Castles Along The Rhine, River Antoinette, Sept 2011

An indoor pool looking out over the stern and a real balcony with retracting windows were the most surprising upgrades from previous models.

Castles Along The Rhine is perhaps the most elegant itinerary of all the European River cruises … And the River Antionette is the most elegant of the European River Ships.    The cruise starts (or ends) in Amsterdam.   Amsterdam is definitely worth spending an extra day or two.  (see another post here)


The first stop is at Cologne, (or Koln in German) … home of the largest and tallest cathedral in northern Europe … and the largest bell that really rings.

That's a really big bell. If you want to take a picture of it ... it will cost you 325 steps (of the 515 total)

I climbed to the top of the 515 steps last time we were here, 5 years ago … not feeling so ambitious this time. As our guide said, “the view from the top is breathtaking, but so is the climb to getting there”

Construction on the cathedral began in 1248 and continued till the late 1800’s (with a 300 year break for wars etc)   The work actually continues today with over 100 workers continually working on maintenance and restoration.

Here are some pieces of a gargoyle which are being restored by replacing the original steel pins which rust and expand, with new cadmium - titanium pins, which dont.

This bridge was built during Prussian times in the late 1800’s. It was bombed by the Allies in WW II but didn’t go down. Land forces dynamited it but only part of it fell … only to be fished out of the water and replaced on its pillars.





The stained glass windows are more than beautiful … they told the Bible stories to the 95% illiterate people of previous centuries. The main window behind the main alter does an Old Testament -- New Testament commentary.

Koblenz  … is a nice little German town on the Rhine,  west of the famous Rhine Gorge, where the wine grapes grow on the hills riverside.  It was the first place we’ve seen real gallery level wood turning art … Dave noticed.

For an old city which celebrated ins 2000th birthday back in 1992, Koblenz is in great form.  First, it sits on prime real estate, at the confluence of two of Germany’s major rivers, the Rhine and the Moselle.  Instead of industrial builidings, there is a park.  Deutsches Eck, right where the two rivers meet.  Deutsches Eck, which translates as “corner of Germany” is dedicated to unity.  In 1897, in a spirit of nationalism, a statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I, the first emperor of the newly united Germany, was erected.

The Romans named their settlement Castrum ad Confluetes (The Camp at the Confluence) which was later corrupted to Koblenz.  During the Middle Ages the town grew in power, controlling trade on both rivers.  The massive fortress, Festung Ehrenbreitstein, built in the 12th centurey is Europe’s largest fortress.

In 1801 Napoleon’s forces arrived partially destroyed the fortress, then occupied the city for almost 20 years.  When they left, the 16th century fortress cannon went back to France with them.  The Germans took it back in 1940, only to lose it again to the French in 1945.  A  gesture of peace, French President Mitterand returned the 15 ton cannon in 1984.

Today, Koblenz serves as the cultural, administrative, and business center of the Middle Rhine.

Its strategic location assures its place as a vital link in the international river trade routes of Europe.  There are steamers, barges, tugs and every other kind of river boat constantly moving up and down river.  Although air raids during World War II destroyed 85% of the city, extensive renovations have successfully preserved the ambience of Old






Here the linking factor is the dove. The old dove who returned to Noah’s ark with a message of hope and the new dove who descended on Jesus and would descend on the disciples.











Here are some more photos from our trip.




Double headed Eagle ... Symbol of the Holy Roman EmpireGreatOpen Air Market in Lugano. Lugano is in the very south of Switzerland, near the Italian border and near the famous Lake Como.Organist in a CathedralMore of the Rhine riverside.Riding the Train

We took a side trip to Lugano ... It's on Lake Lugano, where our friend Joanne Lugano Bettosini is from. Man hole covers make definitive identifiers ...A lakeside restaurant on the shores of Lake Lugano viewed from our ferry boat.Getting a drink the medievel way in downtown Lugano.

Sailing on Lake Lucerne. All the larger Swiss lakes have ferry services around the lake.

We are on top of a Single Barrel of wine ... A really big barrel.

Great Food

Getting around on the trains is easy. A lot easier than trains in the US.

A Stork's Nest on top of the church roof.

More Castles

Castles, Castles, Castles. There is one short stretch of river with over 30 castles.

This building was formerly the "Wine Guild"

A side trip to the Black Forest ... which is famous for Cuckoo Clocks.

A German Lady Roofer ... Installing a Thatch Roof.

Filed Under: Destinations, Europe, Luelle and Dave's Travel Log, Rivers

Russia: Land Of Surprises & Changing Fast

June 19, 2011 by

Blog — Russia  June 1-13, 2011 This trip to Russia is including 3 days of touring St Petersburg, followed by 5 days of cruising on the Volga River and finally 3 days of touring in Moscow.   The tours are very informative.  The countryside and the river stops are interesting and the on board Historian gives a delightful history of the Russian people of the Tzarist, Communist and present times and the rocky transitions in between. This is the first day on the river, having left St Petersburg and the hectic touring schedule for the more relaxed cruise to Moscow (which will be hectic once again.)   It’s also the first day the Internet has worked … so I’ll catch up on this blog and post a few photos.

The Tzars had plenty of money. Castles like this were often "gifts" to friends or lovers....

Part of the hectic-ness was produced by having the ships dock 45 minutes to an hour away from City Center.   It seems like such an easy problem to solve and it would take away a lot of traffic, to just dock the ships downtown like they do in the rest of Europe.   I’m sure there are Russian politics at play, that are above our pay grade…. The ship is not up to the Uniworld standards that we’ve become spoiled by, since Russia owns all the ships and only allows leasing by the various cruise companies.

Some passengers are complaining about the service and the boat … but we are here to see Russia, not a doctored up tourist version … so what we are seeing is perfect. After all, these folks have only been experimenting with Free Enterprise for 20 years and since we dont have it perfect yet after 200, we are happy enough to give them some slack and remain curious.    One thing that is noticeable is the desire to provide excellent service by many of the young staff … but you can see that their training and the policies set by their corporate supervisors just cant possibly deliver 5 star service.   The “That’s good enough” attitude seems to have held over from the Communist era. This will no doubt change for the better as competition continues to improve everything. There are two forces that could derail that improvement.   Corruption: both in the government and the Mafia have both hampered the otherwise meteoric progress of this short experiment in Capitalism.   The other unknown is the sizable group who liked it better under Communism.   This was reported by both our tour guides and our Phd Historian.

Our on board Lecturer was a History Professor at a Russian University. She had been in school at the time of the dissolution of the USSR and had witnessed all the changes since then. It was interesting comparing notes with her over lunch. How it is for her as a Phd teaching history ... since our son in law has the same job in America. I think on all counts, Doug has a better deal.

We learned that one of Mr Putin’s last acts as president was to cancel all elections of governors and make all future governors appointees of the president.    He is no longer president, but as Vice President, everyone knows he still wields the power and after sitting out a term or two, will probably be president again.   This centralization of power smells like a resurrection of Totalitarianism.   We’ll have to wait and see. Our Historian as well as some of the museum tours pointed out a tendency to accept and even prefer a King or Tzar, or Powerful Leader that has been part of the Russian psyche for hundreds of years.  First the Tzars, then to the Bolsheviks, then the Communists & KGB, now it seems now to be consolidating once again at the top.   But with the internet and television, it may be too late.   Enough young people may have seen and tasted too much for the genie to be forced back into the bottle … Yes, we’ll have to wait and see.

The Hermitage, Russia's State Museum

The Hermitage is one of the world’s greatest museums.  It would take a week to see it all.   It was the Winter Palace before becoming a museum.   The Yusimov Palace was another museum, a smaller palace of a business family which was said to have amassed even more wealth than the Romanov Tzar dynasty.

Rasputin was poisoned in the Yusimoz palace, shown here. But he didn't die so they shot him. He still didn't die so they drowned him. There was another retired history (Russian) professor on board as a guest. When asked why he had chosen Russian History, he confirmed that it was stuff like this and all the other intrigue that made it such an interesting career.

The "Russian Stove" in the corner of the room is becoming more popular in the West as energy efficiency gets more important. Also known as a Masonry Fireplace or Finnish Stove, the system depends on heating up several tons of masonry with a quick hot fire and then giving off heat slowly for up to 24 hours after a quick, hot fire.

The art pieces and gold  and mirrors were like the Louvre museum and Versatile palaces because they were fashioned after them.   The Russian monarchs did not promote the education of Russian arts or architecture, choosing rather, to import the talent from Western Europe.    Whether this was planned, to keep the serfdom system in place or not, the effect is that there is very little “Russian” art or architecture.   There are great collections of the Dutch and Flemish masters, French, Spanish and Italian artists,  but not much from Russia.    And of course the arts were repressed for 70 years of Communism.   Once again, we’ll have to wait and see as this sleeping giant wakes up.   The highlight of the museums and palaces for me, Dave, were the inlaid parquet floors, truly works of art.

Parquet Floors

We learned that St Petersburg is a city of 5 million built on Islands, where several rivers converge at the Bay of Finland.  So the city has more canals and waterways than Venice and is only exceeded in water transportation by Amsterdam.    Also of note is the fourth largest unsupported domed cathedral, St Isaacs.   1,2 & 3 being Rome, London, & Florence. Swan Lake, the Ballet was interesting,  different to us as we are not ballet or opera fans.

Luelle enjoying "Swan Lake"

Church of the Spilled Blood One of many that commemorated a murder. Assassination has been rampant in Russian history ... Is it continuing? A critical journalist turned up dead on Putin's birthday. A "birthday present?"

The architecture of the ballet house was amazing and the whole ballet thing was unique.   Perhaps we’d better get with the program as grand daughter, Abigail is taking ballet lessons….    Men in tights will take a little getting used to…. Vehicles and Traffic are another subject.   The streets were designed for the fewer cars of the austere Communist regime.   With perestroika came more prosperity, and a lot more cars … and huge traffic jambs.    About the cars, it is rare to see a Russian made car, the “Lada.”   They are stripped down projects from the Communist era that break down a lot and no one wants them, preferring the comfort of Western models,  Ford, VW, BMW, Toyota, Nissan, etc.   Gas prices, after conversion from rubles are about the same as at home, around $4.00 per gallon. One of the best parts of this type of cruise is meeting people from all over the world.   Two of the main places that the 160 people on this cruise come from is Florida and especially Canada.   Tonight I learned about Hockey and Canadian Football … Twelve players and three downs, eh!   Also the Ukranian Orthodox Church.   One man’s father had deserted the Communist army and emigrated to Canada after spending time in the Gulag.   Another’s had been at Normandy where (we learned when we were there) the Canadians had performed so well.   Lot’s of dots of history connect together on  a cruise like this.

The largest canon in the world (diameter) Housed in the Kremlin, It was commissioned by a Czar ... it has never been fired.

This shopping mall in the Kremlin, just off Red Square first opened in 1849. Wow! that's when California was having it's Gold Rush.

The Universal symbol of commerce, The Ice Cream Stand.

This is the Nunnery where one of the Czars exiled his wife so he could marry another. This lake is also the inspiration of the ballet, Swan Lake.

In the town of Uglich, between St Petersburg and Moscow, I walked into the residential neighborhood. Many homes are still log cabins like this one.

There is still no running water to the homes in this neighborhood. So people go to the corner and draw water from the hydrant.

An old cathedral that was inundated by the construction of the Moscow Canal. This canal cost over a million lives as it was built by conscription labor, mainly political prisoners in the Stalin years. Lives were cheap.

The gate is beginning to close on one of the locks on the Moscow Canal

This old wooden church is north of the Arctic Circle. The walls are pine logs and the high pitch content has allowed them to last over 300 years. The shingles are aspen which expands when it gets wet, helping keep the building dry.

Inside one of the many cathedrals. This one was "medium" on the Ornate scale.

This is a lathe that has been used for hundreds of years by Russian Craftsmen to build spindles and the famous Russian nesting dolls.

Traditional hand crafts were demonstrated at several of the stops in the countryside along the river between St Petersburg and Moscow

This iconography is less ornate and typical of the country churches. Icons like this one, painted on a wood panel were used to tell the Bible stories at a time when most people couldn't read.

Looking across the river to our ship, the River Victoria.

Another landmark in the Moscow Canal.

They have these things everywhere. After conversion of Rubles to dollars, things seemed to cost just about the same. This is bad news for the people who earn about 35 to 50% of American workers for equivalent work

Filed Under: Destinations, Luelle and Dave's Travel Log, Rivers

Christmas Photos, Vienna

December 18, 2010 by

We had very intermittent Internet service on the ship, so we missed out on the daily blogging.    We finally solved the problem of weak internet access on board.  I’ll share the details in another post.   The solutions are different in each country you pass thru.       Here are some photos in 3 posts,  1. Vienna,  2. Along The Danube River,   3. Prague.

The horses seemed happy enough in downtown Vienna

St Stephen's Cathedral is Vienna's most famous of it's hundreds of churches. It is always covered by scaffolding doing repairs and cleaning. The drapes are screen printed to look like the cathedral that they are protecting. Ingenious...

A trip to Vienna wouldn't be complete without a concert. This was performed without a conductor ... (we learned that Johann Strauss usually did it that way) The conducting is done by the first chair violin. The music was great, the seats could have used some more ergonomic design!

The Romans had indoor plumbing! This Roman house with its own aquaduct was discovered during excavation. Rather than destroy it for "progress," it was preserved and displayed in the middle of a street.

The Austrian State Library in Vienna. Over half a million volumes and none of them less than a hundred years old.

Filed Under: Destinations, Europe, Luelle and Dave's Travel Log, Rivers

Christmas Photos, Along The Danube River

December 18, 2010 by

The Danube River between Vienna and Prague includes some of it’s prettiest scenery.   Wineries in the Wachau Valley and lots of forest with only farm houses for many miles….   Cruising the river was Daves favorite part of the trip.    During the day, the lounges are quiet so a good book can combine with a latte and some wonderful scenery = some good relaxation.

Duernstien, in the Wachau Valley was perhaps the prettiest little village that we encountered. The church on the river bank is dedicated to praying for the fishermen and river merchants. Being in a poorer region than some of the larger Cathedrals, its interior statuary and carvings are done in wood, rather than granite and marble, giving a warmer, more comfortable feel. Definitely worth a visit, but the interior is only open in the warmer season. The castle on the hill in the background is where King Richard the Lion Hearted was detained for a year while his family gathered the ransom. Richard was returning from Crusading and had done a royal faux pax, placed the English flag above the Austrian flag ... and paid for it with a year in Solitary, and a lot of gold!

The terraced slopes along this 20 mile stretch of the Danube produce some world famous wines. The growers all participate in the Domaine Wachau cooperative. Each plot of vines, some as small as an acre, are processed individually and each has its own label. (See previous blog post from last summer) It is said that a skilled taster can tell which side of the river and how far upstream a particular wine came from ...... ?

Melk was our next stop. The Abbey specialized in training its monks in both Theology and Winemaking. Here we found a nice little internet cafe as well. We find that we are kind of "internet spoiled" and get fidgety when we cant get online.

It's really cold out there! Gotta get ready!

Merry Christmas!

Normal View from our room.

But sometimes it looked like this. Going thru the locks was always fun and gave a little variety as the sights and sounds changed.

There was a lot of birdlife visible, with most mammals staying inside like us. But this fox was enjoying the snow as he seemed to be racing our boat.

This little town was an unscheduled stop, as our Captain was moving the boat around, waiting to get under bridges and pick up the passengers who were on the day trip. It was unprepared for tourists and had more of a "real" feel to it. It is also where Dave found a TMobile store and with the internet card he bought, I was able to take care of my clients after this. And several purchased River Cruises! A travel agent must stay in touch with her clients!

Dress Warm!

The Nurenberg Christmas Market is rated #1 in the world so if you come on this cruise, this is the one that you need to see!

Ornaments etc. Our Cruise Director referred to them (affectionately?) as "Dust Collectors"

Christmas Carols on the steps of the Cathedral in Nurenberg's central square.

Gigantic Nazi Parade Grounds. Nuremberg was selected by Hitler as his headquarters. So it was the logical place to try his leaders for war crimes.

Filed Under: Europe, Luelle and Dave's Travel Log, Rivers

Christmas Photos, Prague

December 18, 2010 by

Prague has always been a city of mystery, being one of the oldest cities in Europe.  It was a Roman outpost during their times but it had been here hundreds of years before that.    It was interesting to hear the “dirt” from our local guide, who probably shared more than she was supposed to….    We learned of the corruption and scandal that this young democracy is floundering in.   The leaders seem to think that election is a license to steal.    It’s sad that they are learning the worst lessons and missing the best from what they could learn from our American Experiment.     The recently elected president, who she liked, wound up with a project funded at double what it really cost …. It’s unclear if he’ll survive the answers to the questions….    (We found the same thing in Hungary, also recently released from the grip of totalitarian rule.   See last summer’s blog)

Christmas Markets were everywhere ... and Prague provided a wonderful background for them.

The Wooden Doors are kind of famous. Here two are coming out of the Senate Building. The diagonal stick says, "dont walk here, avalanches come off the roof here."

The famous John Lennon graffiti. This was started as civil disobedience right before the fall of the Communist regime. The communists banned the people from looking at it. .... So, of course they looked at it more and it drew world attention. Their bans and control policies actually hastened their demise. The internet makes this even faster today. Word to politicians: Better do right, the people are watching you ... AND THEY BLOG!

The famous Charles Bridge is the oldest stone bridge in Europe. The statues along the walkway are an art museum by themselves.

Statuary along the Charles Bridge

The "Old Town" end of the Charles Bridge

Organ grinder with his Music Machine and his friend, the monkey.

Famous Crucifix and skyline of Prague Castle from the Charles Bridge.

Watch out for street cars. Regular cars stop for pedestrians but street cars dont!

Filed Under: Europe, Luelle and Dave's Travel Log, Rivers

Egypt’s Nile River

May 18, 2010 by

Filed Under: Rivers

China’s Yangtze River

May 18, 2010 by

Filed Under: Rivers

Welcome to Old World River Cruises

Sign Up For eNewsletter!

We will never share your email and respect your privacy