We awoke in Wertheim where they had tiny trains waiting to take us into the town center for our walking tour.  Seriously, the trains cars were child sized and they packed us in!  Our guide, Ursula, showed us the highlights of this town situated at the confluence of the Main and Tauber rivers.  She told us about the tradition of the market squares where all of the gossip starts and grows.  Some houses even had a tiny window for spying on the comings and goings in the square.

We saw many homes marked with the water level from floods over the years going back to the 1500’s.  The pointed leaning tower was where they put drunkards and ‘quarrelsome wenches’.  Glad I didn’t live in those times!  The tower leans because of erosion due to the floods.  The castle on the hill is long destroyed but still offers excellent views of the town.

Ursula told us about the nazi occupation during the war and the Americans occupying the town after the war.  She told us about the town’s Jewish history and put it in perspective of the persecution of Jews throughout history.  We took the extended tour that let us see the Jewish cemetery.  It’s interesting to note that only 200,000 Jews were left in Germany when the war started.  Many fled when the persecution started.  When you see the total number of 6 million people killed in the holocaust, most of the people were in the countries that Germany invaded.  I’m glad that some Germans like Ursula feel it’s important that history be taught so it won’t be repeated.  She was inspired by reading Elie Wiesel’s “Night” and learning the importance of remembering.

After the tour, Skip walked back to the boat and I visited the glassblower’s gallery and bought a small glass dolphin and some earrings.  There’s always room for jewelry!

There was an amazing sunset that night, one of those that keeps getting better and better.

Thursday morning, the ship finally left the canal and entered the Upper Middle Rhine river.  The top deck, which had been closed due to low bridges, was finally opened for sightseeing.  There were castles everywhere, each with a story to tell.  We cruised along and enjoyed the commentary from our cruise director.  The steep riverbanks are covered with vineyards where grapes are still harvested by hand, a 2,000 year old tradition introduced by the Romans.

We passed Lorelei rock where many ships went aground supposedly distracted by sirens on the rock.  It was a narrow curve with fast-moving current.  I could see that it’s a perfect place to get into trouble and blame a mythical creature!

After lunch we docked for our tour of Marksburg Castle, a preserved 700 year old hilltop fortress.  They weren’t kidding about the steep climb and uneven cobblestones!  I liked the vegetable and herb garden that thrives atop the castle walls.

I loved the vignettes in the kitchen and inner rooms.

Our evening meal was a German smorgasbord complete with meats, cheeses, pretzels, mustard and sausage.  By this time, I was pretty much sausaged out!  Our entertainment was an accordion player and a woman singer with a hurdy-gurdy machine.

We enjoyed meeting so many nice people on the cruise, especially our table mates John & Diane from North Carolina and her brother and his wife, John & Rhonda from Tennessee.  We had meals with many other nice people but ended up sitting with them for dinner most nights.   The 6 of us were a team for the fun little contests they had after dinner a few times.  Tonight was the trivia contest and we were determined to win because the team that won the previous 2 contests were suspected of cheating and they were obnoxious.  Team Motown won!!!  We shared our prize, a bottle of schnapps, with Caitlyn, our cruise director.  She was the best!

On Friday we arrived at our last stop in Germany, Cologne.  Now we’re back to the big city.  Our morning walking tour included the massive gothic cathedral, the old town and the market square.  The cathedral is constantly being held together by teams of stone masons.  Their yard has many pieces under repair and construction.

We saw a tempting pastry shop and went back for jelly doughnuts and coffee.  The shopping district was rather uninteresting.  It was crowded and mostly name brand and trendy shops.  I prefer the local shops and galleries in the small towns.

We wandered for a while before walking back along the river to the ship.  We missed lunch but dinner (and maybe drinking) upset my stomach so, no worries.

Cologne
Our ship, the Viking Baldur, docked in Cologne, Germany

On Saturday we entered The Netherlands and stopped near Kinderdijk to learn about windmills and their importance in managing water levels.  They looked rather puny until we got up close.  I liked how the propellers are made like sails where the fabric can be adjusted based on the wind speed.  We also learned that the terms ‘Holland’ and ‘The Netherlands’ are not synonymous.  Holland is only a part of The Netherlands.  I never knew that!

I climbed inside the windmill while Skip (wisely) stayed outside.  It was crowded with narrow ladders that you had to go down backwards.

We were sad to say goodbye to our new friends.  Meeting people on the ship and sharing experiences is part of the fun.  I hope we can stay in touch and get together again some day.  Tomorrow, they dump us off in Amsterdam where we’ll stay a few days before heading home.