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Europe cruise part four: Beer, wine and German towns

Friday, July 29, 2011
Over the past few weeks we've travelled through some of Europe's most spectacular places with Carolyne Randoe. Scenic Tours' Jewels of Europe cruise began in Hungary, then on to Austria and Germany. This week there is more of Germany and then it's on to the Netherlands.

*Click here to watch last week's river cruise into Germany
*Watch part two of the Europe river cruise to Austria and the Czech Republic
*Check out part one of the river cruise in Hungary

Bavaria is one of those picture postcard places, and Bamberg is a classic example of the cities. Close to the confluence of the Regnitz and Main rivers, it is one of the few German cities not destroyed in World War II bombings.

Bamberg, once an imperial city, is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. It used to be a fisherman settlement, and the old town is interconnected by waterways, earning it the name "Little Venice".

Dating from the Middle Ages, it was founded in 902 on seven hills, each crowned by a church. Charming half-timbered houses with tiny gardens and colourful baskets of flowers line the river. Its winding streets are filled with baroque patrician houses and there is a breathtaking cathedral built in the 11th century. The old city hall is on a bridge in the middle of the river.

Another of Bamberg's appeals is its excellent beer. There are nine breweries, and the specialty is rauchbier, a smoky beer. You can try it in the Schlenkerla, a historic brewpub with a gothic ceiling. Owner Matthias Trum is a sixth-generation brewmaster. The beer is also served in the town's many small taverns and bars.

Carolyne made good use of the Scenic Pearl's walking track on the sundeck. After all the fantastic food, wine and beer, some exercise and a massage were very welcome.

Further along the river is another Bavarian gem. Rothenburg on the Romantic Road. The medieval town is on a plateau overlooking the Tauber river and its valley. Its patchwork of winding cobbled lanes is lined with half-timbered houses. Massive towers and the intact city walls form a ring around the town, and from the top of the walls there are beautiful views.

Rothenburg is the perfect venue for medieval festivals and it's the town of eternal Christmas. Year-round, people stock up on beautiful handcrafted Christmas gifts and souvenirs. Running since the 15th century, in December it becomes a winter wonderland with 80,000 flickering candles and 4km of decorations. The town's children have candlelight processions while locals and tourists share cups of glühwein, a traditional hot, mulled wine.

Rothenburg's Medieval Crime Museum's History of Rights covers four floors and houses more than a thousand years of legal history. Exhibits include instruments of torture, devices for body punishments and execution chairs, all guaranteed to send shivers down your spine. People caught stealing the precious commodity of honey were beheaded. You may just want to return to the Christmas stores!

Rüdesheim is a winemaking town in the heart of the Rhine river at the entrance to the Lorelei Valley. Wine has been produced there for more than 2000 years. Eighty percent of the grapes are riesling but they produce palatable red wines as well.

To see all the beauty from above, take the chairlift between Assmannshausen and the Niederwald monument. It was designed to symbolise the re-establishment of the German Empire and Germany's unity. About 30 tonnes of bronze went into the main figure, Germania, which was completed in 1883.

Drosselgasse is Rüdesheim's most famous street. It is lined with wine bars and small shops and there's always live music, dance and entertainment to liven things up.

Siegfried's Mechanical Music Cabinet Museum is nothing short of amazing. It has an impressive collection of automated musical instruments from the 18th to the 20th centuries, including delicate music boxes to a gigantic piano orchestrio. It's a feast for the eyes and the ears.

The museum is a gentle second-to-last stop before the cruise takes in a little more of Germany before heading to the Netherlands.

Location

From Germany to the Netherlands.

Cost

Scenic Tours 15-day Jewels of Europe river cruises leave from Amsterdam or Budapest. They start at $6095 per person twin share and include return flights from major Australian capital cities. This price is based on March 7, 2012, departure. All meals, drinks with meals, sightseeing to suit your personal interests and headsets on tours are included. They run between March and November.

Prices correct at July 30, 2011.

For further information

Scenic Tours
14/56 Pitt Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
Ph: 1300 723 642
www.scenictours.com.au
info@scenictours.com

It is recommended travellers see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there may be specific vaccinations recommended for your destination. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended. For further information, visit www.smartraveller.gov.au and www.welltogo.com.au.

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