Friday, August 15, 2014

Marksburg Castle

Marksburg Castle
View of the Rhine from the castle from whence we had just come
Marksburg Castle overlooks Braubach on the Rhine and is unique in that it was never destroyed. Some of the castles on the Rhine are rebuilt versions of the original and some are just ruins. It is said that Louis the XIV of France, the Sun King, ordered all the castles on the Rhine destroyed in the 17th century. Marksburg escaped because it sits atop a steep, isolated hill on a bend in the river.  Marksburg retains nearly all of its initial construction.  The interior construction features a series of gates that could be closed in the event of an attack. If one gate was breached, the Lord and family and knights retreated behind the next upper gate. The castle was not heated. Imagine all that stone and tiny little fireplaces to keep warm by.  Knights rode massive war horses and kept them inside the castle. References to this castle date to the 13th century so it survived 800 years of turmoil.  Slits in the outer battlement were for shooting arrows. The castle was added on to many times. Today the German Castle Association is headquartered there and there is a small gift shop and cafe.
Interior battlements

Very long steep grade to get into the castle. Also used by knights on horses

That black box on the wall of the castle is the bottomless toilet.
Our guide describes the fine art of gunnery, a later development

Alcove where the residents might eat

Another alcove for music, another might be for needle work.

Unusual window-meets-roof treatment

A knight in shining armor. Heavy, hot, and stuffy. And how could they see out of those slits?

Torture chamber display in what used to be the horse stables in the castle

 Blacksmith shop
Where  food and herbs were prepared and dried
Our guide said this was where the knights ate. Alcoves would be off this room
Tiny beds for tiny people This one fit two.

Castle from the ship landing at the Rhine

Back at the ship for the trip along the Middle Rhine and more castles

Monday, August 11, 2014

Cologne (Kohn) Germany

We left Holland Saturday and continued up the Rhine River, sailing from Kinderdijk about 11:30 AM.  The Rhine is 820 miles long, Europe's longest river. It rises in the Swiss Alps and flows to the North Sea at Rotterdam, Holland.  Ships today travel safely from Basel, Switzerland to the North Sea.  But in days of old unscrupulous barons in castles, as well as river towns and customs stations could make life difficult for a ship's captain. There was something called staple rights and cities could force ships to unload and offer its cargo for sale locally.  In 1831 the Rhine Shipping Act was signed  and the river started to proposer as an international waterway.

We arrived at Cologne about 10:30 AM Sunday.  Meanwhile on Saturday on the Viking Ingvi we had a safety drill, a copious lunch, an open wheelhouse tour, where one could talk to the captains and a presentation by the program director, Boris, on Cheese, Jenever (Gin) and Rembrandt. Dutch Tea Time included a selection of Dutch treats.  Saturday night was a welcome toast by the Captain, Thomas Schlee, and a welcome dinner followed by live music with Louis in the lounge.  Every day we had a daily briefing by Boris before dinner to find out about the next day's excisions and events.

Sunday we had another spectacular breakfast buffet including but not limited to custom made omelets and/or scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, sautéed vegetables like pepper, onions, zucchini and mushroom. Or cereals, hot and cold with fruits and nuts, a fresh fruit bar, fresh local cheeses, lox and bagels, capers and condiments, assortment of pastries and breads, and for the strong of heart, champagne.

At 9:00 AM we had a presentation by Boris about Travelers Along the Rhine.  About 10:30 AM we arrived in Cologne and immediately embarked on a guided walking tour of the old town. This was the first time John and I ever set foot in Germany.

Cologne's name comes from the Latin, Colonia. Yes, another Roman settlement on the Rhine.  In 55 BC Julius Caesar crossed the Rhine to strike fear into the hearts of the Germans and wrote about building the bridge that took his army across in his treatise "Commentaries on the Gallic War".  The site is thought to be in the neighborhood of present day Cologne. Of course, once Caesar got to the other side his army burned all the villages and houses sand cut down their corn, spent 18 days traumatizing them, and then returned back across the Rhine to Gaul and took down the bridge.  No wonder these people have been fighting ever since.

Our expert tour guide tells us about the city
 Cologne's most famous attraction is the Kolner Dom, the cathedral.  It was the only building left standing after the Allies bombed the city in WWII.  Its filigree twin spies dominate the skyline and it's Germany largest cathedral.The city is a cultural mecca, home to dozens of museums and galleries. It is renowned for its wealth of places to eat and drink and has over 100 brewpubs.  (And we thought we had a lot in Oregon.) The city's famous beer is Kolsch.  I never saw so much beer in my life as we saw in Germany.

Germany is slightly smaller than the state of Montana at 138,000 square miles and has a population of 81million.  Imagine if Montana had that many people.

Back on board the Viking Ingvi we enjoy a presentation on The European Union, go onto the usual fabulous dinner and a Classical Concert after. At 11:00 PM we set sail for Koblenz.

Spires of the cathedral looking from the old town

Kolner Dom

The cathedral reaches for the heavens.  All the windows have stained glass not readily apparent in this photo

Interior chapel. One of many with amazing art.

They like to bury saints, knights and clergy in their cathedrals.

Not very clear photo of the stained glass

Outside, this wandering troubadour serenades a wee boy who seems fascinated by his songs.

John and I decide to lunch in Cologne at an outdoor cafe

Lunch was bratwurst and sauerkraut
Exterior doors of Kohner Dom

Farina House, The Fragrance Museum, claims to be the birthplace of Eau de Cologne. Very spendy fragrances.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Kinderdijk Windmills

We set sail Friday night on the Viking Ingvi around 11:30 PM and sailed through the night. We arrived around 8 AM at Kinderdijk, an historic UNESCO World Heritage Site. After our first fabulous buffet breakfast on board, we toured the network of windmills. We learned a lot about how the Dutch manage water and I was very impressed. Kinderdijk is a village in South Holland about 9 miles east of Rotterdam.  Sixteen of the original windmills were constructed around 1740, and we were able to tour one.  The interiors were small but housed the miller and his family. One was a family of thirteen whose mother was killed when a blade from the windmill hit her as she was running after one of the children.  Today more modern methods of pumping water are used but there are still 28 of the original windmills in use. The huge blades come within a foot of the ground.

An interesting statistic on Holland:  it covers 14,413 square mils and has a population of 16.6 million people. Compare that to Harney County:  10,000 square mile, 6800 people. The Dutch have become very efficient people. About half the country is reclaimed land. Everywhere you look there's water.

Our very knowledgeable guide tells us about windmills and water management

Interior of windmill where miller and his wife slept in a tiny bed that has a drawer at their feet for an infant

Looking at Kinderdijk from the Ingvi landing

Amazing structures and very ingenious