Impressions of the Elbe Members of our Elbe River team share their thoughts
reetings from Germany! I’d like join my old friend Alan Lewis in saying how excited I am about Essence of the Elbe: Hamburg to Prague, Grand Circle’s new River CruiseTour for 2011. Because I know and love this part of the world—and have always been passionate about the Elbe—I’m thrilled that Grand Circle travelers will finally be able to enjoy the region and river firsthand. Over the years, I’ve met many of you, and I believe—with your great thirst for discovering new destinations and delving into their history—that you’ll appreciate both the unique beauty of the Elbe and the rich past of its ports. The Sandstone Mountains in Swiss Saxony are amazing, absolutely amazing, while the northern part of the former East Germany is an area that few Americans have seen. And Prague is one of the world’s most stunning cities. Since I call this region home, I personally invite you to experience it for yourself.
Coming “full circle” in Germany I was born in East Germany in the Saxon city of Plauen im Vogtland, but left when I was young to pursue a free life and education in West Germany. The Berlin Wall didn’t even exist at that time, but it was already illegal to leave East Germany, Old City Hall in Honey’s hometown of Plauen im Vogtland in the former and traveling East Germany. throughout the country was difficult. After a year in the West, a job took me to America— “the land of unlimited possibilities”—which for me, it was. Many jobs, years, and life-affirming experiences later—such as becoming a U.S. citizen, and meeting and marrying my husband, Rodolfo—the travel business eventually brought me back to my homeland. Being there again, I realized that I was actually German, although I felt 150% American.
Working with Grand Circle
The Elbe River winds through Swiss Saxony—a scenic region outside of Dresden, Germany. On Day 11 of your River CruiseTour, see it for yourself during a leisurely morning cruise aboard the M/S River Allegro.
“When I was first able to visit family in Dresden, I fell in love with the city and with Swiss Saxony—which I always wanted to see as a teenager in East Germany. Seeing them both was a dream come true for me. Once our travelers visit, I think they’ll share my enthusiasm.” Honey Streit-Reyes
In the 1970s, I met Alan and Harriet Lewis, who went on to purchase Grand Circle in 1985. With Europe as the company’s main sphere of operation, they soon hired me to organize many of the trips there. I developed direct relationships with vendors, hired local Program Directors, and arranged our first Home-Hosted Visits—all to ensure the best experience and value for our travelers. I championed the company’s River Cruise business, even working with boat builders to launch the earliest ships in our fleet. And I opened our first international office in 1997, here in Munich. It was an exciting and successful time for Grand Circle—and for me, as I watched our travelers embrace learning and discovery. I’ve been a member of the Grand Circle family—both abroad and in Boston—for more than 20 years now. It’s been a wonderful journey so far, and helping to create Essence of the Elbe has certainly been one of the highlights. Honey Streit-Reyes continues to consult for Grand Circle Travel throughout the world from her home in Munich, Germany. One of the company’s highest awards—presented annually to an outstanding regional associate whose passion and commitment to creating unforgettable experiences and learning opportunities has truly helped change our travelers’ lives—is named in her honor. Reservations & Information: Call Toll-Free
A Word from Your Captain
Dear Traveler, While I have sailed many of Europe’s great waterways, from the Rhine to the Danube, the Elbe River holds a special place in my heart. In fact, I grew up just steps from the river’s banks—in Koenigstein, in the Swiss Saxony region of the former East Germany. As a boy, I ran with my friends to the Elbe’s banks after school each day. Here, we made “boats” from sticks and pinecones, fashioning sails from our parents’ daily newspapers. When we had deemed our vessels seaworthy, we launched them into the Elbe’s rippling waters, and we jumped with joy when the river’s swift current carried them away. My dream of one day becoming the Captain of a real river ship began here— at the edge of the Elbe. Today, I’m so gratified to be fulfilling my dream with Grand Circle, and I’m especially pleased to take the helm of the M/S River Allegro as we voyage together down the Elbe. I look forward to sharing with you the river that I’ve loved since I was a boy—and the fascinating culture, landmarks, and history along her banks. Warm regards,
Captain Jürgen Luderer M/S River Allegro
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rebuilding after the war, the people of Dresden opted to restore their city, preserving its historic design and spirit. Today, the Zwinger Palace hosts the Old Masters Picture Gallery—featuring works by Raphael, Titian, and Rubens— the Armory, and Porcelain Collection. In 2005, the Green Vault—home to crown jewels and other treasures of European monarchs—reopened at Dresden Castle, while reconstruction of the Frauenkirche (“Church of Our Lady”) was also completed, incorporating some charred bricks from the original structure as tribute to the past.
Highlights of your Elbe River CruiseTour Centuries of history along the Elbe River
ne of Central Europe’s major waterways, the Elbe River flows for some 680 miles—from the Krkonoše Mountains in the Czech Republic, north across much of the former East Germany, through the port of Hamburg, and on to meet the North Sea. But the Elbe is unique for several reasons: Unencumbered by dam regulations along most of its length, it’s a weather-dependent “wild” river. And with a panorama of beautiful cities, ancient villages, and stunning natural landscapes, cruising this river is a truly unforgettable experience.
became the seat of a dukedom in 1358 and remained so until the German Revolution of 1918. At the end of World War II, it became part of the Soviet-controlled German Democratic Republic until reunification in 1990, and is now the provincial capital of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state. Fortunately, Schwerin’s magnificent castle, Baroque buildings, and maze of narrow streets remained untouched by the war—and its traditional charm endures.
Berlin The city-state of Hamburg—or “The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg,” as it’s officially known due to its status as a tax-free port—is second in size to Berlin, and is one of world’s most important seaports. Despite a long history of destruction—including a Great Fire in 1842, extensive Allied bombing in 1943, and North Sea-Elbe River flooding in 1962— Hamburg’s remaining 17th-century mansions and historic buildings blend with more cutting-edge architecture, generous green space (ranking it among Europe’s greenest cities) and extensive waterfront to form an eclectic and welcoming urban fabric.
Schwerin With its turreted, storybook castle and picturesque lakeside setting, this enchanting enclave is the very picture of Old World Germany. Schwerin
Divided after World War II, blockaded by the Soviets during the Cold War, wedged apart by an imposing wall, and finally liberated by the sledgehammers of freedom fighters in 1989, Berlin is once again a unified city. Although key sites like Checkpoint Charlie occupy a relatively small core, Germany’s lively, culture-rich capital is expansive— with lakes, parks, and forests providing bucolic oases throughout the city. A unique collection of architectural styles and evocative landmarks speak both to Berlin’s storied past and hopeful future: The iconic Reichstag (site of the Third Reich’s final defense) was rebuilt after World War II and now features an enormous glass sphere representing the transparency and unity of the new Germany.
Wittenberg Five hundred years ago, Wittenberg played a part in changing the world. The dawn of the 16th century saw a flurry of activity, including the completion of All Saints’ Church—a Lutheran Schlosskirche (“castle church”)—and the establishment of a new university. But this lovely Elbe River port is closely associated with the rise of the Protestant Reformation in the early 16th century, sparked when priest Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses, renouncing the sale of indulgences and other clerical abuses, to the church door. One of the few German cities largely spared by World War II, many of its historic structures—including All Saints’, where the theses are now cast in bronze—have been preserved.
Meissen Straddling the Elbe, Meissen is considered the “cradle of Saxony,” but is best-known for the fine porcelain made here since 1710. Europe’s first hardpaste china, it’s often referred to as “white gold”—as its manufacturing technique was attributed to a young alchemist who also claimed to have a formula for gold. The town’s history dates back much further, however. Founded around 920, Meissen became a seat of prince-bishops and was home to the country’s first royal residence. Today, Meissen’s towering cathedral—completed near the castle around 1450—is one of Germany’s most magnificent Gothic structures.
Dresden Set on the banks of the Elbe River, Germany’s “Baroque pearl” has been heralded as a center of the arts and culture since the 1500s. But on February 13, 1945, the entire city was destroyed by Allied air raids. Rather than simply Reservations & Information: Call Toll-Free
Swiss Saxony & the Bastei Just southeast of Dresden, a mountainous landscape rises high above the Elbe River. In the 1790s, upon witnessing its dramatic peaks and valleys, Swiss painter Adrian Zingg dubbed the region Saxon Switzerland—now encompassing a national park popular among climbers. The sandstone peaks and trade routes running through them were once protected by numerous fortresses and castles, one of which was at the Bastei—a stunning, stone promontory reaching some 900 feet from the riverbed below. An inspiration to painters and composers long after its castle crumbled, the Bastei has been accessible to visitors since the 19th century via a 650-foot-high sandstone bridge.
Prague, Czech Republic Once cloistered behind the Iron Curtain, the Czech capital has blossomed into a bustling city since achieving independence. The “City of a Hundred Spires” is an architectural treasure trove, where steeples punctuate the skyline and landmarks—such as the pedestrian Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and medieval Astronomical Clock—preserve its Old World character. While modern buildings have risen alongside the old, its historic center is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just wander Prague’s twisting, cobblestone streets or tour its spectacular cathedrals, museums, and Royal Gardens, and you’ll readily understand why it’s among Europe’s most-visited destinations.
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