Frederic Chopin

Saturday, 25th October - Saturday, 1st November, 2008

Having left Praguepredicted gales and rain behind in Scotland, we eventually arrived in Prague in glorious autumn sunshine. Our only responsibility had been to report to Milngavie railway station where we then left it all to Anne. PragueIt was Saturday afternoon and Prague was very crowded, but we enjoyed our lunch and stroll by Charles Bridge and through the Old Town with our excellent guide.
Owing to lack of water in the river, (an unbelievable thought for this summer) we were taken by coach to Dresden to embark on our ship, the Frédéric Chopin, where we enjoyed culinary delights at every meal. Moored only a ten-minute walk from the centre of Dresden, we explored the beautiful city centre and marvelled at the treasures of the Green Vault. The Dresdenmore active also enjoyed the walk which linked three of the castles high up in the hills overlooking the Elbe.
One of our favourite places was Meissen, the porcelain town, which has a lovely market place with specDresdenialist shops where we certainly helped the local economy. A small group of us enjoyed an informal tasting of local wines in attractive surroundings, much to the delight of the shop owner.
As we headed for Wittenberg, we occasionally heard ominous sounds as the ship scraped the river bed! Wittenberg, of course, is the town where Martin Luther lived and worked. A superb guide brought Luther to life for us. Here was a man who Wittenburgwanted to reform his church. He made his famous protest against the sale of indulgences by pinning the 95 theses on the church door and was excommunicated by Pope Leo X when he would not retract. He was gifted part of an Augustinian monastery by the Elector, where he lived with his wife, Katharina von Bora, and family. His enlightened attitude towards his wife and women in general surprised us. He continued with his main work, the translation of the Bible from Latin to make it more accessible to the people. A close friend of Luther's was the painter, Cranach the Elder, whose house and studio we also saw.
From Wittenberg we sailed to Magdeburg. Every school child in Scotland knows about the Magdeburg hemispheres, but that was the best kept secret there.
From Magdeburg we took a right-hand turn into the Havel Canal through an amazing set of locks from where it was a gentle sail to Potsdam. Our visit to Potsdam was a huge bonus to compensate for the missed sail before Dresden. Our tour took us to the Dutch and Russian quarters and to the Glienicke Bridge, where Wittenburgspies were exchanged between the American and Russian sectors. Our main destination was Sans Souci, the summer palace of Frederick the Great, where we had an excellent guided tour. Some of the party wished to visit the Cecilienhof, where the Potsdam Treaty was signed. This we viewed from the outside since it is now a luxury hotel.
As we sailed, we passed miles of rolling wooded landscape with very little sign of habitation. These glimpses of the former East Germany with its memorable cities and towns added greatly to our enjoyment of the trip.
On the last night of the cruise, we enjoyed a lovely concert before our Gala Dinner of ten courses, all very light. The next morning we took our coach to Berlin from where it was a quick hop directly across to Glasgow.
Were there no hitches? Of course there were! Anne had to deal with a change of ship and docking place the day before departure. Lack of water in the river led to a few itinerary changes. A member of our group broke her arm at Prague Airport. Thank goodness there was a doctor on board! In spite of these problems, the holiday was voted a great success. Even the organiser enjoyed it! The friendliness of the staff on board was a huge bonus and the fellowship within our group was heart-warming. It was a wonderful holiday and we are all grateful to Anne for her planning and careful preparation. (Compiled by various group members)

Further pictures can be viewed HERE