Christmas Markets on the Rhine …

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

While Butterscotch may have wanted to go with me, I ventured alone to meet Michele in Amsterdam. Flights went smoothly, with aisle seats – who could ask for more, except perhaps business class. Watched The Notorious RBG, a superb documentary of the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, now one of my favorite people. Also read Richard Russo’s Trajectory, a good collection of related short stories.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

After a very long flight and easy entry to the Netherlands, was met by a GCT guide who took a group of us to the ship, M/S River Rhapsody. Had time to visit my room before lunch, during which Michele and family arrived. The group gathered before dinner for a port talk about the next day’s tour (Nijmegen), then, finally, to bed. Lots of steps on the ship, but I’m managing. Mind over matter…

Thursday, December 6, 2018

A morning Nijmegen tour led by our wonderful guide Bjorn, restored after an accidental bombing by the US during WWII. Rain did not deter us. Also learned about “coffee shops” which sell weed. Our group purchased a nickel bag, which yields about two buds.  Also had a lecture by a docent from the military museum about Operation Market Garden, which we know from A Bridge Too Far. After lunch, I napped – and I slept so soundly that I slept through the fire drill – only woke up when staff came to my room to check where I was. Then our Cologne port talk, dinner and to bed.

Learned that the water level of the Rhine had risen to the point where we will not have to disembark and bus to another ship further south. So we get to stay onboard!  This is great news for us, but also great news for Germany. This is the first time for many months that the Rhine has been deep enough to be navigable. Great expense entailed in unloading barges and getting supplies from one place to another.

Friday, December 7, 2018

A Stollen baking demonstration in the morning, then late morning out for our walking tour of Cologne. I broke off from the group and met Gina and Ludwig in front of the cathedral. We had a delight-filled day – talking, walking around the Christmas markets there, my personal Ludwig-guided tour of the Cathedral – and a special treat – a walk to see the location where August Strauff was born, then a mere two blocks away, the church where he was baptized. Also had coffee at a café where the doors to the toilets are transparent – until you do in and lock the door – then it becomes translucent with a flower design.

Gina and Ludwig walked with me back to the ship where we had a farewell drink. Just a lovely day with these two people, whom I already love.

Then dinner and a port talk and to watch the lights of the city of Cologne as we sailed from port that night.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Started the morning with a walking tour of Koblenz, which is at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Again in the rain, but we were undeterred. Michele and I stopped in one of the markets for coffee – and saw the house where a mural of Max and Moritz was painted. Max and Moritz in the US is the Katzenjammer Kids, a Sunday comic strip that I remember from when I was a little girl at Rock Springs.

After lunch we set sail for Mainz, cruising past the Lorelei. I think this was part of my trip in 1964, but am not altogether sure. Will see if I can find pictures or some type of memory. Lots of memories all jumbled up, for sure.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

A morning walking tour of Mainz, led by an interesting looking German man – one can see generations of German, of hardship, of this obviously educated guy who now leads tourists around his city, even in the rain. Visited the Gutenberg Museum, looked at architecture – the post-war reconstruction, some of which is in the old style, some in the hurry-up-and-build 1950s style. Walked around the markets – sat on a wet bench to drink coffee. All these Germans eat and drink standing up. And the food smells are fantastic wherever we go.

That evening went on the optional trip to Rudesheim, for dinner and the markets there. Lots of free time, more than I knew what to do with, especially in the rain and the treacherous cobblestones. But I explored the markets and bought a Stollen, which turned out to be very heavy to carry. Then to dinner at a German (of course) restaurant, very touristy, but then I am a tourist, so I didn’t mind at all. And sat with some nice people from the trip. Enjoyable, but a rigorous walk.

Monday, December 10, 2018

I napped after breakfast, loving having a room to myself, It’s like it’s my personal nest, private, just for me. And the treat of having coffee brought to my room in the morning – a delightful surprise.

We arrived in Speyer after lunch. I have been surprised to learn of the influence of the Celts and the Romans in this area. Love hearing all this history. If only I could remember it. Our home visit was today – four of us went to a woman’s house – she was in her 70s, I think. We saw her apartment, her garden, she was most hospitable. Talked about school after the war – Speyer was in the French-occupied area, so they had to speak French. She served a lovely cake, stollen, coffee, tea. A lovely way to spend an afternoon, and then a woman’s singing group in the evening for entertainment after dinner.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

To Heidelberg all day. Rainy, but interesting bus ride – I always enjoy seeing the countryside and the parts of the city we don’t see on our walking tours. I thought that I had been to Heidelberg in ’64, but once I was there, I think not. First the castle – very interesting, but oh those cobblestones, oh those wet cobblestones, oh those hills with wet cobblestones. I used my cane and don’t think that I would have made it without it. All very exhausting for me.

After our morning tour, we went to the city of Heidelberg – the castle was on the hill, unsurprisingly. Had lunch with the group in a local restaurant, and then Michele and Sven and I explored the markets and shops. By this time, I know that I am coming down with a cough/cold, so we picked up some super-German cold tablets.

Enjoying the food, the people, the markets, everything that we’re seeing and doing. But I must say that the pace is rigorous and walking treacherous. It’s exhausting, truly.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Our ship arrived in Pittersdorf during the night and we were on an early bus to Baden Baden, another Roman site. We had a lovely city walking tour and then Michele and I walked around the markets and ended the morning with coffee and a pastry at a local shop.

The day before, a terrorist had killed four people at the Strasbourg markets, so it was decided that the ship would not go there. The markets there had closed and the borders secured. We were set to go to Freiburg instead.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The ship docked at Breisach during the night and we set off to Freiburg directly after breakfast. The borders were still closed, but the bus went through without being stopped. And Freiburg was a lovely treat. We had a walking tour led by a delightful young woman, saw the Cathedral and the city and then had a great lunch with Michele and Sven. Michele and I stayed in town and walked through the markets; also picked up some super cough drops, since my cold was not getting any better.

Everyone walks around the market drinking Gluwein – a hot, spiced wine. You can buy it at most stalls, then you pay 1 Euro for the mug; when you finish your drink, you can return your mug at any of the stalls and they refund the Euro. A pretty good system, I think.

But all in all, a lovely day and GCT made the change in itinerary seamlessly. Great job.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Our last day – spent the morning on ship where the guides did a presentation on their Christmas traditions and we had the Secret Santa – I hate those things…

Then in the afternoon we bused to Kayserburg where we explored the city – more wet cobblestones, more uphill wet cobblestones, and then on to Riquewihr, a wine village known for its Rieslings. All were lovely towns, lovely Christmas markets, but I have to say that by this time I was tired. The pace, the cobblestones were grueling, and I wasn’t feeling my best.  Was glad to get back to the ship, dinner and then pack to head home.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Up at 2 a.m. – luggage out at 3 a.m.; left for airport at 3:30 a.m. – and an exhausting check-in and flight from Basel to Amsterdam; then what felt like an endless trip to Atlanta. My poor seatmate – I coughed much of the flight and felt more miserable with each mile. Then, to top it all off, I spilled my orange juice over her. I don’t think she’ll forget that flight, nor will I. But I made it home – R and I arrived at the same time, about 7:30 p.m. G’so time.

And so…. a lovely trip, even with the weather, even with the cobblestones. And it was a delight to see Gina and Ludwig. But the trip, the pace, made me feel my age, I have to say. And made me glad that I had done so much traveling before it got so difficult. And made me realize that I need to waste no time in seeing what I want to see.

Life lessons….

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