Between July 24-31, 2019, we joined the four Livengoods for a Viking river cruise up the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel. We also spent a couple of days sightseeing in Amsterdam before the cruise began, and another couple of days in Basel after disembarking. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and Viking did a great job of keeping us happy and occupied with interesting activities and excellent food. It was especially nice that our very capable older daughter, Ellen, did most of the planning and arranging!
We were able to “play local” in Amsterdam by staying in an Airbnb flat situated in a residential neighborhood near the museum district. We toured the Rijksmuseum and especially enjoyed seeing the famous Rembrandt Night Watch being prepared for restoration. They are making 56 scans of the entire painting, each of which takes 24 hours to complete.
We picked up our ship, the Viking Einar, at Amsterdam’s Ij port, and started down the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal.
We entered the Rhine River at Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Center, which features 19 windmills that still fill their traditional role of keeping the area dry by pumping water out of the marshes and into the river. During the early part of the trip we suffered along with all the Europeans in a record-breaking heat wave. Temperatures reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for about a week!
Our next stop was Cologne, where we did a walking tour of the area around the cathedral, which is undergoing perpetual renovation.
The middle part of the Rhine features many castles, some of which have been restored, while others are abandoned ruins. At Rüdesheim most of us toured the Marksburg castle, which is one of the few that has escaped destruction or “well-meaning”restoration.
In this same stretch of the river is the Lorelei rock, where, according to legend, sailors were lured to their death by an evil mermaid.
After the castle stretch, the ship docked at Mannheim and most of us took a tour of the famous Heidelberg castle. By this point the heat had broken and it was raining. The tour was made more difficult by having to maneuver around the Heidelberg Triathlon.
We then docked at Kehl, Germany, and toured Strasbourg, which is headquarter for many EU organizations, and home of the (mostly) Gothic Strasbourg Cathedral.
As we approached the upper parts of the river we had to go through several locks, which provided an interesting diversion for everyone on board.
On the last night we docked in Breisach. Rick went on the excursion to the Black Forest in the morning, and all of us went to the Medieval village of Colmar, France, in the afternoon.
On July 31 we disembarked in Basel, where we stayed in a hotel for a couple more nights while we toured the city and beyond. Highlights included being there for the Swiss “national day” celebration, and visits to the Kunstmuseum (art museum) and Augusta Raurica (Roman ruins just outside of town).
Augusta Raurica was founded as a Roman town in 44 BC. At one point there were 15,000 people living there. In 260 AD the city was destroyed by the Alemanni. Today it is an open air site and museum. We got to it by taking a short ride on the S-Bahn train from Basel. The museum features an amazing Roman silver treasure from 320 AD that the Romans were hiding from the invading Alemanni.