This post is sponsored by Viking Cruises. We were guests of Viking River cruise line on this Rhine River getaway. I was not asked to write anything, this recap is all our experience and opinions.
It’s been so fun to share this with all of you and I appreciate the great response and comments. I’ve even had some of you tell me you have booked your Viking cruise already! I’m so happy to hear that! I’m also glad you all enjoyed Mark’s comments on the cruise. I can always count on him to come through with witty dialogue when he writes. He’s an entertainer that’s for sure!
I left you last with us arriving in Koblenz, Germany, a traditional German country town located where the Rhine and Moselle Rivers meet. Our included shore excursion was touring the Marksburg Castle, this beauty high on the hill above the city. Doesn’t this look like something out of a movie set?
Such gorgeous scenery. We didn’t tour the town, but the excursion was after lunch for about 3 hours.
A bus took us up to the high parking deck where we walked the rest of the way up to the castle. It was quite the sight to see and looking back down at the river from above was breath taking.
Construction on the current fortifications began around 1100 and expanded during the 16th century. In 1801, the castle was partially destroyed by Napoleon and the French occupied Koblenz for the next 18 years. The fort looms some 400 feet above the Rhine’s left bank.
You’ve just got to include pictures of yourself with all this beautiful scenery behind.
We were in groups as we toured the castle, with our earbuds and guides telling us interesting facts about it all. Walking on the uneven rocks and cobblestones could be quite the challenge so good tennis shoes or walking shoes were definitely necessary. We walked up that sloping hill.
The cruise line was very good about noting on the shore excursions descriptions which ones were more difficult and required a lot of walking and hiking, so you can choose your comfort level.
Crests from over the years. The fortress is also a UNESCO World Heritate Site, which I found out is a big deal after looking it up:
A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area which is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance, and is legally protected by international treaties.
It was completely fascinating to tour a real live castle and picture how they used to live.
Cannons and cannonballs were all around.
There’s even a garden on top of the castle outside on the wall walkway.
Me, being exceedingly happy to be there.
With this view at the top!
Such a great view!
We toured a few of the living spaces inside too. This fireplace was huge!
This bed was not. I guess the people back then were much smaller than today.
So interesting to see all the details in this centuries old castle.
Tools of the trade.
Armor for the knights to fight in. These were in order of their time period, very fun to see the changes.
The torture chamber. Wouldn’t want to spend time in here and can you imagine being in this place at night?
Back to the Kara and our home away from home. Dinner was at 7:00 and we left Koblenz for Cologne at 2:30 a.m.
Sitting outside before dinner.
Another delicious dinner on the ship.
One thing to note, you couldn’t even tell when the ship was moving if you weren’t looking outside. It was so smooth and completely felt like land. We moved many times at night, but the day moving trips were a treat. I think they definitely save the day moves for the really scenic areas of the Rhine, like the castles I showed you in Part 2. Makes the most of the best scenery to look at!
It’s funny, I was just looking at our Viking Daily while writing this and while in Koblenz, there was a note to be back on board the ship by 2:00 a.m. That’s pretty hilarious, as I can’t imagine anyone on our ship staying out that late. Well, we did meet one young couple on the ship, they must have been in their 30’s and they said they loved being with all of us old timers! But I bet even they didn’t stay off the ship that long.
In Koblenz this statue was right outside our room. The plaque for the statue said it was a memorial to German Unity at the Deutsches Eck. The original statue was in memory of Kaiser Wilhelm to whom the monument was dedicated in 1897. After the destruction of the statue the remaining monument was declared in 1955 to be a symbol of German unity.
Here’s our balcony and how close we were to the statue.
We enjoyed walking around in the streets in Koblenz after we got back from our visit to Marksburg castle.
Next stop on Friday was Cologne, Germany. Cologne is a major cultural center filled with museums, historic architecture and restaurants. There were lots of activities listed in our Viking Daily for the town. We walked around the town a bit and took in the sights.
Our bus took us across the river where we would tour the beautiful Cologne Cathedral.
The 14th century Cathedral is a stunning example of Gothic artistry and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It took over 600 years to build! Let that sink in! Spared Allied bombs during WWII, the cathedral’s imposing twin spires are visible for miles and stained glass windows fill the interior with brilliant colored light. It is said to house the remains of the 3 Kings inside.
Its 509 steps lead to a 312 foot platform with stunning views.
We did NOT opt for that climb!
But the views inside were spectacular. Mark and I both loved this cathedral probably the most out of all we saw.
Those stained glass windows were stunning and my photos really don’t do them justice.
I could imagine how many people have sat on these pews and they were beautiful pews.
These Gothic churches are truly amazing. We could not imagine the man power it took to build these and how in the world did they do it anyway? Just mind blowing!
The details were something to see.
Another scenic shot to document our adventure. You can get a good look at our guide receivers that we wore every day around our necks. We charged them up at night and brought them with us on each excursion. They were in our rooms all the time, with earbuds to go with them. Worked great!
We were told that the Cologne cathedral is dark gray, almost black because of the reaction of the sulphuric acid in the rain with the sandstone of the building. It just turns dark over time and the repaired sections are much lighter and brighter, but will darken over time.
We opted for one extra excursion that was not included with the cruise package and that was visiting the Bruhl UNESCO Palace in the afternoon. It was quite the imposing house and I was totally impressed with the checkerboard cobblestone street that led to the gates.
Another selfie, just because!
Isn’t this pretty? We weren’t allowed pictures inside but I loved this driveway.
I tried to get different angles so you could see how incredible it was. I’d love to have this at our house! Our guide said it was all original.
The Augustusburg and Falkenlust palaces were built at the beginning of the 18th century.
The gardens behind the palace.
This allee of trees was so pretty.
Our guide told us they cut the trees in the middle to keep their growth stunted. I’ve never seen that before.
Gardens from the back of the palace. Honestly, the palace was fun to look at, but after seeing The Biltmore in Asheville and the Mansions of Newport, RI, this was not nearly as impressive, but it’s definitely older, so very interesting to see.
The Falkenlust hunting lodge was built from 1729 to 1740. It was nice inside.
Back to our ship for a delicious dinner that night, this was Osso Bucco and very tasty.
A chocolate cake was my choice for dessert that night.
That night, the scenery in Cologne looking across the river at the cathedral was just spectacular.
Mark captured this beautiful picture.
And this one. Isn’t that gorgeous? We left at midnight heading to Kinderkijk, The Netherlands.
We saw some pretty scenery the next morning and got to our destination after lunch.
There we got off the ship and went on the walking tour of the Kinderdijk windmills, working windmills to this day.
Don’t let the blue skies and sunshine fool you. It was SO windy and cold that day, we were bundled up and still cold.
We made the journey out to the windmills and took the tour inside one of them.
They were pretty to look at but it was so cold we didn’t make it too long. The wind was brutal that day.
Inside the windmill was interesting as there are stairs to climb and levels to look at. We didn’t climb all the way up, but looked on the main level and saw how families used to live in here. The windmills are still working to pump water out of the area.
I had to pose in the wooden shoes of the region. That’s the one thing I associate with The Netherlands, wooden shoes.
And another selfie, again to document all the wonderful scenes we saw together.
On our last dinner together, our wonderful group, the group we started with the first night celebrated our last evening together. We laughed, talked, ate and took a group pic. Our server assistant was so sweet and took this pic with her in it. Our servers were great!
One more thing I forgot to mention, the crew on board are trained to learn names at the beginning of the cruise, so all of the servers called us by our names, like Mr. Mark and Ms. Rhoda. It was so cute! Amazing that they learn names so fast and then everyone leaves and they start over again the next week.
One last sunset and then it was time to head home the next morning.
On the last night, I finally got to see us moving through a lock right after sunset. The rest of the time it was during the night, but several of us went out on deck to watch this one and it was so interesting. The big door goes up as the ship moves up and through the lock and somehow the water level goes up and down too.
It was such a wonderful trip and we weren’t exactly ready to get off the ship the next morning, but we followed instructions and had our big suitcases out in the hall around 8 a.m. for them to get them off the ship and ready to load on buses back to the airport in Amsterdam. Thankfully we had a direct flight on the way back and away we went, back to Atlanta.
We both loved the trip so much and can’t wait to do another one. We hope that there are many more trips for us in the coming years! It sure is fun to see other parts of the world, the history, the amazing scenery, and seeing how others in the world live their lives.
A big thanks to Viking Cruises for inviting us on the cruise. It was certainly a dream trip for us! I hope you all enjoyed these 3 parts and hope it gave you a true glimpse into what a Viking cruise is like. As I mentioned, I’ve already gotten messages from a few people who told me they were booking or had already booked their Viking cruise. I don’t think anyone would be disappointed and this was our true and accurate experience of the Viking Rhine Get away.