It was certainly cold. In each port city, we bought yet another layer of clothes to buffer our bodies against the early Winter. And it was certainly beautiful. Our footsteps echoed on the cobblestone streets as we looked up at Medieval and Renaissance architectural marvels. We peered into the windows of gaily-lit stores, where shopkeepers had arranged their chocolates and baked goods into beloved little works of art.
Once inside a cozy, warm shop, we peeled off our gloves and purchased plump, piping-hot pretzels. We sipped hot chocolate and sampled smoked beer. We slunk through the claustrophobia-inducing Roman sewer system in Cologne, and waved back at the ladies of the night cleaning the windows of their showrooms in the early morning light of Amsterdam.
Sometimes we followed guides, and other times we let our feet and eyes lead us. We imbibed information and then basked in the inner glow of connection and feeling.
It was all so easy. We unpacked once, and came back to the same room each night. We dined on honey salmon with celery root puree, crisp Danube perch with turnip ragout, porcini mushroom ravioli, and zucchini baked with goat cheese and sundried tomato. And as we ate, we looked out the picture windows as we were miraculously lifted up and lowered down in more than 60 locks.
And always, always, eternal, mighty and mystical, there were the Danube, the Rhine, and the Main rivers, sustaining us, and carrying us on our two-week Grand European cruise.
Photographs by Paul Ross.
About the Author: Judith Fein is an unrepentant travel addict and travel journalist who has contributed to more than 100 publications. An acclaimed speaker, she is also the author of the upcoming book THE SPOON FROM MINKOWITZ: A Bittersweet Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands (January 2014) and LIFE IS A TRIP: The Transformative Magic of Travel.