On an APT River Cruise
Imagine doing the “Grand Tour” of Europe, but instead of travelling by coach, and having to unpack and repack as well as check out of hotels each day, you glide along on a luxury ship, with your own en-suite cabin, with fine La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs dining and wines……….well, you can do this with an APT River Cruise, as I did just over a week ago. I travelled on the second half of the APT 15-day Magnificent Europe river cruise; from Budapest through five countries to Amsterdam, through the charming secrets of Europe’s heartland, I cruised down the Danube, Main and Rhine rivers with Christmas Markets and historical excursions along the way. I will be writing about my accommodation (and the excellent food), as well as the towns, cities and castles I visited in more detail in two subsequent posts, but for now I want to share with you the magical German Christmas markets I visited as part of APT’s Christmas Market River Cruise.
The whole experience of travelling with APT was flawless from start to finish; I was collected from home and taken to the airport where my flights to Nuremberg were arranged. After landing in Nuremberg, I was taken by transfer to the ship where I embarked – the embarkation procedure was quick and efficient, and my cabin was one of the Panoramic Balcony Suites with Gold Butler Service, which included daily canapés being served, room service and champagne on arrival, complete with a festive Christmas wreath on my suite door! My suite was huge and very comfortable, and there was even a BATH in the bathroom, along with a shower, double vanity unit and toilet. The ship, “AmaVenita”, was beautifully and tastefully decorated with Christmas trees, festive swags, baubles and gingerbread houses, which certainly put me the mood for visiting the Christmas Markets in Germany.
The itinerary comprised: Medieval Nuremberg; Bamberg; Würzburg and Rothenberg; Wertheim and Miltenberg; Rüdesheim; Rhine Gorge and Koblenz; Cologne and finally Amsterdam. The cruise was a special “Christmas Markets” cruise, where you were able to “experience the joy and enchantment of the festive period. Cruising on a luxury river ship, you’ll wake each day to charming towns, villages and cities that, having embraced the holiday spirit, are sparkling in tinsel and lit up with light. Germany’s medieval squares play host to storybook markets, with the most famous of Germany’s brilliant Christmas Markets open every year in the historical city of Nuremberg”.
All transfers, when needed, as the ship docked close enough to walk into town several times, were included, as were the excursions. APT’s “Freedom of Choice Inclusions” allow you to tailor-make your holiday to suit your interests and tastes, with a choice of excursions you could participate in – or you are at liberty to stay on-board the ship. “The Freedom of Choice Sightseeing Inclusions” were available in Amsterdam, Cologne, Rüdesheim, Würzburg, Bamberg, Nuremberg, Melk and Vienna. My personalised Christmas Markets itinerary is shared below, with notes and photos, from Nuremberg to Cologne, where I experienced the joys of SEVEN Christmas Markets, both large and small.
- Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt: this is the “grand-daddy” of all the Christmas markets – I’ve been to the market before, many years ago, and I remembered how amazing the atmosphere was, as I wandered around with the enticing aromas of gingerbread, Glühwein, bratwurst and roasted chestnuts. The atmosphere was just as I remembered it, and with over 180 stalls selling festive food, drink and craft items such as straw and wooden decorations, it was spell-binding. Large DOES mean lots of people, so be warned, but I found it less crowded in the morning when it opened at 10am, although it wasn’t as atmospheric as it was at night with all the twinkling lights.The main market is held in the cities largest square, Hauptmarkt, and is overlooked by the beautiful Church of Our Lady.
- Specialities of Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt are: Nuremberg Bratwurst (pork sausages) served three in a bun (“Drei im Weggla”) with Senf (mustard); Lebkuchen (gingerbread) this speciality gingerbread has been baked for over 600 years at the market; Glühwein – basically spiced mulled wine, you buy a mug of Glühwein for €6 and when you return the mug you get a deposit of €3 back, or you can keep the mug as a souvenir; “Swetschgermännla” – Nuremberg Prune Men, different characters are made from dried prunes (and sometimes dates)
- Bamberg Christmas Market: There are four different markets in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Bamberg: the traditional Christmas market on the Maxplatz Square, the delightful medieval Christmas market at Geyerswörth Palace, the Advent Market in the Sand and the arts and crafts Christmas market on Jakobsplatz square. I visited all of them and was utterly captivated with this charming little town with its half-timbered houses. This was a smaller Christmas market than Nuremberg, as this is a town and not a city, but what is lacked in size was more than made up in character.
- Specialities of Bamberg is: Beer! There are nine breweries in the town, and Bamberg is famous for several beers based on the Franconian brewing traditions, the oldest brewery being Klosterbrau. I also had an amazing fresh cream and cherry cake in the town with a cup of hot chocolate and an amazingly cheap €3 for both of them!
- Schwienfurt and Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas Markets: After visiting the sweet little market in Schweinfurt in the morning – which was a short walk from the ship, and where there was a nativity with live animals, a carousel and an impressive Glühwein stall situated in a giant wooden Christmas pyramid, in the afternoon I visited the picturesque town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The walled town boasts some of the most impressive medieval architecture in Europe, with half-timbered buildings, steep-roofed gabled houses, balconies, soaring spires and narrow cobbled street and is also home to the world-famous Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas Shop and Museum. The main market is situated in main square, and it was like stepping into a time warp, with its crooked houses and old-fashioned wooded stalls.
- Specialities of Rothenburg ob der Tauber are: “Schneeballen”, or snowballs, made from strips of sweet dough that are deep-fried and covered with powdered sugar, plus many other flavours such as chocolate, nougat, cinnamon and even gingerbread. I also had a particularly tasty grilled pork steak (Schweinekotelett mit Brotchen) in a bread bun in the main market, and there were the usual stalls selling gingerbread hearts and Lebkuchen.
- Miltenberg Christmas Market: Miltenberg is a beautiful medieval little town set amid some splendid scenery of the Odenwald forest and the river Main, and it’s Christmas Market was one of my favourite small markets; the town was decked in its finest festive attire with colourful window displays and sparkling lights. It boasts the the oldest pub in Germany, which is painted with fabulous murals, and its picture perfect old market square is surrounded by some magnificent Franconian style half-timber framed houses. As I was in Miltenberg on the 6th December, which is St Nicholas’ Day, the Christmas market had a very special visitor – St Nicholas himself was there handing out sweets and talking to the children.
- Specialities of Miltenberg are: Apple Streusel Kuchen (apple crumb cake) which was served to us as we all walked about the town and the market; Wienerschnitzel with spaetzel – a fried veal cutlet with egg noodles in a creamy sauce.
- Rüdesheim Christmas Market: The Christmas market in Rüdesheim am Rhein brings a distinctly festive feel to the romantic old town and its popular Drosselgasse lane, has 120 stalls, representing 12 countries, who all gather to present Christmas customs and traditions from around the world. An absolute must do at the Rüdesheim Christmas Market is to try some delicious Rüdesheim Coffee, which is exclusively made with locally distilled Asbach Uralt Brandy, whipped cream and traditionally served in an authentic Rüdesheim coffee set. I imbibed in this booze coffee TWICE as I walked around this charming old town, with its Musical Instrument Museum and picturesque gondola, which takes you up to the Niederwald recreational area. Rüdesheim Christmas Market is also home to Europe’s biggest Nativity scene with life-size figures, which is situated in the market square.
- Specialities of Rüdesheim are: Rüdesheim Coffee – see above – fresh coffee which is flambéed and served with Asbach Uralt Brandy and topped with whipped cream and chocolate curls; Baumstriezel – pastry cones made from sweet, yeast dough which is then wrapped around a cone (in strips) and then cooked over a baking spit, and rolled in granulated sugar.
- Cologne Christmas Market: Although I loved Nuremberg Christmas Market, Cologne was by far my favourite large market; there are seven markets in Cologne, of which I managed to visit the four big markets located at the Cologne Cathedral, on the Alter Markt, on the Neumarkt and on the Rudolfplatz. I spent most of my time a the “Am Dom” market beneath the magnificent Gothic towers of Cologne’s cathedral. The Cathedral – with its two 157-metre-high towers is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. It took 632 years for Germany’s largest cathedral to be completed, and it is one of the most important pilgrimage churches in Europe, attracting visitors from all over the world. The market was a hive of activity in the evening I was there, and the stalls were varied with the ubiquitous wooden decorations, cookies, hats and scarves, glass decorations, Glühwein and jewellery, as well as a myriad of food stalls. The smell was intoxicating and my nose led me to the “food street” in the market where there was Bratwurst, Backfisch (fried fish), Mushrooms in Garlic Sauce and Potato Pancakes on offer.
- Specialities of Cologne are: Backfisch (fried fish) with tartar sauce and served in a Brötchen (small bread roll); Champignons mit Knoblauchsoße (Mushrooms in a creamy garlic sauce) – these are irresistible and I ate a bowl of these delicious mushrooms underneath the giant Christmas tree; Hessische Reibekuchen mit Apfelmus (Fried potato fritters with apple sauce) – these were light and crisp, and the apple sauce cuts through the fat; Kölsch Beer – Kölsch beer is only brewed in Cologne. It’s a light ale which is served ina traditional 0.2 litre Kölsch glasse which are tall and cylindrical.
So, here are my seven German Christmas Markets, all accessible via the special “Freedom of Choice Inclusions” on my APT River Cruise. With the exception of one day where we sailed through the mystical Rhine Gorge and on to Koblenz, I visited a Christmas market every day as part of the special Christmas Market River Cruises (tour code EUMCR15), and after a few hours of “heavy shopping” and walking around the markets, it was heaven to return to the ship, sink into a hot bath with the knowledge that I had an evening of fine food and wine ahead of me, and no washing up too! I have shared a little German Christmas Market Fact File below, APT and their river cruises, but, please DON’T forget to pop back after Christmas and in the New Year to read all about the accommodation and food on-board the AmaVenita, as well as my excursions in more detail. Karen
Disclaimer and Thanks:
I was the guest of APT: my return flight, transfers, accommodation and meals were included on-board the river cruise, as well as all trips and excursions. With profound thanks to all the people and organisations that looked after me and made my trip so memorable and exciting.
This trip could not have been possible without the following people and organisations, as well as others already listed above:
Kelly Adams and Katie Wright
Anja Wauters – Cruise Director
Vicky – Hotel Manager
What’s included on an APT Luxury and Royal Collection river cruise:
•Home-to-airport by private car
•Return scheduled flights from the UK
•Regional flights available at no extra cost
•All meals plus complimentary beverages served at your discretion on board
•APT Cruise Director and expert English speaking local guides
•All sightseeing and on-board entertainment
•Unique or exclusive Signature Experiences
•Freedom of Choice Touring – choose from a selection of excursions at no extra cost
•Overseas transfers, all port charges and tipping
What’s included on a Travelmarvel by APT river cruise:
•Return scheduled flights from the UK
•All meals plus complimentary house wine, local beer and soft drinks served with lunch and dinner on board
•Travelmarvel Cruise Director and local guides
•All sightseeing and on-board entertainment
•Unique Insider Experiences
•Overseas transfers, all port charges and tipping
•Welcome reception and farewell dinners
•Complimentary WiFi on-board
•Bottled water in stateroom replenished everyday
With included shore excursions, guests will have the opportunity to visit the Fragrance Museum and learn about the history of Eau de Cologne in Cologne; journey along the Romantic Road to the medieval town of Rothenburg in Würzburg, and tour the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.
In addition, APT Royal Collection guests have access to three exclusive events through the Signature Invitation programme. From a visit to the newly renovated City Palace in Vienna with a Cocktail Reception and private classical concert, to a private rail journey aboard the Majestic Imperator from Passau to Linz, reminiscent of the Habsburg Empire. Finally, guests will have the chance to explore the rooms and gardens of Namedy Castle in Andernach and indulge in a royal banquet.
Price is based on a 15 day river cruise departing on 18 November 2016. Home to airport private transfers, return flights, all food and drink onboard, 32 included excursions and invitations to exclusive events and experiences are included within the price.
For more information and to book, visit www.aptouring.co.uk/royal or call 0800 046 3002