Posted by: philipfontana | November 12, 2015

The Rhine 2015

  The Rhine 2015: Germany & France

 From Amsterdam to Basel

 October 3-October 11


 Phil & Geri

A SizePatty

             Meet Patty van Delft, photo front & center, & her cousin, Sheryldine van Velzen, next to me. Patty is a Dutch poet & novelist. Her cousin Sheryl is a university student in pre-law. Patty & I connected blogging on our websites since 2013. Geri & I planned this luncheon so we could meet for the first time. What worked best with our tight tour schedule was to get-together shortly after we arrived in Amsterdam directly from Schiphol Airport! Patty & Sheryl live in The Hague, about an hour by train from Amsterdam. Patty is well-published with two poetry books in English; My Wings & My Whisperings, available at under My Poetry Books at the top. Patty is presently completing her third novel in the series, Dragan Duma, youth fantasies, in Dutch, available at by clicking on each book cover in the right margin. Also on that website you can scroll down many great photos of Patty “in costume” with her books & more! –Lunch at a local restaurant & talk were a very special 3-4 hours!

Map of Avalon Waterways Tour, “The Romantic Rhine”


     Excuse us for living, but wife Geri and I have been out again doing just that; i.e., doing some living, traveling through Europe as we dreamed of these forty-some years of marriage. We had done so in our younger years before we met. We     promised one-another that in retirement we would show each other places the other had not seen. On this our fifth trip to     Europe in as many years, we were going down the Rhine River on a river boat cruise. This time we were visiting places both of us had never been to before, but for one or two exceptions.

     The Rhine River was an amazing education. Embarkation was Amsterdam, the Netherlands, accessing the Rhine via the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal, on our way south, against the current, through Germany and France to Basel, Switzerland, for disembarkation. As always on such trips, what struck me first was the history, naturally, and then the architecture and the art.

Roman civilization is truly everywhere throughout western Europe. And the landscape and cities and towns along the Rhine were no exception, from ruins to aqueduct-servicing structures, to sculpture, mosaics, and more. Then, most impressive were structures remaining or rebuilt from the Middle Ages or medieval times from cathedrals to quaint homes and villages/towns/cities. – -And then, of course, the ever-present Renaissance, from the architecture of churches and buildings to the paintings and sculpture.

Over and again you hear about and see the results of the devastation and rebuilding from World War II. Actually, what survived unscathed was a small percentage in relation to the great destruction of the Allied invasion and victory over the Axis Powers. And when you are in the Alsace region of France, on the border between France and Germany in Strasbourg, and learn of that terra switching from French territory to German territory five times in the course of wars during modern history, you come away with a more profound appreciation and understanding. It is no wonder that Strasbourg, France, was chosen as today’s seat of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament.

Finally, the Rhine River is vibrant with activity as the doorway to Europe. Tourism is a major portion of this vibrant economy. But to see is to comprehend why Germany is the economic powerhouse of Europe. The banks of the Rhine thrive with natural resources, industrial plants, and energy production. And the river itself is a thoroughfare of cargo ships, seemingly paced as if on purpose not to disturb the aesthetic pleasure of the sightseers!

C SizeDam

           It’s not a trip to Amsterdam without a photo of the Palace & Townhall on the Square called “The Dam” (that means “The Square”). And we have been here before in 2011. (I will admit to 22 days in Amsterdam over my lifetime, second only to days spent in Vietnam!)

D SizeShip

           As we did in 2011 when we toured the Netherlands & Belgium, we were on another Avalon Waterways ship; this time the “Felicity.” The ship carries approximately 138-140 people, very fine cabins, all meals on-board in a well-appointed dining room with fine cuisine, unlimited wine & beer, & impeccable service, luxurious lounge & bar, top deck with chairs & hot tub, & the best expresso-cappuccino machine in the world located in the lounge at the stern.

DD SizeCrew

        And as with our first Avalon experience, this second time around on an Avalon cruise the crew of the Felicity was top notch once again! The excellent & efficient service starts at the top. Pictured left to right are Nico, Cruise Director, Mathias, Captain, & Dirk, Hotel Manager. We got to know Nico & Dirk well. Nico is Dutch & the other two are German, characters all! – -Many laughs!

E SizeCologneCath

        In Cologne, Germany, it’s all about the Cathedral (& the local brew, Kolsch)! That’s the Cathedral with its two spires to our right. – -Gothic architecture, begun in 1248 & completed in 1880, largest Gothic cathedral in Germany & in all of northern Europe. Ninety percent of Cologne was destroyed during World War II, but the Allies spared the Cathedral. Cologne has 12 churches in all & is home to the original & famous cologne No. 4711!

F SizeKaiser

        Geri & I stand at the foot of the grand statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I, 18th-19th centuries, in Koblenz. The statue marks the confluence of the Rhine & Moselle Rivers. Therefore, in Roman times Koblenz was a significant & strategic location. It was a center of trade in the Middle Ages. The Old City of Koblenz was destroyed in World War II.

The Romantic Rhine:

   The dramatic Rhine Gorge is the most beautiful stretch of the river from Koblenz to Rudesheim; castles, fortresses, 400 ft. cliffs, sloped vineyards, towns, half-timbered houses & hotels, churches, industrial barges, & cruise ships.

G SizeMarksburgFrt

Marksburg Fortress, medieval

H SizeSt.Goar

St. Goar, largest fortress

I SizeTown

               A beautiful town along the Rhine, name unknown to us. Notice the German flag flying high!

J SizeCastle

                                              Another “show-stopper” of a castle, name unknown to us.

K SizeRestrnt

           Rudesheim Schloss Restaurant & their ceremonial preparation & serving of a very special coffee; with their very own brandy from their vineyard, plus sugar, lit aflame, doused out with coffee, whipped cream, & chocolate powder.

L SizeDinner

        We had the most fun of all our European trips at the Rudesheim Schloss Restaurant for dinner! – -Great German food, wine not beer (Rudesheim being the quintessential Rhine Valley wine town), band, dancing, & singing, games both drinking & musical & just silly fun with patrons attempting to play instruments while leading everyone parading behind them between tables through the dining rooms! – – A great time! The wine helped!

M SizeSiegfried's

          Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum in Rudesheim was a personal treat! There we saw & heard self-playing calliopes & musical contraptions dating from the 1920’s & 1800’s, all the way back to 1790! (See next photo). Geri loved the building’s beautiful exterior & façade.

N SizeMechInstr

        Listening inside the museum to these calliopes, & other mechanical instruments, player pianos, musical boxes, & old record players, I had to contain myself not to breakout pretending to conduct the “Seybold-Akkordeon-Jazz Orchestrion”! (Instrument #19 in the photo) We wisely purchased two CDs in the gift shop which featured 21 of these instruments. Some of them are pictured here from the CD program notes.

O SizePrintPrs

         Mainz is synonymous with Johannes Guttenberg, his printing press of 1455, & the first printed Bible. As we stand next to this “modern” printing press at the Guttenberg Museum, you can see a small model of Guttenberg’s printing press, left center. A life-size model of the Guttenberg printing press is in the museum’s main hall (photos not permitted).

P SizeHeidelberg

          Picturesque Heidelberg along the River Neckar & Old Bridge below, taken from the ruined Castle or Schloss. The University of Heidelbreg & its students make this a lively place to be. Heidelberg served as headquarters for American troops from 1945 to as recent as 2014!

Q SizeSchloss

        The imposing ruins of Heidelberg Castle or The Schloss tower magnificently atop the city streets. It stands among the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps.

R SizeBeer

        Permit but one “selfie” of Heidelberg beer! Geri tried the Bananenweizen & I had a Kirsch Weizen! We both had been to Heidelberg “in days of old,” 40 some years ago! Cheers to Heidelberg!!!

S SizeStrasbrg

         La Petite France district of picturesque (again!) Strasbourg, France, with its half-timbered houses, quaint shops, bistros, & waterfront canals. – -Situated on the border of France & Germany on the River Ill.

T SizeWinery

The Klipfel Winery in the Alsace countryside in Barr, France.



Cuckoo Clocks & Steins!

     Breisach, Germany, is the gateway into Germany’s magnificent Black Forest region. It is a truly gorgeous countryside of mountains & valleys lush with farm fields nestled below vast trees. At the “House of Black Forest” shop you are greeted by the old master clock-maker himself.

U SizeCuckooHs

        Geri was fascinated by the house-size cuckoo clock, next to the shop, that really worked & cuckooed with life-size, moving figurines.

V SizeClocks

          Geri had no trouble making her selection & purchase of a fine cuckoo clock to carry, not mail home!



W SizeSteins

         And I HAD TO PURCHASE a stein to add to my German beer stein collection of 106 steins back home! But this #107 was the FIRST brand new stein not purchased in an antique shop in the USA! – -I carried the stein home too!

X SizeColmar

          Our last stop was Colmar, France, before disembarkation in Basel. Yes, “picturesque plus” with half-timbered houses! Colmar is famous as the hometown of Frederic Bartholdi, sculptor of the Statue of Liberty gifted by France to America! The town is aplenty with Bartholdi statues in the public area.

Y SizeGala

The Farewell Gala Dinner on-board the Felicity…time to say goodbye.



        Excuse us for living, but this was the greatest!

Comments: Please, after the Itinerary below!


Romantic Rhine – From Amsterdam to Basel 2015

Day 1 (Oct 04, 2015): Arrive in Amsterdam, Holland (Embarkation).
Welcome to Amsterdam! Holland’s sophisticated, modern capital has a rich and fascinating history. This delightful 700-year-old city with its elegant and classic architecture, cafés, and restaurants has a distinct ambiance. The streets, squares, and canals—not to mention the bike paths throughout the city—make for a vibrant atmosphere, and with over 60 museums, Amsterdam has the highest museum density in the world. Perhaps you would like to take an optional excursion to Zaanse Schans with its traditional houses and Dutch craft workshops. This afternoon, board your river cruise vessel and meet your crew at an evening welcome reception.(D)

Day 2 (Oct 05, 2015): Amsterdam.
There is no better way to see Amsterdam than by CANAL BOAT, cruising through the elegant grachten lined with stately homes dating back to Amsterdam’s “Golden Age.” There’s free time in the city this afternoon—you might like to join an optional biking tour (weather permitting). Later, bid tot ziens (farewell) to Holland and set sail for Germany. (B,L,D)

Day 3 (Oct 06, 2015): Cologne, Germany.
Today, enjoy a peaceful morning of cruising before reaching Cologne in the afternoon. One of Germany’s largest cities and capital of the Rhineland, Cologne straddles both sides of the Rhine, and is known for its soaring, twin-steepled gothic cathedral. Choose between an included GUIDED CITY WALK or JEWISH HERITAGE WALK. The Old Town abounds with cafés, shops, and taverns. Be sure to try a Kölsch pale lager, locally brewed in Cologne for over a hundred years! (B,L,D)

Day 4 (Oct 07, 2015): Koblenz–Rhine Gorge–Rüdesheim.
Situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers, 2,000-year-old Koblenz is the cultural and business center of the Middle Rhine region. Here, join a Local Guide for a WALKING TOUR of the city that reveals an eventful past through its castles, fortress walls, towers, squares, and monuments. The dramatic RHINE GORGE is the most beautiful stretch of river. Here, ancient castles stand sentry on lofty cliffs rising 400 feet above the waters. Cruise past the legendary rock of the Lorelei, where echoes of enchanted siren song lured unwitting sailors to their doom. In Rüdesheim, the quintessential Rhine Valley wine town, visit SIEGFRIED’S MECHANICAL MUSICAL INSTRUMENT MUSEUM, where you’ll see and hear a large collection of self-playing calliopes and music boxes from the 18th to the early 20th centuries. Enjoy a SPECIAL TREAT before returning to your ship for dinner. (B,L,D)

Day 5 (Oct 08, 2015): Mainz. Excursion to Heidelberg
. Strategically located at the confluence of the Rhine and Main Rivers is Mainz, with “civilized” origins dating back to around 38 BC. Today, this is Germany’s largest and most important wine market. Join your Local Guide for a GUIDED WALK through the Altstadt (Old Town) with its many intriguing shops and the whimsical Fastnachtsbrunnen (Carnival Fountain) on the Schillerplatz, a tribute to the jesters at the city’s annual Carnival celebration. Gutenberg, father of modern printing, was born here, and you’ll visit the captivating GUTENBERG MUSEUM. After lunch, travel to Heidelberg, home to the oldest university in Germany. With a Local Guide, visit the imposing ruins of HEIDELBERG CASTLE, towering magnificently over the city and among the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps. You’ll also see the famed GREAT VAT, the “World’s Largest Wine Barrel.” At nearly 23 feet high and 28 feet wide, the cask holds over 58,000 gallons of wine and has a dance floor built on top of it! (B,L,D)

Day 6 (Oct 09, 2015): Strasbourg, France.
Situated on the border of France and Germany, Strasbourg blends the cultures of both countries in a delightful way. As capital of the Alsace region and seat of the Council of Europe and European Parliament, it is without a doubt an important city that manages to retain its historic charm. On your GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR, visit the monumental red-sandstone GOTHIC CATHEDRAL with its ancient murals, stained-glass windows, and fascinating astronomical clock, as well as the magical LA PETITE FRANCE district, home to half-timber houses, quaint shops, inviting bistros, and a waterfront promenade. Also spend time exploring Place Kléber, a large historic square in the heart of the city, and Place Gutenberg in the heart of medieval Strasbourg, which features a statue of the inventor of the printing press. An optional excursion into the Alsace wine country is available today. After dinner tonight, enjoy an onboard WOODCARVING demonstration. (B,L,D)

Day 7 (Oct 10, 2015): Breisach, Germany. Excursion to the Black Forest.
Located at the foot of Kaiserstuhl Mountain on the French-German border, Breisach is the gateway to Germany’s BLACK FOREST region, an area of unrivaled natural beauty with its forests of thick pine trees. The area got its name because the forests are so dense that local residents described them as black. Surely the most well-known products from this region are Black Forest ham, Black Forest cherry cake, and cuckoo clocks. You may opt for a visit to the workshop of a local woodcarver who produces clocks and other carvings, or to the open-air Museum of Vogtsbauernhof to see how life was lived in this area centuries ago. (B,L,D)

Day 8 (Oct 11, 2015): Basel, Switzerland (Disembarkation).
Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)














  1. Envy, thy name is Jim.

    • Jim, No, don’t be! Just get the airfare & go somewhere you want to! You can do it on the cheap! Phil

  2. Great report … looks like a fun trip!
    Thanx for posting

    • Mark, Thanks for checking this out! As Rich Bower commented, this trip was like an RUGC tour by train….only this time we were looking from the river!!! It really was outstanding! Phil

  3. What a super trip! Your photographs brought back old times for me too…

    • Helen, Yes, we felt it was tops! Glad you have done the same!!! Thanks for taking a look! Phil

  4. Geri and Phil,
    Sounds like the trip was beyond amazing! All and all even with the ‘repairs’, life is good! So very happy for both of you!
    Love, Roe
    Geri, I’ll be in touch!

    • Roe, It WAS! We thought it would be good but not thus good!!! Yes, life is good………REPAIRS! Ugh! Thanks so much for reading this! Geri is right here enjoying your comment & says hello & that she will be in touch! Love to you too, Phil & Geri

  5. Reblogged this on Just Us Owls and commented:
    Check out the latest adventure of my good friend Phil and his lovely bride!

    • Ed, What a gracious thing to do again to reblog this post on Just Us Owls as you have with other posts!!! You are a kind person as you well know…..Phil

  6. Phil and Geri, Sounds like a wonderful, fun, interesting, and memorable trip! As a fan of river cruises this sounds like an itinerary my husband and I need to check out. Can I tell you how much I love your photos. I love how you pictures yourselves in relation to the scenery, otherwise it is just a postcard. Love seeing the evident enjoyment on your faces of your surroundings. Keep traveling, as Rick Steves so often says.

    • Marti, I love hearing from you & especially because you are an experienced traveler! Marti,the trip really surpassed our expectations, not only in beauty & the places, but plain old fun!!! Yes, check it out! I think too many people overlook the Rhine because it is relatively short compared to eastern European cruises….but they are having to switch ships by bus due to low water levels. The Rhine offers so much! Thanks re the the photos. Each day I ask what is a “signature sight” of the day’s destinations & then work to get a photo of ourselves before I take scenery. Sometimes I fail….so many elements from getting a competent person to take the photo to the sun, etc. This was particularly hard on the Rhine passing castles & fortresses. I tried & failed to get the best castle/fortress with us in the GOOD photo I wanted. But we DID enjoy so much!!! Thanks, Marti! Phil

  7. Um, that is ‘love how you picture yourselves’….my English is not that bad but my typing sure is 😜.

  8. What a lovely cruise. Thank you for sharing your experiences . I have wanted to go on a river cruise and since my husband’s ancestry is German, I think this would be a perfect beginning or end to some exploring contemporary architecture in Berlin and visit to village of his family? Many thanks.

    • Annet, Thanks for your nice words! Yes, a river cruise through Germany would be perfect for you both. Then add a side trip to Berlin & a visit to your husband’s family’s village! Thanks again! Phil

  9. Hey you two-
    wow what a trip! I can’t wait to see the cuckoo clock and your new stein! Interestingly enough, I know the Krass clan came from Rudesheim! I found that interesting…

    • Marg! Thanks for taking a look & the nice comment! Wow! THE KRASS FAMILY FROM RUDESHEIM!!! What a beautiful place!!! Phil

  10. It was so lovely to learn of your recent European adventure. I’m so happy to see you two living your dreams. Great photos…and by the way, the scenery was great too!

    • Sandra! Great to hear from you! Thanks for taking a look here & the nice comment! And living the dreams is tiring!!! Thanks about the photos & the scenery……The trip really outdid our expectations! Phil

  11. What a wonderful post my friend! 🙂
    It was so great to meet you and Geri, we will remember that special day forever.
    It’s awesome to read about the rest of your trip, I always learn a lot from your posts.
    I am glad that you and Geri had a good time and visit all those beautiful and interesting places.
    The photos are great too, you look happy! 🙂
    Lots of Love and Hugz to you both from me and Sheryl ❤

    • Patty, Thank you as always for being so supportive of my infrequent post efforts. You are the #1 person with the highest number of comments on my “Excuse Us…” website since I began in January 2012. –And we only connected in October 2013!!! Meeting you & Sheryl was one of those special & unique experiences in life we will never forget & always cherish! Some people “talk” about doing such things, but you & I pulled it off & did it!!!!!!!!! And we appreciate the effort it took on your part to make this possible traveling from Den Haag to Amsterdam…you & Sheryl as well with your busy schedules. Thanks for the nice comments on the rest of our Rhine trip & photos! But the trip started with you & as the post shows, YOU & SHERYL were the high-point & got us off to a good start! Thanks for the hours you gave us! We enjoyed EVERY precious minute of our lunch & walks. And our love back to you & Sheryl as well! Phil & Geri too!

  12. Reblogged this on petitemagique and commented:
    About a month and a half ago, my friend Phil and his lovely wife took a trip to Europe. And guess what? We got to meet up with them! 🙂 It was great meeting in person ❤

    • Patty, Oh my!!! You reblogged “The Rhine 2015”!!! What a nice surprise! You are so modest about how we arranged to meet one-another…..all those Facebook messages to you & Sheryl. But you were so cool about it,,,,,I kept sending “info” but you were so competent & confident just with date, place & approximate time! I attribute pulling this meeting off all to YOU! To have met Patty! Wow! And Sheryl too! It’s really true! Life is enriched by knowing you….Phil

    • Patty, Oh my, for you to reblog “The Rhine 2015”!!! –More than I could have thought of…a genuine surprise. –So nice! Through you I have learned so much about websites & blogging since we met through Twitter & our websites in October-November 2013. And to culminate our website & Facebook exchanges & efforts regarding your poetry books over these years by “doing lunch” in Amsterdam with Patty & Sheryl will remain a memory & experience that will never fade for me. Love to you from Phil & Geri too!

  13. It’s so cool that you met up with, Patty! Love the pics! 😀

    • Kev, Thanks, Kev! Yes, wasn’t that great that Patty & I could arrange to meet at the start of our trip!!!! We have even better photos but these told the story best of the trip. Thanks again, Kev, for checking this out! Phil

      • I saw it on Patty’s site first and just had to pop by to check it out… wouldn’t be the same otherwise, Phil. 😉

  14. Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Carl! Ha!!!!!! Just doing the same to you on your website! You really did it up big with all your Thanksgiving cartoons! I bet creating cartoons is as “healthful” as being a musician…..picking up your heart & filling it with joy! So thanks for the “Thanks” wishes & may you & your family have a nice Thanksgiving as well!!!!!!!!! Phil

  15. Thanks Phil for such an informative, entertaining and well illustrated post. Sounds like a wonderful trip you took full advantage of! Regards Thom.

  16. Thom, My thanks to YOU for such a nice comment of my most recent post…..”entertaining”!……good! Yes, it was a wonderful trip, exceeding what we expected! And we really worked at getting the most out of the experience! Thanks, Thom! Phil

  17. Beautiful photos

    • thelonelyauthorblog, Many thanks!!!!!!!!! Love those Devil Girl Diaries!!! Phil

  18. Merry Christmas. Father and I will attend the Christmas Eve service at our church. Haven’t done that in decades.

    • Carl, How nice an idea to attend church Christmas Eve with your Dad! We should be so lucky to be his age & our kids take us to church on the Eve! He is blessed with YOU!!!!!! Merry Christmas to a very nice person I have the pleasure to have met online! YOU! Phil

  19. Christmas and New Year regards.

    • Carl, Many thanks, Carl! You the same! Phil

  20. Wow, you were back to Europe! How awesome! Looks like you had a wonderful travel 🙂 Wishing you a lovely year 2016..and more travels to enjoy! Oh guess what, I am now living in the USA. It will be for three years only though 🙂 cheers and happy new year!

    • Indah! Yes, our 5th trip to Europe 5 years in a row! Now we hope to turn to USA travel & improvements around the house. Yes, I read on your website that you were moving to Minnesota!!! How exciting! Wondering how you picked Minnesota …I think it had to do with knowing some people there. And I guess the three year limit is the visitors Visa. I’d love to hear more. Happy New Year to you as well. I may have commented on your website…..How could you leave my favorite dear old Rotterdam!!! HA! I must check your website to see if you talk about your relocation to the USA! Very best wishes for your stay. I hope Americans treat you very well! Welcome to America! Phil

      • is all because of Dutchie’s work – my dear hubby. His career move to the US made me giving up my career and joining him to the cold Minneapolis. We get temporary working & residency visas. His working assignment from his office in the US is for three years, so after that looks like we will return to Rotterdam 😉

  21. I started collecting steins when I turned 18, the legal drinking age in Texas at that time. When I disappeared from Texas on April 15, 1993, I left a huge stein collection at home. 82 of them. I had to choose between taking them or taking my CD music collection (227 CDs). I chose the CDs because I could drive and sing but not drink and drive.

    A few months later after I had reappeared on Earth in San Diego, my two office managers back in College Station TX, David & Nick, sold the steins to a collector in Houston for $5,000. They wound up selling the business, the cars, the vinyl record collection, the houses, everything I owned in Texas. It was over two years before I ever went back to Texas.

    David & Nick both were graduating seniors. David took his money and went to Europe from June-December 1973. Nick got married. I think David did the wiser thing………lol……..but in Nick’s defense, he and Stephanie still are married and have four children.

    • Russel Ray!!! 82 steins!!! My German steins are up to 111, plus pewter, Amheiser Busch, & college mugs, totaling 154. But 227 CDs took up less room! A stein collector paying 5,000 for them means either you paid a lot for them or got a good buy on some very good steins!!! Those were good friends to take care of all your business in College Station, Texas, for you!!! David & Nick….sound like dear old friends!!!! What a story!! Phil

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