The Bavarian Cruise is a journey through German history – Orange County Register

The Bavarian Countess Hedwig Margarete unfortunately does not receive guests, even though I drink prosecco majestically in her castle founded in 1412, hidden in the enchanted German forest where Snow White lived.

Once upon a time, the Brothers Grimm, creators of fairy tales, stayed in this mansion belonging to an aristocrat named Schloss Mespelbrunn. It’s the home of the high-society widow Countess of Ingelheim, who currently sits in her private wing with her collection of porcelain rabbits while I ogle spooky helmeted armor and rusty daggers.

  • Colorful traditional half-timbered houses in the German town of Miltenberg near Frankfurt, Germany. (Stock)

  • Artisan chocolates are a mouth-watering draw in Bavaria. This confectionery from Eilles, established in 1873, is located in Würzburg. (Photo by Norma Meyer)

  • St. Clement’s Chapel and Reichenstein Castle lie in a UNESCO-listed stretch of the Rhine. (Photo by Norma Meyer)

  • The world’s largest church organ is housed in the baroque St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Passau, Germany. (Photo by Norma Meyer)

  • Gutenfels Castle, built in 1220, is one of many fortresses along Germany’s scenic Rhine. (Photo by Norma Meyer)

  • A sign outside the 600-year-old Schlenkerla smoked beer brewery in Bamberg displays the brewers guild’s age-old six-pointed Star of David-like emblem. (Photo by Norma Meyer)

  • Rheinstein Castle on the Rhine was built in the early 1300s, then purchased and rebuilt by Prince Frederick of Prussia in the 19th century. (Photo by Norma Meyer)

  • A statue of Saint Kunigunde, Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, watches over Bamberg where she is entombed in the Catholic Cathedral. (Photo by Norma Meyer)

  • Powerful prince-bishops lived in the sumptuous Würzburg residence, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Photo by Norma Meyer)

  • The Schloss Mespelbrunn, inhabited by the Countess, is located in the heart of the historic forest of Spessart. (Photo by Norma Meyer)

  • The Congress Hall, part of the gigantic Nazi Party rally ground in Nuremberg, was supposed to hold 50,000 people but was never completed. (Photo by Norma Meyer)

  • Our Viking river boat docks in the pretty town of Passau, near the Austrian border and once a medieval hub for the salt trade. (Photo by Norma Meyer)

  • The feuding knights left a bloody legacy at Sooneck Castle, one of many fortresses along the Rhine. (Photo by Norma Meyer)

  • The Old Town Hall is one of the architectural gems of Bamberg, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Photo by Norma Meyer)

  • Bamberg has been nicknamed “Little Venice” because of its picturesque canals. (Photo by Norma Meyer)

  • A dummy knight at Marksburg Castle, a fortress unscathed for centuries while protecting the town of Braubach. (Photo by Norma Meyer)

  • An old photo from the 1945 trial is shown in Courtroom 600 of the Nuremberg Palace of Justice, June 13, 2006. Courtroom 600 was specially reconstructed to hold the trials of 21 senior Nazi regime officials accused crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The trials began on November 20, 1945 and lasted 218 days. The International Military Tribunal handed down the sentences in October 1946. (DANIEL GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • The so-called Little Venice at sunset in Bamberg, Bavaria, Gerany. (Stock)

  • People walk on the steps of the main stage of the ‘Zeppelinfeld’ ( Zeppelin Field ) of the Reichsparteitagsgelaende (Nazi Party rally ground) in Nuremberg, southern Germany, September 9, 2013. It is the only building completed in the facilities provided at the Nazi Party rally ground. In the years 1935-1937, the Zeppelin Field, designed by Albert Speer (1934), was transformed into a parade ground with grandstands. (CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A visitor stands on the main stage of the ‘Zeppelinfeld’ ( Zeppelin Field ) of the Reichsparteitagsgelaende ( Nazi Party rally ground ) in Nuremberg, southern Germany September 9, 2013. It is the only completed building in the facilities provided at the Nazi Party Rally Grounds. In the years 1935-1937, the Zeppelin Field, designed by Albert Speer (1934), was transformed into a parade ground with grandstands. (CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • City of Bamberg during sunset. The old town hall (1386) of Bamberg was built in the middle of the Regnitz river. Two bridges connect it to the old town of Bamberg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and famous for its medieval appearance. (Stock)

Earlier, outside the Renaissance-style mansion, I was tossing fish food pellets at splashing rainbow trout in the moat; some of their horseradish-smoked relatives are soon served on pheasant-patterned china to 11 other commoners who join me under antler chandeliers and by a boarskin rug in the castle’s old-world drawing room . Shout a toast of “Prost!” we hoist stemmed glasses with the Schloss logo filled with bubbles from the 440-year-old Juliusspital winery, established by a pooh-bah prince-bishop who was born in the castle in 1545.

I’d love to brag about having a VIP invite, but I’m really here for a side trip on the Viking River Cruise. For half of Viking’s 15-day “Grand European Tour”, we’re in Germany, gazing at countless whimsical hilltop castles and wandering the cobbled lanes of Heritage-listed Cuckoo’s Tale villages. ‘UNESCO.

But it’s not all festive maypoles and giant pretzels. Deutschland’s darkest history resonates as we arrive in Nuremberg. There I stand uncomfortably on the huge Hitler rally grounds that fueled the fanatical hatred of the Nazis in the 1930s; later, I sit quietly in Courtroom 600 where the genocidal leaders of the Third Reich were convicted of war crimes at the historic Nuremberg Trials.

It’s hard to imagine the terror gone by when you walk through Bavaria’s beautiful medieval towns, especially those that escaped bombardment in World War II. Bamberg has 1,200 architectural gems, is nicknamed “Little Venice” for its picturesque canals, and is famous for its cold canals. More precisely its traditional smoked beer, zincated with malted barley dried over a wood fire.

A local student warns: “It has been described as kissing an ashtray. Or liquid salami.

At the 600-year-old Schlenkerla brewery (remember, beer was safer to drink than water in the Middle Ages), the dark, frothy rauchbier is quite tasty. Like barbecue chips.

Elsewhere, the pretty town of Miltenberg looks like a toy village, lined with pretty half-timbered gingerbread houses. In the 17th century, near the fountain adorned with cherubs, “witches” were burned alive.

“You’re in good company — Elvis had lunch at this restaurant,” says our Miltenberg guide. I’m about to tackle a softball-sized semmelknoedel dumpling at Gasthaus Zum Riesen, opened in 1411 and billed as Germany’s oldest inn. In the late 1950s, the king of rock was stationed in the army in Germany, training in a BMW roadster which he had painted red to hide lipstick marks from fans. Among the pub-hotel’s less faint-hearted guests are two emperors of the Holy Roman Empire and Napoleon Bonaparte.

Then, walking down the narrow main street, I come across two square brass bricks embedded in the ground. They are “stumbling blocks”, laid in various countries to commemorate the last place where Holocaust victims resided before being taken away by the Nazis. The plaques indicate that Carolina Hofmann and Berta Mannheimer were deported from this building in Miltenberg in 1942 and died in Theresienstadt concentration camp.

In Nuremberg, I get a chilling look at how Hitler’s megalomaniacal cult propelled him to power. The crumbling grandstands remain at Zeppelin Field, the scene of massive pre-war Nazi propaganda rallies; tourists take selfies at the podium from which the Führer watched as tens of thousands greeted him and dancing maidens in white flowing robes. The city left the decrepit relic as a dark lesson. Someone spray painted “Nie Wieder” which in German means “Never again”.

“You’ll be thrown in jail if you say ‘Heil Hitler’ or display a swastika in this town,” our guide tells us.

Nearby, in the unfinished Nazi Colosseum-style Congress Hall, the excellent, moving documentation center details the rise of the racist regime and the systematic slaughter of millions of Jews and others. Our afternoon ends at the Palace of Justice, site of the Nuremberg Trials of 1945-46. A sense of reverence washes over me as I sit in the gallery of the wood-paneled courtroom where an international tribunal has convicted 18 prominent Nazis, sentencing most to hang. Curiously, a snake-haired jellyfish and sinful Adam and Eve adorn a sculpture above an entrance door. Murder cases are still tried here.

Besides Nuremberg, our daily tours explore the less sinister side of the region – the extravagant, rococo-adorned all-mirror hall of the princely residence of Wurzburg; the largest cathedral organ in the world in Passau with 17,974 pipes (a breathtaking sound!); a medieval toilet located so that the noble toilet user could hear the minstrels singing in the 700 year old Marksburg Castle.

As our Viking ship floats along the legendary Rhine, turreted fortresses worthy of “Game of Thrones” keep springing up, surrounded by emerald terraced vineyards and strange ancient traditions. on each other. Sooneck Castle is where a blind sniper imprisoned in a dungeon shot his captor knight in the throat with an arrow. Seeing the castle on the deck of the boat, I will not meet a countess – but I certainly have a lot to think about from this trip.

Find out more: www.vikingrivercruises.com.