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THE RHINE


ROMANCE OF THE RHINE


The Rhine’s vine-clad hillsides are dotted with castles and its beautiful cities are steeped in history. Jessica Tooze discovers why this magnificent river is the best way to see the heartland of Europe


I 68


t’s another morning and another unique view of the ever-changing Rhine. From timeless vistas heavy with trees covered in autumnal reds and golds, to quaint villages backed by the towering spires of distant cathedrals, the banks slide by in continuously shifting glory. This is our second day aboard Uniworld’s


majestic Antoinette and it finds us docked at Kehl near the striking Pont de l’Europe bridge that spans the Rhine from Germany to France. NATO leaders and heads of state including Barack Obama gathered at this symbolic site before the 2009 Summit at Strasbourg’s European Parliament, the bridge a tangible representation of the eradication of geographical and human borders. The fascinating history and unique landscape of each location Antoinette visits reveals not just


| APRIL/MAY 2012


the romance of the Rhine but also the turbulent past of the areas it runs through. On day two we have already set foot in three different countries – each with their own geography, history and people – and the river takes us all the way into the heartland of Europe and its ancient past. Embarking at Basel we sailed overnight ready for a first day’s exploration of the wonderful medieval French towns of Colmar and Riquewhir in the unique Alsace-Lorraine region of the country. On the west bank of the upper Rhine, the region was historically part of the Holy Roman Empire and has changed nationality four times as France and Germany struggled for control. Docked at Breisach, coaches were waiting to take us over the river and guides were on hand to explain the intriguing history of these old towns.


From left to right The historic Alsace town of Colmar; Riquewihr is nestled on a steep vine- covered hillside; SS Antoinette; cosmopolitan Strasbourg is a fascinating blend of old and new


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