Can you believe the beautiful reflections of these buildings in the old town of Strasbourg in France? Strasbourg was one of our favorite places on the cruise.
Our trip started in Amsterdam, and this is the view from our hotel, the Okura, with an overview of the city. My husband, Roy, and I both stayed at their flagship hotel, the Okura, in Japan many years ago on separate business trips.
It seems like just yesterday that we were on the Viking ship Eir with our friends from London, Jackie and James, cruising down the Rhine for eight days. I am going to attempt to describe our wonderful trip with as many photos as I can because the scenes were just stunning.
I had never spent any time in Amsterdam (I had flown through there many times), so Roy and I went there two days in advance of the cruise to explore. Roy had visited a number of times for business, so he remembered a bit about the city.
Many of the old houses in Amsterdam are crooked due to settling over the centuries. How pretty is this crooked house?
I was concerned about the amount of rain forecasted, but we did pretty well throughout the trip; we did encounter a little on our first afternoon and towards the end of our trip. The second day was glorious; you can see by the beautiful scenes below.
A tour guide said that these houses with the curved roofs are the oldest, dating back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
We had a drink at a pub (behind me) that dated back to 1695. Right across the street was the home in which the artist, Rembrandt, lived.
We visited the Van Gogh museum and were overwhelmed with the amount of his art displayed. This famous sunflowers painting was one of my best friend Barb’s favorites; she had bought a print many years ago when we were in our 20s.
I had always had an interest in Anne Frank and had reads books about her, so months in advance of the trip, I booked tickets to the Anne Frank House. If you are planning a visit, I suggest you do this well ahead of time, as it can get quite crowded. The house and museum was packed the day we went, with lines snaking down the street. Even with tickets, we had to wait a bit. It was sobering to see where the family hid during the occupation and to learn more about them and those who helped conceal them. So sad that only Otto, the father, survived the war as Anne, her sister and mother perished.
We also visited the Dutch Resistance Museum, which told the story of the occupation during WWII. In the museum, we read that there were 140,000 Jews in the country before the war, and 110,000 of them lost their lives, most in the camps. Terrible. I’ll have more to say on the war later, as we visited Germany and France as well on this trip and went on a special WWII tour.
One of the many beautiful scenes of Amsterdam we took in during our walking tour of the city.
Roy and I walked through the famous red light area during the day, so it wasn’t so packed. I can’t say I enjoyed seeing women in the windows, displaying themselves. It seemed so strange. I understand it is wild and noisy at night, so we were glad to be off the beaten path at our hotel, where it was very quiet and pretty.
We had a bit of rain the next day when we visited Kinderdijk, where we saw the largest concentration of windmills in the Netherlands, and actually got to see the inside where the families lived, dating back to the 1700s. (I took this photo from inside a windmill!)
Guess one has to take a photo with a centuries old windmill when possible!
The clouds started to clear for our day in Cologne. You can see the cathedral behind us. James took this photo of Roy, Jackie and me on the deck of the ship.
We had the chance to visit the cathedral in Cologne, which is the largest in Northern Europe. That’s me and Jackie in front of it.
An wonderful scene of figures, carved on the side of the cathedral in Cologne.
Thousands of locks were clipped to the Cologne bridge; lovers put their names on as a symbol of their affection and then lock them on.
Roy hates photos, but I snapped this one of his beer at an Old Town brew house, with a Kolsch beer—brewed only in Cologne and served in 7-ounce glasses (you are supposed to get a whole tray of them!). He didn’t know that he (partially) made it into the photo!
Sorry this is a but blurry…took it from the ship after our day in Cologne. Just gorgeous!
The next stop was Koblenz, a traditional German country town at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers, founded more than 2,000 years ago. We visited the Marksburg Castle, which dates back to the 13th century.
It was a steep climb up the hill to the Marksburg Castle, but great exercise!
Here is Jackie, part of the way up. The clouds were clearing for our journey down the Rhine later. The castle is home to the German Castles Association, which works to preserve medieval fortifications all over Germany, such as the Marksburg Castle.
I couldn’t resist a photo with the Marksburg Castle.
A display at the Marksburg castle of knights and warriors through the centuries.
Even just before the clouds cleared, the view was stunning.
A view of the Rhine through the castle arch. That might be our ship sailing away.
Jackie was determined to get a “real” coffee when we had just a few minutes after our morning tour before the ship departed (you can see our ship on the right). She did it. We found an Italian restaurant that wasn’t open yet, but the owner agreed to make coffee for Jackie and all of us! It was really pleasant, sitting outside and having the coffee before we boarded for our wonderful afternoon on the Rhine.
With the blue skies and puffy clouds, the views were amazing and all of us were thrilled to take it in.
Jackie, James, Roy and I loved our afternoon cruising down the Rhine. We all wanted photos with this view.
We had our most glorious day when we needed it most: cruising the middle Rhine—how fantastic this was to experience. We sat on top all afternoon, dining al fresco and watching these glorious scenes float by….
There were so many castles, we couldn’t keep count. A sunny day, a nice bottle of wine and a float on the Rhine. Ahhhh…..
It was amazing to see the views and scenic villages along every turn of the Rhine.
The views from the deck of our room were good as well!
We decided to have dinner off the boat in the quaint town of Rudesheim. James and I found a wine shop, too, right on this street and got some wonderful local Rieslings to enjoy on the ship later.
As it was spargel (asparagus) season, we had to have it. In fact, we had it more than once. In Germany and Alsace in France, they cover the spargel when it is in the fields growing, so it is white in color, rather than green. During the spargel season it is traditional to have the asparagus with a hollandaise sauce and pair it with ham or weinerschnitzel. That’s what everyone had but me, as I requested mine with a nice salmon, as I am not much of meat eater! (Thanks to Jackie for snapping this photo).
Jackie’s German is very good, and her French is even better, so Roy, James and I relied on her when it came to ordering the food, as she found a very traditional German restaurant for us, and we were the only tourists in the place! (I am fairly sure they weren’t too fond of us…)
Heidelberg was one of our favorite cities; it was so beautiful and is Germany’s oldest university town. We visited Heidelberg Castle, built during the 13th century. I took this photo from the top of the castle. Both the castle and town boast beautiful baroque architecture.
Some of the artwork on the castle, part of it (a gold plaque) was stolen by the French during one of the many wars with France.
James and me on the top of the castle with a beautiful view below. He visited Heidelberg when he was twelve years old and remembered it fondly; he thoroughly enjoyed renewing his acquaintance with the ancient city.
Roy with some of the ruins of Heidelberg Castle.
That’s me with a preserved part of Heidelberg Castle.
Heidelberg Castle boasts the biggest wine cask in the world. This isn’t it as it is several stories tall and right around the corner in a dark room (not great for photography), but this one is still pretty big, isn’t it? I am not generally a fan of white wines, but had some excellent ones in Germany and France on this trip. More on that later.
I just can’t get enough of the views of Heidelberg. Simply beautiful.
Roy was looking forward to enjoying some German craft beers, so he and James checked out a local store. Roy got a few and brought them back to enjoy as we sailed the Rhine.
The ship made a quick stop in Speyer, and Jackie, James, Roy and I wandered into town and were glad we did.
That’s Roy and me (pretty tiny) at the bottom of the Old Gate on Maximillanstrasse in Speyer. This quiet town lies on the west bank of the Rhine. The term Protestant originated here at the Diet of Speyer in 1529.
We visited the cathedral in Speyer, which is one of the finest Romanesque cathedrals in the world. It was built between 1030 and 1061.
All of us loved Strasbourg. What a beautiful city. For me, Strasbourg and Heidelberg were the highlights, along with our afternoon cruise down the Rhine.
When we came around the corner and saw the beautiful reflections of these old houses in the river, we literally stopped in our tracks! Even Roy stopped for a photo…
That’s Roy in front of a restaurant in a building dating back to 1572 in Strasbourg.
I’ve played some Mozart when I was studying piano, so it was a thrill to see the first place he held a recital when he was 22 years old in Strasbourg. We stopped for a coffee close by.
We all did the walking tour of the city in the morning, and Roy and James visited the Mercedes factory in the afternoon, while Jackie and I did an Alsatian wine tour—too fun!
The scene of the Alsace vines whizzing by. Another fabulous day.
Jackie and I visited this winery and met Albert Seltz–a real wine expert. The winery has been in his family since the 1500s! He had very distinct ideas about the wine, the soil…very interesting. I have never been a fan or Riesling, but really enjoyed several during this tasting. We brought this bottle of his wine back to the ship to have with our dinner.
We had coffee sitting outside this old cafe in the Alsace. Very pleasant way to rest for a few minutes after touring around.
Our last full day on the cruise was a busy one. In the morning, Jackie, James, Roy and I did a WWII tour of the Colmar pocket; it was quite emotional. Our Czech tour guide learned all about the most decorated American WWII vet, Audie Murphy, and had read his memoirs many times. The guide actually played a role in getting this Audie Murphy memorial on Google earth. It was not far from this spot where Murphy sent his men back and he single-handedly defended the road from the top of a burning tank, even after he was injured. He was very young at the time, perhaps 19 and had seen many battles before this one, as he lied about his age and entered the Army early. The forest was so quiet and peaceful; we all tried to envision it blazing in battle.
A French plaque honoring the troops who fought in the Colmar pocket during WWII. We visited the museum in the area with many artifacts from the war. For us, the war seems very real, as our parents lived it and spoke to us about it. For kids today, it must seem so long ago and far away. Let’s hope the lessons learned don’t fade.
When we toured Colmar in France, the guide explained that centuries ago when most people couldn’t read and write, houses would use symbols so those passing by would know if there was a doctor there, or a store, etc. This is fantastic centuries old door. Not sure if you can spot in the hole there is a tiny figure of a baby, so perhaps these folks were communicating that there was a new addition to the family.
In the afternoon, we went on a tour of the Black Forest. We did hit some rain that day, but the scenery was still very special.
We don’t get many photos of the four of us, but we do try to take one on the ship after dinner towards the end of our journey, so here you go! Roy is even trying to smile. We all had a fabulous time.
The last stop was Basel, Switzerland, and it was bucketing down that day, so we didn’t get to see too much. We had to leave for the airport fairly early.
Jackie snagged this photo of Roy and me leaving the boat; it was truly a sad farewell! I hope I did the trip justice with the photos from my iPhone; Jackie and James may have some other photos I can add in later. We all had a great time and are already thinking about our next cruise.