A draft of my Nuremberg page was published instead of the final copy. Don’t know how I managed to screw that up. Anyway, here’s the revision.
Per instructions, we left our suitcases outside our cabin door at 7 am and went to breakfast. We had to leave early because the bus ride to Nuremberg took about an hour and a half. They dropped us off in the middle of the historic town square. A flea market covered the area and, since it was Saturday, it was packed. They let us loose to shop with instructions to return to the fountain in few hours so we could all go to lunch, then take a tour of the city. Gordon and wandered around looking at churches and checking out the flea market. We were looking for glass Christmas tree ornaments because I’d heard that the area was known for glass blowing. We couldn’t find a thing to buy but we had fun stumbling around the cobblestones and looking at the booths. Lunch was sausage, sauerkraut, and German potato salad at a picturesque restaurant. The bathroom was clean and FREE! I didn’t need my ‘toilet frau’ money. They put us on the bus and the guide, an ex-philospher, ex-journalist, now professional tour guide from Wales (?!) started by asking for our patience as he discussed pre-Hilter history. He’d just taken his citizenship test and was sensitive to German chagrin that the Nazi trials were the only thing most people knew about Nuremberg (me included). He pointed out that there was a lot of history before the fifteen-year Nazi debacle. So he showed us the 13th century wall fortifications and the Nuremberg castle. I wish we could have spent more time at the castle but we were hustled onto the bus and back into Hitlerian Germany. Gordon and I sat in the back–in our youth it would have been to neck, now it was to get some peace–with the guide trainee, Claus. Claus was a Czech who’d spent six years in North Carolina. He was 7’2″ and of course he’d played basketball. When we commented on his accentless English, he said his biggest problem was losing the Southern accent. He said he’d enjoyed living in the USA. Anyway, while the official guide was herding cats back onto the bus we asked Claus why Hitler chose Nuremberg to launch the Third Reich. Claus told us that Nuremberg was considered the most “German” of the German cities; Hitler considered it the most racially pure. So he started a huge stadium (unfinished) as the showplace for future Nazi assemblies. Most of the footage of Hitler being adored by his public was taken at Nuremberg. I was surprised the walls of the stadium still stood after the Allies bombed the crap out of Nuremberg; I guess they survived because they were unfinished. Most the city was flattened so it’s fortunate that the historic City Center and the Castle survived. Then we drove past the courthouse where the Nuremberg trials were conducted. We weren’t allowed inside because it’s still being used as a courthouse. But we saw the beginning and the end of the Third Reich. The bus dropped us off at a hotel across the street from the airport for the last time. We were checked into a room that was considerably less comfortable than our shipboard dollhouse but Viking did their best. Can’t let all the profits go. We had dinner at the hotel and I got to practice my one German phrase: “Ein bier, bitte.” It was wasted because the waitress answered me in English. But I tried. We saw the loudmouth from San Diego sitting by himself across the room ( no surprise; after the first few nights nobody would sit with him) so to avoid him we sat with two ladies from Texas. Before dinner we’d gone across the street to get our boarding passes and it had taken us literally ten minutes each to get them out of the machine. We followed the swiping instructions but nothing worked. We swiped fast, we swiped slow, we let our passports sit for a count of ten, we swiped and swiped and swiped….Finally, one boarding pass came. So we repeated the process to get the other. Infuriating. We warned the ladies about the struggle and recommended they get their passes if they had an early flight to save frustration. They thanked us and we had a pleasant dinner. We thought about taking the subway back downtown to experience a Nuremberg Saturday night but we were tired so we just went to bed. After breakfast we took our luggage for check-in and went to our gate. We went through security but it was nothing compared to the nonsense the TSA puts us through. We had some euros left to spend so I wandered off to shop. I found some sunglasses at the duty-free shop and took them to the counter. The clerk started jabbering at me in German. I just looked at her and said, “I’m sorry. I’m American, I don’t speak German.” She immediately switched to flawless English and I felt like an idiot. Everybody in Europe speaks four languages and I’m barely proficient in English. Gordon wants to go back and I’m going to learn some German before we do. Anyway, we flew from Nuremberg to Amsterdam to Minneapolis where we had to go through customs. I’d been in airports and on planes for about 16 hours and I was exhausted. We had to take automatic pictures and Gordon was half out of his and I looked like I’d stuck my finger in a light socket. Of course, I got the giggles and couldn’t quit. I kept trying to quit laughing because I figured the customs people would think I was on drugs but I’d look at the pictures and start all over again. I managed to compose myself by the time we’d reach the agent but I glanced at the pictures as he pulled them out and giggled helplessly. I explained that I was really, really tired and the pictures were really, really awful. The agent looked at me dubiously and gave my passport to Gordon to handle. He obviously didn’t trust me but at least I didn’t have to pee in a cup. We caught our flight to Los Angeles which was uneventful. Our luggage landed with us and our car was still in the parking lot where we’d left it. We got home at about 9 Sunday night and were met at the front steps by George. He must have heard the car and came out to greet us. He meowed frantically and was a velcro kitty for the next few hours. He was very glad to have us home. Marta came out and glared at us. We couldn’t touch her, she wouldn’t talk to us, she just stared at us balefully. We got it; she was mad. But we were home. We all went to bed together.
I really enjoyed the trip but I wish I’d taken the offer of flying into Budapest and staying there two day before catching the boat. We also passed on the opportunity to spend four days in Prague at the end of the cruise. I tend to get very unpleasant after five days of traveling and we wanted to see if I could last a week before getting sick or nasty. I traveled well so I think we can go for longer next time. I’d take another Viking cruise–a different one, of course. Their selling point is service and they do very well at it. The guides know their stuff and I learned a lot. I also learned that Europe, at least the part I saw, is probably easier to get around as a tourist than Los Angeles–everybody there speaks English.