Day 8 – 9/30/12 – Nuremberg

On Sunday, we pulled into Nuremberg.

Nuremberg started out as another medieval city, but this one was also bombed into near oblivion by the Allies in WWII. It has been rebuilt mostly rather than being restored. Some of the old town within the city walls were restored, but the rest was modernized after the war. Nuremberg was the center of the Nazi organization and propaganda mill, and thus, was a prime target of the Allies.

The Swedlows, Maags, and Wickhams opted for the optional WWII tour rather than the regular old city tour. We boarded buses and traveled to the Zepplin field which was the site of the massive propaganda rallies held by the Nazis.

If the photo looks familiar, it is because this was the site where many of the Nazi propaganda films were made during Hitler’s endless speeches to whip up the huge crowds of Nazi followers. The parade ground was huge, capable of holding 500,000 cheering, screaming citizens. The place gave me the creeps.

Next, we visited the Documentation Center. This is a quasi-museum detailing the rise of the Nazis, the mind-wiping of the citizenry, and the horrors perpetrated by Hitler’s buddies. As we exited the center, I happened to pass by a window into another room where there was an endless pile of small cards.

Upon closer examination, I found that each card bore the name and date of a person exterminated in one of the many concentration camps.

Next, we visited Courtroom 600 in the Palace of Justice, the site of the original Nuremberg War Crimes trial.  For a site of such a significant event, it was very ordinary looking.

That’s Matthew, our guide for the day. He related the history of the trials and described the process.

Finally, we stopped for a few moments in the quaint central square of the city, but by this time I had had quite enough of Nuremberg and decided to go back to the ship and post this blog.

 

Day 7 – 9/29/12 – Bamberg

On Saturday, we visited Bamberg, still in Franconia, Bavaria, Germany. Bamberg was the home city of the king of the Holy Roman Empire of Bavaria, Henry II and his wife, Cunigunde of Luxembourg.

In order to get to Bamberg, we passed through multiple locks on the Main River, some raising the boat as much as 50 feet. At one point, we cruised passed a beautiful bucolic scene with grassy meadows, farm houses, and a two tower nuclear power plant in the background spewing out huge clouds of steam.

We stopped at an intermediate town of Hassburg, boarded buses, and went on to Bamberg while the boat cruised to Bamberg through another few locks.

Bamberg was yet another medieval city (this is getting to be the main theme so far in Germany) dominated by a huge cathedral.

We happened to be in town during the 1000 year anniversary of the completion of the cathedral, so there was a very long procession of children traipsing through the cobblestone streets on the way to the cathedral.

We enjoyed the city scenes, but near the end of our tour, we all (except Ted and Mary Maag) decided to sample the local brew, a smokey variety of local beer called Schlenkerla. The beer was a dark beer with the unmistakable taste of bacon or ham. Most of us thought it was delicious. Ted Maag took a small sip, screwed up his face and declared, “This is crap.” and went off to find another brewery.

 

Day 6 – 9/28/12 – Wurzburg

On Friday, we pulled into Wurzburg, the capital city of Franconia, one of the sections of the state of Bavaria, Germany. Wurzburg was another medieval city, this one of note since it was the seat of the mighty prince bishops. One became a prince bishop by first being a bishop, then declaring yourself lord and master of the region (and having the necessary force to back up the claim). Typically, you also had to know the king and be in his good graces. We started our walking tour of the city by visiting the Prince Bishop’s Residenz, which is a German word for massively ornate and over the top palace. The palace was huge, several city blocks. Inside the Residenz, we saw huge ballrooms with beautiful ceiling freezes depicting the four known continents of Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe. All the continents but Europe were depicted with naked women on some symbolic animal (elephant-Asia, camel-Africa, alligator-Americas) surrounded by various other figures. Europe, of course, was depicted as populated by fancy dressed aristocrats enjoying the arts. Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed inside the palace. Each room was more ostentatiously decorated than the last, culminating in a room that was decorated entirely with gold edged mirrors and reverse glass paintings. During WWII, Wurzburg was mostly reduced to rubble. (300,000 incendiary bombs were dropped in 17 minutes on March 16, 1945 by the British air force in a raid that was chosen because the weather was good over the city.) The Residenz roof was destroyed, but most of the walls remained standing, even if damaged. After the war, the women of Wurzburg decided that they would rebuild the city and restore the old buildings. They did this because the town’s men were either dead (from the war) or in POW camps. We had a very good tour guide, Gunter, who was available to answer all our questions. After the Residenz, we strolled through the old city, gawking at the dozens of churches and medieval buildings that were restored. This is a photo of the lower marketplace, dominated by a church. The Schnolls, Maags, and Gills decided to visit the local fortress up on a (very tall) hill in the afternoon. It was a museum and vineyard. I am told that Peggy Gill put a curse on Ted Maag for convincing them to climb up to the fortress, but she apparently removed the curse after the visit was over. Note the nearly vertical rows of vines in the vineyard below the fortress. We saw many of these vineyards throughout Bavaria on our trip. Some of the slopes were 45-60 degree inclines. Harvesting the grapes has to been done by hand rather than by machine.

Day 5 – Miltenberg and Wertheim on the Main River

We pick up once again on our travelogue …

On Thursday, our boat made a leisurely sail to Miltenberg on the Main River in Germany.

Along the way, we passed through several locks on the Main. The locks serve three major purposes: 1) They regulate the level of the river and control the frequent flooding of the riverside towns that would otherwise occur, 2) they control the depth of the river and thus render it reliably navigable, and 3) small dams along the river at the locks provide some hydroelectric power. There are 33 locks that we must navigate from the mouth of the Main where it empties into the Rhine and where we finally cross the Rhine-Main-Danube canal and enter the Danube. Each lock allows the boat to rise (or fall if going downstream) from about 3-25 meters. If the boat is going upstream (as are we, since the rivers north of the Danube drain into the North Sea) the purpose of the lock is to rise. The boat first enters the downstream section of the lock. The back door is closed sealing the boat in a short section of river between the back door and the front door. Sluice gates are opened in the front allowing water from the upstream section of the river to enter the closed section, floating the boat from the lower to the upper elevation. Then, the front gate is opened and the boat sails through.

As we sailed along the Main river, four of us decided to have a short poker game. Mike Schnoll brought the cards and chips. We all bought in for the princely sum of 6 Euro and began.

At the end of the game, I was the big winner with a net profit of 4.40 Euro.

We pulled into Miltenberg and began our walking tour of this largely untouched medieval city/town. Our guide took us though the cobblestone streets that defined the town. Nearly all the buildings dated from between the 800 AD date and around the early 1700s. Houses and shops were of the half-timbered variety, which means that the wood frame that defines the structure is exposed with the gaps between the frame filled with stucco. Here are a couple of examples:

Town Square in Miltenberg. Notice the exposed wood frame with stucco in between the frame elements. The funnel shaped ditch on the left is the main drainage for the town for rain water (and sewage in the “old days”). Some of the buildings are tilted a bit due to soft soil and frequent floods, but most of the apparent tilt is due to camera perspective.

Here is an example of a building that is actually and significantly tilted. There are no level floors or plumb walls in this house. It is still in use.

One of our group members wasn’t feeling well (probable bronchitis) so we stopped in an apothecary (drug store) and purchased a supply of vitamin C, decongestants, antihistamines, and antibiotics.

After exploring the town, we stopped in a brew house and sampled the local brews. We had Faust DoubleBock, Pils, and Heffelweissen (wheat beer). Added a wonderful thin sliced pizza and all was well.

From Miltenberg, we then boarded the buses again and drove to the nearby town of Wertheim. By this time, it was already past closing time for the shops so we just ambled around town looking at the architecture and enjoying the ambiance.

The first building we came upon in Wertheim was the Leaning Tower of Wertheim.

The bottom half of the tower was built some 800 years ago but construction stopped halfway through because the tower was tilting too much. It lay half constructed for another 200 years. Then the city fathers decided to finish the job, but built the top in such a way to offset the tilt.

There were many other lovely old buildings to see in Wertheim, but my current internet access is so slow and spotty that I’m going to sign off now and try again later. Tomorrow is Wurzberg. More to come.

Day 4 – Blogging on the Rhine

At the urging of our group, I am posting a photo of Velma and I hard at work posting to the blog. We take our responsibility very seriously, so much so that we are probably spending more time on the damn computer than we spend looking at the dozens of castles floating by.

Anyway, here we are, pounding away on matching Macs.

Day 4 – Koblenz, Castle Marksburg, and the Middle Rhine Valley (Dave)

Today we visited the charming village of Koblenz.

Passengers got off the ship, boarded a bus, and were driven to a nearby castle called Marksburg Castle.

Marksburg was one of the very few castles along the Rhine that survived the centuries intact despite multiple wars and conflicts.

Here are a few photos from the visit:

Narrow passages.

Charming accessories (special for women who talk too much…)

Velma trying on a new hat for Mike.

After leaving the Marksburg castle, we continued our sail up river on the Rhine, passing a couple of dozen castles along the way. Here is a sample. (After a few castles, they all begin to look alike.)

A brief word about the weather so far. It’s been cloudy, cold, and punctuated by brief showers. Very little sun. Hopefully, we will get clearer weather when we get farther south.