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26 July 2012

Her name is Sylvia.

She's the lounge pianist on this ship.  I don't know how she knew I was going to take her picture.  She was sitting in profile playing the piano, I was surreptitiously (I thought) getting my camera ready to take her picture.  I turned and snapped it just as she turned her head and gave this pose.  She plays the kind of piano my father played, and a lot of the same tunes ("Satin Doll," for example).  One of the songs she plays a lot is the old Charlie Chaplin standard, "Smile." I think it could be a theme for this trip.  We are smiling a lot.

We smiled at breakfast when Kitch ordered fried eggs and when they came and he added bacon to his plate, our waiter Miroslav came over and rearranged the food, forming the bacon into a smiling mouth and adding strips of tomatoes to make it look like a smiley face.

We smiled at the crowd of ducks which discovered that someone in the room next to Mike and Char would toss them bread chunks.

Today the listed excursion was to Wertheim which, I am sure you will be surprised to learn, is a Medieval town, with narrow, winding, cobblestoned streets, a castle, a city market place with a fountain, and lots of quaint shops.  I had some foot problem yesterday and decided I could pass this walking tour.  But then we had the glassblower last night and he had some cute little birds I wanted to buy, but he was only selling them at his shop, so when my foot didn't feel all that bad this morning, I decided to take the tour anyway.

I am so glad I did.  Talk about your "smile" days.

Unlike most of the other towns we have explored, Wertheim's old town is tiny,  So tiny that with ~200 people walking in 5 groups, we pretty much filled it and the guides had conferred beforehand to decide who would go where when.  We were constantly running into another group from our ship.  I don't know what they would have done if two ships had been here at the same time.  So it was really an easy day and an easy hour of walking.

Wertheim is famous for glassworks, wine, and castle ruins.  As you enter the city center, you find this sculpture celebrating the famous glassmakers who have lived here.


We started at the famous "leaning tower of Wertheim." 

Now, it may take some suspension of disbelief to put this on a par with the other famous leaning tower in Pisa, but if you catch it at the right angle, you can see that it is slightly slanted, due to the softening of the soil from all that flooding (as you will see later, Wertheim has had its share of floods over the centuries!).

From other angles, the tilt is not really noticeable.  (You won't see any pictures of people from this cruise trying to hold it upright, for example!)

We continued on through the main gateway to the city, unchanged for hundreds of years, and into the market square, or around the periphery of the market square.  Our tour guide, Christine, was quite good and had wonderful stories to tell...

...but the thing she told us that resonated most with me was that all German children when they reach age 15 have a trip to a concentration camp, to learn what was done in Germany.  She herself had gone to Dachau and said it was the most terrible thing she remembers seeing.  This, combined with our guide in Nuremberg telling us about school children taken to the coliseum and the documentation center to learn what the Nazis tried to do makes me realize that Germany takes the actions of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party very seriously and is determined not to let this happen again.  Let's hope...

The town square has many interesting buildings, including this one, which contains the town's smallest window.

(do you see it?)

And this one, the narrowest building in town, which happens to belong to the glass blower we saw last night.  When this building was built in 1520, you paid by the amount of space that your house took up on the ground. So it cost very little.  You'll notice that as the stories get built onto the original structure, they get wider!

We also learned that in medieval times, the town square was used to burn people for witchcraft--or for jealousy.  The brewer became so wealthy selling beer after the town flooded, making the water undrinkable, they ended up burning him for being rich.  Somehow burning the guy who makes your beer seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face!

Christine took us down to the Tauber river to show us the record of the water levels when the town has flooded (which, apparently it does regularly).

I'm glad we weren't visiting in 1784, which is the top level there, but there are high enough levels in the 21st century to help make one understand why houses in town are much cheaper than houses across the river on the hilltop!

Mike and Walt climbed up to the castle.  Char and I went to visit the glass shop and make a contribution to its economy.  Then we stopped at a cafe for a cappuccino before walking back to the ship.

In the afternoon (after lunch and a nap), we had a tour of the ship's galley, which was fun to be able to see where all those great meals come from and ask questions about how it all works (I surprised myself by asking THREE questions!).  Our program director had said she thought we would be surprised to find out how small it is, but having been watching TV cooking contests, nothing surprises me any more.  I thought it a decent size, though when you add all those cooks and waiters, I'm sure it seems very crowded indeed.

After the daily briefing, we went down to dinner.

We started with some hard sausage wrapped in paper thin cucumber and dipped in some sort of sweet sauce that was very spicy hot.  That was followed with a chicken cassoulet with puff pastry, then a Viking surf and turf with shrimp, roast beef, and a spinach potato pile that was quite a delicious combination.  Dessert was creme brulee with chocolate ice cream on waffle.  Sounds like a nice idea, but you don't need anything with creme brulee and the ice cream was just too much.  Also sad that there was only a hint of sugar crust on the creme brulee (and that only in one spot), though the custard itself was good.

Char decided she wanted to be special.  She couldn't choose between the creme brulee and her favorite ice cream, pistachio, so she decided to see if she could get pistachio instead of chocolate.

Victoire! she shouts!

I had my own dinner surprise.

We have been having flies on board the ship (not surprising to have critters, given that we are on the river 'n' all!).  The wine did not come with a fly, but he decided that it looked so good he would give it a try.  It took a good 5 minutes before the waiter came and removed it and that fly was still swimming.  At least he died happy.

After dinner there was a musical mystery contest, where you identified 16 songs and then guessed who the murderer in a silly story that was being made up was.  I only got 15 of the 16 song titles right (I missed Celebration).

Tomorrow's excursion is to Marksburg Castle in Braubach, which is listed as a 3 degree of difficulty (the highest; today's would have been a 1) and recommended for people "in very good physical condition."  Needless to say, I will not be taking this excursion, but will remain on the ship while we sail to Koblenz, where the people in very good physical condition will meet us after their tour.


As the sun sinks into the west, we head toward another lock
and bring an end to another wonderful day on the Viking Freya.
We are all smiling.



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