Breisach, German

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.

A view of the Black Forest from our bus window.
Sheep seen from our bus.
The Black Forest Village tourist trap where we saw the glass blowing and cuckoo clock demos.
The “newlyweds.”
The not-so-newly weds.
The people danced around the clock on the half hours.

In the afternoon, Candy and Nicole went on the tour of Medieval Colmar tour, but Greg and I took the WWII Colmar excursion.

The site of Audie Murphys one-man stand against the Germans.
Our guide, Malcolm.
A plaque at the Audie Murphy site.
One of the many dioramas at the WWII, Colmar museum. This was an interesting chapter of WWII history that I didn’t know much about until this trip.
Another diorama.
Greg and me in one of the Alsacians towns we passed through during our travels.
A French Sherman that was knocked out by the Germans and was on display in a French town.
A church in Medieval Colman where Candy and Nicole toured.
A woman Medieval Colmar passing out coconut macaroons.
The town was beginning to decorate for Christmas.
Another view of Christmas decorations.
The tour guide herds cats.
One of the early versions of the Statue of Liberty. This was the town in which the sculptor lived.
Nicole and Candy in the lounge back on board.
Candy disproving new alcoholic treats under the expert tutelage of Nicole.
The evening’s entertainment consisted of a glass blowing demonstration in the lounge.

It was a good, but long, first full day aboard ship.

Traveling the Rhine (continued)

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.

A view of downtown Lucern.
A view of the shopping area in the old town.
The lion statue carved into rock to honor the Swiss soldiers who served the French during the Thirty Years War.
At one point we stopped to get a small bag of roasted chestnuts. The weather was cold, and the nuts were welcome.
One of the many churches in downtown Lucern.
Candy and Nicole with their loot.
We had a nice lunch in a restaurant that specialized in local Swiss beers.
A humorous store window.
Boarding our home for the next week.
Our state room.

Switzerland and the Rhine

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.

Candy, Nicole, and Greg in the lobby of our hotel as we set out for dinner the first evening.

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 restaurant Pfistern where we had raclette.
The front of our hotel. I highly recommend Raddison Blu. I have stayed at several in different countries, and they are excellent. Plus they always have a very nice fitness center.

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.

The first of several views of Lucern.
The pink clock tower is on top of the rathaus (city hall).
Greg and Nicole in front of the Chapel Bridge. This wooden bridge is decorated with paintings dating back to the 14th century. Many were destroyed when the center of the bridge caught fire in the 90’s.
Candy with her trophy husband. We were all wearing “quiet boxes.” These allow the tour guide to talk to all of us without yelling or bothering others.
Another view of the area surrounding Lucern.
Another view of Lucern.
A final view of Lucern.

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.

A church in Interlocken.
A view out the train window. This was interesting as it showed the gradual snow covering.
A town out the window of the train.
Another view out the train window.
A building in Interlocken.

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.