about his life and his style of painting.
I’m not sure that I am a lover of his work or that I fully understand the genius behind the man but did find it fascinating.
We have arranged to meet with Rick and Grace for supper near Dam Square and ended up in La Boca, an Argentine restaurant. There seem to be many Argentine restaurants in the area for some reason but we were very impressed with this one…the food was excellent and the Sangria refreshing after a full day of sightseeing.
After supper, one last stop…in the red light district. In yesterday’s tour, the guide said the industry is well regulated with the workers needing to come from and having EU passports. That may be true, but I suspect that many of the workers are forced into the industry in the same way it happens around the world. Anyway, it is quite a tourist area, quite safe and quite a show.
Wednesday, Sept 18 – Homeward bound. We had arranged for a taxi to the airport for the early afternoon. Schipol airport is well known for being very efficient and customer friendly. We found it easy to navigate and with lots of shops, you could easily spend a few hours there. We rode in the back of the bus with KLM coming home. The seats were typically close together but acceptable. The entertainment system was with personal TV’s and a wide variety of movies, TV shows, music, games, etc. I found the service and food on board to be very good.
River Cruise Recap:
- Pack and unpack once
- Wonderful staff
- Excellent food but not gourmet. Many regional dishes prepared.
- Decent wines
- Usually dock in the centre of the towns you visit so it’s easy to explore them
- Small number of passengers
- Included tours
- Smooth ride…no motion discomfort
- Allowed to bring own alcohol onboard
- Normal prices for bar drinks but generous portions
- Small cabins
- Limited time in each port. If you take a tour you get an hour or two max of free time
- Sundeck and pool closed much of the time due to low bridges
- Evening entertainment not exceptional
- Initial price but remember to factor in complimentary wine and beer with lunch and dinner plus complimentary tours daily during your cruise
Overall, our first river cruise was an excellent experience and we would go again in a heartbeat. We recommend you put it high in your bucket list. Thanks for following my blog, I hope you enjoyed it!