Our journey started when we boarded a river vessel in Budapest to cruise from Hungary to Austria, then on to Germany and finally Holland. I was initially reluctant to try this holiday style, as I wasn’t sure that two weeks in a confined space was something I was comfortable with.However, from day one, I found myself warming to the experience. Particularly when it became apparent that our lounge room for the next two weeks was a gracious space with panoramic windows, comfortable chairs, free wi-fi, relaxing music, food and drink prepared by someone else and as much (or as little) company that we chose to have.
When the vessel docked each day we chose to go ashore and explore.On one particular day we visited Nuremberg. We had a German guide called Tom accompany us . As he outlined our day ahead, he started to share his family history and unwittingly gave us many reasons for reflection at a later time. He told us much about Germany during the war years, and as my history book opened up again, I revelled in everything that followed. This is why I had wanted to visit these particular countries of Europe. I wanted to know more and wanted to see it with my own eyes. Tom was factual and extremely honest – he pulled no punches, nor did he support, excuse or apologise.
During that day we spent time at the Nazi Party Rally Grounds. Tom told us of the resistance to re-develop the site and the decision to let it remain as a reminder to never let that happen again. While Tom was speaking, not a sound was heard in our group except that of quiet weeping. Before we left this city, we ventured to the Court House where the Nuremberg Trials were held. And that visit to the place where justice spoke out loud seemed to be a fitting end to the day.
Nuremberg was only part of our journey, just one of the history chapters we ‘studied’ as we travelled across the continent. Each day we visited the now-peaceful villages along those rivers. However, in each town I continued to have a faint sense of a not-so-peaceful time past. The buildings destroyed during the war have since been re-built but most have landmark reminders.
The sound of church bells echoing through the mountains and valleys on that journey was the music of Europe. I am now very glad we approached these countries from the peaceful rivers and canals. It was a testament to a wonderful journey, and an unforgettable history lesson.