Europe’s Rivers & Castles on the AmaWaterways Amalegro - Part 3

8/20/11 to 9/4/11

 

Page 1 -  Pre-cruise in Paris, France

Page 2  - Luxembourg; The Ship; Trier, Germany; Bernkastel, Germany

Page 3  -  Cochem, Germany; Koblenz, Germany; Rudesheim, Germany; Mainz, Germany; Heidelberg, Germany; Miltenberg, Germany; Wertheim, Germany;

Page 4  -  Wurzburg, Germany; Rothenburg, Germany; Bamberg, Germany; Nuremberg, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic

 

Koblenz to Rudesheim

We had a difficult decision for the day’s excursion.  We could either go to Chochem and visit the Reichsburg Castle or go to the town of Koblenz and see the national flower show that is only put on every few years and in different parts of the country.  I really wanted to go to the castle, but decided on the flower show, since I might never get another chance to see something like that. 

The boat arrived in the small town of Winnegan for each group to go to the bus for their particular excursion.  Our guide for this day would be Chris.  Once again we had a very knowledgeable guide.  Plus he was very easy to find, since he was dressed in bright red.  He told us that our tour would begin on top of the hill where the fortress was.  We would then take a funicular down to the main town and exhibit area.  It sounded good to me.

 

Chris explained that this was more of a gardening show than a flower show, although there were lots of flowers.  There were many displays devoted to how things were grown. 

    

   

There was information on bees, and a strange display that tried to explain how bats navigate without being able to see.  I still don’t understand that display.  Of course it probably would have helped to be able to read the German signs.

    

Chris told us that the storm that went through the previous day had caused lots of damage in Koblenz also, and some of the displays were closed for safety reasons.  A tree branch had killed a resident the previous day when the storm went through, and the organizers were checking to make sure everything was safe and secure before letting visitors into certain areas.

One area that was open was an elevated viewing platform that provided a panoramic view of the river and town below.

 

   

Looking back from there, we could see some of the displays we had walked by. 

 

Carol was pleased to find the rose garden section.  She is a rose aficionado and was thrilled to see what was there.

    

   

The gardens had a lot more than roses in them.  There were a lot of gorgeous flowers.  Many varieties I had never seen before, although Carol was familiar with most of them.

   

The tour next went to some greenhouse exhibits.  There were some pretty flowers and other plants; but by now I already knew that I probably should have gone on the other tour to see the castle while Carol did the flower show.  Oh well, the next time we are in the area, the castle will still be available to tour.

    

We walked to the funicular, which was next to the old fortress.  We asked Chris what the orange things were that were lying on the grass.  He said that they were cushions that guests could sit on to picnic or relax while at the show. 

    

The multi-million dollar funicular was built just for the show to move people between the two exhibit areas.  It will remain after the show is over as a tourist attraction.  The ride down was very nice.  We passed by a large statue of William I.

    

From this level, we could look up and see more of the fortress.

 

While we were there, we saw a group of people walking around in period costumes.  They were having a great time.  They really looked the part.  They were in different areas most of the time we were there, and we saw them several times.  It was a nice additional touch to the festivities.

    

We came across an unusual statue of a thumb.  I never found out what the significance of it was.  Perhaps we were at a hitch hiking museum and didn’t know it.

 

That wasn’t the only strange statue we saw.

 

There was an area of exhibits that were enclosed by hanging chains.  I didn’t understand that either.

 

 

Koblenz was a pretty town with lovely statues and buildings. 

   

it was made even prettier with all of the flower displays.  Unfortunately, most of them will be removed after the show because the upkeep on the plants would be prohibitive.

    

   

We rejoined the ship for one of the highlights of the trip, a cruise through the Rhine Gorge.  First we had lunch and then I spent most of the afternoon on the top deck.  The temperature was around 70, so it was a great afternoon.  There are about 16 castles that were shown on the handout map, that we would see between Koblenz and Rüdesheim.  For most of the afternoon, Cruise Director Csaba stayed in the wheelhouse announcing what was coming up next to see. 

There were many castles.  Some were in ruins and some still in use.  In addition to the castles, it was nice to watch the small towns pass by.

    

   

   

Near Lorelei Rock is a statue dedicated to the Lorelei.  Lorelei Rock is at the narrowest point in the Rhine River between Switzerland and the North Sea and is more of a hill than a rock.  The Lorelei was supposed to be a woman who distracted the sailors and made them crash into the rock.

    

At the Reichenstein Castle, we were told about the basket hanging near the top of the castle.  The castle is known for its torture chamber.  After the victims were tortured for whatever reason, they would stuff them into the metal basket to show the people that they meant business.

    

As we continued down the river, there were large castles on both sides of the river.  We heard tales of family feuds and wars between some of the castles.  This was such a great way to spend an afternoon.  This is the type of experience that makes river cruising so popular.

 

   

   

We passed several more castles and pretty towns before docking in Rüdesheim. 

   

 

 

We docked at 5:30 PM and had an excursion scheduled to Seigfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet Museum at 8:45 PM.  It is devoted to automated musical instruments.  It is the second most popular tourist destination in Germany.  Several people decided to leave the boat early to explore the World Heritage city and eat in town.  Since we had visited Rüdesheim before, we decided to stay on the boat and enjoy the German Dinner before the excursion. A mini-train similar to the one we used in Paris was waiting to take us to the museum. 

 

With the excursion starting so late, there wasn’t much to see through the darkness on the ride to the museum.  When we arrived there, the half-timbered castle like structure was brightly illuminated. 

 

When we entered the museum, the lighting was pretty dim and we weren’t sure what we were supposed to be looking at.  Then the guide turned the lights on in an adjoining room to reveal some marvelous looking objects.  The group moved into the room; but there were so many people in our group, that room was very crowded.  He pushed a button on the largest object and it started playing music.  It was like a massive music box with lots of instruments packed into it.

 

He described some of the pieces and then we moved to another room and revealed more treats as he turned on the lights in that room.  This time the largest item looked like a sultan’s palace.  Once again he pushed a button to play music.  It was even better than the previous one. 

 

Each room had several fascinating looking devices, but he only played one in each room.  The museum would be a most interesting place to examine when there was more time.  I was curious about what the ones that weren’t demonstrated did. 

    

The next room had some old phonographs that he demonstrated as well as a large piece of furniture that resembled a piano.

    

He explained that the large piece was one of the most special in the museum.  Then he pushed the button, the doors opened and the violins were exposed.  Then they began playing.  Absolutely amazing.

    

We walked up some stairs to a domed ceiling room.  The main object in the room was an old player piano.  The guide asked if anyone wanted to play a tune for us.  No one volunteered, so he played a quick tune and then let the piano play one on its own.

    

By that time, the tour was starting to get uncomfortable with the large group, since it was getting warm and there didn’t seem to be much ventilation or air conditioning.  Before leaving the ship, our group had been broken down into two groups for the tour; but three or four groups would have been much better for a venue like this.  Our next room had a large wooden instrument with a bunch of dolls on it, some of them a bit strange.  When the button was pushed they each played their instruments.  It was quite a sight.

   

The museum did have a large collection of fascinating looking instruments.  The guide was great and the subject matter interesting, but it would be better viewed in a small group of 10 or 15 people or on your own.

After the tour was over, everyone passed through the museum shop, where there were many types of music boxes for sale.  We looked quickly, but were anxious to get outside to the cooler night air.  The museum was located very close to the Drosselgasse.  That is a main destination of tourists to this town.  It is the heart of the city, with numerous taverns and shops lining the pedestrian street.  With it being a Sunday night, most places were closed.  So unlike the way it normally is with crowds of tourists, it was almost empty. 

 

Some members of the group chose to go to a beer garden on the Drosselgasse and find their own way back to the ship.  We hopped on the little train for the ride back, since our touring was done for the day.  The next day, some of the folks that had stayed in town said that the walk back was much longer than they expected, and there was poor or no lighting along the way.

  

Mainz to Heidelberg and Frankfurt

This morning when we went to breakfast, we found that we were docked next to another river boat.  Since docking space is limited, boats can double and even triple park at the dock when necessary.  I went up to the upper deck to see what the town of Mainz looked like.  However, the dock wasn’t the scenic part of the city that those on the tour would be walking through.

 

We had the option of doing a Mainz and Frankfurt city tour today or taking a tour to Heidelberg.  We had been to Heidelberg before, but chose to do it again, since the first time we didn’t have a tour guide with us.  This time I had a wonderful tour guide named Johanna. Since Carol had decided to go on the slow walker tour, she had a different guide, Renate.  After the tour, Carol raved about what a great guide she was, so we both lucked out.

   

Johanna                                                                Renate

The drive through the German countryside was quite pretty as we passed by small towns.

 

Our first destination in Heidelberg was to the Castle.  The oldest parts of the building were constructed in 1214 AD, so it is an old castle.  Much of the castle is still in ruins, but parts have been restored and are still in use.  There was a lot of restoration still going on.  There were some rather impressive buildings close to the castle.

    

One of the highlights of visiting the castle is to look down on the city of Heidelberg.  It was a beautiful view looking down to the River Neckar. Heidelberg with around 150,000 residents is a larger city than most of those we visited on the cruise.

   

          

The deep dry moat around parts of the castle must have provided a lot of protection back in the middle ages.

    

There were many beautiful statues and carvings on the building walls. 

    

We came to a large courtyard area where there was a part of the castle that was still being used next to what appeared to be the remains of a building where only a wall was still standing.  It turned out that the bottom floor had been renovated and was being used.  There were some very ornately decorated buildings, and I took way too many photos; but I did want to remember all that we were seeing.

    

   

We walked into one of the castle buildings to see the Heidelberg Tun.  It is a 58,100 gallon wine keg that was constructed in 1751.  It took the wood of 130 oak trees to make this large barrel. 

 

After looking around the castle a bit more, we got back on the bus to go down the hill for a city tour.  Heidelberg is a really lovely city.

    

From an area named the Kornmarket, we could get a great view of how large the castle was when we looked up at the hill from ground level.  In addition, there was a lovely statue of Mary in the center of the square.

   

The streets of Heidelberg were very crowded, since it is a major tourism city and it was a beautiful day.

   

The tour ended at the Market Square with the Church of the Holy Spirit in the center.  Construction of this church began in 1398, and it had been rebuilt in 1709 after it was set on fire during a war.  I have never understood how people can purposely destroy beautiful historic structures during a war.  It would seem that if they were to win the war that they would want to have these wonderful structures in their possession rather than destroyed.

 

All around the square were beautiful buildings and a statue of Hercules.

   

Since I wasn’t supposed to meet Carol for lunch until after her tour ended, I decided to walk around a bit.  I saw some more lovely buildings and then came to the Jesuit Church.  With its pink exterior, it was hard to miss, even with it being off the main street.  When I walked inside, I was quite surprised that there was so much white.  The gold decorations provided for a subdued elegance that made for a lovely interior.  The altar was certainly the focal point.

    

After leaving the church, I headed for the meeting place where Carol would be wrapping up her tour, the Hotel Ritter.  It is one of the oldest buildings in Heidelberg. 

 

Both of our tour guides had recommended a restaurant right off the square, called Hackleufel.  We went there with some friends we had been touring with for a few days, Max and Darlene and Ray and Barbara.  The restaurant turned out to be one of the best recommendations of the trip.  The food was outstanding.  Most of us had the bratwurst sausage dish.  Carol got a different dish with sauerkraut, sausage and pork.  It was a very large dish that she shared with the table.

    

After lunch, the shopping began.  Carol found a store where she found some nice presents for the kids and grandkids for Christmas.  We went to a pastry shop that Carol’s guide had recommended for cheesecake.   She told her that it wasn’t the normal cheesecake that we were used to but that it was very good.  She was right.  It was delicious.  The base of the cheesecake was from a type of cheese called Quark, rather than the cream cheese we use. 

    

While we had been shopping, Max and Ray had stopped at the Vetter tavern.  They had been told that it is where they could find a beer that was listed in the Guinness book of records for having the highest alcohol content.  Since I had been trying many different beers on this trip, I decided that I needed to try the famous beer.  Max and Ray had said it was more of a sipping beer because it was kind of sweet and heavy.  I couldn’t understand what they meant, so I was even more curious.  Well, it didn’t take long to realize what a sipping beer was.  It was a dark beer that looked quite normal, but it had more of a sweet syrupy taste.  I don’t understand why high alcohol content would result in something like that.  I could only drink about a third of it and surrendered.  It didn’t taste good enough to finish.

On the way back to meet up with Carol, before we walked down to the bus that would take us to the Amalegro in Frankfurt, I stopped at the large Church of the Holy Spirit to check out the interior.  It was pretty disappointing.  The smaller Jesuit Church had been much nicer.

    

The location where the bus was to meet us was really nice.  It was across from some elegant mansions on the other side of the river.  The guide said that it is a popular place for the rich and famous to own property. 

    

The bus ride to Frankfurt took about an hour.  As expected, Frankfurt is a very big city.  I was really glad we had decided to spend our day in Heidelberg instead of Frankfurt.  It looked like a nice town, but it was a big modern city.

    

The next day would be nice, since we didn’t have any excursions until 11:00 AM.  We would finally get to sleep in for a change.

 

Miltenberg to Wertheim

During the night, we passed through many locks.  I awakened during a couple of them.  In the morning we picked up a fellow who owns a glass shop in Wertheim who would be putting on a glass blowing demonstration.  We found out that while at the locks, it is possible for people to get on and off the boats since they are so close to the edge.  I had wondered about this when I saw that there was to be a demonstration scheduled before we docked.

    

Even though I didn’t have to wake up early, I did anyway.  I was just too excited about going to the upper deck to see where we were and the sights around us.  I was not disappointed.  This was a pretty part of the river.  But, honestly, I really hadn’t seen many parts of the rivers we had traveled that weren’t beautiful.

 

The glass blowing show started at 9:00 AM.  The presenter, Hans Ittig, was one of the owners of a shop in Wertheim where we would be touring in the afternoon.  He had brought many colorful samples of his work.

    

We had seen a glass demo on an ocean cruise, and I had wondered how he would be able to do a glass blowing demonstration without an oven.  The little torch he brought with him was all he needed.  It heated up the glass very quickly so he could demonstrate his type of glass blowing. 

 

One of the first things he did was to create what looked like a balloon of glass.  He intentionally blew it up so much that it popped, creating thousands of tiny pieces of glass floating in the air.  He told us that they are harmless and you can’t cut yourself on them.

 

He proceeded to make some other pieces and even had one of the guests, Robert, assist him in making one.  It was a very well done demonstration.  It did get a lot of people to go to his store later in the afternoon.  Naturally, Carol had to have one of his Christmas ornaments.

    

The Amalegro arrived at Miltenberg a couple of hours earlier than expected, which was great, since it was docked next to what Hans told us during his demonstration was the first Oktoberfest of the season.  It was called the St. Michael’s Festival.  Miltenberg was a really pretty town, even with the large Ferris wheel that was set up for the festival.

    

There were also a large number of swans on the river.  We had seen swans all along the rivers during the cruise, but this was the first time we were stopped when they were around.

   

Castle Mildenburg had a place of honor over the city.  I wish it had been available to tour, but we just weren’t going to have enough time in the town to do much more than a quick city tour. 

 

Fortunately because we had arrived early, we would be able to walk around the festival before the tour started.  It was a pretty big festival.  There was row after row of displays.  In addition to the normal arts and crafts, it was also a home and garden show.  It was too early for the beer garden to be open, but this festival seemed to have everything.

    

   

When our tour was to begin, our group had Eric as a tour guide.  Now he was my kind of tour guide.  He was very entertaining as well as informative.  I really enjoyed him.  One rather funny incident occurred.  Carol had decided to stay at the boat and just do some shopping at the festival.  She happened to pass by our tour group and I leaned over and kissed her, then kept walking.  Eric did a double take and said, “I certainly hope you know dat woman!”

 

Eric explained about the flooding that occurs along the river.  He showed us how the walls protecting the city could be increased in height by attaching an extension to the metal structure built into the stone walls.

 

We then walked up to the old bridge gate, quite a nice structure.  We were able to go through it and walk up on the bridge, where we could see the Amalegro docked along the river.

    

On the way into town Eric pointed out the cute sign pointing to where the toilets could be found.

 

He also pointed out some other creative signs on the shops that told what type business they were.  He told us that the six-pointed star on one of the signs was the "brewers star". it indicated that the establishment served beer.  It represented the six aspects of brewing most critical to purity: the water, the hops, the grain, the malt, the yeast, and the brewer.  Since we would see this star on many signs all during our trip, we were glad to know what it referred to.  One's first impression was that there were a lot of Jewish merchants in the area.

    

It was a really pretty town.  Eric pointed out a portion of what remained of the old town wall.  The wall was actually incorporated as part of a house's structure.

 

The more we walked the more I really liked the town.  I just wasn’t expecting Miltenberg to be such a gorgeous place.  The half-timbered houses and beautifully decorated businesses really made for a wonderful tour.

    

   

Eric had been telling us how old the houses were as we passed them.  That was pretty easy to do, since many of them had their build dates right on them.  He pointed to one that had 1375 on it.  That was year it was built, not the street address.  It was the oldest house in town.  This town was a very pleasant surprise with lots of German eye candy for its tourists.

    

   

On the way to Wertheim, we passed the ruins of a large castle on the hill.  To get to Wertheim, we stopped in the little town of Freudenberg to catch a bus to get us to town sooner than the boat would because of all the locks it would have to go through.  I got a big kick out of a metal witch figure on the bridge.

    

Beginning in Freudenberg, there was also an optional 22 mile bike ride to Wertheim.  Eighteen guests took that option.  One person in that group had not been on a bike in fifteen years.  Shortly after the boat left for Wertheim, she realized that she had made a mistake.  She fell down right at the start.  Surprisingly, she did learn how to ride a bike again and made it to the ship.  A 22 mile bike ride is not a good idea if you don’t bike regularly

When our bus got to Wertheim, we met our tour guide, Waltraud.  A rather unusual name; but perhaps not in Germany.

Wertheim looked very similar to Miltenberg, but was certainly a larger town.  It had a population of 24,000, where Miltenberg only had 9,000 residents.  Waltraud pointed out Wertheim's leaning tower.  Unlike in Pisa, this tower didn't have any supports to prevent it from falling. 

   

From the town, we could see the large Wertheim Castle.

 

Waltraud pointed out the markers on a building where the various flood levels had been recorded.  They had certainly had their share of floods.  There had been a flood just a few months before our visit that was marked.  It went to the top of the mail slot on the door.

 

Once again there were many lovely old buildings, some of them adjoining the old city towers.  We could also look up the hill to see a portion of the Wertheim Castle.  This small view of the wall did not represent what a beautiful structure this was.

   

   

She also pointed out what was called a “nosy window” on one of the buildings.  It was a very small window where the occupant of the house could sit and watch what was going on in the street without being seen.  In the below picture it is the little cut out on the left side of the house at the window level.

 

Wertheim also had a nice selection of signs on their buildings.

   

We walked down to the river and saw another building with water marks showing the flood levels.  This one had many more dates on it.  The 2011 flood is in the added section in the middle of the scale.  It had been a bad one, but the city didn’t seem to have any bad damage from it. 

 

When the tour ended, I decided to stop at one of the beer gardens to rest and quench my thirst.  The entrance looked more like a flea market than a beer garden; but the inside was what I expected.  The beer was served in a large ceramic mug.  It was quite refreshing.

    

On my way back to see if I could find Carol, who was shopping with Barbara and Darlene, I found Max and Ray sitting outside a restaurant having a beer.  Actually, that is where I normally would find Max and Ray during excursions.  I joined them.  To be sociable, I forced myself to have another beer.

While sitting there, some children with their parents stopped close by also.  One of the young boys opened up a case, pulled out his violin and started to play.  Apparently he had just been to a lesson and wanted to show them what he had learned.  It was very cute.

 

While walking to the boat, we came across a man who had stopped to feed the swans.  It looked pretty risky to me, since swans are known to not be as gentle as they appear to be.  Plus the swans were huge.  But they were also quite pretty.

    

Once we got to the boat, I found that we had a really great view of the Wertheim Castle.  It was certainly one of the nicer castles we had seen on the cruise.

 

After dinner, the local group Pitchwork entertained the ship.  I didn’t stay long.  I was having a tough time keeping my eyes open after walking up and down hills all day.

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