Sunday, December 20, 2009

6. Danube River Cruise - Nürnberg (12/19-20/09)

Saturday, December 19, 2009
It had snowed last night! The sundeck was closed the whole trip, not only because of low bridges, but because of the possibility of frostbite!
Steps to the sun deck
Sometime during the night we left the Danube River and entered the Main (River)-Danube Canal. Now instead of going upriver, we were going downhill. The locks were unbelievably deep.
Entering the lock
The water is draining out
We sink lower and lower
The gate lifts to allow us to exit
Meanwhile, we had been playing Bingo!
Calling Bingo numbers
A light lunch was offered in the lounge, before we arrived in Nürnberg, Germany.
Light lunch buffet
After lunch, we started with a bus tour (this time, we did not "park" in the city!) which took us first to the Nazi Party Rally Grounds. Because of Nürnberg's ties with the Holy Roman Empire, Adolf Hitler wanted to make this city the ideological center of his Drittes Reich (Third Empire, or Third Reich). The large Kongresshalle was to be even greater than the Coliseum in Rome,
but it was not completed. Here, the Kongresshalle is seen across a frozen lake.
It was to have stadium seating for 50,000 and be roofed over.
The Zeppelin Tribune
Zeppelin Tribune
was where the rallies were held, with up to 400,000 people. We also passed the Palace of Justice where the Nürnberg Trials were held in 1945.
Next we headed into the old town. The Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle) is made up of parts belonging to the Babenbergs, to the Holy Roman Emperors, and city council. Below, the 1495 Imperial Stables (now a youth hostel) sits between a 14th century city council tower, and a Babenberg (1050) tower.
Imperial Stables
The castle was impregnable with a deep moat
Deep moat
and a curved entry bridge.
Curved entry
We had a hazy view over the city of Nürnberg.
View from the Imperial Castle
Deeper in the castle were the women's quarters, which was the only section to be heated.
Women's quarters
We had to be careful when we left the castle and took a steep path downhill in slush and snow.
Leaving the Imperial Castle
We kept going downhill towards the main square, past reconstructed 15th and 16th century houses. Unlike Passau and Regensburg, Nürnberg was a target of bombing, and was 90% destroyed. However, every effort was made to restore the inner city to its former glory. The Fembohaus was the best-preserved patrician home, now a museum.
The Nürnberg Rathaus (City Hall) was very large and had three ornate portals.
View of City Hall towers
City Hall portal
We arrived in the main square, site of the world-famous Christkindlmarkt (Christ Child Market, or Christmas market). Here our guide left us on our own to shop! There was a giant Christmas carousel (or Christmas pyramid).
Supersize Christmas carousel
The Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain)
Beautiful Fountain
had a golden ring that you could spin three times for good luck.
Brynne spins the golden ring
Creating a backdrop for the market was the Frauenkirche (Our Lady's Church, late-Gothic, 1361).
One of the signature items from the Nürnberger Christmas market were the prune people, made with dried fruits!
Prune people
They are given for good luck on New Year's.
The market offered beautifully decorated cookies, and Lebkuchen.
Christmas cookies
There was Glühwein (mulled wine) by the barrel (copper vat!) to keep you warm.
Glühwein stand
Brynne and Kent keep warm
Ornaments of all types;
Glass blown ornaments
Straw ornaments

 We tried the other best sausage in Germany, the Nürnberger Bratwurst,
Grilling Nürnberger Bratwurst
which comes three to a bun.After exploring the whole market, we had picked out where to purchase our Christmas decorations. But the process was very slow and we were late getting to the meeting point for the bus back to the boat. But they waited for us and we returned in time for dinner.
Brynne waves the German flag
Tonight the dinner was German-themed.

Sunday, December 20, 2009
The disembarkation procedure was very organized. Brynne and Yuriko left at 4:30 AM, and Kent and Tamiko at 7:30 AM. Snow in Paris, and snow on the East Coast of the U.S. from DC to NYC snarled air traffic. Fortunately, Brynne and Yuriko were flying to Frankfurt, Germany, then to Chicago before arriving in Buffalo 2 hours late. Kent and Tamiko were delayed enough to miss their flight in Paris, but were able to catch a later flight. That made them miss their flight in Atlanta, but going standby on the next flight to Jacksonville got them home only 2 hours late. However, their luggage arrived 24 hours later!
The duty-free shop in Paris had large-print warnings:
Cigarette carton warnings
This was the snow that tied up air traffic in Europe...
Snow at Paris airport
The end of the Danube River Cruise.

Friday, December 18, 2009

5. Danube River Cruise - Regensburg (12/18/09)

Friday, December 18, 2009
This morning we have a lecture on "Christmas in Europe," before our guided tour in Regensburg, Germany. It is snowing, and it is even cold for the natives. But they are happy that it is at last feeling "Christmas-y," since it had been unseasonably warm until now.
Once again, we were already in the old town, and a block from the ship we were already seeing the sights. The guide explained that in medieval times, very few people knew how to read, so signs depended on graphics. The yellow post coach on this wrought-iron sign
Wrought-iron sign
signified that this building was an inn, and the name of the inn had something to do with a whale.
Regensburg contained several Roman ruins, with the most well known being the Porta Praetoria (Pretoria Gate)
Pretoria Gate
next to a watchtower. The remains have been incorporated into houses that were built later.
After walking through narrow streets, and through courtyards, we arrived at Dom St. Peter (St. Peter's Cathedral, 1290-1890, yes, it took 600 years to build!)
St Peter's Cathedral
which is considered the finest Gothic church in Bavaria. The façade is full of intricate stone carvings.
The cathedral has the Gothic characteristics of buttresses and gargoyles.
The rear of the church showed how the buttresses allowed for more windows.
Lots of windows
You can see the cathedral was made from two types of stone (limestone and green sandstone), both of which erode easily. There is a workshop with 15 full-time stone masons who are working on replacing all the stone parts of the cathedral exterior.
Cathedral workshop
Our tour took us past several more churches, a watch tower, and a palace. Regensburg also escaped being bombed in World War II, and has over 1,300 buildings of historical interest. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006. However, the tour guide confessed that they suffer from the ABC syndrome - Another Bloody Church.
In the Neufarrkircheplatz (New Parish Church Square), there is a memorial (2005) by Dani Karavan showing the footprint of a synagogue that was destroyed in 1512.
Synagogue Memorial
We ended up at Kohlenmarkt (Coal Market), the main square of Regensburg. and the location of the old City Hall.
Next to the city hall entrance, you could see lengths of metal, which were the official measurement standards for the town. Think you were cheated on a length of silk? Go measure it against the town standard!
Measurement standards
The room behind the pillared window
Pillared window
was where the Holy Roman Empire's Imperial Diet or Parliament was held during 1663-1806. Around the corner, a wall fresco showed where the Regensburg Conference was held, trying to reunite the Catholics and Lutherans.
Regensburg Conference site
Not a success!
Back near the bank of the Danube River, a small well indicated the area of the old Fischmarkt (Fish Market).
Beyond that we could see the Brückturm (Bridge Tower, 17th century), the only one of three towers to survive.
Bridge Tower and Salt Warehouse
It stood next to the Salzstadel (Salt Warehouse, 1620).
The Steinerne Brücke (Stone Bridge, 1135-1146) was an engineering marvel when it was built, with 16 spans (15 remain today).
Stone Birdge
St Johannes Nepomuk stands on the bridge
The Historisches Wurstküchl (Historic Sausage Kitchen).
Sausage Kitchen
In operation for over 850 years, they offer the succulent Regensburger sausages that are served with mustard and sauerkraut. Regensburg claims to have the best sausages in Germany.
Aross the street, we had an appointment at Drubba's shop for a cuckoo clock-making demonstration.
Parts of a cuckoo clock
See the small white bellows in different sizes? They make the "coo-coo" sound! The shop had thousands of clocks,
Black Forest-style cuckoo clocks
plus other souvenirs.
Beer steins
We returned to the boat for lunch, then went out again on our own. This shop window had mechanical skiers
Skiers in shop window
and skaters.
After getting directions, we corrected a wrong turn and reached Schloss Emmeram (Emmeram Palace).
Emmeram Palace
Once a Benedictine Abbey, it is now home to the princely family of Thurn-und-Taxis. Their title and wealth came from a postal monopoly of Europe during the Holy Roman Empire. Parts of the palace are open to the public, and they hold a Romantic Christmas Market here. The paths were lined with torches, and they had strategically-placed wood-fires for warming up!
Brynne and Kent warm up
The stalls sold more traditional handicrafts, such as lace and straw ornaments,
Ornament stall
and decorations made with wood and natural materials.
Natural decorations
A huge brightly-decorated Christmas tree stood in the center of an inner courtyard.
Christmas tree
Usually such trees only had lights.
Statues of children adorned a garden wall.
Garden wall
The inner courtyard was supposed to have the craftsmen at work, but we only saw pork being roasted!
Brynne with roasting pork
The palace has its own church and cloister, entered through a lovely Gothic wall.
Church and cloister
We headed back toward the Danube River, passing several more churches. We split up, with Brynne and Yuriko returning to the boat, and Kent and Tamiko going to an art gallery of works from the former East Germany.
When we returned to the boat, we stopped to try the Regensburger sausages.
Regensburger sausage sandwich
They were served two to a bun, and were delicious!
That evening, we had a bonus lecture on the European Union, and a very entertaining glassblowing demonstration.
Glassblown objects
The glassblower had plenty of wares to sell!
Next: 6. Nürnberg.