Rhine Cruise with Tauck

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Date of travel

May, 2017

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Family holiday

Cruising On The Rhine – (Part Two)

Day 2: Amsterdam

On a glorious sunny morning, after an excellent breakfast, we were ferried by coach to begin our tour on the Amsterdam canals. We boarded our canal boat where we were served coffee to drink while we enjoyed our leisurely cruise, gliding along the historic waterways with our expert guide imparting lots of fascinating information. Those tall thin houses, which I thought had been built to accommodate the very tall people of the Netherlands, were actually built to avoid taxes. The wider your house the more tax you had to pay. I was correct about the tall people; they are believed to be the tallest and fittest in Europe, probably the world. Fit, due to the amount of cycling that goes on. There are bicycles galore and not just for leisure. Our guide warned us to watch out and don’t wander into the cycle paths, they don’t stop. Although I’ve never been to Amsterdam I did know about the biking but to see it first hand was quite something. With hundreds of people zipping along on their way to work/school on their sit-up-and-beg bikes. We then proceeded to a whistle stop tour of the world famous Rijksmuseum to take look at a few old masters. The place was packed with tourists and school parties. I’d have liked time to wander on my own but the schedule was tight and we had to get back on the coach and meet the Grace in Utrecht, for lunch. We then set off on our 409 mile journey to Cologne.

The Rhine is a very busy commercial highway, scenic and breath-taking on many stretches and then industrialised on others. It flows from the Swiss Alps, through Germany, before emptying into the North Sea close to Rotterdam. My husband, Ray, was keen to be up top to watch the first lock manoeuvre, while I was happy back in our cabin relaxing. We were enjoying our evenings, eating dinner and getting to know our fellow passengers.

Other places to visit: Anne Frank House, Red Light District, Waterlooplein Flea Market, Flower Market.

Day 3: Cologne

We woke up in Germany and after breakfast we had time sit on the top deck watching the world go by, enjoying the stunning scenery along the Rhine and taking a few pictures while our ship cruised to the next stop. We passed the Ford factory and watched a never-ending trail of barge boats carrying everything from oil to coal to tractors, while in the distance the rolling landscape would dip and rise and out of the blue yet another castle would appear.

Cologne – another place I’d never been to. A guided tour of the twin towered, Kolner Dom, Gothic Cathedral, declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995 was busy. The structure is impressive and the inside well worth the visit. Not a stone’s throw away was the Roman-Germanic Museum and if you’re interested in Roman artefacts this is a must. Away from the bustle of the cathedral the Museum provided a cool and peaceful sanctuary. On display was the beautiful Roman mosaic floor, discovered during World War 11 when they were digging to build an air raid shelter. This became the basis for the whole museum and many of the items on display were found on that site.

We were heading out for dinner that evening to the Schloss Ehreshoven Castle, built in the 14th century and later expanded in the style of a Baroque Manor House. Set in beautiful 18th Century French gardens, the Castle is often used as a film location and the evening we arrived a film crew had left for the day but outside were several props, including a variety of lovely old vintage cars, which looked right at home. The Castle has quite a story attached.

The last owner was Marie Countess of Nesselrode who died unmarried in 1920 and she bequeathed the whole estate to Rheinische Ritterschoft on the understanding that they transform the Castle into a charitable foundation for ‘titled’ ladies who had fallen on hard times and found themselves unable to manage in their latter years. It opened in 1924 and amazingly they still accommodate elderly women in the Castle to this day, the average age is 87. To qualify you need to be a princess, duchess or equivalent, living in genteel poverty. They live on one floor of the Castle which is split up into apartments and they are guaranteed a home until they pass away. This tale was relayed at our champagne reception in the gardens and to put a perfect ending to the story, one of the elderly ladies appeared at an upper window and waved. Our excellent dinner and the whole evening at the stunning Schloss Castle was something I’ll never forget. The Castle is not open to the public but they are available for weddings… now that, I’m sure, would cost a pretty penny.

Other places to visit: Museum Ludwig Modern Art, Chocolate Museum, Cologne Cathedral

Day 3: Koblenz

Koblenz, where the Rhine and Moselle rivers meet. Two activities were on offer; a bike ride or a walking tour through Altstadt (Old Town) a mix of delightful town squares, medieval churches and cosy taverns. We signed up for a bike ride along the canal. The trip only attracted 15 of us but it had been described as ‘robust.’ Given that the average age on board was over 70 it probably put people off. But it was fun and not that robust (I’ve been on listed walks in Cornwall, classified as ‘easy’ which have left me gasping). Our guides kept us safe even when we had to venture off the canal path onto the roadways.

Day 5: Speyer Technik Museum

We continued sailing throughout the morning towards our next destination where we’d chosen to visit the Speyer Technik Museum that afternoon. Ray was keen and he wasn’t disappointed. The museum is impressive and home to exhibits dedicated to every form of technology that moves. From vintage cars and motorbikes to a Boeing 747 jumbo jet and a German U9 submarine that you could go inside (I passed on that one). I did retire to the outside area after an hour or so with a cold drink and watched as children had fun riding down a huge metal flume – (like a helter skelter) our guide had suggested we might like a go!

Other places to visit: Historical Musem, Imperial Cathedral, Jewish Quarter.

Day 6: Strasbourg/Baden-Baden

Travelling overnight I peered out of the curtains early next morning to see that we were surrounded by the hills of southern Alsace, many checkered with vineyards. We were introduced to the Alsatian cultural capital of Strasbourg by our new guide on our coach journey. Moving slowly from the river area we were driven through a tree lined avenue with impressive looking homes either side and our guide pointed out a fascinating fact. She told us to look up; and there in the trees were more storks than you could shake a stick at, all busy nesting in the tree tops. They came every year to nest and the local council even made sure that they flattened the tree tops prior to their arrival to make things a little easier for their feathered visitors. When we stopped later in the day for shopping I noticed that the gift shops had lots of stork related stuff. I couldn’t help myself and bought two egg cups, an apron and an oven glove.

The skyline of Strasbourg is awash with the modern buildings of European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights. Our guide provided a thorough explanation of how Strasbourg had been German but was now French. Also, how the common market was formed and bringing us up to date with Brexit. I did see a few blank faces among our American guests, I think one or two had nodded off. But I rated it as one of the best talks on the whole trip. We went on a guided walking tour of Petite France, one of Strasbourg’s prettiest and most enchanting neighbourhoods full of history, half-timbered houses and yet another gothic cathedral.

Our afternoon trip to Baden-Baden was a delight. Some people had opted to go to the famous spa but because the weather was once again glorious we chose to meander around the town and sit in the beautiful park where a local fete was in full swing. We did go into the famous Pump Room and took a brief look at the history of the Casino (which wasn’t open). Baden-Baden has been famous for many years and attracted both celebrities and royal visitors alike, including Queen Victoria and Napoléon. Our guide told us that in Germany a ‘cure’ at Baden-Baden is free to every German citizen once every two years. If your doctor refers you then you could be resident for either a three or six week period. Symptoms ranging from depression to recuperation after an operation will qualify you. If you’re a single parent they even have a childcare facility. The treatments involve not only the waters but massage, yoga and psychotherapy, with a view to a more natural way of healing. This is a fantastic provision for the German people and I’m sure we could learn a few lessons.

Other Places To Visit: Roman Bath Ruins, Baden-Baden Museum

Day 7: Switzerland – Mount Pilatus

I was looking forward to our trip to Lucerne in Switzerland to travel by cable car up to Mt Pilatus (7,000 ft) and it didn’t disappoint. The climb was so steep that my ears popped and by the time we reached the top it had started to snow. Our ride down on the world’s steepest cog railway was slow and perfect for taking a few pictures of the stunning landscape and the lake, once the clouds had started to clear. Lucerne is a beautiful city and because we were eating out we were given 20euros each for lunch, which didn’t quite cover it. I haven’t been to Switzerland in forty years and I’d forgotten how expensive it could be and nearly choked on my mid-morning éclair and skinny latte, delicious though it was, for the equivalent of £11.00.

Other Places To Visit: Museum of Art, Lion Monument, Chapel Bridge

That evening as we ate dinner the MS Grace sailed on to Basel where we would disembark the following morning. All too soon our trip was over and we were waiting for our taxi to take us to the airport.

If you’re looking for a luxury cruise on the Rhine then Tauck must be a consideration. Although that luxury comes at a price Tauck’s European river cruises, ashore tours and cultural entertainment are all inclusive, not to mention unlimited wines, beers and premium spirts, tea, coffee and soft drinks. If you tot all of those up over the course of a week it can become very expensive so I would say that Tauck give great value for money. Alongside all the sight-seeing we thoroughly enjoyed the change of company each evening at dinner and it was a relief not to be landed with the same people day after day, who, let’s face it could turn out to be the bores of the century.

Once we arrived home I had to ask myself, ‘was this trip all the sweeter because I’d had the good fortune to win it? No doubt! Was it an outstanding trip? Definitely! We had a wonderful time and I shall be recommending it to anyone I know contemplating a European river cruise in the future.


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