My long-time friend Patricia and I have dreamed of a river cruise together and things finally fell in place for this month…. Then the Corona virus hit. All our plans and research up in smoke, but we’re still dreaming. Here is where we should be – on our vicarious trip.
Day 1 Thursday: We arrive at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam – Patricia from JFK and me from San Francisco. She was already on the boat so I text her (free or cheap compared to calls when traveling), “Meet me at the Centraal Station and we’ll take a canal cruise.” First we stop to buy euros from an ATM “geldautomaten.” I use my bank card because the rates are better than with credit cards.
It’s a little rainy so we decide to stick with the covered canal cruisers. They range in price from 16- 23E@, but we decide to take the pricier one because we can hop on and hop off all day. They take us through the red light district first, then down Prinsengracht (where our handsome young guide tells us “gracht” means canal). This is a wealthy neighborhood with grand houses and the canal is charming with its many bridges. Then we float down the Egelantiergracht which is quiet and serene. We see the trams go by and we’re told they are fast and frequent.
After a stop at the famous Riksmuseum to view paintings by Rembrandt and the Dutch masters, jet lag catches up with us and we head back to the ship. There are still some handsome tulips in the gardens we pass along the way. Alas not enough time for this delightful city.
Day 2 Friday: KINDERJIK. This corner of Holland is shaped by the Rhine Delta and known for its remarkably preserved windmills. We’ve read that much of the Netherlands is below sea level, but this is nonetheless startling when we notice that the ship is actually a higher elevation than the dikes! We get to step inside a working windmill and Patricia says, “Fabulous. So well thought out.”
Day 3 Saturday COLOGNE. We are taken to see the spectacular Gothic cathedral, which towers over the Old City. Began in 1248, it was built over the next seven centuries. The largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, with beautiful stained glass windows, it miraculously escaped the damage during World War II. We learn that Cologne has a Roman as well as a medieval history along its historic streets. The Romans built the walls of a fortress that still stand 2,010 years later, as the oldest stone structure north of the Alps.
Day 4 Sunday Koblenz – Located at the confluence the Moselle and Rhine Rivers. We sail along a particularly scenic stretch of the Rhine today, looking up at turreted castles and fortresses on the hills. We have to choose between two tours, 3 hours each: 700-year-old Marksburg Castle or the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein.
The history of the Ehrenbreitstein site stretches back to 1100, but what is seen today was constructed in the early 19th century to protect against the French. Have you been there? Our decision might depend on how strenuous & steep the walking is. I’m leaning towards Marksburg Castle (but I guess we have time to decide, if we ever really make this cruise!) A stone keep was built on the spot in 1100 and expanded into a castle around 1117 to protect the town of Braubach. It is one of the view undamaged castle along the Rhine. (I had a hard time finding a free image of Ehrenbreitstein and have perhaps the opposite problem with Marksburg: this video is 5min. long? But it is cute and nicely photographed. Opps WordPress will only let me post the link 😐 -sorry.)
Help us decide- Ehrenbreitstein or Marksburg: which would you visit?
Tomorrow Speyer & Rüdesheim, then on to Strasbourg and the Black Forest. Who wants to come along?