On Live Voyage Reports: Touring Heidelberg, Christmas Markets & More

A gray day on the Rhine. A-ROSA Silva is docked at the second bridge, barely visible in the photo. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
A gray day on the Rhine. A-ROSA Silva is docked at the second bridge, barely visible in the photo. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Due to intermittent internet access along the Rhine yesterday, this Live Voyage Report appears one day late.

After leaving Frankfurt yesterday, we cruised along the Rhine overnight. The purr of A-ROSA Silva’s engines and the river lapping against the hull lulled me to sleep. Plus, the healthy after-dinner pour of red wine probably helped to hasten my slumber and keep me fast asleep throughout the night.

Morning, I opened the stateroom blinds to reveal a gray day. The distinction between river and sky was subtle, the two appearing to blend together. The forest across the river was opaque and mysterious in the thick and chilly morning mist. I pulled on a sweater and jeans, laced up my waterproof walking shoes, and Monica and I headed to the restaurant for breakfast.

Breakfast is something to look forward to on A-ROSA Silva. The morning meal is served buffet style, with a cook-to-order egg and omelette station — and other hot selections. I opted for a bowl of muesli, topped with pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, figs, prunes, natural yogurt and a bit of honey. That, along with a glass of juice and a perfectly prepared cafe latte hit the spot. For good measure, I had a couple of fried eggs and some fresh fruits to hold me through the morning, as we’d be touring Heidelberg and would not be back for lunch until 1:30 p.m.

I find A-ROSA’s restaurants to be particularly attractive, with floor-to-ceiling windows that allow diners to enjoy the passing scenery (or stationary scenery if the vessel is docked). Tables are set for eight or fewer, with a few booths for those who prefer intimate settings. The dining room is situated on Deck 3, which allows for higher ceilings and larger windows than you might find on other river cruise ships, where restaurants typically are situated on the lower decks.

We were docked less than an hour away from Heidelberg, in Germersheim and not in Speyer, as had been promised on our itinerary. Captains of river cruise vessels, as well as those who handle the tours, must be flexible, as docking stations can change from time to time on river cruises. We were disappointed not to be in Speyer, but A-ROSA Silva did provide complimentary transfers between the ship and the city for those who wanted to visit this significant city on the Rhine.

For the moment, however, we were preparing to join the complimentary excursion to Heidelberg. We bundled up and stepped off A-ROSA Silva into the gray day and a temperature of 30F (-1C). After about 45 minutes on the bus, as a guide narrated about the region along the way, we reached the outskirts of Heidelberg. Our guide told us that the Heidelberg University (the oldest in Germany) is the largest employer, providing work for 12,000. Roughly one of every five Heidelbergians is a student, he added, noting that of Heidelberg’s 149,000 residents, 35,000 are students.

At Heidelberg Castle. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Our day included a complimentary tour of Heidelberg Castle. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

We toured Heidelberg Castle and the baroque style Old Town. We learned that Mark Twain spent time in Heidelberg and wrote of his adventures in “A Tramp Abroad,” a book whose appendix includes one of my favorite essays, The Awful Germany Language.

Read the rest of the story on Live Voyage Reports.

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