From Basel to Amsterdam, in Style

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Nov 18, 2013 / 0 comments

When I finished college, I headed to Europe. Yes, yes, so did everyone else! It was a glorious time before settling into the J.O.B. and real life. I remember getting off the train in a town, finding the I booth (information), and trying to discover a safe and cheap place to stay, something delicious to eat, etc., with a thick, ragged, highlighted Lonely Planet guide in hand. Now, 20+ years later, I’d like to revisit that path and those cities I love so well – but to be honest, with a little more luxury and a little less hardship. And, I’m thinking that river cruising on the Rhine is the easiest way to do so.


River cruising in Europe is magical – it’s a time to slow down, to enjoy the scenery without worrying about transportation, to relax, and to experience an ancient mode of getting around on the waterways. With fewer passengers than an ocean-going cruise, you’ll get a chance to meet interesting people, if you so desire. And, you’ll only have to unpack once (yes!). Castles and architecture both ancient and modern will delight the eye. Excursions will feed your stomach and soul.


I’ll never forget the story that changed my mind about cruises. Pico Iyer, one of my very favorite travel writers, wrote Confessions of a Cruise Convert, in Condé Nast Traveler. What broke the stereotype for him? “…everything was at once more convenient and infinitely richer than I’d expected…Here was a chance to wander freely (as I love to do), to see the sights (as my mother loves), and to stay in a comfortable floating hotel where, every day when we awoke, some new wonder was appearing right outside our window.” And so. The persuasion worked.


I’m looking forward to revisiting old friends, and making new ones – of cities, that is (although human friends are always more than welcome).


Nightview of Cologne Cathedrale across the River Rhine.

Nightview of Cologne Cathedrale across the River Rhine. Wikimedia Commons, adapted by Wandering Educators


Basel, you sly dog. Although river cruising of a different sort occurs in Basel, I’ll take the new luxurious ship kind over the orange floaty kind.


Panorama of the Rhine, Basel

Panorama of the Rhine, Basel. Wikimedia Commons: Wladyslaw


Oh, the romance of the Black Forest. I’ve spent time in Freiburg, and love this area. It’s so beautiful, like a fairy tale. In fact, I’d suggest downloading a fairy tale or two to inspire (I’m enamored of Mercedes Lackey’s fairy tale series). Be sure, while you embark, to shop for souvenirs – the craftsmanship here is incredible, and makes for great gifts. If you’re fortunate enough to experience the famed hospitality of this region, consider yourself lucky (and well fed).


Breisach, on the Rhine.

Breisach, on the Rhine. Wikimedia Commons: Rémi Stosskopf


Strasbourg – I remember this city fondly, and well. Amazing food, and a surprise – a city of canals! It’s a medieval feast for the eyes. Walking it inspires so much poetry in my mind, I have to quick sit down and have a bit to eat to refresh myself (and, to be honest, people watch).


Strasbourg roofs

Strasbourg Roofs. Wikimedia Commons: François Philipp


Strasbourg Canals

Strasbourg Canals. Wikimedia Commons: Ignaz Wiradi


Cologne (Köln), oh how I love you, let me count the ways. I first visited so long ago, and remember the chocolate factory (YUM), and the incredible UNESCO listed cathedral. I remember juicy sausages, and pretzel bread that stunned me, and beer that was the epitome of beer (if you’ve been to Germany, you know what I am talking about). Now that I’m older, there’s time to hit the chocolate factory (of course), and the Cathedral, but I’d also like to see some art, historic houses, and gardens.


The Rhine at Köln

The Rhine at Köln. Wikimedia Commons: Rolf Heinrich


Amsterdam, I’m talking to you! What better place to end a river cruise than in this city of ancient traditions and modern conveniences, bikes and art, diversions and canals, amazing breakfasts and glorious shopping. It’s a perfect end to a peaceful journey, this city.



Photo: Winfred Peppinck



Have you been to any of these cities? What would you see and do, there?