This year is a very special one for us, because we celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary in March, a milestone in any couple’s life but especially these days when marriages seem to fall apart so easily! We therefore decided to do something special to mark the occasion and having been fascinated by the TV adverts for Viking River Cruises, decided this might be an ideal solution. We decided to explore the river Rhine and see something of the Black Forest, an area that had fascinated Vernon since he visited it as a teenager.
The cruise on the Viking Idi started in Amsterdam and from the moment we approached the gangway on Saturday afternoon, we knew our experience was going to be special – some of the crew were lined up in reception and we were immediately made to feel welcome. Our stateroom was surprisingly spacious and well-equipped with floor-to-ceiling glass doors giving us a wonderul view of the passing scenery. It was to be the start of a magical 8 days, with wonderful food, cossetted by friendly, well-trained staff and we wanted for nothing.
On Sunday we cruised to Kinderdijk, a World Heritage Site where we saw 9 restored windmills still pumping water off the land, which like much of the Netherlands is below sea level. Kinderdijk is the only place in the world with so many windmills so close together. The weather was grey and cold but we enjoyed a well-guided tour inside one of the windmills, where we saw at first hand the actual workings and how the original miller and his family lived.
That evening we set sail for Cologne, arriving the following morning for a tour of the city and its breathtakingly-beautiful cathedral. After a quiet beer in the sun alongside the river Rhine, dinner and evening entertainment, we cast off at midnight to sail to Koblenz. Here we were taken to the wonderful medieval Marksburg castle, from the ramparts of which we had a stunning view of the river. By now the weather had improved and we spent the aftenoon on the top deck in the sun, admiring the scenery of the Rhine gorge as we sailed on to Rudesheim.
Wednesday saw us arriving in Mannheim for a shore visit to Heidelberg, home to another wonderful castle and this time views over the river Neckar. We rejoined the ship at Speyer and sailed on towards Kehl for a visit the following day to Strasbourg, enjoying a traditional German meal of sausages and sauerkraut en route.
The next morning, now on the French side of the river Rhine, we were taken on a tour of the city of Strasbourg, with its beautiful, old half-timbered houses and yet another great cathedral. That evening, we set sail again, this time for Breisach, the gateway to the Black Forest.
We arrived in Breisach just before breakfast and joined the fleet of buses for a tour into some of the highest and most beautiful parts of the Black Forest. Snow was still lying on the highest hills and in sheltered places alongside the road. We visited a centre that made cuckoo clocks and also watched a chef preparing the famous Black Forest gateau.
Sadly this was our last night on board the Viking Idi, as by the following morning we had docked in Basel. After an early walk around the city centre, we took our sad leave of the ship and said farewell to the crew. For the first time at the end of a holiday, we didn’t want to return home and both agree it was our best holiday ever.
You can watch a slideshow of some of our photos set to music here.