Traveling from Munich, Germany to Amsterdam with Abercrombie & Kent, we’re sailing on Luftner Cruises Amadeus Brilliant, a ship built in 2012 that offers transportation on the river, stopping at a number of places along the way. Once on location, what we do often defines the experience with some activities more meaningful than others. For those alive today who have a family history that might include some reference to World War II, stops we made on the way to Nuremburg to board our ship had special significance.
Visiting a World War II Art Bunker, we went through the cavernous space with a local guide who was alive and lived there during the time that bombs were dropped on the city, destroying much of it. At the the Nazi Documentation Center and Parade grounds, a multi-media walk through presentation told the story in a very personal way. These are experiences one just can’t get from a history book.
Like Monument Men, But Real
Warned in advance literature from A&K to bring a jacket or sweater as the bunker was chilly, even in the summer, proved accurate as well but added to the ambiance of the place. Walking through the cavernous spaces, it was easy enough to visualize the place when packed full of priceless art treasures. Still, an audio program with newsreel footage and actual recordings of bombers flying overhead and the sound of bombs being dropped and exploding, drove the feel home.
The intricate system of the art bunker was created 24 meters underground, with the ability to provide the best possible conditions for the art and guards who lived there to protect it. Heating, ventilation, locked vaults for the most priceless of works were added to what were beer cellars, directly below the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg which was pretty much leveled during air raids.
Being There Brings Real Meaning
On the way to Amadeus Brilliant, we stopped by the remains of buildings on the former Nazi Party Rally Grounds for a permanent exhibition ‘Fantasy and Terror’ that looked at the causes, the context and consequences of the National Socialist party reign of terror that led to World War II.
Focusing on topics linked to Nuremberg, the walk-through environmental exhibit has 19 different areas, to which visitors tag audio recordings on hand-held devices that bring a similarly eerie sensation, much like we experienced at the Art Bunker, earlier in the day.
Ending on the massive Rally Grounds, it was easy to visualize the 11 square meter area filled with Nazi’s and 50,000 spectators. Included on the walking tour is in-depth information on the Nuremberg Racial Laws of 1935, the famous Nuremberg Trials and follow-up trials as well as the issue of dealing with the National Socialist party after the war.
History Is A Big Part Of River Cruising
With an off-ship focus, river cruising is surely not for everyone. Not interested in history or global issues? This might not be for you. I think it’s a good idea to know that up front, rather than buying into something with the odds stacked against your enjoyment.
On board, there are few features compared to a large ocean cruising ship. No casino, theater, top deck features to speak of or endless list of activities from which to choose. Instead, these ships take passengers up close and personal with iconic destinations on land.
On the other hand, on this particular itinerary, a version of which most European river cruise lines do in one way or another, it’s a great introduction to history of the world and can put a lot of life’s experience into perspective.