Chris Hutchinson discovers river cruising in Germany and over indulges on gateau in the Black Forest

The last time I cruised down a river was in my father’s fishing cobble as a young boy. When I told my wife I fancied a river cruise holiday the response was muted.

Three days later she told me about a river cruiser with an exciting itinerary and shore excursions -Brabant - a Fred Olsen Cruise Lines’ vessel. I didn’t argue.

We joined Brabant in Dusseldorf and explored our new surroundings. Ambient, with a cherry wood and contemporary styling, our cabin was stylish and spacious, with floor to ceiling windows and unrestricted views.

Cologne was our first port of call, the oldest city in Germany, a panoramic city tour capturing its highlights. Dominating the city is the cathedral’s impressive gothic architecture, inside boasting stained-glass windows and the golden bejewelled shrine of the Three Kings - a sight to behold.

Further down the Rhine is Konigswinter, crowned by the majestic Drachenburg Castle nestling in dense forest atop a high peak, accessed by cog railway.

Overnight sailing brought us to Koblenz with a full day complementary Mosel river excursion. Our first stop was Cochem, a small city featuring Reichburg Castle, fairy tale in appearance. We meandered through the labyrinth of quaint cobbled streets and market square. A tasty lunch with local beer which cost just £8 per head.

Next a short journey into Beilstein, one of the most beautiful villages on the Moselle. Individually- styled houses adorned with floral displays gave off an abundance of aromas. From here we boarded a river cruiser, sailing down the Moselle River, taking in the picturesque landscapes. The day’s final treat was sampling renowned Moselle wines.

Next morning, still in Koblenz, we rode by cable car over the Rhine and Moselle merging, stepping out at the well preserved Ehrenbreitstein Fortress. On our return, the nearby beer festival was in full swing - we just had to stop and sample - well, when in Germany!

An afternoon cruising revealed spectacular sights, picture postcard villages, steep terraced vineyards, lush forests, and of course, peaks dominated by imposing castle after castle.

We were also spoilt every evening with a sumptuous five course a` la carte dinners.

Then overnight sailing to Speyer, founded by the Romans, where our walking tour included the Technik Museum which housed vintage cars, aircraft and locomotives. In the Pfaiz Museum, is a bottle of wine discovered in a roman tomb, estimated to be 1650 years old. Then the impressive Heidelberg Castle, a red sandstone fortress.

Sailing into France, our penultimate visit was Strasbourg, a Unesco World Heritage site. We boarded a river cruiser for our canal trip, through the first lock in front of La Petite France district where, in a bygone era, millers, fishermen and tanners plied their trades. Gliding under ornate iron, brick and wooden bridges you see stunning sights, a mixture of French and German architecture spanning over centuries; majestic palaces and tower fortifications rising from the waterway, contrasting with the European Parliament and Court of Human Rights. Re-entering the Imperial City, we alighted close to the magnificent Strasbourg Cathedral.

Back on German soil, we sailed into Breisach escorted by swans. Our final tour was the enchanting Black Forest and its beautiful pastel coloured villages, home to storks nesting on rooftops. A steep ascent of 2000 feet brought us to the forest peak and some breathtaking views.

We visited the House of Black Forest Clocks, where the Herr family have made cuckoo clocks for seven generations. Adolf Herr greeted us with cherry liquor and Black Forest gateau. Every clock is individually made and tells a different story. Further back in time is the Black Forest Open Air Museum, a farmstead preserved for over 460 years.

As we left Breisach for Basel, Switzerland for disembarkation, our friends the swans spread their wings and in unison broke into sound. Was this a German swan song?!!

FACTBOX: An identical cruise in 2019 on Fred. Olsen’s Brabant will be a seven- night `Exploring the scenic Moselle Valley` fly-cruise (R1918), departing from Dusseldorf on June 6 2019. Prices start from £1,499 per person, includes all food and entertainment on board, return flights from London, port and airport taxes, and transfers. Go to, for further information.