Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Main - Danube Canal

The Rhine Valley – travelling up the Rhine from Amsterdam through Holland (briefly) and then into Germany – this is a feast of history. In the first few days in Germany we experienced views of castles, monasteries and churches – one after the other and all impressive and old. I now understand why my father said you didn’t know the meaning of “old)” until you came to Europe. This river has been the passage way for Europe since Roman times. Tax seems to have been a big deal in times past with 80 per cent tax being average, if you revolted, you and everybody else in the peasant class were massacred.
We enjoyed a dinner in the medieval castle at Marksburg – this 12th century castle is the only castle in this part of the world that is truly authentic – many others have been restored or rebuilt over time. The dinner included our own jesters – who sang, juggled and embarrassed people in the audience – all with good humour and lots of laughter.
The next morning we cruised through the most beautiful part of the Rhine Gorge – castle after castle – jaw dropping beauty and stunning views – all those ads on TV must have been filmed here. F was up on the top deck with camera in hand from 6.30 am to lunch. The ship travels at about 14 knots so the wind chill factor made it pretty cold – 2 scarves, coat and her Scenic blankie helped. F sat there without leaving and with new friends Lou and Nancye, who are on their second trip on this boat because they loved it so much. R played servant and plied F with breakfast, cups of tea etc . In the afternoon we arrived in Rudesheim where R went to the fascinating Musical instrument museum and then took the cable car to the Niederwald monument. F (who knows better than to go on high cable cars) wandered the town and found a few shops open – also walked through vineyards being trimmed by Polish workers in the sunshine.
That night we cruised through locks to Wertheim and again wandered this lovely town. Some of our fellow travellers chose a serious hike or a 25 km bike ride – they have real issues apparently – we are doing enough walking to exercise the body to exhaustion – but there’s always another church, monument or town square around every corner. We have had brilliant weather in this stretch with beautiful blue skies making for amazing photos – we are averaging about 600 – 800 a day so will bore you all at some stage.
Monday we came to Rothenburg after a 1.5 hour ride down the Romantic Road along the Rhine – this was a beautiful small town which has really retained much of its old character (It was only minimally bombed in WW2) – we wandered the streets after some German sausage and mustard (declining the sauerkraut) – also enjoyed actually getting up and walking some of the length of the town walls and imagining what it must have been like when defending your town was part of the normal activity. We all agreed this was a favourite town.
The next day another town (Bamberg) – and more monuments, castles and churches – they take your breath away with their beauty and the skill of people who built them. Need to reread Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett). F was on a shopping mission with lots of clothes stores open until 6pm and we had to catch a taxi back to the boat. We had afternoon tea in a rose garden and included some pics for T.
Wednesday we arrived in Nuremburg – and our first day of poor weather – drizzly day but maybe this is appropriate for this city which was the centre of Hitler’s propaganda campaign for the National Socialist Party. This time we did a bus tour of the sights of the city – first to the unfinished “Colosseum” – planned by Hitler to show off his new empire – we also saw the sites of the Nuremburg rallies – all of it chilled me. Our guide was a Welshman who is part of a large history association teaching people (especially young people) about the power of propaganda and the importance of tolerance. In 1935 there was one nationality only represented in Nuremburg – Germans. Today they are a multicultural society of 145 nations including many invited groups such as Turkish.
After this sombre part of this city’s history we then toured the Old town which dates to the 11th century and drove up to the castle which really gave you the sense of a fortified position that in the middle-ages had 2 walls and multiple internal defences to ensure its survival. After warm drinks we walked around the town, bought some amber earrings for F and then returned to the boat for a lazy afternoon.
In the past few days we have travelled through 32 locks (most at night) on the Rhine to raise us up to the level to meet the Main Canal. Fascinating pieces of engineering. We have then sailed on the Main River and are now on the Main – Danube stretch with another 12 locks including the tallest on the trip(up to 25m) – we basically go up about 1000 feet to the top and then down another 450 to meet the Danube – climbing over a mountain on a canal route – fascinating.
I have had discussions with the captain about training (of course) including training for the ship’s engineer (a diesel fitter) and the hotel staff and chefs. One of the chefs is an Indonesian who has worked the P&O line out of Brisbane including to Samoa. He is now on an 11 month contract with Scenic so he won’t see his family in Indonesia until the end. The captain on the other hand does 8 weeks straight and then 4 weeks off when he flies to his wife in China where they spend 4 weeks travelling through SE Asia - what different life stories there are out there.
From a cool and damp Germany (Just for today)

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