Avalon River Cruise Blog
Avalon Affinity - Romantic Rhine 7 Night River Cruise
Avalon River Cruise - Heidelberg, Germany - Tuesday afternoon, October 20, 2009
This is a good point to speak about the value of an Avalon River Cruise. You get three gourmet meals daily, transporation across Europe and included tours like the canal cruise in Strasbourg and this grand day they have planned for us to take motor coaches across Germany to tour the Heidelberg Castle. This tour if purchased separately would probably cost about $125 Euros per person. We have four large motor coaches lined up in the park next to the ship .The tours were first class with uncrowded motorcoaches good drivers who moved across Switzerland, France and Southern Germany so we had the same drivers for three or four days. The ship would be moving up the river without us and we will meet them an hour or two up the river this evening when we are finished with the tour of Heidelberg and Heidelberg Castle.
Germany is slightly smaller than Montana, but with six times the population. These are mostly working people who make things. They are very reserved when going about their way, but if you engage them, they are friendly and outgoing in all aspects. The River towns benefit greatly from the tourist boats that ply the waters. Each town has nice dockage with pathways leading down to where the river boats park. As we were heading into fall, some of the beer gardens were already packed up for the year, but they looked like were large outdoor areas by the river with old shade trees and umbrellas that served as beer gardens for those who avoided shopping when departing the ships.
Todays guide is an expatriate American that is married to a German. She gives us a view of German culture from an American comparison point of view. She confirms that it is a fairly rigid culture where people are good about following German cultural mores and try to fit in socially. Kids are moved into one of three tracks pretty early in life to make sure they get a good technical education, if they are not on the college track. Even the technical or service careers provide good pay and lifestyle and they really seem to be having an economy that is better than most in the World even though they seem to work very hard most of the year. That is compensated by four weeks vacation as soon as you are hired by an employer, not earned over time. The culture also has a lifetime employment agreement with the Unions once people are employed. She also has commentary about driving and tells us the suggested speed limit is 130km. Getting a license is a laborious task involving classes and tests with more classes if you fail the tests. It costs about 1000e to get a license and she correctly pointed out that nobody's car had any dents or scratches as they are so proud to be driving in all instances.
The town of Heidelberg was not bombed during World War 2 because of the castle and is now NATO headquarters. It has no factories except cement and Heidelberg Printing Presses. We passed the uniquely shaped (all glass) Print Media Building which is supposed to have a fabulous restaurant on top and a controversial three legged steel horse statue out front. Most of Heidelberg is located on the Neckar River which is a small tributary to the Rhine. The river had kayakers and river crews of the associated colleges in town. Much of Heidelberg is a college town and you can see students everywhere as you pass through the streets up to the castle. The colleges are mostly scientific as the early religious people who were involved in Government always supported the scientific endeavors at these universities to advance mankind.
Martin Luther also spoke in this college town during the time of the reformation. He spoke in the student square when he was a young monk and priest. He was not really trying to start the Lutheran religion, but merely speaking about the ideas that religion should be more open and positive as they caught fire in the Protestant Reformation. We were also pointed to the exclusive fraternity houses up the road to the castle that were inhabited by European blue bloods for generations and also philosophers row across the Neckar which now has houses of famous people like Steffi Graf, the famous German tennis player.
The Heidelberg Castle is both Gothic and Barroque as it was rebuilt by different generations at different times. The main story of Heidelberg Castle is that Frederick of the Hapsburg Dynasty married a young (16 yr. old) French princess. This ended up causing the 30 year war when Louis the 14th of France insisted that he would spread France all the way to the Rhine and destroyed 600 towns and villages in response to the marriage of this French Princess into German royalty. Most of the castle was originally built by Frederick for his love Elizabeth.
Other focal points at the castle are the huge wine vat that was actually measured at one point, by Thomas Jefferson of America. There is a statue of the Italian court jester who guarded the wine and also drank too much wine. He was forever playing jokes and the statue still does at the castle unless the fraternity boys steal the current joke. Pull the cord and a rabbit tail jumps out at you like a jack in the box. There is a smaller barrel that the guide jokes fits into peoples pictures where the large one does not. Lastly, we are shown the back patio with beautiful panoramic picture opportunities and the footprint in the concrete that was supposedly put there when one of the later princesses paramours supposedly jumped and made the indentation but landed safely down the cliff. If you put your foot in the indentation, you are supposed to come back to the area again and we all line up to do so. When you do an escorted tour/river cruise, you come in a back entrance to most attractions by bus with a pre-appointed time so you never wait in line to see an attraction.
The busses take us downtown with a short continuation of the walking tour. When we are cut loose, we make our way to the bakery for some onion cake and a pretzel. After that, we are directed to Vetter by the guide as a good brew pub. We barely have time for a beer as the agenda is always very busy and we are supposed to be back at the busses by 5:30P. The giant copper vats tell us we have come to the right place and we have two medium dark beers for about 3e. We meet back where we were dropped off and the busses take us about 45 minutes back to the river. Again, the boats are docked at a nondescript restaurant/pub located in an industrial port area about a two hours south of Mainz. We board the boat and arrive at Mainz during dinner. Dinner this evening was duck leg a la orange and another choice was vegetable picata.