General Blog
Rhine - Day Nine - Black hearts and round wheels PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Friday, 04 October 2013 19:00

After a night bumping into locks, today we ended up on Amsterdam. Interesting city, of course, with all the bikes. No, I mean ALL THE BIKES. Unless you’ve been here, you have no idea how many bikes are here. Racks and racks of bikes. Every street has a bike lane. Bikes rule the city.

While this might seem like Nirvana for me given my interest in bicycling, it didn’t come across as a particularly friendly city. Pedestrians are threatened by cars and bikes. People toss the finger and curse each other with great abandon. So, no, I don’t think I could happily live downtown - this is a city that would eat at me.

Just as it ate at Anne Frank, given what I’ve read of her diary thus far (review to be up in few weeks). This morning, we visited the Anne Frank house. Ugh. Remember what I mentioned a day before about justification about the allied plastering of Nazi Germany? A trip through the Frank hideaway will give you a greater appreciation for the reasons we did what we did. There were some things I learned in the museum (such as a recounting by the last person to see Anne alive in the camp) that broke my heart. She was a girl so alive with hopes and dreams and desires, and all that got snuffed through an indescribably evil internal policy of an industrialized government. If you visit Amsterdam, perhaps you need to skip the windmills and the red light district and check this out. I mean, for $@%# sakes! She was only a frightened little girl. How could anyone…?

Anyway, let’s move on. In the afternoon, after a quick lunch, JB and I took a cycle ride through the Dutch wetland zones. It was one of the tours we signed up for – seeing Amsterdam like a native. JB was freaking out – she figured that she couldn’t keep up with the casual riding, even with all the riding I put her through. But it was easy – the bikes rode well (disk brakes and nice smooth shifts, though mine was (by our definition) a girl’s bike) and the route was nice. We put on helmets which made up look like tourists – fine, the natives can think whatever they want. I ride in the most statistically dangerous place for bikes anywhere - Orlando, and I use a helmet. I invite you to come to my city, ride my route and sneer at my helmet.

Anyway, off we went, north to the Central Station then across by ferry to the east bank, then out along several bike routes. Eventually we found ourselves close to the city center but amid cows and green carpets of grass. Riding bikes in situations like this is weird – it’s like you are on an Alternative Earth. We were a kilometer from the city, in open fields, on long roads that only existed for bikes. Beautiful!

Two or three Kilometers from Amsterdam

Eventually we stopped for beers in a tiny tavern – very good. Chatted with an Australian couple, then boom, off we went, riding at about 7mph along kilometers* of greenspace dikes. Soon enough we made it home. A final dinner with the Canadians and now JB is packing up her tonnage while I write this. Tomorrow we officially end our cruise and move to a shore-side hotel.

<<<START

NEXT>>>

>>>NO CARS IN MASON’S TIME (330BC IN TYRE) BUT NO BIKES EITHER. FIND OUT IF THIS IS ONE OF HIS MANY CHANGES HE MAKES TO HIS NEW HOMELAND IN “EARLY RETYREMENT”<<<

* = I just realized how stupid this sentence is.

Last Updated on Saturday, 05 October 2013 19:30
 
Rhine - Day Eight - How big is your bomb hole? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 03 October 2013 20:40

Started the day docked at Cologne. Interesting place – I’m actually sitting on the upper deck of the ship, writing this while looking over the riverfront. Anyway, we only had a half day here, so we got the usual walk through tour. The funny thing I’m noticing is that each of the guides tell us how pulverized the city center was in World War Two. That’s apparently a common theme here. And yes, I feel bad about the destruction and war is hell, but then again, I’ve seen bomb damage in London. “If you don’t want to lose your Ritz, don’t do the Blitz”, or words to that effect, I suppose.

Anyway, the lady giving our tour gave us a back-at-the-dock time of 12:30pm, which was actually a little too soon. After JB and I checked out the very nice Roman Museum of early Cologne, we had lunch at a nice café, a lunch partially stressed with me clockwatching it. We ate a little faster than we would have liked and bolted back to the ship, only to find it still here. Which is nice – I’m sure if we’d lounged through lunch, we’d have found the boat gone and ourselves way up the river without a tour ship. Happy endings, I suppose.

Now JB has joined me topside and we’re waiting for another ship to pull clear so we can cast off. It’s a bit breezy but not bad.

 

New and old (the old likely dropped in WW2)I’ll take that back. Once the ship got rolling, once the wind started washing over the bow, the other tourists vanished like, well, leaves before the storm. I hung tough topside out of pride until my teeth started to chatter. Finally I came below deck and found JB in the lounge. Hung out, had coffee and cake at four, read for a while and watched the river go by.

I’ll mention we’re just about out of Rhine. Shit.

 

And so tonight we sat with our friends on the final night of the trip (though we will remain on board for an additional night and probably stay in the same hotel with one couple for the next few days). Nice tight dinner (the wine flowed) and afterwards, a crew talent show (silly but honest). Then some crazy dancing. I’m still smiling.

<<<START

NEXT>>>

>>>MASON’S TRIP INTO TIME WAS PERMANENT. MINE IS TEMPORARY. TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HIS (AND WHY HE FOUND HAPPINESS) FOLLOW THIS LINK!<<<

Last Updated on Friday, 04 October 2013 19:14
 
Rhine - Interlude PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 02 October 2013 21:24

Sometimes so much happens that you need to put in a side chapter to explain other details of the tour. A good writer shouldn’t have to do that, and can carry it in a sentence or two. So here’s my interlude.

Thursday night was interesting. After a long dinner created by a local chef (I had some sort of beef patty things that I ended up literally licking the plate over), we retired to the lounge. There, a local trio of musicians (two guitarists and a violinist) played tunes classical and otherwise for us. I’ll say they were good, since I drowsily listened to them with a soppy smile on my face yet didn’t fall asleep, no mean feat given the gallons of wine aboard.

As the ship’s director had announced we’d be going under the Remagen Bridge (where the allies got their foothold over the Rhine, and which collapsed after ten days of desperate attempts by the Nazis to drop it). Canadian Joe said he’d be interested in going up. So the director rang us up at 12:10am and we left our warm beds to troop upstairs and meet with another three other history buffs/masochists on the bow.

It was dizzily and dark and cold, just a perfect night to appreciate your cabin. We droned down the river between dark banks, the Rhine trains rattling past in the dark. Then the ship’s spotlight flashed out, searching for the block tower, all that’s left of the structure. We looked and looked and finally saw it – I’d already set my camera to “nighttime landscape” shutter speed (since they didn’t have a “hopeless rainy rolling driveby at 30 mph” shutter speed. I managed to get a ghostly (i.e. bad) image of the thing.

A note of our companions. As hinted here and there, we’ve struck up a casual friendship with two Canadian couples. They are very nice (and smile charmingly when I get into my political/social rants (not hard considering America just suffered another manic-with-a-gun moment)).

Ken, Joyce, Marilyn, Joe and JB in a rainy beerhall

So we have Ken, an older fellow with a wry sense of humor and a no-nonsense attitude, the sort of guy who will cuss up a storm yet give you a slap with his hat when you forget yours inside a church.

And his wife Marilyn, a very sweet lady with the saddest little smile, who can hold her own with me when it comes to tossing did-you-read titles. I’ll be reading and reviewing some of her recommendations in the coming weeks.

Then the other couple – my buddy Joe, a salt-n-peppery fellow. He’s the nicest guy, I respect him in every way, and see much of myself in him (and since I drive him nuts, he’ll recognize the insult for what it is). Seriously, Joe was up on the bow with us for the Remagen Bridge episode, looking like a drowned river elf in his hoodie jacket.

And then Joyce his wife, a very nice lady who grew up on a farm and has a pragmatic sense of humor (after all, she married Joe). But I like her – she’s the one who got me up on the dance floor the other night where we acted like dancing fools and had a great time!

So thanks for traveling with us, guys! We had a great time sharing our journey with you.

And now, on with the travelog!

<<<START

NEXT>>>

>>>THIS RECOUNTING IS ‘TOURISTY’. AND SINCE IT IS, YOU NEED A GIFT SHOP. FOLLOW THIS LINK TO MY BOOKS. PICK UP A SOUVENIR. HELL, MY eBOOK IS CHEAPER THAN SOME OF THESE POSTCARDS!!<<<

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 October 2013 20:50
 
Rhine - Day Seven - Shooting the Gorge PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Tuesday, 01 October 2013 17:17

Pulled back the blinds and looked out the next morning. First pleasant surprise: the tour boat locked to our side (with neighbors as close as a Brooklyn tenement) was gone. Second pleasant surprise: the clouds were gone too.

We went up on deck as the crew cast off, the ship pivoting neatly in the channel and easing into the current. It was cold and windy (i.e. even more cold) with a wet spitty rain lashing at us. But we were all excited – the weather was better than yesterday (i.e. we could see the Rudesheim Mountains) and we were looking forward to the show – the Rhine River Gorge!

And what a show. The mountains slowly rose around us, squeezing the Rhine into a ship-clogged channel. Along both banks, two double-ribbons of railroad main line, with trains rushing past in an endless precession. And on every craggy ridge, another pepperbox castle.

On the left... no, my left!!!I was really stunned by this. I shot pictures, walking from port to starboard, bow to stern, snap snap snap. Eventually JB got too cold and went below. The Canadians followed. As time progressed, the river became lazier, the banks broader (though wineries climbed the broad faced hills). But the sun heated the valley. I wasn’t shooting as many shots now, just a set of curiosities and mood images. Now that I had the topside deck pretty much to myself, I strolled the promenade, just enjoying the wild beauty.

Eventually we docked in Koblenz, the middle of three ships (docking space is limited here, it seems). We went into town for a walk through with a guide, learning all sorts of odd little things. When we were released we went for a longer loop with the Canadians. Sat in a café on the edge of the tourist zone and had some milk shakes (a little more watery than stateside). Saw a model railroad shop but everyone was a little too eager to continue for any sort of a browse – I rather regret that, but that’s life. So now we’re back at the ship, resting up before dinner (JB is resting. I’m typing).

Slap on your aftershave. Tomorrow is Cologne!

<<<START

NEXT>>>

>>>MENTIONED TO SOMEONE DECKSIDE THAT I WAS A WRITER AND HE DIDN’T INQUIRE FURTHER. IF YOU MIGHT BE CURIOUS, CLICK HERE AND CHECK OUT MY BOOKS!!!<<<

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 October 2013 21:39
 
«StartPrev12345678910NextEnd»

Page 9 of 44