My husband Georges and I recently did another fabulous river cruise in Europe.  This trip we did a Christmas Markets cruise sailing from Basel to Amsterdam aboard the AMACello. Here are some of the highlights of the trip.

 

We started our trip with a flight from Toronto to Zurich and then took the train from Zurich to Basel. Taking the train from Zurich is a breeze. The train station is located adjacent to the airport. You go directly from the arrivals terminal down to the station.  The travel time from Zurich to Basel is a pleasant one hour and twenty minutes.

 

Upon arrival in Basel we took  a quick taxi ride to our hotel – The Spalentor – where we spent two nights giving us lots of time to explore Basel. The old part of Basel is pretty easy to explore. The Spalentor is located just outside of the gates to the old city and can be accessed by a ten minute walk or by taking the number three tram across the street from the hotel. The tram takes you right down to the first Market Platz. From here you go on foot through the pedestrian areas and to one of two Christmas Markets.

I was very pleased with the hotel. The staff were extremely helpful and friendly in a professional manner.  The room itself was much larger than most other European hotels. It was very clean and inviting. The breakfast room is located on the top floor and offered a good selection of hot and cold items. I would definitely stay in this hotel again and would recommend it to our clients.

 

What can I say about the Christmas Markets?  They are a treat for your eyes and your sense of smell. They are best viewed at night when all the christmas lights are on and you are milling with the locals enjoying the hot wine and sausages, the sauerkraut, the fresh pretzels and potato pancakes with apple sauce. Gosh my mouth is watering just remembering the wonderful food we had. The only thing that could have made the markets more magical was if it was snowing lightly. That would have put the whole experience of being in Switzerland / Germany during the Christmas season over the top.

 

BREISACH – After a leisurely sail in the morning we arrived in Breisach. This is the jumping off pointn for a couple of optional excursions. We chose to go to Colmar and Riquewihr. Both of these towns are situated on the French side of the Rhine (where Breisach is on the German side of the Rhine.

 

The drive from Breisach to Colmar took about thirty minutes along the Alsatian Wine Route. Colmar’s claim to fame is it’s well preserved Old Town including what is now known as “little Venice”.  Just like Venice the area has many canals and was the part of the city housing butchers, tanners and fishmongers. Not to be missed and indeed you will see it as you drive in to Colmar is a copy of the Statue of Liberty. The sculptor who designed it, Frederic Bartholdi, was born in Colmar.

 

Just a few minutes drive from Colmar is Riquewihr – a beautiful little village with only about 1,500 people. To visit it is like stepping back in time and seeing what a village in the region looked like back in the 16th and 17th centuries. Luckily the buildings largely escaped damage during World War II.

 

STRASBOURG – We woke up this morning in the beautiful town of Strasbourg. Over the years Strasbourg has gone from being German to being French, back to being German, and now again French. Therefore you see a lot of both the French and German influence in this city.

 

The city’s main sight is the Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg with its famous astronomical clock. This is a must-see. The cathedral is most impressive and the clock is like nothing I have every seen. It’s huge and has quite a story to it. A little tip – it can get quite congested around the clock, especially near 12:30 when it chimes, but you can squeeze past the crowd by following along the wall on the left of the clock and it will get you to the front of the crowd. As we didn’t sail until 4AM we made our way to the Christkindelsmarik after dinner to once again enjoy strolling through the market to see what decorations we could buy and enjoy the hot wine.

 

HEIDELBERG – Upon our arrival into Mannheim after lunch we boarded the motor coaches for our excursion to Heidelberg.  It’s only a thirty minute drive and lives up to its reputation as a romantic city with its cobblestone streets, historic buildings and flowers – yes even at the beginning of December we saw flowers in bloom.  The castle ruins are the thing to see before taking the fenicular down to the market square. Heidelberg has one of the longest shopping streets in all of Germany- much to my delight. It stretches for over one kilometer from one end to the other.  Even if you’re not into shopping its worth the stroll as its the heart of the city and has many cafes and bistros.

 

RUDESHEIM – This morning we arrive in Rudesheim – a small, charming port town. Rudesheim is known for its Riesling wine. Strolling through this little town we found quaint shops and several restaurants and cafes as well as wine bars.  Take some time to visit Siegfried’s Musical Cabinet Museum.

 

Back on the ship we spend the afternoon sailing to Cologne. Along the way we pass through the stretch of the Rhine known as Castle Alley. There are approximately 30 castles or castle ruins found along this stretch – more than anywhere else in the world. While cruising through this area our cruise director, who is giving us a lively commentary on each castle we see, tells us the story of Lorelei and the sailors who lost their lives thinking they saw her on the cliff and steered right into the rocks.

 

Here are some of the photos we took along the way.  Basel  \  Castles Along the Rhine \  Christmas Markets \ Rudesheim \ Siegreid’s Musical Cabinet Museum

Yours In Cruising,

Lola Vassiliadis