Our first full day on the Sigyn was a Breisach, German, the “gateway to the Black Foreset.” Breisach is built on a basalt rock outcropping in the Rhine plain. It is located in one of the warmest parts of German, across the river from French Alsace, which is famous for its wine growing. Breisach, too, can boast about its winter; it is home of Europes largest cellars, which a storage capacity of more than 160 million liters. The most prominent landmark of Breisach is the Romanesque-Gothic St. Stephen’s Cathedral , built between the 13th and 13th centuries.
We took the included excursion into the Black Forest, which is actually a mountain range. Due to weather, we were not allowed to hike the Black Forest trails, so we instead viewed a glass blowing a cuckoo clock demonstration in a tourist area in the Black Forest.
In the afternoon, Candy and Nicole went on the tour of Medieval Colmar tour, but Greg and I took the WWII Colmar excursion.
It was a good, but long, first full day aboard ship.
Our last day in Lucern we checked out of our hotel and then walked round the old town (altstaedt) to do some shopping. By 1500 we boarded busses for the 90-minute drive to Basel, where we boarded out boat, the Viking Sigyn, unpacked, received the introductory briefing by Andrew our program director, and had dinner.
I have never had any interest in taking a cruise. First, the Caribbean holds little interest for me. Second, the notion of sitting on a private beach in an all-inclusive resort while abject poverty stares at me through a chain link fence just doesn’t interest me. Some friends of ours took a Viking river cruise of the Danube a couple of years ago and came back with glowing reports. We decided to give a Viking river cruise a try by traveling from Basel to Amsterdam along the Rhine with stops every day for excursions and sight seeing.
The trip began with two days in Lucern after a flight into Zurich. The first day was raining and cold, but we had nice weather for the second day. While we waited for Greg and Nicolle to arrive, we got a quick bite to eat at the nearby train station, I worked out for an hour in the fitness center, and I talked Candy into experiencing the sauna. It was a bit of culture shock for Candy to be in a sauna with naked people.
When Greg and Nicole arrived, we set out to find some traditional Swiss fondu at a restaurant, called Pfistern. Instead of fondu we had raclette. It was really good, but somewhat heavy with all that cheese. Lucern, like many European cities has a downtown area (the altstaedt) that is pedestrian only. We felt at ease walking around town, window shopping, and chatting.
The next day we took a guided walking tour of Lucern led by an expatriate American from Ft. Lauderdale. The tour was interesting, and it gave us ideas where we wanted to go the next day to do some shopping.
After the morning walking tour, we grabbed sandwiches from the Coop grocery store in the train station and hopped on the train to Interlocken, north of Lucern. Interlocken is a ski resort town. The Viking people recommended the trip as a way to see Swiss countryside. The views were very nice, but the glare off the train windows made photography a challenge.
That night we walked to another restaurant that the Viking people recommended, called the Rebstock. It was more meat and potatoes than cheese, but still traditional Swiss food. It was quite good, and we enjoyed the walk to the restaurant and back.
Our final morning in Lucern we checked out of our hotel, handed over our luggage, and then walked round town, even experiencing (briefly) a farmer’s market in town. We did a little shopping, and we enjoyed lunch in a small restaurant along the water specializing in burgers and craft beers; although, none of us had burgers. What’s the point of visiting a foreign country and eating food you can get easily at home.
We met up with the Viking folks at 1500 and took a bus to Basel, where we boarded out boat for the rest of the trip. Once we were underway, we had an excellent dinner and sat around the lounge listening to an Eastern European piano player, Gigi, play old American tunes on the piano while we enjoyed some cocktails.
We all slept very well as our boat traveled northward on the Rhine, going through four sets of locks before docking at Breisach am Rhein for the remainder of the evening. There is almost no sensation of being on the boat as it travels. We slept very well as the effects of jet lag, early mornings, long days, and booze lulled us to sleep.