Nazi Germany haunts European river cruise (an addition to my earlier blog)

Hitler addresses a crowd of 800,000 troops and Hitler youth at a huge rally at the Nuremberg Zeppelin Field.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We recently completed an 800 mile river cruise on Grand Circle Cruise Lines, from Vienna, Austria to Amsterdam, Netherlands.  The voyage took us through about 600 miles of south and central Germany.  History reaching back over a thousand years, stunning scenery, and, almost everywhere, remnants of the Nazis and the German Third Reich’s awful reign. 

I am a history major, and had read the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer, and other World War II tomes – but was not prepared for the somber tone invoked by seeing the devastation foisted on these countries by the Nazis, when touring through Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.

Our cruise and tour began in Vienna, Austria, long home to the Habsburg Alliance, Strauss, music and majesty! We toured St. Stephan’s Cathedral and enjoyed the city, a marvel of old medieval structures, baroque classics, the Imperial Palace and many other mansions of colossal proportions. Here is where Hitler chose to make his first foray into annexation of nearby countries by warfare, having been born in Austria and feeling long-slighted by his childhood home.

Our tour took us past the Heldenplatz (Square of Heroes), the grand ediface where in March, 1938 Hitler delivered the Anschluss, annexing Austria into Germany. Hitler was born in Braunau, Austria near the German border, and with a miserable up-bringing, had felt slighted by his home-country from his childhood.  Cheering crowds of German/Austrian citizens welcomed the Wehrmacht’s invading troops; and no shots were fired.

Soon, we entered into Germany on the Main/Danube Canal (opened in 1992), crossing the European “continental divide”, at 1332’, where water flows north in the Main River to the North Sea, or south with the Danube to the Black Sea. 

We sailed through Germany past a number of old towns devastated during the war, but none more so than Nuremberg. This city was once the capital of the Roman Empire, and Hitler chose to make his mark on this area in particular.  The city was also a natural industrial complex, and had ability to both accommodate and help fund some of his heinous projects.  Nuremberg was almost totally leveled by Allied bombing, but portions of Hitler’s dreams remain.

Remnants of Nazi architecture are found throughout the city; the Luitpoldhein, a huge Zeppelin Field  and exhibition grounds, which hosted huge gatherings of 250,000 to 800,000 troops, members of the Hitler Youth, and other party faithful.  Nearby is the Luitpold Arena, never finished, which was to have been an indoor, 50,000 seat, show-place arena!  It is now used as the Hall of Records for war data.  Included in our tour, the huge red brick SS Barracks, with balcony for Hitler to welcome troops. 

Our tour took us past the Grand Hotel, home to 300 journalists who were covering the Nuremberg Trials at the end of the war.  And, the notorious Court Room 600, where the trials took place from November, 1945 to October, 1946, was nearby.  Nazis on trial saw only the adjoining prison, elevator and courtroom for a year.  Hemingway, Marlena Dietrich and other celebrities attended the trials. Hitler, Himmler and Goebbels were dead; but  Speer, Hess, Krupp, others were tried here; the onset of the Cold War ended the trials early.

Wurzburg, Frankfurt, Cologne, we visited them all – each devastated by Allied bombing and battles to drive Germans back.  In each case, the cities were rebuilt, with an eye to preserving the architectural integrity and structures that were destroyed in the war.

Next week, we will bring you more on our Germany and Netherlands river tour, and another installment on the Nazi devastation brought upon Germany and the Netherlands, and, in particular, the family of Anne Frank (and more than 100,000 other Amsterdam Jews rounded up by the Germans).

When to go: For best deals on river cruises, going early or late in the season (i.e., January-March or October/November), and booking “Last Minute” can save big bucks.  We booked our November 1-15 cruise six weeks out, got airfare to Europe included in the tour price and saved about 45%.  

What to take: Good walking shoes, clothing for changeable weather, your passport, camera and binoculars!

Where to eat, where to stay: These river cruises offer full gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinner is included on board your floating hotel (the ship); several “off-ship dinners” are also included in historic restaurants!

For more info: Grand Circle Cruises, go to www.gct.com, or (800) 221-2610.  For best prices, search “Ways to Save” on their web site.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com. 

Happy travels in your world!

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