We arrived in Amsterdam at 7:15 a.m., Netherlands’ time, on Easter Sunday, 9 of April, 2023. The Viking Tours staff, who took us to board the Viking Longship Hlin, welcomed us at the airport. After twelve hours of traveling and unpacking, I decided I needed to take a nap. My travel partner, Angie, decided she wanted to attend mass. She asked our Viking Hlin ship concierge for instructions on how to get to the nearest Catholic church. He kindly directed her to the Basilica of Saint Nicholas, in the Old Centre district. Angie only had to take the Viking shuttle bus, which would drop her off across the street from the basilica. She got on the right bus and obtained from the kind driver its hourly stop schedule. She enjoyed part of the Easter Mass when she decided it was time to return to the ship.
Unfortunately, the shuttle bus was not at the assigned stop and supposed time. After waiting for the next designated hour, to no avail, she decided to ask for directions. An amiable gentleman suggested she take a taxi back to the ship and pointed to a black cab across the street. By the time Angie crossed the street, the cab was gone, with no other taxi in sight. She decided to call the Viking emergency number. Their advice was to walk back, only half an hour away, to where the ship had docked. In her stressed state, she was not about to wonder about an unknown city, thinking it might get dark (although it was barely noon). Just about then, she spotted the Viking bus. With relief, she got on the bus and asked the driver what had happened. He explained that he had been called to pick up some travelers from the airport and missed the scheduled hourly route.
I was glad to see her safely back onboard the ship when she joined me for lunch. We had a delicious meal prepared by Chef Mario, with a much needed glass of wine. Chef Mario heard us speaking Spanish and came to our table to introduce himself. He was from Portugal and could easily converse in Spanish. From then on, he was our trusted friend who shared tasty treats with us. I must admit, one of the favorite aspects of Viking trips is the delicious meals and the fact that coffees and cappuccinos are available at all times.
That afternoon they took us for a walk around the Old Center District of Amterdam (Oudezijde), the oldest part of the city dating from the 13th century.
Kinderdijk Windmills (Viking picture)
The ship sailed for Rotterdam that evening, and then Dordrecht, where we took the shore excursion to Kinderdijk Windmills. On the way, we enjoyed the view of tulips in bloom. In Kinderdijk we not only got to visit the inside of a Windmill home but also could shop for souvenirs such as cheeses, which Angie had mentioned she wanted to buy. This tour provided another chance for my adventurous companion to go astray again. After visiting the inside of a Windmill home, the local guide took us to a site where tourists could use the restroom facilities before going to a classroom where he would describe the building process of windmills and the making of clogs or dutch wooden shoes. Angie was impatient to go shopping for souvenirs and asked our guide where the shop was. He pointed down a path to a building across a walk bridge, explaining he could meet us there afterwards. I followed Angie, who took off in that direction, figuring we would get back in time for the classroom lecture. She, however, turned towards a brick building to our right that said Souvenirs, not the one our guide had pointed out. Not wanting to get off the beaten path and not wanting to miss the classroom talk, I went back and joined our group. After the classroom talk, we went to the souvenir shop. I looked for Angie, thinking she must have gone there to meet us. She was nowhere to be found. Upon returning to the bus which would take us back to the Viking ship, I let Wez, our Viking Tours Program Director, know that Angie was missing. He asked, “Is that the lady with the two cheeses?” That immediately made sense to me, so I said it probably was. He replied, “She was in such a state of panic that I sent her back to the ship on the first returning bus.” And, since the number of Viking tour travelers was accounted for, our bus parted. Upon arriving at the Hlin I was relieved to find Angie waiting for us. She explained that after she came out of the shop, she could not find us and went to where the Viking tour buses had parked. There she finally saw Wez, and climbed on the first bus returning to the Hlin.
That afternoon we attended a talk about some of the Netherlands’ iconic features and enjoyed a variety of Dutch pastries. After dinner, we listened to live music, played games and had drinks in the lounge.
We arrived in Zons on the morning of April 11. From there, we took the bus to Cologne for the walking tour, where we visited the cathedral and the famous 4711 Eau de Cologne shop. We admired the town hall, which boasts 130 statues of famous citizens, among them Agrippina, Nero’s mother. On the western side of the Hohenzollern Bridge, we also saw the equestrian statue of Emperor Wilhelm I (1797 – 1888). In our homeschool history lesson for my grandchildren, we had just covered the story about this first Prussian Kaiser.
After returning to the ship, which had now anchored in Cologne, Angie visited the Schokoladenmuseum Köln, or famous chocolate museum of Cologne which shows the entire history of chocolate, from its beginnings with the Olmecs, Maya and Aztecs to contemporary products and production methods. There, Angie, of course, bought several chocolate treats for her nieces and nephews. In the meantime, I attended a lecture on board the ship discussing the daily life of a modern German citizen.
After dinner, we skipped the evening Lounge musical entertainment and went back to our cabin to rest and be fresh for the next day’s adventure.
Angie at the Viking Lounge
Wednesday morning we arrived in Braubach, Germany, and took the excursion to the city of Koblenz, where the Rhine and the Moselle rivers meet, better known as the German Corner. We learned about Koblenz’ 2000-year-old history, where archaeologists have found the largest concentration of Roman ruins north of the Alps.
Middle Rhine–should be seen vertically.
Back on the ship, after lunch, we sailed along the Middle Rhine, enjoying the spectacular views and the many castles (about 20), while listening to Wez’s fascinating talk about travelers along the Rhine River. That afternoon we also had a demonstration on how to prepare Rüdesheim Coffee–coffee, brandy, whipped cream and dark chocolate.
You must stir the flaming brandy for authentic Rüdesheim coffees.
We arrive at Rüdesheim around 5:00 p.m. We had dinner and joined our fellow travelers for music by Gianni, the talented onboard pianist, choosing not to go on the optional excursion of Wine Tasting & Dinner at Eberbach Monastery, which, nonetheless, many said was worth it.
Thursday we sailed for Mannheim. Upon arrival, as was often the case when we reached a port, guests could explore the town by themselves, or take the optional tour, in this case to Heidelberg. Instead, we decided to attend the talk on the different itineraries and countries covered by Viking Cruises.
Thursday afternoon, we arrived in Speyer and took the walking tour, where we visited the Speyer Cathedral. It is the largest Romanesque crypt in the world, a 300 year burial site of German emperors built in the shape of a hall.
In the Lounge, after dinner, we joined teams of players trying to guess iconic tunes from the 1960s to the 1990s. Lots of fun!
Friday, April 14, we arrived in Kehl and took the shore excursion to Strasbourg, France, part of the Alsace region. Amid half-timbered houses, we walked along the Petite France area. We also saw in the city center of Strasbourg a statue of a dreamy Albert Schweitzer–liberal pastor and doctor of theology, medicine and philosophy–sitting on a small wall.
Strasbourg is also a favorite nesting home for storks. Here the Platanes tree tops are cut off to make room for stork nests.
Back onboard Hlin we watched a demonstration on how to make Flammkuchen, flamed cake, with Chef Mark. A specialty of the region, this is a thinly rolled dough covered with fromage blanc or crème fraîche, thinly sliced onions, and lardons.
In the evening, we enjoyed a hearty German dinner before joining the after-dinner drinks and DJ party night.
On Saturday, April 15, we arrived in Breisach. Angie and I took the optional excursion to the Medieval Village of Colmar, also part of the Alsace Region. Colmar was the home of the sculptor of the New York City’s Statue of Liberty, Frederick-Auguste Bartholdi. They display many of his works around the city, some of which covertly made fun of the German occupation. This area is also the home of the Black Forest, often associated with the Brothers Grimm fairy tales and the production of cuckoo clocks.
I did most of my souvenir purchases in Colmar and Angie was finally able to buy a French baguette, which she enjoyed for the rest of our trip. Sadly, that was the last tour of our Rhine Getaway journey. Back onboard the Hlin, Captain Thomaz made his farewell toast. After dinner, culminating with scrumptious Black Forest Cake, and listening to some music by Gianni at the Lounge, we bid goodbyes to new friends and crew while the Hlin departed from Breisach to Basel, Switzerland.
We boarded our plane back home early the next morning at the Basel Airport. Thanks Viking for a most memorable journey.