Friday, May 28
Friday, May 21
Interestingly enough on the cruise we have not made friends with the Aussie contingent but rather 2 Canadian couples and others from Florida and California with whom we share breakfasts or sumptuous dinners.
After Wurzburg and Wertheim (largest city of Franconia whose origins date back to 1000 BC) our next scheduled stop was the city of Heidelberg. We docked at Miltemberg for a full day excursion to Heidelberg via a bus trip, to visit the castle and old town. The ship then continued on to Aschaffenburg which we rejoined from Heidelberg via the Autobahn. It costs 3,000 Euro for a drivers license in Germany and drivers are usually well behaved with limits of 80Kpm for Lorries, 100 kph for our Bus and cars wiz past unrestricted on the autobahns up to 240 kph.
Heidelberg is fondly remembered for Sigmund Romberg's 'The Student Prince' but Anne's humming of the tune ' When its Summer time in Heidelberg' was at odds with pouring rain and lush green scenery. Spring is very late coming to Germany this year after an uncharacteristically long severe winter according to the locals. We completed our tour of the castle perched high above the city (312 steps for those keen on walking) which included an interesting visit to a nearby pharmacy museum. The museum provided a comprehensive display of medieval applications based upon the premise of the 4 humours; body, blood, phlegm and black and yellow bile. Depending whether or not you were in balance and having regard to the stars and seasons dictated the treatment to add or detract in such a way to restore equilibrium.
After returning to our boat the weather improved as we left the narrow Main river to enter the busy Rhine and our next port of Rudesheim whose 10.000 inhabitants receive 3,000, 000 visitors each year. We enjoyed a cable car ride up to Niederwald recreational area for a view over the sloping vineyards onto the city located on the opposite bank and land which extends on for a further 200 Km annexed to Germany following the defeat of the French. The impressive Monument erected on the site celebrating German unification in 1871 stands proudly 114 feet tall.
Cruising the Rhine in the afternoon we passed by 56 castles and the dangerously shallow and narrow section known as Lore - Ley which prompted this poem by famous German poet Heinrich Heine. Heinrich Heine
I know not what it should imply, that I am so forlorn;
A tale from times so long gone by
From my thoughts will not be torn.
The air is cool and it darkens,
And the Rhine does calmly flow;
The peak of the mountain sparkles In the sinking sun's last glow.
The most beautiful maiden so alights,
But wondrously up there.
It blazes, her golden bow, She combs her golden hair.
She combs it with golden comb
And thereby sings a song;
A seeming wonder-tome
With a melody violent-strong.
The seaman in his tiny yacht
It grasps with wilding woe,
He looks not at the rock-reefs as he ought,
He looks only up from below.
I believe the swells do devour,
In the end, both skipper and skiff;
Smitten, in his final hour, By the Lore-Ley with her riff.
-- translated Robert Clarke, 2001
Tuesday, May 18
After Regensburg our landscape changed to one of open meadows en route to Nuremberg via the newly created Main Danube Canal access which flows into the Main River and then into the busy Rhine.We reached the high point of our cruise along the canal at 134o feet (406 metres) above sea level and celebrated with a glass of champagne then presented with an 'A' class sailors certificate by the Captain. Since Budapest sailing was always against the current and assisted by numerous elevated locks but now on our downward leg the situation is reversed until our final docking at Amsterdam which is below sea level.
Excellent features of the cruise are the frequent updates and formal presentations on a variety of topics to keep one informed about forthcoming visits; varying architectural styles and more recently Germany history from the creation of the 3rd Reich to modern day unification between East and West presented by a political scientist. We toured the city of Nuremberg by bus and on foot experiencing the older city sections which were protected against invaders with a high perimeter wall and moat which proved impenetrable during the Middle Ages when ruled by wealthy merchants. The city was also the focal point for the meeting place of Dukes and Counts who swear allegiance to newly crowned Emperors. Seeking to replicate this past seat of power and because of the excellent rail network to everywhere within Germany Nuremberg became the ideological centre for the rallying point of the 3rd Reich. We visited an unfinished Coliseum and the Stadium where Hitler appeared to address the huge rallies of the military and Hitler youth. Our Tour Guide explained that in the first 2 decades after the end of WW2 the dark past was not discussed but then the full history including visits to former Concentration Camps became an integral part of the present day education system.
Our next port was the charming city of Bamberg which is afforded UNESCO listing for its historic medieval buildings which survived untouched by bombing during WW2 - unlike Nuremberg where 93% of the city was destroyed. The Bamberg people have a devotion to St Kunigunde, the wife of King Heinriach 11 and Empress of Bamberg from 1002, who they believe caused a cloud cover to prevent bombing
Friday, May 14
We visited many historical places of interest but our highlight was the evening concert performed in the same building where Strauss first performed his waltzes. The splendid concert was presented in the original style of Joseph Lanner and Strauss who led the orchestra from the first violin. The ever popular tunes played included those from the golden era of Viennese Operetta such as the "the Bat' and Gypsy Baron and was complemented by individually sung arias from Mozart.
After we sailed from Vienna we docked later at Melk for a visit to the monastery.Melk monastery was fashioned in the baroque style which was designed for high emotional appeal- which is evident in its dazzling decorative architecture. The monks have lived and worked in the Abby for over 900 years which today is also used as a school for 800 students. Today it is occupied by 30 monks and the Abby attracts 600,000 visitors each year.
Tuesday, May 11
Today we visited Budapest which is a city of 2 million and the capital of Hungary. In reality it is an amalgamation of 3 older cities with the not so blue Danube separating distinct cultural areas.The oldest city was Obuda built on the site once occupied by the Roman town of Aquinicum and boasts 123 hot springs. The Danube separates Pest - the largest of the three which is medieval in character with a fortress wall and houses the main business centre located on the eastern bank. Budda is located on the western bank built after the Mongol invasion in 1241.Our next port is Vienna