Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
The town of Durnstein in Lower Austria was named for the Medieval stone castle, now in ruins, which overlooks it

Click on above photo to view it in large format: The town of Durnstein in the Wachau Valley of Austria was named for the Medieval stone castle, now in ruins, which overlooks it. One of the many beautiful sights seen during my Grand European Tour with Viking River Cruises.

Melk Abbey, which sits on a rocky promontory above the town of Melk, was founded in 1089 when King Leopold II of Austria donated the land to Benedictine monks

Click on above photo to view it in large format: Melk Abbey, which sits on a rocky promontory above the town of Melk, Austria, was founded in 1089 when King Leopold II donated land for the monastery to Benedictine monks. One of the many magnificent sites seen during my Grand European Tour with Viking River Cruises.

The English historian, Edward Gibbon, once remarked that, “According to the law of custom, and perhaps of reason, foreign travel completes the education of an English gentleman.” Gibbon might well be considered an authority on the issue. In 1763, he embarked on a tour of continental Europe. A year later, while sitting amid the ruins of Rome, he conceived the idea for a book which later became The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: 1776–1788. Gibbon was following in the footsteps of aristocratic young European men, for whom education was not complete without a Grand Tour of the capitols and cultural centers of Europe. Though the Grand Tour ceased to be an element of the educational landscape in the mid-1800’s, the tradition is still alive and well, as I discovered on my recent Viking River Grand European Tour.

For hundreds of years, these windmills in Kinderdijk, Holland drained lands that lie more than 20 feet below the water level

For hundreds of years, these windmills in Kinderdijk, Holland drained lands that lie more than 20 feet below the water level

My cruise began at the waterfront in Amsterdam, where Viking Skadi was docked. We sailed just before midnight, heading south to Kinderdijk, the largest remaining collection of windmills in Holland. By morning, we were anchored on the shores of the Lek River, looking down upon a landscape where 19 historic windmills stood more than 20 feet below water level. It was easy to imagine that this area had once been an uninhabitable swamp. The ingenious Dutch, however, made these low-lying lands safe for human habitation through the use of windmills. Read More

Exquisite Japanese Gardens at Melk Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery in the Wachau Valley of Lower Austria

Click on above photo to view it in large format: The Japanese Garden at Melk Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery in the Wachau Valley of Lower Austria. One of the many exquisite sites seen during my Grand European Tour with Viking River Cruises.

In Lower Bavaria, the town of Passau, Germany, is located at the confluence of the Danube, Ilz, and Inn Rivers. Note the muddy color of the Inn River at the top, which carries silt from Alpen meltwaters, as opposed to the green Danube in the foreground.

Click on above photo to view it in large format: In Lower Bavaria, the town of Passau, Germany, is located at the confluence of the Danube, Ilz, and Inn Rivers. Note the muddy color of the Inn River at the top, which carries silt from Alpen meltwaters, as opposed to the green Danube in the foreground. One of the many gorgeous sites seen during my Grand European Tour with Viking River Cruises.

Veste Oberhaus Fortress, founded in 1219, crowns a high hill that overlooks the town of Passau, Germany.

Click on above photo to view it in large format: Veste Oberhaus Fortress, founded in 1219, crowns a high hill that overlooks the town of Passau, Germany. One of the many magnificent sites seen during my Grand European Tour with Viking River Cruises.