Friday, July 26, 2019

European Holiday: River Cruise


Phase two of my European holiday... the river cruise in Germany
Unfortunately, a few days before our departure we learned that due to a lack of rain, the ship couldn't cruise on the Elbe River (turns out the Elbe is only about 50 meters wide and is shallow). So, even though we got to go to all the planned cities and excursions, we never actually "cruised." Instead we spent the first two nights on a stationary boat in Dresden and did day tours then we transferred to another stationary boat in Wittenberg for three nights. Actually, they organized a bonus river boat cruise for us one day on a boat with a shallow hull so that we could see parts of the river that we missed. 

Despite all that, the trip was still wonderful. My mom and I are already talking about which cruise to do next. Because we couldn't "cruise" we get 50% off our next booking.


There wasn't any real entertainment on the ship like on larger ships, but  we did have a music trivia night and our team won! Truth be told, it was all due to one of our team mates, not me. It was a night of laughter, competition, and fun.

Our guides were all fantastic; I learned so much more about the history and culture of the towns we visited by being on a group tour, though I've never traveled this way before. I was definitely the youngest by about 10 years, but it was still really fun. You know what I learned? When you travel with an older group, the guides always make time for bathroom stops! 
The Bastei
Amazing rock formations that are each hundreds of feet high. They are now popular with rock climbers, but in the 14th century, they housed a medieval town / fortress. I cannot imagine living in a town where each building was perched up on a rock tower with flimsy bridges connecting them. The views down to the Elbe River were stunning.

Dresden
Wow. I have heard so much about Dresden and it's a great city. It is beautiful and historically interesting. The buildings have all been renovated and rebuilt post WWII bombing so that it looks like it has for hundreds of years. We had a really special experience one night of a private concert with musicians from the Dresden orchestra (the concert was in the room in the photo above). 

Meissen
I had vaguely heard about Meissen porcelain, but it was really interesting to see the factory where it's made, watch the artists make the porcelain. And no, we did not purchase any. Coffee cups were $90 and we saw plates that cost as much as $9,000!


Wittenberg
Talk about history! This is the town where Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation in 1517. He was also the first to translate the Bible into German (pictured above), started preaching in German (instead of Latin), and created a "high German" so that everyone throughout Germany could understand each other. It was incredible to walk where he walked and touch things that he touched. 

The only things I bought on the trip were the Martin Luther rubber ducky and the "Luther socks" for my daughter who has a small sock obsession.

Torgau
This small town was the political center of the Protestant Reformation. I liked that we learned a lot about Katharina, Martin Luther's wife. She really had a huge impact on events and was a strong independent woman. Two interesting aspects are pictured above. The store on the left is the oldest toy store in Germany, founded in 1685, and has been run by 11 generations of the same family since its creation. The image on the right is a renovated house and a house that looks the way it did during the "East Germany" days. Our tour guides had all grown up in East Germany and it was moving to hear their stories of what life was like when they were under the Soviets.

Potsdam
As a history teacher, these cities and towns were tailor-made for me. To go to Potsdam and see where the Big 3 met to decide the end of World War II was humbling. We also saw the Palace Sans, Souci. I realized that I like the outsides of palaces, but get really bored by the insides.

Tomorrow is the final installment of the holiday.

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