Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Belgian Coke. Hmmmmmmmm

Coke machine at Brussels Airport
Thought I would post this as a warning not to drink Coca Cola in Belgium - this is just not right!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Belgium - Day 20

The Trenches near Dixmuide - Click image for interactive zoom view
Although we had a fun filled day today it was an emotional day for a few reasons. We got together this morning with Gauthier and Bea and toured Flanders and many WWI memorials including cemeteries and the trenches near Dixmuide, and the memorial in Ypers. I am amazed at how much WWI means to the good people of Belguim and that they have not forgotten the lessons that the war has taught. So many lives lost on all fronts. . .  And it was sad to say good by to Gauthier and Bea af having been reunited with them in person. Thanks for all of your hospitality.

Soldiers not forgotten - Click image for larger view
We spent the evening with our friends Marleen and Paul and their son Bert.  Paul made Belgian Waffles that were out of this world and that started an evening of camaraderie and laughter. Thanks Paul and Marleen for being such good friends. This will be the last post from over in the land of beer, waffles and lace, as we fly back tomorrow and should be home in the evening. What a great time we have had. Thanks Bob for everything.

Mmmm Waffles!! 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Brugge - Day 19

Brugge Canal - Click image for larger view
Today our friends Paul and Marleen stopped by the B&B to start our day and we sat around and chatted for a while. Carol, Marleen and Bob had a chat around the table while Paul and I had a Photoshop talk. . . What a great way to start the day!  We then did a walking tour of Brugge (I am now using yet another spelling, but this is the correct Dutch spelling-pronounced bru-ga) We visited churches, chapels, museums and saw lace being hand made.. I was amazed at the skills required. We had a great lunch  and afternoon refreshments and we even got in some shopping and a ride through the canals, thanks again to Paul and Marleen.

Lace bobbins 
My afternoon refreshments

Flowers along the canal

Puppy in the window

The walkers in an alley in Brugge - the yellow jersey is in the lead

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Belgium - Day 18

Carol and Gauthier 
During the summer of 1967 Carol worked in the tobacco fields of Canada for her Uncle. During that summer she became friends with a Belgian student named Gauthier who was also working the tobacco fields. They had many good times that summer and during the past 45 years they have corresponded through letters, cards and more recently email. Today, for the first time in 45 years, Carol and Gauthier were reunited. Gauthier is a great guy and spent his day showing us Belgium and that was great fun. I am leaving this post with just the two of them as it was a reunion to remember. We ended our day at Gauthier's seaside home where he and his wife Bea and their daughter Astrid gave us a wonderful supper and a great evening of reminiscing.

Looking at old photos

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Brugges - Day 17

Lovers Park, Brugges - Click image for larger view
Today we arrived in Brugges after a rather long ordeal with trains getting here, but once the travel part was done we were met by our friends Paul and Marleen. Paul relieved us of our luggage and delivered it to our B&B while Marleen gave us the best walking tour yet, through this fantastical town of Brugges. (I should note here that I have elected to use this spelling of Brugges as opposed to the French spelling, Bruges, and for no particular reason) We walked through town and saw so many things from beautiful flowers to church spires and horses pulling carriages. We passed the one remaining brewery and had coffee and chocolate in a small cafe. A beautiful city but the best was yet to come as Marleen and Paul invited us to dinner.  What a great evening we had as we discussed everything from the wars and politics to dog poop and cameras.... and Marleen had made the best fish soup, Mmmmmmmm, thanks Marleen. But I did come away with a bit of camera envy. . .Thanks Paul. . .

The Begijnhouse, a place for women - Click image for larger view

The Brewery Sign

Typical Brugges Canal

Carol's Coffee and Chocolate

Dinner with Friends at Paul and Marleens house - Click image for larger view

Monday, August 13, 2012

Amsterdam Days 15 - 16

Carol and Bob in the garden of Lizards - Click for larger image
Yesterday we arrived in Amsterdam and I discovered that the Power adapter that Radio Shack sold me doesn't work so I am working with just the battery power I have left in the computer. So this will be a short post. Arrival was fine, found the hotel OK and it is a pretty cool old place. So far we have taken a canal boat ride, toured the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House and had dinner in the open air and even picnic'd in our private garden. Having a great time in Amsterdam and trying to stay clear of the 'killer bikes'.

Canal Boat, Amsterdam - Click image for larger view

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cologne - Day 14

Final dinner with new friends - Click image for larger view
Today was our last day cruising and this is the crew we have been hanging out with - from left to right
Me, Jeanne from Calgary, Bob, --Anita, Anne and Doug from California and Carol on the right. Although we have met many many people onboard, this is the group that has bonded and toured together. It was a fun if a bit bittersweet dinner aboard (we reserved the special table) this evening.  Today we toured Cologne Germany - the home of Au de Cologne and the biggest cathedral in Germany. So I bought some Cologne in Cologne (I smell so much better now) and Carol got to visit the Cathedral (which I enjoyed as well) and today we had the funniest tour guide to date - a standup comic who really knew his history.

Inside the cathedral in Cologne
As I mentioned the cathedral was awesome and though-out this trip I have been amazed at the antiquity of things man made, where the craftsmanship is extraordinary and the object was made centuries ago. Here in this cathedral there is a wooden cross from the tenth century and some of the windows date back to 1264 and it took a few centuries to actually build this.  What are we building today that will last a thousand years or more? Not much I say.  In the USA if you car is 25 years old it is considered an antique (not just a used car) which is crazy. Anyway, the cathedral was great, and there were lots of Monks in red robes wandering around inside soliciting $$$ which you can deposit in a wooden box hanging around their neck. . . something like 25,000 people visit the cathedral EVERY DAY!

Bride and organ grinder - click image for larger view
We also saw a bride at the Rathaus (city hall) and people in funny clothing and an organ grinder..weddings are strange here. This is about the forth bride we have seen at Rathaus's over the past couple of weeks. Apparently you have to get married (in a wedding dress and all) at city hall first then you can get married in the church later.  Sometimes the same day sometimes much later. We even saw a pregnant bride. . . and our guide was embarrassed for her. Every town has a Rathaus and every tour guide thinks this is a point of hilarity to say 'rat house' then chuckle and say 'no no really it is rat house, but no ve do not keep our rats dere.'

Rhine sunset - Click for larger image
After dinner our little group went up on the top deck, at the bow, and watched the sunset. We are now in the Netherlands on the Rhine and will be docking in Amsterdam at 4:00 am. This was the first viewable sunset as we are far enough north now that the sunsets at 9:15ish. The river here is very industrial and lots and lots of shipping going on. We left Cologne today at 12:30 and have been in heavy ship traffic since. More tomorrow from Amsterdam, providing a good internet connection.

Friday, August 10, 2012

St. Goar, Germany

St. Goar, Germany - Click image for larger view
Today we cruised the Rhine River through what is call the the Rhine Gorge - the gorge took well over two hours to go through and during that time we passed the town of St. Goar. I am taking a moment here to salute my Dad, who in March of 1945, was here in St. Goar. He told us many times of his days here during the war. His first few days were days of waiting and wondering about when they would cross the Rhine to fight. It was so quiet they weren't sure if the Germans were even there on the other side in St Goarhausen. When the decision was made to go, the Germans opened fire with their huge guns and pinned down the 89th Division for another three days. Dad told stories about this town, the gunfire and the small boats and described it so well that I recognized it immediately. What he didn't say, and maybe didn't know was, that this area has the steepest hills and the swiftest and deepest part of the Rhine. This little town is just as I had imagined and I  imagine that today it looks much as it would have durning March of 1945 - So here's to you Dad, your boys are proud of all you did for our country and understand just a little bit better today about your time here in Germany.

NOTE: At some point I will post a whole gallery of the Rhine Gorge - I took over 450 photos of the castles and scenery - but the connection is poor aboard ship.

Heidelberg and Frankfort - Day 12

Heidelberg Market Street - Click Image for larger view
On this day we took a bus to Heidelberg to tour the old castle, the largest ruins in Germany, and then to have some time just to wander the town. It was a great day by all standards and we even had the local fare of Sausage and Chips with a local brew.

Mmmmm - sausage & chips
We spent the afternoon walking around shopping and visiting churches then back to the bus and on to the boat and then a cruise to Frankfort. After supper we walked into town with Doug and Anne and Jeanne -it is a big modern city and we had just a great evening just hanging out. Although I was developing a cold and today as I write this I am very groggy and have been all day.

Heidelberg Castle - Click image for larger view

Carol exploring the Jesuit Church in Heidelberg - click image for larger view

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wertheim, Germany - Day 11

Carol at Glass Blowing Demonstration - Click image for larger view
Today we stopped in Wertheim (pronounced veert-hime) and it is by far the most charming little town we have visited. My connection here is limited so this may be a short post. The morning was spent cruising and we had a glass blower com on board and he gave a demonstration. Glass blowing is typical to this town. Carol was selected to give it a try and she did great and made her own ornament. (with a little help for the pro) We arrived here at noon, had lunch and then went off on a walking tour. The boat is literally in town and you can walk around the entire town in about 10 minutes but we took an hour and a half and learned about the history of the town. The Bob, Carol, Doug and Anne and I walked up the hill to the castle and climbed all the way to the top of the tower... it was a very long climb but the view was worth it. We then walked back down to town where we went exploring on our own. Bob, Doug and I had a locally brewed beer in the town marketplace and even found a bike shop. They had a lot of bikes but still no cycling jersey for Benny. They did have a big blue box outside which was a bicycle tube vending machine. (see the gallery) Carol and Anne headed back to the boat to do some Nordic walking and once The guys got back to the boat Doug and I took a couple of bikes and rode along the river to the next town and back. After supper this evening we had a zither concert. . . hey, stranger things have happened.  Below is a link to a gallery - (which took forever to upload) - which had about 50 images from today (I shot several hundred) straight from the camera - no time for processing tonight.

View of wertheim from castle - click image for larger view

Travel Notice

I haven't had a good enough (stable enough) connection to post my panoramas - it just takes too long to upload and the connection drops and well it corrupts the file and won't load. So I will be posting those either when we are in Belguim or once I get home.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Wurzburg, Germany - Day 10

Old Stone Bridge on the Main River, Wurzburg - Click for larger image
Today we awoke in Wurzburg Germany and had a tour this morning of the Prince-Bishop's Residence which was way over the top. It was patterned after the Palace of Versailles and was spectacular -- but they wouldn't allow photography inside the Residence. Here is a snap of a piece of the exterior.

Small section of the Residence - click image for larger view
And a picture of the formal gardens just outside the Residence. . .

Garden at the Residence, Wurzburg - Click image for larger view
During the tour, our incredibly German, blonde beauty tour guide was discussing a very Baroque room when she walked over to me and began to rub my stomach and said ' like this perfectly erotic Baroque figure' - I was at a complete loss for words, maybe for the first time. It was a good laugh at my expense but I have always been a big fan of public humiliation. Later in the day Bob, Carol and I and a lady named Jean went back into town just to walk around and maybe do some touristy shopping. Found a bike shop and they had nothing for me to buy but it was fun seeing all the strange bikes. (and bikes are one of the major forms of transportation around here) Bob and Jean caught the shuttle back to the boat and carol and I stayed and explored a bit longer and then walked back to the boat without buying anything. It was a fine day and finished up on the dance floor with a very good rock and roll/oldies trio from Frankfurt.

ABC - Another Bloody Castle -- Click image for larger view

Bob and Carol at the Wine Tasting in the cellar of the residence - click for larger image

Intimate dinner for seven in the Sky Lounge

Monday, August 6, 2012

Nuremberg and Bamberg - Days 8 & 9

Bamberg Beer Garden - Click image for larger view
I have had no internet connection for the past couple of days and am experiencing all sorts of slowdowns right now.  Hopefully I can get this posted tonight. River travel has been good, the days are filled with everything new and the nights filled with friendship and laughter. We have met most everyone onboard and made some new friends who we have been dining with each evening to share stories of the days explorations. Our little trio has grown to a group of seven. As I write tonights drivel we are cruising on the Main River (pronounced Mine) at a slow pace because there are so many locks. Yesterday we were in Nuremberg, where the Nazi trials took place. Carol and I went separate ways..Carol and Bob went off to the WWII tour and I took the general tour which included many of the Nazi sites but also the ancient castle as well. This was by far the coolest castle yet - something out of Harry Potter. So we certainly had a lot of stories to share last night. This morning we arrived in Bamberg around 7:00 am and toured the city this morning and had a few hours of free time to explore on our own. We explored a beer garden and had the local dark 'smoked beer' and I found a pretzel shop..and I am hooked on these pretzels around here. . . This afternoon on the boat we had a talk/lecture on the European Union and the changes that have taken place in the past 50 years. Most are positive but the stories made me realize just how wonderful the good old USA really is. Apparently the universal healthcare isn't working too  well and more and more people are buying private care and in Italy and Greece you have to pay -under the table- a bit of graft to your surgeon so he makes the right cuts. We heard several stories from our cruise manager (who was the MC), who is Belgian, and crew members from Hungary, Romania and Serbia as a forum, what an interesting afternoon.

The following link will take you to a small gallery of photos from Bamberg and another gallery of Nuremberg (with different spellings of Nuremberg)

Houses in Bamberg - Click for larger image
Nuremberg Church Clock - Click for larger image

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Regensburg Germany, Day 7

Regensburg, Germany  under dark sky - HDR  - click for larger image
Today we toured Regensburg and walked up onto the bridge in the HDR photo above. This bridge was built 900 years ago and is still in use today. Regensburg was originally settled by a Roman Legion of 6000 in the year 176, almost 2000 years ago and parts of their original structures still stand and are in use today.  We also had some great local beer and Brats at the Wurstkuche the oldest sausage house in Regensburg - it is at the base of the bridge and is said to have served sausages and kraut to the workers who built the bridge.  Today I do not have much of a connection so this is a short post.

The wall of a coocoo clock store

Mail delivery lady

Friday, August 3, 2012

Passau Germany - Day Six

Passau Germany waterfront
Today we arrived in Passau around 9:00, dropped the gangplank and went on a walking tour of Passau, which is a lot like stepping back into another time. The town is filled with narrow streets and quaint shops. And of course ABC - Another Bloody Church - as our guide says - and Another Bloody Castle. After a great morning and lunch about twenty of us took a bicycle tour and rode back to Austria to have a beer at a beer garden.  I had 'rodler' which means cyclists' drink - half beer, half lemonade -- it was tasty. After returning to the boat around 5:30 we set sail for Regensburg where we should arrive by 9 - 9:30 tomorrow providing the river has enough water - the Danube is running a bit low and the Captain said that at times we will have only a foot or so of water the boat.. Yikes, I don't like to do that with Tapestry. Just after supper We did run aground in a shallow spot but they backed off and found deeper water - we are proceeding slowly through the night.

ABC - Another Bloddy Church - we had an organ concert here today
The churches here are Baroque and this one is as good as it gets. I am making a smaller post this evening as it is now almost 1:00 Am and I am pooping out.. but here are a few more shots.

Cycling in Passau - Click for larger image

Bob and I as we enter Passau - Click for larger image

In the open market - Click for larger image

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Melk, Austria - Day 5

The Abby in Melk - Click for larger image
After passing through the Wachau Gorge this morning, which was spectacular, we stopped at the town of Melk which is the site of a huge Benedictine Abby. It is huge and is perched on top of the hill (as they all are) overlooking the river and the town.  We went on a great tour of the abby and walked through about 50 of it's 500 rooms - amazing place and the church proper was just over the top ornate! We then took a leisurely walk down from the abby through town and poked in and out of shops, we didn't buy much but had a good time looking. I was amazed by the number of cycling tourists in this area.. literally hundreds of people and their family on completely loaded bikes off on a tour of the area.
Back on the boat we got underway around 5:00 and as I am writing this we are underway to Passau, Germany and should arrive there tomorrow morning around 9:30. More adventures to come.

Click here for a gallery of images

Wachau Gorge

Austrian Village along the Danube
A quick midday update - cruising the Danube through the Wachau Gorge, stopped in Melk and are off to tour a monestary. More to come. . .