Sailing Through Europe on the Viking Legend

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Amsterdam is a city in constant motion—giant cranes block out the skyline as building after building is renovated, rebuilt or just plain re-imagined; and cyclists by the thousands pedal furiously through the city streets day and night, dueling furiously with an army of tourist buses and cars who foolishly elected to brave its narrow streets.

No matter how tired they are after their flight from the U.S., tell clients that after taking that magical respite in the marvelous, exciting city of Amsterdam, they’ll never trade that three or four hours of their life they spent walking the backstreets of this Dutch capital for anything. And we also guarantee that after this experience, they’ll think twice about ever giving into their jet lag at any other place on their travels, as well.

But, for a good portion of the next day there’s still time to take in more of the sights of Amsterdam. An 8:30 a.m. tour gave us a quick overview of the city’s highlights followed by about an hour cruising the city’s wonderful canals and savoring its unique attractions. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s hard not to love a city where its residents leave the drapes open so visitors passing by in the tourist boats can enjoy their unique and beautiful homes.

There’s really not enough space here to go into too much detail on all the port stops the Viking Legend makes as it sails through five countries—the Netherlands, Germany, Slovakia, Austria and Hungary—but here are some of the highlights.

Cologne—the first port stop—was, like many of Germany’s major cities, extensively damaged during WWII and by 1945, more than 90 percent of the city center was destroyed and its pre-war population of 800,000 had shrunk to 40,000. Today, however, it’s the fourth largest city in Germany and an industrial giant. But despite the pounding the city took during the war, today its centuries of history are still evident with remnants of Roman occupation—the city was the first major Roman encampment in Germany—and with its most dominant historical attraction, the massive Cologne Cathedral, which literally holds court over the entire city, claiming ownership of the skyline with its 515-ft. South Tower doing its best to reach into the heavens itself.

The cornerstone was laid in 1248, but construction was stopped during the 16th century delaying its completion all the way up to the 18th century. The structure is absolutely enormous, dwarfing everything around it and it’s not hard to imagine the enormous sums of money it took to build the huge edifice over its 500-year history of construction.

The next morning, we arrive in the riverside town of Koblenz and tour the beautiful Marksburg Castle overlooking the village of Braubach, one of the few castles along the Rhine that was never destroyed or damaged. The castle dates back to the beginning of the 13th century and is one of the largest lining the Rhine Valley. Koblenz is a pretty little town that dates back to the Roman occupation in 9 B.C. and it’s a great place to stroll with a number of charming little sidewalk cafes.

For the next seven hours, passengers enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery the Rhine has to offer with the banks of the river lined with castles, picturesque little villages and vineyards—all before arriving that evening in Rudesheim, famous for being one of the most popular tourist attractions on the Rhine and a classic medieval village with hilly, narrow cobblestone streets that wind up and down through town, past charming little homes, businesses, gift and souvenir shops, and restaurant after restaurant. It’s particularly known for its Drosselgasse, a narrow, one-block long street lined with small wine cafes, many of which offer nightly entertainment.

Here, too, many of the passengers take advantage of an optional excursion that includes a mini-train ride to Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Museum—a truly fun place where visitors enjoy an enormous collection of mechanical music machines, many more whimsical than practical, but all fun to enjoy.

Mainz, a university city located on the left bank of the Rhine and at the mouth of the Main River, is the next stop where passengers enjoy a 2-hour tour that includes a visit to the Gutenberg Museum—Johann Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press (an invention that helped change history) was born here. Other tourism attractions—and one clients will visit on the tour if they elect to take it—is the Romanesque cathedral of St. Martin and Stephen, a massive, looming religious architectural gem that took over 400 years to construct. Inside, there’s an army of deceased, but previously prominent citizens and bishops who are spending an eternity in the interior of the cathedral, so it’s not a place where you’ll be entirely alone with your thoughts.