My European Escapades

My European Escapades

STORY AND PHOTOS BY ROBBIN JOACHIM

As a traveler and photographer, my journeys have taken me to the Mediterranean Sea, Baltic Sea, Alaska, and the Caribbean. This summer, I, my husband, Michael, and brother, Scott, met in Amsterdam to begin a two-week European adventure of a lifetime.

Our trip began in Amsterdam. The man-made canals throughout the city felt like a cross between Venice, Italy and London. The views of the Amstel River were beautiful from our hotel room. Visits to the Van Gough Museum, The Rijks Museum, and the Ann Frank House are a must.

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After our stint in Amsterdam, we boarded the Avalon Felicity Ship to begin the Rhine River cruise. We travelled to the German cities of Cologne, Koblenz, Rhine Gorge, Rudesheim, Mainz, Heidelberg, Breisach; then to Strasbourg, France and ended in Basel, Switzerland.

In Cologne, we did a walking tour of this old city, showing the excavations of the old Jewish areas. The Cologne Cathedral was magnificent; it took 700 years to build and is still under repair, with windows still missing from WW2 bombings.

We did a walking tour throughout the old city of Koblenz. Ninety percent of the town was destroyed in WW2, however, the bombs dropped through the rooftops, so the outside walls remained intact. Restoration is still incomplete.

The travel between Kobitz and Rudesheim shows the many castles on both sides of the river. We travelled six hours to view 60 kilometres of beautiful banks lined with vertical grape vineyards up the steep hillsides. Castles line the hilltops and were easy to follow with the maps provided by the ship. What a view they must have from those windows and terraces.

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Rudesheim has a population of 10,000, with cobblestone streets and buildings dating back to the 1300s. We visited the Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments, which was a gigantic music box museum. There we saw and heard music boxes I never knew existed. Some dated back to the 1800s and still played music.

Mainz, the second oldest city in Germany, is known as the birthplace of Gutenberg, and is the home for a museum showcasing one of the last remaining Gutenburg bibles. Our tour guide demonstrated the printing press; there are no original presses remaining after the bombings of WW2, only reproductions from Gutenburg’s sketches.

We arrived in Strasbourg early and began with a canal tour of the city. Canals surround the city and much of the buildings have been preserved since the 1500s. The Cathedral Munster is magnificent and the world clock is a work of genius. The clock was built in the 16th century; the clock keeper winds the clock once a week and it still keeps accurate time, chiming every 15 minutes.

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An hour-long bus ride took us to the Black Forest area near Biresh, passing small villages with quaint homes and beautiful fields of corn and vineyards. The homes house the family and animals under one roof. The hip roofs on the homes allow the farmers to drive their carts or vehicles directly into this space to drop feed and other supplies. A 7-mile bike ride through the valley was absolutely breath taking.

On Sunday, we arrived in Basel, Switzerland and concluded our adventure along the Rhine. The Basel train station bustled with activity and after a 3-hour train ride through the countryside, we arrived at the Gare de Lyon station in Paris.

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The bed and breakfast we stayed at was full of charm; the 300-year-old building was right in the heart of Island St. Louis in Paris. With no elevator, we carried our luggage up four flights of stairs. We woke up every morning to a lovely breakfast of fresh fruit and French pastries. Our location was perfect, with Notre-Dame Cathedral within eyesight and the sunsets were glorious. The fresh fruit/vegetable market was next door and bakeries were on every street.

One day we went to see Notre-Dame, the 865-year-old French Gothic cathedral. The buttresses and statues are surreal to view in person. The gardens in the back of the cathedral are very serene and are a great place to sit with wine and cheese, or just to relax.

Next we headed for the Louvre, but no
t before crossing the bridge with the famous locks on the railings, intended to show the love of a sweetheart for his soul mate. The Louvre is so massive and overwhelming – both the grounds and the endless rooms and wings of exhibits. The Mona Lisa was a must see.

A highlight of the trip was our private night time tour of Paris. Our tour began after dark to capture the essence of the illuminated city. The first half of the tour was the Seine river tour to see the city from a completely different angle.

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There’s nothing like the view of Paris from 1700 feet atop the Eiffel Tower. The tower can expand six inches a day when it is hot and the top can sway up to 4 inches in the wind. I braved the elevator to the top of the tower and celebrated with champagne.

With just one day remaining in Paris, we decided to visit the Palace of Versailles. I can’t comprehend how this must have looked when Louis XVI occupied the palace. Wealth and opulence filled the halls and gardens. I can only imagine walking through the halls or sitting in the banquet halls with guests everywhere.

On my last night, I ventured out after dinner to shoot my last photographs of the Notre-Dame Cathedral at night. All I can say is… what a view and I hope to capture its “beauty in the eye of the lens.”

Additional examples of Robbin’s travel photography can be viewed at www.cameracoachingseries.com

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