The Rhine Diaries

Tuesday, December 11,  Breisach, Germany across the Rhine from France

Actually day 2 of our cruise.  So far, so good.  Our journey began yesterday (although if you counted packing and the anxiety it created, it started way before that.)
          Sunday we dropped off Scout but forgot her bag with all food and accessories, mandating another trip to Catskill on our way to Newark.  We kept Henry the extra night, made a sandwich stop at Lawyers and a pick up at the Teators, a drop off at Bryan’s, arriving at Newark airport with 3 hours to spare.  We meet up with Tim and Judy, drink beer, eat pretzels and board the plane.  We leave at 7:10 and are already 30 minutes ahead of schedule which matters not to us as we have a 4 hour layover in Frankfurt before connecting to Basil.  We meet up with Pat and Jim, (whose luggage is lost), board the bus to the ship, walk about, as we just missed the official walking tour of Basil, unpack, drink tequila and head to dinner.  Which is lovely.  We have a perfect oval table for 8 and zany Zoltan, our waiter.  We discover a self serve mochachino machine and sit/ listen/dance to the piano man in the lounge.  We retire but wake at 2AM when the boat docks and now we are both awake.  Me for hours, even with xanax.  A knock from Don startles us awake at 7:30.  Breakfast is a buffet with just about anything you desire, especially if you like smoked salmon with capers. 
          Then off to the Black Forest:  beautiful snowy landscapes but twisty windy roads.  We make stops at St. Peter’s church and shops of glass blowing and cuckoo clock making.  Mercifully Don changes places with me.  I sit up front so I don’t hurl.
          After lunch we opt for the extra tour of Colmar, a small medieval French town.  It is beautiful but foggy and cold, much colder than the morning.  We have been lulled into thinking the day was improving—it was not, quite the opposite.   So we are all under dressed and slightly crabby about the weather.  Our tour guide, Andy is a sketch and takes our mind off the weather.  Glugwein, hot wine, helps too.  Even so we are happy to wrap up our wandering through Christmas markets and head for the bus.  We change our clothes, drink tequila and are ready for dinner. Zoltan is again our waiter.  He’s a big tall guy from Transylvania with a great sense of humor in English, his obvious second language.  Pat and Jim’s luggage still hasn’t arrived and the airline has no clue where it is.  They did a mini shopping spree and are now wearing different clothes and taking other people’s prescription drugs.  Reminds me of the time Ron and I went to England for 2 weeks and my clothes went to Tampa, arriving home by taxi shortly after we did.
          Dinner tonight is Chateaubriand preceded  by smoked salmon and a white potato soup, followed by regional cake and 2 cups of that lovely mochachino.

Thursday, 12/12 Strassbourgh

Mochachino is not a good idea at night.  So we watched a Meryl Streep movie till after midnight (still not tired) and spent the rest of the night in the twilight zone, not truly asleep/awake until about 5:30.  After breakfast we walk a brisk 15 minutes to the bus.  We don’t dock closer because of rodent (think RAT) problems created by the return of the swans.  So after a bus tour of the “new” town we park and walk another 15 minutes to the old part of town which is actually on an island.  Lots of timbered buildings and an ancient Gothic church.  More fog and cold.   More hot wine.   After, I am happy to be sitting in the lounge by the big windows overlooking the river drinking hot tea and writing this journal.  Ross is napping and the gang of 6 is still downtown.  I wonder what they’re up to?  And I wonder what’s for dinner! a l’orange.  Great food, great company, great day.

Friday, 12/13  Manheim to Heidleberg

First really good night’s sleep.  I feel like a new person but Ross, not so much.  A bit whiny about his stomach and the noises and things that go bump in the night.  Herring made its first appearance at breakfast.  I love the food here.  Always smoked salmon with red onions and capers, fresh yogurt, cheese and meats in addition to regular breakfast items.  We are on the bus at 8:30 to meet our tour guide Evelyn Obts who grew up here, worked as a travel guide for 30 years and has returned home.  She was great.  Took us to the castle ruins and then into the old town for obligatory hot wine and Christmas markets.  We wandered around crooked streets, ducked into 2 churches and took Evelyn’s recommendation for coffee at her favorite cafe.  We had just enough time for Ross to locate his nuts (candied) and hike back to the bus.
          Meanwhile the ship has moved and we arrived at a new temporary port.  While we have lunch, we leave again, our first daylight sail.  Daylight yes, sun, no. Lunch today was all German specialties accompanied by Pilsners and ommpa music.  I am beginning to feel like the goose stuffed for foie gras.  And the size of our cabin precludes jumping jacks and really exercise of any sort.  When I do yoga, Ross has to stay in the shower or leave the room.  There is a walking/running track up top but it has been windy and foggy and cold.  We do 2 laps and retreat to the cabin to watch a movie.  When we surface the chef is doing a gingerbread demo and they are passing around a local coffee with brandy.   We docked around 5 in Rudesheim , a good 20 minute walk to town.  We amble along the quayside and gingerly cross train tracks just as the gates go down.  All the shops, kiosks and Christmas markets are open set against this old river town.  Our market purchases are only consumables so we are obliged to drink more hot wein and collect the cups(blue).  Back for dinner and WOTD (wine of the day), a yummy reisling which Zoltan presented to me as we exited the dining room.  We took it to the lounge and the party continues.

Saturday, 12/14  AM sail

This morning we woke to scenery moving in our window, sailing again.  I missed most of the early castles as I was below searching for Benedryl.  Somehow I had a small serving of sesame in something at breakfast.  On deck, we saw more “castles on the Rhine” and plenty of picturesque towns.  After lunch we bussed to Marksburg, the castle we passed this morning.  We were warned about the 192 stairs and very uneven cobblestones (they were right).  Our guide Jeffrey was great and most enthusiastic about medieval toilets and torture chambers.  Useful info:  the toilet door was not shut when someone used the facility, only locked at night from the outside to prevent thieves entering the castle through the shitter.  Now there’s quite a visual.
          The bus left us off near the city enter so we explored a bit, jostled around the market, drank hot wine as the sun went down.
          After dinner the entire crew sang carols in English and after much clapping, danced their way around the lounge, adding us as they went.  The tall blond grabbed Jim and off he went.

Sunday, 12/15 Koln

Rumor has it there is a lot of snow at our house.  How will we get in the driveway?  And if we get in, how will we get out?  Well, we have 2 days to worry about that.
          This morning we wake up in Koln and bus to the cathedral square.  Our guide is 2 meter Peter and he is good.  You could easily wander around any city but without a local guide-or doing a lot of homework- all cities are just cities.  We learn about the Romans, especially the mushroom soup poisoner known as the Mother of Koln;  see an enormous excavated mosaic floor and more good stuff.  The cathedral dominates.  All the rest was vaporized in WW2.  We hear the bells and a little of the hymn sing in the sanctuary.  More hot wine, another cup and we head back for lunch.  I opt for a rest, journaling and a walk of the quay.  Tonight, beer crawl.

Monday, 12/16 sail to Holland

Beer crawl a mistake.  Didn’t know it at the time, but I had food poisoning.  (Should have had the brownie dessert instead of the marscarpone)  Just made it back to the room before it all came up.  Horrible night, afraid to eat anything.  Still don’t feel right.  So today was a lost day.  Coke for breakfast.  Stayed in bed all day except to visit the UNESCO windmill site.

Tuesday, 12/17 to the airport in Amsterdam

Party’s over!  It was fun.