Learn About the History and Architecture of Besancon on a European River Cruise

Besancon is the capital city of the Franche-Comté region of northeastern France. It is situated near the border with Switzerland.  Held in a loop of the river Doubs, it was once known as the first green city of France. Since 1986, the city has been labeled a ‘Town of Art and History.’ Besançon’s Vauban citadel was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2008.

Besancon has a very ancient history. The city was first mentioned in 58 BCE as Vesontio in the Book I of Julius Caesar’s Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Commentaries on the Gallic War). However, in fact, Gallic tribes are considered to have inhabited the area as long ago as 1,500 BCE.

Besancon has an interesting history as it was ruled by many states over the passage of time. It has been a part of Charlemagne’s Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, being independent, under the Duke of Burgundy, and under Spanish and French rule who continued changing hands frequently between them. It gained much significance during the Napoleonic Wars when the town was bombarded by the Austrians in 1814. It was also important during the Franco-Prussian War, and captured by the Nazis during World War II.

The Citadel of Besançon is a major tourist attraction in the city. It was built by the famous architect Vauban in the 17th century and is visited by about a quarter of a million visitors every year. The Citadel houses many museums, a restaurant, shops and a zoo where you can see and touch lions, baboons and fish. The place exudes such an ambiance that everybody gets enthralled by the wonderful experience.  You will get an opportunity to see spectacular views of the countryside and the town while strolling around its fortifications.

Besancon is one of the best-preserved Renaissance cities. The historic part of the city located in the “Boucle” of the river is simply stunning with the remains of what is supposed to have been a theatre in Castan Square-eight Roman Corinthian columns among the town’s most ancient allures.

Another high point of Besancon is Granvelle Palace, the museum of time. The Tuscan, Ionic and Corinthian columns along with three gothic windows which used to be the characteristics of the Granvelle Palace once have become part of the splendid museum of time now.

The museum of Fine Arts and Archeology is yet another attraction of the city and a must visit place. It boasts of being one of the oldest and richest museums of France and exhibits collections from Primitive and Renaissance painters.

Get aboard our European river cruise and enjoy a wonderful family vacation to Besancon!

For more information contact: Europeanbarging, 888-869-7907, jan@europeanbarging.com

Po River Cruises – Pre or Post Stay in Lake Como

Situated in Lombardy in Northern Italy, Lake Como is the most popular as well as the deepest lake in Italy. It exists between Milan and the border of Switzerland with its southern end about 40km north of Milan. It is a lake of glacial origin with an area of 146 square kilometers making it the third largest lake in the country. Lake Como is a part of the Italian Lake District and a much sought after tourist destination since Roman times when it used to be a favored haven for aristocrats and wealthy people. It continues to be one of the top most tourist attractions even today with many artistic and cultural treasures.

Lake Como has a very picturesque setting wherein it is encircled by mountains and hills and sprinkled with attractive villas and resort villages. You will be delighted to find nice trekking paths, boat tours and water activities here.

Lake Como has a peculiar shape much like an inverted “Y”. The two legs start at Como in the South-West and Lecco in the South-East, joining together half way up and the lake proceeds up to Colico in the North. While the initial few kilometers of the ‘legs’ at the southern end of the lake are comparatively flat,  Lake Como continues to become more mountainous as you move northwards into the Alps. As some adjacent peaks rise somewhat above the tree-line, the views are spectacular. If you plan your vacation in winter, you can enjoy skiing in the nearby valleys.

The surrounding area of the Lake Como is very distinctive. It exudes a particular elegance and feel of history that leaves a strong impression on visitors. No doubt, it has been much celebrated for its attractiveness as well as uniqueness for ages. The characteristic atmosphere and natural landscape of the place has inspired a significant part of the creation of Naboo, in the Star Wars movies.

Lake Como and the surrounding area have a lot of beauty, history and exciting activities to enthrall the visitors. Book your vacation on our Po River cruise and visit the Lake Como area on a pre or post stay as a part of the excursions to Northern Italy schedule!

For more information contact: Europeanbarging, 888-869-7907, jan@europeanbarging.com

Visit Nantes on a Loire River Cruise or French Barge Cruise

Nantes is a vibrant and innovative city situated on the banks of Loire River, 50km from the Atlantic coast. The sixth largest city in France, Nantes is popularly known as the green wonder of western France. It was named as ‘the most liveable city in Europe by Time Magazine in 2004 and in 2013 it received the title of European Green Capital.

Nantes is the capital city of the Pays de la Loire region. It was one of the most important cities of the historic province of Brittany, and the ancient Duchy (capital) of Brittany. Though Nantes was officially separated from Brittany in 1789, it continues to be culturally Breton and still largely considered as its capital city. The fact is that you can separate Nantes from Brittany due to the regional boundaries created during WWII, but you can never separate Brittany from its long-time capital, Nantes which is called Naoned in Breton.

Nantes was the leading port of France by the 18th century. It prospered on the triangular trade with Africa and the West Indies. During the 19th century when the slavery was scrapped, Nantes transformed into a front line industrial centre. It has the honor of being the place where the world’s first public-transport service, the omnibus, started in 1826. Shipbuilding was a thriving industry which secured the city’s economy until the late 20th century. With the relocation of shipyards westwards to St-Nazaire, Nantes converted itself into a flourishing student and cultural center. Nantes also takes pride in being the home of the science fiction writer Jules Verne.

Frequent rainfalls take place throughout the year and temperatures are cool. Even if it is sunny, always stay prepared as it is common for short but fierce tempests to appear all of a sudden. It is always desirable to carry an umbrella or raincoat when you step out. Winters are generally mild.

Place du Commerce is the wonderful medieval center of the city and anybody can guide you towards it. Nearby, you will find la Place Royale, le Quai de la Fosse and la rue Crébillon famous for its exclusive shops.

Nantes has so much to offer. Book your European family vacation on our French barge cruise, French river cruise or Loire river cruise for an unforgettable cruising experience!

For more information contact: Europeanbarging, 888-869-7907, jan@europeanbarging.com

Konigswinter on a Rhine River Cruise

A city as well as a summer resort, Konigswinter is located on the right bank of the Rhine River, at the foot of the Siebengebirge in Germany. Konigswinter is a complex city that consists of the “main city” straight in the Rhine valley and the suburb of “Dollendorf” on one side and a number of bigger and smaller villages in the Siebengebirge, such as Ittenbach, Oberpleis, Stieldorf, Heisterbach or Thomasberg on the other side.

Konigswinter has many wonderful sights to offer. The romantic Drachenfels, the hill overlooking the city presents a spectacular view. It is surmounted by the remains of a castle built in the early 12th century by the archbishop of Cologne. The summit of the hill can be approached by the Drachenfels Railway and here you will be enthralled to see a magnificent view, immortalized by Lord Byron in his unforgettable poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

According to a legend, a cave in the hill has sheltered the dragon (German: Drachen) which was killed by the hero Siegfried. The mountain is quarried and provided stone for the construction of Cologne Cathedral since1267. The Schloss Drachenberg, a neogothic castle built in 1883, stands on the north side of the hill.

Siebengebirge also offers several stunning places in the forests and many breathtaking views on the Rhine valley. Once you have visited the city of Konigswinter, you can go ahead and explore the “Siebengebirge”.

You can start your trip into the forests from”Margarethenhöhe” which is around 520 kilometers from Königswinter and can be approached by bus or by car. Parking places are normally available here, but you have to pay for them.  From here you can go to the Ölberg which is about half an hour. It is the highest mountain in the area, with a delightful view of the landscape.  Next, you can stroll to the Löwenburg which is an old castle belonging to the middle ages and persists in ruins today. You can also go to the Milchhäuschen, a small restaurant in the forest and then to the Drachenfels. If you want to visit Oberdollendorf marked by tiny old houses and wine restaurants, you can catch the bus 521. You can also go to Heisterbach, the remains of a church inside the forest.

You can book your family vacation on board our European river cruise or German river cruise or Rhine river cruise and visit the amazing city of Kongiswinter!

For more information contact: Europeanbarging, 888-869-7907, jan@europeanbarging.com

Visit the Baroque Stift Gottweig Monastery on a River Cruise to Austria

The Benedictine Stift Gottweig Monastery stands on the eastern edge of the famous Danube valley area, the Wachau which is among Austria’s most famous wine regions. On the southern banks of the Danube, opposite to the town of Krems, the monastery is positioned 449 meters above sea level. Given its peculiar placement on the Göttweiger Berg mountain, it is also known as the “Austrian Montecassino”.

Established by Saint Altmann, the bishop of Passau in 1083, the Stift Gottweig Monastery was handed over to the Benedictines in 1094. Since then, forestry and wine-growing have substantially anchored the local economy with great emphasis on the development of the wine-growing industry.

The old cloister of the monastery was destroyed in 1718 following a great fire. After that, the construction of baroque buildings was executed according to the plans of architect Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt. The major attractions in the monastery are the museum in the imperial wing which is one of Austria’s most important museums; the imperial staircase under a marvelous ceiling fresco painted by Paul Troger in 1739; the monastery church with crypt and cloister and the imperial and princes’ rooms. All these attractions held in the Stift Gottweig Monastery rank high among Austria’s religious and artistic sites.

History of the Stift Gottweig Monastery

As stated earlier, the Stift Gottweig was founded by Saint Altmann, the bishop of Passau in 1083 as a monastery of canons regular and later handed over to the Benedictines in 1094. Prior Hartmann of St. Blaise’s Abbey in the Black Forest was elected abbot. Under his direction (1094–1114) the monastery transformed into a prestigious seat of learning and stern monastic observance He established a monastic school, set up a library, and built a nunnery at the foot of the hill where it is believed that Ava, the earliest German language poetess known by name (d. 1127), lived as an anchorite. The nunnery was later on shifted to the top of the hill and stayed there until 1557.

However, the abbey began to diminish so swiftly between the 15th and 16th centuries that it was without any abbot at all between 1556 and 1564. By 1564, there was not even a single monk left in the abbey. During these critical circumstances, an imperial deputation turned up at Göttweig, and elected Michael Herrlich, a monk of Melk Abbey, as abbot. The new abbot, who continued his office until 1604, reinstated the monastery both spiritually and financially. He got it rebuilt after it had been almost entirely engulfed by fire in 1580.

The Wine

Stift Gottweig has an extensive wine estate with the most important sites being Gottschelle, Silberbichl and Göttweiger Berg. This wine estate has the honor of being among the first producers to offer KREMSTAL DAC wines. The varietal breakdown consists of Grüner Veltliner, 60%; Riesling, 30%; Chardonnay, 4%; and Pinot Noir, 6%. The Göttweiger Messwein, or Altar wine, for centuries, has been a tradition in this Benedictine abbey.

The Silberbichl is a wide terrace vineyard positioned above the Danube River and was recognized as a site already in 1562. It is composed of “old Danube” gravel and weathered stone which are covered with loess. “Silber“ (silver) in the name Silberbichl possibly comes from “Glimmer” (mica-slate) which is present in large prices here while “Bichl” is a variation of “Bühel”, or hill.

The site which faces southeast is situated in the wine-growing region of Wachau. Riesling is largely planted here because it is perfectly suited to the soil.  Other wines grown in this area are Göttweiger Berg Wines and Gottschelle Wines.

Call us to book your holiday on our Danube River cruise to Austria and visit the splendid Benedictine Stift Gottweig Monastery!

For more information contact: Europeanbarging, 888-869-7907, jan@europeanbarging.com