Cover to the Oct. 31, 2009 Issue of the Poetical Journal

The Europe blog.
Click here.
In this issue
the pictures focus on
Hummingbird Moth enjoying the final
blooms along Lake Lucerne

Opening Comments from Bob Two Great Rivers

Earlier this week I returned home after spending three weeks in Europe, primarily cruising the Rhine and Mosel rivers on a 300 plus foot riverboat named the M.S. River Rhapsody. This issue will focus primarily on some of those experiences including poetry and observations generated from them. I am dividing the discussion into two issues. This issue will focus on the pre-trip to Lucerne, Switzerland and the initial river trip portions in Basal, Switzerland. The November Issue will focus on the river portions in France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium. You can read more details regarding this adventure in my blog. blog.

Two Poems

Lake Lucerne

Ripples appear here and there
....on otherwise placid water.
Earlier downpours have dissipated the sun sinks
....brushing hues of yellow
....against deep greens
....and turning leaves.
Summer flowers offer
....their last brilliance of color
....while distant chiseled peaks
....turn gray in the dimming light.
An alpine day comes to a close.

Comments: No great thoughts here, only a word portrait of a magical scene.

Life's Trail

I can only enjoy the moments given me
....for the future is unforeseen.
I only know what is behind me,
....both the pleasant and obscene.

As I ride along the trail,
....the sun is bright,
....the breezes light,
....just enough to cool the skin.

But somewhere in the distance
....the rumble of a storm heard.
I race for my humble shelter, seek protection
....from the torrential rains.

Later, along the way, I pass others
....nodding greetings and farewells
....occasionally stopping to tell a tale
....or two.

Ahead, the trail climbs,
....more rocky than before,
....winding through forests
....I have yet to explore.

I now walk,
....the days of riding in the past.
Despite infirmities and sorrows,
....the moments are more precious than the last.

Comments: This poem speaks to another form of travel, the journey we each are on. Interpret from there.

Historic home along Lake Lucerne
Typical view from the lake
Traditional Swiss home
Typical scene while cruising Lake Lucerne
Peering across the lake and the "chiseled" peaks
Vignette: Part I: Thoughts on Travel and Europe

Traveling from the Swiss Alps to the Low Countries provides magnificent memories and spectacular scenery. Following three days in the storybook city of Lucerne, Switzerland, we head to Basal to board River Rhapsody, home for the next fourteen days. Though our cabin is only 154 square feet, the designers were able to create a roomy feel. We never felt crowded. Besides, there are a balcony and sliding door that offer an expansive view of the Mosel and Rhine rivers and the picturesque villages and cities that line their shores.

Places I have barely heard of become part of my vocabulary, Strasbourg, Speyer, Boppard, Bernkastel, Trier, Njimegen, and Kinderdijk to name a few. Mile after mile of some of the world’s steepest vineyards, turning golden for harvest, rise from the shoreline. Eating pastries that taste as good as they look, sipping coffee dark and bold or hot chocolate so rich that your toes curl, taking the first bite of Bavarian chocolate cake filled with cream and cherries, savoring a true Belgian waffle covered with strawberries and fresh whipped cream, and sitting at café tables as long as you want with no subtle hints to move on are part of gastronomic joys that still bring smiles to my lips.

But traveling Europe is more than these. It is the immersion into history, where two or three hundred years does not an antique make. Stories of invasion and conquest permeate every street and village. All have experienced conquerors coming and leaving. As everywhere, history has shaped the people from the Dutch who are hardy and frank from years of battling the ever-encroaching sea to the French who have taken a daily sustenance, the simple baguette, and turned it almost into an art form. Everywhere we travel, citizens treat us kindly, if sometimes only with smiles at the behavior of these strange Americans. In Luxembourg, because of the critical role that U.S. troops played during two world wars in saving the country, we were especially welcomed. Just outside the city, peering out over the grave markers of 5,000+ American soldiers who died in the Battle of the Bulge and traveling a mere mile and looking out onto a field of 10,000+ German graves–all enemies no longer–makes you aware of the ongoing tragedy of war.

Sometimes some ask me, “Why do you travel outside the country? There is so much to see here.” While the latter comment is true, for me travel is more than vacationing, it is about gaining perspective on the world. That happens by going beyond our borders and seeing how others live and perceive the world. It also involves opening the mind to new ideas and perceptions. I feel privileged that I am blessed to have these opportunities.

Inside Lucerne's major cathedral
Scenes from the city of Lucerne, Switzerland
Bridge crossing the Lucerne River
Downtown Lucerne
One of the many back streets and painted buildings
Baby brigade – scene seldom seen in the States anymore


  • Enjoy a River Cruise: I have taken ocean cruises, but this time was the first for a multiple day river cruise. The biggest differences between the two are the close proximity to land and the greater numbers of stops. Frankly, I loved the experience! If you have the time and the money, I encourage you to investigate the river cruise option. On the cruise I met many individuals who were on their fifth or more cruise. They shared a wealth of stories including where to travel next. Out of these narrations came the resounding recommendation that Grand Circle Tours (GCT) river cruises are some of the best in the industry and the most reasonably priced. My Rhine and Mosel River Cruise was sponsored by GCT. Based upon this one trip experience, I found the following: the food consistently in the 8.5-9.5/10 range; ship staff, 10/10; the room though small, very efficiently and comfortably designed–suggest you choose a balcony option; the shore guides, called program directors, 10/10; and choice of stops and optional tours, 9.5/10. If the ship was forced to dock away from the center of town, GCT provided ongoing shuttle service. Each stop included a city tour that familiarized you with the historical section. Then you were left on your own to explore and savor the area. My particular program director was Johannes Bauer who did a fantastic job. Besides being the primary city tour guide, he was there to assist and answer questions. He was amazingly patience as he addressed a variety of individual needs. To read more about GCT and specifically, some of its river options, please click here. (Per policy, I receive no form of compensation or remuneration for offering these recommendations.)

M.S. River Rhapsody
A lunch option one day

High in the Alps

Village nestled in the Alps

Resort chalets
City Hall in Basal, Switzerland
Market Square in Basal

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