Invite Yourself on a Life Adventure…

Reading actually inspired my love for travel, and later on it was television. To envision or see something I hadn’t seen before – whether it was in the U.S. or abroad – showed that a big, bold, exciting adventure could await those who sought it. This became a premise for me to travel as much as life would allow.

I’ve often seen advertisements for European River Cruises and heard wonderful travel tales from friends, so we couldn’t resist the opportunity to experience a new life adventure on the Rhine River! In retrospect, the tour’s title, The Great Journey through Europe, was very apropos. A Great Journey indeed!

Typically, the itinerary dictates my interest in travel (although I’m game to go just about anywhere!) and this one did not disappoint. We experienced four countries during the entire trip – similar but different – The Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland. The scenery was stunningly beautiful and the UNESCO World Heritage sites we visited were impressive.

As I visit places, I wonder about those who walked the same streets or paths before me. After we visited each city, we found ourselves saying “that is my favorite place”. The “wow” moments we experienced are far too numerous on which I can expound. Rather, I’ll share some of the highlights for us:

• The first day is somewhat of a blur—there is so much excitement and much to soak up! Our trip from the airport to the ship was a scenic tour visiting area 16th & 17th century canal homes which included the windmill home of Rembrandt. Following lunch on the ship, we hopped aboard a fun canal ride before settling in on the ship.

• Cologne is Germany’s 4th largest city and stretches along both sides of the Rhine and it is known worldwide for its stunning cathedral, Kölner Dom. It holds a special place in my heart and I was thrilled to see—and actually stand—in the place where my father stood nearly 75 years ago when he was stationed in Germany during the Korean War. It was fun to spend time on our own there soaking in the atmosphere of the old town.

• Beautiful Koblenz is situated where the Rhine and Moselle Rivers meet. This point of congruence is known as The Deutsches Eck (German Corner) and a massive memorial to Kaiser Wilhelm I sits in a park here. Germany’s Roman influences here dates to 9 B.C.

• Castles and castle ruins intertwined with vineyards dotted the hillside of the Rhine, and at the Lorelei Rock, the Rhine is at its narrowest point. Later down the Rhine, we stopped at Rüdesheim to sample some local wines!

• Heidelberg Castle ruins stand stately on the hillside welcoming visitors to this beautiful city. The ruins are among the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps. Not only a tourist spot, concerts and plays are held in the ruins adding to the ambiance of the event. At the ruins, there is a video that shows how the many castle owners demolished and rebuilt parts of the castle from the 17th century to current day.

• Strasbourg France is the formal seat of the European Parliament and sits near the German border. Petite-France section of the city is known for its beautiful half-timbered houses. The Strasbourg city itself is known for its own Cathedrale Notre Dame which houses a 16th century astronomical clock—one of the largest in the world! Waiting for the clock to chime, the cathedral was humming with conversation and packed shoulder to shoulder. Then closer to when the clock chimed, you could hear a pin drop. All the moving parts were fascinating.

• Zermatt Switzerland is charming and beautiful and a car-free town. It’s nestled at the base of the Matterhorn peak. We could see Gornergrat and the peak from our hotel balcony—an impressive site. While the town is a base for skiing, climbing and hiking, the main street is lined with shops for a lovely stroll through town. The cogway is nearby and took us to Gornergrat to get a 360 degree view the Matterhorn and nearby Alps. Snow was on the ground and it was thrilling to feel like you were near the top of the world!

• Lucerne Switzerland has always been one of my favorite cities of all I’ve visited so I was excited to revisit this city after 30 years. I’ve always enjoyed the tinkling of cow bells and seeing the snow/cloud wisps coming off the Alps. As we visited the Chapel Bridge (build in 1333) and the Lion Monument, all the warm fuzzy memories flood back as it was as I remembered.

There are so many memories from this trip including the amazing water and drinking fountain sculptures, Swiss chocolate, local food specialties, the history that surrounded us, and the camaraderie of the Arkansas alumni and friends traveling together!

To soak up the atmosphere and culture of an area is educational and inspiring. I hope you’ll consider an Arkansas Alumni tour in your future—invite yourself on a new life adventure!

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