We invite you to get lost in the gaze. Truly, look in virtually any direction from virtually any vantage point aboard a Crystal River ship and you’ll be rewarded with a view that is not only close-up-camera-ready, but also goes on endlessly. (Have we mentioned that all Crystal “Rhine Class” ships offer all accommodations situated above the waterline? This is why.) Don’t miss one shore-side timber-lined village, or hilltop royal fortress, or Riesling vineyard that ripples and winds through the hillsides. But, don’t get so lost in that gaze that you miss what comes with everything in your sight – stories that reach far into the past, so significant that they continue to shape the present.
With this week’s announcement of Crystal River Cruises’ 2019 collection of voyages, we’re wanderlusting over the destinations all over again. It’s not only the impeccable luxuries and fine details of the Crystal River Cruises fleet that sail along the mighty rivers of Europe. The waters themselves flow deep with history, having borne witness to world-changing events, innovations, pioneers, and battle triumphs and defeats. In the regions surrounding the Rhine, Danube, Main and Moselle rivers, empires have seized lands for centuries, only to lose them when the tables turned. Inventions have been born, some offering small conveniences, some changing life as it was then known. Notable figures both great and grim have made their marks on society, architecture and even cuisine.
Beyond the spectacular vistas you’ll see from your Panoramic Balcony-Windows and the ships’ expansive open decks, or as you stroll the cobbled streets and bustling squares of each locale, lie iconic landmarks and stories that could only be told by the rivers…if they could talk.
“You’re Welcome.” – (Imaginary quote from Johann Gutenberg of Mainz, Germany, along the Rhine River)
If you’ve ever written anything in typeface and then printed it, you owe at least a small debt of convenience to Johann Gutenberg, as he innovated and perfected the concept of moveable type. While he is widely credited with the actual invention of moveable type itself, in fact, the process had been used in Asia for hundreds of years. Gutenberg’s revolution was the creation of a casting system with metal alloys for easier production, as well as perfecting small typeface. It was in Mainz, along the Rhine, that he produced his life’s masterpiece: the “Forty-two-line Bible.” You know it as the Gutenberg Bible, and you can see one of the last few original copies remaining in the world with a visit to the Gutenberg Museum. The sacred tome is housed there, along with many other printed works from the 15th century onward – all of which owe their existence to Gutenberg’s moveable type.
Habsburg Family Business (Austria, Germany, Hungary, Spain, Netherlands, Holy Roman Empire, and others)
You’ll be hard pressed to explore virtually any destination featured on Crystal’s varied river sailings without finding remnants of the Habsburgs. The family dynasty presided over the Holy Roman Empire continuously between 1438 and 1740, though the family’s roots date back to 1020. The House of Habsburg is also known as the House of Austria, as the family notably ruled the country from 1273 to 1918, with the family business stretching widely beyond Austrian borders. Rather than conquer new territories to gain control of a growing empire, the Habsburgs married into new lands, eventually controlling the thrones and governments of much of Europe.
Hail, Caesar (the Rhine River)
It might be difficult to imagine, as you take in the beauty and vibrant communities along the River Rhine, that its prominence in geopolitical culture dates back to 55 B.C. That is when Julius Caesar built the first of two bridges across the Rhine on his conquest of Gaul, becoming the first known person to do so in history. Caesar constructed the bridges during the Gallic War, accomplishing triumph in battle and feats of engineering. While the bridges were not to withstand the centuries, they opened the possibilities of just how far the Roman Empire could go in their conquering quests (spoiler: they could go really far). As you sail from Koblenz, you’ll pass the site of the first brainchild bridge of the legendary leader.
Enduring Wachau Wonders (the Danube River)
UNESCO recognizes Austria’s Wachau Valley as a cultural heritage site, but the spectacular region’s wonders transcend culture. Its natural landscape – rolling riverside fields bordered by mountains – are the stuff of travelers’ most ethereal dreams, while the structures and homes standing in the resident villages are so authentic to the 18th century periods of their birth, you’ll feel like you’ve sailed through time. Even the basic layouts of town in the Wachau Valley remain true to their 11th and 12th century roots, through centuries of progress and development. The regions vineyards have been producing coveted wines since the late Middle Ages, which means that any opportunity you have to taste their vintages will be an enlightening one.
Aboard any Crystal River voyage, you’ll find an inevitable history lesson to accompany the chic style and modern luxury of your journey. Embrace it and the new perspectives that await you on your explorations. Yes, definitely lose yourself in the view. But then, look further and discover.
Crystal’s collection of 2019 European river cruises is available for viewing online and booking now. Plan your escape with the Travel + Leisure “World’s Best River Cruise Line” today.