It’s not often that I experience bumps along the way when traveling. The odd trip, a bag is missing on arrival, but it always shows up. It’s always a great reminder to have insurance for unforseen situations. This trip had a small issue at the beginning. Our ship, the Avalon Visionary, was unable to sail into Budapest to pick us up as planned, due to a cargo ship that had ran aground up river. Avalon was able to keep us moving, and we even had an extra stop in Bratislava, Slovakia before continuing on to Vienna for 2 nights. We boarded a coach from Budapest for Bratislava.
Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia, and is on the River Danube. Our guided tour took us around the city to see the Bratislava Castle, Matej Kren Passage, and the Slavin War Memorial among many other sites. This city has a peaceful feel to it and it would be a great place to go back to for a few days.
Next stop — Vienna! Our coach arrives later in the afternoon. There is an optional tour available for the Vienna Royal Waltz, which many of our group join in. Our guided tour the next morning takes us around the city past many highlights before continuing on a walking tour. Vienna is the capital of Austria and has a population of approximately 1.8 million. The Viennese imperial court was famous for its Lippizaner horses. There is plenty of time to wander the city to check out Museums, or stop for a coffee and a piece of the famous Sachertorte. This chocolate cake is a must when traveling to Vienna!
On our last evening in Vienna, we receive news that we will join our ship in Durnstein, Austria the next morning. We are all very excited!!
Durnstein — We arrive and see our ship, and then enjoy a short walking tour into the town of Durnstein on the bank of the Danube. We learn the tale of England’s King Richard the Lionheart, who was imprisoned in the castle whose ruins still stand above the town. Durnstein is also well known for its wineries, and reisling wines. We were also able to sample some delicious apricot brandies and liqueurs!
The Avalon Visionary is a beautiful ship with 12 staterooms, and 52 suites. Once on board, you can just sit back, relax and enjoy the most amazing views. We cruised along the Danube, Rhine Gorge, Main and Mosel rivers on our way to Remich before heading to Paris. The ship has everything we need for a very enjoyable trip. 3 meals are included each day, with beer and wine at lunch and dinner.
This afternoon, we enjoy a stop in Melk, to see the 11th century Benedictine Abbey, one of Europe’s largest monasteries. The abbey has an library that houses over 80,000 printed books and 2000 manuscripts.
Our next stop is in Passau, Germany. This city is situated at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers. The Old City was destroyed several times by fires in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is a great place to get to know some German beers which are famous around the world. A favorite thing to do when visiting these cities, is to wander through the Old Towns. Most have narrow streets, and little cafes. It’s a great way to get a feel for the city.
Regensburg is our next stop. This city is more than 2000 years old and in 2006, the whole of the Old City was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. St Peters Cathedral is a highlight. Six centuries span the beginning of the Cathedral’s construction in 1250 and the final completion of its spires in 1869. The city has no less that 1300 listed buildings of historic interest. We also had the opportunity to enjoy a sausage and sauerkraut treat at the Old Sausage House – Wurstkuchl. It claims to be the world’s oldest fried sausage kitchen. Simply delicious!
Nuremberg! This city is full of so much German history. It embraces both its triumphs and its darkest hours. It became a prosperous medieval city where German Emperors traditionally held their first Imperial Assemby. Later, the Nazis held their party rallies here, so, it became the natural target of allied bombs and the obvious venue for the trials of the Nazi war criminals. Rebuilding has now restored many of the city’s glories.
We spend the night docked near Nuremberg, and the next morning, we have an included day trip to nearby Munich. This is the capital of Bavaria. Our first stop is at Nymphenburg Palace, a summer residence of the Bavarian monarchs. Then, we enjoy our walking tour of Munich ending at the Marienplatz to watch the famous Glockenspiel, which recreates a royal wedding from the 16th century. In our free time, we wander into the Hofbrauhaus Biergarten. This 3 floor beer hall dates back to the 16th century, and is a big draw during Oktoberfest.
Bamberg – The German Rome. This beautiful city is built on 7 hills flanking the River Regnitz. Bambergs Old City has been declared a Unesco World Heritage site. This is definitely a walking city. The Old City Hall is built on a bridge, which makes it’s location quite unique. Bamberg has a true specialty, the Rauch-bier. It has a distinctive smoky flavor that is derived from its malt being roasted over beech-wood. A must try when visiting.
After visiting the city of Wurzburg, it’s hard to believe that most of it was reduced to smoldering rubble during allied air attacks in 1945. Since then, they have risen from the ashes, resorting and recreating many architectural treasures that make this city a great place to visit.
Our Main River Village experiences takes us to Miltenberg, Germany. It is notable for its many beautiful preserve half timbered houses that line its long HauptstaBe (Main Street). The buildings span from the 15th to 17th centuries. Views from the Miltenburg Castle are stunning.
Rudesheim! This is a personal favorite. When we arrive, we go directly to the Siegfrieds Mechanical Musikkabinett. The insutruments and music boxes range from the quaint to the downright bizzare. Afterward, we go for a coffee tasting in Rudesheimer Schloss. This includes brandy and sugar, with coffee and whipped cream. Not to be missed!
In the afternoon, we sail along the Rhine with spectacular views of castles, , vineyards and half timbered villages. This part of Germany is listed as a Unesco protected World Heritage site.
Once we turn onto the Mosel River, we cruise past Koblenz, and on to Bernkastel. The Landshut Castle sits high up on the hill. It is a steep climb, wandering through vineyards up to this medieval fortress, but you are rewarded with great views at the top. The town has a great selection of half timbered houses by the Old City Hall. Spitzhauschen (pointed house), is an extremely narrow vintner’s house dating back to 1416. At the end of the day, we walk to a local winery (Bernkastel Vinothek) to sample a variety of wines from the region.
Nearing the end of the cruise, we dock in Remich, Luxembourg. From here, we take a coach to Trier, Germany’s oldest city. Some say Trier is even older than Rome and that it was populated over a thousand years before Romans arrived. Many of the Roman remains have survived, including a 20000 seat amphitheater; the Porta Nigra; and the Roman bridge, Germany’s oldest bridge, with stone pilings dating from 144AD.
We disembark the ship, and drive to Luxembourg city to catch our train to Paris. It is a smooth ride on a high speed train. Our last 2 nights are in Paris. This is a must see city. Add it to your bucket list. It’s very easy to get around, either walking, metro, bus, or taxi.
Avalon makes sure to take care of all the details. They also offer bicycles that you can use in any of the towns or cities throughout the cruise. There is entertainment on board, along with wine tastings and beer tastings from the various regions we visited.
River cruises can be done for 7 days, or longer. With so many options, you’ll easily find the perfect one for you!