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Day by Day Itinerary

Join Grand Circle on the ultimate European cruise. On this River Cruise, you'll unpack just once, then wend your way continuously from Amsterdam on the North Sea to Constanta on the Black Sea. In between, a rich and textured Old World canvas comes to life as you visit some of Europe's main sites along its major waterways—the Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers. Plus, you'll explore eight fascinating countries as your experienced, local Program Director leads your discoveries. From the Netherlands' low countries to Germany's famed wine regions, from rich Hungarian cultures to the heart of Eastern Europe in Bulgaria and Romania, this European River Cruise has it all.

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    Depart the U.S. today on your flight to Amsterdam.

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    Arrive today in Amsterdam. You are met at the airport by a Grand Circle representative and transferred to the pier to embark your river ship, which will be your home for the duration of the European cruise.

    Enjoy a light lunch onboard and time before dinner to relax after your flight, or do some exploring on your own. Amsterdam is a thoroughly modern city that has taken extraordinary measures to retain its Old World charm and historical significance. The narrow Dutch houses with their tidy window boxes and hand-scrubbed stoops and sidewalks will charm you. The city is easy to get around in and explore on your own. You may want to spend time in Dam Square, the heart of the city. This is the spot where the Amstel River once flowed. Due to flooding caused by high river tides, a dam was built—thus, the square's name. Or relax and do some people-watching in Rembrandt and Leidse squares.

    During your cruise, whenever you have leisure time at a port along your route, you'll receive a Port Talk about the pier area and town prior to arrival so you can make the best use of your free time. Tonight, you'll gather for your first Port Talk. Then get better acquainted with your Program Director and traveling companions over a Welcome Drink.

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    View five passengers enjoying a cruise down an Amsterdam canal

    After breakfast, join us for a boat tour introducing you to Amsterdam’s famed canals, providing a matchless perspective on the city’s remarkable architecture and relaxed pace. You also see the Mint Tower, which has retained its name even though gold and silver coins were minted here for only a few years, and other city highlights. Following the conclusion of your tour, you can enjoy free time in downtown Amsterdam before returning to the ship.

    After lunch back onboard your ship, begin your European River Cruise Tour as you sail the Rhine River towards Germany.

    This evening, meet your crew and fellow travelers at the Captain's Welcome Reception and Dinner.

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    Arrive in Cologne in the afternoon for an included tour. Cologne was a Roman settlement called Colonia Agrippina after AD 50 and came under Frankish control in the fifth century. You can still see the ruins of Roman temples scattered through the city, and the Roman Gate near the cathedral was once part of the medieval town walls. During the 15th century, the city flourished as a member of the Hanseatic League.

    Explore the streets of Cologne

    Your tour will end at Cologne’s magnificent Gothic cathedral—the Dom. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cathedral largely escaped the World War II damage that ravaged the city and the rest of Germany. There’s evidence that Allied forces had orders to avoid damaging this beautiful structure. It is the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, boasting beautiful stained-glass windows, an ornate gold shrine on its elaborate altar, and the intricate detail common to 14th-century Gothic churches.

    The rest of the afternoon is yours to spend at leisure or to continue your explorations. You may want to go inside the cathedral, or perhaps explore the Roman Germanic Museum to see its magnificent mosaic floor, discovered in the ruins of a Roman villa.

    Share your day's experiences over dinner onboard tonight.

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    Explore the streets of Koblenz

    This morning, enjoy a walking tour of Koblenz, set at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Originally established as an outpost of the Roman Empire and named Castellum apud Confluentes, the town became a city in the 13th century and served as a haven for French refugees during the French Revolution. During your tour, you'll see the highlights of the Old Town.

    You'll then disembark in Rudesheim, where you'll enjoy an informative stroll, followed by an included dinner off the ship, featuring traditional folk music normally played in beer halls, at a local restaurant.

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    View a beautiful German bridge in Heidelberg

    Join a full-day tour of Heidelberg. You begin by touring the impressive ruins of the city's Gothic castle, where you'll have an expansive view of the surrounding area. Your tour continues with a walk through the city.

    From here, you'll enjoy lunch in a traditional Gasthaus that has been part of Heidelberg's Old Town for centuries. After some free time to make discoveries on your own, you return to the ship in time for dinner onboard.

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    View castle ruins and fairy tale sights while touring Wertheim

    Disembark for a walking tour of Wertheim, a charming fairy-tale town located at the meeting of the Main and Tauber rivers. Admire the imposing ruins of its castle, set on a hill overlooking the town.

    Enjoy the rest of the morning exploring Wertheim on your own. You may want to climb the stairs to the castle and follow the trail around the castle walls. Or you could visit the renowned Glass Museum in Wertheim, where exhibitions display the town's long and proud tradition of glass production.

    In the early afternoon, we visit with a local family and share coffee and cake with your hosts, an exclusive Discovery Series event. This is a great opportunity to experience what life is like for a typical family in this region of Europe.

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    View scenic German towns and countryside while sailing along the Main River

    In the early morning, start sailing from Wertheim to Wurzburg. 

    This afternoon, we'll dock in Wurzburg, a city on the Main River in Bavaria. Founded in the tenth century, Wurzburg was home to several powerful prince-bishops for many centuries.

    We'll enjoy an informative walk here. Perhaps you'll view the Residenz, commissioned by prince-bishop brothers Johann Philipp Franz and Friedrich Karl von Schonborn. The complex was almost completely destroyed during World War II, but has since been rebuilt to its original grandeur prior to the war.

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    View a beautiful German village situated along the Main River

    Spend the day on the water as we cruise the Main River and sail into Schweinfurt this afternoon.

    Or, disembark during a stop in Gerlachshausen for an optional tour of Rothenburg. This lovely old town sits on the Tauber River and boasts undamaged 14th-century city walls and beautifully preserved fortifications.

    During your walking tour, you'll see stately towers and imposing burghers' houses. After an included lunch, you have the afternoon free to make your own discoveries in this charming town before transferring to meet the ship in Schweinfurt. This optional tour includes lunch.

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    Explore Old Town Hall in the city of Bamberg Germany

    Today, join your Program Director for a guided tour of Bamberg, a hidden gem dating back to AD 902 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bamberg began to prosper in the twelfth century and was the center of southern Germany's Enlightenment in the late 18th century. The great German philosopher Hegel lived here, and Bamberg was the second city (after Mainz) to introduce book printing.

    Today, Bamberg boasts 2,000 buildings listed as historical monuments, and its old city center is Europe's largest existing group of historic buildings. The city was awarded the title of “World Cultural and Natural Heritage of Mankind” by UNESCO in 1993.

    You have some free time to explore Bamberg on your own before returning to the ship. Later this afternoon, you'll set sail for Nuremberg.

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    View a group of travelers in front of a beautiful fountain in Nuremberg Germany

    After breakfast, we disembark for an included tour of Nuremberg, Bavaria's second-largest city and the most important city in Franconia, with a local guide. Once the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire, Nuremberg evokes its exalted past with its imposing medieval Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle). However, its more recent history is intricately linked to its role in World War II.

    During your included tour here, you'll visit the Zeppelin Field where the Nazi party held rallies for up to 100,000 spectators. The rally grounds were designed by Hitler's chief architect, Albert Speer, who went down in history as "the Nazi who said sorry" during the Nuremberg Trials. You'll learn more about the trials during an included tour of Room 600, the courtroom where the hearings took place.

    We return to the ship for lunch. This afternoon, you can choose to relax onboard or take advantage of our complimentary shuttle bus into town. While there, you may want to explore the Documentation Center, which offers a sobering look at the causes, context, and consequence of the Nazi reign of terror. Or take time to explore Nuremberg's Old Town on your own. The city was devastated by bombs during the war, and subsequently rebuilt and painstakingly restored. Today the city thrives as a bustling industrial and commercial center.

    Dinner tonight is onboard. This evening, enter the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal and learn about the construction and history of this engineering marvel.

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    Explore Germany’s largest medieval city on a walking tour of Regensburg

    This morning, we sail to Kelheim and Regensburg. You can enjoy leisure activities aboard ship.

    Or, delve deeper into the Danube's scenic splendor during an optional excursion from Kelheim to the Weltenburg Monastery.  Before you visit the monastery, you'll board a ferry for a ride through the beautiful Danube Gorge, Donaudurchbruch, the river's narrowest and deepest stretch. From your ship's outdoor deck, you'll enjoy close-up views of towering Jurassic-era limestone cliffs as you wend your way through this scenic passage. Along the way, you'll discover the town's impressive Befreiungshalle, or Liberation Hall. Built by Bavarian King Ludwig I in the mid-18th century, the tower-like structure honors the German tribes who banded together to defeat the French during the Napoleonic wars of 1813-1815.

    At the monastery, you'll marvel at its Baroque construction of stucco, polished marble, gilt, and painted ceilings. There, you'll have the opportunity to reflect in the cool stillness of the abbey—Germany's oldest, founded at the beginning of the seventh century by the Abbot Eustasius. The compound also houses the oldest monastery brewery in the world. Here, visitors have enjoyed its famous dark brew for nearly 1,000 years.

    Transfer by motorcoach to Regensburg, where the ship has cruised to meet you.

    After lunch onboard, enjoy a walking tour of Regensburg, Germany's largest medieval city. Since the historic city center was undamaged during World War II, it remains beautifully preserved. Your tour features the Old Town Hall and the famous Stone Bridge (Germany's oldest bridge), constructed during the twelfth century. You also see soaring St. Peter's Cathedral, a Gothic church adorned with beautiful stained glass. Admire the narrow medieval streets and the relics of Regensburg's Roman past at the ruins of Castra Regina fort—the Porta Praetoria—containing a stone inscribed in AD 179, when Marcus Aurelius was emperor.

    After your tour, enjoy time to explore on your own before dinner onboard.

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    View St. Steven's Cathedral and Danube River in Passau Germany

    After breakfast, you enjoy a walking tour of Passau, situated at the confluence of the Danube, Ilz, and Inn rivers. Called the Dreifluessestadt (City on Three Rivers), Passau is an elegant town that has served as a German cultural and intellectual hub for centuries. You see the impressive Bishop’s Residenz, the 14th-century Town Hall. You'll walk to the lavish St. Stephen's Cathedral. This magnificent 17th-century cathedral contains one of the world’s largest pipe organs, with 17,774 pipes and 234 resounding stops. The cathedral’s original Gothic plan is still evident through the 17th-century reconstruction it received in the grand Baroque style. One of its most striking features is the gorgeous octagonal dome that hovers over the intersection of the nave, where the congregation sits, and the transept, which runs perpendicular to it.

    Your afternoon is at leisure.

    Our evening cruise carries us into Austria, the third country on our itinerary.

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    View Durnstein while cruising through Austria along the Melk River

    You will arrive at Melk early in the morning. From your ship, you'll be able to see the formidable Melk Abbey as it rises up from the surrounding countryside along the Danube. After breakfast, enjoy a guided tour of the dramatic 900-year-old Baroque abbey. This magnificently ornate structure has a long and storied history. Strategically situated on a steep, cliffside perch, Melk Abbey's earliest incarnation was as a Roman border post. Later, it served as a tenth-century Babenberg fortress. It became a Benedictine monastery in 1089 and earned a distinguished reputation for medieval scholarship. Its library includes more than 70,000 books and 2,000 manuscripts, chiefly from the ninth through the 15th centuries. The abbey was ravaged by fires in 1297 and 1683. The stately Baroque edifice that stands today, with its twin towers and 208-foot-high dome, dates from its reconstruction in 1736.

    In addition to the remarkable cherub-filled library, the Abbey features 365 windows—one for each day of the year. The interior of the Abbey's church is a kaleidoscope of red, orange, and gold—with a magnificent carved pulpit and shimmering ceiling frescoes. During your tour, you'll get the chance to observe and explore it up close, learning more about Melk Abbey's fascinating story.

    After setting sail again, your travel on the river takes you through the lovely landscape of the Wachau Valley—past terraced vineyards and lush flowering fields—on your way to Vienna.

    In the early evening, you arrive in Vienna, Austria's capital. This evening, you can relax or spend the evening exploring on your own. After dinner onboard, join us on an optional Musical Vienna tour this evening. Vienna without music wouldn't be Vienna. So, subject to availability of tickets, you can enjoy an evening in one of Vienna's famed concert halls.

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    After breakfast on board the ship, you'll enjoy a tour of Vienna, including the Ringstrasse, probably the greatest achievement of the Emperor Franz Joseph. In 1857, the Emperor ordered the demolition of the ancient city walls, which were no longer needed as fortifications and which were impeding the growth of the city. In their place was constructed an elegant 2.5-mile-long boulevard, encircling the Innere Stadt ("Inner City"). The Neo-classical buildings along the Ringstrasse bring together all the greatest architectural styles in an exuberant celebration of all that seemed possible during the Industrial Revolution.

    View Cecilienhof Palace on a guided tour

    Our stroll continues along the city sidewalks, passing by the well-known Hofburg Palace, home to many generations of the Habsburg family, and the renowned Spanish Riding School.

    The balance of the day is free to relax or do some more exploring on your own.

    Your evening is free to do as you please. Ask your Program Director for suggestions.

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    Discover new friendships during a river cruise along the Danube

    This morning, join your Program Director in discovering more of Vienna via public transportation. Then return to your ship for lunch and cruise toward Hungary.

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    This morning, set out to explore Budapest on an included city tour. Budapest is situated on both sides of the Danube River, with Buda (the right bank) to the west and Pest (the left bank) to the east.

    In Pest, you'll see Heroes' Square, with its Millennial Column set off by equestrian statues of historic ninth-century Magyar leaders who conquered this region. The adjoining colonnade displays more statues of kings, dukes of Transylvania, and liberty fighters who influenced the history of Hungary.

    As your tour takes you over the Danube bridges into Buda, you can see how the imposing Parliament Building dominates Pest on the opposite side of the river. Then, turn your attention to beautiful and historical Buda. Here, you'll visit Castle Hill, where a massive castle complex with its protective ramparts has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mostly destroyed during World War II, the Royal Palace has been lovingly restored, approximating its former splendor, and it now includes the Hungarian National Gallery.

    In your free time, you can also visit the Church of Our Lady, formerly used for the coronations of Hungarian kings. Its popular name of Matthias is in recognition of the Renaissance king who ruled in the 15th century and whose heraldic sign—a raven—is displayed on one of the towers of the church. Dating to the 13th century, the structure is an interesting mix of architectural styles used during reconstruction of the building at different times in its history. Note that during the 150-year Turkish occupation of Hungary, the church served as Eski Djami (Old Mosque) for the Turks. Inside the church, you can view art of Bertalan Szekely and Karoly Lotz, 19th-century Hungarian painters.

    After lunch onboard, you can relax on the ship or explore more of this grand city.

    Budapest offers some particularly fine museums and galleries. The Hungarian National Gallery contains excellent examples of Hungarian art from the Middle Ages on. The collection is comprehensive and somewhat massive, so give yourself plenty of time to enjoy it. The Museum of Contemporary Art and the Budapest History Museum are also worth a visit.

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    See St Stephen Basilica while touring Budapest

    After breakfast, join us for a briefing by your Program Director. Then, enjoy the entire day to continue your discoveries in Budapest at your own pace.

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    View Budapest's Fisherman's Bastion while cruising Hungary

    This morning, you can join an optional tour exploring Hungarian Jewish Heritage. You'll visit the Great Synagogue (the largest in Europe, Moorish but with Byzantine, Romantic, and Gothic elements), the Kazinczy Street orthodox synagogue (the center of traditional orthodox Jewish life here), the Emanuel Memorial Tree (a sculpture in the form of a weeping willow tree, a memorial to Hungarian victims of the Holocaust), and the Jewish Museum.

    Or spend the morning making your own discoveries. Your afternoon is at leisure.

    Enjoy dinner onboard tonight.

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    Discover local culture at a Home Hosted Lunch in Osijek

    After passing through customs this morning and docking in Batina, you'll set out to explore Osijek, the administrative and economic center of eastern Croatia.

    Situated on the Drava River, about 15 miles from the mouth of the Danube, this area was populated even in prehistoric times, and the first urban settlement was erected by the Romans. But the area's advantageous geographical location made it prey to assault throughout the centuries. It was destroyed by the Huns, rebuilt in the Middle Ages, destroyed by the Turks, and rebuilt again in the 18th century. As a result, Osijek boasts an eclectic architectural heritage, which you'll see on your included city tour.

    Among the more notable sites are the Tvrdja, a unique urban and military complex that lies in the center of the city and was built between 1712 and 1721 by the new Austrian authorities; the neo-Gothic Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, with a 290-foot spire; and the striking, 690-foot modern pedestrian bridge that rises over the Drava.

    Reliving its own cruel history in our era, Osijek was heavily damaged during the Croatian-Serbian war. Now peaceful, the city is experiencing a rebirth of civic pride and cultural and economic achievement.

    Following your walking tour, you will visit with students at a local school that's supported, in part, by Grand Circle Foundation. Please note: The school visit is not possible on weekends, or during the summer or national holidays, when school is not in session. Instead, Croatian teachers will join you for an onboard discussion.

    You'll enhance your appreciation for everyday Croatian life as you join a local family for lunch in their home, an exclusive Discovery Series event.

    Later this afternoon, transfer by motorcoach to Vukovar, where you'll meet your ship. Enjoy a short walk through the town and see some of its scars (Vukovar suffered the worst artillery shelling during the Croatian-Serbian war that waged from 1991 to 1995), as well as witness its revival.

    This evening, after dinner onboard, enjoy a Slavonian musical performance.

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    After breakfast this morning, enjoy an included tour of Novi Sad, Serbia's cultural hub and second-largest city. The beauty of the city is in its name—novi sad in English translates to "new garden." Nestled along a bend in the Danube river, Novi Sad is peppered with myriad historical and cultural monuments, verdant parks, bustling squares, a thriving pedestrian zone, and a history-rich fortress standing tall on the right bank of the river.

    After lunch onboard, the remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to make further discoveries of Novi Sad on your own. Perhaps you'll choose to explore the Petrovaradin Fortress, built between 1692 and 1780 by the Austrians as a defense against invading Turks. Declared a historical monument 200 years later, this partially restored fortress is now a museum. Delve deep into the monument's strange past, including a 12-mile network of underground tunnels, a mysterious well with supposed links to black magic, and an iconic clock tower where the size of the minute and hour hands are reversed.

    Or, join us on an optional excursion to Sremski Karlovci, a culture-rich town just 10 miles southeast of Novi Sad. Spend the afternoon exploring the town, including visits to a beekeeping museum and a 300-year-old wine cellar.

    Tonight, dinner is onboard.

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    Witness the sights along the banks of the Danube this morning as the captain weighs anchor for your cruise to Belgrade. Belgrade and the rest of Serbia are just now emerging from many years of repressive rule with a welcoming spirit for visitors.

    Explore Kalemegdan Castle while touring Belgrade

    Enjoy a full morning in Belgrade, beginning with an included tour around this grand old city, which was built centuries ago along important east-west trade routes and used as a gateway to Western Europe from the Balkans. You'll see the old Town Hall, St. Sava Orthodox Cathedral—the largest Orthodox cathedral in the world—and Kalemegdan Castle. You also explore the Tito Memorial, erected to honor Josip Broz Tito, who held Yugoslavia together as an independent country in the turmoil that followed World War II and the subsequent Cold War. Then, enjoy lunch on board. Please note: The Tito Memorial is closed on Mondays.

    This evening, join a local resident for an exclusive Discovery Series discussion about their lives in this dynamic country. Enjoy dinner onboard.

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    Encounter friendly staff on the private river ship

    Today, you cruise along a stretch of the Danube that was once a raging river pounding through deep gorges. In the 1960s, Yugoslavia and Romania cooperated on a joint venture that raised the level of the Danube with a series of hydroelectric dams called the Iron Gates. The Danube is now placid through the Iron Gates, its spectacular two-mile-long gorge now underwater. Though the river is tamed, the views along the Danube at this point are exceptional. We cruise by fields and vineyards that are sculpted into the riverbank and where farmers pause to watch our passage and wave a greeting.

    Before lunch, join us for an exclusive Discovery Series discussion about life under communism with your Program Director. You can then linger over lunch as we navigate the Danube. In mid-afternoon, join the chef in the galley (the ship's kitchen) for a special tour. This afternoon finds us passing through Iron Gate I and Iron Gate II.

    Join us in the lounge after dinner onboard for a special show, presented by the crew.

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    See views of Bulgaria's Iron Gates while cruising the Danube River

    This morning, you'll stop in Vidin and then travel to Baba Vida, a medieval fortress of two walls and four towers. Baba Vida was the city's main defense in the Middle Ages, and also the most important fortress of northwestern Bulgaria.

    After lunch onboard, you'll set sail for Ruse.

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    Arrive in Ruse early this morning, which is situated where the Danube forms a natural border between Romania and Bulgaria. Enjoy time to explore this historic city on your own, or join our optional tour to Veliko Tarnovo & Arbanassi, which includes lunch. First, you'll travel by motorcoach to Veliko Tarnovo, the capital of Bulgaria from 1186 until 1394. This cultural center rewards visitors with views of the fortification wall atop Zarevez Hill, the cobblestoned old city, ancient ruins, and a steep ravine plunging down from two towering promontories.

    Then continue on to Arbanassi, a historical village of Bulgarian heritage. Its 80 houses, five churches, and two monasteries reflect a unique, fortress-like architectural style of the 17th and 18th centuries, when the village flourished. Enjoy free time to make your own discoveries. Perhaps you'll visit the Church of Archangels Michael and Gabriel, whose plain exterior conceals colorful frescoes depicting some 3,500 figures. While here, you'll savor typical Bulgarian fare at a local restaurant. Return to the ship for dinner onboard.

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    Encounter friendly staff aboard the MS River Aria

    Early this morning, sail into the Danube-Black Sea Canal, a 40-mile engineering marvel begun in 1949, but not fully completed until 1987. You'll pass through the canal's lock system and cruise by the inland port towns of Murfatlar and Medgidia.

    Following lunch, you'll call on Constanta, a Romanian port on the Black Sea that is the country's oldest continually inhabited city. Dating back more than 2,500 years, Constanta boasts a wealth of fascinating architecture and history. Myth holds that Jason and the Argonauts stopped here after recovering the legendary Golden Fleece. On your included tour, you'll explore the charming old city, the mosaic-paved Roman Edifice of Tomis, and other highlights of this beloved city.

    Tonight, celebrate your Eastern European odyssey at the Captain's Farewell Dinner.

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    See the Romanian Athenaeum while touring Bucharest

    We disembark shortly after breakfast for motorcoach transfer to Bucharest, Romania. We will arrive in about four hours.

    Upon arriving in Bucharest, you'll enjoy an included lunch at a local restaurant and explore the city by motorcoach. This is an old city that has served as the capital of Wallachia, and later Romania, since 1659. Today, it is noted for its broad, tree-lined boulevards, well-kept parks, and mix of architectural styles that combine Neo-classical 19th-century structures with monumental 20th-century edifices (the latter built for the most part to satisfy the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu). You'll view the Arc de Triomphe commemorating the heroics of World War I soldiers and drive along Victory Avenue to Revolution Square, where recent events in history are inscribed. You have some time in the late afternoon to relax. Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel. Please note: If you have chosen the optional post-trip extension to Transylvania, you will continue your motorcoach ride to Sinaia.

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    • Meals included:

    Transfer to the airport for your flight home. Or set out on your optional post-trip extension to Istanbul, Turkey.

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    Fly from New York to Bucharest, Romania. 

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    Arrive today in Bucharest. You are met at the airport by a Grand Circle representative and transferred to your hotel. Depending on your arrival time and hotel check-in policy, you may not be able to check into your hotel room immediately upon arrival at your hotel. Your Program Director will advise you of your check-in status and activity schedule for the day when you arrive. You have the balance of the day to relax after your overseas flight.

    Celebrate your arrival in Romania with a Welcome Drink, and get acquainted with your traveling companions and your Program Director. This evening, enjoy an included dinner at your hotel.

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    See the Romanian Athenaeum while touring Bucharest

    This morning, you'll get acquainted with the city by motorcoach. This is an old city that has served as the capital of Wallachia and later Romania since 1659. Today, it is noted for its broad, tree-lined boulevards, well-kept parks, and mix of architectural styles that combine Neo-classical 19th-century structures with monumental 20th-century edifices (the latter built for the most part to satisfy the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu). You'll view the Arc de Triomphe (which commemorates the accomplishments of World War I soldiers) and drive along Victory Avenue to Revolution Square, where recent events in history are inscribed.

    After an included lunch at a local restaurant, travel by motorcoach to Constanta, Romania, where you'll board the ship that will be your home for the duration of your river cruise.

    This evening, enjoy a Welcome Drink and meet your ship's crew. You'll also attend a ship and safety briefing on your upcoming journey and the ship itself. During your cruise, you'll receive several Port Talks. Your Program Director will describe the approaching port area and town prior to arrival so you can prepare for the next day's tour and so you'll be able to make the best use of your free time at the next day's port-of-call.

    Tonight, we enjoy dinner onboard.

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    Encounter friendly and helpful staff aboard the private river ship

    This morning, you'll call on Constanta, a Romanian port on the Black Sea that is the country's oldest continually inhabited city. Dating back over 2,500 years, Constanta boasts a wealth of fascinating architecture and history. Myth holds that Jason and the Argonauts stopped here after recovering the legendary Golden Fleece. On your included tour, you'll explore the charming old city, the mosaic-paved Roman Edifice of Tomis, and other highlights of this beloved city.

    Following lunch, sail into the Danube-Black Sea Canal, a 40-mile engineering marvel begun in 1949, but not fully completed until 1987. You'll pass through the canal's lock system and cruise by the inland port towns of Murfatlar and Medgidia.

    Tonight, celebrate the start of your Eastern European odyssey at the Captain's Welcome Dinner.

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    Arrive in Ruse early this morning, which is situated where the Danube forms a natural border between Romania and Bulgaria.

    Enjoy time to explore this historic city on your own, or join our optional tour to Veliko Tarnovo & Arbanassi, which includes lunch. First, you'll travel by motorcoach to Veliko Tarnovo, the capital of Bulgaria from 1186 until 1394. This cultural center rewards visitors with views of the fortification wall atop Zarevez Hill, the cobblestoned old city, ancient ruins, and a steep ravine plunging down from two towering promontories.

    Then continue on to Arbanassi, a historical village of Bulgarian heritage. Its 80 houses, five churches, and two monasteries reflect a unique, fortress-like architectural style of the 17th and 18th centuries, when the village flourished. Enjoy free time to make your own discoveries. Perhaps you'll visit the Church of Archangels Michael and Gabriel, whose plain exterior conceals colorful frescoes depicting some 3,500 figures. While here, you'll savor typical Bulgarian fare at a local restaurant.

    Return to the ship for dinner onboard.

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    See views of Bulgaria's Iron Gates while cruising the Danube River

    This morning, you'll stop in Vidin and then travel to Baba Vida, a medieval fortress of two walls and four towers. Baba Vida was the city's main defense in the Middle Ages, and also the most important fortress of northwestern Bulgaria.

    Tonight, enjoy dinner onboard.

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    You have a day of leisurely cruising, and a good opportunity to observe life along the banks of the Danube from your comfortable deck chair, as your Program Director provides insights about the region. After breakfast, enjoy a bridge commentary about the Danube River.

    View a monastery in the Iron Gates region along the Danube River

    Later in the morning, join us in an exclusive Discovery Series discussion, Life Under Communism, with your Program Director. Then, after lunch onboard, join the chef in the galley (the ship’s kitchen) for a special tour.

    Tonight you cruise along a stretch of the Danube that was once a raging river pounding through deep gorges. In the 1960s, Yugoslavia and Romania cooperated on a joint venture that raised the level of the Danube with a series of hydroelectric dams called the Iron Gates. The Danube is now placid through the Iron Gates, its spectacular two-mile-long gorge underwater. In the morning we pass through Iron Gate II, and then through Iron Gate I early in the afternoon.

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    Explore Kalemegdan Castle while touring Belgrade

    Continue to enjoy the sights along the banks of the Danube this morning as we cruise toward Belgrade, the capital of Serbia (and former capital of Yugoslavia), one of Europe's oldest cities and the center of political and cultural life in the country. Belgrade and the rest of Serbia are just now emerging from many years of repressive rule, with a welcoming spirit for visitors.

    After we dock, you have a full morning to explore the treasures of Belgrade, which was built centuries ago along important east-west trade routes and used as a gateway to Western Europe from the Balkans. Begin with an included tour around this grand old city, where you'll see the old Town Hall, St. Sava Orthodox Cathedral—the largest Orthodox cathedral in the world—and Kalemegdan Castle. You also explore the Tito Memorial, erected to honor Josip Broz Tito, who held Yugoslavia together as an independent country in the turmoil that followed World War II and the subsequent Cold War. Please note: The Tito Memorial is closed on Mondays.

    This evening, join a local resident for an exclusive Discovery Series discussion about their lives in this dynamic country. Enjoy tonight's dinner onboard.

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    After breakfast this morning, enjoy an included tour of Novi Sad, Serbia's cultural hub and second-largest city. The beauty of the city is in its name—novi sad in English translates to "new garden." Nestled along a bend in the Danube river, Novi Sad is peppered with myriad historical and cultural monuments, verdant parks, bustling squares, a thriving pedestrian zone, and a history-rich fortress standing tall on the right bank of the river.

    After lunch onboard, the remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to make further discoveries of Novi Sad on your own. Perhaps you'll choose to explore the Petrovaradin Fortress, built between 1692 and 1780 by the Austrians as a defense against invading Turks. Declared a historical monument 200 years later, this partially restored fortress is now a museum. Delve deep into the monument's strange past, including a 12-mile network of underground tunnels, a mysterious well with supposed links to black magic, and an iconic clock tower where the size of the minute and hour hands are reversed.

    Or, join us on an optional excursion to Sremski Karlovci, a culture-rich town just 10 miles southeast of Novi Sad. Spend the afternoon exploring the town, including visits to a beekeeping museum and a 300-year-old wine cellar.

    This evening, after dinner onboard, enjoy a musical performance.

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    Discover local culture at a Home Hosted Lunch in Osijek

    After docking this morning and passing through customs in Vukovar—site of the worst artillery shelling of the Croatian-Serbian war—you'll take a short walk through the town and see some of its scars, as well as witness its revival. Then you'll set out to explore Osijek, the administrative and economic center of eastern Croatia.

    Situated on the Drava River, about 15 miles from the mouth of the Danube, the area the city occupies was populated even in prehistoric times, and the Romans erected the first urban settlement. But the area's advantageous geographical location made it prey to assault throughout the centuries. It was destroyed by the Huns, rebuilt in the Middle Ages, destroyed by the Turks, and rebuilt again in the 18th century. As a result, Osijek boasts an eclectic architectural heritage, which you'll see on your city tour.

    Among the more notable sites are the Tvrdja, a unique urban and military complex that lies in the center of the city and was built between 1712 and 1721 by the new Austrian authorities; a neo-Gothic Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, with a 290-foot spire; and a striking, 690-foot modern pedestrian bridge that rises over the Drava.

    Reliving its own cruel history in our era, Osijek was heavily damaged during the Croatian-Serbian war that waged from 1991 to 1995. Now peaceful, the city is experiencing a rebirth of civic pride and cultural and economic achievement.

    Following your walking tour, you will visit with students at a local school that's supported, in part, by Grand Circle Foundation. Please note: The school visit is not available on weekends, or during the summer or national holidays, when school is not in session. Instead, Croatian teaches will join you for an onboard discussion.

    You'll enhance your appreciation for everyday Croatian life as you join a local family for a Home-Hosted Lunch, an exclusive Discovery Series event.

    Later this afternoon, transfer by motorcoach to Batina, where you'll meet your ship. Dinner is onboard this evening.

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    After breakfast, you'll set out to explore Budapest on an included city tour. Budapest is situated on both sides of the Danube River, with Buda (the right bank) to the west and Pest (the left bank) to the east.

    See St Stephen Basilica while touring Budapest

    In Pest, you'll see Heroes' Square, with its Millennial Column set off by equestrian statues of historic ninth-century Magyar leaders who conquered this region. The adjoining colonnade displays more statues of kings, dukes of Transylvania, and liberty fighters who influenced the history of Hungary.

    As your tour takes you over the Danube bridges into Buda, you can see how the imposing Parliament Building dominates Pest on the opposite side of the river. Then, turn your attention to beautiful and historic Buda. Here, you'll visit Castle Hill, where a massive castle complex with its protective ramparts has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mostly destroyed during World War II, the Royal Palace has been lovingly restored, approximating its former splendor, and it now includes the Hungarian National Gallery.

    In your free time, you can also visit the Church of Our Lady, formerly used for the coronations of Hungarian kings. Its popular name of Matthias is in recognition of the Renaissance king who ruled in the 15th century and whose heraldic sign—a raven—is displayed on one of the towers of the church. Dating to the 13th century, the structure is an interesting mix of architectural styles used during reconstruction of the building at different times in its history. Note that during the 150-year Turkish occupation of Hungary, the church served as Eski Djami (Old Mosque) for the Turks. Inside the church you can view the art of Bertalan Szekely and Karoly Lotz, 19th-century Hungarian painters.

    After lunch onboard, you can relax or explore more of this grand city.

    Budapest offers some particularly fine museums and galleries. The Hungarian National Gallery contains excellent examples of Hungarian art from the Middle Ages on. The collection is comprehensive and somewhat massive, so give yourself plenty of time to enjoy it. Parliament, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Budapest History Museum are also worth a visit.

    This afternoon, continue your discoveries in Budapest on your own. Dinner tonight is onboard.

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    Discover Budapest while cruising the Danube River

    Spend the day at leisure exploring Budapest on your own.

    Or, join us this morning on an optional tour exploring Hungarian Jewish Heritage. You'll begin with a visit to the Great Synagogue, the largest in Europe, designed in a Moorish style but with Byzantine, Romantic and Gothic elements. Then you'll see the Kazinczy Street orthodox synagogue (the center of traditional orthodox Jewish life here), the Emanuel Memorial Tree (a sculpture in the form of a weeping-willow tree, a memorial to Hungarian victims of the Holocaust), and the Jewish Museum.

    In the afternoon, enjoy lunch onboard followed by time to make further discoveries on your own.

    This evening, relax during an onboard dinner.

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    Explore the Rhine River on a Cruise in Aria Germany

    Enjoy a full day cruising as your ship makes its way to Vienna. Spend time conversing and taking in the passing scenery from the comfort of the Sun Deck, or perhaps meet new friends for a drink in your ship's lounge. Take advantage of the onboard fitness center, or peruse the ship's library. Your crew will offer additional onboard activities, and your Program Director will host an informative Port Talk about Vienna just before dinner.

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    View Cecilienhof Palace on a guided tour

    This morning, begin your discoveries in Vienna via public transportation with your Program Director. Then continue exploring this historical city on your own.

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    After breakfast onboard the ship, you'll enjoy a tour of Vienna, including the Ringstrasse, probably the greatest achievement of the Emperor Franz Joseph. In 1857, the Emperor ordered the demolition of the ancient city walls, which were no longer needed as fortifications and which were impeding the growth of the city. In their place was constructed an elegant 2.5-mile-long boulevard, encircling the Innere Stadt ("Inner City"). The Neo-classical buildings along the Ringstrasse bring together all the greatest architectural styles in an exuberant celebration of all that seemed possible during the Industrial Revolution.

    Our stroll continues along the city sidewalks, passing by the well-known Hofburg Palace, home to many generations of the Habsburg family, and the renowned Spanish Riding School.

    The balance of the day is free to relax or do some more exploring on your own. Feel free to ask your Program Director for suggestions about where to go. 

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    View a few travelers enjoying their time in Melk Austria

    While you cruise this morning, your river ship takes you through the lovely landscape of the Wachau Valley—a UNESCO World Heritage Site marked by terraced vineyards and lush flowering fields.

    As you sail toward Melk, you will see its formidable abbey as it rises up from the surrounding countryside along the Danube. After an early lunch, disembark to explore the dramatic 900-year-old Baroque Melk Abbey. This magnificently ornate structure has a long and storied history. Strategically situated on a steep, cliffside perch, Melk Abbey's earliest incarnation was as a Roman border post. Later, it served as a tenth-century Babenberg fortress. It became a Benedictine monastery in 1089 and earned a distinguished reputation for medieval scholarship. Its library includes more than 70,000 books and 2,000 manuscripts, chiefly from the ninth through 15th centuries. The abbey was ravaged by fires in 1297 and 1683. The stately Baroque edifice that stands today, with its twin towers and 208-foot-high dome, dates from its reconstruction in 1736.

    The abbey houses a remarkable cherub-filled library of thousands of books and manuscripts, and 365 windows—one for each day of the year. The interior of the abbey's church is a kaleidoscope of red, orange, and gold—with a magnificent carved pulpit and shimmering ceiling frescoes.

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    View St. Steven's Cathedral and Danube River in Passau Germany

    This morning, you cruise to Passau, situated at the confluence of the Danube, Ilz, and Inn rivers. Called the Dreifluessestadt (City on Three Rivers), Passau is an elegant town that has served as a German cultural and intellectual hub for centuries.

    After breakfast, you'll enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series German language lesson onboard. We then disembark for a walking tour of the city. You'll stop at the Dom, the twin-towered St. Stephen's Cathedral. This magnificent 17th-century cathedral contains one of the world's largest pipe organs, with 17,774 pipes and 234 resounding stops. The cathedral's original Gothic plan is still evident through the 17th-century reconstruction it received in the Grand Baroque style. One of its most striking features is the gorgeous octagonal dome that hovers over the intersection of the nave, where the congregation sits, and the transept, which runs perpendicular to it.

    Following lunch, you have leisure time to explore more of Passau on your own.

    Once you set out on the river again, relax over dinner and join in this evening's onboard activities. The ship cruises through the night on its way to your next port-of-call.

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    After breakfast, you arrive in Regensburg, Germany’s largest medieval city, and disembark for a walking tour. Since the historic city center was undamaged during World War II, it remains beautifully preserved. Your tour features the turreted Old Town Hall and the famous Stone Bridge (Germany’s oldest bridge), constructed during the twelfth century. See soaring St. Peter’s Cathedral, a Gothic cathedral adorned with beautiful stained glass.

    Explore Germany’s largest medieval city on a walking tour of Regensburg

    After lunch aboard ship, your afternoon is at leisure to relax, do some shopping, or explore the town further on your own. Admire the relics of Regensburg’s Roman past at the ruins of the Castra Regina fort—Porta Praetoria—containing a stone inscribed in AD 179, when Marcus Aurelius was emperor. Stroll the narrow medieval streets, or just relax at a sidewalk cafe.

    Tonight, enjoy an included dinner off the ship, featuring traditional folk music, at a local restaurant. Your ship remains in Regensburg through most of the night, resuming cruising in the very early hours of tomorrow morning.

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    Explore Germany’s largest medieval city on a walking tour of Regensburg

    You can enjoy leisure activities onboard the ship as we cruise to Kelheim and Riedenburg.

    Later this morning, you can delve deeper into the Danube's scenic splendor this morning during an optional Bavaria: Baroque & Beer excursion. First, you'll board a ferry for a ride through the beautiful Danube Gorge, Donaudurchbruch, the river's narrowest and deepest stretch. From your ship's outdoor deck, you'll enjoy close-up views of towering Jurassic-era limestone cliffs as you wend your way along this scenic passage. After, you'll discover the town's impressive Befreiungshalle, or Liberation Hall, built by Bavarian King Ludwig I in the mid-18th century. You'll then visit the Weltenburg Monastery, a Baroque confection of stucco, polished marble, gilt, and painted ceilings. There, you'll have the opportunity to reflect in the cool stillness of the abbey—Germany's oldest, founded at the beginning of the seventh century by the Abbot Eustasius. Surprisingly, the compound also houses the oldest monastery brewery in the world. Here, visitors have enjoyed its famous dark brew for nearly 1,000 years. You'll sample some yourself while relaxing after your tour. You'll then transfer by motorcoach to Riedenburg, where the ship has cruised to meet you.

    After lunch onboard, travel by bus to the village of Beilngries. Here you have a special opportunity to visit a local home for a Home-Hosted Kaffeeklatsch, where you enjoy coffee and cake with your host and get a glimpse of life in this Bavarian community.

    Later tonight we start the transit of the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, Europe's highest canal. The technological workings of this canal are an engineering marvel. During the night you cross the European watershed (at 1,332 feet, the highest point of the canal). This ridge of higher land divides the areas drained by the two different rivers, the Main and Danube. Here, rain north of the watershed flows to the North Sea, and rain to the south flows to the Black Sea.

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    View  beautiful fountains in Nuremberg Germany

    This morning, you'll disembark for an included tour of Nuremberg, Bavaria’s second-largest city and the most important city in Franconia, with a local guide. Once the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire, Nuremberg evokes its exalted past with its imposing medieval Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle). However, its more recent history is intricately linked to its role in World War II.

    During your included tour here, you'll visit the Zeppelin Field where the Nazi party held rallies for up to 100,000 spectators. The rally grounds were designed by Hitler's chief architect, Albert Speer, who went down in history as "the Nazi who said sorry" during the Nuremberg Trials.  explore this walled 13th-century city and stroll streets lined with half-timbered houses. You'll learn more about the trials during an included tour of Room 600, the courtroom in which the hearings took place.

    We return to the ship for lunch.

    Later, choose to relax onboard or take advantage of our complimentary shuttle bus to town. You may choose to explore the Documentation center, which offers a sobering look at the causes, context, and consequences of the Nazi regime of terror. Or take time to explore Nuremberg's Old Town on your own. Nuremberg was devastated by bombs during World War II. After the war, much of the city was rebuilt and its Old World charm was painstakingly restored. Today, the city thrives as a bustling industrial and commercial center.

    Dinner tonight is onboard.

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    Explore Old Town Hall in the city of Bamberg Germany

    Today, join your Program Director for a guided tour of Bamberg, a hidden gem dating back to AD 902 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bamberg dates to the year AD 902, and today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bamberg began to prosper in the twelfth century, and was the center of southern Germany's Enlightenment in the late 18th century. The great German philosopher George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel lived here, and Bamberg was the second city to introduce book printing.

    Today, Bamberg boasts 2,000 buildings listed as historical monuments, and its old city center is Europe's largest existing group of historic buildings. The city was awarded the title of “World Cultural and Natural Heritage of Mankind” by UNESCO in 1993.

    Bamberg's architecture reflects more than 1,000 years of building, with styles ranging from Romanesque to Gothic, Renaissance to Baroque, up to the eclecticism of the 19th century. There are narrow cobblestone streets, ornate mansions and palaces, and impressive churches. Bamberg has a beautiful medieval inner city that was renovated and restructured during the Baroque period (the late 17th century), so you experience a charming tension between the irregular Gothic and the more precise Baroque architecture.

    After your tour, you have some time on your own here to explore as you wish. Following a shipboard lunch, you can settle in for a leisurely afternoon aboard the ship. We enjoy dinner onboard this evening.

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    See the Residenz in Wurzburg Germany

    This morning, perhaps you'll join an optional tour of Rothenburg. This lovely old town sits on the Tauber River and boasts undamaged 14th-century city walls and beautifully preserved fortifications.

    During your walking tour, you’ll see stately towers and imposing burghers’ houses. After an included lunch, you have the afternoon free to make your own discoveries in this charming town before transferring to meet the ship.

    In the late afternoon, we’ll arrive in Wurzburg, a city on the Main River in Bavaria. Founded in the tenth century, Wurzburg was home to several powerful prince-bishops for many centuries. We’ll enjoy an informative walk here. Perhaps you'll view the Residenz, commissioned by prince-bishop brothers Johann Philipp Franz and Friedrich Karl von Schonborn. The complex was almost completely destroyed during World War II, but has since been rebuilt to its original grandeur prior to the war.

    We'll then convene back at the ship and set sail for our next port.

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    View castle ruins and fairy tale sights while touring Wertheim

    Disembark for a walking tour of Wertheim, a charming fairy-tale town located at the meeting of the Main and Tauber rivers. Admire the imposing ruins of its castle, set on a hill overlooking the town.

    Enjoy the rest of the morning exploring Wertheim on your own. You may want to climb the stairs to the castle and follow the trail around the castle walls. Or you could visit the renowned Glass Museum in Wertheim, where exhibitions display the town's long and proud tradition of glass production.

    Tonight, dinner is onboard.

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    View a beautiful bridge in Heidelberg Germany

    After a few hours of very early cruising, the ship stops for a short time in Offenbach this morning, where we'll go ashore and embark on a full-day tour of Heidelberg. You begin by touring the impressive ruins of the city's 15th-century Gothic castle, where you'll have an impressive view of the surrounding area. We then ride into town and enjoy lunch in a traditional Gasthaus that has been part of Heidleberg's Old Town for centuries. Your tour continues with a guided walk in the city.

    After some free time to make discoveries on your own, you'll return to your ship, which has cruised to Rudesheim. After dinner, set out on an an informative stroll with your Program Director.

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    Explore the streets of Koblenz

    This morning you cruise along some of the most beautiful parts of the Rhine. Pass Lorelei, the large rock rising 440 feet above the river. Since ancient Greek mythology, there have been legends of sirens, women-creatures who lure sailors to their death with sweet songs. Ancient Germanic legend places one such siren (Lorelei) here, and it is said she enticed sailors to destruction below the rock.

    After lunch, step off the ship for an included walking tour of Koblenz, set at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers, an important locale in the Rhenish wine industry. Originally established as an outpost of the Roman Empire and named Castellum apud Confluentes, Koblenz became a city in the 13th century and served as the home of French refugees during the French Revolution. During your tour, you’ll see the highlights of the Old Town.

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    Explore the many sights of Cologne

    This morning, disembark in Cologne for a walking tour of the city that will take you past the renowned Cologne Cathedral. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cologne Cathedral largely escaped the World War II damage that ravaged the city and the rest of Germany. There’s evidence that Allied forces had orders to avoid damaging this beautiful structure. It is the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, boasting beautiful stained-glass windows, an ornate gold shrine on its elaborate altar, and the intricate detail common to 14th-century Gothic churches.

    Cologne was a Roman settlement called Colonia Agrippina after AD 50, and came under Frankish control in the fifth century. You can still see the ruins of Roman temples scattered through the city, and the Roman Gate near the cathedral was once part of the medieval town walls. During the 15th century, the city flourished as a member of the Hanseatic League. You have some free time in Cologne to do as you wish. You may want to explore the inside of the Cathedral, or perhaps visit the Roman-German museum where you can see a magnificent mosaic floor discovered in the ruins of a Roman villa. You resume river cruising in the late afternoon.

    Later in the evening, you cruise into Dutch waters on the Rhine River, heading toward Amsterdam. Bring your memories and join your traveling companions for a drink toasting
    the end of your cruising days with this group. Then, the crew bids you goodbye at the Captain’s Farewell Dinner.

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    View Amsterdam during a canal cruise

    You’ll have an early breakfast and then disembark in Amsterdam for a canal boat tour introducing you to the city’s famed canals, providing a matchless perspective on the city’s remarkable architecture and relaxed pace. Along the way, you’ll see the Mint Tower, which has retained its name even though gold and silver coins were minted here for only a few years.

    Following your tour, you'll have time to explore downtown Amsterdam on your own before returning to the ship for lunch, after which you can spend the afternoon onboard or explore Amsterdam on your own. This evening, settle in for your final night aboard.

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    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, you disembark your ship and are transferred to the airport for your flight home. Or extend your journey with our optional extension to Bruges, Belgium.

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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.

Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

Currency Cheat Sheet: Submit

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Travel considerations for you and your small group of no more than 47, on Grand European Cruise.

Pacing

  • 26 days, with 25 nights aboard a private Grand Circle river ship, and a single 1-night hotel stay
  • Return flights to U.S. often require departing from ship or hotel in early morning

Physical Requirements

  • You must be able to walk 1-3 miles unassisted and participate in 2-3 hours of physical activities each day, including stairs
  • Not accessible for travelers using wheelchairs or scooters
  • Travelers using walkers, crutches, or other mobility aids must travel with a companion who can assist them throughout the trip

Climate

  • Daytime temperatures range from 58-82°F during cruising season
  • June-August are the warmest months

Terrain

  • Travel over diverse terrain and uneven walking surfaces, including steep paths, hills, riverbanks, 25-50 stairs without handrails, and cobblestones, which can be slippery in wet or colder conditions

Transportation

  • Travel by 49-seat coach, canal boat, and 140- to 164-passenger river ship

River Cruising

  • Throughout the River Cruise season, weather conditions and tides affect European river depths; water levels may require adjustments to your itinerary, including your Amsterdam canal cruise

Cuisine

  • Meals will be a mix of local specialties and familiar American standards
  • Meals onboard feature a variety of entrée options, including vegetarian

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens will need a visa (or visas) for this trip. In addition, there may be other entry requirements that also need to be met. For your convenience, we’ve included a quick reference list, organized by country:

  • U.S. citizens do not need a visa for the main trip.
  • Turkey (optional extension): Visa required
  • Romania (optional extension): No visa required.
  • Belgium (optional extension): No visa required.

Travelers who are booked on this vacation will be sent a complete Visa Packet— with instructions, applications, and a list of visa fees—approximately 100 days prior to their departure. (Because many countries limit the validity of their visa from the date it is issued, or have a specific time window for when you can apply, we do not recommend applying too early.)

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your vacation, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Program Directors and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • Private Grand Circle River Ship

    All of our Rhine, Main & Danube river ships made Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll.

    Custom-built for Grand Circle with our travelers’ needs in mind, your private river ship has a passenger capacity of 140-164, with all outside cabins. Complimentary wireless Internet access is available in select common areas, but connectivity is limited in certain locations. Your cabin features a flat-screen TV, direct-dial telephone, individual heating and air-conditioning controls, twin beds that convert to sofas, and private bath with shower and hair dryer.

  • M/S River Adagio

    The M/S River Adagio was ranked #26 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll.

    One of the largest ships in Grand Circle's own deluxe fleet, the M/S River Adagio was built specifically for cruising the widest part of the Danube and the deeper waters leading to the Black Sea. Enjoy personalized attention from the ship staff, and up to four experienced Grand Circle Program Directors. And with no more than 164 fellow Grand Circle travelers aboard with you, you'll find it easy to make friends and share your experiences.

  • M/S River Aria

    The M/S River Aria was ranked #35 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll

    Launched in 2001, the M/S River Aria has a capacity of 164 passengers in 82 cabins, all with outside views. Ship amenities include an elevator, restaurant, bar and lounge, library, and Sun Deck. Your ship has an international crew of 38 and up to four English-speaking Program Directors.

  • M/S River Concerto

    The M/S River Concerto was ranked #14 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll

    The M/S River Concerto was launched in 2000. This ship has a capacity of 140 passengers in 70 cabins, all with outside views. Ship amenities include an elevator, restaurant, bar and lounge, library, Sun Deck, fitness center, and sauna. Your ship has an international crew of 34 and three English-speaking Program Directors.

  • M/S River Melody

    The M/S River Melody was ranked #13 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll

    The M/S River Melody was launched in 1999. This ship has a capacity of 140 passengers in 70 cabins, all with outside views. Ship amenities include an elevator, restaurant, bar and lounge, library, Sun Deck, fitness center, and sauna. Your ship has an international crew of 34 and three English-speaking Program Directors.

  • M/S River Rhapsody

    The M/S River Rhapsody was ranked #19 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll

    The M/S River Rhapsody was launched in 1999. This ship has a capacity of 140 passengers in 70 cabins, all with outside views. Ship amenities include an elevator, restaurant, bar and lounge, library, Sun Deck, fitness center, and sauna. Your ship has an international crew of 34 and three English-speaking Program Directors.

SEE THE ENTIRE GRAND CIRCLE FLEET

Main Trip

  • Ramada Plaza Bucharest

    Bucharest, Romania | Rating: First Class

    Located just north of the city center, this First-Class hotel’s amenities include a restaurant, bar, and sauna. Air-conditioned rooms feature a telephone, satellite TV, safe, minibar, and private bath with hair dryer.

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  • NH Bruges

    Bruges, Belguim | Rating: First Class

    Housed in a former 17th-century monastery, this First-Class hotel reflects the historic charm of Belgium’s best-preserved medieval city. Amenities include a restaurant, bar/lounge, fitness room, and heated indoor swimming pool. Your air-conditioned room features a direct-dial telephone, cable/satellite TV, minibar, coffee- and tea-making facilities, in-room safe, and private bath with shower and hair dryer.

  • New Montana Hotel

    Sinaia, Romania | Rating: Superior Tourist Class

    Enjoy modern comfort and attractive mountain architecture at the centrally located, Superior Tourist-Class New Montana Hotel. Amenities include a restaurant, bar, indoor pool, game room, hair salon, and currency exchange. Your room features a balcony/terrace, cable/satellite TV, telephone, minibar, and private bath with shower.

  • Ramada Plaza Bucharest

    Bucharest, Romania | Rating: First Class

    Located just north of the city center, this First-Class hotel’s amenities include a restaurant, bar, and sauna. Air-conditioned rooms feature a telephone, satellite TV, safe, minibar, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Wyndham Istanbul Old City Hotel

    Istanbul, Turkey

    Located in Istanbul's historic city center, the Wyndham Istanbul Old City Hotel is close to the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul University, and public transportation. Amenities include a health club, three restaurants, and an indoor pool. Air-conditioned rooms feature cable/satellite TV, telephone, Internet access, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath with hair dryer.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two vacations to maximize your value.

  • Extend your vacation and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip excursions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your ship or hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your vacation
  • Choose to "break away" before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
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The air options listed above may involve additional airfare costs based on your specific choices.

Or, when you make your reservation, you can choose our standard air routing, for which approximate travel times are shown below.

Approximate travel times

Partner since: 2005
Total donated: $357,315

Supporting a World Classroom: Croatia

By funding improvements at local schools, the Foundation's World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society's most precious resources: its children. As you travel through Eastern Europe, you'll visit Dobrisa Cesaric Elementary School, where our donations have helped introduce these students to new technology that facilitates global interaction and learning.

"It was truly a moving experience. The interactions with the students and their optimism about the future contrasted with a sense of hopelessness that was felt by other generations. It was a realistic emphasis on the youth and change for the better in the future."

Denise & Russell Schaller
Corrales, New Mexico

"The visit to this school was the best GCT experience I have ever had (I have been to several schools) … After driving there through a city that still has many bombed out buildings and ruins from the latest war, hearing the kids sing "It’s a Wonderful World" brought tears to our eyes …"

Christina & Robert Miller
Riverside, California

Dobrisa Cesaric Elementary School

Partner since: 2005 • Total donated: $53,000

Amidst the still-visible scars of the Croatian-Serbian War that raged from 1991 to 1995, the Dobrisa Cesaric Elementary School stands as a beacon of hope. Here, students simultaneously study their region's rich local traditions and the multifaceted global society that this young nation is just beginning to enter into.

Donations from Grand Circle Foundation have enriched both the school's facilities and their curriculum, ensuring a comfortable and stimulating learning environment for its pupils. Among the efforts funded by Grand Circle Foundation are the construction of a new library, installation of bicycle racks and benches for the school park, and the addition of air-conditioning and new lockers for the students. Further donations have gone to purchasing a digital camera for the school's journalism club, a new laptop computer, an LCD projector, and technology for Internet access.

School in session:

Late January to early December, with summer break lasting from June 15 to September 15

Gifts to bring if you're visiting:

  • Drawing paper
  • Pens and pencils
  • Notebooks
  • Books in English for early readers
  • World maps
  • Souvenirs from home (postcards, etc.)
Alan and Harriet Lewis founded Grand Circle Foundation in 1992 as a means of giving back to the world we travel. Because they donate an annually determined amount of revenue from our trips, we consider each one of our travelers as a partner in the Foundation’s work around the world. To date, the Foundation has pledged or donated more than $97 million in support of 300 different organizations—including 60 villages and nearly 100 schools that lie in the paths of our journeys.

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The Lowest Price & the Best Value

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Dates & Prices

*All figures and savings shown are examples only. Vacation Ambassador and Frequent Traveler savings shown are based on the average credits earned by Grand Circle Travelers. Good Buy Plan savings are calculated after Frequent Traveler Credits, Vacation Ambassador rewards, and multiple trip credits are deducted from your initial tour price; some benefits cannot be combined. For your specific savings, contact a Traveler Counselor. Every effort has been made to produce this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors.

History, Culture & More

Learn more about the history, art, culture, and more you’ll discover on this trip by reading the features below. These articles were collected from past newsletters, Harriet’s Corner, and special features created for Grand Circle by our team of writers.

A Journey Through Time

A visit to the renovated Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is a true journey into the past. Find out how for yourself.

Read More »

The “Most German” City at War

Uncover the two faces of Nuremberg during World War II—a city whose Nazi parade grounds once blazed in red.

Read More »

When East Meets West

German women have been waging a Sisyphean struggle toward gender parity for years. Find out more about it here.

Read More »

History, Culture & More

A Journey Through Time

The reinvention of the Rijksmuseum

by Tom Mashberg from Currents

A great museum offers more than just masterpieces. It offers visitors a voyage back in time, a rare chance to see how life was lived when the finest recording instrument at hand was the paintbrush.

So a visit to the renovated Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is a true journey into the past. The museum not only houses an unmatched collection of iconic national masterpieces—among them Rembrandt’s The Night Watch and The Syndics of the Drapers’ Guild, and Vermeer’s The Milkmaid—it contains thousands of paintings, drawings, and intricate objects that altogether re-create the history of the Netherlands in rich and enveloping detail.

Not a bad achievement for a national museum that gets far less attention than its legendary counterparts in London, Paris, and Rome. It took ten years and $480 million to create this combination showcase and time machine, and a lot of typical Dutch ingenuity. From 2003 until its completion, the project was beset by funding delays, asbestos removal, and a bizarre legal battle over bicycle access to its grand inner courtyard. There was even a major flooding episode, a bit of apt irony for a country that was in essence a sea-saturated inland swamp before its clever inhabitants, beginning in the Middle Ages, engineered their ingenious system of dikes and floodgates. (Part of the museum is 25 feet below sea level.) The result is a structure transformed from a severe, gloomy old castle to a luminous, fairy-tale-style palace.

The reimagined Rijksmuseum sits before a great green lawn where Dutch families lounge and take in the sun. From afar, it is imposing yet inviting, part grand old edifice and part gingerbread mansion. There’s a tall archway over the entrance, tidy brickwork topped by a series of tastefully peaked turrets, and giant atrium windows that run across the roofs of the central pavilion and its two great wings. The museum draws you toward it even on a sunny day—you can foresee that the interior will be full of sunbeams and air. This museum is no longer a voyage into a fusty realm of dimness and shadows. It’s a vaulting, ethereal structure that perfectly illuminates the past.

The features include pale stone floors from Portugal, interior facades interspersed with niches, windows and plinths, and two immense white chandeliers. There are 45,000 square feet of exhibition space.

Not just Rembrandt

One hardly thinks of visiting a Dutch museum without imagining a sumptuous buffet of Rembrandts, topped off with some Van Gogh, and a lustful look at the blue and white pottery treasures known as Delftware.

All that is possible (although there is just a single Van Gogh self-portrait). But the new Rijksmuseum seeks to serve up more—it aims to tell visitors the story of the Netherlands from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Curators have accomplished this feat by displaying 8,000 of the museum’s one million works in a chronological succession across four floors and 80 galleries (illuminated by the large atriums and by fresh, contemporary LED lighting). Beyond its finely detailed oil paintings, the exhibits include sculpture, drawings, prints, photographs, jewels, porcelain, Delftware, furniture, tapestries, model ships and dollhouses.

The twist is that the paintings, historical objects and other forms of art are displayed side-by-side in their original context, offering a natural, complimentary juxtaposition of art and culture that highlights the 800-year story of the Netherlands. Fine Renaissance art, for instance, might be seen alongside furniture, craft items, and even machinery from the era. There is a strong focus on the Middle Ages, with paintings intermingling with gold and silver church treasures, delicate religious sculptures, early panel painting, large-scale sculptures, complex altarpieces, objects by silversmiths and goldsmiths, delicate ivory carvings, and colored majolica pottery.

Throughout the centuries, the Dutch traveled far and wide on their speedy barques and schooners and explored all corners of the world, leaving imprints from the East Indies to the Thames River to the island of Manhattan. The Netherlands was a crossroads for Christians, Jews, Asians, and Africans, and that melding of culture and science makes Dutch art unique. The museum has a large collection of paintings showing the Dutch navy routing English and Spanish warships in smoky, fiery contests in the English Channel and along the Atlantic coast.

In a wing fitted out for the purpose, the Rijksmuseum displays special collections of porcelain, silver, jewels, glass and ceramics, mechanical inventions, and simple and elaborately decorated weapons and model ships.

This is not a place for contemporary art. The closest one comes is the giant red and white “I amsterdam” sign that sits outside the front of the 19th century facade, and a few rotating installations like the 47,000 black stars painted onto the ceiling of an antechamber by a British artist, Richard Wright, which were meant to be whitewashed after a short exhibition.

Golden Era

More than 30 galleries are dedicated to the glories of the 17th century—the Golden Age, when the young mercantile republic now called Holland led the world in trade, science, military exploits, and the arts. At the heart of the museum is the spectacular Gallery of Honor, where the most famous masterpieces by Frans Hals, Jan Steen, Johannes Vermeer, and Rembrandt van Rijn are assembled. The gallery leads visitors to a space dedicated to Rembrandt’s great, controversial, and misunderstood masterpiece The Night Watch.

The Dutch masters of the Golden Age flourished at a time when the public clamored for a new kind of art: authentic, almost documentary-style scenes from everyday life. Realism, precision, and beauty in painting were skillfully blended by these men at a time when the emerging and prospering middle classes, eager to decorate their homes with more than just portraits of pious figures from the past, commissioned personal portraits as well as landscapes and street scenes.

The style became known as “genre painting,” and it suited the tastes of the industrious, inventive Calvinists and Mennonites who were then dominating world trade while perfecting the windmill, breeding tulips, and creating the microscope, the telescope, and the doughnut. Tiresome, predictable older paintings—images of saints, biblical parables, and scenes from history—fell out of fashion. The Dutch embraced illustrations showcasing tailors, cobblers, kettle makers, artisans, knife sharpeners, and blacksmiths, usually depicted laboring amid their workaday mess. Paintings and prints of such scenes were affordable and plentiful and showed the fullest range of city life—from dockworkers, mendicants, and foreign travelers to physicians, children, and dogs.

In the span of one century, hundreds of skilled Dutch artists produced tens of thousands of paintings, drawings, and etchings. Some were near-photographic-quality portraits that showed every crease and wrinkle; others became known as “tronies,” paintings and drawings of stereotypical characters like the beer-swilling drunkard or the noble peasant farmer. In essence, they created the first large marketplace for art for the masses. In doing so they achieved two things: They spread their fame across Europe by demonstrating a fealty to detail that stunned their contemporaries, and they created works that are just as popular today because they offer viewers a precise look at the Dutch clothing, food, people and events from more than 350 years in the past.

It’s no wonder then that the museum’s central, shimmering Gallery of Honor features nothing but masterworks from that time. Among them: The Night Watch (1642) and The Jewish Bride (c. 1665-69) by Rembrandt, along with one of his 50-odd self-portraits, from 1628, when he was in his early 20s; The Milkmaid (1660) and Woman Reading a Letter (1663) by Vermeer; The Burgomaster of Delft and his Daughter (1655) by Jan Steen; Portrait of a Couple by Frans Hals (1622); and a pyramid of Delftware flowers and a precise, fastidious dollhouse from the later part of the century.

The Night Watch

The focal point of this hall of fame is The Night Watch, considered Rembrandt’s greatest masterpiece. The painting, about 15 feet by 12.5 feet, suffered many centuries of indignity after it was first unveiled under its original name, The Officers and Shooting Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq and Lt. Willem van Ruytenburch. The shooting company was a group of town fathers who patrolled city streets during the latter stages of the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648), when Holland was under attack by Spanish armies.

The work was a sensation—because of its amazing size, its virtuoso use of light and shadow (chiaroscuro, a hallmark of Rembrandt’s work), and the fact that the figures are shown in motion rather than standing or seated (as in the static painting The Syndics of the Drapers’ Guild, made famous by the Dutch Masters brand cigar box). The Night Watch was met with howls of protest by the men who commissioned it, who felt it rendered them more as cockeyed troubadours than as dignified musketeers.

The poor reception led many to call the work, foolishly, Rembrandt’s greatest failure. The painting was shunted about, covered with dark varnish, and cut so it could fit on a rear wall of the Amsterdam Town Hall in 1715. It was even rolled around a cylinder for a time and stored in a wooden crate. It required major restoration work in 1975, but critics long felt it was poorly displayed at the old Rijksmuseum because of bad lighting.

Clearly, the refreshed painting, now suffused with excellent LED lighting, hangs in a setting that is tranquil yet glorious. It is protected by unique non-reflective glass similar to that seen in the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, prompting curators to boast that “through technology you see the truth of art.” One might also say that The Night Watch and the other great works in the refurbished Rijksmuseum represent the fine art of telling the truth about one nation’s fabled past.

History, Culture & More

The “Most German” City at War

Looking past monuments to the legacies of local culture

by Shannon Levi, Senior Vice President, Grand Circle Cruise Line

Like vast poppy fields, the parade grounds of Nuremberg, Germany, blazed with red in the 1940s, but the winds of change were lifting swastika-studded flags instead of silken petals. To Hitler, these living waves of vivid color were a thing of beauty, but to most others since, such scenes have come to represent one of history’s greatest horrors.

Why Nuremberg

Hitler’s decision that the greatest rallies of the National Socialist Party should occur in Nuremberg was not a random choice. He considered the city, by then 900 years old, to be the “most German of cities.” With traditional Germanic architecture and its history as the hub of the German Renaissance in the 15th century, the city embodied the glory of the “master race” as Hitler saw it.

That’s why he decided that rising architect Albert Speer (designer of the Reich Chancellery in Berlin) should draft an architectural plan for a massive parade area, combining an arena, multiple halls, a Zeppelin landing field, and open spaces. Though the parade grounds were never fully finished, they served as the gathering point of huge party rallies: 150,000 spectators would fill the arena stands to listen to speeches by Hitler and his deputies in displays of power that suggested a future of German dominance.

Nuremberg Laws

It was at one of these rallies—September 15, 1935, four years before Germany would invade Poland—that the notorious Nuremberg Laws were publicly announced. These laws defined who counted as Jewish. Anyone with three or four Jewish grandparents was Jewish; anyone with three or four non-Jewish German grandparents was German; and anyone in between was a “mischling,” or half-breed—unless they “looked Jewish,” in which case they counted as Jews.

Nuremberg Trials

After World War II came to an end, Nuremberg—the scene of Hitler’s ambitions—also became the setting for the debasing of his legacy after the Nazis fell and the Allies won the war. In the aftermath, Nuremberg was selected to be the site of the world’s first-ever international war crime trials. Twenty-one defendants—including architect Speer himself—were made to stand trial for their involvement in the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity in that war, which cost some 50 million lives overall. (Perhaps the best-known defendant was Herman Goering, the most senior Nazi politician, who so charmed his guards that they called him by a nickname, “Fat Stuff,” and did him favors, including providing the cyanide he used to commit suicide.)

By the time the trials concluded, Nuremberg had come to represent Germany in the way it wished to be: a place where history would be faced and justice would be done. As the lead prosecutor said, the trials served notice to all war-making factions in the world. “If we can cultivate in the world the idea that aggressive war-making is the way to the prisoner’s dock rather than the way to honors, we will have accomplished something toward making the peace more secure.”

History, Culture & More

When East Meets West

The Changing Role of Women in Reunified Germany

by Pamela Schweppe, for Grand Circle

Kinder, Kuche, Kirche (Children, Kitchen, Church). For centuries, this phrase defined the role of women in German society. And while some progress was made toward women’s equality at home and in the workplace during the latter part of the 20th century, since their country’s reunification in 1990 German women have been waging a Sisyphean struggle toward gender parity.

Take employment, for example. After the collapse of the Nazi regime, East Germany (GDR) fell under the control of the Soviet empire, which began implementing policies that were widely divergent from those of West Germany (FRG). Under the Soviets, employment was mandatory for men and women alike. By the time of reunification, the employment rate among East German women hovered at around 90 percent, compared with 55 percent for their counterparts in West Germany.

After reunification, however, the back-sliding began. Many jobs were eliminated, and women were discouraged from “taking jobs away from men.” In less than a decade, the unemployment rate among women of the former East Germany ballooned to 20.1 percent, while men’s was 14.1 percent. In all of Germany today, women comprise roughly 65 percent of the ranks of the unemployed, and only 25 percent of newly created jobs go to women.

Hand in hand with the shift in their approach to employment, post-reunification, was the necessity for East German women to adapt to a new social order—or rather, the old one of Kinder, Kuche, Kirche. Under the Soviet regime, the full employment policy entailed a host of benefits that supported working women, including 26-week pregnancy leave plus additional maternity leave, daycare centers, and kindergartens. In West Germany, however, childcare issues were considered a woman’s responsibility and that position held greater sway, but as the country unified, many childcare benefits were lost.

Today, not only must parents pay for private child care, but most centers are open only half-days—posing further difficulties for women in a country where part-time work is scarce. This lack of flexibility in the workplace has forced many German women to make a choice between having children and having a career.

That choice was always a consideration in the West, where many women established their careers before starting a family. In the East, on the contrary, women were encouraged to marry young and begin having children. Since reunification, significant declines have been seen in both marriage rates and birth rates, spurred even further by a tax structure that penalizes married couples in which both spouses work outside the home.

Alarmingly, other problems have intensified since reunification. Women who have tasted independence are less willing to submit to their husbands’ authority, and domestic violence is on the rise. And because one’s job is often a source of identity and self-esteem, many unemployed women are depressed.

Fortunately, there is some light on the horizon. Recognizing the need to maintain its population level, the federal government—led since 2005 by Chancellor Angela Merkel (the first woman in that role)—has begun taking steps to make it easier for women to take maternity leave and still have a job to go back to. More importantly, women themselves are working together to push the stone of equality to the top of the hill.