Friday, October 6 was spent inn and around Bonn, Germany. The Bonn docks were filled and we had to park our happy asses in Konigswinter, a place our tour guides had not ever visited. But we could make it work. 

They got buses scheduled to take us into Bonn and asked them to park as close to our ship as possible because this is a cruise full of old farts and some of them can’t walk well. The bus drivers complied and we were catered to once again. This will not happen again since the bus drivers (I assume all three of them) were given a ticket for blocking traffic. We were not dropped off at the same point and old and infirm or not, you just had to get back to the ship slowly. 

The weather finally decided it was done with the cloudy and would actually rain a bit. It wasn’t nearly as bad as it might have been. 

Serge knew that the Jesuit University in Bonn was famous, not just for its curriculum and some important students who had attended, but because there was an excavated Roman bath ruin in the basement of one of the buildings. If you knew it was there, you could go and see it without any fee attached. And so we did. 

We went on to Bonn’s University and had a local student talk to us about the German education system. It is quite different from how we do things in the US. In Germany, the realize that not everyone needs to go to university and those who do have the chance do so because higher education is needed for their field of endeavor. They have apprenticeships and manage to get most of the citizens employed and with living wages. 

It was while this young woman was speaking with that it first started to rain. We were under a line of trees and were mostly kept dry and when we moved on, we decided to enter a store and get a taste of what local shopping is like. 

Their mustard, mayo, and some other condiments come in a tube which looks a lot like toothpaste tubes. It would make applying the stuff a lot easier 

We went back outside and the rain had stopped and Serge had a street vendor make us three different types of wurst to try along with some fried up potato wedges. They don’t call them French fries in Germany. 

The large cathedral in Bonn is closed until 2018 as they renovate. There are two relics inside but we were not permitted in. in front of the cathedral are two Roman soldier heads. In late Roman times, the soldiers were told to attack the locals and refused. The commander decimated his troops, meaning he beheaded every tenth soldier and the two heads in the front of the church are a nod (as it were) to these men who refused to kill the natives. 

Also in Bonn is the world famous origin of gummy bears. Haribo was founded by Hans Riegel in Bonn, hence the name which is the first two letters of his first and last name and the first two letters of Bonn. There is a store in Bonn unlike any other Haribo place I’ve ever seen. I had no idea there were do many different gummy bear type candies. 

We got a little more rain on our way back to the ship and it was a bit disappointing, but there is nothing we can do about the weather. Except for Steve who has claimed responsibility for all the good weather we have had so far. He said he would clear the skies for the afternoon. 

The guides used us as a test case. As I mentioned, they had never docked at this tiny little town, but it boasted a cog wheel train. They convinced Grand Circle to buy us all a ticket on the train. Steve did his magic and the sun came out after lunch. We walked up the bottom of the mountain to the train station. Some of us did this more quickly than others, but we eventually all arrived. 

The train couldn’t accommodate all of us at one time, so there were two departure times. We were in the first group. The train made a stop halfway up the mountain and let off people who wanted to tour a refurbished castle there (not included in the ticket price) and then went to the top. Our train tickets were good for one round trip and we could either get off halfway up and then continue on the next train or go to the top and stop half way down. We selected the latter and made our way to the top of the mountain. 

It was stunningly beautiful. No wonder they built their castles so high and on bends in the rivers. We could see far into the distance all around the perimeter. Pictures included here. After taking enough pictures we reboarded the train and made our way down the mountain and stopped at the castle. 

We knew we couldn’t enter the castle but were not aware we couldn’t even enter the grounds. All we had access to was the gift shop. We couldn’t even get a decent picture of the outside of the buildings. We got back on the train and made our way down and then back to the boat. It began to drizzle again. 

There was a mandolin group coming to play for us after dinner. In my imagination, I was thinking two or three funny guitars. Instead, it was at least a dozen people – an entire orchestra. They had mandolins, mandolas, guitars, a bass violin, and a drummer. They were amazing and played for us for nearly an hour. 

They barely got off the boat before we set sail and headed on to new adventures. 

Roman bath ruins


Haribo


One of the vistas

Ruins of the old castle seen at the viewing site

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October 5 was spent on Cochem, Germany. The name, when said in actual German sounds pretty much like you are choking on snot and clearing your throat. But they seem to like it that way.

We began our day there with Dick not feeling well and me going off on the tour by myself – well with 37 of my new best friends in tow. We took two smaller vans up a very narrow twisting road. It was so narrow and twisting, the regular share-the-shit-out-of-me bus ride wouldn’t even fit. The vans each held up to 20 travelers (we are not tourists, we are travelers) and barely fit through the available space. We climbed the mountain/hill to Cochem Castle.

The castle was originally built in 1000 and was eventually the home of the local king-type person and then the home of the Bishop of Trier since those guys got all the good spots. It was enlarged a few times and then destroyed a few times, the most devastating was Ludwig XIV or as we know him, Louis XIV who came through and destroyed nearly everything in Germany. I guess he was the Sun King because he knocked the roofs off everything and the sun could shine in.

The castle lay in ruins for quite some time. A French Huguenot businessman was kicked out of France and came to Germany where he became the builder of the railroads. As in America, this meant he became ridiculously wealthy in the process. He got permission from all the appropriate people and then too ten years and what was then the equivalent of five million dollars and today is so much more, and refurbished to the castle to use as his summer home.

He only lived for two years after the job was complete, but his family retained ownership until the Nazis graciously demanded the castle be given to them. After the war, the castle was offered back to the family, but they demurred knowing the price of the upkeep. Eventually, the castle came to be owned by the city itself and is one of the major tourist attractions of the city.

It was beautiful. The family retained ownership of the nicest tapestries and Persian rugs and what not, but the castle was still decked out with beautiful furnishings and accessories.

The guide who brought us through the castle was a delightful woman who obviously loved her job (or faked it very well).

Cochem has a population of 5,000 and has 4 million visitors per year. They have one of the best ports on the Mosel making it easy for up to eight cruise ships to dock at one time. They have the castle as a draw. They also have a Catholic church that existed on the spot since 900 AD.

St. Michael’s church was built, destroyed, rebuilt and destroyed just like everything else in the region. Today, it has some of the most famous stained glass windows in the region. I don’t remember the name of the of the artist, but he did work at Westminster Cathedral as well.

During WWII, the Germans hid their supply trains in tunnels and when the Allies figured this out, they bombed the hell out of the places known for their tunnels. Cochem was one of those places. They also had a Bosch plant here but instead of washing machines, this one made the detonators for bombs. This also made the city a target. About 90% of the place was destroyed.

After the war, the Marshall Plan helped the area rebuild and the locals decided to rebuild in the old style. So while there are many half timbered houses, they are pretend and only look that way. There was one house that was rebuilt after Louis XIV came through and managed to survive Hitler. It was the only house left standing in the town.

Cochem is also the town of the “best” bakery on our tour, according to Serge. We could stop and have a treat there. I could have brought some back to Dick but instead decided to come back to the ship to see how he was doing. Better.

After lunch, we strolled back across the bridge and into town and I again found the bakery. He got to choose his own treat and I had a delicious cake. We had some of the best coffee we have had on the trip. I was glad I waited for him to join me there rather than bringing something back to the boat. Our trip there and back has been the first time we have had to walk in the rain. We have lived with lots of clouds, but this was the first rain we had. We have been very lucky.

Castle entryway

Ladies’ waiting room

The story of Cochem told on the gate wall

Dick’s pastry treat

October 4 was spent in Luxembourg the city in Luxembourg the country. It was also Dick’s birthday and this was the one thing on this trip he really wanted to see so it was an extra special day for him. 

We began with a bus ride, leaving the people who were not interested in this journey on the ship. We got to the border and there was a place to shop as ell as free bathrooms. Free bathrooms are scarce in Europe and instead, it is often necessary to pay somebody so you don’t wet your pants. They seem to like it this way. 

Cigarettes are about six euro per pack in Germany. They have vending machines on the streets and you have to have a bank card to get the cigarettes. You have to be 18 to have a bank card and this is their way of controlling sales to minors. At the Luxembourg pit stop the guy in front of us got five cartons of Winstons and two tubs (about the size of 2 gallons of ice cream each) and his total bill was 72 euro and change. This is why they drive some distance to shop here. 

Luxembourg is one of the central cities of the EU and is heavily involved in banking. There is lots of money here and it was reflected in the buildings as well as the prices of things. Both were astounding. 

We had a local guide take us through the old part of the city. She showed us the current duke’s office space which was once where the duke lived. While standing outside the building where their congress meets, the President of the Congress was passing by and stopped to talk to us. He had no body guards and was willing to share five minutes time with a bunch of tourists. 

We saw the old city walls which were ridiculously tall and steep as well as sturdily built. They were able to protect the city for many years. But warfare moved forward and all these majestic old constructions became obsolete. 

Lunch was included in our day trip and it was delicious. However, it seems coffee must be really rare in Luxembourg since instead of a full glass of wine, I was given a teeny, tiny cup of coffee, certainly not more than 3-4 ounces. No refills. Otherwise everything was wonderful. We had caramel pudding for dessert which looked and tasted exactly like flan to me. 

Right next door to the fancy restaurant was a McDonald’s and we went there immediately after dining. I got a cup of coffee. It was delicious and it cost a euro and it was much smaller than the cups of coffee they sell in America. Since the men’s room at the restaurant had been broken earlier in the day, Dick used McDonald’s bathroom, but even there he had to pay for it. 

We strolled through the city for a while and their wealth was evident both in the types of shopping available and the prices of the goods. Dick demurred when I pointed out at 550 euro Mont Blanc pen, mentioning that I would only lose it anyway. So we bought nothing. 

We got back on the buses and made our way to the Luxembourg American Cemetery and  Memorial. The fifty acres were beautifully maintained with white crosses, some with Stars of David atop them, were fanned out across the laws. The tour guide first explained D-Day and the landings at Normandy and the battles which followed. There were about 10,000 casualties (dead, wounded, MIA) from that portion of the war. 

Next we went to the Battle of the Bulge and she was able to explain the six weeks of fighting to keep the Germans out of the region. During that time, there were 87,000 American casualties with 18,000 of them killed. 

The chapel of the cemetery was also beautifully designed and fitting addition to the overall presentation. At the end of the tour, the chapel speaker system played Taps and then the National Anthem. There was a call for all veterans to come forward and stand apart as the music played. Just as Taps began, one of the planes from the nearby airport flew directly overhead, like a fly over. There were 14 veterans with us, including Dick. 

We had a chance to then visit the German soldier’s memorial gravesite. There were three times as many Germans buried there. While it was still a somber and respectful place and beautiful in its own way, it was also nothing like the US memorial. 

We then reboarded our buses and drove to the ship, which had sailed during our trip to Luxembourg. We made it home in time for me to get to the fancy grocery store which finally had the smooth chocolates filled with brandy. I had been looking for these since we got here. 

After dinner we played some cards again and Shirley and I once again beat Austin and Dick. Twice. We retired for the evening and the ship sailed on to the next docking stop. 

Old city walls of Luxembourg


American Memorial crosses


German Memorial crosses


Dick’s shipwide birthday celebration

October 3 was spent in Trier, Germany. We sailed overnight and arrived outside Trier in Mehring. Dr. Wolfgang Ault was coming to speak to us about the European Union. He was supposed to arrive at 9 AM. Then he was supposed to arrive at quarter after. He showed up at 9.25. There had been an accident. A taxi hit a caravan or RV. And it happened right in front of him. So he was stuck in the traffic jam this caused. 

He was extremely knowledgeable about the entire adventure. I was surprised to learn that the first six countries to band together did so in 1951. Today, there are 28 member states in the EU. They will translate official business into 24 different languages although over 200 languages (not counting dialects or immigrant languages) are spoken. 

We learned about the political makeup and economics of the EU along with its shortcomings and issues. We asked about Brexit and ramifications ensuing from the vote there. Dr. Wolfgang was both informative and entertaining. 

We then immediately got onto buses and made our way to Trier, once a secondary capital of the Roman Empire or capital of this region of the empire. 

We first came upon Porta Nigra or the Black Gate. It is the largest Roman structure remaining in this part of the world. It was one of four gates to the city of Trier when this post was new. The wall that was built along with the gate was torn down during the Middle Ages and then it was realized that having a wall was a great barrier if your city was attacked. So they rebuilt the wall. The wall they built was only two feet thick rather than the 12 feet the Romans had built and it was not as high as the Roman wall. So, all in all, it wasn’t very effective. 

The Roman city had large streets and then there were a series of arches built between the streets and the houses with a covering over the sidewalk. This was an ancient (500 BC) Greek invention to keep the Greeks out of the sun. Up here, it kept the Romans out of the rain. 

Trier was the home of Constantine’s father and he began to build a huge basilica here. He would be seated at one end of the large building and those seeking an audience would approach the emperor who was surrounded by representations of the seven known “planets” which included the Sun and Moon. The emperor would be seated in the middle with the universe having him as the focal point. 

Constantine’s father did not finish the building and neither did Constantine. In fact, he ran out of money while building Constantinople and halted construction on the basilica. However it was eventually later finish and is named for the man who halted construction. Today, it has been reroofed and fixed up and is a Protestant church, the only one in Trier. 

In this church, in early 2000s, a new organ was added. It is massive and is the third largest organ in Europe. The older, smaller organ remains but was inadequate due to the echo chamber type of construction of the building. The new organ produces a more robust sound which an be enjoyed throughout the church. 

During the Renaissance, a bishop wanted it torn down and his own palace built in its place. The architect tried, but the basilica also had 12 feet thick walls and was resistant to being torn down. After 12 years of trying, the architect had to give up and build the bishop’s palace right up against the older Roman building and shorten the length of the building. 

The people of Trier were trying to get away from foreign rule in the guise of religious leadership. Bishops of the time were not only religious leaders, but political leaders as well. The locals wanted their taxes to used to ameliorate local problems rather than being shipped off, at least in part, to Rome. 

The large cathedral was built by the bishop and at one time was the largest building in Europe, surpassing even St. Peter’s basilica in Rome. The townspeople built the people’s Catholic church nearby, and as a snub to the bishop, made sure it was taller. The bishop then increased the size of the bell tower in his church. The people then built another building and fronted it with four statues. The one on the north side was a knight with his sword drawn and pointing to the enemy – the bishop’s cathedral. And the statue on the south side was in a peaceful and benign stance as he stood next to the people’s church. 

Today is Reunification Day in Germany so most of the stores and shops in Trier were closed. Restaurants, cafés, and bars were still open. Trier has the largest number of eateries per capita of any place in Germany. They also have the largest number of churches per capita in both Germany and Rome. 

We made our way to the Cathedral, a shadow of its former glory. The church was built in the 400s and destroyed in part in the 500s when fire struck. What was left was again destroyed in the 1000s. The façade that stands today was built in the 1800s and while beautiful, it is much smaller than the original church. 

Right next door to the cathedral is a second Gothic cathedral. There is a door connecting the two churches, both of them still actively used for religious services. Both were beautiful and yet they were completely different in design and decoration. 

We ate lunch at a local eatery. They offer true ancient Roman food, but it is essentially the opposite of delicious. Instead of ancient Roman food we were served a traditional German lunch. Dessert was advertised as “Love it or hate it” and we were told it was stewed pears in a custard with pepper on top. Later we were warned they actually cooked the pears with pepper included. This did not sound enchanting and yet it was pretty damn good. 

After lunch we had time to walk around Trier before boarding buses and returning to our ship.

The Romans built to last


Fighting for control of the souls of Trier or at least the governance


This isn’t even the altar area, but just a nave.

Monday, October 2 was spent sailing up the Mosel River and then stopping at Bernkastel, Germany. There was some bridge commentary from the bridge while we sailed, but that was what seemed to make me sick the day before. I needed to write down what we had been seeing or else I would forget too much. So I spent the immediate time after breakfast doing my laundry (I had a problem with their soap the last time) and then writing. This did not give me a headache.

They then had a jewelry discussion with sale and I’m not interested in that and skipped it, too. But then there was a cooking demonstration.

The Executive Chef did the talking while the Pastry Chef demonstrated the making of Tarte Tatin. Both of our current chefs are quite rotund and apparently are all about the food and I should note the food so far has been delicious and varied.

Caroline and Stephanie Tatin owned a small hotel/restaurant outside Paris many, many years ago (but I have no actual date). It was at a time when there were few hotels and even fewer in the countryside with restaurants. But the sisters were quite proud of their establishment. Stephanie was the cook and one day, while preparing to make apple pie for the guests, things went wrong. The sauce went all over and she ended up making her pastry upside down and then flipping it to serve. It was a big hit.

A restauranteur from Paris tried to get the recipe. Then he tried to buy the recipe and neither way worked, the sisters wouldn’t sell because this was a draw to their establishment. The Parisian sent one of sous chefs to work for the sisters as a gardener. A few days later they fired him because “he couldn’t even plant a cabbage” but it was too late. The non-gardener had already stolen the recipe.

Today there are many ways to make it, but we made the traditional apple type. They asked for six volunteers to make six small tarts of the delicacy. I volunteered. Their industrial apple peeler, slicer, corer was the neatest machine I had ever seen of its type. It worked like a dream. They took our prepared tarts and baked them and then we were served them for dessert last night.

The Tarte Tatin was served with ice cream and it was delicious. Being such a nice person, I shared it with Dick. He liked it, too.

This is wine country. Vineyards line the steep hills along the river, but always on one side at a time. The Mosel meanders like a confused person looking for the chocolate aisle in a store where everything is written in Deutsch. The grapes are planted in vertical lines to make picking the grapes easier since it is still done by hand. But it is always on the side of the river with the most southern exposure. Since the river is not a straight line, this changes as the river bends.

We left the boat and crossed the bridge into the town itself. Located here is one of the world’s first old age homes. A local bishop who grew rich via the wine trade, used his wealth to build a retirement home for local men. He included all sorts of mind sharpening tools, filled his building with books and games to keep the elderly in possession of their wits. At first, he only accepted 33 men (the age of Jesus) but today it function with more residents.
Inside the town is a building that claims to be the most photographed building in Europe. In the 1400s when it was built, the taxes were based on the footprint area of buildings. So this has a very small footprint and then grows out as it goes up. Later, they decided they would tax on the area of the roof, just to thwart such construction.

After our tour of the town, we were given time to go out on our own, but then met again to get a chance to have a local wine tasting.

Many years ago, a loving and respected bishop (rare at the time) grew ill. He was attended to by the local physician, but he remained sick. The local wine merchant offered his services. At first he was refused but finally all the powers agreed he could try to cure the bishop. He brought his wine and the bishop drank. The next day, all he had was a slight headache – but his illness was cured.

Because of this curative power, the local wineries are given the sobriquet of Doctor for their healing powers.

We were at the Thanisch winery and offered a variety of their wines, along with commentary on wine making and serving suggestions. The owners brought us into one of their cellars and we were given one red and three different whites – each sweeter than the one before. They own several different fields of grapes.
Amazingly to me, they had just started their harvest that day. The northern grapes need 100 days of sun. In this region, those don’t come consecutively. They will harvest grapes for the next two months and then it takes anywhere from ten to eighteen months to turn those grapes into wine.

In Roman times, they had wine but it wasn’t of the same quality as today. There were often dregs and sediments left in the wine. To hide this, as glassmaking became better, they opted to make the wine glasses green. This way, the wine looked better. Eventually, wine making techniques improved and the local vintners wished to show off their beautiful wines. But they weren’t quite perfect yet.

They made their glasses with clear glass at the top to show off the wine and then had a green stem with either a dimple or even a hollow stem to let the sediment fall and be hidden. These are still a local tradition, even though today’s wines are pure – mostly.

They have a variety of wine which is the first pressing. It is sold by the bottle (green in color to hide the murky condition of the beverage) and the bottles cannot be corked since the product is still fermenting and it will just blow the cork. So when you buy a bottle of this first press (sold only at this time of year) you have to drink it right away.

Even though it threatened rain all day, we were lucky and it never did rain.

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The most photographed house in Europe.

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Wine tasting – entrance.

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Tarte Tatin

 

Sunday, October 1 was spent sailing in the morning. There is a region of the Rhine River filled with castles. There was a history of vying for control of the river for both military and financial reasons. Many of the larger castles were built for both purposes while some of the smaller ones were built solely for the purpose of financial gain.

Historical trivia. Berg in German is pronounced differently from burg. The former word refers to the hill or mountain while the latter word refers to the castle built upon it and taking its name from a derivation of berg. Names ending with burg refer to a town built around a castle while names ending in berg are towns built on a hill or mountain.

We woke to low lying dense fog which made seeing the shoreline a problem. But miracle of miracles, by the time we got to the area where they castles were a couple hours later, most of the fog was gone and we could see not only the shore, but the mountaintops with the castles perched on them.

We were given a history for many of the larger castles along the route. Many of them had been destroyed when Louis XIV came through here conquering everything in his path. Some have been partially restored and some remain in mostly ruins. Since there were occasional mists of fog remaining, this was a bit more beautiful in the telling of the stories.

The smaller castles were built in order to collect tolls along the river. They would have a chain across the river, stopping traffic and would only lower the chain and allow a ship to pass after the tolls were paid. These became so numerous that eventually something had to bee done and the whole system along the river was brought into line by force. But at least trade could once again take place.

The narrowest part of the Rhine River is also the twistiest part of the river. It is there a jutting of treacherous rocks sticks out into the river. This creates whirlpools and dangerous sailing even for today’s large and well-equipped ships. Long ago, many ships were dashed upon the rocks here and they created a legend to explain this. Loreley was a beautiful woman living on the rock cliff and she would sing beautiful songs to lure unsuspecting sailors close to shore where they would die upon the rocks hidden in the swirling waters.

Our Captain managed to avoid all of the hazards presented and we passed the danger zone without incident.

One of the program directors has a rather strident voice and rapid fire presentation. She is not our program director, but she was the second speaker giving us information during our morning cruise. By the end of the thing, I had such a headache I could barely move. My head was spinning and I’m not entirely sure what was wrong. I had something to take for the headache, but nothing was working on my spinning head which I was attributing to a bit of seasickness.

However this was Sunday and nothing is open on Sunday in Germany (possibly all of Europe) and so even though I found out that Dramamine is still called that over here, there was no place to buy it. We had paid extra for a tour in the afternoon and I was feeling a bit peevish about the whole thing. We had lunch and then I sat and meditated for as long as I had until the bus left. I was on the bus and feeling a bit better.

Another amazing bus driver got us mostly to the castle we were to tour. But then, smack dab in the middle of our route, was a parade celebrating the grape harvest and the wine making, upon which much of the local economy is based.
There was nothing to do but stop and watch the parade go by. So that’s what we did. Many of the locals came prepared with their own wine glasses which were filled by people participating in the parade itself. Since we were totally unaware of this serendipitous adventure, we had no wine glasses. Fortunately some women with baskets filled with plastic cups also came by and passed out the cups to be filled with samples of wine. The parade took 15 to20 minutes to pass and then we continued on our way to the castle.

Marksburg (the burg already means it is a castle, so calling it Marksburg Castle is like calling it Mark’s Castle Castle) is a UNESCO World Heritage site and protected from any further tampering.

The castle was built over hundreds of years in a number of stages which were upgrades as warfare techniques changed. There was little existing central courtyard because it was filled with later construction. The chapel of the original castle was dedicated to St. Mark and that is the reason for the name of the structure today.

The massive front gate protected the inner sanctum of the castle itself. Since it was built high on a mountain, the flooring was simply scraped away rock. This was not easy to do and without power tools, it made for a very lumpy uneven and dangerous walkway. There was discussion about adding handrails, but it is a UNESCO site and these are preserved without any upgrades allowed. So we were careful and helped each other when needed.

While castle life is depicted as romantic and wonderful, it wasn’t all that great even for the Lord and Lady of the place. There was no plumbing, no running water, no central heat, no way for anything to get inside the castle without going through the lumpy bumpy entryway with every damn thing they needed to both build the castle and then to live there. Castle life was not for the feint hearted.

After touring the castle, we entered the souvenir shop because UNESCO or not there is always one of those, and had a sausage tasting with three different kinds of sausage served with three different kinds of mustards and a pretzel along with a beverage. I had a light (not a lite) beer with mine. The white sausage looked scary. It had to be released from its casing and then dipped into a sweet mustard. It was remarkably tasty. The curry sausage came in a sauce of catsup, Worcestershire sauce, and curry and it was my least favorite but still edible. The last sausage looked a lot like a large hot dog and was served with hot mustard.

We then were to get back on the bus and meet the ship in a small town on the Mosel River. They called Sjack (our guide for the day) and let him know they had been detained at a lock and were not yet to the meeting place. The bus driver gave us a detour through Koblenz and then dropped us off in a small town where the boat was to meet us but still not there.

So we walked through this quaint little town of 2,500. There were many cafés and bars along the way because it is a place where many visitors come to bike and walk along the river. The boat finally arrived and we could get on board just in time to eat again. Amazingly, the day out in the fresh air had completely cured whatever had been wrong with my head.

There was another fun thing in the lounge after dinner, but after so much running around for days on end, we opted to turn in early and get ready for more adventures.

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Parade

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More parade

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Newer portion of Markburg

September 30 was spent in Speyer, Germany. We had sailed during the night and were docked at Speyer in the morning.

This city is home to the largest extant Romanesque cathedral in Europe. The crypt in the basilica (which means the Pope is allowed to say Mass here) has been intact and undisturbed since 1041. The far less ornate style was still impressive and beautiful. Inside the church, an orchestra was setting up so they could give a concert later that evening. These old churches were built to produce a loving sound raised to God’s ears and their acoustics make them ideal for musical programs today.

Inside the cathedral lie the remains of eight German emperors or kings, four queens, and many bishops. I hope they enjoy tonight’s performance.
During the Middle Ages, there was a thriving Jewish community here. Catholics were not permitted to charge interest which meant it wasn’t likely they would risk lending money. Throughout Europe, Jews who were not restricted in this way, became the money lenders of the time.

Historical tidbit: Those in need of a loan would come and speak with a Jew who was known to lend money. They would sit on a bench and discuss the particulars of the situation. But this was here in Germany and so the word for the seat they used wasn’t bench but similar to “bank” and that is where we get the word for a money lending institution.

Christians of the Middle Ages weren’t aware of the Cleanliness is next to Godliness thing and were a bunch of dirty people. However, the Jews had ritual cleaning habits very unlike their Christian customers when the Black Death hit the region, the Jews were far less affected because they were simply so much cleaner. But needing a scapegoat (because the Lords and Bishops had a duty to protect their peons) they blamed the plague on the Jews and they were thrown out of towns across the continent. The pogroms would continue for centuries for a variety of reasons.

Speyer also claims to be the inventor of the brezel, or as we say, pretzel. Of course, a lot of other German cities also make this claim. Regardless of the true origin, there are lots of pretzel vendors here. They do not eat their pretzels with mustard and unlike Auntie Annie, they do not coat them in cinnamon sugar.

In the afternoon, we were taken on our “Home Hosted Visit” or as I call it, the home invasion. Grand Circle Tours is unique in this activity. They set up group visits of four to ten people from the ship to go to houses of locals in the region. Our hosts were Sylvia and Karlheinz who spoke some English, but not much. So they had their granddaughter, Anna, there as interpreter.
The house we visited was Karlheinz’s parents house and he was born there. They lived downstairs and one of their daughters lived upstairs with her family. They had a beautiful flower garden in the front of the house and vegetable garden at the back.

Karlheinz had been a carpenter before he retired and had completely redone the inside in the house with beautiful cabinet work. He also added on something like our enclosed lanai. It was outside the house proper, and all glass. It was heated for winter use and it looked out on the beautiful flower garden.
We were served two different types of delicious cakes while we talked about anything that came to mind. Sylvia was very proud of her family and Anna’s English was impeccable. She had been to America and Disney World once before and has been taking English classes since for thirteen years. She is in her last year of regular schooling and hopes to go to Heidelberg after she graduates.

The bus driver for this trip was astounding. We had addresses but didn’t know exactly where anything was and just like home, there is unexpected roadwork in progress. This guy was backing up another Mercedes bus through streets I couldn’t have driven through. He didn’t hit anything even though I was sure we were going to crash at any moment. He delivered us to our various homes and then came back to fetch us 90 minutes later.

After dinner, we had a magician come to the ship and offer us a magic show. He was remarkably entertaining. He was the end of our long and productive day.

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The ghostly ancient kings who protect Speyer even now