The highlight of our two days in Amsterdam was a visit to the Rijksmuseum, with its 8,000 works spanning 800 years of Dutch art including many Rembrandts, Vermeers, and Van Goghs. We also enjoyed the included canal boat tour and walking tour, both narrated by our Program Director Amir. [See What to do in Amsterdam for travel tips.]
On the third day of our trip we left early in the morning for our bus ride to Cologne and then Koblenz, Germany, where we would board our river ship.
At our first German stop in Cologne we were amazed by the 14th century Gothic cathedral, built from 1248 to 1473 but only fully completed to its original plan from 1842 to 1880. It was the tallest building in the world until the Washington Monument was built in 1884. Among other relics the cathedral is home to the elaborate Shrine to the Three Kings crafted between 1190 and 1210, holding what were believed to be the bones of the magi. After lunch Amir led us on a walking tour of many historic sites, including an elaborate monument to the Elves of Cologne depicting a story of elves finishing the work of a tailor, and a funny little statue of a man mooning the tax collectors.
From Cologne our bus continued on to Koblenz, where we finally were able to board our ship, the MS River Adagio, before it headed south-east (upstream) on the Rhine to Rüdesheim overnight.
Rhine Valley Castles
Because of the adjusted itinerary our ship traveled to Rüdesheim overnight, which meant we passed through one of the most picturesque sections of the Rhine in the dark. To make up for that, the next morning Grand Circle bused us back along the Rhine valley to see the many castles on the adjacent hills. About half-way back to Koblenz we boarded a day-trip river boat for a better view of the castles, many of which were built to collect taxes from river traffic during the middle ages. We disembarked in in Koblenz for lunch and a city tour.
Originally a Roman outpost, Koblenz was established around 8 BC making it one of the oldest in Germany. On our guided walking tour of the city center we saw monuments to several of its quirky historic figures. The first was an image below the town clock of a thief executed in 1536, with eyes that continuously look left and right and a tongue that pokes out every half hour. Next we learned about the Schängel spitting boy who represents the ostracized but defiant children of 18th century French soldiers. His image adorns all the city’s sewer covers and his statue spits water on unsuspecting tourists at random intervals. Finally we visited a monument to the Peppermint lady who sold candy so she could feed stray cats and dogs in the early 20th century.
After the guided tour we rode the Gondola over the Rhine up to the 19th century Ehrenbreitstein Fortress for a panoramic view of the city.
After returning to the ship from Koblenz we all went out for a delightful German dinner and traditional music at a local Rüdesheim restaurant.