By Steven Skelley and Thomas Routzong
Naturists and Nudists that desire to enjoy a Viking River Cruises Grand European Tour through Hungary, Austria, Germany and The Netherlands have ample opportunities for clothing-optional recreation.
Naturist federations in each of the countries offer information on naturist and nudist clubs, parks and resorts.
Federation of Naturists in Hungary
Austrian Naturist Federation
German Naturist Federation / Deutscher Verband für Freikörperkultur
The Netherlands Naturist Federation
Naturisten Federatie Nederland
The International Naturist Federation also lists naturist resorts and clubs all across Europe at http://www.inf-fni.org/Home/Clubs-Resorts/Europe
And if you have a ship cabin with a balcony as we did, you can always enjoy nude time as you sail up the scenic rivers.
The Viking River Cruises Grand European Tour is simply one of the best cruises that we have ever experienced. It's that easy to describe.
Where else can you enjoy a 15-day cruise with 12 guided tours visiting 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, while enjoying 14 breakfasts, 13 lunches, 14 dinners, complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks during onboard dinner and lunch service, concerts ranging from Austrian classics to baroque organ music, lectures on Germany, Holland and the European Union and free Wi-Fi?
Our Viking River Cruises Grand European Tour was the perfect mix of relaxation, education and exploration.
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. It has been called one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. We arrived after sunset but its beauty was still clearly evident.
The night view from the top deck of the ship is simply stunning. The palaces, government building and bridges are all lit at night. Have your camera ready because the reflections in the river make for fantastic vacation photos.
On the morning of our second day, we chose to enjoy the "Hungary's Graceful and Inspiring Capital" tour.
Budapest is a mix of classical and modern architecture separated down the middle by the Danube River but connected by the Chain Bridge since 1849.
Our tour began in modern Pest where we viewed the beautiful Andrassy Avenue, the Hungarian Opera House, and the Heroe's Square monuments.
We crossed the Chain Bridge to the historic Buda side of the city where we strolled the Castle District. At this hilltop castle complex, we explored the turrets of Fishermen's Bastion, medieval Matthias Church and the spectacular views from Buda Hill.
After our morning tour, we still had plenty of time to explore on our own. We walked from Pest to Buda across the Chain Bridge over the Danube and back again. We walked down to the imposing Parliament Building and also spent time contemplating "The Shoes On The Danube" memorial to the Holocaust victims that were executed here on the banks of the river.
If we had just had a little more time, we would have loved to have visited the famous thermal baths that were once enjoyed by ancient Romans.
For naturists, the Naturist Oasis Camp in Délegyháza is just south of Budapest http://www.naturista.hu/ and the Naturist Park Szigetmonostor is just north of Budapest, in Szigetmonostor www.naturistasziget.hu.
Along the river outside of Budapest, we saw naturists doing yoga nude on the riverside as we sailed by.
Vienna is the capital of Austria. Musical icons including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert and Johannes Brahms worked in Vienna. It has been called the "City of Dreams" because it was the home of the world's first psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.
Ornate is the key word for Vienna architecture. The historic structures, monuments, churches, palaces, homes and government buildings are works of art to be studied and enjoyed.
Retail stores from the most chic to the obligatory souvenir shops near the Vienna State Opera all fit the theme of historic and fashionable.
The Giant Ferris Wheel which was erected to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Franz Josef I in 1897 offers a wonderful view of the city and an excellent photo opportunity.
We chose to explore Vienna by the "Essential Overview of the City of Waltzes" tour. We drove into the city by bus and then walked to various highlights including:
* The Ringtrasse grand boulevard lined with elegant palaces, private homes and public buildings
* The Hofburg Palace winter residence of the powerful Hapsburg dynasty
* The Spanish Riding School with world famous Lipzzaner horses
* The gothic St. Stephen's Cathedral
* The Vienna State Opera Hall with Mozart inspired frescoes
There is a two level, paved walking path along the river. Be sure to watch for the black rabbits, brown rabbits and swans. Neither the rabbits nor the swans seem afraid of humans and almost seem to pose to have their pictures taken.
Just a short walk from the Danube docking site is The Grow Shop: a marijuana store. It is a great place to take a silly photo to show family and friends back home.
There is a naturist area along the New Danube from the Steinsporn Bridge to the Waluliso Bridge where hundreds of naturists enjoy the sun along the river.
We asked International Naturist Federation INF-FNI President Sieglinde Ivo about it, “Yes, in Vienna near by the Naturistenpark Lobau, there is on one side of the Danube around 10 km free beach for naturists.”
We spent the morning cruising the Wachau Valley that is filled with beautiful hillside vineyards and castle ruins including Duerrstein castle where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned by Leopold V.
With abbeys, monasteries, churches, castles and the terraced vineyards with their stone wall supports all along the river, it is a photographer's dream come true.
Find a comfortable spot on the top deck, sip a refreshing beverage and enjoy the beauty passing slowly by on both sides of the ship.
Floating down the river through the Wachau Valley is like slowly strolling through a museum containing some of the most beautiful scenic paintings in the world. Enjoy!
Once the ship docked, we toured the 900 year old Benedictine abbey at Melk.
Melk Abbey has 365 windows (one for each day of the year), imperial rooms, ceiling frescoes and a library that is filled with floor to ceiling shelves holding priceless hand-copied ancient books.
The abbey also contains a strange artifact: a human jawbone in a golden stand. It is meant to honor an innocent man that was unjustly executed.
There are also extravagantly dressed mummified human bodies in the church itself.
Melk Abbey is a strange and wonderful mixture of imposing fortress, extravagant palace and sacred religious site.
Located in the beautiful Austrian Alps, Salzburg is one of Austria's most picturesque Alpine cities.
Salzburg was once a world power dealing in salt. The word Salzburg means "salt fortress." Later it became the birthplace of the musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It received international recognition again as the setting for the film "The Sound of Music."
We chose the optional "Salzburg Highlights" tour. We enjoyed a walking tour of the old town which was designed and built by imported Italian artisans.
We visited Mozart's home where throngs of people stand to have their photo taken.
We explored Mirabell Gardens where the opening scenes from the "The Sound of Music" were filmed and the cemetery where the family hid from the Nazis during their escape.
We could have spent hours in the gardens and streets photographing the statues, fountains and artistic landscaping.
For naturists, the Natur u. Sport am Chiemsee e.V. is located near Salzburg. They can be reached by email at Zimmerei.Geistanger@t-online.de but they do not have a website.
Regensburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The medieval city was somehow untouched by bombing in World War II. It is considered one of Germany's best preserved cities with Roman city walls erected by Marcus Aurelias.
We chose to enjoy the "Regensburg Walking Tour." From the ancient Roman city walls to the 12th century Old Stone Bridge to the Old Sausage Kitchen (the oldest restaurant in Germany), we walked the cobblestone streets of this Medieval city.
Our hearts were touched when we viewed the memorial to the Jewish synagogue that had been destroyed and by the Stumbling Blocks memorials in the cobblestone streets remembering those killed by Nazis.
For naturists, the Sonnland Bund Regensburg club has been open for 50 years with 20,000 square meters of land and a swimming pool. Visit http://www.sonnlandbund.de/ for more information.
A map of naturist opportunities in all of Germany can be found at http://www.iswimnu.de/nudist-naturist-clothing-optional/germany/map.html.
Nuremburg is Bavaria's second largest city. It is filled with beautiful half-timber homes and Gothic churches. Unfortunately, it was chosen by Adolph Hitler as the site for some of his most aggressive propaganda.
We chose to see the city on the "Nuremburg City Tour." We viewed Nuremburg's medieval city walls which stretch almost three miles and still have 80 original watchtowers. We passed the Imperial Palace fortress. We visited Market Square with its craft and vegetable stalls and enjoyed lunch at a local bratwurst restaurant.
For lovers of history, be sure to visit Zeppelin Field (the Nazi parade grounds), Hitler's Colosseum (modeled on the one in Rome) and the Palace of Justice where the Nazis finally faced justice in the Nuremberg Trials.
For naturist opportunites near Nuremburg, visit the League for Family Sport Wendelstein at http://ligawendelstein.de/ or the Community Sports Sun eV Nuremberg at http://www.sgsonnenfreunde.de/.
Medieval Bamberg is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was founded in 902 A.D.
We toured the city on the "Bamberg Walking Tour." For almost 5 hours, our guide walked us through the streets, along the canal and up to the hilltop cathedral which was home to Emperor Henrich II and Pope Clement II. The cathedral museum claims to have splinters from the actual cross of Jesus as well as the mounted skulls of Heinrich and his wife Kunigunde!
Beside the Bamberg Cathedral, the Neue Residenz resembles a palace. It was the home of prince-electors and prince-bishops who held both religious and secular authority. The panoramic view from the Rosengarten (Rose Garden) is fantastic.
For naturists, the Natur- u. Sportbund Bamberg e.V. is located in Bamberg. They can be reached by email at Natur-Sportbund-Bamberg@arcor.de but they do not have a website.
We decided that we couldn't pass up the opportunity to follow Bavaria's Romantic Road to one of Germany's last remaining medieval walled towns. Rothenburg ob der Tauber means Red Fortress above the Tauber.
Rothenburg is everything you hope a medieval city would be. It is a medieval town that still functions in modern society. Make sure that you have lots of space on your camera memory card because this place is filled with amazing photo opportunities.
We walked the city's defensive walls from top to bottom. We climbed the dark winding stairways of the towers. We photographed beautiful gardens and stunning panoramic views of the river and valley below. We enjoyed every moment of our Rothenburg visit.
After our Rothenburg adventure, we spent a few hours exploring the Bishop's Residenz Palace and Garden in Wurzburg. The large and ornately decorated palace features a 2000 square foot frescoe titled "Four Continents" by Venetian artist Giovanni Tiepolo. Some of the scenes are quite humorous as the artist had never seen some of the desired animals in person so he used his imagination to fill in the blanks. Some of the paintings are remarkably three dimensional and the gardens are incredible.
For naturist opportunities, check with the Naturist Society of Franconia / Bavaria at http://www.nbf-wuerzburg.de/.
The view as the ship approaches Wertheim in simply phenomenal. The colorful and historic buildings along the river reflect in the waters as the 1000 year old castle watches over from the imposing hillside.
We walked the narrow streets of Franconian style homes along the Main and Tauber rivers and viewed the 800 year old Pointed Tower which leans amusingly to one side.
The walk up to Wertheim Castle is challenging. The cobblestone street is steep, uneven and somethimes slick. There is a turnstile at the top charging one Euro to enter the actual castle but you can still roam the outer walls and get a beautiful panoramic view of the city and the two rivers below.
RHINE SCENIC CRUISING & KOBLENZ, GERMANY
Our morning began with a scenic and tranquil cruise through one of Germany's most scenic regions called The Romantic Rhine. We cruised past endless vineyards ascending the hillsides and castles, castles and even more castles!
We sailed around the massive Lorelei Rock and heard the local myth of a beautiful woman named Lorelei who lured sailors to crash against the rocks.
We docked in Koblenz beside the massive statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I on his horse. Cable cars taking tourists across the river glided over our heads.
We strolled the paved walkways in both directions along the waterfront enjoying the gardens and statues.
Naturists can visit the Family Sports Association Koblenz-Bad Ems eV in Koblenz. They have a sauna, swimming pool, volleyball and more. Their website can be visited at https://www.fsg-koblenz-badems.eu/de_DE/.
Cologne is a 2000 year old city that is an interesting mixture of the cherished ancient and the progressively modern. It is where the perfume "cologne" originated that soon became greatly desired by all of Europe's royal families.
We chose to try the "Bruhl UNESCO Palaces" tour of the Augustusburg castle. Unfortunately, you can't win them all. The castle and grounds just could not match the previous palaces we had visited. It was less than impressive and we could not wait for our tour to end.
On the bright side, once we returned to Cologne, we enjoyed walking the waterfront promenade where locals relax, talk and exercise. A leisurely walk along the river brought us past churches, love locks on the bridge, parks with ice cream shops and restaurants, statues and a theater that resembles a circus tent. Our riverfront walk was the highlight of our Colonge visit.
In Cologne, naturist options include Lichtkreis Koln http://www.lichtkreiskoeln.de/ and Familien Sportbund https://fsb-erftland-ville.de/.
KINDERDIJK, THE NETHERLANDS
Kinderdijk is the kind of place that photographers dream about! Just steps from where the ship docked, there were 19 remarkably preserved windmills. Many of them are 200 to 300 years old!
We chose to explore on our own rather than joining the free tour. The blue skies and ancient windmills reflected into the dark water of the canals in a picture-perfect scene again and again.
Kinderdijk, the largest concentration of windmills in the Netherlands, offers an iconic view of the Dutch landscape.
AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
Our amazing Viking River Cruise came to an end in Amsterdam. Our only view of the city was from the ship's deck just before we boarded a bus for the Amsterdam airport for our flight home.
We hope to return and explore Amsterdam one day as well.
Amsterdam has several official naturist park areas including Brediusbad Amsterdam, Amsterdamse Bos, and Gaasperplas. For more information, visit http://www.strandje.nl/naturistenmap/naturistenmap.php.
SHIP & CREW INFO
Our ship had 95 outside staterooms, a sun deck with 360-degree views and shaded sitting areas, an organic herb garden, a putting green, a walking track, a lounge and bar with floor-to-ceiling glass doors, a restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows, optional al fresco dining, and 40" flat-panel Sony TV's.
We spoke with Captain Peter Sevcik and Hotel Manager Katja Geyersbach about the Viking River Cruise ships.
"We use Swiss Radar and GPS. We have an automatic transponder system that shows the location of our ship and every other ship on the river. The ship has eight propellers and four propulsion systems. Our engines are all electric. For low bridges, we can lower the wheelhouse but we must wait our turn in the locks," Katja told us.
"Katja Geyersbach is the best Hotel Manager in the company," added Captain Sevcik.
We found the crew and staff to be just as friendly and complimentary as their captain. Everyone excelled in serving their guests onboard. We found the crew and staff to be just as friendly and complimentary as their captain. Everyone excelled in serving their guests onboard. We couldn't have asked for better service.
VIKING CONTACT INFO
Visit the Viking Cruises website at http://www.vikingcruises.com
You can reach them by phone at 1-800-706-1483.
Visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VikingRiverCruises
Nudism and naturism are well accepted in many European communities. With a little research of the Hungary, Austria, Germany and The Netherlands Naturist Federation websites, you can plan your own clothing-free excursions and adventures.
The Viking River Cruises Grand European Tour is simply one of the best cruises that we have ever experienced. It was the perfect mix of relaxation, education and exploration. We are ready to go again!
Article and photos by Steven Skelley and Thomas Routzong. Copyright 2016 Sunny Harbor Publishing.
Contact Us: Sunny Harbor Publishing, PO Box 560318, Rockledge, FL 32956.
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