Getting ready to travel again!

Well, it has been a long time with no travel and we are eager to resume travel and blogging.  We have a 26 day Oceania cruise booked next month and I will try to remember how to blog again. 

The first leg is transatlantic from Miami to Rome. The second is from Rome to Venice.

Even though we have traveled to many places, there are 9 ports on this cruise that we have never visited so we are excited to see them.

And, with any luck, we will do another World Cruise in 2023.  We canceled the 2022.  We do have many friends who are on it right now and are having fun on a fully vaccinated trip – even with the extensive change in the itinerary.

Fingers crossed that we will remain healthy and start to travel again.

Posted in February, Preparation | 10 Comments

Koblenz, Germany

November 13, 2019

This morning we had a walking tour of Koblenz, which is where the Rhine and the Moselle rivers meet.  We were actually docked on the Moselle although when we left we made the turn back onto the Rhine.

At the confluence of the river there is the famous horseback statue of the King of Prussia and first German Emperor Wilhelm I. Our guide shared a lot about the history and was pretty negative about the French influence!


This statue was put up on the wall during one of the many times the town was flooded.  People believe that as long as she is watching, floods won’t happen.  But they do anyway because of the two rivers meeting here – as you can see with our guide pointing out the river levels at various times of flooding.


We visited several churches and statues.  There are parts of the Berlin wall on exhibit here.


Have to have at least one dog photo!


The thumb is an 8 foot tall brass thumb sticking out of the ground, in front of the art museum.


This 35 foot statue chronicles the history of the city from its beginning as a Roman settlement up through World War II. IMG_8074IMG_8077


There are many wonderful squares here and they are setting up for the Christmas markets.


Our guide told us that during the French period between 1794 and 1814 and continuing afterward, a large number of children who were born to French and German parents were named Jean. The popular name later morphed into the Schang per the local dialect and then into Schängel, which became a moniker for the residents of the region.

The most famous Schängel is a statue of a little prankster that periodically spits on unsuspecting tourists from his fountain perch on Willi-Hörter-Platz. The base of the fountain, built in 1941, contains bas reliefs of young boys engaged in other mischief, such as smoking, fighting, and mocking their elders. An inscription identifies the mischievous Schängel as the symbol of the town, and he graces manhole covers all across the town. The spitting feature was not on when we visited because of the coming winter season.


This clock on the Mittelrheinisches Museum  is a unique feature. As the clock strikes the half hour, the man’s  red tongue sticks out at the passersby. This is the face of highway robber baron Johann von Kobem who was beheaded in 1536. Now he gets his revenge on the townspeople every half hour. We saw it at 10:30 AM. Local legend says that if you see him sticking his tongue out, it will bring you luck. His eyes seem to follow you too!


It was another interesting and charming town with lots of history.

Tonight, we had the Captain’s dinner.  We had cocktails and appetizers in the lounge first, with an introduction of all the staff on the ship, followed by a delicious dinner. The photos are of the captain and Gabor and Jessie, our concierge and cruise director.  Jessie even wrote a poem for us and read it during the cocktail hour.  I loved the napkin folding with the paper bow tie.


Tonight we sail for Cologne and we will leave the ship at 6:30 AM to travel to the Dusseldorf airport for our flight back home.

What a wonderful experience we had – seeing so many places we had not visited before and sailing on this beautiful river boat.

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Rhine Gorge and Boppard, Germany

November 12, 2019

The trip through the Rhine Gorge was just beautiful.  It was cold, so I stayed mostly in the lounge.  Some of the pictures are through the windows so there are some light reflections, but Norm was outside some of the time and got better ones.  Jessie gave us this map of the various castles and other buildings we will see and she narrated our trip through the Gorge.



We passed the Lorelei (Loreley) Statue which is a memorial for a young woman and her ghost which are claimed to have lured sailors to their death on the rocks.  It was pretty far from the ship so hard to see.  Good thing there was the blue flag to alert us!  Jessie played the song as we passed it.


We arrived in Boppard and had a walk through this very small but charming town.


After dinner, we sailed for Koblenz which will be our last stop before we leave the ship in Cologne.

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Rudesheim, Germany

November 11 and 12, 2019

We arrived in Rudesheim in the evening of November 11 and we had the opportunity for a late stroll into town. Our destination was the Drosselgasse, the tiny street that is the heart of the historic center.  It is a narrow traffic free street in the old town. It was originally built in the 15th century to allow boat owners to move items from the river to their homes in the town.  It is now home to taverns, gardens and restaurants.

It was a bit drizzly but we found a restaurant/bar open.  A group from a Viking cruise was there having a great time with the band.  We had the famous Rudeshimer Caffe which is made with their Asbach German Brandy which is flambeed, coffee added and topped with whipped cream.  Yum!


The next day, November 12, I went on the town tour and the walk and discovery outing and Norm chose the train ride to the Siegfried’s Mechanisches Musikkabinet which is a mechanical music museum that’s home to a superb collection of 350 intricate antique musical instruments and musical boxes from all over the world.  Many are still in full working order.  The exhibits are from four centuries. Norm found it fascinating!

Here are some of his pictures:


My tour was a 5 mile walk to the Niederwald monument and temple.  We passed lots of vineyards which have flourished since the 14th century.  This is the heart of Riesling country and the terraced vineyards are truly beautiful.

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The Niederwald monument is a 12.5 meter high statue of Germania, symbolizing the “guard of the Rhine”.  It is a tribute to the establishment of the German Empire immediately after the Franco-Prussian war.


We had a walk through the town too, and saw the streets and restaurants we visited last night.

Love the mailboxes!


This afternoon we will sail through the Rhine Gorge.  It is a World Heritage site and Jessie will narrate as we pass through the gorge and observe the many castles. Later we will be in Boppard and will have time to see this small town on the looping s-bend of the Rhine.

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Mainz, Germany with pictures

November 11, 2019

We sailed through the last 2 of the 66 locks today and will leave the Main River and spend the rest of our cruise on the Rhine River. The part we will be on until we reach Cologne does not have any locks. It is pretty chilly and the leaves are still nicely colored but we are watching the world pass by from inside. First of all for a lot of the trip on the canal, the bridges are too low for anyone to be on the sun deck, and also it is too cold. We did use the hot tub before the deck was closed off.

Today Gabor gave the talk on Mainz and Jessie did a talk on European Architecture through the ages which was just fascinating. We have seen so many of the buildings that she referenced in her slides. She also gave a handout that covers most of the styles with examples.

We arrived in Mainz after lunch. In the morning on the ship they did the traditional Fruhshoppen which is sausage and beer In the morning. Lots of people went to that but we chose not to!!

Mainz is a bigger town than the last few (220,000 people) and it took a bit of walking to get to the main area. Lots to see, though. There happened to be a carnival festival in town and there was a bandstand with music and young people in all sorts of costumes on the streets and near the concert stage.


We visited the Mainz Cathedral which is built of sandstone and has 6 towers. The first stone was laid in 975 and it was consecrated in 1009!


Fooling around at the statues!


Mainz is known for being the birthplace and lifelong home of Gutenberg, the celebrated inventor and father of modern printing. We could see inside some of the museum but because it was Monday, it was closed. Two of his original 1452 bibles are on display in the museum, will have to see those next time!


The St. Stephen’s Church has beautiful stained glass windows designed by Chagall, the only church in Germany that has them.


There are two interesting towers that remain here and we saw both the wood tower and the iron tower.IMG_7763IMG_7810

We also had tried a delicious sugared pastry that was shaped like a pretzel. The bakeries here are hard to pass by. The wine is excellent too, and this area is the center of the wine industry.


I have to say the beautiful towns here sort of seem like a fantasy world, each one is more charming than the last. We only have 2 more days to go and it will be hard to leave, but it has been wonderful. We would highly recommend Riviera.

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Miltenburg, Germany with pictures

November 10, 2019

Arrived in Miltenburg this afternoon after passing through areas of beautiful vineyards. We walked through the streets where grapevines encircle many houses.


Well, this place did have naked lady paintings in the windows!


We visited churches, town gates and a Jewish cemetery before it got dark. The market square is remarkable and is surrounded by beautiful half timbered buildings. By the time we got back to the ship it was dark but an easy nice walk back and nicely lit up.


A cute kid’s ride, and yes, here is their movie theater – some English titles but not sure the movies are in English.


This is one of Germany’s best preserved medieval towns. Lots of flooding has occurred here. It is on the Santiago de Compostella route, evidenced by the marker with the scallop symbol. Rathaus would be the town hall not a house for rats. Oh wait, politicians gather here so..

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Again, because it was Sunday most things were closed, just a few coffee shops and bakeries were open. But we wouldn’t have missed walking in this town for anything. We keep thinking they can’t get any more charming, and this was among the most wonderful. Many of the buildings have placques that date them to the 16th century!

Tomorrow we will be in Mainz then on to Rudesheim. We will leave the Main River and start the Rhine River section.

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Wertheim, Germany with pictures

November 10, 2019

We arrived here early and could see the town as we had our breakfast. Jessie was taking us on a walking tour at 9:30 and she advised that it would be cold. It didn’t really seem that much colder than the crisp fall days we have been having, but we are always dressed for it.

We are spending But the morning here, at 11:30 we will depart and head for our afternoon destination, Miltenberg. I will do a short posting about that town separately.

Since it is Sunday, almost everything is closed, but it is a very attractive medieval town with many half timbered houses, and in fact, the only one painted with blue in all of Germany! It is called the Blue House and the color comes from using blue glass fragments.

We saw the narrowest house in Franconia and also a half timbered house that was being renovated so we could see what is behind the walls.


Other sights, towers and lots of beautiful houses.


The church bells were ringing long and loud and we could hear organ music coming from the church. We saw some of the same chalk markings on the houses that were evident in other towns, the Catholic blessing. The Protestant Collegiate Church is particularly interesting . It was built in 1383 and has two clocks on its tower. The one facing the castle has an hour hand only, while the one facing the town is a full clock. Outside the church is the Angel’s fountain made of red sandstone. It has two little angels holding the town’s coat of arms.


Lots of buildings have high water flood markings on them. This town has both the Main River and the Tauber River flowing by and it is the reason for the flooding here.IMG_7633

We did stop into the beautiful glass shop that was open. There is also a famous glass museum but it is closed today.

We made the big climb up to the Wertheim Castle on our own as Jessie’s tour was only about 40 minutes long. This castle was the original fortress that was built in the 12th century and is one of the largest and most beautiful castle ruins in Germany. It was partially destroyed by a powder explosion in 1619 and was heavily fired on in the Thirty Years War. It was fun to climb higher and higher into the castle ruins and the views of the town and the rivers was really something.


We got back to the ship just in time for sailing, then lunch and to enjoy the daytime sail to our next stop. The fall colors are still very nice and are seeing castles, towns, herons, swans, ducks and of course are passing through some locks.

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Wurzburg, Germany with pictures

November 9, 2019

Yesterday was a full day so I didn’t even get a post written! We arrived here more than 5 hours early, again, minimal river traffic so we made good time. Our tours weren’t going to start until 1 PM, so we asked Jessie what we might explore in the morning. We walked all through the town and then, based on her advice, we went to the Wurzburger Residenz for the 11 AM tour in English. What a bonus that turned out to be! It was built to compete with Versailles, and it is pretty spectacular. Unfortunately no pictures are allowed there, but Reinhold, our guide, told us we could ask “Mr. Google!” The beautiful staircase is something to see and above it on the ceiling there is a depiction of the (in the 1700’s) 4 known continents painted in frescoes. We were glad to have a guide for explanations. In the White Room, the entire room is covered in sculptures and the whole room was completed by the sculptor in 9 months!!. Amazing.


Much of the Residenz which was commissioned by the Prince Bishop Johann Philipp when the fortress residence was not grand enough for him!

The town was 90% destroyed in March of 1945 by a fire bombing, but the staircase and some other parts of the complex survived.

Here are 60 churches in the town and we visited the main one, the Wurzburg Cathedral which is consecrated to St. Killian. It is one of the 5 largest Roman Catholic Churches in Germany. This area was the site of the Thirty Years War where more than 900 “witches” were accused and burned.


We learned that most of the roofs are the red type seen everywhere here. If you see black, it is slate which was rare and expensive back then, so it means that the building was of great importance. The churches were very important and very ornate in most cases. The cathedral here is an interesting combination of old style and new and there is a Jewish menorah as you enter, symbolizing the Old Testament. By the way, St. Killian, who is revered here, was born in Ireland and is the patron saint of rheumatism. The things you learn when you have a great guide!

Here are some other sights in the town. And yes, still cold.


It didn’t mention that on yesterday’s hike, we were on part of the Santiago de Compostela, the Way of St. James. If we had continued we would have had to hike 1000 km. to Spain where the pilgrimage ends. We saw that place in our travels previously. The route is marked by the scallop shell symbol. Sabine was our guide on that hike and she was great too.

Our guide, Stephanie, told us that the city has about 135,000 residents and 50,000 students. Medicine is one of the main focuses in the University here.

We ended the city tour on the Old Main Bridge which was modeled after the one in Prague, the Charles Bridge. It is not as long and it doesn’t have as many statues, but it is beautiful and the tradition of drinking wine on the bridge is going strong here! Norm bought two bottles and went back to the ship and I joined our next guide, Dorothea for the 5 mile hike!


The locks on the bridge are something we have seen on many bridges in our travels. They are called locks of love, and couples put them there, lock them and throw the key in the river to symbolize lasting love.

The hike was a good one, again through forests, up long and steep staircases and up to near the Marienberg Fortress. We actually ended after dark and were the last 11 people back to the ship!


Tonight after dinner they made bananas foster in the lobby and we had our dessert in the lounge. Then Jessie gave her talk about the two towns we will visit tomorrow and the raffle followed that. I won a purse!

Watch for the posts about Wertheim and Miltenberg, the destinations for tomorrow, November 10.

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Bamberg, Germany with pictures

November 8, 2019

After breakfast today we headed out to tour Bamberg. I chose to do the Walk and Discover and Norm stayed with the city tour group. Luckily here we also had the city tour with the Walk and Discover group so we didn’t have to miss anything, we just did not have the free time that the other groups had. But the tour was wonderful and well worth it! Great guide as all have been on this trip.

Bamberg is a UNESCO world heritage city and it is just lovely. Only about 5% was destroyed in the war so the buildings are original and charming – medieval in style. The city was designed by Emperor Heinrich II during the 11th century and he planned it to be as grand as Rome. It never became as large as Rome but it has many lovely buildings and a stunning network of canals like Venice. In fact one section along the river is called Little Venice. The town is built on 7 hills like Rome.

We started off at 9 with a 5 minute bus ride to the town and then each went with our respective groups and guides. My group hiked up the hills, through forests and vineyards to the St. Michael’s Abbey which is empty now except for a restaurant but quite beautiful. Then we went on to the Altenburg Castle at the top of the highest hill in the city. 5 miles of hiking all together and another 2 once we reached the town.


We were on the trail of the Way of St James (santiago de compostela) which is always marked with the scallop shell.


We learned that education in the public universities is free.  The students pay a small administrative fee of 100 euros a semester which includes the public transportation!  Taxes are about 40% here and there is an additional 8% church tax.  If someone doesn’t want to pay the church tax, they can apply for it to be dismissed but then they would not be able to have weddings, funerals, baptisms or any sort of ceremony in the church.  It is strange because most people here are not religious.  Guess that is why they need the tax.

An unusual feature of this town is the old town hall which is situated in the middle of the river. It is really a beautiful sight.


The Bamberg Cathedral (also known as the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Georg) is a Romanesque building in the center of town. It has 4 grand towers that guide you there from any direction. It was founded in 1004 and inside, you find a statue of the Bamberg Horseman, the symbol of the city. Many of the buildings have scaffolding around them and are being repaired. This cathedral will be under construction for 14 years (7 more) and cost 50 million euros! The beautiful painted walls were all erased because when it was restored after a fire King Ludwig thought it should be returned to its”original” state, so the walls are plain sandstone. Our guide thought that was a rather stupid move!


The town is known for its smoked beer, Rauchbier. This is the only place in the world where you can find it. Norm tried some and said it was good!


Unlike some of the towns we have visited along the rivers and canals, there is no flooding here any more. They now have the canals which has solved that problem.

We arrived back at the ship for a 12:45 departure. There was a Bavarian buffet for lunch and all of the servers wore hats and aprons in Bavarian style. There was a roast pig, many specialties and of course, large pretzels. We sat with a new friend, Howard, who is from the UK and surprisingly had never had this type of pretzel. They are pretty much like the ones in Philadelphia which of course were brought there by the Germans.


Tomorrow we will be in Wurzburg . The scenery along the river is really pretty. In some places the fall colors are still nice and it is relaxing just to sail smoothly along.

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Nuremburg, Germany with pictures

November 7, 2019

Yesterday afternoon we had a presentation about the Main – Danube Canal. We thought we were already in the canal, but no…we were going to approach it a bit later. Jessie told us about the history of the canal which joins the Danube River to the Main River. There were many attempts to build a canal and they all failed for one reason or another. Finally in 1960 construction was started on the existing one and it was completed in 1992. It is 106 miles long and contains 16 locks. The first set of locks raises the ship to the highest point in the world that can be reached by water – at the European Watershed. We will reach that right before Nuremberg. Then the second set lowers the ship. The ships were made to perfectly fit through the canal and it is a quite tight fit!!. These locks fill with 10.5 million gallons of water in 20 minutes. Remarkable.

We had dinner in the Bistro restaurant tonight for the first time. Dinner here requires a reservation and you can see the chefs working in the kitchen. There is room for only 20 passengers in there. We sat with another couple from UK and had a great evening with the usual wonderful food.

After dinner, there was a crew talent show with 8 different acts. It was a lot of fun and laughs. Then we had time for dancing. Nice evening.

When we woke up this morning and went to breakfast, we were surprised to find that the ship was already docked, three hours early! Gabor told us that because there aren’t as many boats this time of year, we made it through the locks in record time. We stayed on the regular schedule though as the guides weren’t available to make it any earlier.

So, after the briefing on Nuremberg where we will go at 1 PM, Norm and I took a long walk to the lock we passed through this morning. It was a nice morning for a walk. In much of the canal, the planners made one side into the transportation side with bike and walking paths and roads, and the other side is more like a park which is beautiful. Where we docked was at a shipyard and building site on the opposite side, our walk was along the river on the side next to the woods.


After lunch we had a bus tour of the city followed by a walking tour. There is a lot of Nazi history here and our guide, Margarita, did a nice job of explaining the sites. The Third Reich held court here against a background of marching fields and Hitler’s rallies. These rallies began in 1927 and continued through the following decade. After Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, they became massive propaganda events. This was Hitler’s favorite city and every September he held a 10 day rally at Zeppelinfield which we visited. The podium he stood on and is featured in many WW II movies, is still standing. Creepy.


As also saw the Colosseum which is bigger than the one in Rome. We saw the Palace of Justice where the Nuremberg trials took place in Room 600.

Margarita was very good in explaining how Hitler came to power and convinced people that life would be better for them without mentioning the atrocities that were taking place.

90% of the city was destroyed during the war. On January 2, 1945 alone 1/2 million fire bombs were launched. So much of the housing now looks like boxes – but many have gardens behind them – but some of the historic area was spared due to protective barriers that were constructed.

Margarita told us that the city is rated in the top 20 for quality of life and is a multicultural city with 40% of the population from backgrounds other than German or European. The population is 530,000. She also told us that many people think that their highways have no speed limits, but that’s the case for only 30% of them. Still a lot, I think!

We saw three lovely churches, the city market, St. John’s cemetery which is known as the most beautiful in the world, and the impressive Imperial (Kaiserburg) Castle. The castle is one of the most important imperial palaces of the Middle Ages and in a bit of trivia we learned that it was the model for the one in Disneyland. There is a large moat which never contained water but provided a barrier to intruders. Now it contains parks and community gardens.


The story is that if you can find the ring (there are two of them) on this gate surrounding the statue, and turn it, then make a wish and don’t tell anyone, your wish will come true. One ring is gold (the tourists always find it) and the other one is black and harder.  We found the black one!

There are lots of markets in the squares.  Had to get one of the local pastries at Kitty’s!




The day was another full day with good weather.  We have been so lucky.  When we return to the ship, they always have different varieties of hot tea waiting for us and there is a cookie jar filled with different homemade cookies – that never seems to empty.  Life is good on the Emily Bronte.  Here is our room and the long hallway – we are at the very end of the boat!


Heading to Bamberg tomorrow and we have now completed half the trip.

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