Seeing the highlights of Europe is a breeze with a river cruise.
The stork, perched in her castle nest, watched over soon-to-be born chicks. This surprise scene from Rothenberg, Germany, was one of several that were part of our 12-day Viking River Cruises “Cities of Light” vacation. On the Viking Longship® Odin, we cruised from Prague to Paris, experiencing four countries via three scenic and storied rivers.
Every aspect of the tour was well planned and executed. A Viking host was always available for any questions regarding the itinerary and tours. The combination of planned tours and leisure time was remarkable. There were many opportunities to relax and explore on our own.
Tours of Prague and Nuremberg
After the trans-Atlantic flight to the Czech Republic, we checked into the Hilton Prague for a two-night stay. Located in the heart of the city and convenient to historical structures, this five-star hotel was a delightful surprise. The Cloud 9 Sky Bar & Lounge offers a stunning view over the city, and the Café Bistro, open 24 hours, is famous for sandwiches, burgers, and Czech specialties of the season.
The next morning, we took a guided walk through Old Town, and later took a tour inside Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral.
After a complimentary full breakfast on the third day, we checked out of our hotel and traveled to the Bavarian city of Nuremburg through historical and picturesque Bohemia along the border separating Germany and the Czech Republic. After a lunch of sausages and beer in Nuremburg, we met our guide at the elaborate Gothic fountain and took part in a city tour where we saw Zeppelin Field–the former Nazi parade grounds–and the Palace of Justice, site of the Nuremberg Trials.
Viking contracts with locals as guides who have an authentic knowledge and love of the town and area. They were very friendly to questions and observations. The tour guides use individual ear phones to transmit the narration to participants, which enables all to follow the tour at a distance.
We next traveled to Bamberg, Germany, where we embarked our ship.
Cruising Germany’s Great Rivers
We gathered the first evening for a reception and dinner. We got acquainted with our Program Director Diana van der Tuuk, who took care of each and every need of the passengers. We were introduced to all of the members of the staff and crew, as well as our traveling companions. With 95 outside staterooms, there are less than 200 people on the ship, making it easier to foster friendships.
We cruised Germany’s scenic rivers–the Main, Rhine, and Moselle–stopping at cities that could have stepped out of a fairy tale. We toured the Residenz Palace in Würzburg, and had free time after lunch to explore more of this city or take an optional tour to Rothenburg.
By the sixth day of the trip, we were in the ancient city of Heidelberg to see the remains of the city’s castle and take a guided walk through Old Town and its market. We enjoyed Bavarian pretzels in Miltenberg.
In Mainz, we visited the famous Gutenberg Museum and participated in a guided tour of a city that boasts more than 2,000 years of history. An afternoon cruise brought us to Rudesheim, where we could explore the town’s shops, bars, and restaurants, or participate in an optional wine-tasting experience. Like many previous evenings, we remained docked to enjoy dinner and overnight on board the ship.
The most beautiful stretch of the Rhine came to us by the eighth day of our journey. The ship cruised through the river’s valley that is lined with castles on both sides of hills. The entire area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After lunch, we enjoyed a scenic drive to Cochem to see Reichsburg Castle that was built more than 1,000 years ago. The imposing castle dominates the city from its hilltop location. We met the ship in Cochem where we gathered for evening toasts to our memories and to say farewell to our newfound friends at the Captain’s Reception and Farewell Dinner. The ship sailed through the night en route to Bernkastel-Kues and Trier.
The next day, we were free to walk through the 700-year-old town of Bernkastel-Kues or relax on the ship. After lunch, we cruised the Moselle River toward Trier, Germany’s oldest city, to see the ancient Roman Porta Nigra, the cathedral, and other sights.
Ten days into the trip, it was time to disembark the ship and take a motorcoach drive through Germany’s countryside to the American Cemetery in Luxembourg. At Luxembourg City, we paid homage to the many Americans who lost their lives during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. We stood and paid tribute to all, including Gen. George S. Patton, who is buried among his men.
The end approaches
It was a rather long drive from Luxembourg to Paris, but we stopped for respite in Champagne, France, for a glass of–what else–champagne. Once in the romantic City of Light, we were received at the magnificent Le Méridian Hotel for a two-night stay. We toured Paris, taking in the Champs Elysees, Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, as well as the magnificent Gothic Notre-Dame Cathedral, where we took a tour. This was my husband’s favorite site. He sat silently in this beautiful edifice praying his own thoughts.
This trip was a rich experience, almost beyond expression. A Viking cruise was on our travel bucket list, but I think we need to revise it for another of their excursions.
Mary Queen Donnelly is a new contributor from Canton, Miss.
September/October 2015 Issue
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