Sue mad or were we? A four countries River Cruise up the Rhine
and down the Danube, not to mention the Rhine Main Danube Canal
(RMD Canal) which connects the Main & Danube Rivers across
the European watershed. 102 in the group - two coaches, two
planes and returning to two different airports! After a cheerful
very early start to our journey we arrived at Dusseldorf to
find that the River Cruise Company had sent a coach which appeared
not to have enough seats. After a roll call to make sure we
had no illegal immigrants on board, two of the group had to
stay behind to await the next coach, leaving their wives on
board with passports and money! The coach driver had difficulty
in finding the ship amidst the chaos of a Bank Holiday in Cologne.
weather and atmosphere were a fine greeting but it was still
quite a lengthy walk to our ship! Fortunately our luggage was
taken care of and we were greeted by friendly staff, a sparkling
clean ship and later an excellent meal, by which time the second
coach had arrived and the “troops” had rallied in
true ‘Extroverts’ fashion!
set off for the 1,516 km journey and 66 locks! At first some
found it disturbing travelling overnight through the locks but
ear plugs were provided and each day was an adventure to be
enjoyed. Our first cable car ride at Koblenz, over the confluence
of the Moselle & Rhine Rivers in sunshine up to the Ehrenbreitstein
Fortress was a huge success. However at Rudesheim, where a Harley
Davidson rally had closed the roads ashore, we encountered a
thunderstorm that also closed the cable car. The visit to a
musical museum was mesmerising and the Extrovert’s choir
joined in familiar songs mechanically played! Some returned
to the ship like drowned rats while others found a cafe for
a Rudesheimer coffee made with brandy, set alight and topped
with cream! The Chef on our ship Serenity had promised a spectacular
thunderstorm and we were not disappointed!
had sailed the romantic Rhine Gorge (World Heritage Site) in
sunshine, mostly on top deck with commentary, legends and views
of vineyards stretching up from the river. We joined in the
“Lorelei” song as we passed her statue (too far
away to tempt any of our men) and the “Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer”
song as we sailed past Katzenellen Bogen by the Sea (or River)!
We passed pretty villages and towns all making the most of their
towpaths and leisure facilities down by the river - menacing
fortresses and fairytale castles on every side made it all very
magical. After the big storm the weather improved for us - always
warm and ‘Sueshine’ appeared between clouds just
when we needed it; as we sailed on we joined the River Main
as we headed towards Frankfurt.
for Frankfurt were hampered by roads closed for a Marathon but
tours on foot continued. On the far bank was a fete and the
biggest duck race ever seen turning the river into a mass of
yellow. Bands were playing and the sky line reminiscent of New
York - the peace of the Rhine Gorge seemed a world away. We
continued towards Wertheim, a delightful small town where most
enjoyed the land train and were inspired by a visit to a glass
factory; others explored on foot and some purchased items to
wear for a ‘Pirates evening’ on board ship. We were
greeted at dinner by waiting staff dressed as fierce pirates,
the restaurant decorated with skull and crossbones flags and
drapes. Sanity returned next day for our tour of the Residence
Palace in the city of Wurzburg, the palace was full of Baroque
furniture and art work; the gardens were breathtaking and perfumed
by English roses.
were now in Bavaria, Germany’s largest region - onwards
to Bamberg for the start of the (RMD Canal). Bamberg’s
old town is built on seven hills, listed as a World Heritage
site because of its authentic medieval appearance. Thence we
travelled to Nuremberg, the second largest city in the region
to Munich. Most of the city walls still stand and churches and
cathedral were visited. From the next town of Regensberg we
joined a cruise through the magnificent Danube Gorge which was
in contrast to the Rhine Gorge with menacing high cliffs and
caves and occasional castles. We visited the oldest Monastery
in Bavaria where we ate our picnic lunches and some tried the
black beer of the area. Our next destination was Passau - “the
three rivers city” where the Rivers Danube, Inn &
Ilz meet. Our berth was close to the town and some went to the
Cathedral of St Steven to hear an incredible organ recital,
later most had a guide tour whilst others explored this delightful
city independently. Later we sailed past the different colours
of the confluence of the three rivers on our way to Melk in
Austria. We visited the Benedictine Abbey set in the most beautiful
surroundings and admired the exquisite Chapel before continuing
our cruise through the Wachau Valley for 24 miles of stunning
scenery with mysterious forests. We reached Vienna in the evening
and some went ashore to explore.
following day our tour showed us the magnificent buildings then
in the afternoon we savoured the delights of the Schonbrunn
Palace and gardens. It was a bonus to sail past the city as
we set sail on a beautiful evening towards our third country,
Slovakia. The Capital Bratislavia is an interesting town and
good tour guides told us much about its history. We approached
Budapest in Hungary late at night and cannot truly put into
words the sight of this amazing city “alight” with
the greatest show on earth! The Captain surprised us with a
Hungarian gypsy quartet on top deck as we sailed to our berth.
The sights were still to be enjoyed next day and the busy city
contrasted with the peaceful arrival by river of the previous
night - our last night and time to reflect on the highlights
of this amazing adventure.
were intriguing Castles, breathtaking churches and deep forests
along the way with local life on the towpaths for most of the
way. Small river beaches and the nudists who saw us before we
saw them! We experienced so many contrasts with a new experience
around every bend in the river, there with herons galore and
some heard cuckoos. River traffic could be a cargo ship carrying
many cars or someone on a paddle board. The rivers were sometimes
narrow sometimes as wide as a lake but always full and fast
flowing - at times busy whilst sometimes it felt as though we
had the river to ourselves.
The staff and crew worked hard for us dealing with our many
requests. They made sure tour leaders were told to go slowly
for the group with walking difficulties. There were other passengers
on board and Lisa the Cruise director arranged quizzes and a
wonderful musical quiz which had everyone on the dance floor.
We had a keyboard player who played every evening but it was
mostly the other group who danced the night away. Seating in
the lounge was comfortable and the bar was run by cheerful waiters.
A coffee bar providing hot free drinks 24/7 proved to be very
popular and became the ‘Extroverts Office’ at times!
engineering of some of the 66 locks is breath-taking, up to
25m deeps they are incredible, recycling most of the water they
use and creating electricity in the process. Our Captain Marco
had a tough journey with the rivers running so full due to heavy
rain and even a loss of radar and lock lights. However he enjoyed
the challenge whilst we slept peacefully in our beds!
102 “up” and 102 “down” and safely home.
Sue was not “mad “and had planned it in detail.
We were not “mad” either as we knew she could do
it! Mission accomplished and very much enjoyed.