8 days – Rhine, Strasbourg and Heidelberg
This is an 8-day cruise so there are 6 full days of inclusive tours along the route.
Day 2 – Koblenz and Boppard
Koblenz – we moored around the point of River Mosel rather than on the Rhine and met our group tour guides for a walk of around 1.5 hours. It’s a good system for these guided tours with individual Vox Box listening devices (on charge in the cabin) and earphones, choosing a channel according to your group number.
A very pretty town, clearly an important settlement over the centuries given its position, although this is a bit hazardous as Deutsche Eck (German Point) floods between 3-6 metres a year bringing mud and slime from the river. We ended in the Old Town to see the ‘spitting boy’ fountain, then the final point at 11.00am precisely to see the face beneath the clock roll his eyes and stick out his tongue as it strikes. Apparently, he was a thief who was beheaded then his tongue lolled, and his eyes rolled – very creepy.
Back in Jesuit Square outside Altstad Hotel with a small beer and glass of wine at one of their warm, shaded tables then a pleasant stroll back to the boat ready for lunch. If we had more time, we would love to go on the cable car across to the fortress on the other side of the Rhine. Next time.
Boppard – after lunch, we cruised down to Boppard for an overnight stay. What a beautiful town, wonderful old traditional buildings so well-cared for. Interesting cobbled streets, narrow lanes, a busy market square and lots of small independent shops. Difficult to use a wheelchair in old part of town, but the very wide, flat promenade alongside the river is perfect with many pavement cafes and bars to stop at. We loved the Jardin area in front of hotel near our boat mooring.
As we were moored overnight, and the gangplank goes straight onto the promenade, lots of guests went out again after dinner for an evening stroll and maybe a drink or two on the way back. This was a lovely stopover, and we would visit again as there are plenty of hotels, many vineyards in the area, and a chairlift from Vierseenblick (view over 4 lakes) which we didn’t have time to try.
Day 3 – Mainz
Lots of tales of local legend as we cruised along, including the Mouse Tower. The local Lord kept his grain to himself and let the people starve, so eventually villagers revolted, came down to the grain barn which he promptly burned down with them in it – nice chap. However, the mice escaped and chased him, he took refuge in the Mouse Tower, but they chewed their way through the wooden doors and killed him.
We were free to explore on our own after lunch today so a nice change. It is a pretty promenade where the ships are moored, walk past the Hilton Hotel, up the steps nearby and across the wide footbridge to the Tourist Information Centre and the main town.
As a printmaker, I particularly wanted to visit the Gutenberg Museum nearby, fascinating exhibitions that track developments in writing and printing from ancient China, Japan and Korea, especially individual movable print blocks, through to the printing processes developed by Gutenberg in 15th century when just a young man. Some funny comments about how he is depicted in portraits painted more than 100 years after his death, famously depicted as an old man with a long beard. Good price for seniors at €3 entrance.
It was still extremely hot here, but we were determined to see Chagall’s famous Blue Windows in St Stephan’s Church. Definitely worth the walk up the hill, especially as we found a stunning metal sculpture hidden away in a little walk-through street. We got there just in time before the church was closed to visitors, and the windows truly are impressive with such vivid blue glass panels, intricately set to make the most of reflected light. Back to the boat for a little nap then dinner.
Day 4 – Heidelberg
As well as the guided tour of Heidelberg, there was an optional tour with Eric – €7 for trip on the Funicular Railway up the hill to the splendid castle, including a view of the biggest wine barrel in the world.
This castle is a perfect example of how successive Kings added their individual touch by add-on structures, or demolition in some cases, as well as destruction by fires and lightning strikes. It is worth going into the courtyard and castle as well as just walking around the gardens as there are some fascinating different styles of architecture. It is very busy, of course, and they were setting up the stage for a Shakespeare play later. After walking around the barrel, you are free to sample local wines in the bar – €8.50 for a detailed wine-tasting of white, red and rose – or just make your way back down by train.
Still plenty of time to explore the town and stop for coffee. There was a fascinating exhibition in the town square by the local Fire Service, including very old appliances that don’t appear very efficient now – we had to stop for this as Leslie used to build fire engines!
The coach to return to the ship is easy to find, next to TIC, although there are lots of others meeting there too. Back for lunch, the option to visit Speyer in the afternoon, then overnight sailing down to Strasbourg.
The next section involves going through two locks, amazing as each holds two full-length tankers plus two cruise ships like ours. Bit of a tight fit at the sides, but technically impressive, and some delay as we had to wait until everyone was ready inside the lock.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Riviera Travel – River Cruises