Basque’-ing in Bilbao, Spain

A mix of excitement and laid back is what you can find in Bilbao, Spain. There’s a vibrant vibe of shopping in the trendy marketplaces and the nightlife in lively bars. On the other hand, there’s a historic and relaxed feel in the contemporary art and architecture of the museums and old buildings. Exploring this city in the northern part of Spain’s Basque region gives you a versatile selection of activities to engage in for the best European vacation.

 

Here are some of the places you can visit in Bilbao, Spain:

Museums — the museums in Bilbao are globally acclaimed. The Guggenheim is one of the world’s most popular both for its shape and structure and for the contemporary art work that’s exhibited within its walls. The Museo Bellas Artes chronicles a hundred years of history and ten centuries of art. It showcases works of such artists as Picasso and Goya as well as of more contemporary local artists. Other museums that deserve a slot in your must-visit list are: the Archeological Museum, the Maritime Museum, and the Bullfighting Museum

Local Scene — Bilbao is a great place to wine and dine. One Michelin restaurant, Restaurante de Mina, can be found right across from Mercado de la Ribera. It would be necessary to call in for a reservation since the restaurant can only seat less than thirty guests. The gustatory experience is truly extraordinary with meticulously prepared courses using the freshest local ingredients. Those specifically looking to feast on authentic Spanish paella, however, can go to either one of La Barraca’s two Bilbao locations. They offer a dozen paella variants for you to choose from based on your preferred ‘star’ ingredients.

For shopping, there’s Mercado de la Ribera for fresh products and a good dose of local flavor – both food and culture. This is an interesting visit for food lovers and people watchers alike. Fashionistas, on the other hand, can delight their hearts at Choses de Femme and Veritas. To wind up your day after shopping, don’t forget to sample Bilbao’s pintxos too.

Architecture — one of famed architect Frank Gehry’s masterpiece is the Guggenheim in Bilbao. It’s unique shape and titanium construction is a display of the post modern disjointed style that Gehry is known for.

Another architectural work of art is the Azkuna Zentro commercial center. It traces a rich history from its roots as Alhondiga Bilbao, a corn exchange, to a thriving and dynamic multi-purpose venue today.

The old churches are always on the list when it comes to places of architectural curiosity is concerned. The Bilbao Santiago Cathedral is one of the must-visit places when it comes to 15th century architecture.

Nature — Bilbao has its own share of beautiful landscapes and sceneries to enjoy with its mountains and beaches. Just a short 15-minute drive from the city center will give you a picturesque countryside trip and take you to Azurmendi, a three-star Michelin restaurant set right on the mountainside. Those who have visited this restaurant describe the experience of walking through its interiors and being handed extraordinary unique treats – like edible cotton topped with asparagus and gold leaf covered hazelnuts – as being like Alice in Wonderland.

A quick outdoor escape can be enjoyed with a hike in Artxanda Hill and surfing at Sopelana Beach. You can also head on north to marvel at Bilbao’s unique geography and landscapes.

The Best of Basque

Bilbao, Spain is truly a destination for everyone. You have a choice to explore cities that match your own personality or go out of your comfort zone to try something different. Whatever road you take, you will never run out of options to delight your senses and give you the best vacation that you deserve.

AmaWaterways offers a 7 night Taste of Bordeaux, which features a pre cruise land program with 2 nights in Bilbao. A March 25, 2021 departure will be a wine themed Bordeaux itinerary hosted by Award Winning Texas Messina Hof Winery owners – Paul  and Merrill Bonarrigo.  These wine cruises sell out quick, so contact Europeanbarging for information on either the wine themed Bordeaux cruise or the Taste of Bordeaux cruise itinerary at 888-869-7907  jan@europeanbarging.com

Visiting Cultural Cologne’s Top Museums

Cologne, Germany is always worth a visit as it offers new things to discover with every trip. Whether you explore the city on a bike or on foot, you can experience the city’s most beautiful and culturally-enriching sites through the museums of Cologne.

Cologne Cathedral at Night

From Roman Empire relics to the place where Eau de Cologne was born, as well as a museum solely dedicated to chocolate, and collections of some of the world’s greatest art pieces, exploring the city’s museums is like going on a treasure hunt.

For starters, here are some of the top museums in cultural Cologne:

The Roman-Germanic Museum

Situated next to the Cathedral of Cologne, The Roman-Germanic Museum is mainly a collection of archeological artefacts from 1000 centuries of settlement history in Rhineland, as well as Cologne’s Roman heritage. The heart of the collection is literally the famous Dionysus Mosaic.

Built on a Roman villa’s foundations and around the 70 ft2 mosaic unearthed in 1941, the museum has since been open to the public. Other museum highlights include the largest Roman glass vessel collection in the world, the goldsmith art of Merovingians, stone weapons and tools from the Neolithic age, and the 50-ft tall tomb of Roman veteran legionary Lucius Poblicius that dates back to 40 AD.

Museum Ludwig

Josef Haubrich donated his collection of modern art to Cologne at the conclusion of WW II. It included pieces by Emil Nolde, Marc Cha-gall, and Otto Dix. Three decades later, the city received 350 pieces of art as a gift from Peter and Irene Ludwig on condition that a new museum would be built by the city.

The Ludwigs’ donation laid down the foundation for one of Europe’s most significant museums of contemporary and modern art. The museum houses 900 Picassos, the biggest pop art collection outside the United States, and valuable works by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Alexander Rodchenko, among others.

Odysseum

A science center, Cologne’s Odysseum is an experience house of knowledge. It prides itself as a knowledge communication place, and metaphorically uses the epic Odyssey as a journey. It is a museum ideal for inquisitive children.

The museum sees human development as one open ended journey, and science as both progress and problem. Odysseum’s subject is the challenge of how to shape the future. You can experience the adventure of discovering the knowledge about the future through the various experience stations scattered on an area of 5,500 m2.

Cologne Chocolate Museum

Chocolate Museum

The Chocolate Museum is dedicated to, you guessed it right, chocolates! Its 4,000 sq2 m area contains everything you may want to know about your favorite confectionery.

Explore chocolates’ 5,000-year cultural history, and follow the journey of the cocoa bean – from the time it is roasted until it becomes a wrapped chocolate bar! Go through each step of the production process that culminates in a tall, 200-kg fountain of melted chocolate – ready for sampling!

NS Documentation Centre of the City of Cologne – old Nazi prison

Used as headquarters by Nazi Germany’s Secret State Police (more notoriously known as the Gestapo) from 1935 to 1945, the building now houses the NS Documentation Centre of Cologne.

You can pay tribute to the Nazi atrocity victims NS Documentation Centre. Exhibits document Cologne’s own experience under the Nazi regime. Former victims and prisoners wrote over 1,800 inscriptions and epitaphs while trapped inside the prison’s walls.

Wallraf-Richartz Museum

In the year 1824, art collector and university professor Ferdinand Franz Wallraf donated his collection of art works to the city. Johann Heinrich Richartz, a Cologne merchant, then provided the funds for a museum to contain the precious art pieces 30 years later; thus the museum’s name.

Cologne’s oldest museum features European art that spans many centuries – from the Middle Ages up to the 20th century – spread over the museum’s three floors, with each story dedicated to a particular period.

Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum

An ethnographic museum, Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum explores the similarities and differences of past and present world cultures. The museum has two areas: 1) Understanding the World, and 2) Shaping the World.

The exhibits take a look at all sides of different human cultures that include, religion, identity, and living concepts. The interactive multimedia shows let museum visitors immerse themselves in various cultures, and experience different perspectives.

Kolumba

Throughout the city of Cologne’s rich history – beginning with the oldest Roman settlements – churches have been built on the same place where the Kolumba Museum now stands.

During the medieval ages, Saint Kolumba parish was the biggest and most dominant in Cologne. To properly showcase the parish’s power, the magnificent Kolumba Church was built. It stood proud until 1943, when it was demolished tragically – together with the rest of Cologne – by an Allied forces’ air strike. The ruins have mainly remained untouched, except for a diminutive octagonal chapel built by Gottfried Böhm in 1949 to commemorate the bombing.

Farina Fragrance Museum

The oldest fragrance factory in the world lies just across the street from Wallraf-Richartz Museum. More popularly known as Eau de Cologne’s birthplace, Farina Fragrance Museum takes visitors to 3 centuries of fragrance history.

On display are art pieces, furniture, and various authentic objects from the original production site of Johann Maria Farina, an Italian perfumer who created the world renowned scent in 1709. Among his most notable customers were Kings Louis XV and Frederik the Great.

Museum Schnutgen

The Museum Schnutgen features a valuable medieval art collection in one of the oldest churches in Cologne. A lot of pieces in the collection, by themselves, are worth a trip already. These include the expressive St. George Crucifix, the unique filigree ivory carving Comb of St. Heribert, and the magnificent Parler Bust.

The gamut of the exhibits range from stone and wooden sculptures, valuable goldsmith artworks and stained glass to rare textiles and ivories. One distinctive museum feature is its wide, 1,000-year old exhibition space. The aura and stillness of the Romanesque St. Cecilia Church make experiencing the beauty and spiritual vibrancy of the art pieces possible.

German Sports and Olympic Museum

Experience a glorious trip from ancient Greece that will take you all the way to the present, while reminiscing the triumphs and defeats of sports history’s leading athletes.

The permanent exhibits feature medals, clothing, sports equipment that include the Benetton Renault Formula One race car of Michael Schumacher, as well as many other sports memorabilia. Themed areas are dedicated to the Olympiad, new trend sports, and German gymnastics, among others.

Koelnisches Stadtmuseum

The Municipal Museum was built in Dutch Renaissance style back in the 1600s. The armoury was originally used as a weapons arsenal.

Today, it is home to Cologne’s Koelnisches Stadtmuseum that offers an insight into the economic, spiritual, and daily living in Cologne and its people – back from the Middle Ages up to the present day.

The Cathedral Treasury

Cologne Cathedral’s Treasury is arguably Germany’s biggest and richest. Initially intended to be a collection of relics, which were deemed as the real treasure during the Middle Ages, the artistic and monetary value of the settings were not of primary importance.

Not the conventional type of museum of today, practically everything on display are still used ecclesiastically. Contents of the treasury reflect the changes in the history of the cathedral that through centuries survived robberies, and gained gifts from emperors, popes, and bishops.

Devote one visit to tour the museums of Cologne, both the popular and the secluded ones, and you’ll understand why the city is considered as one of the top tourist destinations not only in Germany, but the whole of Europe as well.

Arosa river cruise line offers Rhine and Holland river cruises from 4 – 8 nights and they start and end in Cologne. A pre or post night stay to visit the museums of Cologne would be a great addition to a scenic Rhine River cruise. Booking a short Advent (Christmas Markets) cruise this fall from Cologne, you get the added benefit of enjoying the 7 Christmas Markets that Cologne is known for.

Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

Contact Europeanbarging to assist in finding the best special offers in booking a river cruise – and hotel accommodations to visit Cologne museums. 888-869-7907 jan@europeanbarging.com

Historical Towns Along a Mississippi River Cruise

Europeanbarging is pleased to announce that they have a selection of luxury small ship river cruises they are offering on US waterways.

American Duchess

There is nothing better than going on a river cruise to explore the hidden gems of our great country.  You can see more and visit areas and experience the local culture.  While cruising along the mighty Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, enjoy sumptuous meals, entertainment and comfortable accommodations while unpacking only once.  Each ship features comfortable lounges, outdoor seating and many include a fitness room and gift shop.

Some options for a US only river cruise itinerary along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers are: Memphis and Nashville, St Louis and Cincinnati, Louisville and Nashville, Minneapolis and St Louis, Louisville and Pittsburg, as well as the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest, cruising between Portland Oregon and Spokane Washington or round trip Portland – offering 6 days cruises through some beautiful country side.

As well as US waterways only, there are 4 – 7 night cruises along the St Lawrence in Canada; Great Lakes cruises between Toronto and Chicago;  Canada and New England cruises featuring such itineraries as Portland to Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls and Boston, Chicago and Toronto.

As well as great architecture, gardens, sites and experiences along the cruise route, there are some exciting themed cruise itineraries:  Plantation Homes, Civil War, Bourbon, Holiday Season, BarBQ competitions, Paddleboat races, Music Festivals, Lewis and Clark, Mark Twain, Wine Cruises,

The most well known US only itinerary, is a 7 night cruise on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Memphis. The itinerary is offered as a 7 or 8-night cruise itinerary which starts in New Orleans or Memphis. Some of the themed itineraries will offer a slight variation to the main itinerary.

Day 1 – Memphis, Tennessee
Embark your luxury cruise ship and settle in.

Day 2- Cruising the Port of the Mississippi Delta
These small river towns have been the inspiration of authors, musicians and artists for centuries.

Day 3- Vicksburg, Mississippi
Vicksburg perfectly blends Southern culture and heritage with exciting modern attractions. As a major battle site during the Civil War, this Southern town carries a history unlike any other.

Day 4- Natchez, Mississippi
This charming river town was founded in 1716, making it the oldest city on the Mississippi River. It’s known for its elegance, hospitality and impressive preservation of history – found on every street corner. Enjoy the unique shops, restaurants, museums and historic home

Day 5- Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Baton Rouge grants a strikingly different experience from those of the small-town stops throughout the journey. In this energetic port, history facing museums and landmarks fraternize with forward-looking art and industry.

Day 6- St Francisville, Louisiana
St. Francisville today is a testament to the lifestyle of a bygone era, with its plethora of charming antebellum-period homes and striking architecture. With over 140 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, beautiful plantation homes nestled in the rolling countryside and bustling Main Street shops, this quaint town situated on the bluffs of the Mississippi River has a style all its own.

Nottoway Plantation

Day 7- Nottoway Plantation
While the boat is docked, visit the sugarcane estate – the largest standing antebellum mansion in the South. Nottoway Plantation is an intricate building with impressive detail. Original furnishings mingle with era-appropriate antiques to create an atmosphere that does justice to the home’s original ambiance.

Day 8 – New Orleans, Louisiana
Your Mississippi River Cruise ends after a sumptuous breakfast.

Many of the cruise itineraries are round trip but if a one way itinerary is desired, there are options of flying to ports or even 1 way car rentals can be set up.  Some ports are ideal to travel by train to get to.

Check with Europeanbarging to see what current promotions are available.  888-869-7907  jan@europeanbarging.com

 

Europeanbarging Introduces the Viva Tiara for 2020 River Cruises

We are pleased to introduce a new European river cruise line – VIVA.
The Viva line is a mid range priced cruise line with beautiful ships and great service. The parent company has been leasing and chartering their ships since 1973 and has one of the largest fleets in
Europe.

Viva Tiara Ship

The first reflagged ship will be the 153 passenger Viva Tiara, who will go thru a total remodel in January and February of 2020 (though she had a remodel in 2018).  She will have a new color scheme and furnishing in a restful teal and white theme.

 

Upon entering the ship, there is a beautiful 2 story atrium with sweeping wrought iron and wood staircase to the upper level (a lift is located to the side of the stairs), chandeliers, reception desk and customer service desk and on-board boutique are on the upper Diamond deck.  There is also a stylish lounge with panoramic bar and dance floor, the comfortable Bistro Bar with Internet corner in the rear.

The Panorama restaurant is situated on the Ruby Deck and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Breakfast is a buffet, lunch is a buffet salad bar and served entree and dessert, dinner is fully served.  Main entree choices will consist of a seafood, meat and vegetarian choice.  Afternoon tea consists of cakes and sandwiches.

On the Emerald deck the guest can enjoy relaxing moments in the wellness area with fitness equipment, whirlpool, sauna, steam bath and solarium. The decks are connected by a lift (not going to the Emerald deck).

Sundeck of the Viva Tiara

The sun deck features lounge chairs for guests, a putting green, jacuzzi, walking track and weather permitting – fitness equipment for use.

New Viva Tiara cabin colorsAll cabins on the Diamond and the Ruby deck have French balconies. The outward-facing cabins are equipped with flat-screen TV, radio, stocked minibar, safe, hair dryer, air-conditioning, shower and WC.

 

“I am very excited about this cruise line and the new destinations in their itineraries – many of which I have not visited yet.”        Jan Baumgartner, Europeanbarging

The ship features English and German language.

Unique Itineraries

As mentioned above, the Viva Tiara has some interesting ports on the Rhine and Dutch cruise itineraries – both are round trip Dusseldorf).  On the 5 night Dutch and Rhine itinerary, in addition to Amsterdam and Nijmegen, there are stops in Emmerich, Deventer, Kampen, Enkhuizen and Rees (Germany).  The 7 night also features stops in Hoorn, Rotterdam and Dordricht.

The 5 night Rhine River itinerary features the towns of Niederlahnstein,  and Oestrich-Winkel, in addition to Cologne, Mainz, Frankfurt, Boppard.  The 7 night also includes Koblenz, Mannheim, Speyer and Strasbourg.

On the Danube River, the 5 night cruises include round trip Passau with stops in Vienna (overnight), Bratislava and Linz. The 7 night itinerary  additionally includes Budapest,

For Advent season, there are lovely 4 and 5 night cruises on the Rhine and Danube Rivers, where you visit the heart of Europe and experience the delight of its traditional holiday markets.

Affordable Pricing

What’s the greatest thing about this cruise trip? You’ll get to enjoy the above mentioned perks all for an affordable price. Visit your dream European destinations aboard a luxury ship starting from less than $1,000. This all-inclusive trip ensures you’ll be getting your money’s worth.  Cruise rates start $714 for a 5 night cruise in early spring on the lower deck – $1535 for a Jr suite on the upper deck, a 7 night cruise in spring and summer on the lower deck $1995 – $2725 for a Jr suite on the upper deck.  Cruise rates on the Viva Tiara include the cruise, port taxes, Gratuities, all meals, wine, and a beverage package – Soft Drinks, as well as tea and coffee, Beer, wine, throughout the day and evening between 10am and midnight. Sightseeing excursions are not included and can be booked onboard.

We are offering a 20% discount off the rates for 2020 departures booked and paid in full by Dec 30th, 2019.

Book your European river cruise now – 888-869-7907  or jan@europeanbarging.com.

Visit Istanbul in 2020 on a Gem’s of the Southeast Danube Cruise

Europeanbarging is pleased to announce, that with the 2020 departures of AmaWaterways Gem’s of the Southeast Europe, clients have the chance to experience Istanbul with a 3 night pre or post cruise land program.

Gems of the Southeast river cruise itinerary covers the lower Danube cruising between Budapest Hungary and Giurgiu Romania and includes 5 countries.  In addition to Hungary and Romania, guests will visit Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria on the cruise and Turkey and Austria for pre or post cruise programs

Blue Mosque in Instanbul

Istanbul, once known as Constantinople is a city rich in cultures and history with much to offer.  It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited spots of the world, it’s exotic architecture including mosques, colorful basilicas, cathedrals and centuries old  ancient bazaars. Istanbul is located on the Bosphorus peninsula and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Istanbul lies at the crossroads between the East and the West, Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city and a city with vibrant mix of cultures

Some of the sites to experience in Istanbul during your land program include:

 Visit the great sites including the iconic Blue Mosque and beautiful Hagia Sophia (cathedral-turned-museum) it was the center of the  Roman and Byzantine city and is a great place to begin exploring Istanbul. At the Hippodrome, see the Egyptian Obelisk of Theodosius  (the oldest monument of Constantinople) and the Serpent Column from the Delphi oracle remain, having been in this same location since the 4th century.  The four bronze horses that used to be on top of the emperor’s box  were looted during the crusades at this ancient chariot-racing arena.  They are now on the façade of Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

The Old City reminds one of the ancient times of the Roman Empire. The centuries-old city walls stand out. Extending for nearly 14 miles (22 kilometers) and stretching from the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn, these walls have stood for centuries.  They were demolished twice in their history: first, by the Latin Crusaders who intended to head toward the Holy Land in 1204 and again in 1453 by the Ottoman Turks in their attempts to conquer the city.

The Valens Aqueduct (located within the old walls), was once part of the Roman aqueduct. It was the single longest ancient aqueduct system ever to be built – nearly 270,000 square feet (250,000 meters). Completed by Roman Emperor Valens in the late 4th century AD, it was used by the Byzantines and later the Ottomans, and was operational until the end of the 19th century.

Topkapi Palace, dating back to the 15th century, is rich in the history of the Ottoman Empire. Overlooking the ocean, from it’s hillside location, its 27 towers and three miles of stone wall were at one time an official royal residence of the Ottoman sultans and the seat of the Turkish government. It is a museum now and considered the largest and oldest palace in the world. Inside, take a look at the harem’s quarters, and the seat of government.  Some of the artifacts inside the museum include:  collection of old weapons used by the sultans, palace kitchens with their huge porcelain collections, and the treasury with its collection of jewels and clocks, including the Topkapi Dagger and the stunning 86 carat Spoonmaker’s diamond.

With the 3 night land program in Istanbul, guests will embark on a walking tour that will visit the Hagia Sophia, formerly a church, then a mosque before becoming a museum;  the Blue Mosque and for those interested a guide will take you to the Grand Bazaar.  The second day spend at the spectacular Ottoman Sultans’ Grand Palace of Topkapi, home to every Sultan from the 15 – 19th centuries.

Cruise departures start in March and conclude in November.  March 22, November 1 and 8 are also Wine Themed itineraries.  Cruise rates start at $2899 per person and include the 7 night cruise, all meals, wine with meals, daily happy hour, multi choice excursions and Wi-Fi.

Experience Istanbul in all its splendor as part of your pre- or post-cruise hotel/land extension on 2020  Gems of the Southeast cruises!

For more information contact Europeanbarging.com at 888-869-7907 or jan@europeanbarging.com