Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Rhine River Cruise: Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Switzerland, Germany, France and Netherlands

Following the death of Judy's mother, money was set aside from her estate so that her children, and their spouses, could take a cruise together. Her mother was German, so a trip that included Germany was born: a Viking River Cruise from Basel to Amsterdam. Once that was decided, Judy and I made plans to go early and travel before the cruise and Judy's sister Chris, and her husband, Stan, joined us. 

We left LAX on Friday morning in May 2012 and arrived in Prague, Czech Republic, Saturday morning, after a layover at JFK. After checking in at the Marriott Executive Apartments, we met in Old Town Square at 1:45 p.m. for a Sandemans NewEurope Tour (a free tour), that took us through most of Old Prague, including the Jewish Quarter. It was a great way to get a quick orientation of the city so that we could go back later to sites we wanted to spend more time at. We took another Sandemans Tour on Sunday, to Kutna Hora, a one hour train ride each way, where we saw the fabulous Sedlec Ossuary and St.Barbara's Church. Other than those two specific tours, the rest of our Saturday, Sunday and Monday were spent following our whims, going back to places we wanted to see more in depth. 
     Prague, Part 2: The City  (Judy)
     Prague, Part 3: Castle Hill  (Judy) 

We left Prague at 11:17 p.m. on Monday night on a sleeper train for Vienna. We have decided that we will take no more sleeper trains (see Judy's post for the details). We arrived in Vienna Tuesday morning at 6:30 a.m. We checked in to the Courtyard by Marriott Vienna Schoenbrunn and then visited the Schoenbrunn Palace, the Kunsthistoriches Museum, the Secession Building and Klimt Frieze, St. Charles Church and St. Stephen's Cathedral. 

Wednesday morning we rented a car at Sixt Rent a Car for a drive to Mauthausen Concentration Camp, a little less than a two hour drive (104 miles). Sixt did not have a gps navigation system for us that made getting in and out of Vienna on our bad map a bit more exciting than I wanted it to be. Mauthausen was a sobering and powerful experience. On the way back to Vienna, we decided to stop at the fabulous Melk Abbey and then had a very nice dinner at Restaurant Zur Post in Melk. 
     Melk, Austria  (Judy)
     Melk Abbey  (Bob)

Thursday morning we caught a 7:50 a.m. train for Bratislava, Slovakia. It arrived in Bratislava at 9:01 a.m. We then had to catch a train for Budapest at 11:54 a.m., leaving us less than three hours to see Bratislava. I took some heat for this stop, one of my check-off-the-list countries, but I think at the end of the day the others were glad we'd done it. Aside from St. Martin's Cathedral, we mostly just walked and gawked. We arrived in Budapest at 2:35 p.m. and were met at the train station by Judy's niece, Julie, and her friend, Alex. Julie and Alex were LDS missionaries in Budapest and know it well. So they were our guides. We spent the balance of Thursday, and all of Friday and Saturday in Budapest (we spent Thursday and Friday nights at the Millennium Court Marriott). Rather than try to break down our activities on a day-to-day basis, I just lay them out altogether. 
     Bratislava, Slovakia  (Judy)
     Budapest, Part 3: Castle Hill  (Judy) 
     Hungarian Food  (Bob) 
     Trofea Grill - Budapest  (Bob)

On Saturday night, we left Budapest on a sleeping train at 7:20 p.m. (see the post above about problems with sleeping trains) and arrived in Basel, Switzerland Sunday morning at 8:27 a.m. We were met at the train station by several members of Judy's family and taken to the hotel where they were staying to store our luggage. We had the day to explore Basel, then checked in to our Viking Cruise for the night. Our cruise left that evening for Breisach, Germany. 
     Basel, Switzerland, Part 1  (Judy)
     Red-Crested Pochard  (Bob)
     Basel, Part 2: An Artsy City  (Judy) 

Monday morning we were moored in Breisach. I took an early morning walk along the Rhine and saw some birds. We took a bus into the Black Forest and visited the Abbey of St. Peter and a cuckoo clock making factory. In the afternoon we took a bus into Colmar, France and had a tour of that beautiful town and then free time to wander. Later that afternoon we walked into Breisach. 
     Egyptian Goose  (Bob)
     Mute Swan  (Bob)
     Colmar, France: Part 1  (Judy)
     White Stork  (Bob)

Tuesday morning we arrived in Kehl, Germany. First thing we took a guided bus tour of Strasbourg, France, driving past the Palais de L'Europe which is where the European Parliament meets.  Then we got time on the ground and visited the Church of St. Thomas and Strasbourg Cathedral, including a walk up to the top which was spectacular. In the afternoon we switched to the German side of the Rhine and walked through Kehl, Germany, including the Kehler Kirchen (Kehl Church) and St. John Nepomuk Church.
     Strasbourg, France: Part 1  (Judy)
     White Stork  (Bob)
     Strasbourg Cathedral  (Judy)
     Strasbourg Cathedral  (Bob)
     St. Thomas Church - Strasbourg, France  (Bob)
     Kehl, Germany  (Judy)
     Eurasian Coot  (Bob)

Wednesday morning early the Viking ship arrived in Mannheim, Germany. I went out on an early morning walk and saw much of downtown Mannheim. We took a bus to Heidelberg and got a tour of the castle. We were then given time on our own and went through the Church of the Holy Spirit and the Church of the Jesuits. We took a bus back to the ship, had lunch, and started up the Rhine again. Later in the afternoon we arrived in Rudesheim and docked. There were no tours that were of interest to us, so we just walked through the small town and into the hills above covered with rows and rows of grapes and views below of the Rhine.
     Heidelberg Castle  (Judy)
     Heidelberg, Part 2  (Judy)
     Church of the Holy Spirit - Heidelberg  (Bob)
     Jesuit Church - Heidelberg  (Bob)
     Rudesheim, Germany  (Judy)
     Mallard  (Bob)
     Greylag Goose  (Bob)
     Atlantic Canada Goose  (Bob)
     European Wood Pigeon  (Bob)
     Egyptian Goose  (Bob)

Thursday morning, early, I went out for a walk on the hill above Rudesheim. I walked by St. Hildegard Monastery and wished I could get inside. It was beautiful. We set off for the early part of the day on the ship driving through and viewing the castles on the Rhine. We stopped for a tour of Marksburg Castle, then continued on to Koblenz at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers. We took a tram across the Rhine and up to the mountain Ehrenbreitstein Fortress with tremendous views of the Rhine and Koblenz. One of the most spectacular views of the trip. After touring the fortress, we took the tram back down and walked through Koblenz, including the Church of the Beloved Lady.
     Castles on the Rhine  (Judy)
     Poetry and Art: Loreley  (Judy)
     Braubach, Germany: Marksburg Castle  (Judy)
     Koblenz, Germany  (Judy)

We arrived in Cologne Friday morning and had a guided walking tour through the Old Town, including Cologne's Cathedral. We walked to the top and got a great view. Afterwards we toured the Romano-Germanic Museum, then, on our own, ate lunch at Herings im Martinswinkel, explored St. Martin's Church and visited the Lindt Chocolate Museum.
     Cologne, Germany, Part 1: The Cathedral  (Judy)
     Cologne Cathedral  (Bob)
     Cologne, Germany, Part 2: A Walk Around the City and the Antiquities Museum  (Judy)
     Herings im Martinswinkel: Cologne  (Bob)
     Great St. Martin Church - Cologne, Germany  (Bob)
     Cologne, Germany, Part 3: Judy and the Chocolate Factory/Museum  (Judy)
     Cologne, Germany, Part 4: Addendum  (Judy)

Saturday morning we cruised through the Netherlands. Early in the afternoon we arrived at Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands and gave us an opportunity to go inside one and to walk and bicycle along a canal, looking at birds. Afterwards, it was back on the boat for Amsterdam.
     Kinderdijk, Netherlands: Walking into a Post Card  (Judy)
     Great Crested Grebe  (Bob)
     European Herring Gull (Bob)
     Hybrid Greylag or Domestic Goose  (Bob)
     Greylag Goose  (Bob)

Sunday morning we arrived in Amsterdam, the end of our river cruise, on a cold, rainy day. We walked around unsuccessfully looking for a church service, visiting the outside of Oude Kirk and the Red Light District in the process. We checked into our weird, funky citizenM Hotel (which Judy loved and I hated), then met at the Reypenaer Cheesing Tasting Room for cheese tasting at noon. After a short break, we met back at Reypenaer for a three hour tour we arranged with a private guide, Al Walet. Afterwards we visited the Amsterdam Museum and the Anne Frank House.
     Amsterdam, Part 1  (Judy)
     Reypenaer Cheese Tasting  (Bob)
     Amsterdam, Part 3: Two Places to Stay and Two Churches  (Judy)  

Monday was a quick succession of churches and museums: The Rijks Museum, the Van Gogh Museum, the New Church (De Nieuwe Kerk), the Old Church (Oude Kerk), the Rembrandt House Museum, and the Jewish Historical Museum.
     Amsterdam, Part 2: Art  (Judy)
     Oude Kerk - Amsterdam  (Bob)
     Amsterdam, Part 4: The End  (Judy)

Tuesday we met Al Walet again for a four hour tour of Leiden. He met us in our hotel lobby at 9:00 a.m. and we took the train from the Zuid Station. Afterwards we spent more time in Amsterdam, visiting the Biblical Museum, the Dutch Resistance Museum, the Hermitage, the National Maritime Museum and the Museum of Our Lord in the Attic.
     Leiden, Holland: Part 1  (Judy)
     Leiden, Holland: Part 2  (Judy)
     Mute Swan  (Bob)
     St. Pancras or Highland Church - Leiden  (Bob)

Wednesday morning we had a direct flight from Amsterdam to LAX, leaving at 9:50 a.m. and arriving at 11:50 a.m. 

1 comment:

  1. This was such an amazing trip. I only wish Mom had been there to enjoy it with us. She tried for so many years to get us all together to do this. She would have loved being with us. I hope she was.