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Rhine - Day Six - Wet Ink and Player Pianos PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 30 September 2013 18:28

Woke up in Mainz this morning with more water above the boat than below it – gray skies and driving rain. Still. JB and I went out and joined the walking tour of the old city. Saw all sorts of old, wet buildings and got the idea that this city has been pummeled by everyone from the Visigoths to the American Air Force. It’s an odd collection of the medieval, the renaissance, all the way up to post-modern. I’d like to see the city and its hills sometime when it’s not sleeting down rain.

The things I'll do to get into print!Then we visited the Gutenberg museum for one of the most interesting displays I’ve ever seen. Oddly, it was our guide Andrea (a wiry German lady) who slipped into an apron and showed us how the printing press operated. She explained how the type pieces go into the frame (and how they use an indexed rib along the top so they can visually confirm that all the characters are orientated correctly and of the same font). She even cast a type piece while we watched so we could see how it was done. And then she asked for a volunteer. Suspecting what this was for, I tossed up a hand. Turned out I got to help her work the press and “print” a document. It was fun, a real experience for a writer. Then, when it was all over, she rolled up my bible sheet and gave it to me. I’m going to have to frame it – so cool. I was still so jazzed that I bought a little replica of a printing press to keep at home.

Perfect house for Her, and look at the Man Cave!After lunch and a little quiet time, and after the boat had run further downriver, we arrived at Rudesheim. It was still drizzly, but fine enough to go on a tour of Sigfried’s Mechanical Musical Instruments Museum. Okay, so this was a collection of automated machines, player pianos, gramophones, even chaotic music boxes. It was really a lot of fun in a steampunky sort of way. Afterwards we had a coffee tasting at the Rudesheimer Schloss. This was coffee that started with booze in a cup, lit on fire, doused with coffee and then runway-foamed with whipped cream. Strange but really good. Afterwards, JB and I with our two Canadian couples wandered the town, drinking this and looking at that. Finally we returned to the ship only to find that dinner was pretty lame. So back into town, for some high-priced (but stunningly good) German food (JB and I even found an open ice cream shop afterwards). Then back to the ship, where we hung out in the lounge (and even did a little dancing) until beddy-bye time.

Yes, quite the night. Now we look north to the picturesque gorge and pray for sunshine.




Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 October 2013 17:28
Rhine - Day Five - Cathedrals and Triplanes PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 29 September 2013 18:53

Talked my Canadian friends into taking the shore run into Speyer today. Did a cathedral tour that was pretty good (the historian guide was a bit flat, and sucked every element of soaring structure and arcing history from this tour). Then we went over to the technology museum, a place filled to the rafters with trains, planes and automobiles.

The Phalz DIII, an elegant yet amemic fighterI got to see two Fokker DR1 (triplanes), one of which was a spot-on replica of the Red Baron’s plane. I also got to see a Pfalz DIII, one of the prettiest (yet lousiest) front line German fighters (appropriate, since this museum is housed in the old Pfalz plant). There were all sorts of locomotive engines, and even an old carousel (which I dropped 2 euos into so it would illuminate and run (and so I could film it for JB, who really liked it)). Funny moment when we did the walk through on U9 (a 1967 German submarine, all cramped and tight and head-bongy). Our Canadian friend went into it and never came out. While we walked away with his wife, we joked that she could tell people how she lost her husband – on a Uboat. Laughs all around until he finally popped out.

After this, we came back to the ship for lunch, and after that, we were bused over to Heidelberg (while the ship repositioned) to check out the ruins of a castle/palace jutting from the ridge over the city, and the amazing vista it afforded. I really liked it, even though it hailed briefly and was colder than crap. In the end, while waiting for the bus, JB and I sat on the bank of the Neckar River and watched the barges pass the kayaks – just a nice quiet end to a fun day.

It was our anniversary today, the whole reason we’re doing this trip. Yes, we had a great day and a nice dinner with our two Canadian couples. I’m pretty boozed right now, and it’s amazing I got anything written tonight. Well, there you go. Blogging is free, right? Quality is secondary.




Last Updated on Monday, 30 September 2013 18:36
Rhine - Day Four - Wet entertainment and bed fun PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 28 September 2013 19:00

Strasbourg was our first full-day port (or first full day aboard, or whatever). Interesting place. After a night of bumping and thumping (but not too badly) through locks, dawn found us docked along an industrial area south of town. However, what a nice place (better, I’d suspect, than civic-prided blight of New Jersey). A line of railway goods wagons stood in a neatly mown and tree-lined railyard, with swans swanning (sorry, but that’s exactly what they were doing) about between ship and shore. On a nearby road and sweeping bridge, bicyclists whizzed past with German efficiency and French pride. Unlike the US, nobody took a shot at our ship.

After breakfast, we toured the city canals via a small glass-domed boat. It was a bit on the cool, rainy side, but still we saw many wonderful buildings and interesting sights in this gamepiece of a city, swapped between Germany and France over the last one hundred years. When we went through a set of locks, we hydro-jaded travelers didn’t bat as much as an eye.

After this, we debarked (debarged?) and walked the grounds for a bit. There was a beautiful cathedral that made one’s heart stop to look up its face (140 meters) with a steampunky clock inside with moving figures that rang bells and flipped hourglasses. Then we were given time to walk about and look into shops – alas, not much was really open, given that the weekend shops are generally closed Mondays and it was rainy and pretty much out of season. Still, I bought some fudge of Tootsie Roll consistency. And back we trudged through the passing showers, snapping careful shots from beneath our umbrella.

That afternoon, our small circle of Canadian friends we’ve hooked onto had originally thought about returning to town for a bit more shopping, but after a small easy lunch and a quiet communal chat, our beds looked better and better. As my sleep cycles are still off, this was a welcome respite – a chance to recharge my batteries (camera, computer, and biological) and brace myself for the journey to come.

It should be noted that tonight was formal night. Showed up with a tie (one of the few), with JB dapper. Ate dinner with our cruise buddies, made plans to go to a technology museum tomorrow, then retired upstairs to watch a local French singer (and her accompanying organist) grind through famous French music. Silly but fun in a boozy sort of way (how much did I drink at dinner?). Afterwards, JB and I took a quick walk around the deck – nice but she was as skittish as a colt. What, did she think she was going into the river? We’re in a lock now as I write this. Who knows what tomorrow holds?




Last Updated on Monday, 30 September 2013 05:20
Rhine - Day Three - Top of the world, Ma! PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 27 September 2013 18:17

What a difference today. If yesterday set us onto the course of vacation happiness, today gave us a hefty shove in the right direction.

I will admit being a bit on edge overnight – troubles sleeping. Would we be able to get the excursion we wanted – Mount Pilatus – or would be we be bumming around Zurich for another half day, waiting for the ship’s coach to leave? We ended up at the signup desk first thing at 8am and were first on the list (actually, for a bit, it looked like we wouldn’t have enough but everyone came through in the end). So off we went.

Met with Gubi, our funny Swiss-lady tour guide who took us to Kriens, at which point we boarded a small four-seat cable car which swung its way (mostly through clouds) higher and higher. Saw Swiss cows (standing on rising ground, their cow-bells bonging). Ascended a pinnacle a cable tower was anchored to, with the ground dropping away as we crossed it – gulp! Higher and higher until we reached a midpoint station, where we transferred to a 40 person gondola (like a cable car, but more people die if it falls) for the final ascent to the summit of the Timlishorn. Saw a mountain goat on an impossible peak as we soared higher up the cliff face, until we latched onto the final platform, a hotel at something like 7000 feet.

We wandered around up here for a bit – heavy clouds but occasionally we could see way, way down. We had lunch at the hotel (macaroni and cheese and onions – actually, I really rather liked this). Then some more climbing and hiking about before we boarded the cog railroad for the 47% grade down to the lake.

That was something. We followed another car down, and had to halt in a passing siding to let three up-trains get by. As they passed window-to-window, our guide laughing told us to tell the upbound tourists that it was snowing heavily on the summit – “There’s a foot of snow up there!” “Shouldn’t you dress warmer?” “You’re going to hate it”. Everyone in the other car gaped in shock and really looked startled at the news of their own frosty demise – joke’s on them.

Afterwards, we rolled over by bus to Lucerne, a beautiful town, if only a bit touristy. We checked out the must-sees: the Kapellbrucke Bridge and the Lion statue. Very interesting.

So now I’m writing this on my laptop, using a dodgy power converter in our stateroom, sloshy with wine and the aftergrow of new dinner friends as our boat thumps into another lock (so many on the upper Rhine). Tomorrow is Strasbourg, with a morning citywalk and an afternoon tramping around the town. I’ll let you know how it plays.




Last Updated on Monday, 30 September 2013 05:14

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