After leaving dock in Amsterdam, our Rhine River cruise made stops in three German cities—Cologne, Rüdesheim, and Heidelberg—and two stops in the French cities of Strasbourg and Riquewihr.
Cologne, as you could likely guess, is known for its most famous product, “Eau de Cologne.” The original fragrance was developed in the 18th century under the brand name “4711” and has been worn by many royals including Napoleon and Princess Diana. Our tour guide let us sample the fragrance from the flagship Farina store, named after the cologne’s inventor, and then led us to other notable city landmarks including Roman-era structures and St. Peter’s Cathedral which reputedly houses the remains of the three magi.
Rüdesheim’s quaint charm provided an idyllic Christmas Eve setting with shops selling hand-crafted Christmas ornaments and cafes serving Rüdesheimer coffee. The coffee treat was made right in front of us by our server. She started with Asbach brandy, a speciality of the local area, mixed it with sugar, and set it on fire to caramelize the sugars and burn off part of the alcohol. She added coffee and topped it off with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
On our way back to the ship we encountered a small band playing Silent Night from one of the town’s castle remnants, a pretty perfect ending to a relaxing day.
Heidelberg was our last stop in Germany. The city sits at the base of Renaissance-style castle ruins on the Neckar River. We spent time exploring the castle ruins and then descended into town to visit one of the season’s last Christmas markets.
The last two stops on our cruise were made in Strasbourg and Riquewihr, France. Overcast skies and sprinkles of rain met us in France, but it didn’t dampen our experience one bit.