The Great Rivers of Europe   13 comments

The Great Rivers of Europe

Danube, Main & Rhine Rivers from Vienna, Austria to Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Nov. 13 – 28, 2011


Every gentle bend of the river revealed picturesque landscapes as our riverboat cruised its way along 948 miles of the storied rivers of the Danube, Main and Rhine.  The storybook towns beckoned from the river bank and we were enchanted as we strolled along the ancient streets.   The essence of the Old World was certainly enjoyed on this our 29th trip with Grand Circle Travel/Overseas Adventure Travel.   As an added bonus, Christmas Markets were opening and we delighted in the sights and sounds of merriment as we experienced Christkindlmarkt in five festive towns along the way.

Map picture
Save Money: If you decide you’d like to go on this or any Grand Circle Travel or Overseas Adventure Travel trip, and you are a first time traveler with them, they will give you $100 off any trip if you mention the name of my travel blog and my customer #561413. New travelers instantly receive $100 off the cost of the trip, and I will receive $100 when you depart on your trip.

Vienna Austria:  The magic of advent in Vienna was adorned by a Christmas Market in front of City Hall.  Jim & I were off to a great start on our trip by sampling the Gluhwein , a heated sweetened wine, and collecting our first Christmas Market mug of this adventure.  And of course a Christmas Market isn’t complete without some roasted chestnuts.  That evening the M/S River Melody sailed away on the Danube in a northwestern direction.




Wachau Valley & Melk Abbey:  Our travel on the river took us by lovely landscapes in the Wachau Valley.   Our first stop was the 900 year old baroque Melk Abbey, which was rising up from the countryside along the Danube and situated on a steep, cliff-side perch.  It became a Benedictine monastery in 1089.  The Abbey library includes more than 70,000 books from the 9th to 15th century and there 365 windows…one for every day of the year.  The inside of the Melk Abbey Church is beautiful.  Our visit also included the Abbey Wine Cellar and the pretty little town of Melk. 




Passau Germany:  Is the city of three rivers, situated at the confluence of the Danube, the Ilz, and the Inn rivers.  Passau is an elegant town that has served as a German cultural and intellectual hub for centuries.  The highlight of our visit was happening upon a concert at St. Stephen’s Cathedral.  This 17th century cathedral contains one of the world’s largest pipe organs, with 17,774 pipes and 234 resounding stops. 




Regensburg Germany:  This is Germany’s largest medieval city, was undamaged during World War II, and remains beautifully preserved.   The famous Stone Bridge (Germany’s oldest bridge), was constructed during the 12th century. 


Weltenburg Monastery:  Located along the Danube Gorge is Germany’s oldest Monastery, founded at the beginning of the 7th century.  The compound also houses the oldest monastery brewery in the world where they have been enjoying its famous dark brew for nearly 1,000 years.  The inside of the Abbey Church was beautiful.  Near the monastery we discovered a monument to three American soldiers. 


Germany is experiencing a drought.  The water level was so low that boats couldn’t operate in the Danube Gorge, so instead we visited this area by bus.   Below is a church and a cemetery in a little village.  Everything in Germany is immaculately kept. 


Nuremberg Germany:  The Kaiserburg Castle overlooks Nuremberg.  The imposing medieval castle was once the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire, and between 1050 and 1571 all Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire were in residence at least for some time.   Nuremberg was devastated by bombs during World War II, but much of the city was rebuilt and its Old World charm was restored.  We strolled all over the lovely town and even got to listen to a concert in the cathedral. 


Documentation Center:  Nuremburg held great significance during the Nazi Germany era.  The Nazi party chose the city to be the site of huge Nazi Party conventions and rallies.  Today, the rally Grounds is the location of a Museum called the Documentation Center.  It’s permanent exhibition “Fascination and Terror” is concerned with the causes, connections, and consequences of Nazi Germany.  We toured the museum and surrounding grounds, including the Zeppelin Field where the Nazi party held rallies for up to 100,000 spectators.   The last picture shows the huge convention and rally grounds as it appeared during Nazi times.

DSC06748 DSC00355


Bamberg Germany:  Is billed as being one of Germany’s most beautiful cities, and indeed it was beautiful.  Bamberg dates to the year 902 AD, and today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Bamberg’s architecture reflects more than 1,000 years of buildings on narrow cobblestone streets, ornate mansions and palaces, and impressive churches. 



Rhine, Main, Danube Canal:  The canal connects the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea providing a navigable artery between the Rhine delta and the Danube Delta.  The following are pictures taken between Bamberg and Karlstadt Germany. 



Karlstadt Germany:  A small medieval village in Bavaria on the Main River.  The ruins of the Karlsburg Castle from the Dark Ages is located across the river, on a hill overlooking the village. 


Wertheim Germany:  A pretty little town with a medieval town center,  half-timbered houses and small streets.  The Bert Wertheim Castle is the landmark of the town. 



Rothenburg Germany:  This 14th century town is located on the Tauber River about a one hour drive from where we were docked on the Main River.  The old town is a patchwork of winding cobbled lanes lined with picturesque half-timbered houses. 



Heidelberg Castle, Germany:  The number one attraction of Heidelberg is the Castle.  The earliest castle structure was built in 1214 and later extended into two castles in 1294.  In 1537 a lightning bolt destroyed the upper castle, with the damage still evident today.   Heidelberg Castle had a wine cellar.   The first “big barrel” in the cellar was built in 1591 with an even bigger one built in 1751 with a capacity of 55,345 gallons of wine.  In former times the wine growers had to pay their share of taxes by delivering wine to the castle. 


Heidelberg, Germany:  The highlight of the town was the Christmas Market.  We’d been seeing Christmas Market construction in Germany, but now one was finally open.  At each Christmas Market gluhwein (heated mulled wine) was available to purchase in a mug made especially for that town.  So the Heidelberg mug was our second of this trip, with three more to come. 


Mainz Germany:  Mainz is famous for the Gutenberg printing press.  The inventor Johannes Gutenberg was born here in 1397, and he created uniformly sized metal molds for letters that allowed him to create error-free repeatable text.  This was the beginning of the creation of moveable type that transformed the world.  Of course we visited the Gutenberg Museum and also delightfully enjoyed the Christmas Market of Mainz. 


Cruising the Rhine:  The Rhine River was at a 67 year low.  Our Captain carefully navigated the river because at times the water was only one foot below the ship’s draft.  


Koblenz Germany:  The 13th century town is located at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers, where the Duetsches Eck (German Corner) and its monument (Emperor William I on horseback) are situated.  We got to enjoy the Christmas Markets of Koblenz also. 


Cologne Germany:  The huge landmark of the area is the Cologne Cathedral which was built between 1248 and 1880.  It is the largest Gothic Church in northern Europe and has the 2nd tallest spire and largest façade of any church in the world.  The Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It largely escaped the Word War II damage that ravaged the city and the rest of Germany.  We arrived in Cologne on a Saturday and the Christmas Market was open and I do believe every German from Germany must have come to town that day.  We collected our 5th Christmas Market mug of this trip and now have a grand total of fourteen.


Amsterdam, The Netherlands:  Amsterdam is a city renowned for its canals, artistic cultures, and classic 17th century architecture.  It is the capital of the Netherlands and has always been about tolerance,  free trade and freedom of speech and expression. 


And thus, we come to the conclusion of the posting of another wonderful adventure of “thefarmersmeanderings.” 


Posted December 28, 2011 by marilynfarmer in Travel

13 responses to “The Great Rivers of Europe

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  1. Beautiful!! But it looks really cold there and very European LOL!

  2. Looks like lots of fun. Could we bring the Harley Trike? hehehe!!!!!

    Kurt and Michele Nunnenkamp
  3. We really enjoyed reading your blog, along with the beautiful photography. It appears you had a fantastic time. We have never taken a European River Cruise, and are researching it now. We are thinking of doing the Great Rivers of Europe for our first one. Good first choice? It looks like you two have experienced a lot of fun travel. Awesome!!!
    Thanks for sharing.

    Kathy & Frank Mooney
    • Kathy,
      Glad you enjoyed my blog, it’s lots of fun to do. I have a feeling you’d absolutely enjoy doing a European River Cruise. Actually I can’t imagine not enjoying it. We have done some of the other Grand Circle river cruises before I started my blog. However, if it is a first cruise for you I would recommend either “The Great Rivers” or “The Rhine & Mosel River Cruise.” That cruise is also on my blog. More area is covered in “The Great Rivers” but we loved the other one also. We did the “Switzerland” extension with the Rhine & Mosel and consider that to be almost a must. It was a fantastic overview of Switzerland and the price seemed right. If you decide to book a trip with Grand Circle or Overseas Adventure you can each get a $100 instant credit by using our name and 561413 and we will also get a travel credit. Happy travels to you!

  4. Just curious if you did receive the comments we submitted yesterday, Jan. 14, 2012? Thanks again.

    Kathy & Frank Mooney
  5. Thank you for the great pictures and stories. Looks like you had a wonderful time even though you are bundled up. We are considering this cruise for 2012 at the same time of year that you went. I am concerned about the weather being in the 40s. Were you able to still enjoy walking around with it being cold? Do you get off the ship each day? Were you able to enjoy the balconing even though it was cold outside? I have been on many cruises with the big cruise ships but this would be my first time on a river cruise. I am not sure if I should book something in September or October but the price for the trip in November has me thinking that I should consider it. Any advice you can provide would be appreciated.

    • Melody,
      You are welcome. We enjoy traveling in cold weather so much more than when it’s hot. We live in Kansas and are used to varied weather, but if you hate the cold I don’t imagine it would be for you. We dress appropriately so we stay warm, and one must take time for a cappuccino along the way. Yes, you get off the ship everyday and the program director will introduce you to the highlights of the town and then you are free to go on your own and do and see what you desire to see. I would do a river cruise any day over a large ship cruise but again that is a personal preference. We just got home from a Carnival cruise and I will be posting that soon. I enjoy a balcony for the view even if it’s too cold to sit out there. If you decide to book with Grand Circle or Overseas Adventure use my name and 561413 and each of you can get $100 instant savings on the trip, and I will receive a credit also. Happy travels!

  6. Thanks for the feedback, Marilyn. All the trips sound like so much fun and lots to see. When we book our trip with GCT, we will definitely give your name and number. Actually, I have something I wanted to share with you. When I was talking with a GC Travel counselor this past weekend I told him about your fantastic blog, and he planned on checking it out. I said that you should get some kind of travel bonus for helping to promote their trips. We still have a few more calls to make, but our hope is that we get our Great Rivers trip booked this week. Enjoy!!
    Kathy Mooney

    Kathy & Frank Mooney
  7. Thanks for the great pictues of your trip.

    To those of your worried about the time of year, I took a Christmas Markets river cruise in the area in December last year. The key is to dress in layers and dress warmly. I took a down coat, Smartwool socks and boots. We were able to sit on the Sun Deck one afternoon while cruising the Danube. Being from Dallas, I am not really accustomed to the cold weather, but with the right clothing, I was very comfortable and loved being there at that time of year.

  8. Great pictures and descriptions. This will be my 3rd river boat trip—going late Sept. Walk with cane and forgot about all the cobblestone streets. Hope I can manage to see some of the sights, otherwise will stay on board and watch the scenary go by,

    Thank you for your website. Jean

  9. Greetings from Boston from my husband and I! We just returned from this fabulous river cruise to Germany. Loved every minute. I was so busy taking unbelievable photos, that I had a hard time listening to the history on all the walks. You are amazing in your recall. I journaled the trip each day, and if you don’t mind, I’d love to take your facts and fill them into all of our stops along the way. You are incredibly bright, were you a history major? We loved river cruising so much, that our next venture will be to Paris, and taking the Seine River cruise! We’ve never been to Paris before, so looking forward to it very much. Thank you so much for helping me out with my journal, I so appreciate it!! Jill

    • Hi Jill. Greetings from the rural countryside of Kansas. “The Great Rivers” was an absolutely wonderful itinerary with so much to see and do. We have been on the Seine river cruise and you will also love it. Enjoy every minute of Paris also. Thank you for your kind comments. No I wasn’t a history major, but love doing research. You may use my facts to get your story up to speed. I do have my own little rule and that this travel blog has to be done within three weeks of returning from a trip. I also do a slide show complete with music and a few facts. Don’t get photos and put them in a drawer. I make a photo book that one builds on line and submits and a week later, it appears in our mailbox! Used to print out some but this book is so much better. You can add a few facts on various pages also. Just a few thoughts about making memories with your travel. Happy travels, enjoy every wonderful moment that is available.

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