Hello blog readers, I’m Danielle, owner and CTO (Chief Travel Officer) of SelfishMe Travel. Below is my clients’ account of their first European River Cruise from November 27-December 16, 2023. Please enjoy this summary by Tom and Julie Miller.
This is a brief day by day look at our Grand European adventure with Viking. Many thanks to Danielle at Selfish Me Travel for making this trip possible.
We chose to spend the 2 days prior to the cruise in Amsterdam. Day one consisted of arriving in Amsterdam and recovering from the overnight flight. Viking picked us up at the airport, drove us to the hotel and had our room ready when we arrived. Day two we decided to visit the Rijkmuseum where we saw works such as Rembrant’s Night Watch, and Jan Willem Pieneman’s The Battle of Waterloo.
Day 1 – Amsterdam, Holland
Today was all about getting to the Viking Vali and getting on board. Viking transported us to the boat, served us lunch and had someone escort us to our room. Before dinner, there was a talk about the next days activities. Tomorrow we will be in Kinderdijk.
Day 2 – Kinderdijk, Holland
Our first stop on the cruise was the Kinderdijk windmills, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s a short walk from where the boat docks to the windmills. Along the way there are opportunities to get some beautiful pictures. The site includes 19 preserved 18th century windmills. It’s a great location to learn about the importance of the windmills to Holland.
Day 3 – Cologne, Germany
We visited Cologne, Germany today. It’s the 4th largest city in Germany. On our walking tour we visited the Cologne cathedral. Construction began in 1248 and took nearly 7centuries to build. The cathedral was one of the few buildings not destroyed by the allied bombings during World War two.
After our tour ended we visited 3 Christmas markets. The largest one was beside the cathedral (shown in the pictures below). All markets have a mixture of foods, Christmas decorations and other crafts. The biggest draw is the mulled wine (Gluhwein). Each market has a diﬀerent mug that you pay for in addition to the mulled wine. You can keep the mug as a souvenir or turn it back into the vendor and they will refund the price of the mug. We’re looking forward to more Christmas markets at some of our other stops.
Day 4 – Koblenz, Germany
We docked in Koblenz this morning where we were to meet our tour buses. Before we went on the tour, we walked to where the Moselle and Rhine rivers combine and on our way back to the bus we walked past a piece of the Berlin Wall.
Our tour went to the Marksburg castle which was built in the 13th century. It’s the most unchanged castle in Germany.
After lunch we set sail through the Rhine River Gorge. There are more than 28 castles along this stretch of River. I won’t post pictures because there are too many to show.
Day 5 – Miltenberg, Germany
This morning we’re sailing so it was a good opportunity to sleep in. Last night we started sailing on the Main river, a tributary of the Rhine which will eventually connect us to the Danube. The boat has been sailing through locks all night and throughout this morning. Later this afternoon we will arrive in Miltenberg.
We arrived in Freudenberg and were bused to Miltenberg. Miltenberg is a beautiful little Bavarian town, which was made even more picturesque by the falling snow. We purchased some German Riesling made from grapes grown locally. The prices were very reasonable and Viking allows us to bring it on board and enjoy it in the restaurant and/or lounge.
Day 6 – Wurzburg, Germany
We only had a few hours in Wurzberg today so we decided to use that time at the Christmas market. On our walk to the market we passed by the Marienberg Fortress and the Old Main bridge. The Christmas market was set up by the Cathedral, which you can see in the background of the picture above. While there, we tried another mug of mulled wine. This time it was made with white wine. Although many people like the mulled wine, we have come to the conclusion that wine should not be served hot.
Day 7 – Bamberg, Germany
Our day started with a glass blowing demonstration by a famous German glass maker. You can see the ornament he is making in the picture
The stop today was the town of Bamberg. We went on the guided tour and my favorite building was the old town hall with its elaborate painted exterior walls . We also saw what the locals call Little Venice. Little Venice is currently a very expensive place to buy a house along the river.
The last one sold for the equivalent of $5.5 million dollars. They are very small homes that used to be where the fishermen lived as no one wanted to live near the river where all waste was deposited prior to 1900. We ended the day at the Bamberg Christmas market.
Day 8 – Nuremberg, Germany
Today we have the entire day in Nuremberg. Once again we took the included tour. It started with a bus ride around the city where we learned of the importance of Nuremberg during the Second World War. During the walking portion of the tour we learned about the history of the medieval part of the city and how the city was rebuilt after allied troops bombed it during WW2. Of course, our tour ended at the Christmas market. The Nuremberg Christmas market is one of the largest in Germany. Instead on going back to the boat for lunch, we stayed in town and had traditional Nuremberg bratwurst and sauerkraut at the Bratwurst Roslein restaurant. To end our day and get warm, we visited the Spielzeugmuseum (toy museum).
Day 9 – Regensburg, Germany
The walking tour was challenging today. It was very cold and rainy with icy sidewalks. This city was established by the Romans and we saw pieces of the city wall that were built in 179 AD to protect the city. In 1135 a stone bridge was constructed across the Danube river. The bridge was completed in 1146 and is still used today. Our day ended with Bavarian Folklore singers.
Day 10 – Passau, Germany
The tour started on the pier with a beautiful view of the castle, built in the 13th century. Next was the town hall built in 1405 which has survived repeated floods over hundreds of years. The most recent being 2013. We finished our tour at Saint Stephan’s cathedral. The Christmas market was small but very nice. The day ended with a dinner dedicated to the various dishes of Germany and included the staﬀ wearing traditional German clothing.
Day 11 – Melk, and the Wachau Valley, Austria
We visited the Melk Abbey this morning. The structure is huge and includes living quarters for the monks and guests, a library, a church, a school and a museum. It is best known for its library that houses over 100,000 books, although, in my opinion, the inside of the church is the most beautiful part of the abbey. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any inside the abbey. The afternoon was spent sailing through the Wachau Valley. This is a picturesque valley with small towns, castles, apricot orchards and vineyards. In the evening we got to watch professional dancers dance the Viennese waltz along with the various dances that led to the creation of the Viennese waltz.
Day 12 & 13 – Vienna, Austria
During our morning tour we visited the winter palace, we learned about the famous Lipizzan stallions, then we passed the town hall, which looks like a cathedral and ended in city center in front of Saint Stephan’s cathedral. After lunch we went back to city hall and went to the best Christmas market of the entire trip. Our day ended with a concert of Mozart and Strauss at the Palais Auersperg.
On day two in Vienna, we went to the Schonbrunn Palace. This was the summer palace for the Habsburg rulers. We were able to tour a small portion of the 1441 room palace. The rooms were very grand and ornate but unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the palace.
Day 14 &15 – Budapest, Hungary
On our last cruise day we took a tour of the Buda side and went to the castle district. We stopped at Matthias church and the Fishermen’s Bastion. The church was built in the 11th century and was rebuilt in the Gothic style in the 15th century. We learned that the Hilton hotel we would be staying in for the extension was next door to the church.
After we disembarked from the boat and checked into our hotel, we went to St. Stephan’s Basilica. It’s the largest church in Budapest. On our all inclusive tour we saw the church, the treasury (display of the relics and historical items) and the walkway around the dome. Lots stairs to the treasury and dome balcony, but don’t worry there are also elevators. That evening we went on a river cruise to see the buildings at night. We highly recommend one of these tours. The building in the 3rd picture is the parliament building.
On the second day of our extension, we toured the inside of the parliament building. It is an elaborately decorated building and is the permanent home of the Holy Crown of Hungary. We did get to see the crown but no pictures were allowed.
We had a wonderful time on this trip. Having never been to this part of Europe before, it was interesting to learn about the history and see the architecture. Along the way, we enjoyed the German, Austrian and Hungarian wines and food. The Christmas markets were an added bonus.
Hello again from Danielle of SelfishMe Travel: If you want to know more about the pre&post-cruise hotel and cruise ship accommodations or the meals served onboard, please ask in the comments. And perhaps we can persuade Tom and Julie to provide another post or add to this one!
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