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DESTINATIONS SPECIAL


BACHARACH Bacharach is a gem of a


medieval town whose ancient castle and half-timbered houses offer a glimpse into a forgotten world


BEAUTIFUL


Look out for Rheinstein Castle, on the west bank.


The steely-grey castle actually appears as though it’s growing straight out of a huge, jagged slab of rock, high on the hillside. Close by, the attractive little town of Boppard, originally Roman, is a popular call for river cruise vessels, which tie up right in front of the centre. Eight of the original 28 Roman towers are still standing, as well as the medieval town gates and many old, half-timbered houses. If you’re here in summer, it’s a wonderful place to take time to relax and enjoy a glass of wine in the garden of one of the many pretty wine taverns. The river broadens at Koblenz, a former Roman trading settlement that grew up at the point where the Rhine meets the Moselle. This year, throughout the summer, Koblenz will be the focal point of Germany’s biggest garden festival, Floriade, and transformed into a riot of dazzling blooms and themed gardens. Tours of the exhibits are included in ships’ itineraries all summer long. Make a point of taking the cable car across the river to Ehrenbreitstein Castle, a solid and imposing fortress high above the valley that is itself one of the settings for the flower show. Ehrenbreitstein Castle is also one of the sites for the


annual Rhine in Flames celebration in August, when the castle is drenched in red light with smoke billowing from all


CRUISE-INTERNATIONAL.COM


sections and magnificent fireworks displays are set off all along the river. Several river cruises incorporate this lovely festival into their itineraries every year. The next important stop beyond Koblenz is Cologne, although the river continues to pass through stunning scenery with castles, both ruined and intact, lining the banks at every curve. Towards Cologne, the passing landscape flattens out, but is interesting nonetheless, particularly at weekends, when the whole city appears to take to the river banks for dog walking, cycling and jogging. Cologne’s soaring Gothic cathedral thankfully survived the bombing of the Second World War that devastated much of the city. You can climb to the top of the south tower (with more than 500 steps), for majestic sweeping views of the city and the low, rolling hills beyond. You may even be able to spot your cruise vessel moored alongside the old town. The rest of the city has several interesting sights, not least the chocolate museum and the brewery taverns of the Altstadt, which produces its own beer, Koelsch. From here, it’s north to Amsterdam, where there are usually a couple of days to explore the canals, galleries and museums, and to sit in a traditional ‘brown café’ (the Dutch version of a convivial pub) and reflect on a journey that’s taken you right across the heart of a continent.


APRIL/MAY 2012 |


RHEINSTEIN CASTLE


The 14th-century castle almost looks as if it has been hewn out of the hillside


BEGINNINGS


Many classic cruises start or finish in the Swiss city of Basel in the upper Rhine region


81


BASEL


PHOTOS: ISTOCK/EMILY PAYNE


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