I have to mention that I became the entertainment at dinner with my Alitalia difficulties. People would ask about our flight over and I’d go into my song and dance. Gordon said it was funny the first three times he heard it; after the 15th it got a little old. At dinner someone asked, “How was your trip over?” Gordon said, “Don’t say Alitalia!” Which reminded me of the old vaudeville routine: Niagara Falls. “Whatever you do, don’t say Niag…” “Niagara Falls! Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch…” And that became the routine: “Alitalia?! Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch…” And then we’d howl. People I’d never shared a table with must have heard us because a woman on the bus looked at me and started, “Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch…” It was all over the boat. And that was my contribution to the entertainment. Back to touristing…
Heidelberg was interesting. We were bussed up to the castle ruins overlooking the river and saw the biggest wine vat in the world. Then we toured the Old City. We had lunch at the oldest restaurant in the city but I can’t remember the name of it. There was supposed to be an opportunity to talk to a real live college student but Gordon and I brought up the rear and sat at a table for four–no student but two lovely ladies from Wisconsin and us. I think we dodged a bullet. One of the people we starting dining with because he didn’t talk Lefty politics all the time told us he got stuck with one. She told him that Germany was the greatest: “Everybody shares here. People are taxed 50% and that allows us students to go to school for free.” Our friend asked her what she paid in taxes and of course she said nothing. So he pointed out to her that she wasn’t sharing, she was taking. Apparently, that didn’t go over too well. You can’t get away from it anywhere. Viking cut us loose to explore so Gordon and I found the Student Prison where they sell official Heidelberg sweatshirts. We were the only ones to find the place. I flaunted my Heidelberg sweatshirt but frankly it fits funny. I got an XLarge but it’s still snug and the arms are too long. I’m used to big baggy sweatshirts. I suppose Heidelberg students prefer to show off more body than I do. Well, they’re young.
We cruised down the Main River the next day. The hillsides are covered in grape vines for the local Reislings–which were delicious. A tour guide told me that the hillsides are so steep that it’s not possible to use machines; all the work is by hand. Romanian guest workers are imported to work the vines. It’s a good job for the Romanians and it’s good for the farmers. It’s a good guest worker program. Anyway, that’s why Reislings are more expensive than French or Italian wines–lots of labor costs. I developed a liking for Reislings. They were served at dinner a lot. Very good.
We visited Miltenberg and frankly I don’t remember anything about it; there was a castle, cobblestones, and half-timber buildings. So what else is new.
I enjoyed Mainz, though. We toured the Gutenberg Museum. They showed us how the original press worked and had some of the original bibles. Fascinating. We also toured the Mainz Cathedral with its stained glass windows by Marc Chagall (the original windows were blown out in WWII).
We toured Rudesheim. We skipped the wine tasting and walked around the town on our own. Same old same old. But I enjoyed cruising down the Rhine (when did we get on the Rhine?). Saw lots of grapevines on the hillsides and castles. Very picturesque. I was supposed to see the Lorelei Rock but I missed it. I was starting to suffer from severe sensory overload. We tied up at Chochem which was a nice little town and the program says we saw Bernkastel but damned if I can remember anything about it. I do remember that a glass blower demonstrated his craft after dinner. That was interesting and I bought another Christmas tree ornament. That was small enough I could fit it in our luggage.
One curious thing: if I kept my mouth shut and a local initiated a conversation with me they’d start out in German. I’d just look at them and explain that I was American and my German stank on ice. They would immediately switch to perfect English. I asked a fellow diner if that’d happened to her and she said, “No, but you look German. I can understand the mistake.” I told her my last name was Schnell and we both laughed and agreed that I probably did look German. Anyway…
The last German spot was Trier, an old Roman outpost in the Moselle valley (were we now on the Moselle? Who knows). We drove past the amphitheater and got dropped off at the old Roman baths. We toured the oldest Christian church north of the Alps. It’s just stunning. Also saw the Constantine Basilica. The Roman engineers were so good a bishop a few centuries down the road tried to tear it down to build something new but they couldn’t raze it. Those were some engineers. They let us loose to tour the town on our own. We stopped for salted ice cream (delicious) at the coffee shop. We were standing aimlessly when a young man offered us his table. “I’ve been here for hours, I should go.” We told him we weren’t trying to guilt trip him but thanked him very much–and we grabbed the table. My feet hurt. The people watching was great. Gordon got some pictures of an amusing fountain that was supposed to show how great and beneficent the bishop was. The sculptor slyly included monkeys committing sins like throwing poop (don’t want to mention the other sins but the sculptor was making fun of the hypocrisy of the bishops and their sexual practices–or lack thereof claims. We met the bus at the Roman Porta Nigra (Black Gate). Lots of history. We went back to the boat for one last night. We had to pack up and get ready to take the bus to Luxembourg the next day. That broke up the drive to Paris.