The remainder of the afternoon of the 29th was spent cruising the breathtaking Moselle.  Of all the scenes I have enjoyed from a European river cruise, this was the most gorgeous.  All along the Moselle, the steep mountains on each side of the river were covered in grape vines of different patterns; a botanical patchwork of various shades of green. There were also quaint little villages with the most beautiful architecture; easy to see, since the river is narrow enough to get an excellent view.  Each one was more attractive than the last and extremely clean and tidy.




I walked laps around the top deck, just soaking in the scenery and stopping from time to time to grab my camera and shoot pictures.  Then, at tea time, I ran down to grab some kiwi fruit drenched in chocolate from the self-serve chocolate fountain.  Does it get any better than this?

As the afternoon progressed, the only remaining people on deck were me, a few passengers knocking down some Beck’s on tap, and a couple of crew members, along with the captain.  A few times, the bridges we passed under were so low, the captain had to lower the covered area and the wheelhouse, leaving him sitting crouched down in the captain’s chair, so his head would not hit the roof.  Right before passing under the lowest bridge, one of the crew members yelled out to the two of us taking pictures, “Take your seats!  Take your seats!!  We ran to our chairs and sat down with our heads lowered, so we wouldn’t bump our heads on the bridge.

The afternoon was magical and only topped by our arrival in Bernkastel-Kues; a picturesque town located on each side of the middle portion of the Moselle River.  After dinner, Mom and I grabbed our cameras and strolled into town for some exploring and night photography.  Our first subject was the castle perched at the top of the mountain, overlooking the city.


Then, it got better and better, photographing the gorgeous half-timbered buildings surrounding the square, dating back to the 1400’s.  I even spotted a chocolatier on the square and vowed to return in the morning, so I could pick up some truffles I spotted in the window display.






This is not only wide-angle distortion; the narrow building in the center really DID look like it was about to fall over!  It was built in 1410:


The most surprising and quaint discovery was seeing grape vines trained to grow across the narrow cobblestone walkways that surrounded the town square. We couldn’t have picked a better time of year to arrive in Bernkastel, because the vines were full of plump bunches of grapes and they were ripe for the picking.  And, picking I did!  For dessert, I ate my way through Bernkastel, enjoying both red and green grapes.  What a blast!


This morning, after being greeted by a swan right outside our cabin window, we took a  walking tour with Nico, our program manager; one of three for our boat of 133 passengers.  As usual, it was entertaining and full of information; a great way to start off our day in this quaint little town.
















After the tour, we ventured out on our own to do more photography and pick up some chocolate truffles, as well as a Bavarian pretzel, from a little bakery.  Our 90 Euro cents purchase was well worth it, as it was the best soft pretzel we had ever tasted!





So, this brings me back to my previous post and how the remainder of my afternoon was spent in beautiful Bernkastel-Kues!  I forgot to mention in my swimming post, however, that I did take a short detour on my walk back from the pool.  For my Georgia friends who are familiar with Aldi, there was one on the Kues side of the Moselle, so I stopped in for a look around.  Aldi started in Germany, so I thought I would see what an original-style Aldi was like.  There was one notable difference that I thought was quite unique.  In the bakery section, there was a huge lit box that looked like a very large vending machine.  Pictured on the front were various styles of bread rolls with buttons below them.  Push a button and that bread roll rolls out onto the tray below.  I would imagine mothers have to keep an eye on their children in that area of the store!



Last night, we spent the night in Trier which produces some of finest wines of Germany.  After dinner, we were entertained on board by a lovely classical trio; a violinist, violist, and guitarist.  This morning, we were greeted by brisk sunshine; perfect weather for our walking tour of the (very!) historic center of Trier.

Trier, is Germany’s oldest town, dating back to 2000 BC when an Assyrian prince arrived and named the place Treberis, after himself.

In 16 BC the legions of Julius Caesar set up a simple camp that eventually became a great city, one of the four great capitals of the Roman Empire, second only to Rome in importance.  There are more Roman ruins here than anywhere else north of the Alpine mountains, such as Porta Nigra, the chief landmark of Trier.  It’s a massive fortified city gate built during the second century AD.


One of the other Roman ruins we saw during our drive through Trier was the Imperial Baths (Kaiserthermen).  When I think about how OLD these ruins are, it just blows my mind!  Afterall, “old” in our country is only 200 years old!

During our walking tour, we visited the basillica and cathedral.  This shot is the ceiling in one area of the cathedral.


The main square was so photogenic and quaint, because of the architecture of the half-timbered and very old buildings surrounding the square.  In the center, vendors were selling flowers and fruit, and they were surrounded by wonderful cafes filled with people watching the world go by.









European River Cruise Itinerary- One Week Until Departure!

After my last lengthy post, I thought I would give you a break with a shorter one!  I only have one week to go before my upcoming river cruise, so I will have to return to posting excerpts of my past travelogues at a later date.  Instead, I thought I would post the itinerary for my upcoming trip.

My third European river cruise with Vantage Travel (and my mom as my travel partner) begins with a three-night pre-cruise visit in Bruges and Ghent, Belgium. Next, we join the River Navigator, in Amsterdam, for a 16-day river cruise. Finally, we will wrap up our adventure (and photography/ chocolate buying trip) with a post-cruise visit to Basel, Bern, and Lucerne, Switzerland.

The following is our itinerary:                                                                                              August 20, 2011 – Fly to Belgium for pre-cruise extension                                            August 24 – Arrive Amsterdam / Embark ms River Navigator                                         August 25 – Amsterdam                                                                                                   August 26 – Cologne, Germany                                                                                      August 27 – Cologne and Cochem                                                                                August 28 – Piesport (Luxembourg)                                                                               August 29 – Piesport and Trier, Germany                                                                      August 30 – Trier and Berkastel                                                                                       August 31 – Rüdesheim                                                                                             September 01 – Rüdesheim and Mainz (for Heidelberg): Depart for Speyer in the evening September 02 – Speyer and Rastatt (for Baden-Baden): Depart for Strasbourg, France, in the evening                                                                                                                      September 03 – Strasbourg                                                                                    September 04 – Strasbourg and Breisach, Germany                                                        September 05 – Breisach (For Freiburg) and Basel,Switzerland                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         September 06 – Basel                                                                                                              September 07 – Basel/ Disembark ship / Begin 3-night Lucerne extension

I have been doing some research on our cruise stops and it sure looks like it is going to be a fascinating (and gorgeous) cruise!  If/when time permits, I will blog along the way, so stay tuned!

Meanwhile, If any of you have any chocolate recommendations for these countries, please let me know!  As I posted earlier, I collect wrappers and labels of chocolate from around the world.  And, I also savor each and every chocolate I purchase, so I seek out the best!  (See “CHOCOLATE!” for a complete list of what I have already collected.)