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  • Writer's pictureJason Leppert

Live Cruise Review: Viking Embla, Grand European Tour 2013 – The Highlight of the Cruise

…Catch up on our Live Cruise Review: Included and Optional Tours.

Two of our last stops on Viking River CruisesGrand European Tour have been home to the highlights of this Viking Embla cruise for us: Wertheim, Germany for the Wertheim Castle (seen in the header above) and Cologne, Germany for the Cologne Cathedral. Interestingly enough and respectively, one is a spectacular ruin while the other is a marvelous intact structure. Let’s start with Wertheim, Germany.

Wertheim Castle

Although it’s quite a haul to reach the Wertheim Castle and even more so to climb to its very top, the hike is well worth it to discover one of the largest set of castle ruins in Germany. It’s particularly remarkable to realize how much of the structure remains preserved.

There’s an unmistakable mystery to grand sites like these that were once so palatial and are now desolate shells of their former glory. Still, the sheer magnitude of this castle even today is incredible.

Freestanding isolated facades like the one that follows reminded my mom of the library ruins at Ephesus, Turkey. The seemingly complete cylindrical tower besides it once housed a spiral staircase that is long gone.

The views just halfway to the top were very panoramic, looking over the village and church below on one side and the Main River on the other. The Earls of Wertheim who used the castle, dating back to the 13th-15th centuries, as their residence were not without dramatic vistas.

Adding even further to the castle’s mysterious nature is just how little information there is about its history to be found online. What is certain is the abundance of steps it takes to reach the very top where the church below recedes even farther away in the background.

Cologne Cathedral

Standing as the second tallest church in the world, the gothic Cologne Cathedral is breathtakingly enormous. Although never in ruin like the previous castle, it was curiously unfinished for nearly three centuries with only half its height and nave complete until final construction in 1880.

To this day, the church has numerous scaffolds surrounding its exterior and lining its interior as damage inflicted during World War II is still being repaired. An estimated 20 more years are needed to make it whole, with many of the stained-glass windows being the focus of restoration.

The cathedral’s verticality in the gothic style is unmistakable with very few horizontal members, and the structural choir that flanks the altar has the largest height-to-width ratio of any medieval church. Its rank of second tallest church might be surpassed should Barcelona, Spain’s long-under-construction Sagrada Famiia be completed.

The church is actually very dark inside, and many of these photos have been lightened to showcase the architectural details. Surprisingly, the central nave itself is not nearly as tall as is perceived in the images: just shy of 150 feet. Compare that to the overall church height of 516 feet.

In regards to the aforementioned stained-glass windows, one that had been damaged in the War was replaced with a modern pixellated variant most recently in 2007 to a mix of popular praise and criticism.

All in a day’s touring onboard Viking River Cruises!

Thanks for joining us on our latest Live Cruise Review. Please stay tuned for our upcoming Post Cruise Review recap and extensive Video Review from our journey.

Do you have any questions or thoughts? Please feel free to post in the comments section below…

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