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Thursday, May 16, 2024

The Grateful Traveler: Journeying Along the Rivers of Germany

CRL's travel columnist takes you on the Moselle, Rhine and Main.

Like turning the pages of a storybook with castles, forests, imaginary dragons, and of course the occasional damsel in distress, a river cruise through Germany sends your senses soaring. In my experience, the Moselle, Rhine, and Main rivers are the most consistently picturesque to enjoy via cruising.

My traveling companion/husband and I recently sailed on the Emerald Waterways ship Destiny for the aptly named Legends of the Moselle, Rhine, and Main itinerary. A wonderfully modern 3–year–old ship, Destiny appeals to passengers’ present‐day creature comforts while sailing through scenery that dazzles with history.

We embarked in Bernkastel, Germany, which itself dates back to 3000 BC. Gracefully perched on the banks of the Moselle, this winegrowing town’s steep slopes dot the landscape. A stroll through the main gate brings you past buildings that have been standing since 1416, reminding you of its medieval heritage.

The EmeraldActive option on this cruise allows you to bike up the slopes and tour Bernkastel instead of the traditional walking tour. For guests who want to remain active while enjoying the marvelous food and treats on and off the ship in Germany, the active selection is wonderful.

Cochem is another enchanting town, with its Reichburg Castle that can be seen from any vantage point in the town or from the ship itself. Touring the castle – like all castles – is a unique experience for fellow Americans. As the “youngsters of the world” compared to our European counterparts, castles and other architectural marvels still trigger wonder and excitement. Beyond the uniqueness, however, this castle, in particular, delivers the most amazing views of the Moselle Region.

Koblenz, with its Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, is a military must‐see for both its use in World War II by the Americans as well as by the French much earlier in world history. It is also the gateway for us to sail through the Rhine Gorge with its mystical Lorelei statue. Medieval castles and vineyards line the river drawing an apt metaphor: Riesling now reigns supreme as the lords of the castles once did in this region.

Bavarian beer with history.

Miltenberg and Wertheim usher us on to the Main River and into true Bavarian life. While the Rhine region loves its wine, Bavaria is truly the land of bier! Beer was not invented in Bavaria, much to their dismay, but they boast the most breweries per area than any other place in the world. Their beer is varied and world‐renowned. They are also leading the world in developing alcohol‐free options.

Würzburg, in the Bavarian region, is affectionately known as the “Pearl of the Romantic Road.” Romantic is the word used many times in this part of Germany for so many valid reasons. Bavaria is beer‐loving, while Würzburg is blanketed in slopes of grapevines. The Würzburg region produces a different type of Riesling than we enjoyed earlier in our trip, a drier wine that made me very happy. Maybe too happy, but that is a Grateful Traveler footnote that will stay hidden from view!

Bishops once ruled life in Germany, charging taxes without inhibition. The baroque Residenz palace illustrates how these crippling levies supported the extravagance of the ruling class. Someone must have seen Versailles and whispered to the bishop of the era that he needed one, too. The Residenz is certainly grand on all scales and much in line with France’s Versailles.

Magical Bamberg is a Unesco World Heritage city, and for character and old‐world charm, it is a treasure as well as our last stop before ending our Emerald Waterways Cruise in Nuremburg. The gardens were in full glory when we visited; the roses, in particular, were staggering in scent and beauty. On our day in Bamberg, there was a wedding taking place in the city cathedral. I wonder if the young couple had planned their day of dazzling sun and full‐bloom rose gardens and thought that it would the perfect way to embark on their adventure of a lifetime. I certainly found it to be a picture‐perfect memory to carry with us from our amazing journey.

Vikki Moran
Vikki Moran
Vikki Moran is a travel writer and the founder of the Grateful Traveler.

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