Just a short note to link to my latest post, which is now on christinemgrote.com. I’m a slow-learner at this, but am getting it figured out. I’ll be posting about my writing there, and my photos and random ideas, here. As you will see if you venture over there, my author site needs a little loving care.
But you have to start somewhere, right?
I do have one of two early drafts of the cover of Where Memories Meet – Reclaiming my father after Alzheimer’s there. Shhhh. Don’t tell my daughter designer (Anna) she will probably not be happy.
I hope you’ll stop over and say “Hey.”
Oh, and here is a macro picture I took using my new camera extension tube. It was a lot harder to use than I had anticipated, as you might be able to tell based on the quality (lack of) of the photo.
The Viking Tor cast off from Cologne for Kinderdijk, Netherlands at 11:00 Thursday night. In the morning we were cruising through the beautiful and peaceful landscape of the Netherlands.
Mark and I bundled up in towels that doubled as blankets on the top deck
as we sailed through pastoral scenes with cows grazing or
sunbathing on the sandy beaches beside the river.
Sheep relaxed and fed on the verdant river banks while farmers worked in the distance.
We passed by cities where the river provides recreation for the human species.
It wasn’t long before we spotted our first real-life Netherlands windmill in a rural area
and then another near a residential area.
All that sitting, cruising, and watching the world go by generated a healthy appetite, and a bit of a thirst. It really doesn’t get a lot better than this—lunch on the top deck of the Viking Tor.
We floated past a miniature replica of Noah’s Ark, complete with a giraffe look-out.
At 3:45 we arrived in Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for our 4:30 tour.
Kinderdijk is a village that has 19 windmills dating from the 1500s. (http://www.kinderdijk.org/ ) They were built to help with water control in this peat region of Holland. The cultivation of peat changed the drainage of the region and resulted in the farmlands lying below the level of the streams that had previously drained the peat. Dikes were built and canals were dug to prevent flooding of the land. The windmills were added a few centuries later as the drained soil settled and the river rose due to sand deposits. The windmills pumped water into a reservoir where it could eventually be pumped out into the river whenever the level was low enough due to seasonal and tidal variations. Today most of the work is done by diesel pumping stations. (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/818 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinderdijk)
Our tour included an inside look at an operating windmill. This is a view out of a window on an upper floor.
We climbed a narrow, winding stairway to the very top where we were able to see the massive gears that basically turn the wind into energy.
The windmills were not rotating during our visit. I don’t know if that was due to lack of wind, or the fact that they were anchored or tied in place. They can be dangerous, and have been responsible for injury and even deaths for the unwary adult, child, or perhaps unsuspecting tourist who wandered into their path when they were fast at work. They are powerful and, like lighthouses, are the stuff of legends. You can feel it in their presence.
On this, our last evening of the cruise, we joined the ship’s captain and crew in the lounge for the Captain’s Cocktail followed by the Farewell Reception and Dinner. In the morning we would be in Amsterdam. Although we could have arranged an extension of the cruise in Amsterdam through Viking, Mark and I decided to stay in Amsterdam a couple of nights, but made the arrangements on our own.
Marksburg is the only castle on the Middle Rhine to remain intact and undamaged during the years of wars and conflicts the area suffered. It maintains much of its medieval character. Buses are not able to navigate all the way to the top of the hill where the castle stands. Our bus dropped us off at the point where I took this picture.
Then we had to walk a zig-zag uphill path to the castle.
Once inside, we met up with our tour guide. Visitors are not allowed to wander about on their own and are required to go on a guided tour.
Although many of the Rhine castles have been rebuilt, according to Rick Steve’s (Germany 2009), Marksburg remains nearly completely the original structure.
At various places you can see where a doorway or window was made smaller and therefore safer from enemies, or easier to defend.
We were told that knights rode their horses over these stone walkways just inside the walled entrance to the castle.
You can’t walk within these walls and not have your imagination fly to tales of the past about kings, knights, and princesses.
I don’t know what the reality was for people who lived and worked within these walls from 1283 to the late 1800s, but I believe that at their core people have not changed all that much through the years. Young men and women fell in love and felt passion, parents found joy in their children, and people lived with heartbreak and loss. A lot of living occurred through the years in this place.
These canons date to about 1640. According to Rick Steve’s, they could hit targets across the river,
which was quite a distance away. From their location on the hilltop, the canons were largely aided by gravity I suspect.
Another view of the river from the castle, and what must have been a look-out point on a lower level.
If you walk along an outer wall of the castle that overlooks the river, you arrive in a garden where plants used for cooking and medicine were cultivated.
It is a gardener’s delight. The wall to the left of the photo overlooks the river from a great heights.
One of the halls is set up as a kitchen and supplied with artifacts from the time period.
The walls in the master bedroom are covered in wood paneling. Tapestries decorate several of the walls in the castle. I don’t know whether they are original to the castle, or have been provided to furnish the rooms for tour groups.
The dining hall was not as large as I might have imagined it should be, although the number of people in our tour group appear to fit nicely in the space.
The far wall of the dining hall is decorated with paint or frescoes.
Windowed alcoves branch off of the dining hall’s main room. Perhaps they provided extra seating.
I thought the iron work on this door’s hinges was interesting. It is also a very small door. What it’s purpose was, I cannot say.
The ceiling of the dining hall is paneled and painted with detail.
Our guide explained the function of this small door in the dining room, and I truly wish I could remember what he said. I do remember that the small door in the chapel was made that way to limit the ability of heavily armored knights to gain access from below during an attack. This door in the dining hall may have served the same purpose, although something in my memory leads me to believe it may have had more to do with accessing necessary facilities. Perhaps you can enlighten me.
This is the dining hall table that I managed to snatch a photo of sans people, which was no small task. The table top is an unattached plank. After each course the servants could pick up the entire thing, and replace it with another plank, pre-set with the next course. I’m still having trouble visualizing how they actually accomplished that while large men were seated there.
This is the chapel, and you can just make out the small, rather narrow doorway in the corner behind our tour guide. Although you can’t tell it from this photo, the chapel was actually a very small room that we crowded into, but it was beautifully decorated.
A good castle was never without a dungeon or torture chamber, although truthfully, we did not see anything that remotely resembled a dungeon.
But we did see a room where instruments of torture were on display. I always find this unsettling as they bring to life the horrific things portrayed in Hollywood movies.
Marksburg has a fascinating collection of armor from 2000 years beginning in the days of the Celts.
Along with the suits of armor and collection of pointed weapons, this room contained an example of a medieval lady’s armor and a chastity belt. Contrary to popular belief, chastity belts were used by women when traveling as protection against rape. Talk about making an uncomfortable trip, in a stuffy carriage bumping over rough terrain, worse.
The keep, which served as an observation tower with a dungeon below, was also a last resort refuge. The only access to the keep was across a wooden bridge. When all was nearly lost, defenders would go into the keep and burn the bridge denying their enemies entrance. I don’t know what happened after that.
When the bus returned us to Koblenz after the tour of Marksburg, we had free time to enjoy the 2,000-year-old city. Once again, Mark and I opted for a liquid refreshment before we started wandering. It’s really hard to resist all the outdoor cafes.
Originally an outpost of the Roman Empire, Koblenz became a city in the 13th century. It was a safe haven for French refugees during the French Revolution. I really like this architectural feature of building an alcove, or little bay-type area at the corner of a building. If you look closely, you will see that all four buildings at this intersection have this feature.
You’re probably starting to think that all Mark and I did on this trip was eat and drink. But I say, how can you truly appreciate a city, location, or culture without sampling their food and drink? We stopped here in the town square to sample gelato, or some kind of fancy banana ice cream dessert. Truly authentic I’m sure.
Koblenz is located at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers. There is a nice riverside walk that Mark and I took advantage of on our way back to the Viking Tor which was docked just around the corner where the Moselle River spills into the Rhine.
We made it back to our boat before the late afternoon briefing by our program director, cocktail hour, and dinner, ending what was my favorite day on the cruise.
At 9:00 a.m. we cast off from Rudesheim for Koblenz on the Viking Tor. We were going to cruise the Middle Rhine. This part of the trip was the reason Mark and I chose this particular cruise, as my father had pictures of some of the castles along the Middle Rhine when he was in the army in Germany in 1954. It was the part of our trip I had most looked forward to. It turned out to be everything I had hoped it would be and more. Through this section of the Rhine’s course as it makes its way from Switzerland to Amsterdam, the river is wide and the landscape is rugged.
Vineyards line the river’s path, some at water’s edge
but many terraced up the steep hillside.
Trains glide along the bottom of the hillsides, coming and going on both sides of the river like some gigantic real-life train display,
as they pass through tunnels carved under the rocky cliffs.
Boats and ships traverse
and at times cross the river.
Some dock at ports.
But the main attractions are the castles on hilltops overlooking villages on narrow flat land at the river’s side.
From medieval times, castles guarded the river’s route, for financial gain through controlling the river with tolls or for defense from invaders. Along this section of the Rhine, a traveler is rarely without a distant or close view of a castle as the ship passes by.
Church steeples rise in the villages below the castles at water’s edge.
From the comfort of the Viking Tor’s top deck, which was invigorating at times with the chill of the wind,
we watched the scenes slide by like a 360 degree slide show. I took 500 photos on our 3-hour ride to Koblenz, attempting the impossible task of saving the experience through digital photography.
To select photos for this post, on my initial pass-through I culled the 500 photos down to 132, and then to 92—still way too many for a blog post. You can imagine the difficulty I had.
What follows is an abbreviated, and yet still rather lengthy, representation of our Middle Rhine Cruise.
As we cruised along the Middle Rhine, our program director Sharon spoke on the ship’s intercom, reading information about the sights we were seeing. I don’t have any record of what she told us, but I did find this excellent Loreley info site online that has a map of the Rhine with the castles noted and links to a photo and historical, as well as visitor, information about each castle. It helped me identify many of the castles we saw. Most of my information about the castles below is from Loreley info.
I hope you enjoy seeing the castles, and some of the villages, along the Rhine. If you click on individual photos you can see a larger version of it, or another view of it. Clicking on a photo in a 2- or 3-photo gallery will show you an enlargement. You can navigate using arrows to see the other gallery photos’ enlargements. A click or two of your mouse should return you here.
Klopp Castle in Bingen houses the city council today. It is presumed to have been built on Roman foundations with a well that likely dates to Roman time. Destroyed in 1689, it was rebuilt between 1875 and 1879.
The Ehrenfels Castle, along with two others formed a northward barrier to protect the territory of the archbishopric of Mainz.
This is one of the larger villages we passed. Click on it to see an interesting feature in larger detail.
My father took this photo in 1954 with his 35mm black and white camera. Dad developed the film and printed the pictures himself. He wrote a caption on the back of it before he sent it home from Germany to my mother. It read, “The prettiest castle.”
I cropped and enlarged it so you can see how it compares to the photo I took of what I believe to be the same castle, from a slightly different angle. You can see that the little white building has been added since the 1950s.
Another view of what I now know is the Rheinstein Castle. It was built in the beginning of the 14th century as a princely summer residence. “In 1975 the opera singer Hermann Hecher bought the castle. It’s due to him that Rheinstein Castle became again one of the centres of attraction in the Rhine Valley,” (Rheinstein Castle).
This castle is the Reichenstein Castle, also called Falkenburg. It was built in the 11th century and owned by a robber-baron. As a result it was destroyed twice, in 1253 and 1282. It decayed since the 16th century until Friedrich Wilhelm von Barfuß started reconstruction in 1834. Baron Kirsch Purcelli bought the castle in 1899 and continued the reconstruction.
The Sooneck Castle, probably built in the 11th century was originally part of an abbey defense system. It has a sordid history of raids, and arbitrary toll-raising leading to its destruction in 1282. It was rebuilt and again destroyed in 1689. Friedrich Wilhelm IV ordered to convert the ruin into a hunting seat in 1842. It was finished in 1861.
The Village of Niederheimbach with its connected row of buildings sits at the base of the hill.
Fürstenberg Castle, built in 1219, was built by order of an archbishop, the bishop of Cologne, to protect his estates and levy tolls. The castle was destroyed in the course of the Palatinate Succession War, and remains in ruins. It is privately owned today.
This village has a dominant church, and behind the church up high on the hillside stands what looks like a small chapel.
Stahleck Castle, which was first mentioned in 1135, was owned in series over time by the diocese of Köln, the emperor Barbarossa and later his brother Konrad, and the Bavarian dynasty as one of two important bases of the Wittelsbach rulers. “In 1689 the castle was blown up by the French. In two construction phases (1925-27 as well as 1965-67) it was rebuilt,” ( Stahleck Castle) Today it is a popular youth hostel.
This fortress built in the middle of the river is the Pfalz Castle or toll station. Built in the 1300s, it was used to collect tolls from ships sailing on the river. The Gutenfels Castle, now used as a hotel, sits above it on the hillside.
This is my dad’s picture of the Pfalz Castle in 1954.
In 1149 Schönburg Castle was temporarily an Empire Castle and came into possession of the Schönburg dynasty. Destroyed in 1689, it has been rebuilt since 1885 into the famous hotel that it is today.
One of the enduring myths of the German Rhine is the maiden Lorelei. The Lorelei is a rock on the eastern bank of the Rhine that rises 440 feet above the river. A very strong current and rocks below the waterline have caused many boat accidents there over the years.
The legend goes that a beautiful maiden sat on top and sang songs luring sailors who passed the rock at nightfall to their doom against the rock.
I think this may be Rheinfels Castle, although I am not certain. “The only military complex arrangement on the left bank of the Rhine River it withstood the troops of Louis XIV in 1692” and then was blown up by the French revolutionary army in 1794. Now it is owned by city of St. Goar, has a hotel known for its excellent kitchen, and visitors can roam through the gigantic area of the fortress. (Rheinfels Castle)
Sometimes referred to as the cat and mouse, the Katz (left) and Maus or (lower right) castles reflect one of the many power plays on the Rhine in the Middle Ages. “Territorial supremacy and the privilege of collecting tolls fueled the fires of rivalry. In response to the construction of Burg Rheinfels, the archbishop of Trier erected a small castle north of St. Goarshausen to protect his interests. In turn, the masters of Rheinfels, the counts of Katzenelnbogen, built a bigger castle directly above the town. Its name was shortened to Katz, and its smaller neighbor was scornfully referred to as Maus. Both castles are closed to the public.” (Quoted from Fodor’s.)
Throughout the cruise down the Rhine, the small villages with half-timbered, colorful buildings, and steepled churches continued to decorate the landscape.
An unidentified castle.
I’m coming now to the final castle I photographed. And it turns out my dad photographed it too, although I couldn’t identify his pictures until I went on the cruise and compared his photos to mine.
Dad’s caption said “Castle on the Rhine” and “Enlargement of castle on the Rhine.”
I know now that it is the Marksburg Castle, the only hilltop castle along the Rhine that was never destroyed. We would be touring Marksburg Castle shortly after the Viking Tor docked in Koblenz at 12:00.
The Middle Rhine was declared a World Heritage site in 2002 by UNESCO.
I don’t know that I’ve ever loved any sightseeing event more than this cruise up the Middle Rhine, following my father’s path.
After our morning in Heidelberg, we returned to the Viking Tor in time for a late lunch at 1:00, which Mark and I enjoyed on the Aquavit Terrace. Our ship was sailing, for four hours this afternoon, to Rudesheim.
We had been given the option to extend our stay in Heidelberg for a few hours and then take a two-hour bus ride to meet the Tor in Rudesheim. Mark and I opted for the boat ride.
During the afternoon we had the opportunity to visit the wheelhouse to see how the ship navigated Europe’s rivers. Mark and I didn’t choose to do that, but we heard from other travelers, especially the grandparents accompanied by a young granddaughter and grandson, that it was an interesting thing to do. We also had the opportunity to see a presentation on Rudesheimer Kaffee made with coffee, brandy, sugar, whipped cream and dark chocolate.
Mark and I preferred our seats on the top deck, chilly though they were. The staff of the Tor were kind enough to deliver us samples from the Kaffee presentation which warmed us up nicely.
The Viking Daily newsletter provided us with information about the views along the river, which I am sorry to say I cannot match to the photographs I took. Perhaps you can. We passed by the former Platinate residential town of Mannheim; the junction of the Neckar River; Lamperheim, most likely founded during the Frankish settlement and first mentioned officially in the year 832; Nibelungen-Bridge connecting Rosental and Worms; Worms, among the oldest cities in Germany where the Liebfrauenmilch grape is grown; Mainz, where the Romans had a military encampment as early as 38 BC because of its strategic location at the junction of the Rhine and Main; Schierstein Bridge; Winkel, an old winegrowing village; and Rudesheim, whose excellent wines and varied landscape have turned it into one of the most lively tourism centers of the Middle Rhine (from the Viking Daily, Viking River Cruises).
Shortly after our 5:00 arrival in Rudesheim, Mark and I left on an evening excursion where we took a motorized mini-train ride into town and enjoyed dinner and lively entertainment in a restaurant along Rudesheim’s Drosselgasse.
Mark and I did not participate in the shot-drinking game, where shot glasses are attached to a board and participants have to lift it and drink together. I’ve been told you don’t want to be one of the shorter people in the group. But after the wine with dinner, no one seemed to mind if they literally got dumped on in this game.
Mark and I did, however, join the dancers snaking their way through the restaurant.
This excursion cost us 59 euros each. I thought it was enjoyable, and gave us an opportunity to experience a local meal.
Although we had taken the mini-train to the restaurant, we really weren’t all that far away from our dock. The way back was all downhill, so Mark and I opted to walk back to the Tor, past the small shops and restaurants that make up Rudesheim. We were at liberty to stay in town as late as we liked since our ship wasn’t sailing until 9:00 a.m., but Mark and I are not as young as we used to be. We opted for our comfy bed back in our cabin and a good night’s rest. We were going to do what I had most looked forward to in the morning – cruise past the castles of the Middle Rhine and repeat the trip my father had made.
After a stress-fraught couple of months while our daughter Anna was applying and interviewing for a new job, Anna accepted an offer from Humana in Chicago where she will begin working the third week in March. In a few short weeks, Anna will make the move from her comfortable and relatively spacious suburban apartment in Columbus, Ohio to an urban life-style in Chicago where rents are high and spaces are small.
Much has to be accomplished in a short period of time. Anna’s first priority was to find an apartment in a safe area.
Like most cities, Chicago is made up of distinctive neighborhoods with their own personalities all nestled together from the center of downtown Chicago out to the distant suburbs. Some neighborhoods are more convenient than others for commuters. Some are safer. Some are more fun.
Even though Anna was embracing an urban, mass-transit life-style, she wanted to be able to keep her car with her in Chicago. Parking can be challenging in the neighborhoods, so one of Anna’s higher priorities when looking for an apartment was to find one with an assigned parking space, if not a garage.
Another high priority was to have her own laundry facility in her apartment preferably, but at a minimum, in the apartment building.
A reasonably close distance and safe walk to mass transit, as well as a walkable distance to shops and restaurants, were also important considerations.
Finally, the size of the apartment, and in particular, the storage space were important.
Anna was fortunate in that one of her college classmates works at Humana in Chicago and was able to give her guidance regarding neighborhoods she might want to consider. He also referred Anna to a Chicago apartment broker, Chardonnee, who proved to be invaluable.
Anna contacted Chardonnee and provided her with her apartment priorities and budgeted amount for rent. Chardonnee searched the MLS listings for apartments in neighborhoods Anna was interested in that met most or all of her criteria. Anna studied the lists Chardonnee sent her of good matches. With the help of her computer and Google maps, Anna spent hours mulling over the listings, plotting the apartment locations, identifying the locations of the closest metro stations for each one, evaluating the pros and cons of each apartment, and generating a list of seven apartments to visit.
I drove with Anna to Chicago last Wednesday to look at apartments with the hope that she could sign a lease before we returned home. We arrived in downtown Chicago and checked into our hotel then went out driving through the neighborhoods and past the apartments we would be seeing on Thursday with Chardonnee. This wasn’t a particularly productive use of our time, but I think it helped us understand where the neighborhoods were located relative to each other and how far out of the downtown area they were. The other benefit, I thought, was that we were able to see that Chicago, even though a large city, is one that is drivable. We were able to get everywhere we wanted to go without much difficulty.
Anna focused on the north neighborhoods of Chicago, where she could catch the red line metro into work in town. She was interested in the popular Lincoln Park neighborhood just north of the downtown area, but was not able to find an apartment that was affordable for a single person with her salary, without a roommate to share expenses. Parking was also either not offered, or an expensive add-on.
Lakeview, just north of Lincoln Park, is another nice area for young professionals, but we did not find anything affordable that met most of Anna’s criteria there either.
A little further out, Uptown, and Logan Square were two neighborhoods Anna looked at. We visited four apartments on Thursday (one of her top choices now had a lease application, we couldn’t open the lock-box on one to get in to see it (it didn’t have parking), and one of them had mini-kitchen appliances so we took it off the list), and Anna settled on one in Andersonville. Although it is located within a couple of blocks from a street lined with restaurants, shops and importantly a grocery, the disadvantage of her apartment is its nearly one-mile-distance from the metro. Otherwise it is a lovely condominium on the third-floor of a relatively small building. She will have an assigned parking space behind the building, and a stacked washer and dryer unit in the apartment. The room sizes are smaller than those in her current apartment, but she has a small den in addition to the single bedroom and living room spaces. She will have to continue making choices as to what she plans to bring with her to Chicago and either discard, donate, or store (most likely in our basement) those things she won’t have room for and can do without.
As for me, I am relieved that she was able to find an apartment where I believe she will feel safe and comfortable. Having never lived in a big city, I have some anxiety about Anna traveling about the city, especially at night, where she may have to walk a long distance by herself. Hopefully I will grow more comfortable with that idea with time.
Next up — on to the move.
Do you have any experience with or tips for living in Chicago?
When we were told not to miss the WWII museum when we visited New Orleans earlier this year, I was surprised. First, I didn’t know that there was such a museum in New Orleans. And second, I was surprised that someone would choose New Orleans as a location for such a museum. What possible significance could New Orleans have had with the second world war?
General Dwight D. Eisenhower called Higgins, “the man who won the war for us.”
I’m not a WWII afficionado, but even I know that the allied invasion of Normandy was the event that turned the tide of the war. And when you think about that invasion, what comes to mind? —
boats pulling up to the beaches, lowering a ramp, and soldiers marching off into the water towards the beach, many to their deaths. I think that must have been one of the most horrifying experiences ever.
Although you might not want to have been a soldier on one of those boats, those HIggins landing crafts were what made the invasion not only possible, but successful. Without the ability to land forces directly onto beaches, the allies would have had to try to bust their way into well-guarded ports in German-occupied France.
“Higgins’ contribution was to design and mass-produce boats that could ferry soldiers, jeeps, and even tanks from a ship at sea directly onto beaches,” (WWII Museum signage).
The Normandy landing craft actually evolved from a vessel designed by Higgins called the Eureka. It was a rugged, shallow-bottomed craft Higgins designed to navigate the swamps of Louisiana. It was used by trappers and oil companies.
Rationing display at the WWII Museum
Initially focused on the invasion of Normandy, the D-Day Museum opened June 6, 2000, the 56th anniversary of D-Day. According to local lore, over time collectors of WWII artifacts gave items to the museum. It expanded its focus and became known as the WWII Museum.
German Air Raid Shelter
The museum has a large atrium where they WWII aircraft on display, hanging from the ceiling.
It is a cavernous room about three stories high.
A few ground vehicles are displayed on the entry level.
There are many things in life that pictures just cannot do justice to. And this museum space is one. There is no way to show you how impressive this display was.
A stairway or elevator will transport you to upper level walkways where you can view the planes up close. You can see the walkways stretching across the room in this photo.
And in this one. I am a bit acrophobic, and I’ll admit that I had some trouble once I got to the top level. I was in good company. A young woman was waiting beside the elevator there with the same problem. You can tell by looking at the people on the ground level just how high up you are.
I did manage to get a couple of pictures of My Gal Sal from above.
My dad couldn’t get enough of WWII stories, movies, books, airplane models . . .I now have a large percentage of his collection of WWII books. Whether you are a WWII fan, or not, if you make it to New Orleans allow time to spend several hours here. You’ll be glad you did.