June 14, 2019 Nuremberg to Regensburg, Germany

Regensburg Church Facade

Regensburg Church Interior

Regensburg Church Altar

Regensburg Bridge

Regensburg Cuckoo Clock

Regensburg Cuckoo Clocks

Due to the damaged lock near Nuremberg we were bused about 90-minutes from Nuremberg to Regensburg where we would board another boat, the River Splendor, for the continuation of our trip. Regensburg, a city of approximately 130,000, is located in southeastern Germany in the state of Bavaria, at the junction of the Danube and Regen rivers. Regensburg was undamaged by heavy Allied bombing during World War II and is thus one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Germany. Once we arrived in Regensburg we were taken on a guided walking tour of this delightful Bavarian town. We entered the old medieval core of the town by crossing the picturesque 1,000-foot stone bridge with 16 arches crossing the Danube River completed in 1146. It was the only Danube crossing for hundreds of years, and was the starting point of the second and third Crusades.

Among some of the other notable structures are Saint Peter’s Cathedral and the Benedictine Abbey. Saint Peter’s Cathedral is a 13th-century structure, housing a museum of medieval and Renaissance church art. The church is extremely ornate on both the inside and out. The Benedictine Abbey was an important epicenter of European learning. Among its many treasures are over 200,000 books and illuminated manuscripts.

After lunch onboard the boat we walked back into town where we attended a short presentation about the cuckoo clock. These clocks began in the Black Forest (it was so dark in the forest they found the sundial didn’t work well so developed the clock with sound to help tell time) in the 1600’s and have continued to become more decorative as time has gone by. Today the intricate clocks can have intricate carvings, moving parts, up to a dozen songs and many sounds of the cuckoo bird itself. They said that the cuckoo bird found in the Black Forest is known for laying its eggs in another bird’s nest and letting the other bird raise the baby birds. The young birds are also known for throwing the other birds’ eggs out of the nest, giving the baby cuckoo bird chicks more room.

We visited a new museum that had just opened on the waterfront featuring the history of Bavaria from 1800 to the present. The items in the museum were beautifully presented but it was difficult to navigate through the museum. It was a bit like a maze.

Back onboard the ship we unpacked in our new cabin before dinner. After dinner we were entertained by a local brass band of five young folks playing the trumpet, clarinet, bass and baritone. They played and showed us a variety of local songs and dances. They were not particularly good so there was a steady trickle of people leaving the lounge, including us.

June 13, 2019 Nuremberg, Germany

Nuremberg Castle

Nuremberg Church Interior

Nuremberg Market Square

Nuremberg Fountain in the town square

We traveled the Main-Danube Canal, which connects the Danube and Main rivers, to get to Nuremberg. Nuremberg is a sizable city with a population of approximately 570,000 people. In 1806, Bavaria acquired control of Nuremberg, and in 1835 it became the final stop on the first German railroad. Today, Nuremberg is a beautiful, bustling city with the old mixing in with the new, but it also has a dark recent past: from 1933 to 1938 it was the site of annual conventions of the National Socialist German Workers (or Nazi) Party. It was at a 1935 meeting that the notorious Nuremberg Laws were put into effect, depriving German Jews of many civil rights. In 1945 and 1946, Nuremberg was the site of the Nuremberg Trials, the War Crimes Tribunal that tried Nazi leaders.

The city is known for its honey, toys, and spice cakes, and it was here that the first pocket watch in the world was made, as well as the first globe made by Mr. Behaim. Nuremberg was a great intellectual center of Europe in the 14th-16th centuries. It had the first railway in Germany, and it hosts the biggest toy fair in the world!

After a guided walking tour of the old town we visited a very large toy museum with over 14,000 square feet of vintage toys. Nuremberg was a famous manufacturing hub of all sorts of toys that were distributed around the world. They made everything from plastic toys to tin toys, train sets to board games, dolls to military figures. It was a very interesting museum.

For lunch we stopped at a local sausage restaurant to try the small finger-sized sausages that are famous in the area. They were served grilled, six, nine or twelve on a plate with mustard and potato salad. Also, on the tables were bread rolls and pretzels. The sausage was very good.

The main market square, known as Hauptmarkt is a large open space in the center of the old town where there were dozens of market stalls set up selling all sorts of fruits and vegetables, food items and sausages. We stopped to taste the local favorite sweet treat, gingerbread cookies. Ours were shaped in the round about four inches in diameter and tapered at the edges. They were very delicious although quite expensive (2.50 Euros each) by our standards.

Nuremberg is also the former home of the greatest Renaissance artist north of the Alps: Albrecht Dürer. He was a painter, printmaker and theorist of the German Renaissance. Durer established his reputation and influence across Europe when he was still in his twenties due to his high-quality wood prints. He lived from 1471 to 1528 and was in communication with arts greats like Raphael, Giovanni Bellini and Leonardo da Vinci.

After returning to the boat we attended a lecture on the Main-Danube Canal where we heard about the long history of connecting the Main and Danube rivers allowing for access from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. The canal supported trade and has only been completed since 1992. While they anticipated more commercial traffic, river cruises are the largest users of the canal.

Tonight, we had dinner with Frank and Mona, from Hawaii. They joined Ric, Kevin and us and shared some of their travel and life stories.

June 12, 2019 Altmuhl Valley and Bamberg, Germany

Bamberg’s Little Venice

St. Peter & St. George Cathedral

Madonna and Child

Bamberg Pub

Bamburg Town Hall

Building Ornamentation

The morning included scenic cruising and a lecture on the region of Bavaria by Dr. Markus Urban. Markus gave us the brief history of the region of Bavaria over the last century. We transited several more locks as we have a total of 66 locks to pass through before we arrive in Budapest. We also learned that one of the locks near Nuremburg has been damaged and will take another week to repair. During the repair period no vessels will be able to transit the lock. The plans are that we will go right up to the lock and then transfer to another Vantage ship that will be on the other side of the lock. The guests on the other ship will move into our ship and we will each continue our journeys. The only downside is that we must all pack and unpack on the new ship. This is expected to take place on Friday.

Later in the morning we were treated to a lecture and demonstration on glass blowing by Karl Ittig. He comes from a family that has been in the glass business for several generations. He is a friend of Dale Chihuly, the famous U.S. glass blower and artist and he teaches at the artist’s glass blowing school called Pilchuck Glass School near Stanwood, Washington. They manufacture all types of blown glass from napkin rings to olive oil and vinegar bottles and glass bowls to tree ornaments.

In the afternoon we arrived at the town of Hassfurt where we departed the ship and boarded buses for a 30-minute drive to the town of Bamberg. We took a walking tour of the historic town center. Bamberg’s German architecture dates from the 15th through the 17th centuries, as well as having an 11th-century Cathedral of St. Peter and St. George. The cathedral features four towers and contains the tombs of Pope Clemence II and the tomb of Emperor Heinrich II and his wife Cunigunde. There is a beautiful rose garden with a view of the old town, the tanners’ cottages by the old canal, the mill district and the fisherman’s village known as Little Venice. The city has a population of 70,700 and Bamberg’s industry includes beer as well as textiles and leather goods. Bamberg was ruled by prince-bishops from the 13th century until 1801 and annexed by Bavaria in 1802. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

After some free time to explore Bamberg and have coffee and pastries, we were transferred back to the boat which had transited the river to the town of Bamberg. We stopped into a famous pub where they brew a beer which smells and tastes like smoked bacon. Those who tried it were not impressed. Back onboard our boat we enjoyed another nice dinner in the dining room with Ric and Kevin before beginning our packing and retiring for the night.

June 11, 2019 Rothenburg & Wurzburg, Germany

Wurzburg Church

Rothenburg City Gate

Rothenburg Garden

Rothenburg Half-Timber Houses

Rothenburg Church

Würzburg Residence Overview

Würzburg Residence Close Up

Schneeball Pastry

Würzburg, located in the state of Bavaria on the Main River, is the commercial center of an agricultural region most noted for its vineyards. The city is a leading producer of wine and beer and has a population of about 125,000.

In the morning we visited a medieval town called Rothenburg Ob der Tauber. This exquisite town is the highlight of the northern stretch of the Romantic Road. This meandering route connects southern Germany’s most charming medieval towns and villages. The architecture we saw here was literally the stuff of fairytales, since many of the most familiar tales and legends originated in these ancient towns, hills and valleys. Rothenburg Ob der Tauber is a substantial town that first came to prosperity in the 13th century. It is surrounded by a massive wall and intercut with cobbled lanes that lead from one charming view to another. The Market Platz, or Market Square, is fronted by a handsome Renaissance Town Hall of buff-colored stone. The interior of the Jakobskirche, (Church of St. Jacob), glows in the light pouring through magnificent stained-glass windows. It’s crowning glory is a soaring wood-carved altar piece depicting the Last Supper. We enjoyed walking around Rothenburg Ob der Tauber, taking in the medieval houses, the churches, and the public buildings with their squat cupolas, and pausing to admire magnificent views across the valley of the Tauber River.

Also, in Rothenburg Ob der Tauber is the Kathe Wohlfahrt year-round Christmas Village. This enormous holiday shop includes all types of holiday decorations from tree ornaments to cuckoo clocks and religious crèches to table linens. Within this store was a very interesting Christmas Museum where you can see the history of Christmas and its decorations. The museum has a large collection of beautifully decorated trees, tree stands, nut crackers, St. Nicholas’, glass cases of ornaments created through the years and more.

While in town we tried one of the local favorite treats called a Schneeball. This hard, crusty pastry is made from a shortbread like pastry and covered in chocolate, cinnamon, Hazel Nuts or Pistachio Nuts.

In the afternoon we visited Würzburg’s uncontested highlight, the Residence and Court Garden. This fabulously ornate palace took 24 years to construct between 1720 and 1744 and was built to house the region’s powerful prince-bishops. Once the construction was complete it took another 36 years to complete the interior. In addition to being one of Europe’s finest baroque structures, it houses a grand staircase that splits into two staircases as it rises above the main entranceway. The vaulted ceiling over the staircase includes one of the largest frescoes ever created. Measuring more than 60 by 95 feet and created by Venetian artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo it soars overhead in a dazzling display.

Deservedly, this amazing edifice has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are over 40 palace rooms open to the public although we did not have the opportunity to visit all of them. Most are ornately decorated with gold, tapestries, paintings and furniture from the Tuscan period. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed so I do not have any photos to share. We could have spent considerably more time exploring but that was not possible.

Our tour included a visit to the former Prince-Bishop’s wine cellar for a tasting with the sommelier. The cellar is filled with large wooden barrels and meanders from room to room under the palace, lit only by candlelight. The Staatlicher Hofkeller winery (since 1128) produces some 500,000 gallons of wine annually and most of it is consumed locally. We tasted four white wines including a Riesling and a dessert wine.

The city of Wurzburg is also noted as the home of the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen, who discovered Xrays in 1895. Architectural landmarks include a Romanesque cathedral, rebuilt after World War II; a 15th-century stone bridge spanning the Main; and the Marienberg fortress, which houses a museum with an extensive collection of Tilman Reimenschneider’s sculptures.

Back onboard our ship there was a lecture titled “Germany in the 21st Century: Changes and Challenges.”

For dinner we chose to try the small casual dining room at the rear of the ship where each day they prepare a light lunch and dinner. If you decide to dine in this dining room called the Cotton Club Lounge you need to make a reservation as it can only accommodate about 30 guests.

June 10, 2019 Wertheim & Marktheidenfeld, Germany

Half-Timbered Buildings

More Half-Timbered Buildings

Holocaust Plaques

Piano Museum Residence

Michael Gunther

Franck House

Unique Tree

On this day we docked in the charming small village of Wertheim with 24,000 inhabitants and took a short walking tour of the village. It was a national religious holiday for Pentecost so most of the retail shops were closed and only some of the food service shops were open. Many Christians in Germany observe the second day of Pentecost, on the day after Pentecost (Called Whitsunday). Pentecost commemorates the Holy Ghost’s descent on Jesus Christ’s disciples, according to the Bible. The village contained many half-timber homes beautifully painted and maintained. The cobblestone streets were clean and flowers could be found around every corner and in every window box. We visited the interior of the main church where the organist was practicing the organ. In this town as well as many others we see brass plaques in the cobblestone streets outside of buildings indicating where Jewish people killed in the holocaust lived.

After our short tour we headed to a small neighboring village called Triefenstein where we visited the largest private collection of rare 16th and 17th century pianos that are also in working condition. The collection is owned and maintained by Michael Gunther in his large private residence. He walked us through the progression of the first piano-style instrument, the harpsicord, that progressed to the current day piano. Michael is also an accomplished musician who played four of the instruments for us to hear the progression of the instruments. Very interesting.

For lunch we headed to the village of Marktheidenfeld where we enjoyed a barbecue lunch with some traditional live music in a large indoor structure resembling a country barn. They served up traditional German food like Bratwurst, sausages, pork, chicken, potato salad, a green salad, bean salad, cucumber salad and bottomless glasses of beer, wine and soft drinks. A couple of musicians playing the accordion and guitar sang both local German songs as well as a variety of American songs.

After lunch we were transported back to our ship which had transited the river to the town of Marktheidenfeld. This quaint town has a population of about 11,000 inhabitants.

We toured the Franck-Haus built in 1745, known as the home of wine merchant and salesman Franz Valentin Franck. They believe that Franck was the inventor of the first sparkling wine. The home has been beautifully restored and the main ballroom has been restored with ornate ceiling frescos. The residence is used today to house changing art exhibitions and also includes a coffee house.

There are some interesting ladies touring with us. One is 90 years old and is originally from Europe. She walks, dances and is a role model for us all. Another lady is traveling with her husband. However, she has Alzheimer’s and always has a smile, although we’re not sure she knows what is going on. There are three sisters from Buffalo, traveling with our group. They all appeared the first day with miniature crowns…indicating how they wanted to be treated…..they are a hoot. There are other gay and lesbian people traveling with us also.

Dinner in the dining room on this night included a wine pairing menu where they featured three different wines. The food has been acceptable but somethings have been excellent while others are not very good. That has been a bit disappointing.

June 9, 2019 Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle Ruins

Heidelberg View from the Castle

Heidelberg Kent & Mark

Heidelberg Library

Heidelberg Church

Ascaffenberg Residence
















This morning we disembarked our ship in Frankfurt for a full day to Heidelberg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Heidelberg most likely gets its name from two words “Heide” meaning pagan and “Berg” meaning mountain, relating to a nearby prehistoric pagan mountain sanctuary. Located in southwestern Germany on the Neckar River, Heidelberg has a population of about 160,000 inhabitants. Heidelberg is home to Germany’s oldest college, Heidelberg University and the 15th-Century Heidelberg Castle. Historic Heidelberg dates back to the 12th century and boasts not only history, but also a tranquil riverside setting. Today, it is a beautifully preserved medieval town that has been called the epitome of romantic Germany. Because Heidelberg escaped damage throughout World War II, many of the buildings in the Old Town are intact and are noteworthy examples of 13th-to 17th- century baroque architecture. Heidelberg is both a popular tourist destination and an educational and research center — home to the Institute of Nuclear Physics, Medical Research, Astronomy, and Foreign Public Law. The town’s many students lend a young face to an old town.

The castle is one of the most famous European castles, an imposing Gothic-Renaissance ruin of red sandstone that illustrates the history of Germany. The earliest castle structure was built before 1214 and later expanded into two castles around 1294. In 1537, a lightning bolt destroyed the upper castle. The present structures had been expanded by 1650, before damage by later wars and fires. In 1764, another lightning bolt caused a fire that destroyed some rebuilt sections. The castle has only been partially rebuilt since its demolition in the 17th and 18th centuries. What remains today is well preserved and quite beautiful as are the views from the castle overlooking the river, town and surrounding countryside. Inside the castle we visited the largest wooden wine barrel in the world that can hold 58,000 gallons of wine. Unfortunately, it was empty!

After visiting the castle, we rode a funicular from the castle to the town center where we took a walking tour of some of the highlights before enjoying lunch at a local restaurant. For lunch we were served a baked burrito-like rolled noodle tortilla filled with spinach, pork, broccoli and cheese. This was served with a potato salad, green salad, fresh bread and pudding for dessert.

Heidelberg is located in one of the warmest regions of Germany making it a place where almond and fig trees flourish along with olive trees. Rose-ringed parakeets and a wild population of Siberian swan geese can be seen on the islands of the Neckar River.

In 1938 the Nazi’s burned down two synagogues at two locations in the city and began deporting 150 Jews to Dachau concentration camp. In 1940 another 281 Jews were sent to Camp Gurs concentration camp in France.

Today, Heidelberg is filled with tourists enjoying the many restaurants, shopping at the many souvenir shops as well as visiting the many gorgeous churches and the castle atop the hill. The architecture of the buildings is quaint and charming, flower boxes are found at many windows and the cobblestone streets are filled with outdoor dining options.

While we were at Heidelberg the ship transited the river to the town of Aschaffenburg where we re-boarded the boat.

After dinner with Ric and Kevin, we enjoyed a local violin/cello entertainment group called the 4 Virtuosos (La Finesse) in the Blue Note Lounge onboard.

June 8, 2019 Rudesheim, Germany

William the Great Statue

Lorelei Statue

Sigfried’s Musikkabinett Museum

Music Museum Instruments

Music Box

Kent in Rudesheim

Rudesheim Restaurant

This morning was spent onboard our ship scenic sailing in the Upper Rhine Valley. The river banks are filled with lush green landscapes, hillsides of vineyards, charming villages and towns and enormous castles perched atop the hillsides. We passed the German Corner at the town of Koblenz where the Mozelle and Rhine Rivers merge. The corner features a large monumental statue of William the Great on horseback.

The Upper Rhine Valley is considered the most scenic stretch of the river, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along this stretch we saw many castles, as well as the famous Lorelei Statue and Rock. In 1801, German author Clemens Brentano composed his ballad Zu Bacharach am Rheine as part of a fragmentary continuation of his novel Godwi oder Das steinerne Bild der Mutter. It first told the story of an enchanting female associated with the rock. In the poem, the beautiful Lore Lay, betrayed by her sweetheart, is accused of bewitching men and causing their death. Rather than sentence her to death, the bishop consigns her to a nunnery. On the way thereto, accompanied by three knights, she comes to the Lorelei rock. She asks permission to climb it and view the Rhine once again. She does so and, thinking that she sees her love in the Rhine, falls to her death.

Due to the historic nature of this area of the Rhine, there are no bridges over the river and the area is preserved in its current state. People take water taxis across this part of the Rhine.

We arrived in Rudesheim early in the afternoon where we took a tram shaped like a small train to Siegfried’s Musikkabinett Museum where they have about 350 self-playing instruments from the past three centuries. We were given a 45-minute tour of the museum that included the playing of a variety of the historic instruments. The museum is housed in an architecturally interesting 15th century knight’s manor house called Bromserhof. The structure is two stories tall with many large rooms featuring ornately painted murals on the walls and ceilings, a stone wine cellar and a lovely colorful garden.

Rüdesheim is an ancient little town, with a population of about 10,000 people, known for outstanding Riesling wines and places to drink them. One charming little street, the Drosselgasse, is lined solidly with pubs and wine taverns. There was a local band performing in the town square as people wandered by or pulled up a chair to enjoy the music while sipping a glass of local wine. The town’s winding streets are very charming with most buildings having colorful flower boxes in the windows and filling any open space.

High above the town and reached by cable car is the colossal Niederwald Monument, which was built in 1877-1883 to commemorate the unification of Germany. Built at an estimated cost of one million gold marks, it stands 125 feet tall. It is a popular spot for superb views of the Rhine Gorge. The monument features a 34-foot-tall Germania (The personification of the German nation or the Germans as a whole depicted as a robust woman with long flowing hair and wearing armour.) figure holding the recovered crown of the emperor in the right hand and in the left hand the imperial sword. Below the statue is a relief of William I riding a horse with nobility, the army commanders and soldiers.

June 7, 2019 Cologne, Germany

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral Stained Glass

Cologne Cathedral Interior

Cologne, Germany. Jochen, Mark & Kent





On this day we took a walking tour of the Historic town of Cologne and had a tasting of the local beer called Kolsch at the famous Fruh Brewery, only made here. Cologne is a significant railroad center and port of great commercial importance. Industry in Cologne varies from cars, textiles, pharmaceuticals, chocolate, and the perfume, eau de cologne.

Medieval Cologne was surrounded by walls and gates and characterized by a maze of narrow, crooked streets. In the mid 19th century, these walls were torn down and a circular boulevard, the Ring Strasse, was put in their place. The modern section of Cologne is found beyond the Ring Strasse. Interesting sights in Cologne include the university, founded in 1388, and the Cologne Cathedral, a gothic structure with twin spires, each 515 feet high, now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Cathedral was begun in 1248, but not completed until 1880. The structure was thoroughly restored after heavy damage during World War II. The most notable work in the cathedral is the Shrine of the Three Magi, a jewel-encrusted reliquary said to contain the bones of the three kings who followed the Christmas star to Bethlehem. Cologne Cathedral is also noted for its magnificent painted choir stalls and stained glass. The cathedral is a very busy place with tourists flocking in by the thousands.

Adjacent to the cathedral is the 4711 House of Fragrances where they have been creating unique fragrances since 1792. This is considered the original Eau de Cologne.

The first student (Jochen), whom Kent mentored at San Diego State University after he retired in 2005, took the train to Cologne to visit with us. Jochen’s family owns a cosmetics company about a two-hour train ride from Cologne. Jochen manages their online website and e-commerce. We had a nice afternoon with him walking the city and having lunch at an outdoor Italian café.

Back onboard the boat we enjoyed the captain’s welcome reception and six-course dinner in the dining room. Following dinner there was a short concert by a couple from a group called Klang Poesie. The program was a brief history of German songs from the 18th century to present day. The young man played the piano and they both sang a variety of songs.

Germany: Geography & Quick Facts
Germany is a land of contrasts, from the snow-capped Alps at its southern borders, to the low, rolling plains studded with fertile farms in the north. Its primary waterway is the Rhine, which flows through farmland and steep landscapes full of vineyards and castles. Cooler than much of the United States, the moist climate is ideal for growing the wheat, barley, and hops that make German beers distinct, as well as the grapes which produce its crisp white wines.
Area: 137, 846 square miles
Population: 82,329,000
Languages: German
Capital: Berlin
Ethnic groups: German, Turkish; minority populations include Greek, Italian, Polish, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Danish, and Sorbian (Slavic)
Religions: Protestant, Roman Catholic, Muslim

Germany History: Despite boasting a rich culture that includes figures like Goethe, Gutenberg, and Bach, Germany did not even exist until the 19th century. Instead, the German-speaking people lived on land divided into an ever-shifting roster of kingdoms, territories, principalities, fiefdoms, and unaligned cities grouped loosely under the auspices of the Holy Roman Empire.

When Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg in 1517, the principalities split into two main camps, some aligning with the Protestants and others with the Catholics. Religious division yielded a political one, with Protestant Prussians opposing Catholic Habsburgs. Tensions spawned the 30 Years War, which ruined Germany financially without yielding any clear single winner.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Kingdom of Prussia became a powerhouse, with a strong military and government, and some of the most liberal policies in Europe for members of its German Customs Union. Non-Prussian states formed their own consortium known as the German Confederation, which had more members but less power. In 1848, responding to the French revolution, Germans throughout both territories demanded reforms and the creation of a unified Assembly. Though no unification immediately followed, the revolutionary colors of black, red, and gold became symbols of the national ideal that would take decades to achieve.

As the 19th century drew to a close, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck’s defeat of Austrian and French forces led the Prussian Emperor to form the first true Germany in 1871. For such a young nation, Germany was audacious, immediately trying to acquire overseas colonies. This was a time of big cultural vision as well. The Brothers Grimm took Europe by storm with their fairy tales of lives lived in shaded woods and imposing towers (many still visible today). Composers like Strauss, Mahler, and Wagner revived Romanticism, their symphonies and operas filling the concert halls of Europe.

The luster was doomed to fade. World War I found the young empire on the wrong side of history, and the Treaty of Versailles led to its dismantling. In its place, the Wiemar Republic was established, but the new leaders faced a trio of complications – global depression, high inflation, and social unrest. Taken together, these conditions made the citizenry susceptible to the promises of the developing Nazi Party, which led to the well-documented horrors of World War II and the Holocaust. With the defeat of Germany, many of the cities which today are serene and prosperous were leveled by Allied bombing.

Post-war years found Germany once again broken up, though now under the administration of the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. The western portion of the country became the Federal Republic of Germany, with an assembly and expanded powers of self-governance. But in the east, the Communists subsumed all the dominant political parties into one Socialist Unity Party, creating a new Communist state: the German Democratic Republic.

The totalitarian nature of East Germany, as it was known in America, led millions to flee to the West. While West Germany blossomed into economic prosperity and world travelers began returning to its cities and scenic riverside towns, East Germany languished economically, its citizens suffering under the oppressive control of the Stasi military police.

The Berlin Wall became a potent symbol of the Cold War. When Gorbachev was making reforms in the Soviet Union in the late 1980’s, then-President Ronald Reagan famously told the premier to put his money where his mouth was, exhorting him to “Tear down that wall!” A year later, popular demands for the wall to come down were echoed by Gorbachev himself and the wall indeed was dismantled. By 1990, Germany was—for the second time in its 1,100-year history—unified as one country.

Now, after more than two decades of unity, Germany is a hub of commerce and activity, boasting some of the world’s most acclaimed museums, orchestras, and architecture. Both cutting edge and steeped in history, it is a nation whose glory days are not past but present.

June 6, 2019 Bonn, Germany

View from our ship looking south in Bonn.

River Voyager Cabin

River Voyager Cabin

We arrived in Frankfurt about 10:55am local time after a nearly eleven-hour flight from Los Angeles and we were all exhausted. Once we cleared passport control we claimed our bags and found that Mark’s brand-new IT Bag had two broken wheels on it. Luckily there was no waiting at the Lufthansa baggage claim office where they agreed to compensate me with ninety Euros, the equivalent of about $100 US Dollars. The entire process took only a few minutes and we were on our way to meet the Vantage Travel representative. She informed us that we needed to wait for other guests arriving on other flights and we should make ourselves comfortable. The wait was fairly short until we were escorted some distance dragging our bags along with about 25 other guests to a bus parking lot adjacent to the airport. There we waiting for the bus for about 20 minutes before being taken through the lush green countryside to the city of Bonn to board our ship. The bus ride took nearly two-hours and most folks were so tired that the bus was a symphony of snores.

Our ship is called the ms River Voyager, built in 2016. The ship has a maximum capacity of 176 passengers and is nearly full.  Our cabin is #312 and Ric and Kevin are in cabin #325, located on the middle deck of three interior decks and is about 170 square feet in size. There is what they call a French balcony which is not really a balcony at all. Instead there is a sliding glass door that opens out to a railing several inches from the window. The finishes and style of the ship is very nice and the staff seems very friendly.

The middle deck houses a lovely restaurant called the Bourbon Street Bistro where all of our meals will be served. On the upper deck there is a large lounge called the Blue Note Lounge with a bar where daily activities, drinks and entertainment is performed. At the rear of the ship on deck three is a small dining room called the Cotton Club which offers a small buffet for lunch or a less formal dinner menu. The roof is called the Solaris Deck where you can enjoy the scenic sailing as well as a very small jogging track.

Bonn:The former capital of West Germany (1949—1990) and the official seat of government of the united Germany before the administrative offices moved to Berlin in 1999, Bonn’s roots can be traced back to Roman times.  Around 11 BC the Roman Army stationed a small unit in the city’s historic center — the Sterntor (star gate) in the center of town is a reconstruction using the last remnants of the medieval city wall.

Although no longer the capital of Germany, Bonn today is a major administrative center and has developed into a hub of international cooperation, particularly in the areas of the environment and sustainable development. A growing number of United Nations agencies are housed in Bonn’s former parliamentary quarter on the banks of the Rhine.

Major sights worth visiting in Bonn include Beethoven’s birthplace at Bonngasse, the Old Town Hall, an 18th-century rococo masterpiece located next to the market place, and the Kurfürstliches Schloss, a former palace of the prince-electors that today serves as the main building of the University of Bonn.

We were too exhausted to go out to explore the city but instead unpacked our bags and got settled into our new home. At 5:30pm we met in the lounge for a safety talk, orientation of the ship and met the captain and some of the crew who will be taking care of us onboard.

Dinner was served in the dining room at 6:30pm where we enjoyed a delicious four course dinner with unlimited wine, soft drinks and coffee. The food was excellent, the service was good and the portions were very reasonable. Ric and Kevin decided to take a walk after dinner while Kent and I caught up on emails and plans for Cologne the next day.

June 5, 2019 Overnight Flight to Frankfurt, Germany

We met our friends Ric and Kevin at the airport around 7:45am. Our flight this morning left San Diego at 9:45am arriving in Los Angeles at 10:30am. In Los Angeles we had about four hours to wait before boarding our next flight to Frankfurt at 3:10pm. While we waited we had a bite to eat at P.F. Changs restaurant. The flight was oversold and was eleven hours in duration before reaching our destination in Frankfurt.

The tour that we are on is with Vantage Travel Company based out of Boston and we were traveling with our dear friends Ric Hovda and Kevin McGrew.