The original purpose of our trip, chosen in our euphoria last fall after learning that I was not going to need further surgery, was to do a river cruise down the Rhine. It sounded like a nice peaceful way to see a new part of Europe, and learn a lot about different countries and places.
We started in Basel, with its old cathedral, the Basel Munster, built of the red sandstone in the Rhine valley.
That chain link fencing in front of the church wasn't construction, but a modern art installation. As you can see I actually climbed the church towers and was able to look down on the art piece (and everything else) from above. This is a chain-link labyrinth, created by Sam Durant, a U.S. artist, who worked with a group of prisoners to develop the concept. It's intended to challenge visitors to reflect "on the issues of freedom and imprisonment". Once I understood it, it seemed very appropriate in front of the church.
I also got up close and personal with some of the tiny carvings you see up on the church spires. They're not so tiny when you're up there.
What we saw of the river was very interesting, at least to me. You don't see much though, because the ship usually sails at night. This was one of the largest locks we went through, a drop of about 30 feet, and we squeezed right into that space beside the other ship, with a foot of two to spare.
We stopped in or near five towns or cities, and were taken by bus to see the main tourist sites. This is Cologne Cathedral. The plaza in front is simply too small to get a complete picture of the building, one of the few to survivie WWII in the city - the downtown is almost entirely post-war. And all of these old cathedrals are constantly undergoing restoration; it's hard to find one without some scaffolding.
I had hoped we might actually learn a bit about the Rhine River, but not a word, nor a map. Very little about the countryside we were sailing through, and nothing about other traffic on the river, which was constant. But our visit to the wheelhouse was fascinating. This is a new ship, with very modern technology, including radar and gps, rotating rear propellers (rather than a rudder), and water-jet side-thrusters at the bow. I really enjoyed our half hour with the captain, describing all this.
Lots of interesting bridges, this one with a double span for vehicles and bikes. Most are a lot lower, and the wheelhouse will actually sink down into the second floor of the ship to scrape under the lowest ones. With very high water levels as we had, that was essential.
In the lower stretches of the river there was lots of industrial traffic, most of it low barges, also designed to go under all those low bridges. I think there are seven approaching us in this picture. As you can see we had a lot of cool rainy days; there wasn't much blue sky!
At least not until we got to Amsterdam, the end of our short 6 days. We stayed an extra couple of days, intended more as a rest break, but we were up and out the entire time. Amsterdam is just a wonderful city!
One highlight for us was the Van Gogh Museum. Having seen some of his greatest works at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris two years ago, we really enjoyed this gallery. It contains the collection of his works that his own family retained, and is organized to tell the story of his life.
We visited both the famous Flower Market, and the Botanical Gardens, one of the oldest in the world. I never saw so many wooden tulips in my life, but they were colourful!
I mentioned we were a bit disappointed in the river cruise. We did enjoy it of course, but it just wasn't the right fit for us. Inevitably we compared it in our own minds with the other two organized tours we've done, an Adventure Canada cruise around the outer islands of Scotland, and a Smithsonian Institute tour of Italy, All three were approximately the same total price, but the other two had a much stronger educational element, which I naively assumed would be included to some extent on this trip. It wasn't.
The other trips were also longer, the Italy trip nearly 3 times as long, so the price per day was dramatically different. And they were also much smaller groups, so we found the 180 passengers made this a big ship; for most it was a small ship in comparison to the ocean cruises they were used to! For us, the river cruise just wasn't worth the price we paid. Most of our travelling has been on our own, and in comparison, this trip was rather dull! But wait til you hear about the second half of our trip - it was worth every moment!
On tours they specialize in certain things. I guess you'll have to do another tour and find somebody who can tell about the river.ReplyDelete
Sorry your river cruise wasn't what you expected. But it still sounds like fun - and a great way to see lots of sights.ReplyDelete
Pity about the tour, there must be so much history along that river. Looking forward to further instalments.ReplyDelete
It's a shame you didn't get any info about the river or the places you were passing. I did a similar cruise years ago with my mother and we were taken to all sorts of interesting places at every stop.ReplyDelete
I love Basel. It's a great city. did you see all of those people who throw themselves into the river with a bagful of clothes?
It looks like an interesting experience on the river though not as interesting as you'd hoped. I look forward to the rest of the trip.ReplyDelete
Well, I sure did enjoy this part of it, along with some great pictures. I look forward to the second part. Sure glad you mde it back safe and sound. :-)ReplyDelete
My parents went back to Amsterdam several times after immigrating here, and they did visit the cathedral in Cologne as well. Beautifully photographed!ReplyDelete
Hello, wonderful series of images from your trip. I love the gorgeous church! Happy Thursday, enjoy your day!ReplyDelete
It's too bad that the river cruise wasn't a good fit for you, I too would have wanted history as part of the trip:)ReplyDelete
The carving on the church spire does not look happy!ReplyDelete
Wow that is some cathedral!!
Too bad the river cruise was a disappointment but the trip looks fantastic anyway.
I've always wanted to do a river cruise but like you would have liked some info along the route. I guess one needs to research before and bring maps.ReplyDelete
So much to see and learn one would have to stay there for a while to really appreciate it and take it all in I would think . Lovely photos . Sorry your cruise wasn't exactly as you hoped that was a shame but maybe next time eh? ! Thanks for sharing , Have a good day !ReplyDelete
we almost always go on guided tours and have had the same experience. some great, some not as informative. i love learning and listening, i usually forget most of it but i am always so interested while the tour is active. those bridges are just stunning, i always close my eyes and imagine them under construction. i like that they have dedicated bike lanes!!! this trip is really amazing, i will read more tomorrow. i am trying to read backwards, therefore, in order...if you get my drift!!!ReplyDelete
We certainly enjoyed Amsterdam in late March of this year. Our river cruise director was pretty good about pointing out things along the way and giving history on our way to Budapest from Amsterdam. Not quite as much info from Budapest to Bucharest.ReplyDelete
THanks for your review of the river cruise, a smaller boat and a longer time out would be the way I would want to go too.ReplyDelete
The Cologne Cathedral is magnificent. I'm sorry the river cruise was a bit of a disappointment.ReplyDelete