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9 Historical attractions you must visit on the Danube

clock 20th October 2015 | comment0 Comments

The Danube is the heartline of eastern Europe, starting from the Black Sea cutting through many major countries before ending in Germany.

Such is the diversity of the cities along the Danube, it makes the river ideal for a cruising holiday. There is so much history attached to the waterway that is best experienced on a river cruise. There are a wide variety of Danube river cruises available such as starting in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, passing through the likes of Austria and Germany and ending in Amsterdam.

Along the way there is an abundance of historical sights which help to build the history of the Danube. Let's take a look at nine must-see attractions en route.

danube river

Shoes on the Danube Bank

Starting in Budapest, the Shoes on the Danube Bank is a highly poignant memorial. A collection of shoes on the banks of the river on the Pest side of the Danube Promenade honour the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in the capital during World War II.

Created by film director Can Togay and sculptor Gyula Pauer, the memorial is a reminder of the tragedies which Budapest suffered during the war, while also commemorating the victims.

shoes on the Danube river

Schonbrunn Palace

This magnificent Baroque palace sits in the heart of Vienna, the next stop along the Danube. The 1,441-room palace is a former imperial summer residence originally purchased by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II in 1569.

It remains a focal point of Vienna's, and by a larger extent Austria's, style of architecture reflecting the changing taste of the Habsburg monarchs. Since the 1950s both the palace and the gardens have become major tourist attractions and were recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

Schonbrunn Palace, Austria

 

Kunsthistorisches Museum

Staying in Vienna and another attraction to tick off is the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Translated as the Museum of Art History, this magnificent building has stood in the Austrian capital since opening in 1891. Commissioned by Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary it houses some of the nation's finest art.

Notable works currently installed at the picture gallery include Jan van Eyck: Portrait of Cardinal Niccolo Albergati (c. 1431), The Fight Between Carnival and Lent (1559) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Rembrandt: Self Portrait (1652). It is an absolute must for all art lovers.

Mauthausen Memorial

Not far from the Austrian city of Linz is the Mauthausen memorial. Mauthausen-Gusen was a concentration camp used by the Nazis during World War II. Between 122,766 and 320,000 people are estimated to have been killed here during Germany's occupation of Austria.

Liberated by the US Army in May 1945, Mauthausen is now a national memorial site. It remains largely intact covering almost 3,000 sq ft. There are a number of guided tours going on throughout the day.

Regensburg Dom

Moving into Germany and the Regensburg Dom should be high up on the itinerary for anyone cruising the Danube. This huge cathedral is a brilliant example of pure German Gothic architecture and forms the focal point of the city.

Founded in 1275 and completed in 1634, the Dom is home to some magnificent monuments including one by renowned German sculptor Peter Vischer the Elder. It is a sight to behold and a must-see when in Regensburg.

Regensburg, Germany

Nuremberg Palace of Justice

Nuremberg is a city of huge prominence in Germany. The second largest in Bavaria, behind Munich, it is a place of so much history none more so than the Palace of Justice. Justizpalast was built in 1916 and was the scene of the infamous Nuremberg Trials between 1945 and 1949 after World War II.

Courtroom 600 saw the trial of the main Nazi Germany personalities such as Hermann Göering, Rudolf Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Arthur Seyss-Inquart. The courts are still used today and are open to the public.

Rhine Gorge

A magnificent natural sight in the heart of Germany, the Rhine Gorge is where the Rhine takes over from the Danube. The 65-kilometre section of river between Koblenz and Bingen was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002.

The area is unusual as it produces its own microclimate and has become the home to a number of species not generally native to this part of the world. Aside from this the gorge provides some splendid views.

German National Museum of Contemporary History

Moving on to Bonn in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany and a must in this city is the German National Museum of Contemporary History. Charting the nation's past after 1945, the museum ranges from artefacts from over the previous decades to the changing face of politics in the country.

Admission is free and guide booklets can be obtained in English, as the exhibitions and tours are presented in German.

Koblenz Germany

Koblenz, Germany

Anne Frank Huis

Ending the trip in Amsterdam, a visit to the home of Anne Frank is an absolute must. Situated at the Prinsengracht in central Amsterdam, this unassuming house was where Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank hid from Nazi persecution.

The 17th-century canal house became a museum in May 1960, following the publication of Anne's diaries in 1957, she did not survive the war. Behind the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank Huis is well worth a visit.

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Enjoy the heart of the Rhine with a day in Cologne

clock 16th October 2015 | comment0 Comments

Sat on the banks of the mighty Rhine is the fourth largest city in Germany - Cologne.

A major calling point in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, the city is home to stunning architecture, friendly locals and delicious cuisine. The inhabitants have an enormous sense of pride in their city and their region, making it a hugely welcoming stop-off point during your cruise along the Rhine.

Approaching the docking point, you will be met by the unmistakable sight of both the Hohenzollern bridge, connecting the east and west side, and the Kolner Dom, a huge cathedral which acts as a symbol for the city. Beyond this beautiful skyline there is so much just waiting to be explored. With Cologne a port of call for many Iglu river cruises, here is our guide to a day in Cologne.

Cologne rhine river

Kolner Dom

Starting with the focal point of the city, the Dom is a truly magnificent feat of architecture standing tall over all of Cologne. One of the largest cathedrals in Europe, work began on building this monument to the city in 1248, eventually being finished in 1880. It is a true masterpiece of High Gothic architecture and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. It has seen a lot during the hundreds of years it has sat in the heart of city and even survived 14 aerial strikes during the Allies' bombing of Cologne during World War II. Repaired and renovated it is now one of the most popular attractions in Cologne with around 20,000 people visiting each day.

Take a stroll inside to discover the Reliquary of the Three Kings, the famous relief of the Adoration of the Kings in 1440 and the Treasure Chamber with a host of relics and artifacts. You can even climb the over 500 steps to the top of the tower to get an amazing panoramic view of the city.

Entrance to the Dom is free but access to some sections carry a charge.

cologne-cathedral

Museum Ludwig

In the shadow of the Dom is the Museum Ludwig, an absolute must for any art lovers among your party. Open since 1976, it is home to a huge collection of modern art ranging from Pop Art and Abstract to Surrealism, not to mention the largest range of works by Picasso across all of Europe.

Situated next to the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, which focuses on fine art from the medieval era, the gallery was bestowed with 350 modern artworks by chocolate magnate Peter Ludwig. The pieces, valued at around $45 million (£28.8 million), allowed the museum to get off the ground and blossom.

Among the artworks currently housed at Museum Ludwig include Kazimir Malevich's 1909 Landscape (of Winter), August Macke's 1913 Lady in a Green Jacket and Gottfried Helnwein's 1987 Last Supper. These sit alongside various works by Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein. Admission is €11 (£8) for adults.

Kolner Rathaus

Take a stroll into Cologne's Old Town and you will find the Kolner Rathaus, the Town Hall. The oldest public building in Germany, it can trace its history back over 900 years and was a focal point of the city during medieval times.

Over the years its architecture has been influenced significantly with main buildings suiting a 14th-century style, while the tower resembles more 15th-century styling with some Renaissance influence thrown in for good measure. The atrium even shows signs of a more modern twist. You are able to stroll around inside and see the likes of the Hansasaal and the Gothic figures of eight prophets, the nine "good heroes" and hear the sonorous carillon which plays three times a day.

Hohenzollern Bridge

Another iconic figure of Cologne is the Hohenzollern Bridge. Carrying railway tracks from the east into Koln Hbf, it has remained a hugely important gateway to the city providing a crossing point over the Rhine.

Built between 1907 and 1911, it was originally known as the Cathedral Bridge with the view of the Dom as you cross it. With three beautiful arches it is a great example of classic German engineering but was destroyed during World War II. As Allied troops began their assault on Cologne, the bridge was blown up by the Germans to prevent further access.

Rebuilt in 1959, the bridge is used for both trains and pedestrians. Take a stroll along the bridge and lay your own mark by attaching a 'love lock' along with the thousands of others that dot the walkway.

love-locks-Hohenzollern-Bridge

Enjoy a Kolsch or two in the Old Town

With a full day of sightseeing behind you, why not unwind in Cologne's Old Town? Like their neighbours in Dusseldorf, the people of Cologne are immensely proud of their roots and have their unique customs.

As the sun goes down head to the Fruh am Dom bar, just a short walk from the Dom itself. Here you will get a real flavour of life in the city with waiters filling glasses with a delicious Kolsch. You won't find many more beers on the menu here, but why would you need anything else as this light, flavoursome beverage hits all the right notes?

Another quirk of Cologne, is the serving of Kolsch. Traditionally poured out in 0.2 litre glasses, waiters will keep the beer flowing until you say stop, so maybe best to enjoy a pretzel or two to soak up the booze.

If you are feeling hungry after touring the city then head to Haxenhaus, on Frankenwerft 19. Here you will find an array of traditional German fare ranging from Knuckle 'Cologne Style' (pork knuckle with red sausage, onions, cheese with red cabbage and mash), Jagerpfanne (pork in a mushroom sauce) and Rhine Style beef with dumplings and red cabbage.

Cologne is such an amazing city to explore and will no doubt be a highlight of your Rhine river cruise.

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The many wines of the Rhine

clock 6th August 2015 | comment0 Comments

The Rhine river cuts through some of Germany’s finest winemaking regions; ideal for cruisers who love their wine.

Renowned regions the Middle Rhine, the Rhine Valley (Rheingau) and the Rheinhessen, all lie on the banks of this famous waterway, making it easy for you to sample the wine as you go. It would almost be rude not to.

We’ve put together a guide for each of these three magnificent regions, their specialty wines and which ports are in each area.

The Rhine Valley - Rheingau


The picturesque Rheingau is one of the most famous areas in Germany for wine making. The name of the game here is quality, not quantity and each batch of wine being crafted with perfection as the goal. The region’s wine-making exploits date back to the Roman era, making it the oldest wine-growing area of Germany.

Known for its high quality Riesling grapes, the region produces some of the finest white wines in Europe with 80 per cent of the produce coming from the valley being fruity Riesling varieties. However, while it’s certainly a popular stop for those who prefer white, Rhine Valley’s reds are also high in quality. Much lighter than their neighbouring European counterparts in France, German reds are much more delicate and subtle.

Many of our river cruises take dock at Rüdesheim; a wine-making town in the heart of the Rhine Gorge. Here, you’ll be right in the heart of German wine-land, with fine Rieslings and tasty reds easy to come by in almost every bar and restaurant.

The Middle Rhine


The Middle Rhine is another area of Germany where Riesling rules the roost. While not as famous as the wineries of the Rheingau, the quality is still very high.

Dotted with picturesque castles and lines by green rolling hills, the Middle Rhine is one of the most popular sections of any Rhine river cruise with its fine wine only aiding its popularity. Vineyards are aplenty within the region, so you won’t have to travel far to find a good glass of wine when exploring your ports of call.

As well as Riesling, the Middle Rhine is known for its own delicious variety of pinot noir; spätburgunder. This full-bodied wine has a real kick to it and is one of the most celebrated reds on the Rhine.

Besides being one of the most important cities on the Upper Middle Rhine, Koblenz is also a popular stop for wine. Our Jewels of the Rhine from Basel stops at Koblenz, and so it’s the perfect choice if you’re after a few different tipples.

Rheinhessen


For a different kind of white to Riesling, although there’s still plenty around, take a stop in the Rheinhessen and enjoy a glass of Müller-Thurgau; a flowery tipple with a hint of nutmeg.

For reds, try the dry Dornfelder, This common grape is the most popular type or red in the region and can be distinguished by its deep, dark colour. For a more Mediterranean flavor, look out for Regent, one of the newer grapes to be cultivated in the area. Since 1994, this red has been popular with locals and tourists alike, and now takes up 800 hectares of the Rheinhessen’s vineyard area.

The towns of Worms and Bingen are the most important places on the Rhine in terms of wine, but you can pretty much get hold of a bottle of quality Rheinhessen tipple anywhere along the river.

A side (tasting) note


Due to the proximity of these regions, many of the wines crossover and can be found in each. If you are after a bottle to accompany your meals, don’t be afraid to ask the waiting staff for tips; they will be more than happy to help out.

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The most inspiring museums on the Danube

clock 27th July 2015 | comment0 Comments

The length of the Danube is packed with intriguing cities, each with their own set of remarkable museums, galleries and exhibitions. When you take our 8 Day Danube Cruise, you get plenty of time to explore the likes of Vienna and Budapest at your leisure, but with so many great things to see it helps to have an idea of what’s on offer.

Here are a few of the best museums on the Danube.

Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum) - Vienna

 


The romantic city of Vienna certainly isn't lacking when it comes to culture and history. After all, Mozart spent a great deal of time here producing some of his most iconic works. Yet while music is as much a part of Vienna as the Danube itself, it’s the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum) that we recommend you visit if you only have time for one museum. This magnificent gallery, located close to the equally brilliant Imperial Palace, was built in 1891 to house the imperial family's art collections. Today, the art museum contains one of the biggest and best collections in the world, with a number of iconic pieces hanging on its walls. On top of the largest Bruegel collection in existence, you will find Raphael’s "Madonna in the Meadow," as well as works from Rubens, Velasquez, Rembrandt and Vermeer. Address: Maria-Theresien-Platz , 1010 Wien

The House of Terror Museum - Budapest

 


With a name like the House of Terror, you know that you are in for a grisly time in this museum. Housed in the former communist secret police headquarters, this horrifying, yet intriguing museum documents the fate of those who fell foul to the Hungarian fascist and communist regimes of the 20th century.

Many of those who disappeared into the halls of this wicked building were detained, questioned, tortured and even killed here and the exhibitions at the museum take you through the hopeless tales. As the most interesting chapters of history are often the darkest, this museum tops the lot for Budapest. Address: 1062 Budapest, Andrássy út 60.Andrássy út 60.

Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelaende - Nuremberg

Documentation Centre Nazi Party Rally Grounds, or Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelaende, is one of the most fascinating relics from Nazi Germany. This huge parade ground was once the platform from which the Nazis would host their famous rallies and displays of power. Some 50,000 people could attend the rallies from the viewing gallery and by taking in the permanent exhibition "Fascination and Terror", you will gain a better understanding of the effects that these authoritarian displays might have had on the German people. Address: Bayernstraße 110 90478 Nürnberg

 

LENTOS Kunstmuseum (LENTOS Art Museum) - Linz

As a former European capital of culture in 2009, Linz has plenty of clout in the museum department. Explore the realms of biology, Austrian history, literature, and more - there’s even a cowboy museum, if Stetson hats and the Wild West are your thing. However, the pick of the bunch has to be the LENTOS Art Museum. One of Austria’s most important art galleries, LENTOS boasts a stunning collection of Modern Art ranging from the thought-provoking to the downright bizarre.


The building itself is an impressive sight at night as it lights up in different colours. As it’s right on the banks of the Danube, you may catch a glimpse of this impressive museum in the evening as you settle down to dinner. Address: Ernst-Koref-Promenade 1, 4020 Linz, Austria

Bratislava City Museum (Mestske Muzeum) - Bratislava

Learn all about the rich history of Bratislava and the surrounding region in this concise and fascinating museum. The museum was established in 1868 and documents the earliest periods of Slovakia right up until the 20th century. Split into eight museums throughout the city, the main one is the Museum of the City History, which covers every aspect of Bratislava from culture to social life. To top off your visit, head up the tower and enjoy the sensational views of the city's Old Town. Address: Radnicna ul 1, Bratislava 815 18, Slovakia (Staré Mesto)

 

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Cologne's Alternative Attractions

clock 22nd July 2015 | comment0 Comments

Aesthetically pleasing, Cologne is a city with both style and substance. A collection of cultures, from Roman to Germanic, have led to one of the most impressive skylines in Germany, but there’s much more to this city than pretty buildings and chocolate.

Take some time out to explore properly; with our river cruises you have the majority of the day at your disposal, so plan your itinerary well. Here are a few alternative ideas for your day in Cologne.

 

 

Belgian Quarter (Belgisches Viertel)



While the Old Town is well worth a visit for its picturesque architecture, winding alleyways and location to the main tourist attractions, for a glimpse at the alternative side to Cologne head over to the Belgian Quarter (Belgisches Viertel). Hip, trendy, alternative; whatever adjective you want to use to describe this neighbourhood, it’s a great place for shopping, drinking and dining. You’ll find everything here from artisan coffee shops and bars to boutique fashion stores and art shops. The quiet streets are covered in murals and the area is generally much more laid-back and quiet than the more central parts of Cologne.

 

NS Dokumentationszentrum – Gestapo Prison



Because who doesn’t want to explore the grim depths of a former Gestapo prison? In all seriousness though, this museum relays important information about the Nazi secret police’s role in World War II and also acts as a memorial for the Holocaust. Perhaps its best feature is the critically acclaimed “Cologne in the times of National Socialism” exhibition, which tells the story of the city under Hitler’s rule and it a permanent collection. The building itself is fully intact from the war era, which is quite remarkable considering the amount of bombs the allies dropped on Cologne. A must-visit for history buffs who love to learn about the darker side of European history.

 

Ehrenfeld



Similar to the Belgian Quarter, but with a little bit more art, Ehrenfeld is another lively, yet trendy part of the city. Here, you will find an abundance of original art studios, quaint cafes and one-of-a-kind shops as well as plenty of stunning street art in mural form. Very much the creative heart of the city, the "Coloneum" movie production house and media centre resides here as well as the area’s landmark the Helios-lighthouse; the former home of the famous German electrical engineering company. A largely residential area, this part of the city is slightly further away from the centre but not too far that you can’t get there easily on Cologne’s impressive public transport network. A number of light rail stations connect you to the area through the Cologne Stadtbahn line. Take either 3, 4, 5 or 13 to get there.

 

 

Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum


A museum that takes you on a journey of the world, the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum is three floors of interactive fun where touching the exhibits is all part of the experience. The first thing that strikes you about this place is the Sulawesi rice boat that hangs in the lobby. From here, you are welcomed to explore the lives of others from cultures all over the planet. Part history lesson, part insight into human diversity, the entire museum is a truly remarkable look at different people, and perhaps how we aren’t all that different.

 

Cologne Cathedral

Although not alternative, no trip to Cologne is complete without a trip to its magnificent Cathedral. This massive church is located right in the centre of the city and, due to its huge size, it’s quite hard to miss. Its status as northern Europe’s largest Gothic church has made it one of Germany’s most popular landmarks so, like we said, it’s hardly off the beaten track

 

 

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