In April 2018 the Fledermaus will take flight again and escort a group to Germany. Specifically, the Lower Rhine Area.
While mostly seen gently gliding past by folks aboard river cruises, we invite you to stay awhile and explore this area with us.
More than 2,000 years ago, the Romans established the Rhine River as a vital transportation route between the Mediterranean and North seas. The river also served as the natural boundary of the Roman Empire, and Roman fortresses dotting the route often became the towns we still recognize and know today, like Cologne, for example.
But don’t think that that is particularly ancient. This area was also once home to our distant cousin, the Neanderthal man, and of course, we will be paying a visit to his neck of the woods and get acquainted.
This is a region brimming with culture, local culinary delights, jaw-dropping architecture, picturesque towns and awe-inspiring cathedrals, all embedded in a gentle River valley landscape and hills.
Are you ready to stop the cruise, come ashore and explore?
How does a Fledermaus travel? In style! We insist on traveling unhurried, unrushed, in good and cheerful company, and will be staying the entire time at a 4-star hotel in the town of Krefeld overlooking an 18-hole golf course.
Each day gets off to a relaxed start at the sumptuous breakfast buffet before a chartered bus will meet us at the hotel to begin our day of touring and exploring. Let’s go! There is SO much to see. Oh, and bring your walking shoes! You’ll need them for all the exploring we do on foot.
Traveling through time we will see where mankind’s early beginnings lie in the Neandertal valley which lent its name to the hominid remains found there in the 19th century. A spectacular find that revolutionized all understanding of Anthropology.
Fast forward, and we will next meet the Romans in the city of Xanten. Their time on the Rhine began with the arrival of the first legions in the year 13/12 BC and eventually developed into the biggest known legionary base of antiquity here. Xanten is known for especially spectacular ruins, as it is the only city north of the Alps that was not reconstructed following the collapse of the empire.
Moving through the centuries we arrive in the early 7th/8th century and visit Aachen, the westernmost city of Germany. Situated on the border of Belgium and the Netherlands, it’s a city that was once the favored residence of Charlemagne and the place of coronation of the German emperors.
One of the oldest and yet most contemporary cities in Germany is up next. Cologne is a relaxed and pleasant city, with fun-loving citizens and an almost Gallic flair. Touring the world-famous cathedral is foremost but we will also a tour the city and visit the birthplace of the original Eau de Cologne.
The last stop on our time travel finally brings us to modern times, and we will learn about coal mining and steel smelting; the source of the wealth and basis of the burgeoning middle class of the Industrial Revolution. A visit to a former coal mining complex, now a UNESCO World heritage site offers extensive insights into the coal industry throughout time right up until their closing a mere few decades ago.
And those are just some of the highlights of this tour. We will be stopping along the way to visit many more places, enjoy luncheons, visit castles and parks, ride a unique cable car and chair lift, visit local Farm stands and restaurants, and in general take on the traveling adventures whenever they present themselves.
The cost for this tour is $2,185 and includes 9 nights at a 4-star hotel with breakfast and dinner, local transport and all admissions. Single room surcharge is $75. Airfare and alcohol is not included.
Monday, April 2:
We meet in the afternoon as a group at the Düsseldorf Airport and travel by bus to our hotel in Krefeld. We unpack and unwind before meeting for dinner at the hotel restaurant.
Tuesday, April 3:
Our first day tour brings us to Kevelaer, a small pilgrimage town with a famous chapel that will introduce us to the area and the deep spirituality of the mainly catholic population. We will have lunch along the way and stop just across the Dutch border to marvel at actual inland Sand dunes in the Maas Dunes National Park before continuing on to visit the old trading town of Venlo in the Netherlands for the afternoon.
Wednesday, April 4:
Today’s tour brings us to Aachen where we will visit the magnificent cathedral with its architecture that is more reminiscent of Arabic traditions than a Christian church, the ‘Kaiserdom’. After touring the cathedral and the Treasury chamber we continue on to visit to the Open-Air museum Kommern. At 250 acres it is one of the largest of its kind in Europe and offers a walking tour through typical villages and architectural styles of the surrounding counties from the Rhine to the Alsace. We start off with a hearty lunch at a restored historic Dorf-Restaurant before exploring its idyllic setting atop a knoll surrounded by forests. Self-guided tours lead us past historic Farmsteads and old-time village shops; we stroll past orchards and pastures and with luck can observe artisans at work.
We will return to the hotel in time for dinner.
Thursday, April 5:
Today we cross the River and visit a former Coal Mining Industrial Complex. Zeche Zollverein, once the largest coal mine in the world, has since been transformed into culture-filled park and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. We learn more about what fueled the Industrial Revolution (literally) and see what consequences this enormous development had for the formerly agrarian region. Lunch at a nearby Water castle afterwards brings us back to a more idyllic surrounding. On our way back we will make one last stop and visit the site of a concentration camp in Wuppertal, Camp Kemna.
Friday, April 6:
Back on the left side of the Rhine we head into Cologne for a guided city tour by bus followed by a guided tour of the Cathedral. So much sight-seeing begs for lunch at the famous brew pub “Frueh” in the shadow of the Dom. Time permitting we will also tour the Synagogue and finish with a visit to the 4711 shop, the very place ‘Eau de Cologne’ was invented in the 18th century.
Saturday, April 7:
It’s all Roman to us as we visit Xanten. After a turn through the picturesque downtown we visit the Roman open air museum,the Archaeological Park and have lunch like the Romans at an authentic Roman restaurant on the museum grounds. “Numidian chicken“, anyone? We don’t want to rush this experience and plan on a full day here.
Sunday, April 8:
Sunday is a day of rest to process all that we have seen and experienced. There is an opportunity to go for a bike tour on rental bicycles or play a round of golf on the adjacent golf course. We will visit Abbey Kamp and its extensive gardens in the afternoon and from there go to dinner at a local restaurant.
Monday, April 9:
Starting the week with another trip across the River today as we visit Schloss Benrath, the largest baroque castle north of the Alps. The castle park offers fabulous walks and sights and lunch can be enjoyed in style at the park café. We will spend the afternoon walking through downtown Düsseldorf to explore, relax and shop and close the day with the ascent to the viewing platform of the Telecommunication tower at roughly 170 meter.
Tuesday, April 10:
Going way back in time we head into the woods to the Neanderthal valley to visit the founding site and museum for Neanderthal man. From there the bus brings us to Wuppertal, where we will try out the world’s only suspended tram, the “Schwebebahn” for a few stops before continuing on to Schloss Burg, a reconstructed mediaeval fortress on a hilltop for a special afternoon coffee treat with breathtaking vistas across the region known as ‘Bergisches Land’.
Wednesday, April 11:
We check-out and say our Good-byes. It’s back to the airport to begin the long journey home.
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