5. November 2009 22:22
We traveled on to Rudesheim, a beautiful village that climbs up the banks of the Rhine and is framed in vineyards. Siegfied's Mechanical Music Musical Instrument Museum is a world-class collection of music boxes and mechanical music machines. Rudesheim coffee is a local hot drink made with brandy, whipped cream and spices and makes a perfect outdoor drink on a brisk day.
We sailed toward Koblenz through the Rhine's fabled gorge, where medieval castles and churches dot the countryside and stand like sentinels above the Rhine. Many are privately-owned and well maintained, others are in ruin. It was cold during this leg of the trip, but some of us sat on the bow viewing area of the Creativity and braved the elements to enjoy these magnificent structures as they passed.
We enjoyed a free afternoon in Cologne, and after taking in its incomparable cathedral, we walked the streets in a welcome sunlight. The change in weather warmed everyone up and brought the local residents out into this large city's shopping district for a Friday afternoon stroll.
Our trip ended in Amsterdam, a delightfully liberal city. After a canal tour, four or us caught the tram to the city's museum plaza, where we toured the Van Gogh museum. The permanent collection there provides an endearing study of this troubled artist's life and concludes with a poignant photograph of his grave beside that of his beloved brother's, Theo. We had dinner that evening in the red light district with a few friends. While the scenery was mostly tawdry, the Tibetan restaurant we found was superb and filled with local diners.
28. October 2009 17:24
In Strasbourg, we walked through the old town and entered the Notre Dame cathedral that dates to the 12th century. Inside, a mechanical clock dating to the 1500s still operates daily, wound each day by a clock keeper. This meticulously-designed timepiece includes angels and apostles, an old man facing death and a young boy just beginning his life. Each hour, and even on quarter hours, this clock chimes and its pieces move to keep a watch over the seasons of life itself.
The following day we visited the massive Heidelberg castle. This medieval structure towers above a busy city characterized by red tile roofs and German architecture. At one point in its history, the castle was attacked by the French with its own dynamite, pilfered from stores it kept outside the walls. The castle is used today for many purposes including weddings and events, and each year the Student Prince opera is still perfomed outside here in one of its many courtyards. Afterwards, we enjoyed a beer, and a serving of kraut, bacon and potato cakes at an outdoor cafe.
The following day, we walked through Mainz, a city almost entirely destroyed during WWII. Today, it thrives and much of its rebuilt downtown is for pedestrians only, very little automobile traffic is allowed. Its cobblestone plazas and streets are filled with strollers, dogs on leashes and passersby.
27. October 2009 12:19
We've landed in Zurich and are awaiting transfers to our Avalon vessel, the Creativity, in Basel. We'll be cruising the Rhine River through parts of France and Germany. We took the opportunity to walk a bit in Zurich, the Swiss capital, and although most of the commercial enteprises and shopping stops were closed on this Sunday, it was still busy downtown as lots of families were out enjoying a brisk fall day. From there it was on to Strasbourg and its 12th century Notre Dame cathedral. This historic city was torn with conflicting allegiances during World War II.