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Down the Elbe River

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Sep 1st, 2012, 10:52 AM
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Down the Elbe River

Last two weeks in July DW and I cruised on the Elbe River. And a good journey til the end. (Note: no food and hotel guidance in this report since a cruise ship). Starting in Prague which we'd been to before we once again toured the Castle and then Old Town with the unique town clock. Not enough time here but we'd enjoyed Prague once before.
http://www.czechtourism.com/what-to-...es/Prague.aspx.

Next day crossing into Germany through the forested Sudetenland. Walked through picturesque Litomerice with lunch at a former brewery. A detour to the Bastei, quite impressive rock promontories and valley below. I saved the lives of several women at this bathroom stop because I brought some required Euros. The area we were approaching is Swiss Saxony with a history of its own.

Further on we boarded the MS River Allegro operated by Grand Circle. We started out taking advantage of a surge from a water release up stream. The Elbe River is relatively shallow so not heavily ladden barges. A rocky shoreline gave way to pastoral scenery and the weather was great. About 9 p.m. we docked at Dresden.
http://www.gct.com/Trips/2012/Essenc...ague-2012.aspx

Morning walking tour of Dresden. We had headsets which are great as you can hear every word of the guide even when some distance away. And I do wander some taking pictures. Actually before our walk the local guide talked about her life before and after Communist rule. Dresden was subjected to WW II bombings which leveled much of the city. DW read "Slaughterhouse Five" but I read Frederick Taylor's book "Dresden" which deals with the myths of unnecessary destruction of this historic city February 13, 1945. It should be noted that there were crucial military targets here and Nazi Germany wasn't ready to surrender but then launching V2-rockets.

A lovely day for a walk Modern Dresden is mostly rebuilt and in the area up from the river many buildings once in ruins emerged from the rubble. Wide open spaces with parks. Passing a very modern synagogue we come upon Frauenkirke (Church of Our Lady) painfully reconstructed using the original stone blocks. Passing along the wall of the stables we viewed a remarkable 336 ft mural of porcelein tiles depicting a royal procession of past leaders. Then passing by the famous Opera House reopened 1985 with a performance of the very von Weber opera heard the day before the bombing.

In the large Zwinger Palace we have green areas surrounded by baroque buildings. These originally erected by Augustus the Strong in the heyday of Saxony. A lovely place with many strolling families on this Sunday. At one point we heard a 78 year old woman describe the bombing and aftermath. The family hid in a shelter and then her father emerged to aide the wounded but was killed in the second wave. She remembers as a young girl the great efforts to pile up the rubble.
(more later)
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Sep 1st, 2012, 10:54 AM
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bmking for later.
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Sep 1st, 2012, 01:11 PM
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In the afternoon in Dresden I returned to Grunes Gewolbe, the Green Vault. This series of ornate rooms has art objects displayed, rooms with mirrors, each featuring different treasures such as everything made of amber or of ivory or of silver, etc. You look around Dresden scarcely aware of the total destruction, also thankful for the restoring of its glory. http://news.bbc.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/5302612.stm
Also www.skd.museum. During our trip we watched in our room the video "Goodbye Lenin." Funny story of an ardent Communist who suffers a heart attack and is unaware of changes that happened while in a coma.

Early next morning we come to Meissen, a city untouched from bombings. On deck we watched the approaching castle and church high above and we docked below them. After breakfast a tour of the Meissen Porcelain Factory. We toured the factory and some of us bought porcelain pieces (expensive)! Then a walk through the town beginning at the center. At 11:30 a tower carillon concert. From here I mailed postcards that took three weeks to arrive in places like Wichita.

After lunch took a lift up the steep hillside to the castle and church. We sat at a table at Dom Keller Cafe overlooking river and town. So many red tiled roofs below. Sipping Riesling as we relaxed, this being a specialty in Meissen. Then descending down a steep cobblestone pathway to the lower square. The Castle was quite beautiful lit up at night.
www.galenfrysinger.com/meissen.htm
www.antique-marks.com/meissen.html

Then a day of sailing down the Elbe. We had a fun German lesson. Passed by a marker near Strehla where American and Russian soldiers met. Arrival at Torgau docking below the magnificent 1534 Renaissance Hartenfels Castle. Its chapel was dedicated by Martin Luther in 1544. Walking around old Torgau we saw the old patrician houses from the 16th and 17th century. On a side street is the house where Luther's wife Katharina lived and died. Along the shore is a large concrete monument built by the Russians where the two Allied armies met April 25, 1945. Beforehand I read a book "Yanks Meet Reds" with many personal remembrances. On board we heard several older gentlemen describe their memories of the time. We set sail for Wittenberg before supper.
http://www.69th-infantry-division.co...011/index.html
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Sep 1st, 2012, 06:21 PM
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I was looking forward to Wittenberg where Martin Luther initiated the Protestant Reformation (being a retired minister). A bus took us past the Castle to the Luther House. Once a monastery where Luther and later his family lived it was a classroom too. There is a lecture hall and a few original Luther items such as family dining table, German Bible, pulpit, and also an indulgence chest. What upset Luther most of all was the notion that putting coins in this collection chest guaranteed lenience in Purgatory.

So in objecting to this travesty Luther nailed his 95 theses on the Castle Church door. These objections intended for debate quickly caught on with these Northern German folks who didn't much like Rome anyway...and the idea of paying for St. Peter's repairs. Eventually Luther translated the Bible into the German language, developed liturgical reforms including hymn singing, and also married a former nun Katharina. It was quite a change for this confirmed bachelor as for her. But he came to greatly adore her.

In the house is a large panel painted by Lucas Cranach. Just read a book about how his supporting role in the Reformation. Another influential person was scholar Phillip Melanchthon and we passed by his house being renovated (big 2007 quincentennial of the 95 theses).

So we walked the streets of Wittenberg down to the Castle Church also being renovated. Here are buried both Reformers. Little toy shop on the way. And in the afternoon a special tea time with a German woman Christina. Her English was very good so we had a good visit.

On to Berlin next.
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Sep 1st, 2012, 11:34 PM
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I am enjoying your tour, looking forward to the remainder!

Lavandula
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Sep 2nd, 2012, 05:05 AM
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I am enjoying your tour, looking forward to the remainder!>>

me too.

We loved Dresden and were sorry that we only had one night there though we managed to see quite a lot, including a wonderful exhibition of Canaletto in Berlin.

we were also lucky that on our last trip we stayed with a german family in what used to be east Germany and could tell us a little about what those years had been like, and how life has changed in the last 20 years. There is so much to see in that area and I can't wait to go back.
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Sep 2nd, 2012, 06:38 AM
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I am very interested since we are thinking about taking this same cruise next year.
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Sep 2nd, 2012, 03:14 PM
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Thanks for your responses...I know this may not be an exciting travel report with all sorts of insider tips. But then I'm an older guy who has traveled many years with DW, from lots of tent & trailer camping with kids every summer to later trips, 14 times over the Atlantic plus Hawaii, Mexico and Caribbean. Now it is easier to have guided tours and cruises which may not be what many Fodorites prefer.

I have had a number of other trip reports including near where we now live (Boston area originally from Missouri) We've also done 37 Road Scholar/Elderhostel programs. Our son says we don't need to do something, why not sit and relax and read in traveling. Thing is, we are doing alot of sitting around and reading at home!

I'll finish up this Elbe River report next. By the way, although I don't have picts like some I am citing one traveler
who has marvelous photos: retired Wisconsin scientist Galen Frysinger. My thanks to him.
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Sep 3rd, 2012, 06:53 AM
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on the contrary Ozarksbill, we don't get many reports about this bit of Europe nor river cruises so it makes a nice change.
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Sep 3rd, 2012, 07:16 AM
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Bill - one thing that prevents me from taking a cruise is that a part of a day is never enough time in any city, such as Berlin. Of course, in smaller towns, walking around for a few hours is perfect. And is there enough to do during the time you're on the boat? I'm trying to get a feel for small ship cruising.

Did GCT have their usual lectures? Did you have a home hosted meal? Was there a school visit (I really hate those school visits). I didn't see any references to these on the web site.

Thanks for any insight!
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Sep 3rd, 2012, 07:17 AM
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Wittenberg was special for the reason of being the birth of the Reformation. The town is actually called Lutherstadt Wittenberg. Some photos: www.galenfrysinger.com/wittenberg.htm
www.sacred-destinations.com/germany/wittenberg
www.uncommon-travel-germany-com/wittenberg.html

Next day a walking tour of Tangermunde as we moved on down the Elbe. This is quite an old town first mentioned 1009, called a city of towers. It was favored by Kaiser Karl IV becoming the residence of Hohenzollern electors of Brandenburg from 1415 on. Early on it was a Hanseatic League city but as time went on by the end of the 17th century more of a backwater city. High above is the castle destroyed in the Thirty Years War. I should add a note about beer which has always been a German staple. Luther said, "Those who drink beer sleep well and those who sleep well do not sin." There is a Luther beer in fact. Also Cows Tale Beer...seems it is important to have clean water in the process but in a town try as they might they realized they could not keep all livestock from the streams.

At noon we sailed for Lauenburg. Toop deck we watched the shore, mostly rural farmlands with crops and grazing. Here and there people fishing from the bank. Also noticing wind turbines. Again the Elbe is no Rhine having little commercial traffic. Arrival Lauenburg about 10 p.m.

Then our day in Berlin. Taking the side roads to avoid traffic our bus off loaded us at Brandenberg Gate. This is a wide open area with lots of people and vendors. Glancing around you realize the buildings were reconstructed after 1945. Many are drab looking with some more modern structures springing up everywhere. Next to Brandenberg Gate is a Holocaust Memorial I hadn't known about completed 2005. It consists of quite a number of concrete blocks in rows.

A driving tour showed government buildings and the Reichstag and the island with museums...and a stop at the Berlin Wall, i.e. a small remaining portion. Berlin is a big city with lost of green spaces now. After lunch we walked over to the Pergamon Museum, famous for early Greek, Assyrian, Persian art, reconstruction in the rooms of ancient sites. A very warm day and too little time. Then on the bus returning to our ship I was sick. And collapsed aboard ship.
www.aviewoncities.com/berlin.htm

Others can say more about Berlin and also Hamburg. After DW took a walking tour of Lauenberg, we were bused to Hamburg. The estuary of the Elbe extends another 55 miles but there are mud flats and sand bars with dredging for freighters. After a city bus tour in the pouring rain we unloaded at the Acrotel.

Hamburg is a large vibrant city and neither of us were well enough to enjoy it. Fact is many in our crowd were under the weather. And as to weather it was raining most of the time. DW did take a boat tour of the harbor seeing many cargo vessels. One Chinese ship had more than 50 thousand containers.

Hamburg was firebombed as badly as Dresden so much is relatively new. Now it is once again a bustling port. There are many bridges over canals, more canals than Venice. Also many lakes and green spaces. But instead of sightseeing I went over to a nearby hospital and given an antibiotic.
Here is a glimpse of the Hamburg mostly missed: http://english.hamburg.de...note the video about harbor, waterways, night life, St. Michaels.

And so back home next day through Heathrow. Yes, we did recover after medical treatments and a week recovery. This is a time we really were glad to be home. Pleasant trip except for the final two days.
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Sep 3rd, 2012, 08:20 AM
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Glad you have recovered. What do you think you suffered from? It's not fun getting ill on a trip. My husband got sick in Jordan a few years ago and American airlines got us home as quickly as possible with no extra fees for changing our flights. (We were using FF miles.) Like you, we no longer roam alone out there--but it was fun while it lasted!

Did you also consider Viking for the Elbe cruise? I have looked at both and am undecided.
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Sep 3rd, 2012, 08:58 AM
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So happy you've recovered and your trip was enjoyable except for the illness!
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Sep 3rd, 2012, 09:25 AM
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Thanks, yes feeling great now both of us...and now enjoying balmy Boston weather! DW had a very bad cold and I was diagnosed with an unspecified bacterial infection. Glad we did have the travel insurance. Also glad the doctor in Hamburg was English speaking and qualified.

We've enjoyed every overseas trip and seldom been ill. I was very glad that I didn't have a fall nor even stub my toe. Eastern Germany is somewhat less commercial in some ways...where were all the Japanese tourists I wonder? ( -: Many places being rebuilt with Western German financing. Believe I heard that the people of Coventry, England, which had been firebombed earlier financed rebuilding in Dresden.

Have never been with Viking though noticed they have docking facilities along the Elbe. We got a bargain rate with GCT so made a quick decision to go ahead. Grand Circle does a very good job and most attentive program directors. Don't know that anyone else is in that area.
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Sep 3rd, 2012, 11:16 AM
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Interesting report, Bill. I plan on visiting eastern Germany next year. I was deeply impressed with the changes I saw from 1989. I'm especially interested in seeing the Stasi museum in Leipzig.

I do love to travel and am thinking that in a few years I may want to take a river cruise such as you took.
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Sep 3rd, 2012, 02:37 PM
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Believe I heard that the people of Coventry, England, which had been firebombed earlier financed rebuilding in Dresden. >>

after WW2 Coventry sent crosses of nails to Dresden, Berlin and Kiel as symbols of reconciliation.

I'm not sure about actual financial help as I believe that there was very little rebuilding in what was then East Germany until "die Wende" 20 years ago.
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Sep 7th, 2012, 06:35 AM
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About the rebuilding assistance after 1990, I think more prosperous West Germany did assist their poorer Eastern brethren in reconstruction but also proceeded with business ventures. Both government and private enterprise. But I get the impression of some resentment among Western Germans more recently but can't put my finger on it.
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Sep 7th, 2012, 06:47 AM
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I think there was a good deal of resentment after the first flush of reconciliation. Wessies thought the Ossies were lazy, and also they eventually tired of the financial drain caused by the help their gov't gave.
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