Viking River Cruise-Apr./May 2013 (19)

Thursday, May 09, 2013-Day 20

The Idun left Koblenz at 4 am bound for Cologne. Last night we had been told that while none of our remaining tours would be affected, we would have to spend all day ashore on Friday as the ship needed to go in to dry dock for two hours. We began to speculate what had happened during the trip to cause this dry docking, but we were reassured it was a minor procedure. We were not convinced but also not worried at all.

During breakfast this morning we were able to watch the approach to Cologne as the ship motored gently downstream. Traffic on the river increased markedly, Barge after barge passing by fully convinced us that this river must surely be the world’s busiest.

Towards Cologne Cathedral From Our Cabin

Towards Cologne Cathedral From Our Cabin

Out ship docked beautifully, smoothly, about three blocks from the wonderful cathedral. We had been to the city and seen the cathedral in ’87-’88, but not from the river.

This was Ascension Day and today is a holiday in Germany. We disembarked and met our guide who proved to be superb. A shower of rain was falling gently, the first rain to affect us on the trip. However, it wasn’t enough to deter us and off we went on a walking tour heading to the cathedral.

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral

Our guide told us that the Dom (cathedral) had been started in 1248, when the city had about 50 000 inhabitants (Financially, that would have equated to a city of 10 000 000 today). It was said that the bones of the three wise men had been brought here from Italy, and this gave rise to the building of the cathedral as a home for these relics. It took over 600 years (off and on) to build this fabulous cathedral and it was finished by using the original plans. Imagine how many generations helped build it.

Today, over 100 people come to work every day at the cathedral. They are the exterior cleaning crew who are constantly employed to keep the cathedral clear of grime, bird droppings, seeds and weeds etc., which fall/sprout on the building. (They have even had small trees growing in certain flatter areas of the roof)

First Sight Of The Cathedral

First Sight Of The Cathedral

We strolled around the outside in the shower as a service was going on inside. Eventually tourists were allowed in as the service drew to an end. It was so wonderful to hear the choir singing and catch the last part of the prayers.

Our guide pointed out to us a replica of one of the finials on the top of the cathedral. It was over 30 feet high and weighed Lord only knows how many tons. It is hard to imagine the craftsmen hoisting this to the top of the cathedral.

Replica Of A Cathedral Top Finial

Replica Of A Cathedral Top Finial

When we came out, it was time to head back to the ship. As Cynthia and I made our way slowly back to the ship, we tried to cut across a courtyard of red bricks. We were asked gently by a city worker, to detour around the red brick area. We noticed signs posted around the area. They stated that the Cologne Philharmonic orchestra was in a recording session beneath our feet. The red brick area was the roof of the Cologne concert hall!

Courtyard, Also The Roof Of The Cologne Philharmonic Hall

Courtyard, Also The Roof Of The Cologne Philharmonic Hall

We had learned so much about this city in such a short time. Like other places on this trip our appetite to re-visit had been increased.

We relaxed through the afternoon and watched the people come and go on the dockside. Cyclists mingled with pedestrians and children rode their scooters. It seemed the whole city was out and about, enjoying life on this Ascension Day.

At 6.15 pm we had our daily briefing in the lounge. That was followed by the Captain’s reception and after that we were asked to join the skipper and Gerhardt the hotel manager at their table for dinner.

Captain Igor Toasts the Passengers, While Gerhardt Looks On

Captain Igor Toasts the Passengers, While Gerhardt Looks On

Woowee…Harringtons and Davies had hit the big-time…not!

The dinner with Harringtons, Captain Igor and Gerhardt proved to be a very pleasant experience and Gerhardt looked after us very well. I know Don felt it was a little over the top the way we had three waiters and the Maitre D hovering around us, and I agree with that completely. However, they absolutely spoiled us.

Gerhardt Presents Each Crew Member To The Passengers

Gerhardt Presents Each Crew Member To The Passengers

Tomorrow we head downriver and dock in Rotterdam. One full day excursion remains and that’s that. I don’t know if it will be possible to post anything regarding this last day’s excursion before we get home. I will try, but…if not…thanks for coming along for the ride and for your support and comments.

Our time in Europe is fast growing short. Goodbye for now and God bless.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Viking River Cruise-Apr./May 2013 (18)

Wednesday, May 08, 2013-Day 19 At breakfast we noticed the ship had pulled into a nondescript moorage somewhere along the river Mains. We found out that the crew was busy raising awnings and setting up deck chairs on the sun deck as we were to be allowed on that deck for the next section of the trip.

Harringtons and Friends Plan our Route Down The Castle Stretch

Harringtons and Friends Plan our Route Down The Castle Stretch

A while earlier, we had moved from travling west on the Main River and joined the rhine to move south and West. At Bingen  the Rhine makes a right angled turn to flow north and the time of passing below low bridges was over. It was shortly after passing Bingen, and around 11 am, that Vlad, our cruise director began his commentary on the castles of the Rhine Valley, this stretch between Bingen in the south and Koblenz in the north. He went on to give us the history of the so-called “robber-baron” castles as castle after castle came and went. It was most interesting. a quote from our brochure say, “History has often painted the lords of the castles along the middle Rhine as extortionist menaces to hapless travellers. It is less-well known that they were responsible for keeping the towpaths along the river in good shape, and that the toll collected therefore could just as easily be considered a tax. That said, the difference between a robber baron and a tax collector may have been lost on most contemporaries.”DSCN9030

This stretch of the Rhine Valley is absolutely gorgeous. The four of us on deck discussed what a fine time could be had in slowly driving and exploring the small towns along the length of the river, and in this stretch in particular. The castles were majestic. Some are now owned and run by the state as youth hostels, some are privately owned and operated as museums, and only one is authentic, not having been re-built in any way. That is the castle Marksburg  at the town of Braubach.

Don Hits The Sun Deck With Marksburg Castle On The Hill

Don Hits The Sun Deck With Marksburg Castle On The Hill

Later, the ship docked at Braubach and we were taken to the foot of the castle by bus. After a short, steep uphill climb (Cynthia and Lynore remained on ship) Don and I along with many others explored the castle with our guide. It is in fabulous shape, and is a credit to those who care for it. After an hour in the castle, we descended to the buses and went back to the ship which had moved on downriver and docked at Koblenz. We went ashore again at Koblenz and while wandering through ascenic area, we heard a brass band warming up. When we got to the source of the sound, the band was from the Ottawa Fire Department of all places! They were (we assumed, because many of them looked like they would not be found at the top of a ladder truck) retired fore-fighters and wives, on a tour of certain European countries. Some time later, they marched to the gangway of of our ship and were given a shot of Schnapps each by the crew of the Idun. What an advertising gambit that was! It had been another full day!

Goodbye for now and God bless

This slideshow requires JavaScript.