We unfortunately left the sunshine behind as we entered Germany. The transit from the Czech Republic to Germany was by bus and our first stop was Nuremberg. This turned out to be a bit of a loss as a rock concert prevented us from visiting the (in)famous “Triumph of the Will” stadium (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumph_of_the_Will) and the trial museum was not open either. We had to content ourselves with a visit to the market and a sample of the famous local sausages.
It was difficult to imagine this square as the site of Hitler’s final speech in “The Triumph of the Will.” May it always be remembered today for sausages and Lebkuchen, gingerbread cookies.
After Nuremberg we arrived at the boat in Bamberg and spent our first night on board. The next morning we set off in the pouring rain to see Bamberg. As it was a Sunday, a lot of museums were closed and we were unable to enter the Cathedral due to Sunday services, but we had a pleasant, if damp, view of our first German town and would certainly return.
The Fuersten gate to the Bamberg cathedral has two interesting statues; “Ecclesia” and “Synagoga.”
We ended with coffee and cake (yes, there is a theme here!) in a Konditorei and returned to the ship, feeling warmer! We left around midday heading for Wurzburg down the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal.
We traveled several rivers during this cruise and enjoyed them all! We are total lock and canal fanatics, having transited the Panamá Canal, the Suez Canal, and parts of the Kennet and Avon Canal. If the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal is less well known than Suez or Panamá, it is an amazing engineering accomplishment with a long history. Read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhine–Main–Danube_Canal
For those who are wondering, the Viking river cruise boats are very much like miniature ocean liners. They are carefully sized to fit the locks but despite being very long and narrow, they do not feel cramped at all. Indeed, the general feeling is one of extreme spaciousness. Because of low clearance, the bridge, and indeed everything on the top deck, can be lowered.
The clearances on the canal are so low that the top deck was closed for most of the first part of our trip. The cabins are lovely the bathrooms are a textbook layout for a semi-dry bath. Great ideas for our next camper! Our boat was the https://www.vikingrivercruises.com/ships/longships/viking-alsvin.htmlTake a tour here: https://www.vikingrivercruises.com/content/360/start.html?secure=true
The next day, we took a full day excursion to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The rain was not constant and we enjoyed an extended walking tour of the town, which is one of the best preserved of the old towns, many of which suffered extensive bomb damage during World War II.
The medieval feel is quite strong and included a costumed minstrel band singing, drumming and asking for beer up and down the high street. Great fun.
We spotted a stork’s nest and walked the town walls and visited the Hauptkirche of Saint Jakob (high or main church).
The church contains the Altar of the Holy Blood, a reliquary said to contain the blood of the Christ.
On our return to Wurzburg we visited the Bishops’ Residenz, a UNESCO listed site built between 1720 and 1744 by the prince bishops. A very opulent palace created for some very powerful men of their time, with extensive marble, gold stucco and frescoes.
The ceiling frescos were later featured in the PBS series “Civilizations.” Beyond the theme of the superiority of Europe, they feature amazing trompe d’oeil elements like people who begin as paintings on the ceiling and end as statues and figures painted so that they appear to be standing outside of the fame of the ceiling; an amazing 3-D effect. Religious scholars could use this palace as the setting for a discussion of the doctrine of the poverty of the Christ. (Yes, that is sarcasm.)
We declined the all day tour to Heidelberg as the sun was peeking through and we preferred to sail on the river and enjoy the view.
The cuisine on board was excellent European food, so we were surprised to learn that the chef is actually a Filipino. When he learned the Fred had lived in the Philippines, a Filipino feast was prepared for lunch.
We stopped briefly in the small town of Collenberg. At one time it had an interesting motte and bailey castle. The motte was a hill overlooking the Main River and the bailey extended down to the river’s edge, allowing it to control traffic.
The following day we were due in Mainz in the mid morning but were delayed because of heavy lock traffic on the Main River.
This messed up the guides that Viking had booked so we headed out alone for the Gutenberg Museum, which was the highlight of the day for us. We viewed the Gutenberg Bibles on display in the museum, which are amazing and still so colorful after all this time. We watched a printing demonstration in German, which was fun for both of us and showed the color techniques. (Denise speaks German, but Fred does not. He had the greater challenge!)
With our plans to ship our camper to Europe, we were always alert for signs of campgrounds and campers. It was interesting to see this beast parked on the street in Mainz.
That afternoon we visited Rudesheim am Rhein. We wandered the town and headed for the Rheingau Wine Museum at Brömser Castle. https://www.ruedesheim.de/en/wine-culinary-art/wine-culture/The museum, located in the 1,000-year-old castle, was itself interesting and dealt with the history of wine making but the fabulous part was the castle tower itself. This was accessible to those wishing to climb it, which we of course did, and enjoyed spectacular views of the river and town from the top.
We love prowling the winding stairways of medieval castles, cathedrals, and other buildings. This little tower was one of the best textbook cases of how these passages were laid out to favor both communication and defense. For those of you who are not medieval fortification nuts, the stairs were built as a clockwise spiral so that an attacker climbing the stairs would have his sword arm blocked by the central support. A defender, on the other hand, would have his right hand free. The steps were also often uneven, so as to cause someone not familiar with the stair way to stumble. And, of course, they were only one person wide so that attackers could never take advantage of numbers.
We missed the two museums devoted to torture and crime, although the toy and railway museum might be a better bet. A good reason to go back? Of course! Where else can you find an inn with a medieval tower flying the Harley-Davidon flag?