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Journeys : Dec2011 Jan2012
Having traversed Europe via plane, train and automobile, coach, ship, and the odd donkey (hands up who’s been to Santorini!), when the opportunity arose to sample the delights of Europe while wending my way through its water ways on a river cruise, I jump at the chance. Rather than embarking immediately on my river cruise, I choose to spend a few days in Ger many beforehand, so clutching my Eurail pass in hand, I head off to the adjacent train station to hop on one of the very modern, streamlined, fast and efficient Inter-City Express trains down to Munich. Once in Munich I wander around this beautiful, vibrant city experiencing its histor y and culture first-hand. From the amazingly decorated Marionplatz Square with the Town Hall and its quaint carillon, or the sumptuous décor of the 400 year old Royal Residenz, through to the stunning modern architecture of the BMW Welt and Museum, Munich is a city with a little of something for everyone. I will admit to baulking at downing a litre tankard of Hof brau beer, preferring to simply watch in awe as the diminutive waitresses in their traditional Bavarian garb carry upwards of eight tankards from bar to table. Another smooth and speedy train ride on the ICE train from Munich finds me in Nuremburg, where I join the APT River cruise ship Amabella. The chance to unpack, unw ind and relax for the seven-day journey along the Main River, Danube Canal and the Rhine River through to Amsterdam is shaping up to be one of my more memorable European dalliances. The cruise takes us through what I have started to tag ‘berg and burg’ countr y – beautiful medieval walled towns like Nuremberg, Bamberg, Wurzburg and Miltenberg. These quaint Bavarian towns also feature the famous Kathe Wolf hart Christmas shops where I manage to display prev iously unheard-of retail self-control and only come away with four or five trinkets for this year’s Christmas tree. Over the next few days I experience the delightful village of Wurzburg with its Unesco World Heritage listed baroque Residenz Bishop’s Palace, then on to the beautiful walled town of Rothenberg overlooking the Tauber River with its iconic half-timbered medieval houses, narrow cobblestone streets and jaw-dropping Christmas Museum. The opportunity to take a locally guided bicycle tour from Wertheim to Freudenberg gives me a true insight into the riverside towns from a totally different perspective from the one experienced from the upper deck of our river cruise ship. Continuing along the Main River the countryside is serene and relaxing, and there is always something to look at from the top deck as you glide along, savouring the sights with a coffee or cool drink in hand. Visiting Wertheim with its massive castle overlooking the town and on to Miltenberg the countryside starts to alter slightly as we head closer into the R hine Gorge area. A tour of the Rhine Valley w ine town of Rudesheim, famous for its rather potent Asbach brandy, takes in the captivating Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum. A cr uise through the Rhine Gorge, arguably the most beautiful stretch of the Rhine, has me heading up onto the sun-deck with camera in hand to take in the charming views of steep slopes covered in vineyards and dotted around every bend with ancient castles. The tour director provides a fascinating running commentary on the villages and castles we pass and regales us w ith the legend of the infamous Lorelai. With an overnight stop in Koblenz we sail through on to Cologne, a visually stunning city, dominated by the twin spires of its famous cathedral. A guided tour inside leads me to declare this to be one of the most spectacular churches I have visited – particularly with its moder n abstract stained glass window. The last leg of the cruise takes me through the flat countryside of Holland as I sail on to A msterdam, where my cr uise concludes. Here I have the opportunity to spend a few days sampling Amsterdam’s many attractions, soaking up the atmosphere of this unique canal city, its picturesque buildings, cafes and interesting nightlife before heading out to the renowned Keukenhoff Gardens with their magnificent display of spring tulips. Saying farewell to Amsterdam, I head back by train to Frankfurt for the long f light home. My trip has had the best of both worlds with some time to take in the sights of Germany and Holland, and of course the wonderfully relaxing river cruise, a unique and memorable way to experience this picturesque slice of Europe. Floating through ‘berg and burg’ country Sue Leake cruises European rivers Clockwise from above left: AMA Amabella leaving Wertheim; Fortress Marien berg at Wurzbu rg; Town Hall, Mu nich. All photos Cara Mexted Contact Sue at RACT Travelworld, 110 Collins Street, or call her on 6222 9204. December 2011 / January 2012 61
Oct Nov 2011
Feb March 2012