Among memorable stops, there is the Cathedral de Notre-Dame, an exquisite Gothic church in the Alsatian city of Strasbourg, followed by a tasting of the region’s wines in the hilly medieval village of Mittelbergheim and an opera performance at a baroque palace.
All of which brings us to Heidelberg. After our tour of the Altstadt, or “Old Town,”and its castle and ruins from 1300, we sail on to Rüdesheim to shop for local wine, wander through museums and ride a cable car to a formidable mountaintop monument called Niederwald, built to commemorate German nationalism in the 1870s.
In Koblenz, a tasting at a small family-owned winery leads to a lunch of bratwurst and soup on a lively plaza in the old town, then a walk along the Rhine to its confluence with the Moselle River.
In Cologne, we buy sweets from a petite chocolate studio and wander the famous cathedral with thousands of other tourists, the biggest crowds we encounter until our arrival in Amsterdam at trip’s end. There, we ogle the wares of endless cheese shops, tour the canals on a sightseeing boat, admire portraits of Dutch society in the Hermitage Amsterdam and, not to be missed, visit the Van Gogh Museum.
Saying farewell to the Ruby, we spend another day on our own exploring Amsterdam and enjoy an exotic dinner at the canalside Indonesian Café Kadijk. Over spicy beef stew, we tune in to the unfamiliar languages around us. We know we’ll hear accents from Muleshoe again soon enough, with Europe’s rivers murmuring far behind.