A popular embarkation port for Danube River cruises, the German town of Vilshofen provides a friendly introduction to the charming small towns that you'll encounter throughout your trip. The river is so important to the town that it's part of the official name: Vilshofen an der Donau, which translates to "on the Danube." (The river Vils, which meets the Danube here along with the Wolfach, is responsible for the first part of the name.)
A Bavarian burg that dates back to 776, Vilshofen has a famous local son in Josef Groll, a brewer who is known as the "Father of the Pils." His beer, Pilsner Urquell, might have become famous in Bohemia, but it was Groll and his father who invented bottom fermentation. The resultant brew is considered the inspiration for two-thirds of the beer produced today. Often, river cruise lines feature the beer with pretzels and Bavarian music in a mini "Oktoberfest" celebration.
The closest airport to Vilshofen is Munich, about 90 minutes to two hours away. Many river cruises offer transfers, either included in the fare or for purchase (if you go on your own, expect to pay at least 75 euros per person). Popular pre-trips for river cruises that begin in Vilshofen include Munich and surrounding Bavaria, or Prague, which is about three-and-a-half hours away. While Vilshofen is pleasant and worth a stroll, it's not a place where you need to stay overnight; you can arrive the same day your ship leaves and still see the highlights.