Ten years ago this summer, travellers in Germany, for the first time ever, could savour the pastoral beauty of Franconia, Swabia and Lower Bavaria from the decks of a river cruise ship. Two years earlier, in September 1992, construction had been completed on the last 300 kilometres
of canal linking the Main and Danube rivers in the centre of Europe. Eight locks, each with a tremendous lift of up to 25 metres, had finally made it possible for freighters, barges and pleasure craft to scale the continental divide. Crossing Europe by boat from the North Sea to the Black Sea had become a modern-day reality.

Rieslings and Romantic Ruins
Scenic excursions on Germany’s rivers, though, especially on the Rhine and
Moselle, have been popular ever since the days of the Grand Tour. The steep
riverbanks along the meandering Moselle, planted with the country’s
trademark rieslings, and the Rhine gorge, with its castles and fortress
ruins, have welcomed a steady stream of visitors for more than 200 years.
But the opening of the modern Main-Danube Canal, along with the fall of the
Iron Curtain, has added a multitude of waterways to explore Germany and
Continental Europe.

Berlin to the Baltic
One of the newly accessible cruise routes begins in Berlin, Germany’s
capital. The cruise ship, accommodating approximately 80 passengers,
navigates a succession of canals northeast to the Oder river and Poland’s
Baltic Sea harbour of Szczecin, once a member of the fabled Hanseatic
League. From there, the route swings northwest, along Germany’s Baltic
coast, with stops at the resort islands of Usedom, Ruegen and Hiddensee.
Also on the itinerary, visits of the German Hanseatic cities of Greifswald
and Stralsund reveal massive restoration and reconstruction efforts since
reunification. Brick Gothic architecture abounds here in its purest form,
with many churches, old warehouses and public buildings carefully restored.

Hamburg to Prague
Another water route has become increasingly popular in the past 15 years.
Sailing for a week on the Elbe – at 1,144 kilometres, one of Europe’s
longest rivers –- takes passengers through a variety of landscapes and urban
settings, starting with Germany’s largest North Sea port city, Hamburg, and
ending in Prague. En route, the river cruisers visit the Bauhaus city of
Dessau; Dresden, with its carefully restored Baroque architecture; medieval
Meissen and its world-renowned porcelain manufacture, and they pass by the
dramatic sandstone cliffs of the Elbsandstein mountain range before entering
the Czech Republic.

Canadian tour operators now offer a large variety of river cruises in
Germany, some as cruise-only packages, others part of longer all-inclusive
tour itineraries in Germany and Europe. Vancouver-based Pavlik Travel, for
example, offers a 10-night Berlin-to-Prague cruise until mid-October, with
rates starting at $1,623.00 per person, double occupancy, all meals included
(see www.pavliktravelgroup.com.) Toronto-based Exclusive Tours lists a
7-night cruise from Potsdam (outside Berlin) to Stralsund (on the Baltic
Sea) starting at $2,759.00 per person, double occupancy, all meals included
(see www.exclusivetours.ca.) Tour operator Globus promotes a 19-day
Paris-to-Budapest tour which includes a 14-night cruise starting in
Germany’s oldest city, Trier, cruising down the Moselle, up through the
Rhine gorge into the Main, through the Main-Danube Canal and down the
Danube, past the historic cities of Regensburg and Passau (see
www.globusjourneys.ca.) Rates start at $3,599.00 per person, double
occupancy, including all meals on board.

For more information on river cruises and general information on Germany,
please contact the German National Tourist Office’s toll-free number,
1-877-315-6237, send an e-mail to gntonyc@d-z-t.com, or visit GNTO’s Web
site www.cometogermany.com

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