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This page: A Viking

This page: A Viking Longship sailing on the Rhine overlooked by the magical Rheinstein Castle a medieval alley crammed with taverns and shops, many with ornate signs hanging over the cobbles. I found a nook in a wine bar to sample the aromatic local Riesling before admiring the turrets of Brömserhof, the musical instrument museum. We stepped back further in time at the next port, Speyer. Nearly 1,000 years old, its Romanesque cathedral boasts four towers and two domes, and is the burial place of eight German emperors. I spent my free time inspecting the historic trains, planes and automobiles of the incredible Speyer Technik Museum, among STRASBOURG HARBORS ONE OF THE MOST GORGEOUSLY PICTURESQUE OLD QUARTERS IN EUROPE whose exhibits is a jumbo jet and a space shuttle. That evening the German theme continued on board, with lederhosen-clad folk musicians wandering among the tables in the restaurant with their accordions as we feasted on a bratwurst buffet. As my table guests and I discussed the days ahead, none of us really knew what to expect from our next destination, which turned out to be the best surprise of the cruise. Strasbourg harbors one of the most gorgeously picturesque old quarters in Europe. Postcard-perfect half-timbered buildings lean over dainty canals in Petite-France, and everywhere you look there are flowers bursting from window 30 VIKING.COM EXPLORE MORE 2020

TRAVEL boxes and planters hanging from waterside rails. Our guide pointed out the Ponts Couverts, three bridges that link four distinctive towers completed in 1250. Until the 18th century the bridges, which once formed part of the city walls, had wooden roofs to protect those defending the city from invaders. I chose a suitable spot on one of the colorful streets to drink in the scene with a slice of flammkuchen, the local version of pizza. This visual feast would have been memorable enough without my visit to the Gothic cathedral. Its magnificent, intricately carved facade blocked out the sky as I approached through the narrow Rue Mercière. Inside, passing between the immense columns of the nave, I came upon the elaborate astronomical clock, though I had missed the daily procession of apostle figurines that forms part of workings so complex they make Gutenberg’s printing press look rudimentary. This clock does not have a cuckoo, but we learned about those that do deep in the Black Forest at the hamlet of Hofgut Sternen. The timepiece’s origins may be hazy, but we did discover how they became the emblem of this wild and woody corner of Germany before inspecting the giant version on the end of one of the buildings. We had driven here from Breisach through countless fir trees and lush pastures; it was beautiful enough for me to yearn for a closer look, which a hardy little group of guests managed on a ravine trail after we were done clock watching. The Swiss border slipped by silently in the night and I awoke to step out onto my veranda to view a panorama of leafy Basel, our final destination. I then realized why this cruise is called Rhine Getaway. With an elegant stateroom as my constant travel companion, unearthing such a wonderful assortment of historic nuggets had been as easy as taking a single-city break—and a lot more satisfying. GETTING THERE: The eight-day Rhine Getaway itinerary departs from Basel to Amsterdam, or in reverse. Go online: Watch a video of the Rhine Getaway itinerary at vrc.com/videos Clockwise, from above: The Hohenzollern Bridge leads to the magnificent Cologne Cathedral; John enjoyed a slice of flammkuchen, a local version of pizza EXPLORE MORE 2020 VIKING.COM 31