Today we are on a tour of Rothenburg on der Tauber. This is Germany’s finest example of a medieval town. We pass through scenic countryside on the way there. The fields are wheat, barley, sugar beet and canola, and amazingly there are no fences in the fields. Properties are marked by boundary stones that are regularly checked with significant fines for anyone who tampers with them. The land here is so fertile that animals are kept right next to the farm houses or villages. Anywhere there is hilly ground gives rise to vines. Contrary to intuition the vines run down the hill because terracing takes up too much room. It is forbidden to irrigate the vines. The sugar beet is harvested for a sugar plant here whose only customer is Coca Cola. They only operate for three months of the year. The other nine months they take the factory apart to clean it. So far they have not had any parts left over so all is good.
The “old” part of town is walled and wandering through it is special. The architecture, the history, the ambience and the greetings in German all go to add to the occasion. With way to little free time, we actually have to run to make it back in time for the buses – NOT HAPPY.
We spend time in the Bishop’s residence in Wurzburg which again is known as the Dome. It is one of the most important baroque palaces in Europe and it took sixty years to complete in the 18 century. The staircase is roofed by an unsupported vault with a painting, measuring 18 x 30 metres and is one of the largest frescos ever created. The decor in the palace is as ornate as any I’ve seen.
We’re tired little vegemites. It’s been a long day.
Sorry for not including any photos in my latest posts, but the Internet on the boat is atrocious.
We start off with a live glassblowing demonstration where a 6th generation German glass blower shows us the ins and outs of his art. The demo is fascinating and culminates in him revealing the trade secrets of how fibre optic cable is made. He culminates the demo using the equivalent of two cans joined by the fibre optic cable to verify that it works. He thinks this is funny but to a computer geek like myself, I hang my head in disbelief. Just joking, it is funny.
Today we tour Miltenberg with Rick and Linda. This quaint historic town dates back to 14 century. Our German tour guide is an English lady who came here 40 years ago doing this same tour and missed the pickup bus. Apparently she is still looking for the bus. Getting German historic advice from her in her posh English accent for me is hysterical. We have a lovely session with her.
The final part of our day is to visit Wertheim and we make a special point of visiting the shop where our German glass blower “lives” to see his full range of glass art but unfortunately we get there too late and the shop is closed.
Tonight is “Pop Around the Clock” evening with our favourite musicians Emma and Iliyan and it’s Judy’s night to shine when she stars as head of the conga line. I would love to join her but I am just laughing so hard.
Did I mention that we go through 66 locks to get to our final destination??? Luckily most of them seem to be at night where our intrepid crew work feverishly away while some of us are snoring the night away.
Today we visit Marksburg Castle. This one of countless castles on the Rhine, but Marksburg is a beautifully preserved 700 year old fortress that is remarkable in that it is the only castle that was never sacked. Most of the base of the castle is just hewn from bedrock. It is amazing that all throughout the castle grounds there are well manicured garden beds setup. They have a very interesting drop toilet just built out from the main hall wall. The toilet door was only used to keep potential raiders out of the castle. When using the toilet, the door was kept open so you could continue talking to your guests in the hall. The stair cases are so narrow and steep that I could only use them sideways. They have a black smith room and although this could be used for weapons, it is mainly used for farming implements and horse shoes. They have a torture room with racks and an assortment of gadgets. In the kitchen all produce was hung to keep it from rats and mice. They had a fridge. They kept winter ice in the cellar for use with the fridge. Apparently the ice lasted all summer long. They had their own chapel. The bedroom beds appear small because the early folk slept sitting up. They believed that if you laid down, the spirits would decide you were dead and take you away. Judy was smitten with our guide Pieter, something about a skinny and younger version of Richard Gere. Dam – looks like I’ve still got a lot weight to lose.
We return to the ship and set sail. It is a beautiful warm day and we setup on the sun deck to watch the numerous castles go by. We pass the Lorelei which is supposedly the most dangerous part of the river but for us its just time to order anther cocktail, wine or beer.
We decide to go back to our room and in less the ten minutes it goes from full sun to a raging thunder storm. Some of the people on the sun deck get drenched.
Back to serious matters – we attend a live presentation by Bogdan, our maître de, to learn how to make Rudeshiem coffee. Coffee, Asbach Uralt German Brandy, sugar, whipped cream and dark chocolate, mix it all to together and voila, Rudeshiem coffee – it’s delicious.
We have an enjoyable evening meal that we share with Jim and Marlene, and Rick and Linda. After tea we visit the lounge and listen to the boat’s fantastic musical duo. A fun night is had by all. Not sure how I made back to our cabin.
Today we are in Cologne. Our challenge today is to visit what is referred to as the Dome. It’s a cathedral that took about 630 years to build. There was a time when this was the highest man made structure on Earth. We start off the morning with the sun shining, so both of us decide not to take jackets. When we get to the Dome about 45 minutes later it is pouring with rain. Luckily one of our group takes pity on us and lends us an umbrella. We walk around the Dome and see first hand that the gargoyles on the Dome are specifically designed to channel rainwater away from the building. Luckily the Dome only suffered minor damage during Second World War.
We get to see a Roman arch that was part of the city wall. Nearby we see a Roman dig that has exposed a floor that has the most exquisite mosaics. There are also fine examples of their stone masonry art skills. There are other buildings that have Roman architecture but these are replicas to replace buildings destroyed in the war. Boy, those Romans certainly got around. They must have been on holiday like us.
In one of the squares, high up on a wall, is a bronze statue of a fairy apparently mooning the bishop (at the Dome). I would love to hear the storey behind that. I was not able to verify this on Google.
In Cologne, everything is Kolsch! The people are Kolsch, the beer is Kolsch, the chocolate is Kolsch, having a good time is Kolsch. So that is my new word for today – Kolsch!
Despite them making their own beer, apparently the Germans love their Guinness as well, so there are Irish pubs everywhere, Kolsch!
Colognes claim to fame is that an Italian family came here to set up a perfumery, hence “eau de cologne” and since then we also have the “4711” people (that was their house number) setup their business here as well.
We return to the boat. The boat is terrible (sic). They make us eat. They make us drink beer and wine. They make us talk and mingle with other couples. I can’t wait to get off (sic).
I forgot to say our boat’s name is the “Viking Lif”. This is to be our home for the next 15 days.
Today we tour the Kinderdijk Windmills and learn all about the Dutch water management program. The windmills are Unesco World Heritage listed and have families living in them on the understanding that they keep them in working order. They are still used but the main pumping is done with purpose built pumps with the windmills providing a backup or an emergency function. The ones we are seeing have been around since 1738. Their effort means that 30% of the Netherlands land area has been recovered from the sea. The one that we go through in its heyday was run by a family that had 13 children. Let me tell you there is not a lot of space in the windmill – not sure were the children stayed. Also when the mill is in full flight it shakes and rumbles and is noisy the whole time – not sure how well they slept?
In the late morning we weigh anchor and depart Kinderdijk and begin our trip up the creek. We visit the wheel house and get to talk to the captain. Shock upon shock, there is no wheel??? It is all just TV screens and a joystick to control the boat.
It’s a beautiful day and we sit on the deck for a while and watch the world go by. We attend the cocktail hour and welcome briefing where we get to meet the crew as well as some of the passengers. At the briefing the ladies we sit with are from Perth, but most of the people are Americans with a few Canadians. From here we go straight to another marvellous tea and head for bed.
Today we are on the boat. We do a quick tour of Amsterdam. As we found out yesterday bicycles rule the city. They have their own lanes and they do not stop. They go through red lights and everyone else, including pedestrians, cars, trucks, buses and trams stops for them. In fact you can tell which bike riders are not locals because they do stop at red lights. The Amsterdam central station has 10,000 bicycle parks.
In Amsterdam, all locals know the Amsterdam central station. All roads radiate from there. In fact all house numbers radiate from there. When you use the WC in Amsterdam central station it costs 70 Euro cents, but you get a voucher with your receipt that gives you discount for coffee purchased in Amsterdam main station – how ironic is that!!! In the Netherlands kids start school at age 4. All of the canals have barges that you are able to rent – it has become the “in” thing here. If we come again we might try them out for accomodation.
After our tour of Amsterdam we head back to the boat for a wine and cheese tasting on the Aquavit Terrace. This is followed by the mandatory security and safety briefing. We decide to have the Italian Chef Manfredi prepared set menu for tea along with the recommended wine selection. This is only 7 courses long. We waddle back to our room. We are done for the night.
Tomorrow it is the Kinderdijk windmills. We need our beauty sleep.