Cruise the Great Rivers of Europe: Rhine, Main, and Danube

 

 

The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum

The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum

 

Here is a beautiful Constellation Travelexperience trip that we created for a family of three.  We first helped the clients choose a delightful riverboat trip for their tour.   However, we felt that the riverboat company’s pre and post tours were not adequate.  So for very little additional cost, we put together Constellation pre and post tours to create a trip they loved.

To avoid jet lag we recommended our clients take a daytime flight to London, spend the night at the superb Sofitel London Heathrow Hotel and then continue on to Amsterdam the next day.  The itinerary is as follows:

Day 1

Your flight, British Airways 238, leaves from Boston Terminal E, at 8:10 AM and arrives at London’s Heathrow Terminal 5 at 7:35 PM local time.  (Please note: flight times reflect local time zones and are subject to change, per the airline.)

When your flight arrives at Terminal 5, you find the Hotel Sofitel London Heathrow nearby.  The Sofitel London Heathrow is connected to Heathrow’s Terminal 5 via a walkway and via free inter-terminal transfers.

 

Hotel Sofitel London Heathrow

Hotel Sofitel London Heathrow

 

Hotel Sofitel London Heathrow Airport, 1 night
Terminal 5
Telephone: (011) 442087577777

We have reserved for you:

  • Two Superior Adjoining rooms, each with king beds.
  • Breakfast is included.

You have paid for the rooms and breakfasts.

Enjoy a relaxing evening after your transatlantic flight.

 

Day 2

Your flight, British Airways 434, leaves Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow Airport at 11:55 AM and arrives in Amsterdam at 2:05 PM.

Your private car and driver meet you at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam.  This transfer has been prepaid.

Your driver brings you to the charming four star:

Hotel Ambassade, 2 nights
Herengracht 341
1016 AZ Amsterdam
Telephone: (011) 31205550222

We have reserved for you:

  • Two Deluxe Adjoining rooms overlooking the canal, each with king beds.
  • Breakfast and taxes are included.

You have prepaid the rooms, the breakfasts, and taxes.

The Hotel Ambassade gives you the wonderful atmosphere of Amsterdam’s elegant canals and houses.  Your hotel’s houses were built during the Golden Age of the seventeenth century and look out on the canal.  They have been carefully restored to keep their authentic character.  The furnishings are predominantly Louis XV/XVI style.

In the rooms and public areas of the Hotel Ambassade you will find original paintings by artists of the mid 20th century Cobra art movement.  Cobra’s great artists include Karel Appel, Asger Jorn, and Eugène Brands.  The Hotel also offers an interesting collection of works from Amsterdam’s Impressionism Movement of the late 19th century.   On display are works by George Breitner, Isaac Israëls, and Willem Witsen.

Nearby on the Museumplein (Museum Square), you will find some of the great museums of Amsterdam.  They include the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and Stedelijk Museum.

 

Hotel Ambassade, Amsterdam

Hotel Ambassade, Amsterdam

 

Day 3

11 AM:  The three of you have an invitation to visit the private art collection of Baron Six.  This is one of the most outstanding private art collections in the world. 
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, in the Six Collection

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, in the Six Collection

As Baron Six writes:

The history of our art collection is rich and colourful. Each of the paintings on display has a history, representing an integral piece of my family’s heritage.  It gives us pleasure to welcome you in the House of Six, our home:

Amstel 218
1017 AJ, Amsterdam.
Telephone: (0) 20-642 7777

 

2:00 PM-5:00 PM: Walking Tour in Amsterdam and Visit to the Rijksmuseum with a private guide.

Your private guide is very knowledgeable about Dutch History and the Art of the Golden Age in the Seventeenth Century.  He will meet you at the Hotel Ambassade at 2 PM for your walking tour of this beautiful city and your visit to the Rijksmuseum.  Three tickets to the Rijksmuseum have been purchased for you and charged to your credit card by the hotel.  The guide has been prepaid in full.

During the Dutch “Golden Age” of the seventeenth century, Amsterdam was the richest city in the world.  Ships sailing from Amsterdam to North America, Africa, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, and Brazil formed the basis of a worldwide trading network.  Amsterdam’s merchants had the largest share in both the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company.  These companies acquired overseas territories that later became Dutch colonies.

In 1602, the Amsterdam office of the Dutch East India Company became the world’s first stock exchange.  Soon Amsterdam was the leading financial center of the world and Europe’s most important location for transporting goods.  Most of the historic buildings in Amsterdam’s center date from this period, including the houses of seventeenth century merchants lining the canals.

 

Vincent van Gogh, Fishing boats at sea, 1888, Van Gogh Museum

Vincent van Gogh, Fishing boats at sea, 1888, Van Gogh Museum

 

 

Day 4

Free Morning

In the afternoon, your private car and driver bring you from the Hotel Ambassade to the riverboat, River Princess.  This transfer has been prepaid

At 3:00 PM, you board the River Princess for your beautiful cruise, European Serenade.

 

River Princess, Uniworld

River Princess, Uniworld

 

Day 5Day 19

Over the next fourteen days, you cruise along the Danube, Main, and Rhine Rivers.  You have two Category One cabins that have been prepaid in full.

The contact information for you aboard the River Princess is as follows:

Phone: (011) 4915222699960

Email: riverprincess@uniworld.com

Rivers were the original highways between the great European cities.  The Rhine and the Danube formed most of the northern frontier of the Roman Empire.  The Rhine carried trade and goods deep inland and served as the basis for regional and international borders.  The castles and fortifications along the Rhine testify to its importance as a waterway.  Traffic could be stopped at these locations, usually for the purpose of collecting tolls, by the state that controlled that portion of the river.

You will first visit Cologne, the largest city in the Rhineland and a cultural mecca, with more than thirty museums and hundreds of art galleries.  Cologne is home to the largest Gothic cathedral in Germany.  The cathedral is the tallest Gothic structure in the world and one of the most awe-inspiring.

 

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral

 

Your cruise continues through the Upper Middle Rhine Valley.  You see stunning landscapes that inspired 19th century poets, composers, and painters – including Richard Wagner and J.M.W. Turner.   Steep riverbanks and hilltops crowned with fairytale castles became the setting for an art movement known as “Rhine Romanticism.”

 

Upper Middle Rhine Valley

Upper Middle Rhine Valley

 

The Main

Your cruise continues to the Main River.  The Main flows into the Rhine from eastern Germany.  You will visit Frankfurt, the location where the Main was once shallow enough to be crossed by wading.   The name “Frankfurt” is derived from the Germanic tribe known as the “Franks and the German word for fording place, “furt.”

 

Fording the Main at what was to become Frankfurt

Fording the Main at what was to become Frankfurt

 

 

Today, Frankfurt is the largest financial center in continental Europe and ranks among the world’s leading financial centers.  It is home to the European Central Bank, Deutsche Bundesbank, Frankfurt Stock Exchange, and many large commercial banks.

 

Frankfurt today

Frankfurt today

 

Frankfurt was also the home of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany’s national poet.  Goethe was an early participant in the romantic literary movement, Sturm und Drang.  His first novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, made him a literary celebrity at the age of twenty-five.  You will have the opportunity to visit Goethe House, and see the desk where Goethe completed his epic work, Faust.

 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

The cruise continues further down the Main to Miltenberg, with its crooked streets and leaning houses.

 

Miltenberg – Excerpt from the Topographia Hassiae by Matthäus Merian the Younger, 1655

Miltenberg – Excerpt from the Topographia Hassiae by Matthäus Merian the Younger, 1655

 

Later, you stop in Würzburg.

 

Würzburg, Fortress Marienberg with the Old Main Bridge

Würzburg, Fortress Marienberg with the Old Main Bridge

 

The Würzburg Residenz features works of leading artists and architects of the early 18th century, including frescoes by Tiepolo and beautiful formal grounds.

From Würzburg you cross the river to Rothenburg, on the Tauber, with its charming core of Gothic churches and gabled houses.

 

Rothenburg

Rothenburg

 

The cruise continues to Bamberg.  The late Romanesque Imperial Cathedral of Bamberg was begun in 1012 and completed in the 13th century.  Inside, you find the Bamberg Horseman, considered the first monumental equestrian statue since classical antiquity.

 

Bamberger Horseman

Bamberg Horseman

 

The Main-Danube Canal

The Main-Danube Canal connects The Main to the Danube.  It allows transit from the North Sea all the way to the Black Sea, through fifteen countries.  Efforts to connect the rivers began with Charlemagne in 793 AD.  The canal was finally completed in 1992.

You continue to Nuremberg, the second largest city in Bavaria.  Albrecht Dürer was probably Nuremberg’s most famous resident during the Renaissance.

 

Albrecht Dürer, self portrait

Albrecht Dürer, self-portrait

 

 

The Danube

As you leave the canal and enter the Danube, your first port of call will be Regensburg.  Its Cathedral of St. Peter offers magnificent fourteenth century stained-glass windows.  Germany’s parliament met from 1663 to 1806 in the Gothic Town Hall.  Ambassadors from all over Europe built stately homes throughout the area.  Many of these homes survive to the present day.

 

Regensburg

Regensburg

 

Next stop: Passau.  Built at the confluence of three rivers, the Danube, Inn, and Ilz, Passau has been an important center of river trade ever since it was founded by the Romans.

 

Passau in 1892

Passau in 1892

 

You then pass through The Wachau, a nineteen mile stretch of the Danube that cuts through a rocky gorge in the foothills of the Bohemian Forest.  The Wachau is famous for its beauty, its wine, and its apricots.

The riverboat will stop at Dürnstein, with the blue baroque tower of its Abbey Church and the ruins of Kuenringer Castle, where Richard the Lionheart was held for ransom back in the 12th century.

 

Richard the Lionheart

Richard the Lionheart

 

Day 20

Your cruise ends in spectacular Vienna.  Vienna is always glorious with its concerts, operas, museums, historic places, shopping, hotels and restaurants.

At 8:30 AM, your private car and driver are waiting at the riverboat to take you to your 5 star hotel.  Your transfer arrangements are prepaid and have been made directly with the:

Grand Hotel Wien, 2 nights
Kaerntner Ring 9
A – 1010 Vienna
Telephone: (011) 431515800

We have reserved for you:

  • Two Deluxe Adjoining rooms, each with king beds.
  • Breakfast is included.

You have paid for the rooms and breakfasts.

Free Day

You have reserved three tickets for this evening’s concert at the Konzerthaus, with the Wiener Mozart Orchestra. 

 

Grand Hotel Wien

Grand Hotel Wien

 

Please check in with the concierge to pick up your tickets for tonight and for the Piber Meets Vienna Horse Show tomorrow.  While the tickets are reserved for you, they have not been charged to your credit card.  The concierge, Stefano, has been handling these arrangements.

The Grand Hotel Wien is in a superb location inside the Ringstrasse and close to the Opera House.  The late 19th century Ringstrasse is lined with grand buildings, monuments, and parks.

The “King of Waltz”, Johann Strauss, was a frequent visitor to the Grand Hotel Wien.  In 1894, a festive dinner was held at the Hotel to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Johann Strauss’s debut as a composer.  More than 200 distinguished guests attended, including the maestro himself, his wife, and composer Johannes Brahms.

In 1804, during the Napoleonic wars, Vienna became the capital of the Austrian Empire and played a major role in European and world politics, including hosting the 1814 Congress of Vienna.

The Imperial Treasury (Schatzkammer) presents the imperial jewels of the Habsburg dynasty.  The Sisi Museum (a museum devoted to Empress Elisabeth of Austria) allows visitors to view the imperial apartments and share her private life, even her exercise equipment.

Nearby are the Kunsthistorisches Museum, (Museum of Fine Arts) and Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum).  The Kunsthistorisches Museum houses many paintings by the old masters, such as Pieter Bruegel, as well as ancient and classical art.

 

Peasant Wedding by Pieter Bruegel

Peasant Wedding by Pieter Bruegel

 

The Museumsquartier (museum quarter) offers the Museum of Modern Art (MUMOK) and the Leopold Museum.  The Leopold Museum features the largest collection of paintings in the world by Egon Schiele, as well as many works of Viennese Modernism and Austrian Expressionism.  The Liechtenstein Palace offers one of the world’s largest private art collections and is especially strong in the Baroque.

In the evening  you have a concert at the Konzerthaus, with the Wiener Mozart Orchestra.

 

Day 21

11:00 AM  You have confirmed reservations in the Parterre Loge for the horse show, Piber Meets Vienna, at the Spanish Riding School.

Free Afternoon

Recently restored are the magnificent Gustav Klimt paintings at the Belvedere that portray a wonderful era in Viennese cultural life.  At the turn of the century, the imperial capital attracted many artists and intellectuals, from Klimt to Sigmund Freud to Egon Schiele.

 

The Belvedere, Vienna

The Belvedere, Vienna

 

Gustav Klimt is Vienna’s most renowned advocate of Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil, an eclectic style of art and architecture that was popular at the turn of the 20th century.  Art Nouveau borrows heavily from Byzantine, Greek, and Egyptian motifs.  Klimt’s distinctive paintings have since become some of modern art’s most famous works.

In addition, as you think about gifts for family and friends, the museums have beautiful shops.

 

Emilie Floge by Gustav Klimt

Emilie Floge by Gustav Klimt

 

Tonight you may choose to go to another musical event.  The concierge can help you get tickets.

As you plan your lunches in Vienna, a favorite is Café Demel.  Viennese cafés have a long and distinguished history that dates back centuries.  Legend has it that when the defeated Turks lifted their siege of  Vienna in 1683, they abandoned hundreds of sacks of coffee beans.  The Viennese soon discovered how to filter coffee from this exotic import from the East.  A grand tradition was born.

 

Café Demel, Vienna

Café Demel, Vienna

 

Vienna also has a long tradition of producing the finest cakes and desserts.  These include Apfelstrudel (hot apple strudel), Milchrahmstrudel (milk-cream strudel), Palatschinken (sweet pancakes), and Knödel (dumplings) often filled with fruit such as apricots (Marillenknödel).  Sachertorte, a delicately moist chocolate cake with apricot jam created by the Sacher Hotel, is world-famous.

 

Day 22

In the morning, a private car and driver will pick you up at the Grand Hotel Wien and bring you to Vienna’s Airport.  You have prepaid the transfer.

Your flight, British Airways 697, leaves Vienna at 11:50 AM and arrives at London Heathrow Terminal 3 at 1:15 PM.  You then proceed to Terminal 5 for your flight to Boston.

Your flight to Boston, British Airways 203, leaves London Heathrow Terminal 5 at 4:40 PM and arrives at Boston Terminal E at 6:50 PM.

 

Bon Voyage!

 

 

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