Line of battles between East and West, crossroads of peoples between North and South: the vocations of the Rhine collide on the map of Europe.
Its name derives from the Celtic
, meaning impetuous course.
Coming, like the Rhône, from the Saint-Gothard in the Swiss Alps, it retains the power that made its legend, until its dissolution in the gigantic Dutch delta.
To port, France.
To starboard, Germany.
Unless it's still Switzerland?
Departing from Basel, in the heart of Western Europe, the passengers of the MS Symphonie lose their geography.
In its natural state, the wandering meanders of the Rhine once exposed huge areas to terrible floods.
Nothing to do with its modern course, "rectified" in the 19th and 20th centuries by dykes and locks that curb its whims.
The cruise on "the most noble of rivers" according to the poet Friedrich Hölderlin, thus begins on a channeled section heading north, guided by the Vosges massif on one side and the Black Forest on the other.
After a first night of navigation, here is already Alsace, its vineyards and its so photogenic half-timbered houses in Colmar.
The Symphony then returns to its home port in Strasbourg, at the headquarters of CroisiEurope.
It is no coincidence that this family company, pioneer and leader of river tourism in France, was born in 1976 in the “European capital”.
Strasbourg illustrates the fundamental role of a navigable river in the prosperity of the towns located on its banks.
Here, as in Cologne, the fortunes drawn from the port activity on the Rhine since the Middle Ages have made it possible to achieve wonders, like the cathedrals which still marvel at us.
The “Romantic Rhine”
After having quietly slid over the plain of Alsace, the river comes up against the formidable obstacle which the Rhenish massif opposes to it in Germany.
Hesitant at first, it veers westward, narrowing its bed to make its way through the escarpments.
This part represents only one tenth of the total length of the Rhine.
But what gems!
Over sixty kilometres, between Mainz and Koblenz, the cruise combines the picturesque vineyard terraces and oak forests with the constantly renewed charm of idyllic villages, dominated by haunted castles, ruined fortresses and enchanted caves.
Sanctuary of German romanticism and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this valley of the Upper Middle Rhine has inspired many legends.
One of them invites the passengers of the Symphonie to gather on the sun deck to watch for the blonde hair of the Lorelei, as they approach Saint-Goar.
Among the rocky spurs that complicate navigation on this winding section of the river, that of the Lorelei rises vertically to 132 meters.
The strong currents induced by this protrusion once terrorized boatmen.
Seized by the dark silhouette of the rock and impressed by the echoes sent back by its walls, they imagined it haunted by a nymph whose beauty and song would cause their shipwreck.
Looking for her, you would always think you could hear Heinrich Heine humming her song: “A boatman sailing in his little boat / Never stops contemplating her and listening to her words […] Peace to her soul, it is so / The song of the Lorelei still took on a life.
The Continental Highway
The Rhine, which transported the poets, also stirred up passions, torments and struggles.
How many wars and massacres around the river before arriving at this sweetness of life?
The obstinate search for “natural borders” by France and the valiant Germanic “guard on the Rhine” revealed their strategic value.
Alsace thus experienced many German annexations.
Mainz and Koblenz remember, for their part, the passage of the French revolutionary troops, then Napoleonic.
The crash of the bombardments still echoes around Cologne Cathedral.
And the name of the river remains forever associated with the victorious operations of the Allies in 1945.
However, to this border destiny, the river opposes a unifying breath.
In his travelogue
, Victor Hugo already dreamed of it as a unifier, at the heart of a fraternal Europe.
By hosting the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Parliament, Strasbourg symbolizes this peaceful understanding woven on both sides of the waters.
The most powerful river (2,200 m3/s at its mouth) and the longest (1,320 km) in Western Europe continues its course in an immense industrial region.
Downstream from Cologne, the Lower Rhine is one of the busiest waterways on the planet.
On this veritable commercial highway, cruise ships cohabit with heavy tugs loaded with containers, hydrocarbons, gas or waste of all kinds.
Arrived on Dutch territory, the Rhine disperses in a delta connected to the large port of Rotterdam.
But at the end of a navigation under the banner of the European Union, the Symphony chose instead the arm that ends in Amsterdam.
Tolerant and permissive, the "city of a hundred canals" offers, in fact, a thousand and one opportunities to still celebrate peace between peoples.
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A historic destination for CroisiEurope, the Rhine remains a flagship route in the Strasbourg company's schedule.
From Basel to Amsterdam, the journey “The treasures of a mythical river, the Rhine” stretches in eight days over nearly 900 km through Switzerland, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Daily excursions in French, to be booked as a package or purchased on board, allow you to get away from the river to discover the treasures of the regions crossed, such as Colmar and the Unterlinden museum, the cathedrals of Strasbourg and Cologne, the Gutenberg museum in Mainz, the eco-museum of Arnhem or the pretty town of Haarlem.
Very attentive to the comfort, safety and performance of its boats, CroisiEurope is responsible for their entire design.
Classified in the “5 anchors” category, the MS Symphonie symbolizes this requirement of the European leader in river cruises.
With a maximum capacity of 106 passengers, its contained size allows you to feel immediately at ease.
The boat, built in 1997, was renovated and refitted in 2017. Its cheerfully decorated cabins are spread over two decks, the second also hosting the lounge bar and the dining room.
Please note that hot and alcoholic drinks (excluding vintage wines) as well as Wi-Fi are free on board.
Info and reservations on the Internet or by phone at 0.826.101.234