Cruising in Europe: The Main River to the Rhine River

The Danube Main Canal with its long  series of locks has enabled the connection of the south flowing Danube River to the north flowing Rhine River. It is an astounding engineering feat. This route allows river traffic to travel over the European water divide with  cargos of coal, fertilizers, building materials,  fuel and of course passengers.

It is not always smooth sailing though. High or low water levels can render sections impassable. Accidents can also reek havoc with the system as happened earlier this year when the lock at Regensburg was damaged by a river cruise ship.

Low water levels in the upper reaches of the Danube River resulted in our ship being held up. We had the option of continuing the trip by bus or sticking with the ship and accepting a reorganized schedule once predicted rain had raised the water level. We stayed as did everyone else. I wanted to see the beautiful and historic Rhine Gorge. I was hopeful for  a daylight passage.   

Only a few centimeters of water were required to move us to an acceptable level for safe transition through this part of the river. The ship waited while busses transported passengers to some of the planned city and Christmas market tours.

The Danube Main Canal part of the cruise is dotted with beautiful old cities dating back through the 13th century. Bamburg, Germany is my favourite. Its complete Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Others, also in Germany, such as Rudesheim, Rothenburg and Nuremburg exhibit stunning architecture that on more than one occasion I exclaimed,”How were they able to build that?” The skyline in Cologne is dominated by the elegant twin towered Gothic Cathedral. It too, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Most important for our river cruise were the Christmas Markets. Ever popular with local citizens,  tourists also flocked to them. It was not uncommon to see crowds of people, shoulder to shoulder move slowly up and down city streets. Set up along cobblestone streets and central squares vendors offered for sale a wonderful array of Christmas decorations and souvenirs. But the festive atmosphere would not be complete without  the tasty offerings of street food and local variations of gluhwein. Each city had created a unique cup in which to serve its particular gluhwein. We managed to collect 10 of these which miraculously survived the flight home. 

 At some point our captain decided to make an attempt at getting through the impass on the river. Water levels had stabilized.  He was successful but from what our cruise director opined, just barely. We were on our way again. 

The Rhine Gorge was placed on the list of World Heritage Sites in 2002. It is a 65 kilometre section  of the upper middle Rhine Valley. Castles, some intact others in ruins, occupy high, strategic ridges above the valley. At one time it was the core region of the Holy Roman Empire and was the centre of the Thirty Years War. It is truly a magical area. 

After breakfast, on the second last day of our cruise,  I positioned myself on a window seat in the main lounge where I could observe our progress through the Rhine Gorge. It was too cold to stay outside on the upper deck. This would do nicely. And I was close to the coffee machine. As castles and ruins appeared on the landscape I moved  outdoors to either the port or starboard deck to make my images.

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We arrived in Amsterdam anticipating chapter three of our journey. Having never been to Europe we were having the time of our lives.  The history, architecture and customs were so interesting.  And we met some new friends. Hopefully, our paths will one day cross again.

This entry was posted in Education, My Work, Travel.


  1. Ron Mullins December 14, 2019 at 11:37 pm #

    Another great story Stu. The photos are wonderful. You could likely have spent a day or more working the camera and lens around each castle… rather than several in a day. Oh well one must enjoy what one is offered…as plans are birthed for another trip….

    • Stu Dale December 15, 2019 at 11:03 am #

      Thanks Ron! You’re right. I could have spent much more time at some of these beautiful locations. There are so many neat compositions to make.

  2. Judy Grimes December 15, 2019 at 8:36 am #

    Wonderful pictures and story, Stu. Brought back so many memories of our trips there although your pictures are definitely better than many of ours. Takes the creative eye. One day perhaps we can all go back together!. Merry Christmas.

    • Stu Dale December 15, 2019 at 11:01 am #

      Thanks Judy! It was a marvellous trip. Likely in the future we will do another one. There was so much to photograph along the way that sometimes I just didn’t know where to start. I just looked. It is so beautiful.

  3. Sheryl Korsch December 15, 2019 at 11:39 pm #

    Thank You for sharing your Blog and Photos! 🙂

    The Architecture is Amazing!! Knowing that the buildings were made so long ago is so interesting!! Building the castles and large structures on the highest places was an engineering feat!!

    Enjoyed the ‘Armchair Travel’!! 🙂

    • Stu Dale December 16, 2019 at 8:58 am #

      I’m glad you are enjoying my blog. Thanks for commenting.

  4. corolp December 19, 2019 at 7:49 am #

    An enjoyable read and the photos are terrific, Stu. Triggered a few lovely memories of our adventure this past summer, one which was impacted by that lock damage in Regensburg. Our cruise director commented the Vikings were still marauding Europe, in reference to the line which cause the lock damage. It is impressive how Scenic handles the river disruptions.

    • Stu Dale December 21, 2019 at 7:44 am #

      Thanks for commenting Corol! Yes, Scenic handled the water level issue well even though our tours were a bit compressed

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