Noa Lerner-Sauerbaum on her Cologne river cruise excursion experience:
I was born in the Rhine Valley, and a river cruise on my favorite waterway has always been on my bucket list. I never imagined, however, that my river adventure would fit so well with the central passion of my life: exploring Jewish heritage in Europe and making it more
accessible to visitors from around the world. When we began our collaboration with Uniworld, one of
the most respected cruise lines in Europe, I suddenly had the opportunity to join a river cruise in preparation for the launch of our first season of tours.
The rivalry between the neighboring cities of Cologne and Dusseldorf is deep and never-ending. However, even a “Düsseldorfer Mädchen” (a “girl” from Düsseldorf) like myself has to admit that Cologne is the true “heart” of German Jewry. Although the city is better known to the world at large for the two mighty towers of its Cathedral, Jewish presence in Cologne dates back as far as the year 321.
When the current reconstruction efforts are finished, Cologne will open a Jewish museum with artifacts much older than other Jewish museums in the area. The famous mikvah, also under construction, is at the center of an impressive new “archeological area”.
Climbing down the steep stairs to the mikvah always made me feel connected in a very special way to our foremothers, who did not have the luxury of heating and comfortable, spa-like mikvot! They persevered nonetheless, and we can fortunately still – and again - experience Jewish life in the Rhine Valley.
Cologne is not very well known for Zionism, but in fact the city played a major role in the movement’s development. Forerunners of Theodor Herzl, such as Max Isidor Bodenheimer and David Wolffsohn, worked in Cologne in the early 20th century, turning the city into one of the most important centers of the Zionist movement. Our guide offered insight into this portion of Cologne's Jewish history at a memorial plaque to these important figures.
Perhaps one of the most extraordinary “Jewish sites” on our journey along the Rhine River was, however, a challenging and thought provoking piece of art: Maalot, by Dani Karavan. Karavan, whom I
have admired ever since I saw his homage to Walter Benjamin in Portbou, has created a very special work of art here at a prominent location between the river Rhine and the Cathedral.
After a stimulating day in Cologne, we returned to the dock. Quietly sailing into the night, our Rhine River Cruise ship headed towards Frankfurt.