Arrive Amsterdam and embark your riverboat
Tour begins: 4:00 PM. A transfer is included from Amsterdam's Schipol Airport or the train station to your riverboat; check-in for all guests is 4:00 PM. Settle in, meet your riverboat crew for an orientation briefing, then join us this evening for the welcome reception and dinner.
Amsterdam... art, architecture and canals
Amsterdam is called the Venice of the North, its network of canals winding through a romantic historic center of cobbled streets, gardens, shops, cafes, and wonderfully preserved Dutch Renaissance architecture. Board a canal boat this morning for a tour of the city from the inside (the best way to see it) along 17th century waterways lined with trees, gabled merchant houses, and vibrant urban life. Your tour includes a visit to the Rjiksmuseum, a national museum of art and history, home to masterpieces of the Dutch Golden Age, including Rembrandt's Night Watch and Vermeer's The Milkmaid. After lunch aboard the riverboat, you'll have time to explore the city on your own; Amsterdam's urban landscape is intimate, laid-back, and made for exploring, brimming with shops, art museums, coffeehouses, and eclectic architecture. Dine aboard ship this evening before sailing for Dordrecht.
Dordrecht and a visit to the Kinderdyke Windmills
Begin the day with a guided walking tour of Dordrecht, a wealthy trading port in the Middle Ages, now a treasure trove of medieval and baroque architecture and canals, and literally hundreds of historical sites and monuments; conspicuous among them are the towering 13th century Grote Kerk (Great Church), and the city's only surviving windmill, built in 1612. Insights into windmills and their ubiquitous role in Dutch life await you on a visit to the village of Kinderdyke (Child's Dyke) where the flat landscape, crisscrossed with canals, presents the largest concentration of windmills in the country. The village is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the 19 windmills, most of them built in the 18th century, are national monuments; for centuries, their massive wind-driven mechanisms have been used to pump water out of the polder and into reservoirs and canals, reclaiming land from the river. Such ingenious methods of water management since medieval times have enabled a country that is almost fifty percent below sea level to exist at all, lending weight to the local saying, "God created the Earth, but the Dutch created Holland." Return to the riverboat for lunch, then enjoy free time to explore the charming cobbled streets of Dordrecht, rich with historic sites, antique shops, and art galleries. Dine aboard ship this evening.
Spend a day exploring all this Köln plus a special evening at a castle
Cruise the lowlands of the Rhine this morning before arriving in Köln (Cologne) for a walking tour. One of Germany's oldest cities (founded in the 1st Century AD), Köln was once a Roman provincial capital, and later a fabulously wealthy medieval trading port; the city was almost totally destroyed during World War II, but many of its architectural treasures have been restored, including its Romanesque churches, the 12th century town hall, and the towering Köln Cathedral, a twin-spired masterpiece of High Gothic architecture. Enjoy free time to discover Köln's urban treasures, such as its beer gardens, wine taverns and chocolate museum. Then depart for Engelskirchen and its neighboring castle, Schloss Ehreshoven. Built in the 14th Century and later expanded in the style of a grand Baroque manor house, the estate is surrounded by a moat, gracious gardens, and a castle park. Schloss Ehreshoven is frequently used a film location but this evening it's the elegant setting for a Tauck Exclusive cocktail reception and dinner with entertainment. Return to the riverboat, which sails tonight for Rüdesheim.
The Middle Rhine and a visit to musical Rüdesheim
The romantic Middle Rhine with its castle ruins, wine-towns, and steep sloping vineyards unfolds on this morning's cruise, with commentary by your Tauck director; the landscape is alive with myths and legends, from the Nibelung to the siren of Lorelei Rock. Dock in the winemaking town of Rüdesheim, at the foot of the Niederwald, where the ruins of Ehrenfels Castle and the lofty Niederwald monument preside over the Rhine Gorge. The 1000-year-old town charms with its cobblestone streets of storybook houses, cozy cafes and wine taverns; among its unique, must-see attractions is Siegfried's Mechanischem Musikkabinett, a museum dedicated to antique self-playing musical instruments. Siegfried's mesmerizing collection includes orchestrions, musical clocks, player pianos, fairground organs, self-playing violinas, and the world's largest automated doll orchestra. Stop in for wine-tasting and snacks at Rüdesheimer Schloss, an historic hotel and restaurant with its own vineyard and family wine estate. Return to the riverboat for dinner this evening as you sail for Karlsruhe.
Stuttgart, fast cars & more
Arrive in Karlsruhe this morning, where you'll have the choice of staying in town for a bicycling excursion, or departing by coach for a visit to Stuttgart, the cradle of the automobile and the hometown of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. Despite its reputation as an industrial powerhouse, Stuttgart offers a charming, small-town atmosphere, tucked in a valley between vineyards and forests, and an inviting urban landscape of historic sites, lakes, parks, and gardens. After a walking tour and lunch, you have a choice of touring the Porsche Museum - a dazzling ultramodern showcase featuring 80 cars, from the earliest models to the present (including concept cars and prototypes), in exhibits that trace the history of the legendary car company - or spending free time in the city center, exploring its magnificent architecture (neo-classical palaces, restored castles, gracious public squares and baroque fountains) as well as shops, galleries, cafes and wine taverns. Dine aboard ship this evening.
Colmar in the Alsatian wine country
Dock in the rivertown of Breisach, Germany this morning, then drive to the village of Colmar, France, in Alsatian wine country. The principal industry in Colmar is food and wine, but its irresistible charm lies in its beautifully preserved medieval architecture that conjures an idyllic place out of time: colorful houses and gardens, rambling cobbled streets and alleys, sculpted fountains, and canals that wind through a corner of town called Little Venice; aside from its winemaking heritage, Colmar is known as the hometown of Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor who created the Statue of Liberty. A walking tour includes a visit to the Unterlinden Museum, housed in a Gothic convent, whose impressive collection includes Mathias Grünewald's famous Isenheim Altarpiece, paintings, engravings and sculpture from medieval to modern (including works by Dürer and Holbein, Picasso and Léger), and a wealth of archaeological artifacts; join us for a private reception in the museum, a Tauck Exclusive! Later, sample the art of Alsatian cuisine at lunch on your own, then return to the riverboat for a cruise through the dramatic Upper Rhine Plain where sentinel castles, forests and rising mountain ranges drift past. Join the crew tonight for a farewell reception which is followed by dinner.
Lucerne & on to Bern
Disembark your riverboat in Basel, Switzerland, a major industrial and cultural center where France, Germany and Switzerland meet. The scenic mountain backdrop rises in stature and drama as you leave Basel and arrive in Lucerne, nestled beside a breathtaking blue lake in the alpine foothills. The attractions of Lucerne's stunning old town of spires, turrets, and frescoed houses unfold on a walking tour, including the 14th-century Chapel Bridge, the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, adorned with panels depicting events in Swiss history and mythology. Lunch on your own in town, then depart for Bern, the capital of Switzerland and a UNESCO World Heritage Site where an orientation tour discovers its spectacular medieval and Renaissance architecture, (limestone buildings, arcades, bridges, fountains, and cathedral) beautifully restored and ringed by the Aare River. Check into the Bellevue Palace, a grand luxury hotel built in 1913, favored by celebrities and heads of state and featured in John LeCarré's spy novels. Your evening is free to spend as you please tonight in this city of cosmopolitan tastes and offbeat, intimate restaurants.
Travel to "the top of Europe," the Jungfraujoch, or explore Bern
You have a choice of sightseeing adventures today. Head for the snow-capped Alps on a full-day's excursion to the lofty Jungfraujoch, known as the Top of Europe - journey to Grindelwald for a train ride to Kleine Scheidegg, then board a cogwheel train for the scenic climb through the Eiger tunnel to Europe's highest railway station; here you'll find a restaurant, observatory, research station, a gallery of ice sculpture, and stunning views of glacier-clad peaks that go on forever. Or explore the eclectic charms of Bern on a walking tour, followed by time on your own: medieval and modern mix artfully in this unhurried atmosphere where sights include open-air markets and cozy underground bars, the Parliament Building, the Gothic cathedral, a bear park (in honor of the town's symbol and mascot), a house where Einstein lived and wrote his Theory of Relativity, and the Zytglogge, a medieval astronomical clock featuring animated dancing figures. Join us this evening for a farewell reception and dinner at the hotel.
Tour ends 8:30 AM. Fly home anytime. Transfers are included from the Bellevue Palace Bern to the airport or train station (Bahnof Bern). Allow at least 3 hours for flight check-in.