Saturday, May 14, 2011

Enchanting Rhine Cruise-Post 1

There is something magical about sailing down the Rhine River. Ben and I last did this on a Christmas markets cruise a couple of years ago, also on an AMA Waterways ship. This time, however, spring is in full force and newly planted green vineyards bank the sucession of castles we passed this morning along the Rhine River Gorge.

Our trip began in Amsterdam--that fascinating city of canals, houseboats, first-class museums, and famed Red Light District. We toured the canals, sailed past those drafty houseboats, and visited the Van Gogh Museum (having made the Rijks previously), but left Amsterdam‘s seedier side to braver souls.

Both the Marriott and Eden American hotels are conveniently located in the museum district of Amsterdam. The nearby plaza that in December lured ice skaters and hot pastry vendors was now the scene of several lively outdoor cafes. The beauty of changing seasons.

Then we were off down the Rhine toward Switzerland. Whereas the mighty Mississippi‘s waters are curently spilling over banks and levees, the Rhine is periously low, creating navigational challenges for all who sail her.

The first stop for our ship, the AMA Waterways Amalyra, was Cologne with a quick walking tour of the areas around the majestic cathedral. This UNESCO world heritage site never fails to amaze us with its gothic ceilings and seemingly endless dimensions. No markets with hot spiced wine and Christmas ornaments tempted us this time, but instead the surrounding plaza was filled with street artists making the most of the mild, sunny weather.

A special treat awaited us that afternoon with an included excursion to the Koblenz Horticultural Show. The low river level had caused such a delay for us, however, that our time was much too short and bus ride to get there too long. But for Ruth, one of the special ladies in our group, the trip meant a glimpse at Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, which once held special meaning for her parents. For that reason alone (not to mention the stunning floral gardens), the trip was worth it, indeed.

Our very busy day then, however, was rewarded this morning by these incredible castles and panoramic views. Rain is desperately needed here (just as it is in South Texas), but we have certainly enjoyed this beautiful weather. And as we rounded the bend of the once dangerous Loreley Rock, we raised a toast with a special fortified coffee beverage served by the AMA staff. To the Rhine!

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