RAPTUROUS ROTHENBURG

If there ever was a good time to spend the extra money for an optional tour, Wurzburg was the place.  As I have mentioned before, Vantage includes more tours in their river cruise price than other companies, and in Wurzburg, we could have taken an included tour that featured just Wurzburg.  Rothenburg ob er Tauber (translation: “Red fortress above the Tauber”) sounded too good to pass up, though, so we opted instead to see the well-preserved medieval town of 12,000 residents.

Located in the middle of the Franconia region of Bavaria, Germany, it is well known for its beautiful old town that dates back to the late Middle Ages.

Rothenburg is also noted for its university, alma mater to 13 Nobel Prize winners.  In addition, production of fruity, dry white wine dates back 1,200 years.  The hills surrounding the town are covered with vineyards, and it is very picturesque.

For yogurt fans, the Danon Activia plant is located in Rothenburg, and 70% of the sugar in Germany is produced in the area.  Most of that sugar goes into producing Coca-Cola.

I was pleased to hear that clean energy is a priority in Rothenburg.  Wind and solar power has replaced nuclear energy, and the locks produce the water power energy to round out their clean energy production.

When our bus arrived, all we could see across the street was a massive (very OLD!) stone wall.  I couldn’t wait to see what awaited us on the other side.  All it took was one look, and it was love at first sight!  I had just laid eyes on the most beautiful medieval-period town I had ever seen.

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As our guide led us around, I didn’t know which way to look first; it was all so incredibly gorgeous.  Zooming in on the details of the architecture with camera made me appreciate it even more.  I saw beauty my naked eye had missed.  As I sit here right now editing my photos in between writing, my eyes light up all over again.

Rothenburg was easily THE highlight of our journey.

Selecting which pictures to include in this post is too difficult; I want to include them all.  I no longer care if I need to purchase more space on WordPress; I’m not cutting any more corners.  It’s worth it.

My friends, strap in, because I am about to unleash dozens upon dozens of scenes of Rothenberg, as seen behind the lens of my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS40.  I hope these inspire you to make the journey to the “Red fortress above the Tauber.”

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This wall encircles the old town of Rothenburg.  After our walking tour, we walked 75% of the wall to take in the views from above.  Later, you will see these photos.

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Circa 1555!

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These stairs lead up to the wall that surrounds the old town.

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The views of the town from the wall walkway was spectacular!  We walked most of the wall encircling the city before it was time to meet back up with our group.

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More scenes from street level (looking up!):

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As we made our way back to the town square, we spotted some passengers dining al fresco and asked if I could take a quick shot of their traditional German lunch.

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Cute labels:  “Nice to sweet you!”

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This gentleman was making schneeballen– strips of rolled out dough shaped into a ball and deep fried.  A plain one costs 1.50 euro, and a chocolate-covered one was 2.50 euro.

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I am not a fan of deep-fried anything, but as they say, “When it Rome, do as the Romans do.”  We were in Germany, so we had to try schneeballen!  I bought a chocolate-covered one (of course!) to eat on the bus ride back, and Bruce opted for a plain one.  Other than the chocolate surrounding my schneeballen, we both agreed we could have taken a pass…

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These bottles are from locally-produced wine.

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This was a joyous, heart-warming scene that brought a tear to my eyes and a smile on my face!  This touring Japanese choir was hastily organized by their director for an impromptu mini-concert in the town square.  I say “impromptu,” because the singer in front (with the black t-shirt and gray jacket) had just bought an ice cream cone!  She stood there dutifully singing her heart out while the ice cream dripped down her arm.  She broke into unstoppable giggles after their song ended!  How did they sound?  Every bit as phenomenal as the choir I work for, Griffin Choral Arts.  Memorable!

After leaving Rothenburg, we returned to Wurzburg to tour Wurzburg Residenz (Prince Bishop’s Palace).  Photography wasn’t permitted inside, so the following are exterior shots:

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Built 1720-1744, Residenz is one of the many UNESCO World Heritage sites.  It is considered one of Europe’s greatest palaces.

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Back at the River Voyager in Wurzburg, these are scenes photographed from the top deck looking across the river:

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Wurzburg, in the Bavaria region of Germany, is known for lavis baroque and rococo architecture.  The city is located in the center of the Franconian wine country, and it is surrounded by vineyards.

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Reflection

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An incredible day we will never forget!

Next up:  Marktheidenfeld

MEMORABLE MAIN

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Ahhh, another day of river cruising; a day relax while enjoying the sights of the Bavarian countryside as we meander the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, the most environmentally friendly canal in the world.  Seven miles per hour is the maximum speed permitted for boats to prevent erosion.

Water quality on the canal is so good that fishing clubs have stocked the canal with fish!  I sure would have enjoyed swimming in it…

The canal connects the Danube to the Main, and it crosses the European watershed.  It is up hill from the Danube to the Main, so the stair-stepped locks are necessary for boat passage.  At the summit, the canal elevation is 406 meters (1,332 feet)!

The locks are 45 feet wide, and riverboats vary between 35-40 feet wide, so that explains why the crew keeps busy re-painting the sides of the riverboats while passengers are off touring at the next city!

Although the canal was built to transport cargo, transporting passengers via riverboat has become all the rage—something that was never predicted!  These days, forty-two percent of the boats on the canal are touring riverboats.

Transiting the canal is quite a bargain.  Compared to the fee cruise ships must pay to transit the Panama Canal (typically $500,000!), the cost for the River Voyager to pass through the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal was only 184 euros.  Not bad!  The fee is per passenger, and transit is on a first come, first served basis.

In our case, we were traveling from the Danube to the Main.  The Main River (pronounced “mine”) is the longest river lying entirely in Germany, and the scenery along the hills rising up from the riverbanks is breathtaking.

Having a day to reflect on our travels and anticipate Wurzburg (as well as Rothenberg for our optional tour) was wonderful!  Although the weather during most of the day was cloudy and rainy at times, we thoroughly enjoyed kicking back in the lounge or out on deck when the weather cooperated.

Sea days—um, make that “river days”—are also a great time to enjoy the ship (or boat) and other passengers.  (I haven’t yet mentioned much about life aboard the River Voyager, because it will be the subject of my final trip blog post; but, suffice it to say for now that it was fabulous.)

On this day, the pastry chef and her assistant worked extra hard preparing an afternoon “tea” for us all to enjoy.  I didn’t see much tea being drunk, but there sure was an enthusiastic crowd around the dessert table!  As if we didn’t get enough to eat aboard ship…  Sheesh.

Count me in as one of the guilty ones having an extra dessert (or two) that day.  Who could resist all that delicious chocolate?

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The lounge, before the desserts and passengers appeared.

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Frosting Flowers

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The main attraction (for me):  CHOCOLATE!

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A popular waterskiing spot this turned out to be!

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Aha!  This is the launch site for the skiers!

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Did you read my post, “Lots of Locks!”?  This was another of the numerous locks along the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal.  See those windows in front of us?  They appear in the photo below.

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Cheers!

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On to the next lock we go!

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At another lock, we had a VERY close call.  Due to the high water levels from the rains, the upper deck was closed for several days while cruising through the locks.  All of the eqt. was lowered to reduce the height of the boat; however, we were all holding our breath at this point.  Once it was sure we were clear, the look of relief by this crew member was priceless.  He flashed a HUGE smile!

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Whewww!!!

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The river was so narrow at times that we hardly needed to use telephoto lengths for shooting photography.

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Sun at last!

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After dinner, we enjoyed the sunset from in back of the Cotton Club Cafe while cruising through yet another lock.  Meanwhile, some of the passengers were watching the European Soccer Championships on the large screen TV inside.

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This riverboat (above) pulled in so close behind us (to fit into the lock) that these two crew members had a great view of our boat’s TV!  When I asked if they were watching the soccer game, we got a cheery thumbs-up!

Check back for my next post on  our optional tour to Rothenburg ob der Tauber (from Wurzburg).

KICKIN’ AROUND KELHEIM

One of the advantages of booking a tour with Vantage Deluxe World Travel is that when they say their river cruises are “all-inclusive,” they mean it.  Most tours are included in the price, whereas with other river cruising companies, more of the tours are optional.  Once our cruise and air were booked through Vantage, the only thing Bruce and I had to budget for was tipping, because even beer and wine were included with our dinners and a few cocktail parties.  Vantage also made it convenient for us by registering our credit card for the tips to be billed automatically at the end of our cruise.  We could make adjustments to the amount or allow them to charge their suggested rate to our bill.

Although we chose to book one of the optional tours (it was fabulous!), we decided to pass on an optional tour to a monastery when we arrived in Kelheim.  Having some time to kick around independently and at our own pace was a nice alternative for the day, and we thoroughly enjoyed it (even though it rained at times).

The River Voyager was tied up on the riverbanks just a fifteen-minute walk from the town center, so we enjoyed the casual walk through the neat and tidy residential neighborhood, admiring the gardens along the way.

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In town, we were delighted by the colorful buildings and enjoyed just poking around.  It was also the perfect opportunity to stock up on Milka chocolate on sale at Edeka.  As an extra bonus, we scored an awesome money-saving coupon somebody had left behind on the shelf.  She scores!!!

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Once again, Bruce was my willing “Sherpa” to carry the haul back to our cabin.  In the end, between Milka (Germany), Boci (Hungary), Figaro (Czech Republic), Clever (Czech Republic), and a bunch of other miscellaneous bars I purchased along the way, he counted an embarrassingly abundant load of 66 bars (many of them HUGE) that I loaded up in my roll-aboard, along with my laptop and other essentials, for the flight home.  Lifting the hefty suitcase into the overhead compartment was not Bruce’s idea of fun, as I surmised by the look on his face…

…But, I digress.

Kelheim!  (Chocolate has a way of getting me off topic.)  This cute little Bavarian town is small— just under 16,000 residents.  It is situated at the confluence of the Danube and Altmuhl rivers, and we found it to be quite charming and attractive.

Here are some scenes from our (at-times) rainy walk around town:

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Next up:  Nuremberg

 

PRETTY PASSAU

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By the time we reached Passau, “The City of Three Rivers,” my hip was nearly back to normal, and I was able to join the walking tour through the first city established in Germany and located strategically on the convergence of three rivers: Danube, Inn, and Ilz.

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What a lovely, photogenic, well-preserved medieval city!  Although it has had quite a history of flooding (as the photo below demonstrates), it has survived and thrived.

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Have you ever wondered where the saying, “That man is not worth his salt!” originated?  During medieval times, Passau was and ancient Roman colony, and Roman soldiers were paid “salt money,” salarium argentum, from which we take our English word, “salary.”  Salt was a valuable commodity, and it was as valuable as silver.

How about, “Walls have ears.”  Where the heck did that saying come from?  Back in the day, castles of the wealthy were built with double walls so servants could walk between the walls to stoke fireplaces from the back to reduce the amount of smoke exposure.  Out of sight, out of mind; so, juicy gossip was overheard by the servants and passed between each other.

Those were two of the interesting tidbits we learned from our guide, and we also learned that Passau (and all of Bavaria) has five “seasons”:  winter, spring, summer, fall, and lent.  During lent, eating bread and drinking beer is permitted, and beer is consumed in massive quantities!

Our walking tour concluded at the cathedral where we were fortunate to enjoy a beautiful organ concert performed on their world-renowned organ that has 17,954 pipes and 234 stops.  That first number is not a typo, my friends; you read that correctly!  The tallest pipe is eleven meters high, the shortest measures ½ cm high, and it is considered the largest Catholic church pipe organ in the world.

The frescos and ornate artwork throughout the church were so detailed and beautiful, we spent the entire performance swivel-necking to take it all in.  Gorgeous!

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St. Stephan’s Cathedral was finished in 1688.

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St. Stephan’s courtyard fountain

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Side door to St. Stephan’s Cathedral

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Panorama of ceiling

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More scenes from Passau:

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Town Hall ceiling

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Coming up next:  Regensburg