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Category Archives: River Cruising

Moments to Take your Breath Away – Colmar Pocket

Everyone once in a while you take a vacation and end up in a destination that just takes your breath away. This is how I felt a few weeks ago at one of the stops on our Viking River cruise on the Rhine river. We had not planned to take the optional excursion for that day, Colmar in World War II Museum and Memorial, but after talking with several of the other guests on the ship we decided it was a must see and I am so glad we made the decision.

Colmar is a fairytale village in Alsace, France near the border with Germany. You may have heard it referred to as Alsace Lorraine as it switches hands between German and France many times during the World Wars I and II. This area is filled with miles of vineyards that we learned at one time became infected with a diseased bug that was native to the region, so they had to replant with new vines and they all came from the Napa Valley in CA, USA! So literally we have our USA roots growing in this area of France!

As soon as we rounded the corner, we were immersed in the historic old town filled with cobblestone streets lined with amazing buildings reminiscent of what you have seen in photographs from the early Renaissance. Timbered houses and the Gothic 13th Century, Eglise Saint-Martin Church which is located on central Place de la Cathedrale transported us into our own fairytale. The flower boxes filled enhanced the charm of the private homes. Since we were visiting the Colmar Pocket Memorial Museum, we walked the cobblestone streets and allowed ourselves to imagine living in this little village filled with rich history and charm.

What was especially moving was listening to the tour guide share the experiences of our American and French soldiers and we drove through the Colmar Pocket to the US War Memorial and French National War Cemetery on Mt. Sigolsheim. She discussed the battle as war raged to free France. Three months of fighting took place as these allied forces pushed the Germans to retreat.

We ended our day’s journey at the Audie Murphy Memorial, as we honored one soldier’s heroic stand. We learned that Audie was the most decorated US soldier in WWII history. He was born in Texas in 1925 and is known to have killed 240 German soldiers, and earned 33 awards and medals including three Purple Hearts and one Medal of Honor.

I was especially taken back when I saw our American Flag flying high upon this memorial and the honor that was paid to our American Soldiers.

I hope all of you have a chance to experience those moments that take your breath away even if you happen upon them last minute.

River Cruising Down the Rhine River in Germany

Today I am sharing with you as I am sailing down the Rhine River in Germany! We are on the 5th day of our adventure aboard the Viking Ingiv. We have had a fabulous time visiting the Black Forest, Colmar, Heidelberg and today heading toward Kolblenz. This is bar far the most beautiful part of the journey! I often see the debate – do we start in Basel or Amsterdam – I would definitely say Basel. Save the best for the end of the trip!

Passing by Castles, beautiful homes, WWII train tressels designed to look like castles ( false facade) so that the opposition would not notice where the Germans were hiding. The river is unusually low, however, our Captian grew up on the river and assured us we would maneuver upstream just fine! Now our cruise director is sharing a fairytale of the 7 virgins who remain the rock until a strong handsome man comes to rescue them. The sharing of information is something I have enjoyed so much. The history and stories have made it so interesting.

Sailing on a river cruise is much different than an ocean cruise as you can imagine. The advertising we see on TV doesn’t really do it justice as the intimate nature of the cruise has so many wonderful benefits. First, the size is around 160 guests who very quickly get to know each other and begin sharing this journey together. Sharing in meals, tours and fun times in the lounge! Unlike other cruises that are so large, this cruise experience allows guests to share common areas as see the same guests more often. If you wanted to be alone – I am not sure this is the type of cruise you would like as everyone here at least is sharing with one another.

There are scheduled tours that are included and many that you can choose from also for an additional cost. I have found that the included tours have been just perfect for the region and the guides are very good. We added one additional tour which was the World War II tour in Colmar which was superb! Each evening before dinner we are briefed in the lounge of the next days activities with an explanation, given the menu and activities for the evening. It reminds me of a land tour but with a ship as your accommodation.

Dining has been very nice. There is one seating for dinner and the chef creates a different meal for each night as well as some staples. If you are a very picky eater you may not find it so appealing and have hamburger or steak every day! Two of the ladies at our table are picky eaters but they have managed to stay sufficiently nourished! With one seating each evening, you can sit anywhere, however, you tend to sit with the people you have met and stick with your wait staff. Ours has been excellent! Many have served on the larger ships and really enjoy sailing on the river.

The staterooms are very nice, with a little smaller bathroom, but sufficient enough for what you might need. The beds are very comfortable and I would highly recommend having the verandah as the rooms without are very dark and not as appealing. Having the verandah gives great views from your bed – and sitting outside with a cup of coffee and fresh air is great.

The common areas include the library, sun deck, lounge, dining room, and a few other deck spaces. It never feels crowded which is not what you might expect being on a smaller ship. As I said we are outside now and they have served us hot chocolate ( and you can add some spirits if so inclined), the heaters are on, although it is nearing 70 today, and they provide blankets if needed. The view has been amazing as the cruise director shares the history of each of the castles we pass.

Should you go on a River Cruise? I would say it is a definitely a bucket list item as you approach retirement or are in retirement. The schedule and tours are designed for the active mature adults. Early risers and people that like to head to bed before 11 are best suited for the schedule.

As we rounded our last corner before docking – they played, “ What a Wonderful World”, which was a perfect end to our Rhine Castle briefing!

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