Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Because the bus rides were causing Ron some concern, he talked to our cruise directer Monique about his car sickness.  As was always the case, steps were taken to insure his comfort.  When we boarded the bus for Heidelberg, the front seat was reserved for us.  Once again this was a good/bad thing.  Ron felt better, but we couldn't ignore the treacherous moves our driver made on streets not built for a giant bus.

Heidelberg is home to Germany's oldest university, established in 1386, but we went to see the magnificent castle ruins.  It took 400 years to build and was severely damaged during the 30 Years' War and the War of Succession.  Heidelberg was largely spared during WWII, but it was already too late for the castle.

The only part that is safe enough for tours is the wine cellar where we viewed the world's biggest wine barrel.
The story is that taxes were paid in wine which was all poured into this giant barrel.  Then the castle servants were paid with wine out of this mixture.  Yum.

Only the facade remains standing on this section..

But I did like the unusual sundial.

And the view from the castle.

One more picture of the castle grounds.

This was the only day when we had an included lunch off the ship.
Monique had told us we were going to be served flank steak wrapped around a pickle.  Being the unadventurous eater that I am, I was hesitant.  But she had exaggerated the pickle angle.  There were only a few pieces of pickle in the mixture inside the flank steak.  It was good although none of us actually knew what that mixture was.  (Update - Our friend Richard has informed me that the dish is called Rouladen.  He says he makes it with chopped onions, bacon bits and mustard and without the pickle.  That sounds really good.)

It was in the Hotel Ritter, built in 1592.  Another gorgeous building.
After lunch, we had free time to walk around town and encountered our only rain of the trip.  Luckily my umbrella stayed nice and dry since I had left it on the bus.

The rain soon stopped and we walked down to the Old Bridge which is guarded by a bronze monkey.

We enjoyed the statuary on this pedestrian bridge.  This is Minerva, goddess of war among other things.

I'm not sure what this is on her shield.

Once again the bus had to catch up with the boat, driving through some protected forest on the way.

And we caught up in Miltenberg where the ship was now on the Main River (pronounced 'Mine'.)  (That's not our ship.)

We saw countless RVs and tents all along the Moselle and there also seemed to be a bike path all along the river.   It's great to see people enjoying the outdoors.  Some of the RVs looked like they had claimed a spot for the whole summer.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cruising on the Rhine

Now for what might have been my favorite day of the whole trip.  Although maybe I felt that way because we actually had time to rest in the afternoon.

First we hopped on a bus which took us to Marksburg Castle which is the only fortress of the middle Rhine ‘to have escaped destruction or well-meaning restorations.’  Since construction began in the 13th century, it was like a trip back into the Middle Ages.

I know it looks newer than the previous castle, but they plastered over the rock walls way back when and it was repainted only 100 years ago.

These cannon were 500 years old and shot really far.  (Okay, I don’t remember how far, but it was really, really far.)

Here’s Ron inspecting the kitchen.

As you can see, it was very different from the previous rebuilt castle.  The dining hall was furnished in a simpler style.

But still quite beautiful with the hand-painted walls.

Or covered with lovely tapestries.

They had an indoor toilet but the output just fell outside the castle.

There was even a dungeon with various instruments of torture.

After making a quick escape to the outside, we noticed two things.  First, the plants under the toilet looked especially lush.

And second, out boat was sailing off without us!

But never fear, our bus managed to catch up and we were treated to ‘A Taste of Germany’, including sausages, cheeses, and beer on the sundeck . . . 

While cruising along the beautiful Rhine.  We even had appropriate live entertainment and saw lots of scenic towns, each with its own castle.  It was unbelievably lovely and special.

We noticed the trains are doing a booming business with both passenger and freight trains passing often.

This particular castle had a unique method of holding prisoners.  Can you see it?

Here’s a close-up.  If this was an inducement to confess, I think it would be very effective.

But the day wasn’t quite over.  I know it sounds hopelessly touristy, but when we docked in Rudesheim, we rushed off to ride the cable car.

It carried us over the ever present vineyards and up to the impressive statue of Germania.

Unfortunately, she is covered for renovation and has been since 2008.  I wonder what’s holding up the progress.  But there was a great view from the top.

And as a reward for making it through this long post, here's a pretty German rose.

Monday, May 28, 2012


We arrived in Cochem (Germany) before breakfast after cruising smoothly all night.  Before falling asleep, I did feel one pretty good bump while going through one of the locks.  I guess we quickly learned to sleep through the minor bumps.  The only exception was a few days later when I awoke to what sounded like we ran over something which scraped along the bottom of the boat.  I was instantly wide awake and wondering if I should get out the life jackets.  Of course Ron slept through the whole thing.

Anyway, Cochem, bless you, is a pretty town guarded by impressive Reichsburg Castle.

Although the castle was originally built in the 13th century, it was destroyed when the French conquered the town in 1689 (obviously a common problem with castles.)  It was rebuilt in a mixture of styles in 1866 which made for a very interesting tour.

I was very impressed with all the tour guides and places we visited, but the thing that I feel made them exceptional was the use of the 'QuietVox.'  You see Ron wearing one of the units in this picture with his new friend.
Using one of these nifty boxes with attached earpiece, we could always hear our guide regardless of how many other people were in the vicinity.  I could run off a bit to snap a picture and not miss a word.  A couple of times the group moved off without me realizing it, but I managed to find them again.  That sounds easy, but you can't imagine how many other tour groups we encountered and all their different languages.

Castles are like dogs, you can't get far enough away from them to get a good picture.

The interior was luxurious.

With Dresden tiles around the fireplace.

And a jade stove.

This thing, whatever it is, is supposed to be good luck if you rub its belly.  I wasn't going to touch it, but noticed the fancy ceiling.

Although I associate beer with Germany, this is wine country.  In fact, since the water was tainted in the past, everybody drank wine in large tankards like these.
I wondered how they accomplished anything with all that drinking, but we were told the alcoholic content was less then.  Uh-huh . . .

In keeping with its reputation as the center of the Moselle wine trade, Cochem enjoys an annual wine festival.  Previously, this fountain in the town square actually flowed with wine during the festival.  I guess the health department put a stop to that.

Ron was always looking for good German bakery and found the best in Cochem.

Once we were back on the boat and cruising, we noticed this fancy building with the highway running right through it.  Strange.

And the vineyards just kept getting steeper.

In Koblenz, the Moselle empties into the Rhine.  We were told about a face on a wall that had moving eyes and stuck out his tongue on the hour.  We thought we had found it and were standing with cameras at the ready, but nothing happened.  I finally asked a local young person if it stuck out its tongue and received a negative reply along with a look that said, "You crazy American!"
I guess I should have listened to the directions better.  One of my many faults.  Some of our shipmates did find the correct head, but said he wasn't as cute as ours.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Along the Moselle

We were so lucky to have lovely weather for our trip.  Just picture it.

The Moselle river region is known for its wine and all along the river banks are vineyards.  Even on the steepest banks, every space is utilized.
It seemed to me that it would be easier to plant the rows horizontally instead of vertically, but it's something about the maximum sun exposure.  Anyway, what do I know?

The river boats are built to just fit under all the bridges.  Sometimes they even close the upper deck to avoid knocking out any paying customers.

Our first docking was at Bernkastel-Kues, which used to be two towns across the river from each other until they consolidated in 1905.  

Every town seems to have a castle.  Unfortunately Bernkastel's castle was destroyed by a fire in 1792, but it's still pretty picturesque.

Another cute town square.

The town is known for its beautiful half-timbered houses.

When we were walking down this street, we heard a band tuning up.  Ron anticipated hearing some good German music so we hung around.  Suddenly the band belted out 'Help', the old Beatles song.  We just cracked up.  That's what we get for assuming anything.

As promised, here's a picture of our boat.  Our room was about in the center of the boat with one of those windows that are about a foot above the water.  There were pros and cons to this location.  We had a duck's eye view and got our window washed regularly.  Also we climbed 1 1/2 flights of steps every time we went anywhere, which can be taken as a pro or a con.  But the biggest disadvantage was that our window didn't open, although I guess that's probably a good thing.  LOL

Ah, the end of another perfect day.