A River Cruise is the Perfect Way to See Christmas Markets in Europe!
I was so fortunate to get to spend a week this month on an Amawaterways river cruise visiting Christmas markets in Germany and Austria with my 25-year-old son. We started in Nuremburg, Germany and stopped in 8 cities along the Danube, ending in marvelous Vienna. I didn’t plan this trip until the month before, so my husband was unable to get away from his business. Of my three children, Maxx was the one who was able to come. And to say I was fortunate to have this alone time with him would be the greatest understatement.
The Cruise Basics
Itinerary: “Magical Christmas Markets”
Embark/Debark: Nuremburg (Germany) to Vienna (Austria)
Ports of call:
• Nuremburg, Germany (overnight)
• Regensburg, Germany
• Passau, Germany
• Linz, Austria – with excursions to Salzburg or Cesky Krumlov
• Melk/Durnsein and Krems, Austria
• Vienna, Austria (overnight)
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Amawaterways River Cruise
We sailed on the AmaCerto, which provided a festive atmosphere that extended throughout the ship, with decorations from the gingerbread houses at the front desk to the wreaths hanging outside the doors of guests’ staterooms. Lights glitter, and garland and ornaments line the railings and windows, across the lounge to the dining room. I can’t say enough about the service. They found so many ways to delight us. AmaWaterways is part of the prestigious La Chaine De Rotisseurs, a gastronomic society dedicated to fine cuisine. However, you don’t need to be a gourmand to recognize the deliciousness of AmaWaterways.
While the demographic was generally 50+, there were several 20-somethings aboard as well and they gravitated to each other. By the end of the week, we knew more than half of the guests, which made the experience so special. I met so many wonderful, interesting people, including several couples and a group of knitters, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. I plan to keep in touch with quite a few people.
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The Ports of Call
As a Jewish American, my knowledge of Nuremburg was limited to WWII and the trials, so I wasn’t expecting this lovely city, with its colorful people, fabulous food and beer and insatiable Christmas spirit. There, we went on a “Tastes of Franconia and Christmas Market” tour. We were wowed! The famous Christkindlesmarkt was filled with Gluhwien (mulled wine), stollen and kartoffelpuffer stalls. The following day we docked in Regensburg, Germany. Here, I visited my favorite Christmas Market. We ate at the the oldest continuously open public restaurant in the world (1135 AD). Maxx, a true foodie, declared it the best sausage he ever ate.
Passau was our next stop and is known as Three Rivers City due to its location in Lower Bavaria where the Danube, the Inn River, and the Ilz River meet. Truth be told, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to visiting, which made it the best surprise of the trip. It is so beautiful, with its lovely cobblestone streets, and quaint alleyways, and gorgeous confectionery shops selling heavenly gingerbread.
Our first stop in Austria was Linz, where we made our way to Salzburg in the foothills of the Alps. Salzburg is not only picturesque, with its breathtaking landscape and baroque buildings, but it was also the setting for the classic film The Sound of Music as well as for being the birthplace of Mozart. On that day, we had a light snow, which made the town even more magical.
On Friday we stopped in three towns. Melk is lovely on its own, but the famous Melk Abbey, which is striking above the Danube Valley and one of Europe’s great sights, makes it memorable. Midday, I stepped onto Dürnstein. This tiny town looks like someone took a miniature Christmas village and made it come to life. With less than 200 inhabitants, some know it for castle ruins high above where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned by the Austrian King. But for me, I will remember the vineyards and apricots. And finally, on our last stop of the day we visited Krems, with its fabulous little Christmas market.
Our final port was Vienna. Visitors flock to this capital city in December for the outdoor Christmas markets which date back to the 17th century and are now on virtually every square in the city. We also toured the city, with many other significant attractions. Vienna has topped “best cities in the world to visit” lists and has been named, for the 8th time, the world’s number one city to live in.
What I’ll Remember Most
At some point over the years, I’ve stopped caring about buying Louboutin’s and realized that what matters most to me are experiences. I am utterly and deeply filled with gratitude that I was able to share this magical journey with my middle child, who has recently moved from his home town in NJ to Chicago. We relished in the fabulous food, the fun finds at the markets, and the history of each port. I was blown away by the feeling of joy by simply being together. We now have inside jokes that belong to only us. We have shared memories that will hold me until his next visit.
Spending time with your kids individually allows a special closeness that you don’t usually get when you travel as a pack with your family. There was no arguing where to go, what to do, when to eat, as typical when siblings travel together. I’m looking forward to individually taking my daughter, Ty, and son, Chad somewhere special. Of course, I look forward to vacationing with my husband and with all of us together as a family unit. Because there is nothing like traveling with people you love. Click here to learn more.
I’m going to watch the Sound of Music now, and relive my day in Salzburg spent with Maxx. I look forward to planning your vacations, because I know how important the memories you will make are to you.