The Shortest European Trip Report Ever!

Old Jul 11th, 2013, 09:31 AM
  #81  
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Great report, Russ. Really enjoyed reading it, too.

Our rail trip to Fribourg earlier today was basically uneventful except for the fact that the train from Grindelwald arrived late into Interlaken Ost where we were to have a 6-minute connection time that got cut to about 30 seconds. We managed tahnks to ramps to and from platforms.

In deference to our friend`s privacy we allowed her to book us into a local B+B which is a huge farmhouse dating from the 15th Century with a great view over the local hills. It is located a few miles outside of town.

No internet so am typing this breif update from our friend's home where we are about to have dinner.

This thing will probably languish for a day or so until we get on the Rhine and I have no idea how god the connection from the boat will be but will do my best to keep you updated.

And now we return to BigRuss and his wonderful travelogue....
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Old Jul 12th, 2013, 05:13 AM
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A Visit to Gruyeres

After a very what I would call stereotypical "cotinental" breakfast this morning of juice, fresh bread, cheese, cold cuts, cold cereal, and yogurt our hostess picked us up in here car around 11:00 AM we set off for Gruyeres which we have never visited.

The fortress and the village surrounding it are at the top of a hill which affords a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. The village has been carefully maintained/restored and the place is immednsely popular with tourists.

The chateau/fortress has some interior rooms which have been furnished with either reproduction pieces or in the case of the tapestries, items of Flemish origin which are representative of the time. There are also several clerical copes on display which are well^-preserved and from the region.

There are several restaurants in the village and at 12:30 they were filled with diners. There was only one tour bus in the parking lot along with lots of individual automobiles.

If you are at all into this sort of thing and if you have visited the Chillon castle in Montreux then you would probably enjoy this.

We have spent the rest of the afternoon over a long cold lunch featuring Swiss wine as well as several different varieties of Gruyeres cheese prepared by our hostess.

I also took advantage of her offer to use her washing machine for laundry since unlike some I am simply unable to come to Europe and spend three weeks without doing any washing.
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Old Jul 12th, 2013, 07:09 AM
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Still following and enjoying the report.
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Old Jul 13th, 2013, 02:46 AM
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I've enjoyed your report Dukey. You've reminded me about all the flies we encountered at breakfast during one of our stays in Murren. I have to wonder if I'd even notice now after living in Australia, the fly capitol of the world.
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Old Jul 13th, 2013, 10:44 PM
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Sunday 14 July

Yesterday we made our way by rail from Fribourg to Basel in the morning and arrived in Basel about 11:00 AM.

We checked our luggage at the "left luggage" room at the station and walked from there to the Kunstmuseum and that took about ten minutes.

The streets of the city seemed relatively quiet traffic-wise and I assume this was due to the day of the week.

We spent a couple of hours at the museum which has an extensive collection of Holbein works and there is also a Picasso show which has run for a couple of months. I am not a big fan of Picasso but the museum has a LOT of his stuff on view at the moment; lierally room after room after room.

I also enjoyed seeing the Rodin "Bergers (or is that burgers???) of Calais" work in the courtyard of the museum.

We walked back to toward the train station and stopped at a nearby Chinese food restaurant where the dishes were made fresh as we watched and then had a pleasant lunch on the front terrace overlooking the station area.

Took a taxi from the station to where the river cruise boat was docked.

We have done ocean cruises in the past and actually survived that experience. For those who would "never take a cruise' you might want to stop reading at this point.

The boat, the "Viking Forseti" was apparently launched earlier this year. It is quite modern and our cabin has a small balcony with two chairs. The ship itself has a large sun deck for viewing outside, the usual lounge and bar and a dining room, etc., etc.

Dining seating is open and there is one sitting.

We left Basel last night around 7PM at the beginning of the dinner meal. Food was tasty and nicelSeat mates were delightful folks from Canada whom we enjoyed talking to.

We passed through several locks last evening and that was an interesting experience in and of itself. Today we are docked in Breisach and practically the entire passenger list has debarked for a tour to the Black Forest area and the inevitable opportunity to both see and, of course, buy a cuckoo clock.

The Husbear took the tour (which is included in the price of this cruise) and I decided to stay behind and will perhaps explore the town on foot.
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Old Jul 15th, 2013, 04:49 AM
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15 July

Today we arrived in Kehl which is a town across the Rhine from Strasbourg. The boat makes it movements mainly at night and we again passed through several locks as the river slowly descends toward sea level.

We took an organized (by the boat and included in the price) combination walking and bus tour of Strasbourg. We rode by the various Congress of Europe and European Community buildings first and then took a leisurely walk throuhgn the section of the city known once mainly inhabited by members of the tanners guild. Lots of 16th C dwellings well-preserved for the most part; plenty of half-timbered structures with a branch of the river Ill winding through the area with its locks and various swing bridges.

Very charming section for the most part and, of course, a definite contrast to the the more modern parts of the city.

We ended up at the cathedral which, not surprisingly, took over 300 years to complete and contains, among other things, one of the largest rose windows in all of France. Another very interesting item is the large astrological clock inside the building with figure movements every quarter hour.

The area around the cathedral is a real tourist mecca with lots of souvenir sales, outdoor cafes and restaurants, street artists with their easels doing the usual "rapide" charcoal portraits and characatures, and so forth.

Our guide gave the usual history overload commentary but all in all it was an enjoyable way to spend a few hours.

The boat itself and how things "work" have been an experience in and of themselves, especially if you have ever taken the more usual bigger cruise ship trip.

There are no children aboard and the youngest person I have seen looks to be if not an older teen perhaps in his early 20's. Someone had to remind him to remove his baseball cap inside the cathedral.

Food remains good and we have managed to have some interesting conversations with different passengers over the meals which has made the trip more enjoyable.
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Old Jul 15th, 2013, 07:23 AM
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Enjoying your report, Dukey, especially Florence and this last part on the cruise. At some point we'd like to take some of the river cruises--the scale and locations seem about right.
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Old Jul 15th, 2013, 04:53 PM
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Someone last night when asked about their impression of this cruise: "sedate" and that is probably a good word.

The cabin we have is compact but well laid out. The food has been pretty good although there is not the variety offered on larger ocean-going ships.

This boat offers both a buffet breakfast and lunch but I can tell you that if you want to see the "hogs at the trough" phenomenon then this vessel has it; the trick seems to be show up later in the mealtime so you can at least approach the buffet line!

In terms of nightly entertainment there hasn't been a whole lot yet; last night the more or less excursion director was in the lounge singing what can only be described as more or less on key 1960's and 1970's favorites.

But does one really go on these river cruises for that kind of diversion? And there are a LOT of these boats operating.
Yesterday when we were in Strasbourg you would have thought we were tied up at Dodge Island in Miami what with the many river cruise boats in evidence.

I would say to choose wisely and with your eyes wide open.
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Old Jul 15th, 2013, 09:07 PM
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I must be in Viking's demographic because every PBS program I watch seems to be sponsored by them, and somehow I am also on their mailing list.
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Old Jul 16th, 2013, 06:49 AM
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I would say the majority of the passengers on this trip are either from the US or Canada; there are also some folks from Australia as well as the UK.

This morning we were in Heidelberg and as I post this we are moving down river toward Rudesheim where we will spend the evening.

I will post more specifics about today later on as the connection is verey very slow at the moment; it tends to improve when we are docked.
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Old Jul 16th, 2013, 07:00 AM
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I remember when we were in Rudesheim we took a cable car up a mountain traveling over a vineyard to a statue of Kaiser Wilhelm. Thanks for bringing back lovely memories of a romantic dinner that night and bringing home the empty wine bottle because it had our name on it.
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Old Jul 16th, 2013, 08:44 AM
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Enjoying your very interesting report and glad all is much better than it started. Hope all goes well as you continue making all those great memories.
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Old Jul 16th, 2013, 09:41 AM
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If you have not arrived at Rudesheim yet then:

1. You should really see the Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments.
It take about an hour but you will see self playing Instruments like never before.

( The Museum is housed in the lovely Bromserhof Mansion)

2.Then a block away from here,( Bromserhof Mansion )is the Funicular or Gondola for the ride up to huge monument on the hill.

You get great views back to Rudesheim from here.

3. The cost of the ride is 7 euros but 5 euros for seniors.
The ride up takes 10 minutes each way although you can walk back down.

4. The last ride down is at 6 PM which is a puzzle to me as this is tourist season and it does not get dark until 10 PM !!!

5. This is a "must see" Monument 125 feet high , the first stone was laid in 1871.

6. The Monument was to commemorate the victory of the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 which started the uniifcation of Germany.

7. That is Wilhem Kaiser sitting on his horse in the relief carvings on the front of this huge Monument.

8. There are great views back down to Rudesheim from here and also great views across the Rhine to the village of Bingen

9. Do not forget to visit the Niederwalken Temple about 100 feet to your right , as you face the Monument.

10. Once back down you can walk down the famous Drosselgasse (Street)... narrow and quaint and filled with shops.

11. At the other end of this street you will be back along the Rhine River Promenade..lots of shops and eating places along here and just the walk is nice.
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Old Jul 16th, 2013, 11:05 AM
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Thanks to everyone for the kind comments and additional recommendations regarding things to see.

Our visit to Heidelberg consisted mainly of a walkaround the schloss and of particular interest was the Otto Henry building. The facade is decorated with a series of interesting figures to include the heroes of the Old Testament Joshua, Samson, Hercules, and David on one story; the various virtues Strength, Faith, Love, Hope, and Justice; the planets such as Saturn, Mars, Venus, and Mercury; and above all of these the statutes of Apollo (representing the sun) and Jupiter.

There is a terrace high above the river which affords views of the rooftops of the old town and the so-called "old Bridge" over the river.

We also saw the "Great Tun" inside one of the buildings which is supposedly the biggest wooden barrel in the world ever top have been filled with wine and the thing is gigantic! It was constructed around the year 1751 using 130 oak tree trunks. The things supposedly can hold 58,000 gallons (US) of liquid.

We did not, unfortunately, have enough time to tour any interiors.

We did a brief walk in part of the Old Town which dates from approximately the year 1200. We particularly enjoyed seeing the inside of the Jesuit Church with its exterior facade decorated with statues of St, Ignatius Loyola. The interior contains various large religious frescoe-like paintings depcting such events as the Assumption with a lot of gold leaf and plenty of marble, and unlike some of the faux marble found in churchs such as St. Peter's in Rome, this marble is all real!

The old town streets are quite picturesque and atmospheric despite the usual clusters of sovenir stands selling everything from post cards to beer steins.

Like most cruises there really isn't enough time to visit sites in any sort of "depth" but it at least gives one a brief taste if nothing else.

The boat, as I write this, has docked for the night in Rudesheim and Percy above has given an absolutely excellent overview of the sights to be seen in what seems like an ordinary Rhine river town...until you explore things a bit more carefully.

I will say we have enjoyed meeting some of the people on the boat over the past few days. Since the meals are all open seating we have taken that opportunity to sit with different folks whenever possible and have enjoyed hearing about their various travel experiences.

We have, so far, been blessed with excellent weather throughout the entire trip. No major rain to speak of although there was quite a thunderstorm which blew through Grindelwald but that happened basically in the late afternoon/evening so it really didn't prevent sightseeing must-dos.

Tonight we are about to have a glass blowing demo on board and how they are going to pull this off will be interesting to see.
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Old Jul 16th, 2013, 03:19 PM
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"Tonight we are about to have a glass blowing demo on board and how they are going to pull this off will be interesting to see."

The furnaces (usually three) and temperature range required for this will be a remarkable feat in themselves. Love to know how they did it. Unless it's one of those miniature object demos done over a bunsen burner-type flame.
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Old Jul 16th, 2013, 06:22 PM
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What is your next stop after Rudesheim.?
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Old Jul 17th, 2013, 12:54 AM
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To answer the glass blowing question: yes, it was a local artisan and using one of those high temperature burner type situations but the guy really does "blow" some of the glass.

Murano it wasn't but I didn't really expect it to be but fun to watch and a lot of the people who attended seemed to enjoy it.

Our next stop is in Koblenz which we should reach in about an hour. One of the nice things about this segment of our trip is the fact that we have been to this area in the past and in fact several times so there is no compulsion to run around and try to see and do eveything.

As i said above a lot of the enjoyment has come from interacting with the other travelers. This morning, for example, we had a very long conversation with two women from the Manchester, UK, area, and their several travel experiences <B>within the United States</B> were revealing, both about themselves as well as about Americans...priceless for sure.
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Old Jul 17th, 2013, 06:20 AM
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Your take on river cruising has been so interesting to me. We have talked about it again & again but usually choose to travel on our own.

BTW---thanks for taking us on a great memory of Piz Gloria. We will always remember the spectacular views of the mountains in the snow on a sunny day.
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Old Jul 17th, 2013, 08:57 AM
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Are the water levels now back to almost normal.?
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Old Jul 17th, 2013, 12:46 PM
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I would assume the water levels have returned to normal since there seems to be no restrictions on shipping as there apparently were just a few short weeks ago. The downstream current on the Rhine appears to be rather strong. In several places where there are docks rising out of the river which have been secured by chains there is a lot of debris such as tree limbs and such entangled in those chains. This looks very typical of the kind of stuff you often see after there have been floods or heavy rains upstream.
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