10.07.2012 - 12.07.2012
Once again the ship cruised all night while we slept. Although very small compared to ocean cruise ships the River Cruise ships are very quiet and free of vibration. The big reason for this is the ship's very advanced propulsion system. There are four large diesel generators which provide all the power for the boat including the four electric motors which drive the four unit propulsion system - two in the bow and two in the stern. At night they use the two drive units in the bow which are directly under the dining room, the lounge and the sun deck so there is no vibration in the passenger area which occupies the aft two thirds of the ship. The ship also has two large bow thrusters which aid in making the ship extremely manouverable. This is critical as the ship frequently has to move around in the locks mere inches from the sides of a lock or another ship because they jam as many ships into the locks at one time as they can.
By morning we had arrived in Wurzburg, Germany and discovered that we had left the Main Danube Canal and were now in the Main River. The river continues to be very scenic with numerous castles dotting the hillsides and is quite narrow. Most of the time a good throw could reach the river bank on either side.
Magnificent Marienberg Fortress in Wurzburg
We boarded our coach and headed to the center of town to pick up our daily walking tour. Today our tour was to the impressive baroque Bishops’ Residenz, one of Germany’s largest and most ornate palaces and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This former residence of the Würzburg prince-bishop was designed by architect Balthasar Neumann and built over a 70-year period, starting in 1720.
Residence of the prince-bishop
Unfortunately we were not permitted to take pictures inside this opulent palace much of which has been painstakingly restored in recent years after being badly damaged during WW 2.
After our tour of the palace we struck out on our own to explore the town. We explored the old Main Bridge which was built in the 1500’s.
Old Main Bridge
There were a number of very ornate churches and cathedrals
Cathedral of St. Killian
including this chapel below
It is called a chapel because it did not have a resident priest – otherwise it would be a church.
After our personal walking tour we returned to the ship for another amazing lunch. We then spent the afternoon relaxing aboard catching up on organizing our pictures and writing this blog.
Part of our daily routine was to head up the main lounge around 6:45 pm and hear the Cruise Director explain what we would be seeing over the next twenty four hours. Then we would go down stairs to the dining room on deck 2 for dinner at 7:00. We now had our own table which we share with our six new friends. Dinners are a major social event every evening and we are really enjoying the company of this group of friends. We seldom finish dinner before 9:00 pm as we work our way through the many wonderful courses. This evening the ship pulled away from the dock as we were having dinner. Once again we sailed through the night landing in Wertheim the next morning. There is something truly magical about waking up in the morning throwing open the drapes and opening our patio door to view a little village that dates back to the 9th century.
Wertheim is a beautiful little village located on the Main River where the Tauber joins in. It has a long history of being flooded despite some pretty drastic measures taken by the inhabitants over the centuries. One of the early efforts was to add massive amounts of fill in an effort to raise the villege by a meter or so. This was not a bad effort considering they had very little in the way of mechanized equipment to assist them. In modern times the addition of flood control dams on the river have greatly reduced the risk of floods but there have still been several major floods in the past twenty years. The villagers seem to have resigned themselves to this flooding and have developed a few coping strategies that allow them to continue to live here. In the picture below you can see an old archway which once was twice as high as it is now after the ground level was raised.
At several places in town there were records on the walls of buildings indicating the height of the flood waters in various years.
With all of the flooding and the massive amounts of fill the soil in the village is not very stable. The local Pointed Tower (Spitzer Turm) developed a significant list during construction in the 13th century. Construction stopped but being the innovative souls that they were the locals just built the second half leaning the other way to counteract the initial lean. Today the local people often call it the “Leaning tower of Wertheim” Our very droll guide offered to prop it up so we could be safe in passing.
Leaning Tower of Wertheim
Our helpful guide
On a number of our walking tours there have been references to the Jewish population of Germany and their fate during the Nazi era. The residents of Wertheim are no exception and they have clearly acknowledged the appalling treatment of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis and the complicity of local communities in not doing enough to prevent it. In the village they have placed brass plaques with the names of former Jewish residents in the sidewalks in front of their former homes.
Former home of a Jewish family
Plaque in the sidewalk in front of the home above indicating the names of the former residents.
This is the old Wertheim Market Square which was the center of much activity in the middle ages.
Old Market Square
It was not only the place people gathered to buy and sell goods, it was also the place of some pretty gruesome public punishments. Everyone wanted to know what was going on in the square so many of the houses in the lanes running into the center square were offset and had windows placed so that the residents of the houses could view down the narrow lane and see what was going on in the square. Our guide referred to these being the houses of the “Nosey people of Wertheim”.
Houses of the nosey people of Wertheim
After spending the morning on our walking tour and then doing some exploring on our own we finally walked back to the ship for lunch. During lunch the ship cast off and we continued on our journey along the Main River travelling towards our our rendezvous with the mighty Rhine river.
In the afternoon we joined a tour of the ship's galley which we found to be surprisingly small considering they are feeding nearly two hundred people every meal. For example they had only 2 large free standing ovens and 8 large cooktop rings in two separate countertop units. All of the stove top elements were magnetic induction technology which is very popular in Europe.
From this kitchen they make much of their own bread and baked goods, and a good deal of their own pasta. The food has been exceptional. Here are a couple of shots of the galley. It was so small you really couldn’t get good pictures.
After the Galley tour we had a German Tea which featured meats and sausages as well as sweets.
Once again the ship cruised all night and when we awoke the next morning we were on the Rhine River – a much busier and much wider river than the Main. We are now finished with the locks and have passed through 68 of them. This area is the Middle Rhine.
We continued to sail along the middle Rhine seeing many more castles in various states of repair,
more churches and vineyards.
Shortly after lunch we docked in the village of Braubach. Once secured to the dock we boarded the coaches for a trip up to nearby Marksburg Castle where we once again had a great walking tour.
Most of the Rhine castles have been heavily damaged or largely destroyed by everything from battles to lightning, but Marksburg is intact and provides a great insight into life in the middle ages in a castle. We saw the Blacksmith shop
The Blacksmith area
The toilet which simply opened outside the castle walls.
The castle was well designed for defense with narrow, and very irregular pathways
Narrow walkway in castle
There was also a terrific display of Knights in Armor through the ages. (These pictures are for Desmond.)
The castle has a commanding view of the town of Braubach and the Rhine River below
At the end of the walking tour we once again boarded the coaches and travelled along to Koblenz where we met our ship Koblenz is on the Rhine where the Moselle merges in. That evening we had the official Captain's Farewell Dinner (a bit early). We had another great evening of fun with our group of friends. After we went to bed the ship cast off and we headed Cologne.