This past Tuesday, September 21st my wife, Amy, and I got back from a nine-day trip to Europe. We took a long-boat trip on the Rhine River from Basel to Amsterdam. We took the trip to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, which was June 16, 2020. COVID stopped that trip. The trip was plagued by uncertainty because Viking didn’t even begin travel in Europe until June 18th of this year. Because we had waited so long, just boarding the plane was a success.
In order to board the longboat, we had to be fully vaccinated and had to have a negative COVID test 72 hours before departure.
I took pictures of each day of the trip that I posted on my personal Facebook page, facebook.com/hmoorepaul.
Approximately fifty-five people traveled on the boat—half of capacity. The people were all Americans and lived all over the United States. Not many people came from the Midwest, only a couple from Rapid City and two couples from Springfield, Missouri.
Viking treated us like royalty. Their staff was well trained and went out of their way to make us feel special. Their excursions were very well organized and the guides they hired were outstanding. My only significant complaint with Viking was they changed the itinerary of our trip in August without our approval. They decided to have us travel in October instead of September. This didn’t work for Amy and me. It was only because of the excellent work of Stacy Henning, Amy’s sister and our travel agent, that we were able to get our original dates. The trip was also changed as we traveled from Basel to Amsterdam instead of Amsterdam to Basel. But despite all of these pre-trip changes, Amy and I would travel with Viking again. Travel agencies are under enormous pressure because of COVID.
Each day we were offered excursions. Some of the places we docked were Kehl, Rudesheim, Koblenz, Cologne, and Arnheim.
I’ve traveled to Europe twice before. This time I got a sense of the long history. When we talk about history in Blaine, we probably go back a hundred years. When the guides talked to us about history they went back two thousand years to the Romans. Frequently I heard stories from the 13th century and saw statues and other monuments that celebrated people who lived eight hundred years ago.
The shadow of World War II still covers the areas that we visited. Almost every guide talked about World War II and thanked us as Americans for helping Europe be liberated from the Nazis. We saw many pictures of villages that were completely destroyed in World War II. Many monuments exist that share a special event in the war.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was traveling up the Rhine and seeing many of the castles that are located near the river. Castles are not part of America. Seeing these structures that were built in some cases 900 years ago gave me a glimpse of what life was like in the Middle Ages. We had the opportunity to tour Marksburg castle in Braubach. People lived in this castle for over 700 years. Today it is open for tourism. Even though people were comparatively privilege to live in this castle, life was very difficult. People in the castle were constantly concerned that people would attack the castle. The path to the castle was intentionally bumpy so people who wanted to attack the castle would have a hard time entering. And people lived with the challenges of the time. A toilet was a hole that was about sixty feet above a path on the outside of the castle. People kept food in an elevated ice box. Ice was put in the bottom of the chest to keep cool food that was put over it. We were told that people slept sitting up as lying down was what happened to people when they were dead. They didn’t want to tempt fate. A Wikipedia page about the castle is at: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marksburg.
I also was struck by the size of the Cathedral in Cologne. Construction was started in 1248 but stopped in 1560. Construction was started to house the relics of the Three Kings or Magi. When the Cathedral was completed in 1880 it was the tallest building in the world, over 500 feet high. That distinction lasted for four years until the Washington Monument was built. Today it is the third tallest Cathedral in the world. Can you imagine constructing that high without the machinery of today? Today it is Germany’s most visited site with over six million people visiting each year.
We experienced a much higher concern about COVID than what I’ve experienced in the United States. We wore masks anytime we were indoors. Viking had each passenger take a saliva test every morning. Amsterdam wouldn’t let foreigners into the City unless they had been quarantined for ten days. Because of this we were not able to tour Amsterdam.
I know that I’m privilege to travel. Taking this sense gave me a deeper sense of the vastness of our world and the vastness of our history.
I’m committed to writing a blog every seven to ten days. If you’d like to receive a notification when I write a blog, send me an email to email@example.com.