Great Rivers of Europe Cruise
Mainz - Rudesheim - Koblenz - Koln (Cologne)
Day 14 - 16
10 - 12 May 2002
Revised 15 September 2002,
Photos & Text © 2002 by Len Schwer
Day 14: Mainz & Rudesheim (10 May 2002)
It was a short 4 hour sail from our overnight stop in Frankfurt to our first port of call Mainz. We arrived about 8 AM under overcast skies and an infrequent bit of drizzle. Our city guides provided a brief walking tour of the city center. Mainz is a communication center for radio and television in Germany. During our walking tour we saw a TV segment being shot in the city market; a local professor that does a show on eating and exercise was talking about strawberries.
The highlight of the Mainz tour was a brief visit to the Gutenberg Museum. We were provided a demonstration of printing: one page of the Gutenberg bible on a replica of the Gutenberg printing press. There are apparently 49 Gutenberg bibles still in existence, with 11 of those in the United States. We were shown 3 Gutenberg bibles on display in the museum.
The 50th latitude runs thru Mainz and in the city square, near the statute of Gutenberg, there is a pair of lines running across part of the square demarking this geographical oddity.
After some free time to explore the shops in Mainz, we boarded the ship for lunch and sailed to our overnight port of call in Rudesheim. By the time we departed Mainz, the sky was partly cloudy and the temperature had warmed to the upper 60s.
Unlike all the cities and towns we have visited before, Rudesheim is a tourist trap. We were told if there was any souvenir we had passed up on the trip, they would have it in
Rudesheim. They were right as the town is a large collection of tourist shops, bars and restaurants.
Our tour director took us on a brief orientation walk around the city, the main purpose of which was to show us the restaurant where we were to have an in town dinner that night.
After we were oriented, I found a small internet café, where I had a typical small German town low key business experience. when I entered the cafe there were 5 terminal all in use, and a young lady nearest the counter turned from her terminal to acknowledge my arrival. I waited near the door and counter for the shop owner to greet me; no one arrived, but I waited for a terminal to be vacated. When after a few minutes a terminal opened, I was a bit surprised that the young woman that had acknowledged my arrival, was also the shopkeeper. After recording my start time, she returned to her game of Go on the computer, which I assume was more important to her than allowing a paying customer to use the terminal.
After my internet session, I headed for the chair lift (Seilbahn in German) that takes you to the top of a hill overlooking Rudesheim and the Rhine River. On top of the hill is a statue, reminiscent of the Statute of Liberty, dedicated to the (first) reunification of Germany. The views from on top this hill were worth the 6e charge for the round trip chair lift ride. I saw many German tourist walking up and down the path to the top, more for the exercise and enjoyment of the beautiful day, than to avoid the 6e fee.
Day 15: Koblenz (11 May 2002)
Happy Birthday – Len reaches the ‘double-nickel’ 55!
Our luck with the weather could not last forever, the day was only overcast with a threat of rain. Still it would have been nice to have a sunny day for sailing this densely castle populated portion of the Rhine. This portion of the Rhine is also where the famous Lorelei rock resides. It is not much to look at other than a 440 foot cliff along the river.
This was the day when we past a ruined castle almost every kilometer. This portion of the Rhine is quite narrow and hence the bishops and princes built castles along this stretch to collect tolls from the passing ships. It is still not clear to me how they forced the ship to stop and pay the toll. I have heard stories of large chains across the river, but this is hard to believe on a large a swift river like the Rhine.
We sailed from about 9 AM until we arrived in our overnight port of call at Koblenz. Koblenz is located at the confluence of the Moslen with the Rhine. We tied up at the point of this confluence which is called "German Corner" and has a large statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I. We were given a walking orientation tour by our program director, Edith, that covered 5 rather interesting statues of citizens of Koblenz. The statues are not of famous residents of Koblenz, but rather quirky or notable residents. Each statue has a story or legend associated with it, and it makes an interesting circuit of the city to visit each statue and hear the story. Perhaps the most interesting is the orphaned boy who spits at everyone; this statue is located near Jesuitplatz. Every two minutes a stream of water issue from this statue's mouth to dampen and unsuspecting tourist.
There was a large flea market setup along the dock where the ship would normally have tied up, but the captain decided to avoid this area. In addition to the flea market there was a carnival. Apparently this week that starts with the Feast of
the Ascension, Father's Day on Thursday, and then ends with Mother's Day on Sunday, is a big 4 day weekend in Germany and many such carnival type activities take place in the larger cities.
It rained a bit during our walking tour, but almost everyone had their umbrella, as when we departed the ship the sky was already getting dark and looked very threatening.
After the group broke up to go shopping, I found an internet cafe and checked my email. By the time I was done with that the sidewalk cafes were wiping down their rain dampened tables and the sun was drying the streets. I enjoyed a leisurely walk back to the ship.
There was a tour of the ship's kitchen conducted by the head chef, that I skipped but heard later was very interesting. Inside ‘secrets’ included the facts that the table scraped are disposed of into the river, "to feed the fish," and that the crew is served the leftovers from any of our buffet meals.
I went on the tour of the engine room, which was not announced like the kitchen tour, but available via word of mouth. There are two 8-cylinder diesel engines that generate electricity to power the motors and propel the ship, and provide all the other power requirements for the ship. The propellers are mounted on a rotating base and can be turned a full 360 degrees to direct their thrust as needed. This aft power, combined with the forward bow thrusters, allows the ship to move laterally into the dock and provides the precision control needed when entering and exiting the numerous locks.
As this was my birthday, the dinner was made special with the presentation of a birthday cake and singing of a birthday song by the wait staff and the crew. I also received a handshake from both the 2nd Captain and Captain of the River Aria. There were only 3 birthdays during the two week cruise, which is lower than the 5 that would be expected.
Day 16: Koln (Cologne) (12 May 2002)
Happy Mother's Day!
The ship departed Koblenz at about 3 AM. We passed the bridge at Remargen, depicted in the movie "A Bridge too Far," but this occurred at 5 AM; I heard later that about 5 men were up to view the remnants of the bridge.
We arrived in Koln at about 8:30 AM and then readied ourselves for a brief orientation tour led by our Program Director. The tour was very short and consisted of meandering about while en route to the largest cathedral in Germany. We arrived at the cathedral just before 10 AM when the high mass was to start. Those that wanted to attend the Catholic mass went into the church while the rest of the group headed to the nearby Roman museum where we had a paid admission included as part of our tour. We decided to skip this museum and walked to the chocolate museum that
was about 15 minutes further up river.
When we arrived at the chocolate museum we discovered it did not open until 11 AM and decided not to wait the half hour, as we also had more free time in Koln after lunch.
After lunch, Becky and her mother walked back to the chocolate museum and I found an internet cafe. After the internet cafe I headed back to the ship via the very busy train station. The bridge from the train station that crosses the Rhine, is said to be crossed by 1000 trains a day.
The weather was overcast with a bit of drizzle in the afternoon and a light rain as we departed, but the temperature was comfortable and in the upper 60's. The ship sailed for Amsterdam at about 3:45 PM and would sail all night to reach out last port of call. There was a presentation on the disembarkation procedure, and later there was a farewell drink with the captain and then the captain's dinner.
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Photos & Text © 2002 by Len Schwer