Kinderdijk, The Netherlands

Our next full day began with a morning cruise through the Netherlands. Kinderdijk is the only place in the world with so many windmills so close together. It represents the relentless fight against the sea. From the Viking daily, “The village of Kinderdijk is surrounded by the Groene Hart (Green Heart), an extensive peat landscape right in the middle of Randstad, the bursting region of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht… One of the charms of the picturesque low-lying lands of South Holland are the windmills. They are not only an innovative method of water management developed in the Middle Ages, but also iconic structure that have becoming synonymous with the Dutch landscape.”

Approaching Kinderkijk
A house along the river in the Netherlands on our way to Kinderdijk.
The first windmill I sighted during our journey.
The collection of windmills in Kinderdijk. These are working mills. Being a mill keeper is highly competitive, and it requires the residents to keep the mills running every day. While more modern pumping methods are use for water control, these windmills are their backup systems.

We got off the boat and took a walking tour of the Kinderdijk area, stopping at the visitor’s center and climbing into one of the windmills.

Greg and Nicole climbing up the windmill.
Candy climbing up the windmill steps.
Being a mill keeper are big shoes to fill. 🙂

After our walking tour of the windmills, the four of us took a bus tour to a family-owned, small cheese factory nearby. We had a chance to sample some cheese and see how cheese is made.

Cheese loafs that are waiting to have the rind applied.
On a bet, Candy ate the 25-pound block of cheese. It was impressive — but a little gross.
Kinderdijk at dusk.

We returned to the boat a little after dark for another terrific meal. This was our last night aboard ship. During the night we docked in Amsterdam. We had a nice, light breakfast in the lounge and then took a bus to the airport for our flight home.

It was a great trip, and we will certainly take another Viking river cruise in the future. It was really nice to be in a floating hotel room and be in a different city each day. The service was terrific, the food was excellent, and the whole experience was wonderful. It was also a lot of fun to share the experience with another couple.

Cologne, German

The next morning, 24 November, we were docked on Cologne, Germany. From the Viking daily, “An intriguing mix of old and new, Cologne reveals its Roman heritage in its city layout and the ancient ruins that lie scattered through the town. Cologne’s modern plazas and Hohe Strasses, a pedestrian-only shopping zone, host welcoming shops, enticing restaurants, and of course, cologne boutiques. Of particular note is the city’s 14th century cathedral, a stunning example of Gothic artistry… Spared Allied bombs during World War II, the cathedral’s imposing twin spires are visible for miles; stained glass windows felt he interior with brilliant colored light. Its 509 steps lead to the 312-foot platform with astounding views.”

The cathedral.

Being Sunday, most of the shops were closed, but we did get some food in a bakery. Some of the stores catering to tourists were open, so we did a little shopping. We also found a cafe for a nice lunch.

One of the entrances to the cathedral.
The cathedral is an active Catholic Church.

Cologne is renowned for its wealth and boasts over 100 traditional brew pubs. While Bavaria is famous for the large mugs of beer, in Cologne small glasses are common. In Cologne they like their beer cold, so they serve it in small glasses so the beer doesn’t get warm. The waiters will keep bringing beer when your glass is empty unless you place a coaster over the glass.

The Christmas market wasn’t open yet for the year, but we saw a lot of the construction and preparations.
One of the many squares in Cologne that would be host to the Christmas market the next weekend after our visit.

From the Viking daily, “The history of Cologne’s signature beer is an interesting one. In 1603, the city passed a law stating that only to-fermented beers — that is, ales — were to be brewed within its limits. The reasons for this are unclear, thought many hypothesize that, without any means of refrigeration, the city’s climate was not able to accommodate lager brewing’s necessary fine-tuning of the beer’s fermentation temperature. Whatever the logic behind it, this law allowed few medieval styles of German ale — forerunners of today’s Koelsch to survive into modern times. The first instance of the word Koelsch used to describe the city’s trademark brew can be tracked to 1918.”

Another view of the Cologne cathedral from the side.

The term “cologne” originated in the city of Cologne, and we purchased some as a souvenir; although, we were told that the scent is considered old fashioned these days.

A mostly crew in Cologne.
We had a nice lunch in a restaurant near the cathedral before wandering back toward the boat.
Prost!
The stained glass window of our restaurant.
After lunch we walked through the old part of town looking at the preparations for the Christmas Market and looking at the various shops, restaurants, cafes, and brewpubs along the river.
Greg and Nicole in the tall building overlooking Cologne from the opposite side of the river from the cathedral.
Candy and her trophy husband.
A view of our boat from the tower.

After our walk, we returned to the boat for a little down time. While everyone else was being a slug, I put on my running gear and ran along this side of the river. The path ran along the river, and there were lots of German walking, running, and pushing strollers. I ran through a few parks. Later we had another great dinner about our boat as it began our journey for the night.

While we were walking around Cologne, the crew was busy decorating the boat for Christmas.
Cologne from about our boat just before leaving dock.
The four of us in the lounge that evening before dinner.

Koblenz

The next day, 23 November, was the first time we travelled in daylight. Until then, we travelled at night and were docked in a new location by morning. We traveled along the “Middle Rhine” while our program director, Andrew, narrated descriptions of the various castles along the river.

Rudesheim the next morning before setting sail. The white tower is the one I showed in the previous post that was lit up when we went to visit the Christmas market.
Leaving Rudesheim
You can see Andrew, the program director, on the bridge narrating our passage of the middle Rhine.
One of many castles we viewed from our boat while traveling the middle Rhine. There were a mix of ruined ones like this one and ones that had been renovated as hotels or residences.
Most of these small castles and towers were used to control customer and excises along the river. In many cases two or three were visible from each other, so traveling the Rhine must have been a constant series of stops to pay tolls, taxes, and bribes.
Candy and Nicole trying to stay warm while I took pictures of an endless series of castles, towers, and keeps.
This part of the Rhine was wine country. You can see terraced vineyards in many of these pictures.
Candy wasn’t thrilled with the cold weather, but at one point the wait staff brought hot berry tea with rum in it to help us stay warm on deck.
You can see down about 2/3 of our boat.
This picture shows a nice view of the terraced vineyards.
I like the combination of brick and stone on this one.
This turn in the Rhine was once particularly treacherous and accounted for many crashed boats over the years.
During WWII, the Allies bombed a lot of railroads to impede the Nazi war effort, but they attempted to avoid bombing cultural features. The Nazis began disguising many of the train tunnels like castles to confuse the Allies into thinking they were cultural features, so they wouldn’t bomb them. This is one of several examples that remain along the Rhine.
Here is another example of a train tunnel disguised as a castle to confuse Allied bombers.
I just love the look of half-timbered buildings.
Approaching Koblenz

Our journey along the Rhine ended in the city of Koblenz, Germany. From the Viking daily, “Koblenz is a traditional German country town at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Founded more than 2,000 years ago, this former trading settlement rests on a massif of the Middle Rhine Highlands. Its cobblestone streets, wood-beamed houses adorned with flowers, ancient market square, and medieval churches recall the fairy-tale Germany of old. At the “German Corner,” Deutsches Eck, where the two rivers converge, a massive equestrian statue of Prince William I observes the lovely riverside scene The famed Teutonic Knights set up their first base here in 1216. The Romanesque Basilica of St. Castore, Koblenz’s oldest building, dates to 836.”

The statue of William I at the German Corner.

Greg and I signed up for the optional excursion to visit the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein, and the girls were on a different excursion to see Marksburg Castle. Greg and I had about 90 minutes between when the girls left and when we were to depart, so we walked off the boat a couple hundred meters to the German Corner to get a closer view of the statue.

Greg and me in front of the statue of Prince William I.
This is our boat. We were parked in the closest dock to the German Corner.
Our docent, role playing a (real) British Major who spied on the construction of the fortress and published a book on the fortification.

From the Viking daily, “Set on a hill overlooking the Deutsches Eck, the “German Corner” where the Moselle and Rhine Rivers meet, Ehrenbreitstein is Europe’s second largest preserved fortress. The hill upon which it rests was settled as far back as the 4th century BC, and a Roman fortification existed there around 400-500 AD. Constructed on the current fortifications was begun around 1100 and expanded during the 16th century. In 1801, Ehrenbreitstein was partially destroyed by Napoleon, and the French occupied Koblenz for the next 18 years. The fort looms some 400 feet above the Rhine’s left bank.”

Greg on guard duty.
A model of the fortifications.
Greg had to sing the Marseilles and charge the fortifications with our docent.
Our boat parked next to the German Corner from Ehrenbreitstein.

After dinner we had a few hours before our boat was going to shove off, so the four of us walked into the old town of Koblenz to enjoy their Christmas market and more great German food.