Amsterdam to Budapest - part 4

Words by Peter Thorpe

We visit the village of Miltenberg, in Bavaria Germany

We are slowly making our way down the river Rhine and we’re now in Bavaria. We visit the town of Miltenberg. Many of the houses and warehouses here date back to the 1300s and the architecture is really quite stunning with the top half of the buildings consisting of intricate wooden panels painted in bright colours. The villages just seem to get prettier and more picturesque, as we move down the river.

Miltenburg has lots of pubs and wine and spirit merchants and we call into a local Schnapps cellar and taste some of the various varieties and flavours of this delicious but powerful brew. Each German town we visit has its own history and unique stories to tell. All of them have buildings 600 and 700 years old and older. The towns are generally very clean and well-kept and there are beautiful flowers, everywhere you go. There’s also plenty of the 3Cs – churches, castles and cathedrals but it’s not all about that. There’s a lot more to come

The Schnapps cellar where you can try various types and flavours

Our next major destination is Nuremberg, where the famous Nazi trials were held – (don’t mention the war!). Our day starts with a tour of the Nuremberg Castle, a huge imposing building built in medieval times. It sits atop a large hill overlooking the town.
We also visit the “hangman’s bridge”. This is the wooden bridge that ‘Henker’ – the Executioner used to walk across from his isolated house on the island to the city, back in the Middle Ages. This was built especially for him because the executioner could not have contact with ‘honourable’ citizens.

Nuremberg's Hangman's Bridge

I find the more recent history of Nuremberg more interesting. During World War 11, it was the headquarters of the Nazi party. We board a coach and our tour guide takes us on a fascinating tour of some of the landmarks of this era. This includes Hitler’s Rally Party grounds – where he would hold rallies that attracted over a million people, from all over Germany. We also visit the SS headquarters and the courtrooms where they held the infamous Nuremberg trials, directly after the war.
Interesting point: Our tour guide tells us that until recent times, they were not taught anything about the Nazis in school. Total denial. Then, in recent times they reversed that and are now taught ad nauseam about it, in the hope that the people would realise that this was not a good way to go. They haven’t convinced everybody though, because at the last elections the Neo-Nazi Party got 14% of the vote!
Nuremberg was heavily bombed in the later stages of the war and a lot of the old buildings were badly damaged. You wouldn’t know that driving around today though, as most of them have been totally restored. An example is this entrance way to the local Town Hall below

Many of the buildings in Nuremberg have been totally restored

Meanwhile, on the ship, they continue to feed us like battery hens, with an endless supply of yummy food! For example, today we have breakfast – then at 10.30am, there’s a German sausage and beer tasting – followed by an early lunch at 11.30am (burp!). We are doing all the tours trying to walk it off, but I think – we’re going to need a bigger belt!
On our last day in Germany – we visited the border town of Passau. Once again, beautiful Cathedrals and ancient buildings wherever you look. Interesting highlight – see below – the world’s only Sausage Dog Museum! No kidding!

The world's only genuine sausage dog museum!

We are now in Austria and we’re sitting on a 200-year-old train that was originally built for royalty and it certainly looks the part. In its heyday, it would have been quite opulent, with lots of gold filigree and velvet everywhere. It’s a bit like Murder on the Orient Express – without the murder! Very romantic.
We are making our way up the Austrian Alps to Sound of Music territory and the town of Salzburg. Quite a journey. Salzburg is a beautiful place with amazing scenery and it’s literally surrounded by the Swiss Alps.

The arch where the children sang the Do Ray Me song

The highlight of the day is a visit to the palace where most of the movie, Sound of Music, was filmed. We walk through the gardens and the arched hedge, where the children sang the Doh Ray Me song. I can’t help singing it as we walk along – Doh a deer, a female deer…
In the background is the palace, (a mansion in the story) where they lived. We also see the Abbey, where Maria (the novice nun) came from and the real-life Maria actually got married! Yes folks, it’s based on a true story. If you don’t think fairy tales come true – come on this tour.

The mansion where they lived in the Sound of Music

Salzburg is also the birthplace of Mozart – and in the town, we visit the house where he was born.
Another great attraction in Salzburg (there are too many to list here) is the magnificent Hohensalzburg Fortress, which dominates the city and is its main tourist attraction. The castle is Europe’s biggest fortification and probably the most beautiful. It sits on top of a hill, on the edge of town and you can get there via the Funicular Railway – an extremely steep cable car-like vehicle – which runs every 10 minutes. Or, if you’re super fit, you can walk there uphill in about 30 minutes. We take the cable car.

The view to the Swiss Alps from the Hohensalzburg in Salzburg

At the top, we find a really nice beer garden, where we have a cold beer and a pleasant lunch and enjoy the spectacular views with the Swiss Alps in the background.

A group of opera singers suddenly appear on the train

Finally, after a fantastic day, we re-join the Royal train for our return journey. Suddenly, a team of opera singers dressed in full period costume, appears in our carriage and serenade us all the way home with operettas and classical songs from the Sound of Music. Wow – I think we’ve just died and gone to heaven!

Click here for the final leg of  our journey