Archive for the ‘Tour: Rhine and Romans’ Category

City highlights caught on video

Winter has definitely started in New Zealand, making a holiday in Europe much more appealing. To give you a little idea of what life’s like in the north here are some time lapse videos from a few of the cities that can be explored on our Rhine and Romans tour.

And here are Koblenz, Cologne and Aachen for your viewing pleasure.






Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens


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At your service

Having been the hub of political and religious power for 6 centuries and home-away-from-home to numerous royals, Aachen had developed an abundant arts and entertainment culture. It had its ups and downs throughout these times, but today you can enjoy an unbelievable range of concerts, exhibitions and events. Looking at the event schedule for your day here – Sunday, 5th of June – a dozen or so concerts covering several styles and epochs, an opera and several plays are on offer on top of the usual guided tours through the historic landmarks of the city. For those of you interested in more after your guided tours, I’d like to introduce a few other activities.

Couven Museum

900px-Aachen_Couven_Museum_NW_aspectThe Couven Museum is centrally situated between the cathedral and the old city hall and is dedicated to showing what the middle classes of the Rococo (18th century)  through to the Biedermeier (up to mid-19th century)  lived like. They have several rooms decorated in the appropriate styles and display interesting details of everyday living.

IZM (Internationales Zeitungsmuseum) – Media Museum

schubladen_600The Media Museum is a great place to observe how radically the media landscape has changed since it first started. Taking you from stone tablets and the Stone Age through to visions of a holographic future, you are welcome to discover the development and relevance of the different media, how freedom of speech has pushed forward or pulled back politics and societies. They also offer workshops on all sorts of topics like publishing a school newsletter to learning how to use your digital camera most effectively, but unfortunately not on the weekends. If you have a look through their Facebook photo folder, you can get an idea how they work to educate and encourage constructive participation in modern communication and media.

Salsa: the dance, not the condiment

1200px-Elisenbrunnen_PanoramaHow about shaking loose and joining a group of music and dance lovers at the Elisenbrunnen and enjoy the vivacious beats of Salsa music?! On a fortnightly base dances are organized for the general public at the sheltered space of the Elisenbrunnen. If you’re worried it’ll all be strictly ballroom dancing have a look at the videos on the organizers’ web site: all amateurs just enjoying themselves!

Hope you enjoyed your Rhine and Romans tour with us, we’d love to hear back from you!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens



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It’s the weekend!


By Ahgee – Own work


And you’re spoilt for choice! A quick look at the event calendar for Saturday the 4th of June shows a good range of events lined up.

If your heart is set on checking out one or two of the amazing museums, you will have to discuss that with your guides, as most museums close on a Saturday at 5 or 6pm. Have a look at this overview – in English! – and get lost in modern and classical art, architecture, science, history, Carnival and everything else that has been part of our culture.

After the guided tour you will have a pretty good idea of the colourful history of the city and will look forward to discovering what the locals do after work. Depending on what your local guide has in mind, you might be able to check out some of the other activities as well.


Cologne Guitar Night

cologne guitar nightThe Cologne Guitar Night is held at the Rheinische Musikschule Köln which was founded in 1845 after the example of the Conservatoire de Paris. The school takes pride in delivering a great foundation in all traditional aspects of music appreciation as well as encouraging pushing boundaries and creating exciting and stimulating modern music. A perfect example for that is the guitar night, breaking down boundaries between old, classical guitar playing and juxtaposing or re-interpreting it within modern compositions. The five acts for Saturday night cover Latin Jazz Classic, Baroque and New music, World music with Sitar and piano, Venezuelan guitar and electric rock guitar and more from Belarus!


Being Refugee

being refugee2

Photos by hartmutschneider.de

This photographic exhibition is at the Mediapark and open til 6pm and is a chance to see how refugees in Germany see and record their lives and conditions in the refugee camps. While we are more than conscious of the often heart-breaking images in the main stream media of the refugees, one rarely gets to see into the inside of the camps and their minds. How do they see themselves in their new environment? How do they find a sense of belonging and understanding in a country whose language most have to learn from scratch? The initiative to let them document their lives has led to further projects, all aiming for greater understanding and support of each other. For current updates on all activities go and check their Facebook page out.



Echoes of Utopia – dance and politics

Das Echo der UtopienA different kind of exhibition that is open for viewing til 7pm, also at the Mediapark and curated by the Deutsches Tanzarchiv Köln. The German Dancearchive was conceived in 1873 in Berlin. After its destruction during WWII a new beginning was made in 1948 and in 1985 the archives were purchased by an arts trust of the Cologne municipal savings bank.  Today the archives do more than just document the history of dance, they are also a center for information exchange and research into classical and modern dance. In that capacity, this exhibition explores the connection between dance and politics, demonstrating that dance is more than ‘just’ for fun and pleasure. Through photographs, choreography drawings and videos you will be able to understand how dance is created, perceived and used as a physical tool to communicate a range of messages throughout time.

Hope you enjoy your time in my home town and do tell me what impressed you most!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens




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Explosion of colours

Fons vD2Once you’ve returned to Kalkar after your day trips discovering all about the Rhine and Romans in this area you might want to have a quick look at a current exhibition at the Beginenhof: “Explosion der Farben – Fons van Dommelen”. It is on the way to the Ratskeller, where you can enjoy your well-earned dinner afterwards.

Fons vD1The Dutch artist Fons van Dommelen has a distinct style using strong colours and sharp lines in his paintings and sculptures; creating energetic and powerful pieces of art, which are pleasing to the eye and stimulating for the mind. His figurines have a naïve appeal, while the abstract style of his other sculptures and paintings encourages a more critical approach. I hope you enjoy discovering him as much as I (Petra) had.

1280px-Kalkar_Northrhine-Westphalia_Germany_Moyland-Castle-01As your stay in Kalkar occurs during the middle of the week, it might be a bit quiet in town, but what an excellent opportunity to enjoy the views of the Rhine and the city center at leisure.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens


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Current activities

Koblenz GartenkulturFor the start of our tour in Saarbrücken we had some interesting suggestions of what else to see and explore there while enjoying a bit of spare time. We thought you might be interested to see what is on offer at the other end of the tour. Whether you’re spending an extra day here in Koblenz before joining us on the Rhine and Romans Tour or just killing some time before heading to other destinations, we found a few interesting things to do on 29th and 31st of May 2016.

Gardens that live

Bonsai KoblenzIn 2011 Koblenz hosted the BuGa and developed the motto that inspires its annual art, cultural and horticultural activities, “Koblenzer Gartenkultur”. For the last weekend in May there’s a couple of interesting things happening around the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress: throughout Sunday the local Tai Chi, Qigong and meditation groups have workshops and presentations throughout the day. To complement the Asian topic, the local bonsai club will have a display at the castle and you can find out all the nitty gritty details about this fascinating horticultural hobby.

Foreign shores


James Webb: Ansicht von Ehrenbreitstein, 1880

If you’re more inclined to amble amongst artefacts, check out the city’s museum web site, in English! Lots to see and what got my attention was an exhibition titled “Are any British here?” An exhibition of the creative output by numerous British artists who visited the Rhine and Moselle valleys in the 18th and 19th century. The exhibition is at the Mittelrhein Museum, which unfortunately is not open on Mondays, so you might have to stay a day longer?! If not, there is one covering the history of military engineering in Germany or enjoy a guided tour through the local wine and sparkling wine maker cellar Deinhard. Monday seems to be the day-off for most other museums in Koblenz at the moment, so if you want to explore the culture and history you might need to stay for Tuesday as well. Unless of course you’re back on the road on Monday, discovering all about the Rhine and the Romans with our local tour guides.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens


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Germany’s traditional wines under threat

On our Rhine and Romans tour  you have a chance to see some of Germany’s oldest wine growing areas located on some of the world’s steepest slopes. These vineyards are in danger of being abandoned due to the hard manual labour and their maintenance costs. While one hectare on flat ground requires around 180 hours of labour, the equivalent slope hectare requires up to 1500 hours AND abseiling knowledge. Since 1970 the area of commercially used vineyards on “true” slopes (> 60% incline) has decreased from 12,000 hectares down to less than 8,000 hectares. The costs will be even harder to justify once the European Union stops the restrictions on the size of wine growing areas for each country. Each country will be able to increase its area by one percent per year, which will create more competition for the already pricey specialty wines.

Romantic views succumb to wilderness

But this is not just a problem for the wine growing industry, the tourism industry would suffer heavily as well. As readers of our tour blogs might remember, the Moselle and Rhine region are particularly picturesque and on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The description mentions “…the vineyard terraces that define this prosperous and picturesque stretch of the Rhine valley and encompass all the key views that influenced writers and artists.”

Traditional wine makers given a helping hand with modern technology

So, for the past ten years a dedicated team of researchers and technicians of the Geisenheim University have been working on a solution: “Geisi”. Looking like a cross between Fred Flintstone’s family car and NASA’s Mars rover the prototype has been making its way around some of the steeper slopes (>80%) and trying it’s “hands” at viticulture. Even though its current size is not quite right yet for the old fashioned narrow rows of the vineyards, the team is confident that the next model will be a bit skinnier and still be able to do all the necessary jobs of pruning and harvesting.Geisi03_1023

Market potential

At a recent trade show in Stuttgart they could have sold at least 10 models already, which is encouraging for the developers.  But, they’re not just working on a mechanical help for these vineyards, they are also developing new growing strategies, which would reduce the necessary labour and still produce good to excellent quality wines. One of these strategies comes from Australia and has already produced interesting results: smaller grapes, but less loss from mould damage. And the bottled wine, a tangy dry Riesling “Kauber Rauschely”, will be evaluated by the concerned and interested vineyard owners. Nothing proves a point like a perfect product.

On that note, Prost!


Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens


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Binger Mouse TowerAs the southernmost part of the UNESCO Rhine Gorge World Heritage Site, the train and boat trip on your Rhine and Romans Tour will take you through some stunning landscapes.

Bingen has a long history of settlement due to the river Nahe emptying into the Rhine gorge. The rivers meant very good transportation and a celtic settlement called ‘Binge’ has been recorded.

One of the local attractions is the famous Mouse tower:

Legend goes that Hatto, the Archbishop of Mainz in 968 AD, had a lot of poor people locked up and burned in a barn. When they were screaming for help, he just commented, ‘Listen to the mice whistling’. Ever since he was being haunted by mice and as a last hope of escape he had the tower built in the middle of the river. But the mice swam across the water and ate him alive.

I’m sure the mice have settled down by now and your boat trip from here should be peaceful.

Enjoy the trip and have the camera ready: castles galore, gorge views and picturesque villages lining the route.

Rhine Trip Marksburg

Rhine Trip Burg Klopp


Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Xanten amphitheatreIn 1977 the only park preserving and exhibiting the only roman town north of the Alps which had not been built over in its history, opened its doors to the public. The 1977 park only covered the eastern part of the township and in 2009, after changing the route of a federal highway, an extension covering the remaining western part was opened to the public.

On our Rhine and Romans Tour you have the unique opportunity to view, at times at a one-to-one scale, how the Romans lived and how their presence influenced the society and history of northern Germania. The park offers a huge range of outdoor replicas to wander around and contemplate the architectural prowess of the roman occupiers. Alongside the buildings are pavilions presenting different aspects of life at roman times, like travel, governing bodies and how they made their life amongst the ‘savages’ more bearable.

map GermaniaIn the days of the Roman occupation (Julius Caesar’s time) Germania was the wheat-bowl of the Roman Empire, feeding its army and populace. To secure this vital part of the Roman economy they established strong permanent outposts. To make life there ‘acceptable’ to the Southerners, they brought a lot of their Mediterranean traditions and foods with them. These, along with the troops, were transported along one major road and established trading routes for centuries to come. And to give you an idea of the extent of the Roman Empire check out this wonderful map, gleaned from Wikipedia.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Kalkar St Nicolai church Kalkar is one of the few towns from the 13th century that had been specifically designed by the local lords and was granted the status of a city shortly after its inception. The city centre offers a range of architectural and historical landmarks: St. Nicholai church (late Gothic), largest intact town hall (Gothic) and a historical windmill from 1770.

This windmill has a bit of a chequered history: In 1770 the citizens of Kalkar had a major problem: the East gate to the city was in such a bad state, that repair was deemed impossible. When the local leather manufacturer Guerin offered to buy it for scrap and build a new bridge instead, they accepted readily.

Kalkar millGuerin built a huge windmill, eight storeys high, to catch the wind above the houses of the city!

Initially he used it for grinding tanning bark, but just before 1800 Guerin fled the region. He was of French origin and feared the approaching revolutionary army in 1794.

The windmill was taken over by Gerhard van der Grinden and used from then on to mill flour by various millers.

In 1910 Heinrich Rötten, the last practicing miller, built a two storey house to replace the previously built house and barn.

From 1994-1996 extensive restoration work was done and the mill is again being used for its original purpose. In addition to the mill the site houses a tourism and culture centre and a restaurant that serves the bread and beer made on site.

Please excuse the lack of links, but as most of this information is gathered from local German sites, we have taken the liberty to present a short translated version of them.

We visit the picturesque township of Kalkar on our Rhines and Romans Tour. In the evening we enjoy local specialties in the ‘Ratskeller’ restaurant.

Kalkar Ratskeller

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Koblenz AltstadtSituated at the strategic point of the rivers Rhine and Moselle joining, Koblenz has a long history of fortifications, military posts and castles built in and around it.

As early as 1000 BC fortifications had been built on the hill that now has the Festung Ehrenbreitstein situated on it.  Julius Caesar came, saw and built a bridge in 55 BC and in 9 BC the town was officially founded and called ‘Castellum apud Confluentes’, which in the local dialect became Covelenz/Cobelenz. The Latin name literally means town at the joining point of rivers.

In more modern times, Middle Ages to Present, it has had a chequered history, being conquered by the Franks, chosen as a place of residence by German prince electors, conquered by the French and fortified by the Prussians. Those influences can be seen in the historic buildings in and around Koblenz.

In 2002, the Rhine Gorge was declared a World Heritage Site, with Koblenz marking the northern end. On our Rhine and Romans Tour we spend the first two nights in this beautiful town and enjoy a boat trip on the Rhine as well as a walk through the 2000-year-old town.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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