On my recent trip to Europe to attend the Christening festivities for Avalon Waterways
brand-new Avalon Panorama I had the opportunity to visit some distinct and interesting cities. The Rhine River is most famous for its legendary Lorelei rock and the imposing medieval castles that line its banks. Aboard Avalon Waterways you sail through cities like Amsterdam, Cologne, Heidelberg, Strasbourg, and Basel. Today I want to share with you two other cities that I enjoyed.
Mainz – appropriately, my first written word about this journey should come from the home of the debatable inventor of printing, Johannes Gutenberg, who’s 1455 press changed the world with the printing of his 42-line Latin Bible. To my absolute delight, the day was sunny, warm and perfect for strolling the mere 600 yards to the town center. As luck would have it, I arrived on Saturday morning, where the ages-old town square was being set up for the weekly farmers market. This incredible collection of colors, scents, smells and activity was a feast for the senses. Every imaginable plant, flower, vegetable, baked good and meats were arranged and displayed in a mastery of artistic genius. Each booth a station of smiling faces, laughter and cordial exchanges between vendor and customer. The sun shines down and it is a joyous pause to breathe and take it all in.
Later in the day I did a short walking tour of the old city, with quaint streets, storybook houses and inviting cafes, wine bars and beer gardens. Of course, no visit to Mainz would be complete without a visit to the Gutenberg Museum, which is right on the town square. In the age of Kindles, the museum’s amazing collection of 500-600 year-old books is something to behold. Further examination of the town beckons you to visit the statues of the two patron saints and their namesake cathedrals, St. Martin and St. Stephen. St. Martin is on the square, so it is relatively simple to step in for a look, and there are a few little cafes surrounding where you can enjoy a hot or cool beverage. St. Stephens is a 7-minute walk from St. Martin’s and requires hoofing it up a small hill. The effort is surely worth it as you are rewarded with a spectacular array of stained-glass windows created by the late artist, Marc Chagall. This town could not have been more enjoyable and its accessibility from the ship is easy and convenient. I would definitely go back.
Frankfurt – I arrived in Frankfurt with about 6 hours to spare before sail away. Having been to the airport numerous times, this was my very first visit to the old city. Being an avid runner, I took the opportunity to do a short run around town before slowing it down to a walk. The night was warm and full of spring air, igniting the locals with a pent-up enthusiasm. Frankfurt is certainly a modern city with many amenities and conveniences. I wandered the streets and eventually found my way to an area called Cornermarkets, with stylish cafes and bars buzzing with locals. Walking along the path by the river, all kinds of individuals and groups were soaking up the atmosphere. From the city square, I headed back to the ship…I saw four boys clapping and singing…some other boys were drinking a mixture of pop and spirits….some girls were smoking and telling animated stories. The city was spotlessly clean with tidy benches, trash cans, iron-gates and fences….and everywhere you could hear murmurs with frequent joyous outburst across the river and nearby of people celebrating the simplicity of a glorious spring day. When I approached the Panorama, there were four men in the Club Lounge playing Wii Bowling! I would definitely like to come back to Frankfurt and spend some time.
There were other towns and experiences along the Rhine River aboard Avalon Waterways newest ship, the Panorama. The floor-to-ceiling suite windows allow for full-viewing of the riverbank as you sail by. The onboard history and cultural lectures were fascinating and the proximity of docking right near the center of town is an incredible convenience. One of the dramatic upgrades between this river ship and the one I sailed aboard many years ago is the comfort of cabins and the delightfully delicious cuisine. These are grown up ships! Their comfort and service is that of a nice hotel, where you only unpack once and can be in the heart of Cologne or the ancient medieval cities of Rudesheim and Cochem. It seems to me that river cruising is going to be a very smart way to travel for many years.
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