Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Bamberg, the Main River, Wurtzburg and Bonn

The next day arrived and we docked in Bamberg around 8.00am.
As we were docked a little way out of the main town we used shuttle buses to get into the town centre. Another delightful town and another organised walking tour, but once again we elected to do our own thing (well, I did, Michael elected to stay on board and relax after a restless night).The drop off and meeting point was behind the Messerschmitt Hotel. 

Messerschmitt -the same family as Willy Messerschmitt, the aircraft designer and manufacturer. He was born not far from Bamberg, the son of a wine merchant and hotelier.
(Bamberg also lays claim to the birthplace of Levi Strauss, the jeans man, but he was actually born in Buttenheim a tiny village near by).
More facts about Bamberg – it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 due the abundance of historical buildings. It has 9 breweries in town and another 81 in the surrounding area. The Bamberg speciality beer is 'smoked beer', a dark, red ale with a smokey taste and an after taste of bacon. Sounds very odd but some people like it, apparently there's no middle ground, you either like it or you don't, no one seems to 'not mind it'.

Anyway, I got off the bus at the Messerschmitt Hotel and left the group to join their guides and set off on my own walking tour.

 I wandered through the quiet, cobbled streets, across the river and up to Dom Platz (Cathedral Square). It was beautifully quiet, with only about 9 other tourists and 1 council street sweeper. (Later when our various groups arrived it was a lot busier). 

I retraced my steps down through the antique shops, back over the bridge, through more quaint back streets down to the busy market place. 

                                      (Isn't this jewellery box delightful?)

I don't normally go shopping when I'm on holiday but I had time to kill so wandered into the Karstadt department store. As I did have plenty of time to kill I started looking at clothes and walked out about 45 minutes later with a very nice beaded tunic, which was a bargain as the labels were very misleading and the assistant agreed with me that although it wasn't in the sale it had been displayed as such, so I got it at the sale price.
Despite more stores and lots of little shops the only other purchases were at the supermarket on the way back to the Messerschmitt Hotel. We arrived back on board just before lunch and then set sail for Wurzburg.

There was a little drama during dinner as we made an unscheduled stop and an ambulance pulled up nearby. A kitchen staff member ('the washer up') had slipped on some stairs and hurt his ankle. He was attended to on site and we were on our way again. I don't think some people on board realised what was happening as the dinner service continued as smoothly as always.

We docked in Wurzburg the next morning. The organised tour was of the Wurzburg Residence, as the ship was docked in town we opted to do our own thing and walked along the river bank into the town centre.

We did a little shopping, odd souvenirs like a Swiss Army knife and a kitchen clock with temperature and hydrometer readings.
We had a coffee at a street side cafe and enjoyed people watching. We then wandered back to the ship for lunch. When we got back to the cabin we had a lovely surprise, our 'maid' had been and today she had demonstrated her napery folding skills - sitting on the bed was a little short-sighted elephant.
(the glasses were my spare pair).

After lunch I was folding up the map of Wurzburg when a little photo and note on the back of the map caught my eye. Wilhelm Roentgen the man who discovered X-rays, discovered them in his lab at Wurzburg university and that lab is now a museum. I checked out where this was and decided that it was walking distance so off we set.

It wasn't a short distance but we got there. We saw a sign saying Roentgen laboratory but thought the door at the top of the steps was locked. We walked on a little way and found the next door open, this lead into the science block of the University and apart from a couple of classes going on there was no one around. We opened a couple of more doors and it was like a scientific Marie Celeste – no one around. Then there was a clunk (probably a coffee cup hitting a bench) and a man appeared. We explained that we were looking for the museum, he took us outside, up some stairs and showed us the museum entrance – the door that we had thought locked.

                             (Roentgen's Nobel Prize)

A small but good museum and the exhibits were explained in English as well as German, we managed to get the video presentation to play in English too.
I thought about getting a taxi back to the ship but Michael was sure that he could make it, and with just one ice-cream stop he did.

Before we boarded we had a quick photo op on the foreshore where there were these lovely seats.
 We were back on board by 4pm, plenty of time for a nap before dinner.

The next day we had a treat on board, with a master glass blower coming on board to show us some of his work and explain all about glass blowing. We cruised on down towards Freudenberg as we watched. It was fascinating, he was an expert both at glass blowing and entertaining.

We docked in Freudenberg and after a light lunch we had a rest before we were off on another special treat – a home visit.

There were 4 coaches and each coach was then divided into groups of 6, 8, 10 or so and dropped off to meet our 'hosts'. We had not prearranged to go with anyone so when they needed numbers at the first stop we jumped of.
We were in the old town of Miltenberg, and were the only group that would be walking through the old town square as our host family lived in the town centre.
It was delightful, one of our group likened it to a scene from a Walt Disney fairytale. 

Our hostess was Maria and she spoke a little English, after we'd arrived at the house her husband, Karl-Heinz arrived and he spoke English quite well. We had a very nice afternoon tea with the choice of a very rich cherry cake or a rhubarb streusel type cake – some of us had a piece of each! a small one!!

Then our hosts showed us their garden which stretched out to a lovely vine shaded area with the river just across the road, uninterrupted views. Beautiful. Karl Heinz brought out a tray of Schnapps and Maria gave everyone a little gift of some chocolates. They were lovely, lovely hosts. 

Maria is Mexican, from Baja California, she had met Karl-Heinz when he was travelling around the world. They have 4 children, all of whom live in Baja. Karl had a bad accident and returned to Germany for the operations he needs on his leg. He is hoping to return to work as a dental technician soon, but they're not sure whether they'll ben returning to Baja or staying in Miltenberg.

All too soon it was time to head back and meet the bus, collect the other groups and return to ship.
We stood on deck as we cruised through Miltenberg but although we located their house, Maria and Karl-Heinz were not in the garden to wave to.

After dinner we relaxed, watched a movie on tv and slept very well.

Only a few days left on board but we still have places to visit. 

This morning we sailed into the Rhine River. A very busy, fast flowing river. After breakfast we docked in Rudesheim. We were definitely going ashore on the excursion today – visiting Siegfried's Musical Cabinet.
We got the 'Winzer Express' mini train from the dock into town and down to the Musical Cabinet.

 Here we were shown some amazing mechanical musical instruments and organs. At the end of the tour we were shown a beautiful little singing bird in a silver box, this was an antique but they are still being made.(There were some available in the museum shop, priced 3,000euro and upwards).

We set off to explore Rudesheim, wandering down more narrow cobbled streets and laneways. 
The most famous lane is the Drosselgasse which is 144 metre long,in the centre of town. It was built in 15th Century and was meant for boat owners to move items from the river to their homes in town.

We found a nice cafe near the town square and had lunch sitting at an outside table, watching the world go by.

Then we made our way back to the ship.
Later in the afternoon we sailed into the Rhine Gorge. 

We sat up on the Sun Deck, listening to our tour guide's commentary about all the castles we were passing.

The last castle came into view around 6.15pm, just as it was turning a little cool. Time enough to get ready for dinner.
Dinner was, great as usual, and tonight had the theme – 'The International Dinner'.
Our choices were – Germany – Venison, or Italy – Rissotto
Everyone went Sweden for dessert – Vanilla and Pistachio ice cream.

The next day we docked before breakfast, in Bonn. The shuttle buses were leaving at 8.30am so it was an early start and breakfast. The tour involved a walking tour of Bonn and a visit to Drachenburg Castle. We opted for just a visit to the Castle and then straight back to the ship. It was raining!
We got on the coach and were driven to the base of the Funicular Railway and the ride up to the Castle.

It was actually more of a 'stately home' rather than a 'castle' which, to us, implies fortifications.
The rain persisted down so we didn't get a tour of the lovely gardens, it was straight inside for the tour of the rooms. The furnishings were quite different to some of the grand houses that we'd visited, very dark décor – everyone agreed it was 'very German'.
It was still persisting down so about two thirds of the group decided to forego the walk and stayed on the coach to return directly to the ship. Everyone was back on board before lunch, then we set off down the Rhine again.

Late in the afternoon we cruised into Cologne, the weather had improved so we were up on the sundeck.
 As we arrived there were some impressive  buildings on the river's dock side, these were built in the old dockyards and are meant to look like cranes to remember the dock yards's history. The first tow are office buildings but the third one is residential. A one bedroomed apartment in that block, we were told would cost around 1 million euro.

We got a glimpse of the wonderful Cathedral but Cologne was not a stop on our itinerary so we sailed on.

That evening dinner was The Captain's Farewell Dinner. There was champagne in the lounge and the Captain introduced the crew, so that we could show our appreciation. The staff on board have all been absolutely wonderful.
The kitchen staff were busy so we didn't get to see them, they would appear later.
Dinner was another amazing feast. There was no choice of dessert, everyone was going to get the same tonight – Baked Alaska. The chef and kitchen staff did a circuit of the restaurant with Alaska's aflame.

One more night on board, tomorrow we would dock in Amsterdam.

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