This morning, Viking Alruna is docked in Kehl, Germany, for our visit to Strasbourg, France, which just happens to be located on the other side of the Rhine from Kehl. In fact, if you are raised on one side of the Rhine, you grow up speaking German with a German accent, while if you are raised on the other side of the river, you grow up speaking French with a French accent.
By 8:15am we were walking off the boat to join our local guide, Catherine. We boarded the Viking River Cruises motorcoach for the relatively short drive across the bridge (and the Rhine) to Strasbourg, France. Along the way, Catherine explains that Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region in northeastern France and the seat of the European Parliament. The culture and architecture here represent a blend of German and French influences. The motorcoach weaves through the morning traffic, past all of the modern buildings, until we finally arrive at the Old Town of Strasbourg.
Catherine leads our walking tour group through a local park where we can begin to see the half-timbered architecture of old Strasbourg.
One of the great features of all Viking River Cruises' tours is the use of the QuietVox sound system. Every stateroom has two QuietVox units for guest use on walking tours. An earpiece connected to a small receiver allows you to hear the guide's narration from up to 150 feet away. This is great for those of us who like to linger behind the group to take photos, or spend more time looking at something of interest.
After passing through a couple of quiet plazas, we make our way to the city's main attraction, the Gothic Cathedral Notre-Dame. The cathedral was built from 1187 to 1439. At 466 feet tall, it was the world's tallest building from 1647 to 1874.
The 16th-century astronomical clock is one of the most interesting features of this amazing cathedral. Rickee toured the interior of the building with the rest of the group, while I tended to the task of getting photos from the outside, no easy task with the large crowds of tourists and locals. After the group toured the cathedral, Catherine gave us about an hour of free time in Strasbourg. We were asked to meet back at the post office for our transfer back to Viking Alruna. Rickee and I set off to do some souvenir shopping and mail some postcards. Along the way, we were lured into a boulangerie (bakery) by the smell of freshly-baked bread. We purchased a demi baguette, which we immediately began to enjoy as we walked around Strasbourg. You can't travel to France and not enjoy a French baguette!
We returned to Viking Alruna just in time for lunch. Today, we decided to dine in the Restaurant (Deck 2) where we had a nice selection of salads and pasta from which to choose. For our main course, we both opted for Coq au Vin, chicken braised in red wine with mushrooms and pearl onions. We had to eat pretty fast because we had signed up for the optional afternoon Alsatian Wine Tasting tour.
We met with our next tour guide, Anna, for our afternoon wine tasting tour. The tour began with a motorcoach drive through the Alsatian wine region to the small town of Obernai. A brief walking tour of Obernai was an unexpected treat.
As with most walking tours, free time is built in so we had some free time to walk through Obernai, do some exploring on our own, and of course, purchase more souvenirs!
After re-boarding the motorcoach, we took a short drive to the Zeyssolff winery in Gertwiller where we were greeted by one of the owners. The winery has been owned and operated by the same family for several generations.
We were each given a small tasting glass and our host began pouring samples of his wines. First, a Riesling, which was much dryer than the Rieslings we are used to. Next, we sampled the Pino Gris, probably our favorite of the five wines we tasted. As the tasting continued, we were led into the barrel room where we stood between the huge wooden barrels used to store and age the wine.
At the conclusion of the tasting, we were able to visit the winery's shop where some guests purchased bottles to take home, or to enjoy during the remainder of the cruise. Another benefit of a Viking River Cruise is that you can bring local wines back on board and enjoy them without any fear of confiscation. At the conclusion of the tour, we boarded the coach for the drive back to Kehl to rejoin Viking Alruna.
We were back on board just in time to attend the Explorer's Society Cocktail Reception. Several members of the senior staff were on hand to greet us, each one wearing a Viking "helmet".
The Explorer's Society is Viking River Cruises loyalty program for repeat guests. The reception was held in the Aquavit Lounge (Deck 3 forward) and guests were offered their drink of choice and a selection of hors d'oeuvres. Even the Captain was on hand to greet and visit with everyone, and yes, he, too, was wearing the Viking hat! Evelyn, the Hotel Director, led all of us in a traditional toast with the national drink of Scandinavia, Aquavit. Her method of toasting was a bit interesting as she removed her jacket, rolled up one sleeve, placed the glass in the crook of her elbow and hoisted the drink to her mouth. A rare talent, for sure!
Everyone had a great time at the reception. It was another wonderful day aboard Viking Alruna!