Happy Thanksgiving to all readers in Our Town and far beyond. It is such a special holiday time to bond with family and friends!
Now, let’s go cruising again, this time riverboat-style through central Europe, folks.
At least once a year for the past 20-plus years, my bride, Debbie, and I have enjoyed a travel experience with our dear friends, Barb & Bob Schneidewind, who live in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida. We first met these close friends aboard the Crystal Symphony on a ocean cruise through Norway and the North Sea countries, a long time ago. We have visited many places all over planet Earth with these wonderful traveling companions, and our latest outing together continued the perpetual fun we always experience as a foursome.
We usually let Barbara take the lead to drill down on a proposed activity. This latest escapade took us to an international location once again, and via a familiar vendor, Viking River Cruises. Collectively, we decided on VCR’s “Cities of Light” package, eastbound, from Paris to Prague, for a 12-day travel adventure.
Ms. Debbie and I began this outing by flying from Oklahoma City to Paris. We have been to this wonderful, world-class city several times over the years. This visit was extra memorable, since we stayed three evenings in the nice Pullman Eiffel Tower Hotel, located only 2 blocks from the incredible icon. We had a seventh-floor balcony room with an outstanding view of the Iron Lady. It was the first time we had visited the magical city in the autumn, so the tourist crowds were smaller. as the green foliage was displaying various color hues during the changing of the seasons. There is so much to see and enjoy in Paris and the surrounding French countryside. One afternoon, our foursome took a taxi to the famous shopping boulevard, the Champs- Elysees, and, once again, thoroughly enjoyed store window gazing and entering a few of the beautiful businesses.
After Paris, we were taken by motorcoach to tiny Luxembourg. This unique country, nestled between Belgium, France, and Germany, was a very special visit for us since Luxembourg marked the 100th separate country my bride and I have experienced since we began touring Earth, many years ago. It also marked my highlight of the entire trip, when our traveling group took us to the peaceful and lovely American Cemetery, located outside the main city of Luxembourg. Buried at the front of his men’s graves numbering over 5,000 souls, is General George S. Patton. Gen. Patton is one of the greatest military leaders ever to put on our uniform, in my humble opinion, and when he passed away, he wanted to be buried with his men. All these American warriors laid to rest there, fought in the historic Battle of the Bulge, which was fought near the conclusion of World War II.
It was then on to Trier, Germany, via motorcoach, a port on the famous Moselle River, and the oldest city in Germany. At Trier, we boarded the Viking Idi, a modern longboat that was full with 190 guests and 50 crew. Throughout the next week, we cruised three rivers in central Germany, the Moselle, Rhine and the Main. We had spacious accommodations on the port (left) side, aft (rear), and had a wrap-around balcony, affording great views of the vineyards all over the surrounding hillsides. The abundant grape vines were obvious everywhere for several cruising days, and in the fall weather, the white grapes displayed yellow leaves and the red grapes displayed various shades of red. Their constant presence on some of the hillsides, with slopes as steep as 70-degrees, were absolutely breath-taking! During many of the daylight hours, we were offered various land excursions, depending on the small port city we were docked near at the time. We saw many awesome castles, unusual buildings, interesting native people, and lots of wonderful German rural country, easily viewed from this particular river cruise. This intimate feeling of oneness being with Nature while on a river cruise, is a special experience, for sure, not possible on an ocean cruise.
When we disembarked the VRC vessel, we again traveled by motorcoach, this time to historic Nuremberg, the city Adolph Hitler termed “the most German of all German cities.” Ms. Debbie and I had previously been there several years ago, and on both occasions, I experienced chills, imagining dictator Hitler viewing thousands and thousands of his Nazi followers years ago at the famous parade grounds we visited.
Our final destination was our 101st country to visit, the Czech Republic, and its capital city, Prague, aka, “The City of 100 Spires”. Our hotel there was the huge and beautiful Prague Hilton, where we stayed two evenings. Our single, full day in the city, we enjoyed a spectacular, fall-weather day. Our foursome hired a private driver and her car to take us on a personal, 3-hour, guided tour of this incredible city. It is very tourist-friendly location, has many historic buildings, bridges, and pedestrian gathering spots, and is a must-see sight in Eastern Europe, I certainly believe.
So, we experienced a riverboat cruise again; this one with a geographical time difference of seven hours with Our Town. Traveling is definitely part of my DNA, without question.
Robert Breedlove is an Oklahoma State University news-editorial journalism graduate, and a former newspaper (including News Press) reporter. He resides in Stillwater, and has for most of his life. He has been a contributing writer to various media over the United States for years. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.