Rhine cruise with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines – Part 2: Strasbourg and a walk in the Black Forest
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‘Scenic Gems of the German Landscape’ sailing from Dusseldorf to Basel
for me the highlight of Fred Olsen’s ‘Scenic Gems of Germany’ river cruise was Strasbourg
– which is in France. We moored some 2 km from the city centre so a shuttle bus
was arranged to transport us from the Brabant – our river cruise boat for our
trip along the Rhine from Düsseldorf to Basel, with a delightful detour along
the Moselle. The shuttle bus started at 10am but I wanted to get ahead of the
tourists, so I set off earlier on foot and headed for the Tourist Information
centre next to the magnificent Cathedral. Here I booked a 70-minute canal boat
tour with Batorama, the only company running these tours, at a very reasonable
charge of 13 Euros. This open-top boat with its accompanying commentary helped
me identify the prettiest parts of the town, such as the French Quarter, where
I would return on foot to explore in more depth and take photos.
donned the canal boat’s complimentary headphones, switched to the English
channel and was rather surprised to hear a hearty pirate voice giving a lively
commentary accompanied by a squawking parrot. I laughed out loud a few times
and noted none of my fellow travellers seemed to find their commentaries
amusing. It was only later that I realised I’d tuned to the ‘age-appropriate’
version for English speaking children!
well as circling the entire city centre, the boat tour also took us to see the
European Parliament building. It was a relief to be sailing past this in the
company of other Europeans. There were mixed views and some strong feelings
about Brexit amongst fellow river cruisers aboard the Brabant and, to preserve
the harmony, most of us had carefully avoided entering into any political
penultimate cruise day took me to the Black Forest – a 90-minute coach
excursion from our next mooring at Breisach. Throughout the coach journey, our
delightful guide who came from a local farming family entertained us with
fascinating facts about life in the area such as the pavement sweeping and gossiping
sessions the residents undertake each week. Our first stop was the House of
Black Forest Clocks where we were greeted in the forecourt with cherry wine,
just as the largest cuckoo clock in the world started to chime. Holding my
glass, I turned my wrist to take a video on my mobile and…you guessed it…poured
sticky red wine down my front!
our free coffee and a huge slice of scrumptious black forest gateau in the
shop’s café, we had a short time to browse the collection of fine handmade
wooden cuckoo clocks and incredibly pretty wooden Christmas decorations. I was
determined to find a clock like the one my grandmother had collected on a
pioneering coach trip of Europe back in the 1950s. Amidst a bewildering array
of clocks, I fortunately found one that stood out for its cute St Bernard
mountain rescue dog complete with brandy barrel. As soon the mellow and very
realistic-sounding cuckoo popped out its head and flapped its tiny wings, I was
smitten. Two of my fellow travellers opted for the same clock – it’s rather
nice to think of them all merrily cuckooing in unison but in different time
zones in Lisbon, Zimbabwe and South Yorkshire!
love to have lingered longer but we were whisked off to a Folk Museum to learn
about the harshness of farming life in the Black Forest in times gone by. Our
guide told us how her own grandfather had been given away at the tender age of
5 as a goatherd to a hill farmer. She showed us the type of rough straw cape
that he would have worn in winter to keep out the cold. “He was the youngest of
a poor family with too many children”, she said, so at least he was fed and clothed.
“No one looks back in nostalgia at the good old days in this area”, she said.
We were soon back on the coach and had the afternoon free to explore Breisach.
It was rather disquieting to learn that 85% of the town had been destroyed by
allied artillery in WWII. Most of the buildings were, therefore, relatively
our last night we sailed to Basel in Switzerland. We were expected to disembark
from the Brabant at 9am the following morning but as we had a mid-afternoon
flight, we were allowed to wait on board in the lounge area. I took a stroll
into Basel along the river bank. With the September temperatures climbing once
again into the late 20C I envied the locals sunbathing and swimming in the
Rhine, rinsing off the river water at strategically placed showers. It was
quite a shock to fly back to Manchester Airport a few hours later and emerge into
heavy rain and wind with temperatures just about reaching 12 degrees.
you enjoy exploring different countries and visiting new towns and cities,
river cruising is a lovely way to travel. On board your floating hotel, you
only need to unpack once and the Fred Olsen crew, who look after your every
need, soon get to know your tastes and preferences. The quality and variety of
food at every meal was superb and the wine and beers that came with the drinks
package were very drinkable. I heard there were also early risers’ pastries,
afternoon tea and late-night snacks in addition to the three sumptuous main
meals each day. I was too busy planning and exploring to take advantage of this
additional food, but there’s certainly no danger of anyone going hungry!
and John took the 8-day ‘Scenic Gems of the German Landscape’ with Fred. Olsen
in September 2018. See
all Fred. Olsen’s river tours.
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