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Sip, cycle and savour: the case for slow travel in Europe

By Rebekah Funk

The so-called slow travel trend is on the rise, with travellers spending more time in fewer destinations to truly get a sense of the local customs, quirks and cuisine. And the more I travel, the more I realise that to see and experience a destination to its maximum potential, we harried adventurers need to stop and smell the ‘Riesling’. 

Sure Travel Journey's Assistant Editor, Rebekah Funk, and her husband on honeymoon in Europe.

Nowhere is this more true than Europe’s hilly towns and villages, where getting lost on winding paths through forests and vineyards is a treat rather than a hindrance. The dilemma? We don’t all have infinite days of leave. So how can one make the most of a holiday, yet still get that immersive “slow travel” feel?

Stock photo.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises deliver a relaxed travel experience: you’ll float past mountaintop fortresses, red roofed farm villages, Dutch windmills, or onion-topped Baroque churches (depending on your destination). It’s 100% stress-free travel, without the traffic or turbulence. 

Photo courtesy of Uniworld.

Plus, travellers can save 30% on select 2020 Uniworld sailings (more than R25,000!) when you book and pay with Sure Travel before 3 January (see details below). Click here to get in touch with your nearest agent to enquire or book. 

A river cruise means you can see multiple destinations without having to pack-and-unpack every few nights, including some of the most spectacular landscapes, away from the typical tourist traps.

Photo courtesy of Uniworld.

Case and point? One of my favourite experiences on honeymoon earlier this year was visiting Nikolaihof, a family-owned and operated organic winery in Austria’s Wachau Valley that’s grown grapes for wine since Roman times (for more than 2000 years!).

Photo by Rebekah Funk.
Photo by Rebekah Funk.

As my husband and I sampled a vintage processed with the farm’s 300-year-old heavy timber wine press, we couldn’t help but marvel at the generations of knowledge, history and careful craft that seemed to permeate everything we’d seen so far in Europe. Part of Uniworld’s 7-night Enchanting Danube itinerary, the vineyard visit in Durnstein was a unique experience we’d never have found on our own. 

Photo by Rebekah Funk.
Photo by Rebekah Funk.

Same goes for our morning bike ride along the Inn River, which skirts the border of Germany and Austria. We hopped on bicycles and meandered tree-lined country trails to our destination — a pub with ice cold radlers (a drink made with beer and lemonade) on the Austrian side. 

Photo courtesy of Uniworld.

Bolstered by the beers, we pedalled back through town, stopping only to hear the bells of St. Stephen’s Cathedral clang noon. Passau’s Bavarian charm made us want to stay longer as soon as we arrived, tempting us with the smell of meat-stuffed döners and the bizarre-but-cute Dachshund Museum (dedicated to all things weiner dog). 

Photo courtesy of Uniworld.

As our days progressed — too quickly, I might add — we awoke daily to new delights. First, the Austrian city of Linz, where we opted to day-trip to Salzburg and Mondsee (made famous by Mozart and scenes from the Hollywood classic, The Sound of Music), stopping for as many coffees and sugar-dusted apple strudels as our belt notches would allow. 

Photo courtesy of Uniworld.

It was no easy task to leave the ship at cruise end. After all, we’d spent hours swapping stories, marriage and travel advice, photos and contact details with new friends we’d met. Somehow, we’d managed to become like family in the span of a week. It’s been one of the richest travel experiences of my life, despite having travelled 50 countries to date.

Photo courtesy of Uniworld.

>> Read more — Honeymoon Diaries: cruising the Danube River

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Explore Europe the slow way with Uniworld and Sure Travel 

Enchanting Danube (7 nights) from R32,900 p/p sharing

100th Anniversary Celebration Offer: book by 3 January 2020 and SAVE up to 30%! Cruise the Danube from Budapest to Passau on the S.S. Maria Theresa:

Classic cabin: R32,900 pps (was R47,000 pps)
French balcony cabin: R42,700 pps (was R61,000 pps)

Photo courtesy of Uniworld.

The shimmering waters of the fabled Danube River flow for thousands of miles through the very heart of Europe, silent witness to centuries of artistic achievement and historical events. This perfectly composed journey provides an immersive cultural tasting menu of four equally beguiling countries—ideal for first-time river cruisers as well as seasoned travellers seeking to experience yet another dimension of these much-loved destinations.

Photo by Rebekah Funk.

Click here for details.

. . .

Brilliant Bordeaux (7 nights) from R38,500 p/p sharing

100th Anniversary Celebration Offer. Save up to 30%! Book by 3 January 2020 to qualify. Bordeaux to Bordeaux onboard the S.S. Bon Voyage.

Classic cabin: now from R38,500 pps (was R55,000 pps)
Deluxe cabin: now from R 44,800 pps (was R64,000 pps)

Uncover the proud legacy and heritage of Southwest France. Set sail along three stunning rivers, the Garonne, Dordogne and Gironde, on one fascinatingly historical and invigorating journey. Explore the country’s breathtaking backdrops, wines and cultural treasures across the region in Bordeaux, Fort Médoc, Cadillac, Blaye, Libourne and more. Wander through archaeological marvels, historic landmarks and magnificent vineyards where you’ll be treated to a sampling of quintessentially French experiences.

Click here for details.

. . . 

Castles along the Rhine (7 nights) from R32,900 p/p sharing

100th Anniversary Celebration Offer: book by 3 January 2020 and SAVE up to 30%! Cruise along the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel on the S.S. Antionette, River Queen or River Empress.

Classic cabin: now from R32,900 pps (was R47,000 pps)
French balcony cabin:  now from R42,700 pps (was R61,000 pps)

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Find inspiration in the romantic, soul-stirring beauty of the fabled Rhine. Flowers tumble from baskets lining streets of half-timbered houses and lights glint off quiet canals. A mighty river carries ships and cargo through a landscape shaped by time and history. The spires of medieval churches and castles appear around each bend in the river, and vineyards climb the verdant hillsides.

Click here for details.

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Danube & Prague (9 nights) from R49,000 p/p sharing

100th Anniversary Celebration Offer - save up to 30%! Valid on select sailings between 29 March to 1 November 2020.

Classic cabin: now from R49,000 pps (was R70,000 pps; save R21,000!)
French balcony cabin: now from R58,800 pps (was R84,000 pps; save R25,200!)

Photo courtesy of Uniworld.

Experience dynamic Budapest, imperial Vienna and exquisitely preserved Prague. Marvel at ravishing scenery as your luxurious ship, the S.S. Beatrice, glides through the Wachau Valley, celebrated as one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, into Germany and past charming Bavarian villages. Exclusive treasures are plentiful on this delightful journey.  Go behind the scenes at a BMW factory to get an up-close view of Germany’s rich automotive heritage. This enchanting voyage provides a variety of ways to enjoy captivating destinations as well as plenty of time to relax on-board as you sail from Budapest to Nuremberg and spend two nights onshore in Prague.

Photo by Rebekah Funk.

Click here for details.

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Paris and Normandy (7 nights) from R 35,700 p/p sharing

100th Anniversary Celebration Offer - book by 3 January 2020 to save up to 30%! Cruise Paris and Normandy on the S.S. Joie de Vivre:

Classic cabin: now from R 35,700 pps (was R 51,000 pps)
Deluxe cabin: now from R 45,500 pps (was R 65,000 pps)

Photo courtesy of Uniworld.

Cruise from Paris through Normandy’s countryside, uncovering its many charms: Richard the Lionheart’s Chateau Gaillard, the medieval capital of Rouen, Monet’s beloved home in Giverny and the famed Normandy beaches. 

Normandy has been the setting for many battles over the centuries, including the D-Day invasion of WWII, and the Normandy Beaches mean different things to different people, so you’ll have a rare choice to visit several of its historic sites, including Omaha Beach. Experience a different side of Northern France’s history with a tour of the majestic palace of Versailles, once home to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Click here for details.

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