Explore the Rhine and its Tributaries: Where to go?
The Rhine flows from Switzerland to Amsterdam in Holland, passing historic towns and cities in France and Germany, while the Moselle flows into the Rhine from north-east France and Luxembourg. The Main River flows into the Rhine from eastern Germany and ships sail on the Main Danube Canal, which connects to the Danube.
The most popular Rhine cruise is a one-week sailing from Amsterdam to Basel in Switzerland, or vice-versa, calling at Cologne and Koblenz before sailing through the Rhine Gorge to Rudesheim Heidelberg, Speyer, Strasbourg and Breisach – the gateway to the Black Forest.
There are also round-trip cruises from Cologne and itineraries that combine the Moselle and Rhine or the Moselle, Rhine and Main. Riviera Travel offers a Rhine cruise with Glacier Express extension so guests can ride the cog railway and view Alpine scenery.
Sail through the canals or visit world-class museums and galleries in this vibrant city. At the magnificent Rijksmuseum visit The Night Watch Gallery which was designed to showcase Rembrandt’s civic guard portrait or at the Van Gogh Museum see the world’s largest collection of works by the tragic artist.
TIP TOE THROUGH THE TULIPS
Every year Keukenhof, in Lisse, south-west of Amsterdam, attracts 800,000 visitors from 100 countries who come to see the swathes of tulips. One of the best ways to enjoy this spectacular showcase of Holland’s national flower as well as hyacinths, daffodils and other spring bulbs is on a river cruise ship tour.
Keukenhof displays spring bulbs from Holland’s 100 royal suppliers and each year the garden’s designer creates a new planting scheme in consultation with the suppliers to ensure the colours, height and flowering time of their bulbs will fit into his design.
Crescent-shaped beds hug the park’s main lake and their reflection doubles the colour – but it is the scent that really makes visitors heady and inside the giant pavilions this sweet perfume is even more intense, an almost knock-out blow.
There’s an education pavilion and information centre for all levels of interest as well as seven ‘Inspirational’ gardens for visitors wanting to learn more about recycling, kitchen gardens and more.
The 79-acre garden is geared to all ages and its flat landscaping makes it easy for walking and for wheelchair access.
Keukenhof is child-friendly and youngsters can slide on the aerial runway, wear themselves out in the Miffy playground or visit the small farm. There’s also a windmill to climb for views over the adjoining rainbow fields of cutting flowers and a ‘silent’ boat trip around the park. Bikes can also be hired to ride through the bulb-growing region
Keukenhof has a short window for visitors and will open from March to May.
Germany’s cultural capital has more than 100 galleries and 36 museums including the hi-tech chocolate museum on the riverside. The city is dominated by the twin spires of its gothic cathedral which survived bombing raids during World War II.
At the Deutsches Eck, or German Corner, a monument dedicated to Germany u nity that towers over the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle, is Koblenz – one of Germany’s oldest and most beautiful towns. Vineyards, forests and mountains create a stunning backdrop for visitors exploring this UNESCO site.
According to legend, a beautiful girl threw herself from Lorelei Rock and now lures sailors to their death with hypnotic songs. While sailing through this beautiful valley listen for her voice and take in the magical scenery of vineyards, castles and spires.
In this charming city on the confluence of the Rhine and Main rivers visit the Gutenberg Museum to see the Bible printed in 1455 by Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press.
Take a cable car over the vineyards to the Germania Statue which marks the foundation of the German Empire and walk down through the vines to enjoy a drinkin Drosselgasse, a streetlined with cafes and old-style taverns.
The capital of Alsace is home to the European Parliament and European Court of Justice. To absorb Strasbourg’s long history walk along cobbled streets to admire the half-timbered houses and Gothic cathedral with an astronomical clock that has kept perfect time since 1574.
ON THE MAIN
Walk the ramparts of Rothenburg to appreciate this well-preserved medieval city where emperors and kings have visited over the centuries. The 12th century castle has lovely gardens and there is a wonderful marketplace to explore.
The town is infamous for Second World War Nazi rallies and war crime trials and visitors can see the Documentation Centre, in Hitler’s unfinished Kongresshalle, which charts the history of Nazi Germany. Alternatively, climb up to the castle for a view of the town and visit the Church of our Lady, just off the market square.
Heidelberg is home to a grand castle which houses a 221,000-lit re wine barrel, the largest in Europe. There is also a bizarre museum where the wa lls of the old student gaol are plastered with satirical verse and pictures by revellers who were locked up for womanising and drunkenness.
In the 11th century, Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II demonstrated his power by building the biggest cathedral in the Western world, even though Speyer was home to only 100 families . The cathedral took 36 years to build and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
ON THE MOSELLE
Reichsburg Castle dominates pretty Cochem, in one of Germany’s top wine regions. The 12th century castle was destroyed by the French in 1689 and rebuilt in the 1870s. CMV Signature River Cruises’ Bellejour departs from Cologne on July 24, 2016 with calls including Cochem. Seven nights from £ 1,959, second person goes half price.
The Black Gate, a 20,000-seat amphitheatre and Imperial Baths are evidence of Roman rule in 16BC, making Trier the oldest city in Germany. Take a guided tour and also look out for the house where Karl Marx was born.