The best way to experience the highlights of Europe is from a scenic river cruise. We just returned from spending two weeks on-board the Viking Hild from Paris, France to Zurich, Switzerland and I’m wishing it never ended. This is one experience I will be talking about for a very long time! As this was my first river cruise experience, I liked having one home base with the opportunity to explore four different countries during the two weeks. I took over 2,000 photos so the following are only a highlight. You’ll need to visit my Instagram and Facebook pages to see even more of this adventure!
The crew of the Viking Hild deserve more praises than I can write in this article. With 188 guests on this cruise, everyone became almost family or very good friends at least. There was a wide range of demographics and everyone mixed very well. Very quickly the crew knew our names and meal preferences, as well as what we liked to drink. Each morning the Maitre D, Pavol, gave me homework of what meals to choose for the day. I felt safe in the fact that they were all taking care of guests and being careful with any food allergies, and any other concerns. The chef, Jhonny, and his team created delicious dishes using fresh herbs grown right on our ship next to the putting green.
In each town we visited, our tours were led by knowledgeable guides, most who have been born and raised in the area where we were. They had in-depth knowledge of the history of each region and are very proud of their heritage.
We started our journey in Paris with a day to explore this beautiful city before travelling by bus to our ship, the Viking Hild, which would be our home for the next eight days. One day wasn’t enough so yes, Paris, we’ll be back!
On our drive to the ship, we stopped in Luxembourg and explored the city’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even though it was raining, the beauty of the Old Town was not lost on us! Of course, we had to try the quiche at Cocotte’s recommended by Serge, our ship’s Program Director. We then visited the American Cemetery where over 5,000 US soldiers are buried, including General Patton.
When touring Trier, Germany’s oldest city, we viewed a Roman amphitheatre, Roman baths, Roman city gates…the Porta Nigra—named for the dark colour of their stone. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was once the city’s entrance, and one of the earliest Gothic churches in Germany, the Liebfrauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady.
Bernkastel-Kues straddles the Moselle River and is known for winemaking. We explored the cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered houses and took part in a wine-tasting at Dr. Pauly’s
Cochem and Reichsburg, Germany
We visited picturesque Cochem and the Reichsburg Castle, and admired more of the beautiful countryside…with another wine-tasting, of course! I found it amazing how the vineyards are on such steep terrain.
Koblenz is situated where the Moselle River meets the Rhine. On our tour of Koblenz, we were able to visit the statue of the spitting boy…make sure you’re not standing directly in front of him or you’ll get wet!
I’ve been in the printing industry for 30 years so the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz was a highlight for me. Our tour guide did a demo of the letterpress process and it brought back a lot of memories of my college days! We also visited the Museum of Ancient Shipbuilding and walked through the streets lined with half-timbered buildings and visited beautiful historic churches.
In the town of Speyer, we visited the Jewish Courtyard, beautiful red sandstone cathedral, a UNESCO Heritage Site, and the Old Gate, part of the last remains of the town’s fortification.
Strasbourg is a mix of both German and French cultures. Our guide led us through the beautiful streets to Petite France, where the cobblestone streets interchange with beautiful canals. The gothic Strasbourg Cathedral in Cathedral Square was once the world’s tallest building and can be seen from most locations throughout Strasbourg.
Basel is an amazing city where three nations converge—Switzerland, France, and Germany. The city is a blend of multiple building styles, and after exploring, we ate lunch at an Irish pub…of all places!
When researching what we wanted to see in Zurich, one of the first things that came up was an umbrella installation just off Geraldstrausse. Randomly it ended up being a few blocks away from our hotel, the Renaissance Zurich Tower Hotel! We were able to find it the first afternoon we arrived in Zurich and I could cross that off my list. Before our walking tour of Zurich, we went on a scenic lake cruise. Even though it was raining, we were able to see the beauty of the area and that many people are fortunate to be able to use this lake for recreation. Next visit to Zurich we’ll need to visit the Alps!
I want to give a big “thank you” to the crew on the Viking Hild as well as each town’s guide and the wonderful staff who took us through the whole booking process. Everything was very smooth and our river cruise was one to remember for many years. I’ll be posting even more photos of this journey on my Instagram and Facebook pages so follow along!