By Libby Brame, CTA, Cruise Groups Coordinator, Cruise Training Manager
We decided to do the Rhine Getaway with Viking (Basel to Amsterdam), because we both wanted to explore Germany more, and neither of us had spent much (if any) time there. We flew into Basel, and had a delightful day there. We arrived at the airport – be careful there – you can exit into two different countries! – and made our way into beautiful, iconic Switzerland.
Once there, Viking took care of everything. We left our luggage in their care, got acquainted with the ship, and took advantage of their included excursion on Day 1 – a Basel Walking Tour. There was enough time in the afternoon to fall in love with the city split by the Rhine river, one side Swiss, and the other French. We made our way back on board in time for a friendly welcome briefing, and the safety drill.
Just before dinner, we set sail, and ate out on the lovely Aquavit Terrace, and watched the world go by, looking forward to our journey ahead. We’d booked all of the included excursions, and an optional excursion every other day. (This ended up working out very well!)
The next morning, we woke up in the town of Breisach. From there, we met a motorcoach that would take us through the beautiful Alsatian wine-growing hills, and deep into the storied Black Forest. Here, on the included excursion, The Black Forest, we saw how cuckoo clocks are made, beautiful blown glass, and of course, how to make a delectable Black Forest cake (German protip: So. Much. Cream!).
After that, we took the Colmar World War II: Museum & Memorial excursion, where we visited Colmar, and explored the Colmar pocket, where Audie Murphy liberated the last Nazi-occupied territory, saving so many lives with his bravery and heroism. The museum was filled with all sorts of military and personal artifacts from WWII, and the memorial sites were serene and beautiful, with breathtaking views. This is a hidden gem of an excursion, not to be missed.
Having come quite a long way from WWII, we arrived the next day in the EU capitol of Strasbourg, France, and took the included Strasbourg Highlights tour. Most of the beginning of the tour was by motorcoach, as many of the sights were spread out. Later, we arrived at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame in central Strasbourg to see the fascinating Astronomical Clock.
The next day found us in Heidelberg, which is a beautiful college town. We did the included tour here, Panoramic Heidelberg, which took us on a walking tour of the city. There was lots of shopping, a beautiful church, the Church of the Holy Spirit which is half-Catholic, half-Protestant, and Heidelberg Castle.
From Heidelberg, that evening we continued down the river where we docked in Rüdesheim am Rhein, where we took the optional excursion Dine in Rüdesheim. We had a lovely traditional German dinner, complete with German songs, dancing, and a schnapps-drinking contest. The food and company were wonderful – another excursion not to be missed.
The next day, we docked in Koblenz, and explored Marksburg Castle (a UNESCO World Heritage site), which was built in 1100, and was remarkably never destroyed since. Well-kept and preserved, Marksburg Castle is a great time capsule and example of how much things have changed since it was operationally a castle. Nestled in the hillside, it has beautiful views, and great natural protection.
The next day on our Rhine Getaway with Viking found us in Cologne, where we did the included Cologne Walking Tour, and saw quite a bit of Cologne on a hot day, and found refuge inside of the exquisitely beautiful Cologne Cathedral, or the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter. Expertly built, this is an expansive cathedral not to be missed.
After the walking tour, we embarked upon the optional excursion – Brühl UNESCO Palaces, which included the Augustusburg Palace and the Falkenlust. The Augustusburg Palace was a decadent Rococo home to the prince-archbishops of Cologne (quite a lifestyle to have!), while Falkenlust was their hunting lodge, and was once borrowed for one of Casanova’s impressive and sumptuous soirees, once upon a time.
Our last port of call before arriving in Amsterdam was Kinderdijk, in the Netherlands. We signed up for the Kinderdijk by Vintage Barge excursion, which was very cool. The barge took us down one of the canals that sported many traditional Dutch windmills. We were given a tour of the windmills, a lesson in how they operate, and a glimpse into the daily life of a family for Dutch millers.
From there, we arrived at our final destination – Amsterdam. We disembarked and spent a few days after our cruise in Amsterdam, mostly museum-hopping. We were lucky enough to arrive just in time for an exhibit at the Rijksmuseum before it moved, and saw the entire Rembrandt collection.
All in all, we fell in love with the Alsatian region, Germany, and the beautiful river cruising experience on the Rhine Getaway with Viking. This is definitely a trip that one could take again and again, exploring on your own, taking different excursions, and exploring the widely-known to the little-known sites. This region is rich in history, culture, food, and is, in a word – wonderful.
CTA, Cruise Groups Coordinator, Cruise Training Manager
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