The river Elbe winds its way between Germany and the Czech Republic. A quiet waterway which represents the opportunity of many contrasting landscapes and cultures away from busy crowds of the Rhine.
Often described as elegant, it glides through the less well known and developed former communist central Europe offering a changing landscape of ancient palaces, rugged mountains, gardens, medieval cities and modern day life.
Prague actually lies on the Vltava river, which meets the Elbe at Mělník. The Vltava can be cruised by some of the smaller river cruisers and you could well moor in the centre of the city. Prague itself can be visited for longer by adding on a post or pre extension. Prague's history includes Hradcăny castle, known locally as the 'Hrad', the seat of power in Prague for over 1,000 years. It provides the perfect viewing point over the city to admire Prague's skyline of gothic spires, spiked towers, onion shaped domes and pediments.
Prague castle, the largest castle in europe and a UNESCO world heitage site includes the Romanesque Basilica of St George. There is the Old Royal Palace with the 15th century Vladislav Hall. Dwarfing them all is the magnificant St Vitus' cathedral, built in the 14th century with its recently restored magnificant glass mosaic depicting the last judgement.
Prague's most famous landmark however must be the Charles Bridge which spans the Vltava river. Originally built in the 14th century, the Baroque statutes were added as recently as the 18th century. To have an uninterrupted stroll across the bridge we recommend getting there before breakfast as it is the primary tourist site of the city.
After a day of sightseeing be sure to join the local population in enjoying one of the many Czech beers that can be found in the taverns tucked away down cobbled side streets.
Potsdam is best known for its role in at the end of the second world war in Europe as the venue for the conference between Russia, Britain and USA to decide on the fate of post-Nazi Germany in July 1945. A sense of history does pervade the place and it is hard not to think about the ensuing years and Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe which followed. It does also command UNESCO world heritage status due to its rococo Sanssouci Palace as well as the beauty of its Baroque New Palace and its lakeside gardens.
Known as the "Florence of the Elbe", Dresden was a city that had to be completely rebuilt after the end of War World II. Here you can see the Baroque masterpiece of 'Zwinger Palace' and Frauenkirche (Church of our lady) from the 18th century which has a 96m dome.
Wittenberg's place in history is forever sealed by it being the birthplace of the Reformation. This is indeed where Martin Luther on 31st October 1517 nailed his 95 theses against the selling indulgences at the door of All Saints' Church. The original wooden doors were burnt in 1760 during the Seven Year war with France and now stand as bronze doors bearing the original text in Latin. The church also contains Luther's tomb. His former house where he studied and lived before and after the Reformation is now a museum. The city centre itself was relatively untouched by a allied aerial bombardment due to an agreement not to bomb it although there was fighting in the city as visible to this day due to the bullet marks on Luther's statue in the main market square.
Dessau is situated in the state of Saxony and is on the floodplain where the river Mulde flows into the Elbe. Away from the river it is famous for its college of architecture, the world renowned Bauhaus movement which moved there in 1923. Despite the near destruction of the town during allied air raids there are still examples of the style which include the Bauhaus museum and can be found around the town and recognised by UNESCO. During the Soviet occupation the rebuilding of the city fell along the GDR concrete slab architecture of Plattendbau and became a major industrial centre in Eastern Germany. Since German reunification in 1990, many historic buildings have been restored.
Dessau has many interesting sites to visit including the Worlitzer Park and Gardens. Created as one of the first and the largest of English gardens in Germany, it covers an area of 55 square miles as a naturalistic landscape and response to The Enlightenment by Duke Leopold III, it is also part of the Middle Elbe Biosphere Reserve and is designated a UNESCO world heritage site.
Messien is known for its unique, translucent, ornately decorated porcelain which was created during the 18th century at Albrechtsburg Castle. Its pieces which bear the crossed sword mark are now so valuable they are known as the 'white gold' of porcelain. The town itself has a 1000 year history and is also known as the cradle of Saxony. A visit to the Messien factory and museum will be organised.
An area in Germany that is a national park around the Elbe valley and is so named due to two Swiss artists Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff who arrived at the Dresden Academy of Art in 1766 and felt the Elbe Sandstone mountains and river valley reminded them of their homeland. Prior to this the area began to be settled from the 13th century and many of the castles, fortresses and ruins from this day forward are preserved within the national park.
The sandstone rocks which characterise the area are a huge draw for many rock climbers with some 14,00 climbing routes over 1,100 rock pinnacles. An area of free climbing and even jumping between the pinnacles has also been established, a heart stopping site for the uninitiated spectator.
Within the park lies the Bastei, a spectacular rock formation towering 194 metres above the Elbe and were formed by water erosion over one million years ago. The rock can be reached by the Bastei sandstone bridge and offers inspiring views of the park and river valley.
The outside world knows Torgau as the place where the United States army forces coming from the west met with the Soviet Union forces coming from the east during the invasion of Germany on April 25, 1945, which is now remembered as Elbe Day. Since German reunification, the town has been restored. The early Renaissance Hartenfels Castle dominated the town and is easily spotted from the river.
At town at the junction of the Elbe and Ohre rivers, in the north part of the Czech Republic, about 40 miles northwest of Prague. The area is known as the garden of Bohemia due to its mild weather conditions. A settlement has been in evidence since the 10th century and a tour of the historic town centre will be followed by a welcome sampling of regional Bohemian beers.
Once again the capital of Germany, the city lends itself to free time and sightseeing. Perhaps you will explore the Reichstag building, once again the seat of German government with its free public access glass dome over the session area remodelled in 1990 by Sir Norman Foster. Or Potsdamer Platz a completely new cosmopolitan skyscraper area created after 1995 when the wall was removed from the area, the Brandenburg gate, Checkpoint Charlie or the remains of the Berlin wall in Friedrichshain.
One third of Berlin's area is composed of forests, parks, gardens, rivers and lakes allowing for pleasant relaxation amongst Germany's largest city. Great views of all that the largest city in Germany has to offer can be gained from the observation level of the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) at Alexanderplatz in Mitte, one of the tallest structure in the European Union at 1207 feet.
Ships tend to offer an on board enrichment programme which can include German language lessons, lectures on the life of Martin Luther and the Reformation, the European Union or an introduction to local cuisine.
Why not extend your stay for a few nights in either Prague or Berlin
Prague is an enchanting city, steeped in history and remains surprisingly unchanged since the 19th Century
Reunified, and once again capital city of Germany, Berlin is a remarkable city playing a pivotal role in recent history
Please call 0800 471 4754 for further information and assistance.
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