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Hey, Luke and Leia,
Today, I’m sailing away on a Rhine River cruise and will take you along in pictures.
The Rhine River starts in the mountains of Switzerland and winds its way along the northern border until it gets to Basel. It then takes a north turn heading along Germany and France creating an excellent environment for fantastic German and Alsace wine regions. The Rhine, after picking up waters from the Moselle, Neckar, and Main rivers, finally completes its 722 mile-long journey by cutting into the Netherlands and dumping the collected waters into the North Sea.
Breisach / Black Forest
This was my ‘pre-cruise’ favorite stop on our itinerary since I have always wanted to visit the black forest since taking German in High School. From the deep wooded forests to the famous Black Forest Cake,it brought back so many memories from my high school German studies.
Although we had to take a bus to get there (it's not on the river), Colmar, in the historic Alsace region of France, was the most enchanting town we visited on our whole cruise. Nana thought that its half-timbered houses and cobbled stone streets have the look and feel of a Disney Studio movie set. It's easy to believe that the Disney's “Beauty and the Beast” took place there. The town never stopped displaying its charm the entire time.
Continuing down the Rhine we changed countries from Germany to France and the town of Strasbourg. Strasbourg has beautiful half-timbered colorful houses, a magnificent cathedral, and very charming, picturesque streets. It is also the official seat of the European Parliament.
Heidelberg and Rudesheim
The town of Heidelberg looks like what I always envisioned for a German city, with tall church steeples, high pitched red roofs, an arched bridge over a river, and surrounded by mountains. We can’t forget the German castles of course, and the Heidelberg castle doesn’t disappoint with its towering view over the riverside town.
We spent the evening and dinner in the quaint German village of Rudesheim where Nana helped to provide the entertainment (they played Edelweiss on cowbells!). The village had its half-timbered homes famous in the region but with a much smaller ‘home town’ feel. The food and wine were fantastic and we even had some time to explore the town a bit on the way back to the ship.
Castles on the Rhine
Most of the next day we spent cruising the historic middle Rhine Valley, watching vineyards go by and seemingly seeing castles on top of every mountain. Many small villages were along the Rhine as well. There are some useful guides for sale that give the details of the banks scenery as they pass with numbered markings visible from the ship. We got to see the famous Lorelei as we sailed past her location.
Braubach – Marksburg Castle
In Braubach we visited Marksburg Castle, which sits on top of a mountain and offers a commanding view of the town and river below. Interesting enough, Marksburg is the only mountain top castle to have never been destroyed. For over 700 years it has been occupied, and now it has the proud honor of being part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Middle Rhine Valley.
Situated at the picturesque confluence of the Moselle and Rhine rivers, Koblenz was in full bloom… Yes, it was hosting the biannual German flower festival, and it was a Very Big Deal. After taking the cable car over the Rhine River we were treated to the spectacular collection of flowers assembled for all to see. Later we wandered around the town and we sat for a while at a fountain, watching the children play in the water and wishing you two were with us.
Cologne, or Koln as it is spelled in German, has a large gothic cathedral overlooking the famous bridge from World-War II. Bombed beyond recognition, the old church still stood, while the rest of the city was virtually leveled. They did pull the bridge back up and rebuilt it, but most of the rest of Cologne is fairly new. They rebuilt it after the war, keeping its original charm and using the waterfront to welcome visitors.
Canals, flooding and windmills are the story here in Kinderdijk. Leaving Germany behind, we enter beautiful and flat Netherlands with a final stop on our journey to tour the windmills of Holland. Understanding that most of the Netherlands is below sea level, brings to life the very essence of the windmill and those who dutifully attended their operation for their fellow countrymen. The windmills and surrounding landscape was both photographic and charming.
There was one cool thing we saw on the way to Kinderdijk that you guys really should have seen. Someone actually built a life-size model of Noah’s ark, complete with animals on board.
Every good thing has to end, and that includes our cruise. It's time to get off of is boat and onto the dry land in Amsterdam. We will write again soon.
Nana and Pap