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).

LOTS OF LOCKS!

Cruising the rivers of Europe as I have done four times now, I have noticed one thing in common with the passengers on each of those cruises.  When the ship enters that first lock, everybody flocks to the outer decks, balconies, or lounge windows to watch.  Shutter bugs jockey for the best vantage spot on deck and click photo after photo.  Conversation between passengers is a lively affair, and everybody is amazed and enthralled by the process.  Smiles all around!

As the cruise continues (and the ship has entered lock after lock), less and less passengers casually meander out to the decks to have a look.  Several photographers still bring their cameras (just in case), but less of them actually use them.  There is some passing interest, but not quite the enthusiasm exhibited during that first lock experience.

By the final lock (in our case on this cruise, lock number 71! on the Main River), nobody budges.  For passengers who happened to be out on deck already, they may watch, but with little interest.  Card players continue with their games in the lounge, readers don’t bother looking up from their books, and conversation between passengers is about everything except the lock.

Photographers?  Pfffft.  Why bother?  It’s just another lock.

On this cruise, we passed through a LOT of locks!  Locks 1 thru 16 were on the Danube, locks 17 thru 37 on the Main-Danube Canal, and locks 38 thru 71 were passed through on the Main.  By the time we arrived at Kostheim Lock, the 167 passengers on board were lock-ed out!

Just how do those locks work anyway, and why did we have to pass through 71 of those darn things?  I will plagiarize from www.someinterestingfacts.net and quote:  “Locks were invented to let boats travel up and down gradients on water. They work like an ‘aqua lift’; the boat is enclosed in a chamber, which is either filled with or emptied of water. This commonly carries the boat up or down a height change of several metres.

Where there is a steep gradient to climb, there are numerous locks spaced across the gradient. These can either be individual locks separated by a lock-free waterway, or a ‘staircase’ – these are faster as the ‘upper’ gate of one lock is the ‘lower’ gate of another.”

The largest height difference (81.92 feet!) we experienced in locks was on the Main-Danube Canal at the Hipoltstein, Eckersmuehlen, and Leerstetten locks.  It was an amazing feeling to see those huge concrete walls surrounding us!

During our cruise on the Danube, the River Voyager climbed to the top of the Continental Divide, 1,331 feet above sea level—the highest point in the world a boat can climb!  Over the course of our 106 miles, we passed through 16 locks climbing 220 feet up, and 574 feet down.

Here are some scenes during our cruise to Vienna:

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There were many cute little fishing cottages along the river.

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I took a quick break from my yoga session for this shot!  I had the entire deck all to myself this morning- nice!

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We will be entering the lock behind the boat on the right.

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Look how close we were to the lock on the starboard side!

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One of the passengers, Dave Henry, snapped this shot of me measuring the distance from the boat to the wall of the lock.