Our first full day on AmaWaterway’s Europe’s Rivers and Castles was both full and enjoyable. This blog details our first days on our trip aboard the AmaDante.
We’ve landed in Europe!
We arrived yesterday via an overnight flight, landing in Luxembourg. Luxembourg is a small international airport and very easy to navigate. Even easier was our transfer to the ship. Since we had transfers from AmaWaterways, we simply found the representative after picking up our luggage and off we went. In about 30 minutes we arrived at the ship via a van at about 10 am. Once at the ship, the “easy” began.
We hung out in the lounge while our room was readied. We met a really nice couple from Atlanta (on their honeymoon – they were in their late 50’s / early 60’s on their second marriage) and the time went quickly by. Another group arrived in the lounge and we quickly befriended them. So within a few hours on the AmaDante, we were on a very first name basis with 3 other couples sharing family pictures. We decided to sign up together on the first night’s Chief’s Table Restaurant. This is AmaWaterways’ second restaurant limited to only 24 people.
The First Supper
We had a great meal that evening. Not only was the company great but the food and service was fantastic. Reflecting back to last night. I can’t help but comment on the clientele that AmaWaterways ships seem to attract. As it so happens the other three couples are all first timers on river cruises and fit our observations of river cruisers perfectly: well traveled, very personable, interested in others and energetic. These were all fascinating people and the evening went quickly.
Oh, and the food was inspirational. Highlights were the the perch entry and the salmon appetizer. So the first evening was filled with meeting truly interesting people with engaging conversation and great food / wine. The evening ended around 10:30 pm since we had just arrived and effectively been up for 20 some hours straight (I don’t sleep particularly well on planes). Sleep came easily.
What do Napoleon, Constantine, Karl Marx and Charles De Gaulle have in common? Turns out the answer is they all lived in Trier, Germany. This is a wonderful German town, right on the border with Luxembourg, France and Belgium. It’s right on the Moselle river, which the AmaDante initially takes on our voyage. Also turns out that Trier was at one point the seat of power for the Roman Empire. Fun Fact: the city was twice the size during Roman times than in the middle ages. We had a walking tour of the city which we found both enjoyable and educational. Here’s a garden dating from the Baroque era.
- Wine. Made since Roman time, wine is a very big part of the culture of both the city of Trier as well as the Moselle river valley. The terroir (this french word was never used in Germany, even though it was germane) is perfect for Riesling (both dry and sweet). The steep slopes also make for some great views of the city. They even had a kiosk in the main square with about a dozen different wines to try (about 2 Euro’s per sample glass). Within view of the city, wine grows on the south slope of the winding Moselle river and includes various slate and sandstone soils. It’s hard to over estimate the importance of wine to this city and region.
- Roman History: Actually as Germany’s oldest city, this is really German history. As a seat of Roman power, Trier held an esteemed place in history as reflected in the architecture and designation as a UNESCO world heritage city. We saw a Roman Amphitheater, an emperor’s palace (re-purposed over time as a church) and a magnificent entry gate to the old city. It’s hard not to be impressed with Roman engineering and understanding of people as you see and hear the history. Trier was the center of the Roman Empire for a time and it shows.
- Roman ingenuity: One example – our tour guide was explaining about the emperor’s palace and how it was built to minimize problems. One example cited was that the building was not only palatial in size (indicating grandeur ) but also cleverly heated such that the visitor would wait for hours in the cold while as they approach the emperor the building got hotter and hotter.
- The Roman buildings were re-purposed during the Middle ages. Lots of classic buildings in Trier makes a stroll through town fun. Our guide pointed out the constant battle between protestants and Catholics played out in statues and architecture. Truly fascinating. The Market Square is the true center of the modern city The day we visited, it hosted a farmers market very similar to those we frequent in the US. But the atmosphere was very different – surrounded by 700 year old buildings and frequented by college students tourists and families.
- Karl Marx was born in Trier; it is perhaps ironic that a 1 Euro store now occupies the spot of Marx’ early childhood. His house in turn looks over a great Roman gate (see above) used by the Prussians to collect revenue for those wishing to do business with the city merchants.
- Overall a very scenic city, one that most American’s are unfamiliar with but many Europeans visit frequently. Highly recommended both historically, architecturally and scenically.
- Many days there are two stops and each stop includes excursions,
- With one exception, all excursion choices are included in our cruise fare.
- Most stops have multiple excursion choices. This is particularly important in cities previously visited – always something new to experience and explore. As these cities are so rich in culture and history, seeing them again is hardly an imposition
- Excursions include active choices like biking and active walkers, easy choices like “gentle walkers” and lots in between. And of course you can always just stay on board and relax. Also among the choices are “limited edition” tours which are designed for people who have “been there, done that”.
Back on the ship
Lunch on the ship featured Vietnamese inspired soup. Each passenger chose ingredients (basil, parsley,noodles, sprouts, many vegetables, shrimp, meats, etc) which were immersed in a broth. Terrific stuff along with great prepared salads (lentils, broccoli and cold sesame noodles to name but a few).
After lunch our Cruise Manager reviewed the entire cruise, highlighting our choices of excursions. Things to note that I thought was impressive:
We arrived at Bernknstel around 4 pm and went on a walking tour of the city directly from the ship. So nice to just walk out and be in the middle of town. Lots of middle aged buildings (half timbered) with all the eccentricities of the middle ages (see below picture). This is a very picturesque town with the steep slopes of grape vines surrounding the town. The small town includes many 600 year old buildings and roman era structures (or at least foundations). This town rivals any that we saw on the Rhine river cruise and perhaps exceeded those in terms of shear scenic beauty. Our guide was truly entertaining and was a treasure trove of local stories and legends.
Included in the tour was a wine tasting event held at perhaps the best known wine cellar named Bernkasteler Doktor where we tasted four white wines – all locally grown, fermented and processed. One was dry, one was very sweet and the other two were in between. A great atmosphere made for great tasting as this picture attests.
Back on board
On our way back to the ship we met another couple who shared many of our same interests like beer and cooking as well as others like European flea market hunting. Interesting nonetheless! After we attended a quick briefing of tomorrow’s activities we then headed for dinner. We were able to get a table for two and enjoyed a great dinner together. We both had perfectly prepared fish along with with a fantastic carrot ginger soup. The local white wine with appetizers was excellent. The French Rhone valley red wine with the entry paired perfectly. Desert was a selection of cheeses (with chutneys, crackers and fruit).
Entertainment was an ABBA cover band. At about 11 pm we realized we’ve been on the go since 7 am. Time truly flies when you’re having fun.
Day 1 Reflections
Today we met many interesting people, was exposed to world class cities, tried some really nice local wines, saw glimpses of history from 2000 years ago as well as 700 years ago, walked about 10,000 steps and were very well fed. Service has been very good and logistics easy and relaxing. As I write this, we are cruising down the Moselle river and the sound of the water rushing by is both soothing and inspirational – what new adventures await our next stop?