On Sunday morning we woke up at Breisach, Germany. We had arrived there at 1:00 a.m., unbeknownst to us as we were sound asleep.
We had a pretty view of a park across the river where the swans were gathered.
Mark and I hadn’t fully adjusted to the six-hour time shift in Germany from our home in the Midwest USA. We woke up in plenty of time for the 7:00 a.m. breakfast. With time to spare before our 8:15 departure time, we climbed to the top deck to view our surroundings.
St. Stephan’s Cathedral in Breisach perched on the hilltop beside our dock.. Had we not elected to go on the optional afternoon excursion to Colmar, we might have spent our time touring Breisach and St. Stephen’s Cathedral on our own.
We boarded our motor coaches at 8:15 and headed out for the Black Forest. I think overall, Viking did a good job with people management. In the morning, sometime after breakfast, we went to the reception desk where we were given our group number and our personal cruise passes. Our individual cruise passes were to be turned in upon our return to the boat so that Viking staff could make sure everyone was aboard before we left a port. They did, in fact, check. One day Mark neglected to turn his card back in and they called our room looking for him.
On excursions, we were typically divided into four groups that each went on its own tour bus with its own tour guide.
On this particular day, Mark and I were in tour group 14B. We, and most of the other tour groups we crossed paths with along the way, had what they called quiet boxes. You can see our tour guide’s red quiet box hanging around her neck. She also had a full head piece with a microphone and earpiece. We each had a quiet box with an earpiece only. At the beginning of each tour we tuned our quiet box to the same number or channel as our tour guide. That way we could be near other tour groups with quiet boxes on other channels and still hear only our own guide. The quiet boxes eliminated the loud chattering of tour guides at points of interest. I thought they worked quite well.
After a short drive we stopped to visit what I think was a medieval church. This was also a restroom pit stop. I’m sorry to say I don’t recall the name of this church, but I wasn’t paying as much attention as perhaps I might have been at this point of my jet-lagged journey. And quite frankly, I was more interested in finding the toilet. (In Europe they don’t put a fancy name on it like restroom or ladies’ room. If it’s a toilet you want, it’s a toilet you ask for.)
I did manage to get inside the church briefly where I took pictures of the church and of Mark taking pictures of the church. (If you click on the first one you can see a larger view and then use the right arrow to scan through all three photos.)
Then we were back on the bus and riding through Germany’s Black Forest, or Schuarzwald, the mountainous region in south-eastern Germany with dense forests.
This region is known for its cuckoo clocks, schnaps or Kirschwasser, Black Forest Gateau or Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte, and local springs. It is the setting for many of the Grimms’ fairy tales.
The Viking tour literature promoted the excursion into the Black Forest with phrases like “quaint half-timbered farmhouses in a quiet countryside peppered with fat, contented cows.” I was trying to snap photographs through the window of the bus as we drove on. I did manage to grab a blurry shot of cows by the side of the road. Since the center of the village is in focus, this makes me wonder why the cows are blurry. I suspect it may have more to do with the f-stop I was using than the speed at which we were traveling.
The Viking literature went on to say, “You’ll encounter numerous hills thick with fir trees, dramatic gorges, tumbling, misty waterfalls and winding rivers. . .” which was a bit of an oversell, in my opinion. Maybe my expectations were a little unrealistic and were based on a motor coach tour we once took through Yosemite in California where we actually did ride through the forest, and up into the hills. And where we did stop and see dramatic gorges and waterfalls.
I found out fairly early in the trip that I needed to adjust my expectations. That being said, the country side we rode through was beautiful.
Towards the end of the excursion, we made a stop at a small place where there was a Best Western, a glass-blowing shop, cuckoo-clock shop and a couple of restaurants. There was also a paved path into the Black Forest. It felt a little bit like a tourist stop. In fact, it felt a lot like a tourist stop.We had the opportunity to hike a short ways into the woods with a tour guide, and/or to watch a clock-making demonstration.
Instead of trooping through the forest with a crowd, Mark and I decided to experience the Black Forest gateau first hand and take a short hike later by ourselves if time permitted. The cake was made of layers of chocolate sponge cake, whipped cream, sour cherries and a drizzle of Kirsch, a locally produced cherry liquor. And the cake, I might add was as good as it was touted to be.
At the base of the hiking trail we saw this antique logging equipment. The Black Forest, as you might expect, was a major logging location.
The bridge is a railroad bridge and it really does shoot up high into the sky. I tried to photograph the sign on the base of the bridge so that I might be able to figure out where we were exactly, but the picture didn’t come out clear enough to read. And it was in German to boot.
Gosh, I hope you weren’t expecting this to be some kind of informational or educational post. Were you?
This paved path led into the forest. I understand there were waterfalls ahead if you walked a little ways.
We saw this little gurgling creek near the trail’s end.
But we didn’t venture into the woods any further. At that early stage of the tour we did not want to risk being left behind. Had we not squandered our time on the Black Forest Cake we might have been able to hike a bit further into the woods,
or watched a glass-blowing demonstration, or cuckoo-clock making demonstration. No regrets here.
This early on the trip, I was still disgruntled with the crowds and wondering how I ever thought it was a good idea to join a large tour group. I did that with my daughter’s high school trip to Europe where I quickly found out how frustrating it can be. At the points of interest we were always with crowds. And we were limited to a tight schedule that someone else set for us with not a lot of wiggle room to stop and look at something a bit longer. After a day or two I adjusted my expectations to the limitations inherent in touring with a large group and came to appreciate the advantages of traveling this way.
In the above photo we are all waiting for the large (I think the largest anywhere) clock to chime.
We all loaded back onto our respective buses and left, driving down out of the mountainous area, through the college town of Freiberg, and back to the Viking Tor for a quick lunch before our optional excursion to the medieval town of Colmar.
Next up: Day 2 Afternoon- An afternoon in Alsace