North America, Europe · 7 Days · 33 Moments · May 2017

Joan & John's Bern-Amsterdam River Cruise


12 May 2017

Three more shots from the Cathedral plus a church I saw while searching for a place to buy hair spray (thank you TSA!). For some reason this is surprisingly hard to find in deserted dock areas and fancy tourist districts. I finally found a $17 French product that turned out to be useless in the wind and damp here--this is what happens when all the labels are in German (studied six weeks in seventh grade), Spanish (last studied in 1973), and French (one semester in college), but not English--I was thrilled just to be able to tell it was hair spray!
Two more shots from the Cathedral plus a church I saw while searching for a place to buy hair spray (thank you TSA!). It's surprisingly hard to find in both deserted dock areas and fancy tourist districts. I finally found a $17 can of French hairspray that turned out to be useless in the wind and damp here. This is what happens when everything in the store is labeled in German (studied six weeks in seventh grade), Spanish (last studied in 1973), and French (one semester in college), but not English--I was thrilled just to be able to tell it was hair spray!
On Friday we docked in Cologne. John and I were exhausted so we skipped the early organized tour and visited the Cathedral on our own.

11 May 2017

This evening we had a private dinner at Ehreshoven Castle, which now serves as a retirement residence for single/widowed ladies of aristocratic blood (duchesses, etc.). Limited areas are rented out for upscale private weddings, but it is not otherwise open to the public. The oddities on the lawn (carousel, etc.) were set up for filming an episode of a German TV show (similar to Antiques Road Show) the following day. We toured a little of the interior and it was decorated like you'd expect a small castle to look, but I felt it would be too intrusive to take pictures!
Last of the castles and a cute little town we passed....
Still more castles....
More castles....
We then set sail through the Middle Rhine valley to see the castles. Following are more pictures of castles than you probably want to see!
On Tuesday we toured the historic village of Rudesheim, where we visited a house from the 1500's that housed an antique collection of mechanical musical instruments like beautifully carved player pianos outfitted with clusters of self-playing violins, tiny gold music boxes with "singing" birds inside, and a large display-case sized machine containing a group of beautiful 12" mechanical dolls in Louis XIV dress who "played" instruments and "danced" to the music. (Too crowded for good pictures.) We stopped in a restaurant for more strudel and a local coffee specialty made with brandy that they set on fire (to caramelize the sugar) before adding the coffee and a mountain of fresh whipped cream.

10 May 2017

After that we went to the Porsche Museum, where we saw everything from the earliest models to the present, including famous racing models and an out-of-scale personification of the Disney character "Sally." (Unfortunately, they wouldn't let John bring the red one home!)
Some sort of mishap had occurred the night before at the restaurant where our group was booked for lunch (we were told "the kitchen exploded or something"(!) The owner's backup plan was to serve us at his other restaurant located at the base of the "world's first TV broadcast tower," where we had German apple strudel for dessert and rode the elevator to a lookout platform at the top. (This is how Tauck handles unexpected problems--with a bonus activity!)
Today we went to Stuttgart and took a walking tour in the area of the former rulers' adjacent "old" and "new" palaces, now used as government buildings. The courtyard of the"new" palace was beautiful. The low staircase was built to accommodate horses. (One of the rulers liked to make a grand entrance into the dining hall on horseback.)

9 May 2017

Back on board. I don't think any of the crew are as old as 30. Our captain (last picture) looks about 16. I'm comforted by the fact that he's a fourth-generation captain on one side of his family and fifth-generation on the other! He can slide this ship into a lock with about two inches' clearance from the wall.
Visit to Colmar, France.... I've always wanted to taste a REAL French croissant, so we looked up the best bakery in town. It was amazing! I was so overwhelmed at the thought that I was actually STANDING IN FRANCE eating a croissant, I started to cry.

8 May 2017

This is our room on board. We got underway immediately and will pass through 4 locks overnight as we traverse the border between France and Germany.
A similar bridge nearby is now the oldest wooden bridge in Europe. Painted panels mounted below the roof joists depict scenes of imminent death by various means, each attended by the Grim Reaper.
This was the oldest wooden bridge in Europe until it was largely destroyed in (the 90's?) when a tourist's cigarette butt landed in a wooden boat moored beneath it. An iconic symbol of Lucerne, it was substantially rebuilt, thereby losing its "oldest" status. Some of the original painted panels depicting daily life in the Middle Ages survived the fire, but charring remains evident
More scenes from Lucerne....
Lake Lucerne and its resident swans...
Today we traveled by motor coach to spend a few hours touring the Swiss city of Lucerne and then went on to Basel to embark on the MS Inspire. Our first stop in Lucerne was the famous lion monument commemorating the Swiss Guard mercenaries who courageously refused to leave their posts and died courageously defending King Louis XIV from the mob uprising that sparked off the French Revolution. It depicts a lion mortally wounded by a lance and dying upon its shield. Mark Twain called the sculpture "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world." It has a large pool of water at the base that sets it off and keeps idiots at bay.

7 May 2017

More of Bern....
The bear is the city's symbol. There are depictions of bears everywhere. "Bear Park" Has three live bears in large natural enclosures on a riverbank, where they love to go in swimming!
Scenes from Bern....
We started this morning with a special private tour of Bern's city clock tower dating to the early 1500's. The photos show the clock faces and mechanical figures (all symbolic), the inner works, 300- lb. weight that turns the gears each second, stone counterweights, and view from the upper windows. Only special small groups get to see this--our local guide had her own key!

6 May 2017

More photos from dinner last night...
This was our orientation dinner. They had a great, authentic Swiss band. John will upload some pictures of them tomorrow. End of day 1--we've been up so long our brains won't function!
Hotel flower shot for Karl....
This is our room at the Bern Palace Hotel.
Switzerland is gorgeous! We think this was the Rhine, which we'll be sailing soon.
Crossing the English Channel into France.
This was all we saw of England!
Plane to London ran late and we almost missed our connection. This is John after running the Heathrow marathon. (I was worse)!
Ready to board!