I've finally done it!
This morning the Viking Baldur was moored in Nuremberg. Many of the passengers had decided to go on the included walking tour of Nuremberg, but we elected to go on an optional tour that focused on the role of Nuremberg in the Nazi era.
Today we had a lie in and it rained. We had mixed feelings about this: on the one hand it threatened to make our excursion to Bamberg less enjoyable, but on the other hand it made it more likely that, having changed ships, we will be able to sail all the way to Budapest.
Today the ship was moored at Würzburg. There is quite a lot to see here, but we decided to book the optional excursion to Rothenburg (full name Rothenburg ob der Tauber). Our guide for the day was Monica, who seemed to me a little eccentric. She was a PhD student who spoke 5.5 languages (the 0.5 being Welsh). She is an Austrian who normally lives in France, but she comes to Würzburg for the Summer. As well as lots of details about the things we visited she gave us almost too much information about her life, including her medical history and the fact that she once had a major rat infestation at her house! She seemed young, but I suspect was much older than she looked. She was amused that somebody thought she was in her thirties, but wouldn't tell us her actual age.
Today we had a leisurely morning. The ship docked at Freudenberg. We had a brief look round this little town before getting a bus to Miltenberg at 14.45. Miltenberg is a really well preserved medieval town with numerous half timbered buildings. The bottom levels are all made of sandstone in view of the town's history of severe flooding. We had a guided tour of Miltenberg, which was very interesting. We took lots of pictures of the various buildings, including the Hotel Zum Reisen, one of the oldest hotels in World.
Today we went on a bus journey to Marksburg Castle. This is a 700 year old castle which was never conquered or destroyed.
It has an amazing location with majestic views of the River Rhine. We were again struck by how low the water levels were. The guide Deiter was very knowledgeable and amusing.
Today we set off in a bus to make the long journey to Cologne in Germany. We left Rotterdam at 08.30 and got to Cologne at midday. By the time we had got off the buses and got our listening devices working it was probably around 13.00. Our guide was very amusing and slightly camp: he reminded me a bit of Eddie Izzard, the cross-dressing, politically active comedian. He made lots of jokes about how laid back people from Cologne were, and how unlike Prussians and Bavarians.
Today we went on a bus from our hotel in Amsterdam to Kinderdijk, which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a village in an area of polder which has 19 windmills involved in the maintenance of the land, which would otherwise be flooded as it is below sea level. In fact, most of the maintenance is now done by a diesel and an electric pumping station, but the windmills are kept in full working order partly to preserve the World Heritage status, but also to help out the two main pumping stations in extreme circumstances. We were shown round the site and saw inside one of the windmills. The millers still occupy them, and the accommodation is incredibly cramped by modern standards.
Today we were due to start another river cruise with Viking across Europe from Amsterdam and ending in Budapest in Hungary. Two days ago we received an email from the company telling us that due to low water levels we would not be able to join the ship in Amsterdam. We were to stay in a hotel there instead and make the journey by bus on Monday to Kinderdijk, our next destination. We were given the impression that we would then journey to Cologne in Germany (our third stop) by bus and join the ship there.
“As individuals, we are amazing, spiritual, talented, inspirational, and sublime. As a species, we are little better than cockroaches.” Ray Bradbury.
On November 2 2006 I wrote a blog post entitled "Where Have All The Heroes Gone?". It followed a visit to Paris, during which we had visited the Hotel des Invalides.
I noted that the dome of the Eglise du Dome took over 20 years to build and houses the tomb of Napoleon, whose remains are encased in 5 coffins and a sarcophagus of red porphyry. The remains of some other state heroes are also located there, including Ferdinand Foch.
My point in 2006 was that I couldn't think of a single politician or military leader in the World then that would be so revered by the general public that they would support a memorial on this scale. The question is "Eleven years down the line, has anything changed?".