Posts Tagged With: Germany

 
 

Lets Celebrate Christmas in July!

For the western world, celebrating Christmas is a time for folks to prepare for and participate in traditional winter activities to commemorate the holiday season. However, in parts of the Southern Hemisphere such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and parts of South America, Christmas falls during the warm summer months. For this reason, Christmas in July was developed when these respective countries participate in winter holiday activities during their actual winter periods. 

While you won’t find annual holiday traditions within the U.S., U.K and many European countries in July, Christmas in July provides an opportunity to remind us that the holidays are only five months away and the perfect time to start planning yuletide festivities. 

What better way to celebrate the holiday season than enjoying the festivities and traditions of other cultures that date back hundreds of years. July is the perfect time to plan for Christmas and design itineraries that celebrate the holidays in countries like Germany, France, Switzerland, Netherlands, Austria or Hungary.

Germany

Rudesheim Cable Car decked out for Christmas

In the Deutschland, the Christmas season begins with the celebration of Advent, the official holiday season in Europe, which starts at the end of November and lasts four weeks until Christmas Day. Many visit worthy traditions specific to individual regions are held during this period throughout Germany. 

One of the largest cities in Germany, Cologne, is known for its annual Heinzels Wintermärchen festival within the Alstadt (old town) historic region of this gothic,  culturally diverse city. Next to the iconic Cologne Cathedral, the annual event features the Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas market), an alley of artisans selling toys, ornaments and holiday treats for folks of all ages to enjoy. This Christmas village also features an outdoor ice rink that will have you swirling in winter bliss. 

Nuremberg, the Bavarian capital of Germany, is home to the annual Christkindlesmarkt, one of the largest holiday markets in the world. Dating back to the early 1600’s, the market centers around Christkind, a symbol for gift giving in Nuremberg. The market features a local teen named as the Christkind representative. Dressed in gilded attire, she is present throughout the festival to greet guests as a representative of holiday spirit to the children in Nuremberg. Within the holiday market, you will find wood badens (booths) filled with handcrafted items, and holiday treats like gingerbread and traditional almond spice cookies (spekulatius).

  One of the best preserved medieval cities in Germany, a Unesco World Heritage site is Regensburg. The city takes a unique approach to the holiday period as it comes to life with glistening holiday lights that complement the medieval architecture surrounding Regensburg’s Christmas markets. Regensburg’s largest market can be found at the medieval Neupfarr church. The excitement doesn’t stop at the markets. Walking the cobblestoned streets you will venture into courtyards, passageways, and find other gems the city has to offer. Don’t be surprised when you stumble upon secret stalls of local craftsmen featuring handmade items that can be taken home as gifts or souvenirs. Throughout your time in the city, dabble in the holiday entertainment, regional cuisine and indulge in the merriment also found along the Danube river and the surrounding beautiful winter scenery. 

Rudesheim, a small wine village in the Upper Middle Rhine valley, brings a more international holiday experience with their annual Christmas Markets of Nations. This village’s representation of the traditions and customs of 20 countries from six continents draws visitors for a unique spin to the traditional German Christmas market experience. Featuring the traditional foods, goods and entertainment of each country makes this a fun and global way to celebrate the holidays. Rudesheim also presents the largest Nativity scene in Europe which can be found within the market square. Some of the more popular activities include festive storybook boat rides along the Rhine river and

breathtaking views of the river and Rudesheim’s vineyards on the decorated cable cars to the Niederwald monument. 

France

Strasbourg in northeastern France is the original capital of Christmas. The first Christkindelsmärik (Christmas market) began over 500 years ago and has drawn visitors for centuries as the flagship holiday market experience. Squares throughout the cities offer unique themed areas filled with mini wooden houses (chalets) featuring the largest number of market food and craft vendors. Place Kléber, the central square of Strasbourg, is the prime location of celebration for the festival backdropped by a handpicked and decorated 100 foot Alsatian Christmas tree. Due to Strasbourg’s French and German heritage, you can find that popular foods like pain d’épices, gingerbread and spiced cookies, are influenced by both regions. Among other Alsatian specialties, don’t forget to try the Vin Chaud mulled wine that is a signature part of a Christkindelsmärik encounter. 

Riquewihr is a magical French Alsatian wine village that is known for its fairytale-like architecture with half timbered houses that are spruced up with holiday decorations. Strolling the cobblestone street and seeing the village decorated with holiday lights and smelling the scent of chestnuts roasting will create a charming French holiday experience. The Riquewihr Christmas market is filled with cheer as you walk the wooden chalet’s filled with locally crafted item, stopping to enjoy a glass of local wine, or one of the local holiday treats of French spiced bread or German bretzels. You will be happy you stopped in this quaint Christmas town, unlike anywhere else in the world,

Netherlands

Amsterdam Canal during Christmas

Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, well known for its canals, is even more magnificent during the holidays. The annual light festival proves to be a winter highlight with it’s art light displays accompanied by live music and street vendors along the city’s canals. While these displays can be spotted from the bridges and walkways along the quay, the best way to experience the Amsterdam Light Festival is by a tour boat traveling along the canals. For another purely Amsterdam holiday experience, visit Amsterdam’s Museumplein museum square area. Centered around an ice skating rink, the Ice Village features a wooden chalet serving local Dutch dishes like cheese fondue that can be enjoyed offering views of the 800 year old Rijksmuseum, which houses the art of Dutch master artists. 

Austria

Ringstrasse Holiday Train

Vienna offers similar holiday experiences to what you will find in Germany but with a uniquely Viennese flare. Offering many Christkindlmarkt in the city, you are bound to find one that is your favorite. The largest market, the Wiener Christkindlmarkt found on the Rathausplatz within the center of Vienna’s historic area, is appropriately named for its large offering of local sausage vendors and has approximately 150 booths. Surrounding the market, you will find a carousel, ferris wheel, ice skating and the holiday “Tree of Hearts” decorated with illuminated holiday hearts. For a smaller, more upscale Christkindlmarkt, Schönbrunn offers the beautiful background of the glowing decorated summer palace of the former Austrian royalty, the Habsburgs. The heart of the Viennese holiday experience is the elegant light displays that illuminate the Austrian city. Whether you are strolling the Stephansplatz shopping area outside of the iconic St. Stephen’s Cathedral or riding the Ringstrasse train around the outside of the Vienna altstadt, you will not be disappointed with a multi sensory Vienna Christmas experience.  

Salzburg, the Austrian Alps city that borders Germany is known as the birthplace of Austrian composer Mozart and the filming location for the movie musical, The Sound of Music. But during the holidays, Salzburg becomes a fairytale land filled with colorful festivity, snow and choirs singing the Austrian hymn “Silent Night”. Visiting the Salzburg Christkindlmarkt in the city’s centre, one of the oldest Advent markets in Austria offers a holiday experience among the backdrop of the snowy rooftops of this beautiful Alpine old city. In Salzburg you are bound to see parades, hear ye olde Christmas stories and tune in to choral concerts. While visiting you will want to tour one of the many of the local nativity scenes, visit the Salzburg Christmas Museum, and stop into the beautiful Salzburg Cathedral. In typical Salzberg fashion, enjoy a music performance with 360 degree views of wintery Salzburg from the observation tower of the Fortress Hohensalzburg. A holiday highlight is Salzburg caroling featuring songs by Mozart and other traditional local holiday songs. 

Hungary

St. Stephen Basilica Christmas Market in Pest

Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is two cities separated by the Danube river united into one. For a traditional holiday experience, take the funicular car to the top of Buda Hill on the western side of the Danube river. Here you can explore the quaint, charming town of Old Buda (Óbuda) and visit their Christmas market outside of the town hall building. Don’t let the small size fool you, you will find within this holiday area concerts, a carousel, skating rink and many more festive activities. For a larger and more modern holiday experience, head across the Danube river and into the eastern portion of the city, Pest. In Pest, you can visit the largest of Hungary’s holiday markets in the shopping district surrounding Vörösmarty square where you will find traditional crafts, artists, plus food booths and daily concerts by local Hungarian bands. A favorite holiday experience in Budapest is the intimate Christmas market that sits outside of the breathtaking St. Stephen’s Basilica. In addition to a small ice skating rink and a picturesque Christmas tree, you will find a holiday light show that occurs hourly upon the face of the beautiful exterior of the cathedral. 

Switzerland 

Basler Weihnachtsmarkt

Basel, is a city on the Rhine river in the northwestern portion of Switzerland bordering France and Germany. The main markets of Switzerland are found in Basel’s center of the city within the old town. Basler Weihnachtsmarkt in the central shopping district is the largest of the markets with the most vendors in Switzerland. The Weihnachtsmarkt on Münsterplatz is smaller in size, however exquisite with its large, decorated Christmas tree adjacent to the Basel Münster (cathedral). Climb to the top of the cathedral towers for fantastic views of the illuminated old town. These Christmas Markets are distinguished by their wooden chalets featuring local artists’ creations and popular food items influenced by Basel’s location near both France and Germany. The most popular items include house made waffles, Gluhwein (mulled wine) and sausages among Swiss favorites like Basel Läckerli (gingerbread) and raclette, a melted cheese. The holiday spirit of the city is spotted among the decorated streets, within the windows of the local businesses, residences and along the Rhine as you stroll along its wintery banks. 

Cruising the Rhineland on the Moselle River in Germany

So now that you know about the various holiday experiences that await you in Europe. So what is the best way for you to start your planning? A Christmas Market river cruise will transport you into Europe’s most popular cities and villages covered with snow-capped Cathedrals and brimming with holiday cheer. 

From late November through December, travel along the waterways of central Europe from Amsterdam to Switzerland or Germany to Hungary visiting the traditional and authentic charming markets that still appear as they have for hundreds of years.

In addition to the Christmas experience, you have plenty of time to explore fairytale castles along the Rhine Gorge, the gorgeous mountainous snowy alps or the dreamy gilded sites of Vienna and the cathedrals of medieval Germany. Tours are included in ports to visit the landmarks of each city with ample time to explore the unique offerings of the local holiday delights.

Discover more about river cruising. If you would like more information on a Christmas Markets River Cruise, BucketList Travel Advisors can assist you with planning the perfect river cruise experience.

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Eat your way through Germany

Germany attracts visitors for its beautiful countryside of mountains, forests, rivers and even beaches. While the landscape of Germany is vast and offers many opportunities to explore, a top of the list for visitors is immersing into the culture and traditions of the region you are visiting. The most recognizable opportunity for immersion is with the local cuisine. Germany is most known for its traditional German fare of bratwurst, pretzels and sauerkraut, but what is not known is that like other countries, the foods within Germany are regional. 

Made up of various food provisions that are reflective of the history of the region, cooking practices may also be influenced from neighboring countries. For instance, making a dish like bratwurst in Bavaria may be very different from those served in the Rhineland. Think, Chicago vs New York pizza. At the end of the day it’s pizza, but the thick vs thin crust is a debatable topic. One bratwurst may not be better than the other, they are just unique to their regions. 

Many restaurants throughout Germany have been awarded the highest Michelin dining designation (three stars) for dining excellence and have the fourth highest rating for total Michelin stars in the world after Japan, France and Italy. 

Journey into the dining experiences of the most popular regions of Germany, traveling from the southern Baden region to Bavaria, Franconia and the Rhineland. 

Baden

The Gemeinde Baden (that’s German for; Baden municipality) is in the southwestern portion of Germany north of Lake Constance at the Switzerland border and to the east of France. With a warmer climate than the rest of Germany, you will find many locally grown products that are incorporated within the cuisine. The combination of farm to table ingredients and influence from both France and Switzerland’s cuisine arguably make it some of the best food in Germany. 

With the country influences that surround Baden, there are actually only a few dishes here that are uniquely from Baden. Most of the offerings are popular dishes in neighboring regions that have been adjusted toward a uniquely Baden experience. These dishes will be adjusted using many of the fresh components that are readily available in Baden and the results are less heavy dishes than those found in other regions of Germany. 

For example, by adding additional eggs, the popular German noodle dish Spätzle tastes  richer than in other parts of Germany. In Baden, it is not uncommon to find traditional dishes from the nearby French Alsace region. Baeckeoffe, an Alsatian casserole dish and Flammekueche, a popular French Tart are served throughout the Baden region. The very popular German cabbage side dish, Sauerkrautor (sauerkraut), pretzels and German potato salad can also all be enjoyed with a unique Baden influence. 

Bavaria

East of Baden, in southeastern Germany, is the very popular Bavarian region. Bavaria, the largest state in Germany, is an elevated region and is credited for Germany’s  popular potato and beet dishes. Many of Germany’s signature dishes that are also found throughout the world were influenced by Bavaria’s eastern neighbors of Austria and the Czech Republic. 

Bavaria’s specialty dishes  include Brotzeit, a traditional bread snack, similar to the deli sandwich topped with meats, cheeses and condiments. Other notable dishes are Weisswurst (white sausage), Münchner Schnitzel (fried breaded cutlets) served with spätzel noodle dumplings, Knödel (boiled dumplings) and the world famous Bavarian pretzels, Brezel’s. 

The capital of Bavaria, Munich is Germany’s third largest city and the home of the popular annual festival, Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival that occurs from mid to late September to early October. Regardless if you are visiting during the festival or any other time of year, you will want to pair your dining experience with a stein (mug) of local bier (beer). For full immersion into the gastronomic culture of Munich, take a Bavarian Beer and Food tour and visit some of the best beer halls in Germany.

Franconia

While technically a part of Bavaria, Franconia has its own unique cuisine. Franconia’s largest cities; Nuremberg, Bamberg & Würzburg carry a distinct culture that stems from the Medieval Germanic tribes that once existed here. 

Bread, potatoes and meats, like the rest of Bavaria, are still the main components of a Franconian meal, the biggest difference is the gravy that smothers the food creating a heartier dish. Franconian gravies can be enjoyed with various meats served in the area like Schäuferla, roast pork. 

There are many items to enjoy throughout Nuremberg and the other Franconian influenced locations within Bavaria. Grilled Nuremberger Bratwurst pork sausages served with sauerkraut, Franconian Bread soup and Zwiebelkuchen onion cake are all popular items. Not to be missed and the most well known dessert within Franconian culture is Nürnberger Lebkuchen, a gingerbread cake commonly found during the cooler holiday periods. 

Franconia is home to  hundreds of small breweries and has the largest number of breweries in the world. When visiting try some of the local specialties like Rauchbier (smoked beer) Dunkel (dark lager), wheat beer (Hefeweizen) and Helles pale lager. 

But bier isn’t the only viable drinking option, Franconian wines grown along the Main river produce some of the best whites in Germany. Franconian wines are bottled in easy-to-spot Bocksbeutel, green bulb shaped, bottles that you will want to take home as a souvenir of your visit. 

Rhineland 

The final region we are visiting is also the northernmost of the regions. Located in western Germany, this hilly Rhineland area surrounds the Rhine river and covers the areas of Germany that borders the countries of Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. Some of the most visited cities of the Rhineland; Bonn, Düsseldorf, Koblenz and Cologne are found throughout the middle section of the Rhine river.

Within this cooler area of Germany, the gastronomy is made up of hearty dishes of stews, potatoes, soups and traditional German offerings like sauerkraut. A popular dish of the region is Himmel un Ääd (Heaven and Earth), a mashed potato dish made with apples that signify heaven since they grow from trees and hang above the earth and potatoes which grow from the earth.

The perfect Rhine experience includes a visit to the largest city on the Rhine river, Cologne. A medieval city, Cologne is the largest city within western Germany and a prime cultural area. Featuring many architectural sites, landmarks and museums, the best gastronomy of the Rhineland region can be found in Cologne. The city boasts thousands of pubs, cafes and restaurants offering many opportunities to enjoy a Rhineland dining experience. 

A key part of a Cologne foodie experience is sampling the locally brewed Kölsch beer from one of the many local breweries here. Taking a local brewery tour, you will find paired with the local brewery cuisine; Kölsche Kaviar, a black pudding with onions or Halve Hahn, a traditional Cologne cheese sandwich made with locally sourced Gouda cheese on a rye roll with mustard and onions.  

When visiting Germany, food is just one of the many experiences that immerse you into the many faces of the Deutchland. If you need additional reasons why Germany needs to be on your travel bucket list, here are ten more for you. The best way to travel through Germany is by river cruise. Hit all of the best cities along the Rhine, the Main or the Moselle enjoying the towns, sites and the gastronomy of the different regions of Germany.

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Twelve days of Christmas Markets

As we approach the holidays, here is our gift to you:

Enjoying the season in Europe is a treat that everybody deserves. Here is our rendition of the holiday classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” to describe a Christmas Markets experience along the Central Europe rivers annually from the end of November through Christmas. 

Each verse and accompanying photo will take you to more information, so click away!

Enjoy!

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

A Christmas Markets River Cruise in Central Europe

An annual Christmas Market

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Two mugs of Gluhwein to sip as we explore the booths of the Christkindlmarkts

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Three nights pre-cruise in Amsterdam or Budapest

Bicycling the canals of Amsterdam is a must

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Four extra days post cruise in Europe

Chapel Bridge over the Reuss River in Luzern, Switzerland

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Five different countries to enjoy with additional holiday cheer

Decorated Half-timbered houses of Strasbourg

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Visits to six of the most beautiful holiday adorned Cathedrals in Europe

Dom, the Regensburg Cathedral of St. Peter

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Seven full relaxing and enjoyable days of cruising the European rivers

Niederwald cable car Assmannshause in Rüdesheim am Rhein

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Eight handcrafted souvenirs to bring home as holiday gifts

Holiday shopping in Riquewihr, France

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Nine ornaments, one from each town we visited 

Bratislava, Slovakia on the Danube river

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Another suitcase for the 10 Christmas market holiday mugs

Nuernberg Christkindlesmarkt, Germany

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Eleven active excursions walking, hiking, golfing or biking beautiful towns and villages

Exploring Bernkastel – Kers on the Mosel River, Germany

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Twelve full days of holiday bliss with endless memories of a river cruise experience

Cologne Cathedral, Germany

From our family to yours, we wish you health, safety and blessings during this holiday season. When you are ready to experience the joy and beauty of the Christmas Markets, BucketList Travel Advisors can assist you with planning the perfect river cruise.

Happy Holidays!

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Top Golf Experiences can be found along the Danube River

Experiencing world class golf while on a vacation is usually a must do for the avid golf player and the travel itinerary is designed around the golf experience. But Imagine visiting Central Europe’s most glorious cities like Budapest in Hungary, Passau in Germany and Prague in the Czech Republic immersing in the cities whole also playing some of the world’s top courses. 

A Danube river cruise itinerary will lead you up the river from Budapest to Vilshofen, cruising through the unforgettable Danube Bend in Hungary and the Wachau Valley in Austria with stops in historical Vienna & Salzburg to explore the Austrian cities of music and palaces. 

Cruising at night allows for plenty of extra time during the day to enjoy the ports of visitation after a round of golf at one of the renowned local courses. 

No matter your level or experience with golf, even if just starting your time on the links, following are 5 courses that can be enjoyed while traveling on a 12 day cruise on and along the Danube river:

Budapest 

Pannonia Golf Course

Hungary’s capital city is actually two cities separated by the Danube river and accessed by the 19th Century Chain Bridge that connects the historic hilly Buda district to the modern flat Pest. You will spend 2 days immersing in Budapest’s many sites before boarding your floating hotel and enjoying your first morning of 18 holes. 

Located 45 minutes outside of the city of Budapest is the Pannonia Golf course. Designed for European and APGA Tour standards to offer a challenging and yet relaxing golfing opportunity. Sitting along a valley provides a hilled course featuring varied fairways, and eight water hazards to provide challenge to your game. Accommodating all levels of skill so players can enjoy the opportunity to experience the course at their own pace. 

Bratislava

Penati Golf Course

Leaving Budapest, you will head northwest along the Danube to your next stop Bratislava. The capital of Slovakia, at the border of Austria and Hungary, the 18th century pedestrian town is your next stop. From the port you catch views of the Bratislava Castle sitting on a hill  above watching over the historic town. 

Your private driver will take you on a scenic drive through the forested countryside of Slovakia to one of Europe’s top rated golf resorts, Penati, near the town of Sinica. A member of the World of Leading Golf organization, you will play 18 holes of the 36 hole course that sits on 536 acres of property. The Nicklaus designed courses are laid out among the pine forests to accommodate all levels of golfers and styles of play. 

After your morning round and drive back to Bratislava, enjoy a beer or glass of local wine in one of the cozy cafes or pubs within the historic district. 

Krems

Diamond Course

After a full day in Vienna, your next stop is to the lower Austria region and the riverside town of historic Krems in the Wachau Valley. 

A quick scenic drive along the Danube takes you to the Diamond Course. A European Tour destination, the 18 hole championship course is renowned as one of the world’s top public courses. Set around a 25 acre lake, also offering 12 and 9 hole courses provides the opportunity for a slower more relaxed golfing experience. Enjoy lunch before driving back to Krems to enjoy a glass of locally produced world class wine from the nearby sourced Wachau Valley region. 

Passau

Beckenbauer Golf Course

Having enjoyed a full day in Linz and a visit to the beautiful mountainous region of Salzburg, your next stop along the Danube is just past the Austrian border in Germany. Passau is known as the “Three Rivers City” for its location where the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers meet. Arriving into the city you can’t miss the 13th century fortress sitting high above the Baroque historic city. 

The Beckenbauer Golfplatz offers a world rated championship course, and is the host of the annual Porsche European Open each fall. Designed by a Masters champion, the meadow and river surrounding the hand-mowed course offer lush greens and enjoyable fairways. 

Upon your arrival back into Passau, enjoy visiting the iconic St. Stephen’s Cathedral and her 17,974 pipe organ before the ship departs for your final port in Vilshofen.

Prague 

Albatross Golf Resort

Upon disembarking your ship, you will be transferred to Prague, stopping in the Rhine wine town of Rudesheim for an enjoyable visit and stop for lunch before continuing on to your Northern passage to glorious Prague. 

The capital of the Czech Republic is called “the golden city of a hundred spires” for the number of beautiful cathedrals each featuring pointed spires. You will have plenty of time during your 3 day post cruise visit, to explore the historic area, the town square, as many of the Gothic churches as you care to visit, baroque buildings and Prague’s most notable location, the Charles Bridge before your relaxing day of world class golf. 

Your final golf experience will be at the Albatross Golf Resort, a short 30 minute drive from your hotel in the historic old town to Prague’s European tournament golf destination for 18 holes. Considered one of the top 100 courses in Europe, Albatross has been named Golf Resort of the year in 2011 and 2012. Offering a full option of state of the art facilities, you will find this course the ultimate challenge for your final golf experience. 

AmaWaterways Golf Program

The AmaMagna

The custom designed concierge golf program was created specifically for AmaWaterways newest and most innovative ship, the AmaMagna. The 12 day program features 2 nights in Budapest, with 7 nights onboard and 3 nights in Prague included in a custom designed golfing travel experience. 

The program was designed to seamlessly provide a unique travel experience customized to the guest and a bucket list golfing experience. In addition to playing some of Europe’s most prestigious courses, inclusive in the experience is private transfer between your luxury accommodations and the courses by Mercedes, tee-time, practice balls, golf cart and lunch in the clubhouse once you complete your play time.

To learn more about the river cruise experience and how it can be a great fit for your next travel experience, visit our website

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3 “Must See” Breathtaking Cathedrals along the Danube River

Spanning central and eastern Europe, the Danube is Europe’s second-longest river at 1,770 miles flowing through or bordering the countries of Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine before draining into the Black Sea.

The Danube flows along the heritage route of Emperors and Kings and some of Europe’s most magnificent cities like, Nuremberg, Regensburg and Passau in Germany, plus four capital cities; Vienna in Austria, Bratislava in Slovakia, Budapest in Hungary and Belgrade in Serbia, making it a popular river for cruising itineraries.

Each country along the Danube has a different culture and different stories related to the river and yet something they all have in common are beautiful cathedrals dating back hundreds of years. 

While visiting Europe coincidentally 3 of the most amazing cathedrals are all named St. Stephen’s. But this is where the similarity ends because each offers a very different and unique experience that makes them all worth visiting. 

Dom St. Stephen, Passau – Germany

Located where the German border meets the Austrian border is the city of Passau in the lower Bavaria region of Germany. 

Within the larger city of Passau is the old town which is popular with visitors for its gothic and baroque architecture. 

In the old town is St. Stephen’s Cathedral, built in 1688, today a Catholic church (the diocese of Passau) was created in the baroque style. She is home to the largest cathedral organ in Europe boasting 5 separate organ sections that plays still today from one console. 

A gilded pulpit and ten side altars painted by important German artists of the 17th and 18th century.Not to be missed are the church bells of the north and south towers, the dome frescos that run the central nave and the choir and of course the daily organ concert at noon. Note: get there early as tickets tend to sell out during busy tourism periods. 

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna – Austria

In eastern Austria along the Danube is Austria’s capital city Vienna. One of the most beautiful cities in Europe with many Imperial palaces from influences of a long history of royalty, and the music of  some of her famous local residents including Mozart and Beethoven. 

Also dedicated to the same bishop as in Passau, St. Stephen, within the central part of historic Vienna is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, commonly known as Stephansdom. Originally built in 1187, the Romanesque and Gothic cathedral that can be seen today from the square outside the front of the cathedral (Stephansplatz) is considered to be the most important religious building and most recognizable symbol in Vienna having stood through many historical events and survived World War II.

From the moment you enter the giant doors at the front of the cathedral, the 18 beautiful alters along the nave and high altar at the opposite end draws you in to view the artistry of the chapels within the north and south towers and to explore the crypt and catacombs on the basement level. 

Worth noting, this was the parish of Amadeus Mozart who was an adjunct music director for the church, he was married in the church, baptized his children here and his funeral was held here in the Chapel of the Cross. Mozart is buried at nearby St. Marx cemetery.  

St. Stephen Basilica, Budapest – Hungary

Budapest the capital of Hungary, is separated into the old and new by the Danube river and the modern Chain Bridge that connects the historic and hilly Buda with the flat Pest. In the Pest district is landmark cathedral Szent Istvan Bazilika (St. Stephen’s Basilica).

One of the most beautiful churches in the country is a Roman Catholic cathedral built in 1851. Designed in a Neoclassic style, she is most identified by her Neo-Renaissance dome and is also one of the most visited sites in Hungary for her beauty. 

Named after the first King of Hungary, St. Stephen I, whose right hand is kept in a reliquary of the church, you can best see the greek cross layout of the basilica from the large square outside of her main entrance. 

The beauty of her architecture and artistry within the building, you will want to explore the interior of the church, climb the 364 stairs to the top of the dome (an elevator is available) and stop at the top to overlook the views of the city.

Tip: St. Stephen’s is one of the most photographed buildings in the world, when we visited, we stopped by as the sun was setting, the reflections of the sun onto the buildings created a breathtaking vision.

Beyond the amazingly beautiful cathedrals, there are many reasons to visit each of these beautiful central European cities. To explore these and a few other towns and villages along the way, a river cruise is recommended for the most enjoyment with the least travel time. 

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10 Reasons Why Germany Needs to be on Your Travel Bucket List

Regensburg, Germany

With mountains, forests, rivers and even beaches, the landscape of Germany is vast and offers many opportunities to explore.

Here are the reasons why Germany needs to be on your travel bucket list.

1. Perfectly Located for Exploring

Among the best of Europe’s countries, centrally located east of France, Belgium and the Netherlands, South of Denmark, West of the Czech Republic and Poland, Northwest of Austria and North of Switzerland and the Alps. Perfect for extensive travel throughout the Western and Central European region to immerse in the German experience or with visits to one of the various nearby countries. Germany is made up of 16 state regions, with open borders between its states and too adjacent countries. Many flights entering and leaving Europe will connect through Munich or Frankfurt airports. Ease of travel by auto, train, plane and ships on the waterways in and around Germany provide many reasons to add Germany to your Europe travel itinerary.

2. Cruise to and through Germany

Mosel River

Touching the shores of the Baltic and North Seas bring you access to Germany by ocean cruise on itineraries to the United Kingdom and/or the Scandinavia region. Germany has many rivers, the Rhine, Danube, Moselle, Main & Elbe that can transport you through her beautiful countryside and to some of her best cities which sit along the rivers. Not to be missed is Cologne on the Rhine, Regensburg on the Danube, Koblenz on the Mosel, Frankfurt on the Main and Dresden on the Elbe just to name a few. Cruising offers the opportunity to explore many regions with limited unpacking and numerous options for reaching even more of her amazing cities, towns and villages.

3. Experiences All Around You

Frankfurt, Germany

One of the largest countries in Europe, the Federal Republic of Germany was originally part of the Holy Roman Empire. The center for Protestant Reformation in Europe, Germany grew in the 18th Century into a super power until its demise after World War II when it was split into Eastern and Western Germany until reunification in 1990. Quaint old villages and historic city centers, castles, cathedrals, religious, secular and historical landmarks, World War II sites, memorials and government buildings offer sites to explore and immerse in all around. Plus, numerous experiences await you, walk the Berlin Wall, follow one of the many hiking trails located throughout the country or visit one of the many picturesque villages in the Black Forest region. The variety of offerings to experience her beauty and culture that built her is why Germany is one of the most visited countries in the world.

4. Museum Island in Berlin

Bode Museum – Museum Island, Berlin

Well known for its paintings, German painters have been key players in the European art scene and important contributors to the development of the Western art movement in Europe. From the German Renaissance paintings of Albrecht Durer to the Baroque style of Johann Zimmerman or modern day Neo-expressionism, if art is your passion, you will want to visit Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site located on a small island in the Spree river offering five world renowned museums of art, antiquities, artifacts, and a national gallery. Regional museums in Frankfurt, Cologne and Dresden also offer fantastic collections of art with German and world influences.

5. Live the Fairy Tale

Neuschwanstein (Disney) Castle

German literature’s most familiar works are German Folklore ie Fairy Tales to us modern folks. If you love romance and the thought of fantasy land, the Deutsche Märchenstraße (German Fairy Tale Road) takes you on a scenic tour of the stories of Brother’s Grimm. Starting at the Grimm museum the route will have you exploring small medieval villages and picturesque towns like you would find in the stories themselves. Visit Sleeping Beauty’s Sababurg Castle (official, not the Disney inspired) and medieval Trendleburg castle and climb Rapunzel’s Tower. Both castle’s are hotel’s so you can extend your experience and live your own fairy tale. If seeing the Disney inspired castle is on your travel bucket list, visit Neuschwanstein castle about a 2 hour drive south west of Munich, Germany. Other recommendations for castle lovers, Hohenzollern Castle in in Baden-Württemberg provides spectacular views or if you are looking for something more palatial and in North Germany visit Schwerin Castle.

6. A Car Lovers Paradise

When you think of high performing vehicles, Germany is top of mind. Mercedes, BMW, Audi and of course Porsche are all top quality leaders and all happen to be located in Germany. Visit the BMW museum in Munich, the Volkswagen factory in Dresden or the Mercedes Benz and Porsche museums in Stuttgart. Also well known and on many bucket lists is driving the German Autobahn. Rent your preferred driving machine and head out onto a section of the 8000 mile roadway where the minimum driving speed is 80 miles per hour. Another unique bucket list option if purchasing a luxury vehicle or sports car is on the list, is the European delivery program. Tour the factory, pick your car off the line, test drive it on a private test track, drive it while on vacation and then drop it back off at the factory for shipment and delivery to your local dealership a few weeks later.

7. Traditional German Food

Weisswurst Sausage and Pretzels

Gastronomy is a big part of the German experience. Within each region of Germany you have various influences that make up the popular cuisines of the distinct area. Bratwurst and Spatzle are popular options in the southwest region. White sausages and pretzels in the Bavarian region, more traditional comfort foods in the Berlin region, borscht variations in the eastern region and frankfurter’s in Frankfurt, of course. Regardless of which region you visit, bread is a big part of the culture and included in every meal. Some not to be missed dishes to try while visiting Germany are Schnitzel, Fischbrotchen (fish sandwich), Currywurst, potato pancakes or dumplings, sauerkraut, Stollen bread, apple cake, the many strudels and Black Forest cake which is made with cherry liquor that originated from the region .

8. German Wine & Cider

Riesling is grown along the mosel river and is the most popular wine produced however Germany also produces other white and red wine varieties. Mainly produced along the Rhine in the western region of Germany, white and sweet wine’s are most notable. In the Alsace region grape varieties range from lighter rose to grapes that produce wines comparable to Italian Pinot’s. The biggest difference between German wine’s and those from the nearby regions of France are the higher levels of acidity that are found in the cooler areas of the German wine region. Apfelwein (apple cider) made from pressed apples is popular in the region surrounding Frankfurt, Germany and can be enjoyed in some of the local Cider Taverns within its old center. Apple cider is popularly combined with dry white wines (like Riesling) to create Gluhmost – hot mulled cider that is served during the colder weather and throughout the holidays in Germany.

9. The Beer Culture

For some, this is the primary reason they want to visit Germany. Beer is a key part of the German culture and has very specific requirements (the German beer purity law) to qualify as “German Bier”. Most German beers range in alcohol by volume from 4.7 – 5.4% however the heavier German darks can reach percentages up to 16%. Options to enjoy are top fermented wheat beers, pale beers like the popular Kolsch and Pilsner’s, dark Bock and similiar heavy bodied beers and lighter cask ales. Although bier (as it is spelled in Germany) is popular throughout Germany, it is most popular in the Bavarian region which is also where most of the breweries will be found. The oldest brewery in Germany, and the world, is in a Benedictine Abbey called Weihenstephen in Munich. The most popular way to drink your tapped bier is in a stein or Weizen glass as it is referred locally which is larger then your average pint with extra room for foam from the taps. Beer is so popular in Germany they have annual festivals in the fall called Oktoberfest surrounding the beer culture in Germany.

10. A Festival for all Seasons

Germans love to celebrate which is why we have saved the best for last. With a holiday and/or festival for every occasion there is surely to be an opportunity to participate in some local celebrating, feasting and dancing no matter when you visit. Some of the more popular celebrations offering festivals and events are; Silvester (New Years), Three Kings Day (celebrating the 12 days of Christmas into early January), Karneval, Valentines, Easter, Maifest (one of their oldest) which includes bonfires, Oktoberfest, St. Martin’s Day (similar to All Saints Day) and Christkindlmarkt (the Christmas Markets) where local artisans & entertainers gather daily in the center of the towns spreading festivity and celebration.

The Smorgasbord of additional information;

Germany is a beautiful country filled with friendly and welcoming people who love life. They are also very strict rule followers, with laws for everything, which can seem daunting to the unsuspecting visitor. In reality, it makes Germany efficient and explains why their country is so clean and well managed.

From the marshy coast, central wetlands, green hilly countrysides, lakes, forests and mountainous alps, the diversity of Germany is in its land. The climate throughout the country only swings about 8 degrees between the northern and southern regions. With warm (not hot) summers and cooler (not terrible) winters, the weather is rarely extreme making it enjoyable to visit any time of year.

With many options for exploring and traveling that fit any lifestyle, no matter who you are, families traveling together, single travelers, couples looking for romance, exploration, active itineraries, groups traveling together or simply because it is on your travel bucket list Germany offers options that are safe, exciting and fun which are all reasons to plan a visit to Germany.

These are our top reasons to visit the Deutschland, so the next big question is what is the best way to see Germany? A river cruise along the rivers of Germany provides you with a one of a kind experience not just taking you to amazing places but through them. It is the most immersive way to experience a location with ease and comfort. Take our quiz to find out if River Cruising is a right fit for you.

Categories: Bucket List, Experience, Travel, Travel Bucket List, Vacation, Wine | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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