This is the next leg of Getaway
's travels with Scenic Tours River Cruising, the only 100-percent Australian-owned and operated river cruising company in Europe. In June 2008 Scenic launched two new river cruise ships in Amsterdam MS Scenic Sapphire
and MS Scenic Emerald
. They will be joined by MS Scenic Diamond
and MS Scenic Ruby
The vessels have been specifically designed to allow the ultimate in personal space. Eighty-two percent of staterooms are Private Balcony Suites, complete with a large teak balcony with outdoor chairs and a table.
The river cruisers are amongst the largest in Europe, 22 percent longer than similar vessels, with proportionately larger public areas. Stylish rooms have an understated ambience, with comfortable sofas in the main lounge area and floor-to-ceiling windows offering 180-degree views.
The observation lounge is 31m long one of the roomiest of any river cruise ship. An adjoining 5m open-air teak deck allows guests unlimited access to outside areas and is used on days when the top sundeck is closed due to the ship passing under low bridges.
There is a wellness area on board and a restaurant offering fine dining. Rather than early or late sittings, the restaurant can accommodate all guests at the one time.
This week the MS Scenic Sapphire continues its journey along the Danube into Bavaria in Germany. First was the town of Passau, located at the confluence of the Danube, Inn, and Ilz rivers, on the Austrian border.
Passau is dominated by Oberhaus Fortress, which dates back to 1219, the site of a museum and the 1668 cathedral, which incorporates the remains of an earlier Gothic structure. The cathedral's 1928 church organ is one of the largest in the world, with 17,000 pipes.
Passau's Gothic town hall has paintings depicting episodes in the town's past. There is a bishop's palace and many fine churches in varied styles.
Passau was an important medieval trade and shipping centre. The Inn River salt trade and the making of knife and sword blades were traditional occupations. Passau is now the economic, cultural and communications centre of south-east Bavaria and is very much a university town. The university, founded in the 1970s, is an extension of the Institute for Catholic Studies, founded in 1622. It is renowned in Germany for its institutes of economics, law, theology, computer sciences and cultural science.
Next is Regensburg, the previous parish of Pope Benedict XVI and to many, Germany's best-preserved medieval city. It's hard to disagree with that when you are wandering through the altstadt (old city) with its 13th and 15th-century houses or crossing the Steinerne Brücke, which has carried traders and tourists across the Danube since the 1100s.
Regensburg was fortunate to escape damage from Allied bombs in World War II. The medieval streets in the city centre have been protected by strict laws since the 1970s, so the churches, patrician mansions, towers, Roman walls and other historic structures you see are the real thing.
Regensburg isn't just a 2000-year-old theme park. It is energetic and prosperous, with a major university and lively culture. The town is off the main tourist circuit. You should try the famous beer and sausage, made since the bridge was built in 1135. Delicious!
Next stop is Nuremberg, Bavaria's second-largest city. It is a vibrant place with intense nightlife and dark, dark beer. It is one of the biggest draws with tourists during summer and for the spectacular Christmas market.
For centuries, Nuremberg was at the intersection of medieval trade routes. It was the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire and residence of German kings. It was the guardian to the crown jewels. Many priceless artworks can be seen in the city's fantastic museums and churches.
In the 20th century, Nuremberg became tainted by the legacy of the Nazis. It was here that the infamous party rallies were held, the boycott of Jewish businesses began and the Nuremberg Laws revoking Jewish citizenship were enacted. In 1945 Allied bombs reduced the city to rubble and 6000 people were killed.
After World War II, Nuremberg was chosen as the site of the War Crimes Tribunal, now known as the Nuremberg Trials. Later, the main buildings were painstakingly reconstructed using original stone, including the castle and the three old churches in the altstadt. At last the city was graced with some of its former glory.
Scenic Tours' Nuremberg coach tour takes in the city and then passengers can explore the old town by foot. After lunch on board, the tour focuses on World War II, with a visit to the documentation centre holding the records of the trials. There is also a visit to the Nazi Party rally grounds.
It is a thought-provoking and emotional day for many people and returning to the Sapphire is comforting.
From Regensburg, the tour continues through Germany and hooks up with the Rhine River for the last leg into Amsterdam.