This morning, Viking Alruna is docked in Cologne, Germany, a city with more than one million inhabitants, and the cultural center of Germany. We have visited Cologne many times, so this morning we decided to skip the included Viking Alruna walking tour of Cologne. Instead, we used the morning to catch up on our blogging duties and prepare for our afternoon optional excursion to the Brühl palaces.
After a delicious casual lunch in Aquavit Terrace, we were fueled up for our afternoon optional excursion to Brühl. We met our local tour guide, Phillip, who escorted our small group to the motorcoach for the 40-minute drive to Brühl.
Our first stop was Falkenlust, the favorite hunting lodge of elector and Archbishop of Cologne, Clemens Augustus. The location was selected in accordance with the flight path of the herons, the favorite prey in falconry. At the conclusion of the hunt, the court would meet for dinner and entertainment in the lavishly appointed rooms of this hunting lodge. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to photograph the interior of Falkenlust.
The interior of the lodge is about as ornate and elaborate as you can imagine. After touring the rooms of Falkenlust, we reboarded the coach for the short drive to Augustusburg Palace. In 1725, architect Johann Conrad Schlaun was commissioned by Clemens Augustus to begin the construction of the palace on the ruins of a medieval castle. The palace was completed in 1768, seven years after Clemens Augustus died. UNESCO honored the site by inscribing Augustusburg Palace – together with Falkenlust Palace and their gardens – on the World Heritage List in 1984.
When we approached Augustusburg Palace, the first thought we had was the Palace of Versailles. The exterior is a marvel of 18th century construction, but it is the interior that really makes you wonder how did they do this? And, how could someone ever afford to do it? The intricate plaster work, faux marble, fabric-covered walls and hand-painted ceilings are incredible. It would be difficult to find craftsmen today who could do such work. It was truly impressive. Again, photos are not allowed inside the palace, so you will have to visit on your own when you sail with Viking River Cruises! Equally impressive are the adjacent gardens.
The entire tour took about four hours, with about one hour for driving to and from the palaces. Surprisingly, only about 12 guests signed up for the optional tour. I can tell you, it was well worth the extra cost and is a must-see when visiting Cologne.
We were back on board Viking Alruna by 5:15 and had a little time to get ready before Dewi's daily briefing at 6:30pm in the Viking Lounge. At the end of the briefing, most guests exited the lounge for their favorite daily activity: dinner in the Restaurant! Rickee and I decided to have a casual dinner tonight in Aquavit Terrace.
The tables in Aquavit Terrace are located both inside and outside. The weather is perfect so the large folding doors have been opened making our indoor table seem as though we are dining al fresco. Our meal begins with a platter of Norwegian specialties, said to be some of Torstein Hagen's (owner and CEO of Viking Cruises) favorites. All were delicious.
Even though a salad course was offered, we decided to skip right to tonight's main course: a BBQ shredded beef slider and a small rack of BBQ pork ribs. It was as if the chef read my mind! The dinner and service were excellent and we consider Aquavit Terrace to be our new favorite place to enjoy dinner on a Viking Longship.
After dinner, we were treated to an amazing classical music performance by a Carpe Diem, a duo of classical musicians from Cologne. The hour-long performance could be the best entertainment we have ever witnessed on a river cruise.
After the show, it was off to bed. It has been yet another magical day aboard Viking Alruna.