A bakery stop for a fresh bretzel is a must!
You’ve sailed into the quaint town of Wertheim, set along the tranquil Main River in Germany. Having experienced or about to experience the highlights of Wurzburg, Mainz and Rudesheim, you may wonder what’s to see in Wertheim. Oh, there’s certainly plenty to see, I assure you, but there’s also plenty to taste!
Take a walking tour to get acquainted with the history and culture of this charming riverside town, appreciating the medieval architecture and the products of a rich glass-making tradition. Then, it’s time for the eats - make your way to a local bakery for a tour and a sample of a fresh bretzel (as it’s called in Germany).
Long associated with Germany, the bretzel can trace its origins back to medieval Europe, when an Italian monk is said to have created the twisty treat with arms shaped in prayer as a reward for local schoolchildren. Over time, the bretzel tradition spread through Europe, becoming associated with good luck and eternal love. You’ve heard of “tying the knot” in reference to marriage? That idiom likely traces back to the 1600s, when the Swiss used pretzels/bretzels to symbolize the matrimonial bond during wedding ceremonies. It was Germans, however, that brought pretzels with them to the American colonies - Pennsylvania, specifically - in the 1700s.
To earn its stripes as a bretzel in Germany, the perfect specimen must be fat in the middle and thin at the edges. On a bakery tour, you’ll have the chance to hear the personal stories of the baker and the methods they use for bretzel and sourdough bread baking. Of course, a sample won’t be enough, so be prepared to purchase several warm bretzels to take back to the ship with you. (Some say that Wertheim’s best bretzel can be found at the Fritz Frischmuth bakery.)
Wine tasting can be experienced at the Pointed Tower of Wertheim.
Continue your exploration of Wertheim on foot or on bike. Visit the largest stone fortress in southern Germany, the Wertheim Castle. The vistas alone - of town, the Main and Tauber rivers and the Bavarian border - are worth the steep, but short, climb. Go wine tasting at the Pointed Tower of Wertheim. Shop the adorable boutiques, picking up hand-curated kitchenwares, clothing and gifts. Visit the Wertheim Glass Museum, where you’ll see ancient glass pieces, industrial glass and glass-blowing exhibitions (don’t miss the gift shop).
See? Wertheim may just end up being your favorite stop along your Main River cruise. And this is just one port! There’s so much to explore and enjoy on a Europe river cruise - from bretzel to Baroque. Let’s chat.
Cologne's massive cathedral continuously undergoes preservation and maintenance
If there’s one place you absolutely must visit when you’re in Cologne, Germany, it’s the city’s stunning landmark cathedral. Known by its twin spires, this 13th-century UNESCO World Heritage Site is the second-tallest structure in Cologne and is so massive it can hold more than 20,000 people at a time.
From its jaw-dropping Gothic architecture to the 12th-century golden shrine of the Three Wise Men created by local goldsmiths, and from its eye-catching stained-glass windows to its impressive relief of the Adoration of the Kings from 1440, the Kӧlner Dom is not only an important landmark, but an incredible story.
When Mass is not being undertaken visitors are free to take pictures of the beautiful interior
As you tour the Cologne Cathedral, you’ll come to learn the history of the structure and its many facets. Visitors are allowed to explore by themselves outside of Mass times, but a private tour is really the way to go for the most insightful experience. If you like, climb more than 500 steps to the south tower, passing the cathedral’s famous bells on your way to the best panoramic views in the city. Marvel at the mechanical intricacies of the cathedral clock and one of the oldest electrically operated bells in the world. And, experience the ringing of the bells from up close - with hearing protection.
Take a guided tour of the roofs of the cathedral, with filigree iron construction older than the Eiffel Tower. Visit unknown tower rooms and peek into the workshops of the cathedral builders’ hut. Go down, down, down into the vast rooms under the cathedral floor to view excavation sites and archaeological findings, including 2,000 remains of walls, foundations, pits, tombs and more. There is something soul-stirring about seeing the bottom of the Gothic foundations that support one of the greatest medieval construction achievements. Continue along newly designed visitor paths that lead past the remains of Roman houses to the large eight-sided baptismal font of the early Christian Baptistery - one of the oldest examples of Christianity north of the Alps.
Finally, visit the cathedral treasury in the converted 13th-century vaults on the north side of the cathedral. You’ll see precious reliquaries, liturgical vestments, medieval sculptures, Franconian artifacts and more. The most significant items housed here include the staff and chains of St. Peter, two busts from the 15th and 19th centuries, a bishop’s crosier, baroque altarpieces and the late Gothic electoral sword from the late 15th century.
A quiet, reflective moment as my friend, Melissa, lit a candle in memory of a loved one
Cologne . . . Continued
The Cologne Cathedral is just one of the many landmarks and public spaces throughout the city that tell the tale of its days as a Roman settlement through to the Medieval ages, from the 20th-century wars to today. Consider visiting these storied sights when you’re in Cologne:
Let’s chat about your visit to Cologne and how to make the very most of your time there. I look forward to sharing my experiences of this wonderful city with you!
The Beautiful Rhone River
Many of the most memorable moments of a Europe river cruise take place off the ship - as lovely as the ships are - in the winding alleyways of a charming hamlet, in a family-owned restaurant or behind the scenes in an artist’s studio. It is these off-the-beaten-path experiences that reveal the true heart of a destination. If you’ve come for the food and wine, perhaps you’ll find yourself at a private tasting in Austria’s Wachau Valley. If you’re a history buff, you might be shadowing an expert guide through the 11th-century Marksburg Castle. And for those who are art aficionados, you may wind up tracing the footsteps of Van Gogh in Arles, France.
Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat
Finding Van Gogh in France
Ah, a Van Gogh … those swirling blue and flowing stars of the mystical night sky and the pop of yellow sunflowers in the fields of Provence. While our minds gravitate to the masterpieces for which Van Gogh is best known, there is so much more to learn about this incredible artist. And the Provencal town of Arles, with its buzzing streets, bright-yellow buildings and olive trees, is the place to do it.
As you wind through the cobblestone streets of Arles and along the Rhone River, you’ll see various plaques and easels with pictures of Van Gogh’s paintings. Look around you and notice that the location you’re in reflects the scene in the painting. Visit the Alyscamps Necropolis, where he painted four scenes while sitting in these ancient Roman ruins. Picnic in the Jardin d’Ete, an urban green space where once Van Gogh would come to paint on sunny summer days. At the corner of Rue Leon Blum and Rue Amedee Pichot, see the building where Van Gogh first stayed, in a room above the Restaurant Carrel. Everywhere you look, you’ll see his inspirations for such masterpieces as “Bedroom in Arles,” “The Yellow House” and “Cafe Terrace Night,” known for their vibrant yellows, aquamarine and mauve.
Lavender & Sunflowers in Provence
Continue your river cruise through the south of France, through Burgundy and more of Provence, soaking up the natural beauty and ambience that served as the muse for Van Gogh’s scene landscapes, or paysages. Much of his painting took place in France, but should you care to extend your “studies,” consider a European river cruise in other areas of the continent, where Van Gogh also followed his muses.
A Museum of Masterpieces
Before moving to France, Van Gogh had spent half his life in the Netherlands and Belgium. To dive deeper into his life and works, a pre- or post-cruise stop in Amsterdam to visit the Van Gogh Museum is in order (add the city to your Europe itinerary, or sail the Rhine and Moselle, which typically include a stop here). The museum holds the largest collection of Van Gogh works in the world. Get a glimpse into the tormented artist’s mind as you stroll the halls of the most-visited museum in the Netherlands.
Whether traipsing about Arles or visiting the charming town of Auvers-sur-Oise along the Seine where Van Gogh spent his final weeks, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of this troubled, but brilliantly gifted artist who left the world with true masterpieces.
Art-lovers, let’s chat. I’d love to plan an art-focused river cruise for you, with emphasis on Van Gogh and Europe’s other masters.
Our coffee was crafted to perfection and lit on fire as we watched
If you’re already on an epic, long-awaited river-cruise vacation, why not indulge in an epic cup of coffee? Move over, Keurig, or even your local coffee shop back home. While you can surely return to your favorite routine and haunt upon returning to the States, while in Germany, you absolutely must try Rudesheimer coffee - a specialty coffee that was actually added to the city’s list of historical highlights in 1957. How can you say no to that? What makes it iconic? Read on …
Rudesheimer coffee can trace its roots back to the late 19th century when the Asbach brandy (that’s the secret ingredient!) used in the beverage was created here by Hugo Asbach. The brandy is famous on its own these days and is the special touch for which Rudesheimer coffee is known. It was actually German television host Hans Karl Adam that had the superb idea to add Asbach brandy to his coffee, which led to the combination’s popularity over the decades.
Best of all – sharing the experience with friends!
Here’s how you’ll know you’re drinking the real thing. Regular (or decaf, if that’s more your speed) black coffee is mixed with three cubes of sugar and Asbach brandy. Some coffee houses also offer cognac or Armagnac, but I would suggest seeking out the local Asbach. It’s topped with a generous helping of thick whipped cream, vanilla sugar and a smattering of dark chocolate shavings. If you’ve opted for the caffeinated version, this will surely give you enough kick to keep sightseeing for hours.
While similar in some ways to Irish coffee, a Rudeisheimer cup ‘o joe is distinctly German. It’s served in a traditional Rudesheim coffee mug - without handles - and presented with some pomp and circumstance (if you have the right waiter). They’ll light it with a match upon serving so you can watch as the sugar dissolves. What’s more, you’re enjoying your classic hot beverage in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Rudesheim, long known as one of the most scenic parts of the Rhine River and beloved for its picturesque terraced vineyards. It’s a winning combo!
If you’re river cruising along the Rhine during the winter months, add Rudesheim coffee to your lengthy list of warm beverages to ward off the chill. There’s Gluhwein, rich hot chocolate and more waiting around every bend in the river. And, even in the warm summer months, you can still enjoy a traditional Rudesheim coffee - iced - or a Rudesheim coffee espresso.
My perfect beverage
Want to experience Rudesheimer coffee in Germany? Click the button below and schedule a consult!
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Care to recreate the classic Rudesheimer coffee at home? Here’s how:
1 ⅓ oz. Asbach Uralt (a dry, aged brandy such as Cognac, Armagnac or Brandy de Jerez will do)
3 sugar cubes
Brewed coffee (regular or decaf)
Decoration: whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles, vanilla sugar
How to Make It
Put three sugar cubes in a coffee cup. Add 1 ⅓ ounces of well-heated Asbach Uralt and light with a long match.
Stir with a long-stemmed spoon so that the sugar dissolves well and allow it to burn for about 1 minute.
Top off to just about an inch below the edge of the cup with hot coffee.
Put a generous helping of whipped cream, sweetened with vanilla sugar, on top and add dark chocolate sprinkles.
Tip: Heat the brandy in a microwave-safe container for 1 minute at 600 watts or over hot water.
(Recipe shared courtesy of AmaWaterways)