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The Rhine – Europe’s Romantic River
The Rhine River is the lifeblood of the region that stretches from Holland through Germany and France to Switzerland. Europe grew up around its rivers and the legendary Rhine runs alongside of some of Europe’s most important cities. The Rhine, a historic river, the first witness to the construction of the current European Union. The Rhine, our company's first destination, is still the backbone of our European cruise offering. But what do we know of this "old patriarch" which has finally been subdued and modernized along its long troubled course?
An international river
The Rhine is an international river of major proportions. It rises in the Alps, in the Grisons of Switzerland, and 1,350 km further, meets the North Sea in Holland (the Netherlands), where it joins the waters of the Meuse before fragmenting into several branches. This river forms the border between Switzerland and Austria, between Switzerland and Germany, between France and Germany. Here for 180 km of its length, it runs through the Alsace. It divides the Vosges and the Black Forest between Basel and Mainz. Its course then turns towards Luxembourg and the Netherlands where it becomes a broad and powerful river.
The Rhine is the 29th longest river in the world, but one of the longest in Europe. It ranks just after the Danube (2,892 km) and before the Loire (1,010 km). Although it belongs to those who live alongside it, it does not flow through any towns. It flows alongside them. This is the case in Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Mainz, Koblenz, Cologne, Düsseldorf and Strasbourg, all great ports on the Rhine, many of which are included in our ports of call.
Caution on the Romantic section
The Rhine is the busiest river in Europe and doubtless the most modern. The Rhine becomes navigable in Basel for over 883 km to the North Sea. It is controlled by the Mannheim Convention signed in 1863 by France, the Grand Duchy of Baden, the Grand Duchy of Hesse, the Netherlands and Prussia. A central commission for the Rhine, based in Strasbourg, ensures free movement on this international navigable water course, which is capable of taking boats of up to 300 tons. There are no major difficulties sailing on this important economic corridor through western Europe, assures Admiral Franck Fiorillo. Except that you have to keep a careful watch on the traffic, which is very dense, and on the navigable channel.
And doubtless beware of the famous Lorelei, the legendary siren perched on her rock, who inspired Guillaume Apollinaire: "In Bacharach was a flaxen-haired witch / Who slew with love all men around...". Caution therefore on the Romantic section of the Rhine where fog banks can still lead to accidents.
The Rhine and its tributaries are famous for their vineyards, whose vines line the slopes of the hills and create a beautiful sight as you cruise its waters. There are no less than thirty "burgs" over a distance of 60 km between Koblenz and Mainz. Amongst them you can see the mighty castle of Ehrenfels, the Mouse Tower, Stahleck Castle and the impressive fortified castle of Pfalzgrafenstein, which is located just after the Lorelei, and rises like a ship of stone from the waves.
Between war and peace
The Rhine is a delight to boatmen and the passengers alike. When on a Rhine River Cruise, the traveler becomes spellbound by the peaceful river which has witnessed so much over the centuries. Along its banks, there are many sites that recall the past reaching back to pre-roman times. It has preserved the traces of the valiant soldiers of the Revolution. The little cemetery in Petersberg, just outside Koblenz, pays homage to them. Kellermann was victorious at Valmy, the revolutionary armies were advancing up the Rhine valley. And so, in Strasbourg, one evening in April 1792, Rouget de l'Isle, a garrison lieutenant, composed the War Cry of the Rhine army which was to become the Marseillaise. After numerous bloody confrontations, the Rhine was now to bear witness to the first act of Franco-German reconciliation, which led to the establishment of today's unified Europe. Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer joined together to start a future marked by peace.
The Rhine Gets a New Life
After centuries of abuse, the waters are, once again, so clear that the salmon, which had disappeared for a time, have returned to the river. This is a sign of good hope. For, in the 1970s, the Rhine was dying. It was a dumping ground for rubbish and waste water from the towns, overloaded with heavy metals and noxious substances, the water became unsuitable for consumption and lethal to aquatic life. In 1986, the river suffered the consequences of the fire at the Sandoz chemical plant near Basel: insecticides and pesticides were released into the river with the water that was used to bring the blaze under control. This ecological disaster finally spurred the states along the river to action. Thanks to their joint efforts, the quality of the water in the Rhine has gradually become clean once more.
CroisiEurope opened the way to river tourism on this mythical river. It all began in Alsace. The first boat was acquired to sail as far as Lauterbourg for lunch and a day's dancing. It was from here that river cruising evolved. Cruises were scheduled as far as Rüdesheim, where guests would spend the night. Then came the first boats with cabins in the 1980s, when pessengers could overnight on board. Starting with the Petite France, the Hansi, & the Kléber., the ships became more comfortable now providing lodging, meals and entertainment where guests could celebrate the beauty of this river.