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Essence of the Elbe River:

Hamburg to Munich

Grand Circle Travel

July 25 - August 9, 2012

This is a river trip that I have wanted to take for some time.   When Grand Circle Travel offered this river and land trip to Hamburg, Prague and an extension trip to Munich, it was just a matter to time for my wife and I to sign on for a late July cruise. We were also joined on this travel adventure by traveling friends from California, Jay & Susan Jayaram and Fred Gerszewski.  It was like a reunion trip for the five of us.

Carol and I drove to Syracuse to take a quick Jet Blue flight to JFK on July 25th.  Our Lufthansa flight left JFK at 3:55 pm and arrived in Frankfurt at 5:35 am the next day.  Our second flight of the trip was from Frankfurt to Hamburg at 7:25 am arriving on the morning of the 26th at 8:30 am.  Then it was off by bus to our hotel in downtown Hamburg.

Our itinerary called for us to spen 3 days in Hamburg and then travel to the Port of Lauenburg to board our river cruise, M/S River Allegro.  We sailed up the Elbe River for the next 7 days.  Then the trip ended with a bus ride to Prague, where we had a two nights stay.  We had elected to take the trip extension to Munich.  Neither of us had ever been to Munich, and it seemed like a good time to visit that city.  The map shows our route through Germany and the Czech Republic.

Above is the entrance to our Hamburg hotel, the Arcotel Hotel Rubin.  It was located on the edge of Hamburg's red light district.  Needless to say the surrounding city area was not very interesting to travel through.  It was a several block walk to find good restaurants.  The major drawback to the hotel was the lack of air conditioning, it made sleeping very difficult, as Hamburg and all of Germany was experiencing a heat wave.  I just wish that Grand Circle used hotels that were more centrally located with a full range of amenities rather 3 star hotels!

Hamburg is a major transport hub in Northern Germany and is one of the most affluent cities in Europe.  It is home to over 1.8 million people making it the second largest city in Germany.  During World War II half the city was destroyed.  It is a vibrant city with photo opportunities at every turn.  The following photos reflect only as small portion of the cityscape it was possible to photograph.

There were many sidewalk stands like this market in the area of the hotel.

On our walking tour of the St. Georg area of Hamburg near the hotel we passed St. Mary's Catholic Cathedral.

During our local area tour we saw several markers like these.  They commemorate an individual who was deported as part of the persuasion of Jewish citizens.

One of the many building we saw while on our city tour on July 27.  Hamburg is a large city with a major sea port.

St Michael's Church had a beautiful altar with a huge glass mosaic altarpiece.

During our city tour we stopped at Außenalster or Outer Alster Lake.  It is one of two artificial lakes within the city limits of Hamburg, Germany, which are formed by the river Alster (the other being the Binnenalster). The size of the Außenalster is 1.6 km.  Above is a photo of one of the marinas on the lake.

A fountain is located in the middle of the smaller lake, Binnenalster.  The day was sunny and hot, a great day to be by the lake.

Hamburg Central Station (Hamburg Hauptbahnhof) is a railway station for the German city of Hamburg. It was opened in 1906 to replace 4 terminal stations.

The Hamburg Rathaus is the city hall or town hall of Hamburg, Germany. It is the seat of the government of Hamburg, located in the Altstadt quarter in the city centre, near the lake Binnenalster and the central station. Constructed from 1886 to 1897, the city hall still houses its original governmental functions with the office of the First Mayor of Hamburg and the meeting rooms for Hamburg's parliament and senate (the city's executive).

Public fountain near city hall.

On the 4th day we had boat tour of Hamburg Harbor.  This tour lasted several hours.  Here we are loading  tour boat.

Old and modern sights greeted our tour.

Several marinas were seen along the tour.

Harbor craft

Many storehouses lined the channel of the harbor.  They were made of long lasting durable red brick.  The green cone shapes at the top front of the buildings covered winches used to lift heavy items from boats to each floor.

A new hotel with a futuristic design was being built on the shores of the harbor.

A large ship in a dry dock under going repairs.

Huge piles of scrape metal were seen on the shore of the harbor.

A grain ship being loaded.

Container ships loading or unloading their cargo.  There were cargo ships from all over the world in the harbor.

No, this is not a Mississippi River paddle wheeler!  Just a German copycat!

Hamburg is a popular stop for cruise ships.

A World War II submarine on display at a harbor mooring.

After our harbor tour, we were back on our busses for the ride to our ship.  We boarded the M/S River Allegro, our home for the next 7 days, in the early afternoon just in time to have a light lunch and a walk around Lauenburg.

M/S River Allegro docked at Lauenburg. 

My wife, Carol, sending a greeting to our friends in the USA from the M/S River Allegro.


A steep walk greeted us as we left the River Allegro.

The statue the "yeller" greeted us at a river side park.

Lauenburg Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Local art work found on the shore of the Elbe in Lauenburg.  What is holding the rock in place?

Sailing up stream on the Elbe River.

Sunset on our first day on the River Elbe.

As our first day on the River Elbe ended, we were treated to the Captain's Welcome Drink and Dinner.  It was an excellent meal!

The next morning was spent sailing to Tangermunde. 

We passed by a small village near the river as we sailed up stream.

A river boat moored on the river bank.

Several sections of the river had ferry boats serving local car traffic due to the lack of bridges across the river.

We arrived at Tangermunde at noontime and began a walking tour of the town with our Program Directors leading their groups.  Above is the Tangermunde Castle Gate with the Prison Tower.

The Hunerdorfer Tor Tower

St. Stephen's Church spire in the rear.

St. Stephen's Church

Tangermunde's Historical Town Hall with court room.

Note the white stork nesting on the chimney of the Town Hall.  There were three other storks' nests on other chimneys of the Town Hall

Neustadter Tor Gate.

The Water Gate or Elbe Gate leading from the river to the town. 

After our town tour we had a relaxing afternoon.

July 30, finds our river cruiser docked at Magdeburg.  We left at 7:45 am for Berlin, Germany's capital.  This bus tour took us away from the River Allegro for the whole day. Upon arriving in Berlin we began with a walking tour of the central part of the city.

Our busses left us off at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  It is a large Memorial taking up a city block.  The United States Embassy is pictured in the back of this photo.

The Brandenburg Gate is located on the Reichstag.  The Quadriga are located on top of the gate.

A view of the Reichstag with its giant glass dome.  Berlin became the capital of Germany again in 1991 following reunification.  The German  Bundestag (government) meets in the Reichstag.

The Topography of Terror center chronicles the horrors and atrocities of the Nazis from the period 1933 to their fall in 1945. It is situated near the boundary between West Berlin and the former communist East Berlin and is adjacent to part of the Berlin Wall which was erected during the Cold War.

The documentation center was built on and near the former buildings used by the Third Reich Government during their time in power. Many of these buildings, such as the Gestapo and SS Headquarters, were heavily damaged during the war, the subsequent allied invasion and were later completely destroyed.

In the 1970s, these ruins were excavated and revealed cellars which were used by the Nazis to torture and imprison political prisoners.  It also functioned as the headquarters for the secret police. In 1987, the old "Prinz-Albrecht-Area" was made into a documentation center and museum dedicated to revealing the horrors of the German Third Reich and the reigning headquarters of the Nazi SS and Policestate.


A section of the Berlin Wall in front of the Topography of Terror Center.

Post World War II check point Charlie site in Berlin.

Bricks marking the route of the Berlin Wall.

After a busy morning touring Berlin, we had lunch and then had free time.  Carol and I elected to visit the Pergamon Museum.   The museum has a collection of Classical Antiquities, a Museum of the Ancient Near East and a Museum of Islamic Art.  The above photo is from the Collection of Classical Antiquities.

Art objects of the Hellenistic Architecture display.

After our one day whirlwind tour of Berlin, it was back on the busses to return to the River Allegro.  The ship had sailed from Magdeburg to Dessau while we were touring Berlin.

Day 7 of our Elbe River cruise stopped at the twelfth-century city of Wittenberg.  It is officially known as Lutherstadt Wittenberg, the cradle of the Protestant Reformation. 

Exterior of the Augustinian monastery that became Martin Luther's family home.

Wittenberg's Marktplatz, dominated by the fine Town Hall (Rathaus).

The spire of Castle Church.

The River Allegro moored at Torgau after a sail from Wittenberg. After breakfast we had a walking tour of the town.

Of note, Elbe Day, April 25, 1945, was the date Soviet and American troops met at the River Elbe, near Torgau in Germany, marking an important step toward the end of the World War II in Europe.

The Palace of Hartenfels

Hartenfels Castle Courtyard.

Torgau City entrance

St. Mary's Church

Torgau's Rathaus (City Hall)

High tech as we sail along.  There were many wind mills seen as we sailed toward Prague.

Passing river traffic.

As we were having dinner we passed two boats on the river racing like old time paddled craft.

Sunset on the Elbe River.

Day 9, August 2, 2012 found the River Allegro docked at Meissen.  We were greeted by a view of Albrechtsburg Castle.   Our day started with a visit to the local Meissen Porcelain factory.   

Meissen porcelain, the first European hard-paste porcelain, began its development in 1708 by Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus. After his death that October, Johann Friedrich Böttger, continued his work and brought porcelain to the market. The production of porcelain at Meissen, near Dresden, started in 1710 and attracted artists and artisans to establish it as one of the most famous porcelain manufacturers still in business today as Staatliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Meissen GmbH. Its signature logo, the crossed swords, was introduced in 1720 to protect its production; the mark of the crossed swords is one of the oldest trademarks in existence. It dominated the style of European porcelain until 1756.  The porcelain pieces were beautiful and very expensive.  The "you break it, you have bought it" was enforced in the show room.

We then toured the historic city of Meissen.  This is a view of the Castle with the spires of Meissen Cathedral in the background.

Meissen Cathedral

Meissen Rathaus (City Hall)

Another wind mill farm on the way to our optional tour scheduled for the afternoon of our stay in Meissen. 

Above is a large nut cracker that greeted us at Spielzeugmuseum - Toy and Woodcarvings Museum.  The museum presents the history and technique of wood carved toys and traditional decorations and how the craft developed since the 19th century.  It was a very interesting museum to visit.

Like most places in the Ore Mountains, as the name indicates, Seiffen's business used to be mining.  They mined tin.  When the mines were exploited in the 18th and 19th century, mining activities ceased and the former miners had to find new ways to make a living.  Many turned to woodcarving and toy-making.

Above is the Richard Glasser factory where we were shown various wooden products made there.  Founded in 1932, the firm is  officially known as Erzgebirgische Volkskunst Richard Glässer GmbH Seiffen.  It began producing wooden articles in the 1940's.  We were also attracted to their portly shaped nutcrackers. 

This distinct style is often enhanced by natural wood finishes showing through.

A view of the Richard Glasser sales room in their factory.

It was a fun village to visit!

A last look at the neat wooden objects carved  at Seiffen.

After our stop at Meissen we sailed over night to Dresden .  We had a scheduled discovery walk through Dresden in the morning.  Dresden is synonymous with devastation; in fact, it's all about regeneration.   Only Berlin or Hamburg suffered such total obliteration in World War II, and Dresden had far more to lose.  For two centuries before its Altstadt was reduced to a smoldering heap in February 1945, it was acclaimed the most beautiful city in Germany.

The Sächsische Staatskanzlei (Saxon State Chancellery or Saxon State Chamber) is the office of the Minister-President of Saxony. It is located in Dresden on the northern Elbe river banks and was established in 1995. The building was rebuilt after the 1945 air attack on the city.

For almost 50 years, the Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) was nothing more than a pile of rubble, the result of a 1945 bombardment. Since its reconstruction in the 1990s the majestic dome of the Frauenkirche once again dominates the cityscape of Dresden.

A section of a building placed in downtown Dresden to remember the destruction of 1945.

The exhibition building of the Saxon Society for the promotion of the Fine Arts. 

The Cathedral St.Trinitatis

Semper Opera House

The Zinger complex was built between 1710 and 1732 after a design by Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann in collaboration with sculptor Balthasar Permoser. The Zinger includes six pavilions connected by large galleries. 

After lunch on board the River Allegro some of our tour group took advantage of an opportunity to visit the Royal Palace's Historic Green Vault, which houses one of the largest collections of treasures in Europe.  No cameras were allowed in the exhibit area.

Dresden was a truly interesting tour stop.  The fact we only had a day to visit this heavily damaged and now reconstructed city as a result of World War II, did not due justice to all that Dresden had to offer travelers.

After sailing away from Dresden the Elbe River took us along a section of the river where vineyards abounded.

The "Blue" group!

It was our last evening on the River Allegro, as we left by bus for Prague in the morning.  We celebrated a great cruise with the Captain's Farewell Drink and Dinner. 

A last look at the River Allegro tied up at Bad Schandau.  We boarded busses for our transfer to Prague.

On our way to Prague we stopped at the highlight of the Bastei region.  The Elbe Sandstone Mountains attract rock climbers form far and wide.

The Elbe River flows by the Sandstone Mountains.

Scenery of the Elbe River as we follow it to Prague.

The romantic ruins of Helfenburg Castle guard the Elbe River as it flows past. 

Our hotel in Prague.  It was very nice but located in a local neighborhood far away from downtown Prague.  Once again Grand Circle has put us in a 3-star hotel that offers less than desirable sightseeing opportunities.

The Park Inn Prague had a neat service car.  Some paint job!

The next morning we embarked on another city tour.  First stop was Prague Castle.  We entered through this gate with two guards on duty.

The Courtyard of the castle

Prague Cathedral

The main entrance to the Castle, note the two guards on duty.

At 11:00 am, the guards changed their posts.  This photo shows a new group of guards marching to the gate for the change.

St. Michael's Church downtown Prague

Old Town Square, the tower of the Cathedral of Our Lady before Tyn

Old Town Hall and the Astronomical Clock.  The clock strikes on the hour and has two small windows at the top where figures move each hour.

Our stay in Prague was way too short!  Our local guide did not take us to Charles Bridge.  That is too important to miss.  The tour allowed for only two nights in Prague and only one full day.  That sells Prague short when it comes to sightseeing.

A last glimpse of the Elbe River as our bus drives away from Prague.

The Pilsner Urquell Brewery.  On our way to Munich we had a late morning stop to tour this world famous Brewery and have lunch.  The brewery is located in the town of Pilsner, Czech Republic.  It is a very large facility and provides an interesting tour.  We enjoyed having lunch at the brewery as it gave us a chance to sample the brewery's beer.

The brewery buildings.  Czech people lead the world in the amount of beer consumed per capita!

Large copper vats are used in brewing beer.

In keeping with the brewing of beer, hops are needed.  This is one of many hop fields we saw as we drove on to Munich.

Our hotel in Munich was located far from downtown in a commercial area.  We had to learn how to ride the underground, which had its nearest terminal 4 blocks from the hotel.  The building was fairly new with good facilities, but once again Grand Circle put us at an inconvenient spot for sightseeing. 

The National Theatre

The favorite form of city transportation.

It was Farm or Agricultural Day in Munich, the first Tuesday of August each year.  Farmers came to Munich to parade and celebrate their farming successes.  Farm tractors and trucks were also in the parade.  As they paraded, they gave away hundreds of flowers to the people who lined the streets.  There were three bands marching in their parade.

Located in the old city on the Marienplatz is the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) adjacent to the building is the Mary's Column with its gold statue on top.  In the tower of the city hall is their famous Carillon with its 43 bells and 32 copper figures. 

At eleven o'clock and noon a mechanism is started up to allow watchers to enjoy the sight of two dances.  You can see the two sets of dancers in the top of this photo.

The Church of Our Lady

On Wednesday, we had an all day excursion to Neuschwanstein Castle.   Unfortunately the Castle was under going renovation and was shrouded with netting.  It was still a majestic structure.

This is a photo without renovation shrouds.

A view of the front of the Castle.

The Royal Castle of Hohenschwangau was just across the small valley from Neuschwanstein Castle.  Time did not permit a visit to the Royal Castle. 

On the way back to Munich we had a late lunch stop at the village of Oberammergau.  It is a very colorful Bavarian village with many shops and restaurants.  Thousands of visitors flock to Oberammergau every 10 years to see the village's famous Passion Play.

As we traveled through the Bavarian countryside, we saw many wood piles like this one prepared for winter.

On our last night in Munich we went to the their famous Hofbrauhaus for dinner.  What a show!  Great beer, music and dancing all in one large hall.

John's sauerbraten dinner ala the Hofbrauhaus. 

Yes, the local beer was great!

A last look at modern Munich.  An office building near our hotel.

This proved to be a super cruise and land tour.  The cruise part of the trip was excellent!  The ship's crew was great and provided a wonderful river sailing experience. The Elbe River was a pleasant river to sail on.  Mark this one down as a real winner in river cruising!