The trip from Cologne to Amsterdam took approximately 18 hours with our arrival between 111:30-12:30. Upon arriving in Amsterdam the group met in the lounge and we faced the second crisis of the trip as the Tour Organizer (Larry) had not made hotel reservations for Monday evening!! Thanks to the Travel Advisor website we were able to book hotel reservations for Monday evening at the same hotel where reservations had been made for Tuesday and Wednesday!
The afternoon was spent by taking a combination of a Canal water cruise, a short walking tour and a bus tour. Randy & Kathy elected to take toe Jewish Heritage tour and the rest of us received a mixed review ot this tour. Kathy did not speak favorably of the tour as the tour director spent a lot of time explaining things in great detail. Randy, on the other hand, thought the tour was good because of the detailed explanation given by the tour director. The rest of the group ended their tour with drinks and food at Freddy’s, a bar that was originally setup by Freddy Heineken as part of the hotel that he purchased for his wife. Ellen was excited as they served Heineken Light, which the bartender told us was the only place that had the Light on tap in the city.
During the weekend, Amsterdam’s population increased by about 100,000 as a result of the celebrations of gay pride week. The normally pristine city was littered with trash virtually everywhere as a result of the celebration. The cleanup was in process led by private citizens taking the initiative as volunteers to clean up the canal.
The evening concluded with the usual fantastic dinner followed by a classical concert by a group named LA STRADA playing in the lounge. Not all of us stayed for the entire concert as we needed to prepare for disembarkation the next morning. And, David and Ellen checked out after dinner to go to their apartment as David had to return to work on Monday morning.
I believe that all of us would rate River Cruising as a “Do-Over” and the AMA Waterways boat with a 4-5 rating. The boat was clean, the staff were very helpful, the rooms were good and the food was excellent!
The last 3 days of our trip will be in Amsterdam where the women promise to shop and the men promise not to complain. Interspersed between shopping might be a visit to several Museums and the Heineken Brewry.
Today’s journey started in Koblenz at 6:45 AM and we arrived in Cologne slightly before noon. Cologne is a major cultural center with one of the oldest Universities in Germany. The population of Cologne is just over 1 million and was originally settled by the Romans in 50 BC. The highlight of the afternoon in Cologne was their Cathedral, which was the tallest building in Europe until the Eiffel tower in Paris was constructed.
Randy & Kathy took a tour to sample Cologne culinary delights and the rest of the group took a Cologne City Walk and all of us ended up at the Cathederal. After the visit to the cathedral most of the group met up at a local eatery to have a plate of Reibekuchen (potato fritters), Kolsch (a Cologne beer) and other German beverages and food. The last stop was at a Cologne store to shop for fragrances that are known for their production in Cologne.
The boat then left for the last leg of the trip to Amsterdam at 6:30 in the evening. The evening events were a FAREWELL COCKTAI in the lounge with introductions to the crew of the boat and the CAPTAIN’S FAREWELL GALA DINNER. Our group attended the dinner dressed in casual attire and it was interesting to see the other travelers dressed in mostly casual attire with only a few dressed in more formal wear.
Today started with a stop in Rudesheim and a tour of a vineyard with a wine tasting and a gondola over vineyards. Rudesheim is a very quaint town with approximately 7,000 citizens in the heart of a very robust wine area. Following the wine tasting we were able spend some time in the town shopping before returning to our boat.
We were scheduled to leave the dock at 2:00 for the most scenic segment of the trip through the Rhine Gorge to Koblenz and the viewing of dozens of castle’s along the way. Before we could get away the Captain informed us that the river was closed because of the discovery of an unexploded WW II Bomb dropped by American aircraft in the area between the two towns. The river has been very low on water due to a lack of rain and another cruise boat saw the bomb located in an area that was exposed because of the low water. In approximately 2 hours we were able to leave as the Bomb Squad was able to disable the bomb and it was once again safe to travel.
The Rhine gorge was the most scenic section of the trip to date with a castle located every several miles along the way. Check out the SmugMug site for photos showing the castles and German landscape that is the best viewing during the cruise:
We arrived in Koblenz between 6-7 PM, just in time for dinner. Tomorrow we will cruise to the German city of Cologne, which is the 3rd largest in Germany.
The Cruise boat stopped at Mannheim late morning, and the group elected to go to Heidelberg. Mannheim is a city of approximately 300,000 and Heidelberg is a city of approximately 150,000. Heidelberg is a University City with a student population of around 50,000 and it is the oldest University in Germany.
The highlights for this trip was a walking tour called the “Heidelberg Philosophers Hike” and the less stressful tour of the extensive castle. Randy & Kathy elected to take the Hike and reported that it was really fantastic and that their guide was great.
The rest of the group went to the Castle and found it also to be very facinating with a lot of history dating back many centuries. Heidlelberg University dates back to 1386 and was the 4th university established in the Holy Roman Empire. Heidlebery also has one of the longest shopping streets in Germany, which obviously was attractive to the females in our group.
After the evening meal we met several fellow travelers with connections to Anthony and Manchester as well as Edmond, Oklahoma. Not only were they connected to the towns, but they were distant relatives of Kathy Lanie—Pretty cool!
The SmugMug website has been updated through today, so check it out at:
Tomorrow we will sail “The Rhine Gorge” & “Rhine Castles & Ruins”, so look for a lot of photos on the SmugMug website tomorrow evening.
The boat arrived at Kehl, which is the German gateway to Strasburg, which is located adjoining the Rhine on the German side. Half of our group took the early tour into Strasburg, which left at 9:30 and the others left at 10:30.
Strasburg is a city of over 250,000 population located in the ALSACE-LORAINE Region in France. Over 50,000 of the population are students at the University. This region has been part of both France and Germany on 4 separate occasions during the past 2 centuries. The city’s origin dates back to Roman times when it was part of the Holy Roman Empire. In fact, the entire Strasburg City Center was classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988.
The highlight of the tour was the visit to the Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg. Shopping was also quite good with many upscale stores operating in the city. While at the Cathedral Vicki lit a votive Candle for our sister Nancy and Randy, Kathy, Vicki and Larry said a short silent prayer for Nancy!
Just a short comment on the Lion King production. Vicki and I thought we had seen this production, but we were wrong. The Invalids got to the Theater about 30 minutes before the start — we are getting pretty good with the Basel Tram system!
The production, which was all in english, was a great show. We think it’s kinda neat that we can say that we saw the production in Basel!
I have now been able to upload all of the photos from yesterdays trip to Lucerne: http://ljl-photos.llanie.com/2015-Europe-RiverCruise
More to come with photos from our walking/tram excursion in Basel tomorrow. We check into the boat at 3:00 PM tomorrow.
All of the group got up later today! Randy & Kathy left the hotel to find a church to attend Sunday services. Johnny & Kathy, Larry & Vicki made breakfast at the hotel and David & Ellen got up later. We found David at Starbucks next door and then Ellen joined us, so the six of us (excluding Randy & Kathy) ventured out to take a tour of Basel on the Tram, which did not cost us anything as our hotel provided City Passes.
Randy & Kathy caught up with us at a Mexican Restaurant and then joined us on the rest of a walking tour through Old Town Basel on the way to the Rhine River. The guys were elated to find that all of the shops were closed for Sunday!
We ended the day by going to the Theater to see “The Lion King”, which was performed in English. As usual, this event was arranged at the suggestion of the female members of the group! Yvonne, one of the desk clerks at the hotel, was a great help in getting the tickets to the Play. We found out she likes White Wine, so we must get her a bottle before we leave.
The uploading of photos continues to be problematic as the internet continues to be slow and the photos are very large and the volume of photos has been large. Larry took >150 photos yesterday during the trip to Lucerne. However, they have now uploaded with a smaller footprint.
We get on the River Boat tomorrow and stay the night on the boat in Basel. Somehow, the gals influenced this so they can go to the shops tomorrow.
The eight of us took an exciting train trip from Amsterdam to Basel on a high speed EuroRail train. The first segment of the trip to Frankfurt was in Coach Class, but the segment from Frankfurt to Basel we were able to go 1st Class! The trip took slightly over 7 hours to complete with the train speed ranging up to 186 MPH.
The trip was had some excitement starting with our failure to validate our Eurail Pass and getting lectured by the guy checking tickets. We had 20 minutes between trains in Frankfurt to validate the Passes for the next segment and get the luggage on the train. David and Larry gathered the Passports and had the Passes validated and almost missed getting back on the train! But, their excellent physical shape and ability to run pervailed with seconds to spare. We have named our travel group “The Invalids” as a result of this experience.
The second segment was also exciting as Vicki, Kathy L and Larry got off the train at the first Basel stop, which was 6 minutes from the Basel stop that was our destination. The rest of The Invalids watched us as the train departed! The three Left Behind Invalids were able to catch the next train in 20 minutes and rejoined the group at the Central Train station in Basel.
The evening was spent with dinner at a Swiss Restauarant a short distance from the Hotel (we stayed at the Metropol Hotel). We have decided to take a train to Lucerne on Saturday as the women determined that the shops would likely be closed in Lucerne on Sunday (the guys lost out!).
The women on the trip decided for the group (the guys agreed) that we should go to Lucerne on Saturday as many stores were likely going to be closed on Sunday. After breakfast at the hotel, we got on an 11:04 train for the short 1:13 hour train trip to Lucerne. We had purchased a 5 day Eurail Select Pass that allowed us to go to Lucerne at no additional cost.
Upon arriving in Lucerne we took a cruise for 2.5 hours on Lake Lucerne, which had great views of the city and the Swiss Alps. The Eurail Pass allowed up to take the cruise for no additional cost.
After the cruise we walked around the Old Town area in Lucerne and the group did some shopping until the stores closed at approximately 4:30. We had dinner while in Lucerne and then caught a train back to Basel in the early evening.
The evening concluded with the group getting together for drinks and food at a hospitality room provided by the hotel. At midnight, after many stories and other great conversation as well at hamburgers from Burger King, we crashed and went to our rooms for the evening.
We all took a lot of photos while in Lucerne, so check the Photo site for them when I can update it: http://ljl-photos.llanie.com/2015-Europe-RiverCruise