AMSTERDAM TO BUDAPEST VIA THE RHEIN/MAIN/DONAU
We arrived at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport at 7:50 am on a Saturday from New York. After picking up our luggage we were met by a representative of UNIWORLD. We waited in the terminal for three other couples and then went by bus to the boat, "The Prussian Princess" or "Prinzessin von Preussen" as it is called in German.
We were welcomed by the crew and the Tour Director, Guido Bauer. We were assigned Cabin No. 124, but since it was so early in the day, the maids had not finished cleaning the cabins and we decided to take a canal cruise through the city of Amsterdam. Around 1:45 Guido and 16 people went to the boat launching place on the other side of the train station and took a boat ride through the canals where we saw many interesting buildings along the banks in addition to the traditional houseboats.
Among the most noteworthy was the house where Anne Frank
was hiding out during WWII and where she wrote her famous diary.
After returning to the boat we attended an orientation in the lounge and a tour of the boat. While taking in a snack on the top deck we observed a group of people nearby who were bungee jumping from a 75m (244 ft) high arm of a crane located on an island off the river across from us. It was a hair raising sight and, according to some people, the highest point from which one can jump in Europe. It cost 100 HFL ($50.00) for a few seconds of thrills.
We ate dinner at 6:50 pm with open seating in the dining room. We had one of the menu selections of three to four-meal varieties. At 9:00 pm we watched the boat pull up anchor and depart Amsterdam heading for Germany. Since it was summer it was still daylight. The waters were smooth and the boat very quiet. Our cabin was on A-deck and we opened the door to the river to enjoy the fresh air during the night. After crossing the border into Germany we soon passed Duisburg, the world's largest inland port.
Sunday morning we awoke around 6:30 after a good night's sleep, took a shower in the small bathroom of our cabin and dressed in our Sunday clothes for breakfast. We watched the scenery along the route on the top deck, small villages with quaint churches, many barges, some of them towing another one, going in the opposite direction from us, loaded with coal, gravel and container goods. Some people were fishing along the banks. The skies were overcast at first, but later cleared up. The architecture of the buildings we saw was very much of the northern style and ship building plants were everywhere. Black and white Holstein cows were abundant in the fields nearby.
We met a nice couple from Rhode Island who were in the next cabin and had an interesting chat with them, exchanging experiences from past travels. At 10:00 we all met in the lounge for a briefing with Guido on what was planned during our trip, city tours and side trips to points of interest between here and Budapest. There were three optional tours for which we could sign up in advance, payable at the purser's desk. We opted for the one in Austria for $70.00 per couple. The majority of the other tours were at no cost to the passengers. On this particular cruise all the passengers were Americans and mostly of retirement age.
We arrived in Düsseldorf at 7:00 pm and took a short stroll towards town, but never made it because we took a wrong turn somewhere and decided to return to the boat instead to read up on the next day's activities. Every night we had a bulletin in our cabin outlining these activities, along with menus, information about the crew and other miscellaneous facts. The boat left around midnight and we watched the illuminations from the amusement park across the bridge, the Ferris Wheel, roller coaster and merry-go-rounds were closing up right around this time.
Earlier I watched a video in the downstairs lounge about the Rhine from its small origin in Switzerland to where it flows into the North Sea in Holland, with all the interesting places along its route.
We arrived on Monday at 8:00 am in Cologne (Köln) and departed on a city tour which included the famous cathedral and its gorgeous interior structures and decor. We saw the place where the Magi are entombed with their replicas displayed on top.
The last time we had visited this cathedral was in
the spring of 1956 and it was being renovated with scaffolding all around. Not a very pretty sight then. Upon returning
to the boat we had some appetizers of smoked salmon with crackers and a small vegetarian dish. We went up on deck
to enjoy the scenery as we moved swiftly along. Passing through the Ruhr area it started to look a lot more industrialized
with lots of smoke stacks on factories, some of them looking like "3-mile island" reactors, probably
power plants and generators. Also, many people were out for a stroll, bike riding or camping along the river banks
since the weather was really nice and warm. At 3:00 we had coffee and cake on the top deck even though it was a
bit windy and wasps were circling around us being attracted by the sweets on our tables no doubt. I did not want
to go to the cabin fearing I'd go to sleep. I had not gotten over the jet lag just yet.
We passed the famous bridge of Remagen (what's left of it) at 5:30 and the resort town of Bad Breisig at 6:30. The bridge was rebuilt a few hundred feet away from the original one which was destroyed in WWII. I am sure everybody has seen the movie about the bridge and how it was taken by the allies. We had a formal dinner that evening and arrived in Koblenz at 9:30 where we spent the night.
The next day (Tuesday) we had an early breakfast and then went on a guided tour of the city of Koblenz. A German film crew was in the process of making a movie for TV near the "Deutsches Eck", a monument showing the Kaiser on a horse which was destroyed during the war and rebuilt just a few years ago in its original form.
Casting off at noon we had lunch on deck where we spent the entire afternoon enjoying the beautiful blue skies. Around 1:15 we passed the famous Lorelei rock and upon request of our friends group I sang the song which I remembered from my childhood of the sailors who succumbed to the call of the siren luring them into devastation as they smashed their boats onto the rocks.
At 6:00 we docked in Rüdesheim, a very scenic wine
town. We were taken on a toy train to the Musical Automated Instruments Museum. This was a very interesting tour
through the developing years of recording instruments, music produced on scrolls and rollers and played on player
pianos, as well as violins and three to four other instruments, creating a concert on these unique productions.
Afterwards we left the group and ventured out on our own along with some people from the boat which had by now
become our friends. They knew I spoke German and came in handy during the trip when they needed a translator. We
took them to a wellknown place, the Drosselgasse, where we had some fun at an open band stage. The band noticed
that we were Americans and switched to American songs from the Fifties. I was asked to jitterbug with one of the
guys and got a round of applause from the people there. After we had some refreshments (choosing from a German
menu) we did some window shopping and finally returned to the boat at 10:30. We had gotten enough walking in that
evening to make us want to head for the cabin. Awaiting on board was a late night snack of chili which tasted pretty
good. We also remembered that today was our son Danny's birthday.
During the night (Wednesday) we entered the Main river at Mainz. We docked at Aschaffenburg at 8:00 in the morning and planned to go to town after breakfast. The temperature was already in the 80s and was expected to go as high as 90 by afternoon. While in town we joined up with the rest of the group for a tour with our guide and visited the Johannisburg castle.
It was almost completely destroyed in February 1945,
but rebuilt and restored to its original style, quite an architectural accomplishment. Afterwards we again struck
out on our own and did some shopping (both window and real). We needed film and suntan lotion. After casting off
we noticed how the scenery along the river banks was now changing, less industry and more camping places, also
more fortresses rather than castles.
We arrived on Thursday in Miltenberg close to midnight where we stopped until morning. We were told we had some time to spend in the town and took a stroll after breakfast. We exchanged some money at the bank and later caught up with some of the people from the tour. The many pastry shops and butcher stores were a real temptation for us. Miltenberg is a very quaint town with half-timbered houses. We passed the Riesen Gasthaus with its arched entry and crests.
Cabins are outside and have twin beds, are air-conditioned, have a private bath with shower, a tv, radio, and telephone. The cabins on the upper deck have full-length French doors that open, and cabins on the lower deck have picture windows.
- - -
Dining: There is one seating. Cuisine is international with regional specialties.
Dress: Casual during the day. A jacket is recommended for men for dinner. On two formal nights a dark suit for men and cocktail dresses for ladies are suggested.
Facilities and Activities: There is a lounge featuring local entertainment, a library, conference facilities, hairdresser, and laundry. There are medical facilities. German and English are spoken on board.
- - -
Cruising with the Coopers - Part II