gmhTODAY 24 gmhTODAY Feb March 2019 - Page 99

T ravel is filled with fun and adventure, and there are so many options in making your dream destination a reality. In the September/October 2017 issue of TODAY , publishers J. Chris and Larry Mickartz shared how they celebrated their 20th wedding anni- versary by cruising the Rhine River from Basel, Switzerland, to Amsterdam, Netherlands. As their story and photos revealed, they enjoyed meeting new friends and experiencing history, beauty, fine food and wines, and local culture as they traveled through four countries on a Viking Cruise. In September 2018, my husband Tom and I joined a group of thirty local friends for a similar Viking Cruise experience with an expanded river route through even more regions. We met in Amsterdam to cruise the Rhine and Danube rivers with our final cruise destination in Budapest, Hungary. Escorting us were travel professionals, Al and Vilma Pinheiro, owners of Caravelle World Travel in Gilroy. River cruising is a bit different from ocean cruising. Ships, known as “longships,” are much smaller, carrying about 190 passengers. Ports of call are close to key destinations. At each port, an experienced tour guide meets the ship and takes its passengers on well- orchestrated land tours. On-board, meals are prepared by a chef. Featured foods that reflect local culinary faire are accompanied by wines from each region. The longship provides a more intimate setting, making it easy to connect with friends and meet new people. On this trip, we met a former U.S. Embassy official, a retired officer from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, an arborist who had retired after a 50-year career, a real estate developer from the East Coast of the US, and so many others, all with fascinating life stories. Whether we ate on the outside terrace or in the formal dining room, there was always a table of friends— new and old—ready to share a meal with us. gmh Written By Susan Valenta GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN february/march 2019 Unfortunately, with climate change, longships traveling on the Rhine and Danube Rivers can no longer access certain ports due to the low levels of water, so guests are escorted by bus to the next location in those situations. Weather can affect travel; however, you can still enjoy the experience by being flexible, keeping a positive attitude, and packing light. For Jay and Vicki Baksa, “Seeing places that we had read about in his- tory books was quite an experience. The picturesque villages we visited had such friendly people and it was fun to try the local cuisine. Sailing on a river boat is a very relaxing way to travel. We highly recommend the experience.” Early into the cruise, I found a book in the ship’s library called ”A Little History of the World,” by E.H. Gombrich. In 1935, at the age of 26, and with a doctorate in Art History, Gombrich was invited to write about the history of the world for young readers. The book covers history from the Stone Age to the atomic bomb. It helped me understand the layers of history we would observe throughout the trip. So, it was with this new-found fascination with history—and particularly Roman history—that my friend Georgia Garfink and I took off on our own to explore the Roman Praetorium in Cologne, Germany. The Praetorium was the official residence of the Imperial Governor of Cologne and the most important Roman palace on the banks of the Rhine. Monuments in the Praetorium date back to a time around the birth of Christ and display multiple building phases and archaeological remains. We even walked through a portion of an ancient sewer system with the walls and ceiling in perfect condition after thousands of years. Cruising up the Rhine, we arrived in Koblenz, Germany, and toured our first castle. Marksburg Castle, built in the 13th century, provided a glimpse of ancient history, including a torture chamber with some of the instruments used to make people confess. Aside from that, it was fun imagining life in the castle as we viewed the kitchen and dining areas and the medieval privy system. gmhtoday.com 99