After a pretty relaxed day yesterday being moored all day in Regensburg we set sail that evening for Passau and today toured Salzburg (Sound of Music territory) and Mondsee (Moon Lake) by coach on the way to meet the ship at Linz in Austria. The weather was forecast from – 1 to 6 degrees Celsius with heavy rain and snow. Thankfully we didn’t see the snow (apart from on the alps shrouded in cloud) and the heavy rain was mainly while we were in the coach but the temperature didn’t get much above 6 for the majority of the day and returned to 8 when we returned to the ship. Not to worry, however….we broke out the long johns under the jeans and with my leather vest and polar fleece jacket under my long jacket (along with my hat scarf and gloves)…I was toasty warm.

Schloss Mirabell (now the Town Hall) and gardens used in the Sound of Music Movie.

A view of the Festung Hohensalzburg (The Prince Bishop’s Palace) from within the town of Salzburg

A view of the Alps from the Palace, note the fruit tree in its own little garden. What a shame the Alps had disappeared into the clouds, would have loved to see their shapes. Apparently Hitler’s lair the ‘Eagles Nest’ is visible from the Palace on a clear day Austria having been a stronghold for Hitler and his third Reich. Our Austrian guide covered the wartime history well.

Salzburg from the palace with the lovely Baroque Cathedral visible with its green domes in the centre

Some majestic ancient trees within the palace walls with centuries of moss on their upper branches…no photo can do them justice…much more impressive than the dusty old furniture or Austrian military history within though the building itself was quite impressive and they are still digging up Roman foundations under it

An example of the pristine condition of the farmland we saw on our way through Bavaria…manicured to perfection!

The Lakes District…the ancient playground of the rich and famous….and still is a playground for all seasons

Mondsee Cathedral, a beautiful Italian Baroque cathedral used for the Sound of Music Wedding

Bits and Bobs:

In Salzburg they don’t allow neon signs for shops, only allowing the traditional signs, and the McDonalds store is on the site of the ‘Golden Lion Inn’ so you have to admire their ingenuity….now the Golden Lion is accompanied by the ‘Golden Arches’…ha ha. Liked it…and it didn’t look at all out of place in the beautiful ancient streetscape. We also noticed in France that their signs were often very small and inconspicuous as were all the other shops…looked much better.

We discovered municipal workers in Salzburg covering up their fountains today so that they don’t hold water to freeze and split the stone or anything else. This one was being steam cleaned and fitted with caps for the snow to slide off. We saw another being surrounded by glass panels.

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We woke to a very overcast sky with predictions of rain which has arrived on and off but hasn’t stopped us doing anything we wanted to. The temperature has dropped this afternoon as the rain has developed so have been grateful of my new coat and hat and scarf.

Regensburg is another medieval town which was originally surrounded by a wall from Roman times. The majority of the wall has long gone but there are parts of it remaining which is incorporated in the foundations of buildings visible to the passer-by which is quirky. This is the original Roman gate to the city. Check out the rock….no mortar between the stones just perfect fit. Pretty good engineering!

A view over the original roman bridge now only open to pedestrians and being restored and strengthened (out of view) looking towards the salt warehouses and the city.

Inside the salt warehouse to the left of the bridge which is now a Visitor Information Centre which means you have the chance to check out the magnificent structure of the building which was spectacular. Check out the beautiful timbers!

Looking towards the main town from one of the islands at what were once mainly warehouses with accommodation for the merchants and now accommodation only.

A view from the roman bridge towards one of the mid-stream islands on the left and the town on the right and our ship is just beyond the bridge.

Bits and Bobs:

I learnt today that one of my grandchildren (kinder age) when told Grandma and Grandad were going to Skype the family and was asked if he knew what ‘Skype’ meant said it’s when you talk on the computer to someone who is on holidays overseas…….unbelievable!

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We were off soon after breakfast for a walking tour of the old medieval part of Nuremberg, a lot of which was built stone by stone after WWII. We even experienced the local gingerbread cookies which are a speciality of the region. I enjoyed them and I’m not a great fan of ginger…other than ginger beer.

An ancient cemetery in Nuremberg….really beautiful if you can say that

Street scene of part of the village of Nuremberg with some of the old town wall in the background as well as the only original square tower on the wall.

Beautiful fountain in the Nuremberg town square as well as a building with a painted fresco in the background.

Many locks today and this is one of the three 24.7meter locks (the highest on the trip) as we climbed on the Main / Danube Canal to the continental divide before we start descending towards the Danube River. These were followed by three 17 meter locks and others following of diminishing sizes. A truly incredible engineering feat and we have felt privileged to be passing through them. AWESOME!!!!

The photo above is on the approach to the largest Lock on the Amsterdam to Budapest river route. An incredible example of effective infrastructure. The link below will take you to some video footage on You Tube as we progressed into the Lock.

Click on the link: http://youtu.be/WoWQEUi3CSo

Bits and Bobs:

The universality of children…the tail end of a group of enthusiastic school kids on the walls of the castle in Nuremberg who spotted a group of tourists (us) and gave us an enthusiastic welcome.

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Actually feel a bit sorry for the captain and his crew…they have had what seems to be a major generator problem throughout the day yesterday and early in the evening but it seems to have been sorted now. Mind you that is without any interruption to anything we have wanted to do so they have managed it well. All this with two massive generators which they take it in turns to use for a few days at a time and also a smaller one in a soundproofed box for night time running).

We didn’t go to the wine tasting at the ancient winery last night……we just wanted to stay put in the warm ship but we still enjoyed the quiet start and sailing this morning before we left the ship without the hangover I suspect many of our sailing partners experienced.

We woke to a sunrise on the right hand side of the ship this morning where it was the left hand side yesterday. It looked great….then the captain told us just before breakfast it was 3 degrees Celsius and the frost on the fields beside the river confirmed it was still very cold so we were grateful we were cruising (and having a lecture about the European Union which was surprisingly good…and a sampling of multiple varieties of bratwurst…again surprisingly good).

The Bamberg Town Hall built over a canal after the Prince Bishop refused for the third time to allow the citizens to build a town hall on any of his land…so they didn’t. Love the sentiment.

With ancient cities there are many challenges in the building department. Check out this building front on our trek to the cathedral.

An attractive restaurant within the walled city of Bamberg which is a beautifully maintained city

A view across the rose garden behind the new Bishop Princes Palace to what was previously a monastery and is now an old people’s home.

Bits and Bobs:

This was the second double length lock we were in today and we have 3 locks coming up some time in the future with a level difference of 24.7 meters which will be interesting to watch. This was a shot out the front of our ship (with satellite stuff collapsed)and looking to the back of the barge in front. There was a reasonable amount of jostling by the two vessels to fit!

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Okay so I went over the top with photos yesterday like a slow-moving video so I promise I won’t do that again but it’s just way too hard to only have one or two when there are so many great things to see and I’m not trussed up in bike gear and riding past it all….probably an advantage when I’m on the bike actually. Much better behaved today….see below:

We woke up to spectacular views of incredible buildings across the River Main from us complete with the morning mist rising from the water. This is the Prince Bishop’s former fortress.....he built a new ‘Residence’ as he wanted something more modern......poor little darling! One of the many barges motoring up and down the river coming under the bridge.

After breakfast we headed to the Wurzburg Residence….the new home the Prince Bishop had built for himself in the main town of Wurzburg….man did this man have a HUGE EGO! Magnificent building and many beautiful features but OH MY GOD! This is a view of one wing from the garden.

After lunch we headed by coach to the medieval walled city of Rothenburg which was just beautiful. The walls still intact (some of which we walked) and wandered through the many streets after our walking tour. This is the tower we climbed to see the city from above. Just over 200 steps to the top getting more narrow and steeper the higher we got ending up with a ladder and a climb out onto the platform…but worth the view.

Walking the streets of Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Rothenburg on the River Tauber….I think)

Bits and Bobs:

A bit of an unfortunate sign pinted on the wall for a bakery in Rothenburg….okay so the spelling isn’t the same but phonetically it’s a bit yucky.

The second hat with scarf at the Wurzburg Residence

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We are missing being on the bikes something chronic and find ourselves ogling at any motorbike we see...a bit pathetic actually, but also enjoying the luxury of this beautiful boat and being looked after. Such a lovely experience! Very comfortabe and the food is wonderful and staff incredible.

Leaving the Rhine River (RHS) and entering the Main River (LHS) yesterday evening and soon after entered our first lock and have negotiated many since and still more to come. The Main is still a large body of water but not quite so fast flowing as the Rhine which is not surprising.

View this morning on the river. We enjoyed a tranquil trip and it confirmed how the Germans are serious about caravanning with many parks lining the river

A view of Freudenberg from the river before we docked and climbed into our coach

Walking tour in Miltenberg an ancient city which avoided being obliterated during WWII. The main square

A view of Miltenberg from the hill at the entrance of the castle (and yes most of these towns and villages have castles)

The afternoon walking tour followed a coach ride from Freudenberg to Wertheim..…again another city spared from WWII destruction other than losing bridges on the Main River from retreating Germans. We were very impressed with our walking guides handling of WWII history. It was sensitive, realistic and touched both her and our humanity

The Castle at Wertheim dismantled during the 30 year war and then abandoned by the Count. The locals have since purchased it and are restoring it.

The main square at Wertheim

A view from the castle at Wertheim across the village of Wertheim at the junction of the Main River (RHS) and the Tauber River (coming in from the LHS). The town understandably has many serious floods as you can see with the marker beside the Tauber River

Check out the years and levels

Bits and Bobs:

A work shot…container cranes loading barges at Mainz. Very impressive

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We had a quiet but spectacular morning on board and once the fog cleared we enjoyed gliding through the Rhine Valley looking at many different castle ruins but many more intact along with picturesque villages and countless vineyards chiselled into the sides of the valley up incredibly steep valley walls. So many picture postcard views especially with the changing autumnal tones of the foliage. Very beautiful. We have also continued to be amazed at the huge number of commercial freight barges and the sheer volume of what they carry including gravel and coal, gas, oil and heaps of other stuff covered so we couldn’t see it as well as huge numbers of containers, not to mention the freight trains which run each side of the Rhine every 4 – 5 minutes apart. We have seen bulk liquid and gas tanks, cars, flatbed trailers both full and empty, containers of all sizes and construction. Also saw a police boat stop and board one barge so interesting!

The first view along the Rhine this morning before the fog set in heavily (you can see a steeple in the background already shrouded in fog)

An idea of how large the castle is on top of the ridge is gained when you realise how large the buildings on the shore are

An example of both ancient castle (this one abandoned) and terraced hillside vineyards

Riverside village view with autumn tones in foliage and vines

The music museum at Rudesheim (started in 1969) and housed in this building dating from the 13th century. The museum was incredible and also entertaining which I hadn't expected

Rudesheim town square which we found on our trek back to the river

Bits and Bobs:

Norm at the Emergency Drill. Note the lock gate behind him. We didnt use the lock to lift us here and it was only the second we went through on the first day out. We will be entering the land of many locks tomorrow....so no one allowed on the sundeck then.

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The sun was shining this morning and we enjoyed a comfortable walking tour of some of the old city of Cologne as well as visiting the Cologne Cathedral which was one of the few buildings still standing after the WWII bombardment. The Cathedral houses the relics of the three Magi (the 3 Wise Kings) who visited baby Jesus in the Bethlehem Stable and has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries. The cathedral was in fact also the tallest building in Europe until the Eiffel tower was built in Paris. A quirky bit of town planning has placed the city railway station right beside the Cathedral and 1,200 trains a day move through it..…apparently this was considered a good thing in the times that the station was constructed.

A view of the Cologne Cathedral from the riverside with the Museum of Modern art visible to the left hand side

The building on the corner is the only building to survive after the WWII bombardment on the Haymarket Square in Cologne

After our walking tour of Cologne we hopped on a bus and went to the medieval city of Maastricht back in the Netherlands where we had another walking tour and some free time to explore ourselves. This was a pretty city. We lunched on the square where Andre Reieu has his annual concerts and drove past his small palace on our way out of town on our way back to our ship which had moved on to Andernach.

The Town Hall in Maastricht designed by the same architect who designed a palace for Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in a similar style though hers is somewhat larger

Some of the original Roman walls surrounding the old city of Maastricht. Similar ruins complete with towers and arches are visible still throughout the old city

A sample of Barge traffic on the Amsterdam to Budapest route. Check out a short video on You Tube to give you an idea of the incredible volume of the barge traffic. AWESOME!

Click the link: http://youtu.be/FZLnuZLGLIQ

Bits and Bobs:

Some of the parking we have seen throughout our travels in Europe has been an exercise in ‘touch feel and bump’ but we were intrigued with this parking in 2 disabled parking spots across the road from our coach in Cologne (4 cars in 2 spots) and two people who got out of cars that I saw were as disabled as me!

A better example of the space used but a bit blurry

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I’ve decided throughout the tour I’ll give a bit of a commentary (or dot points) of our day and add some pictures taken throughout the day (may be a few, may be many).

More challenges in the foundation department in Amsterdam

After a comfortable night’s sleep moored at the dock in Amsterdam we headed off after breakfast to do a Canal tour which was very picturesque even in the constant rain we had. Apparently over 200 days a year are wet and raining in the Netherlands. We returned to the coach after that and headed to the floating flower market where we ogled at the incredible bulbs and other fresh flowers….and lots of tourist paraphernalia and Christmas decorations in abundance before we had a coffee and returned to the coach. We enjoyed the tour guides commentary throughout and marvelled at the information of the 1953 massive floods in the Zealand region (where many of our Dutch friends came from) to hear that 1,800 people had died in one night and a third of the land had been washed away in the region. Makes it easy to understand why people would make the decision to come to Australia for a new start!

Classic Holland shot of one of the windmills responsible for draining the land

We continued our coach tour from there until our return to the Amaverde well along the canal and boarded around 1pm just in time to line up for passage through our first lock which was an interesting experience and shortly after that we had an emergency evacuation drill and thankfully they changed the place of the mustering station from the sundeck to the lounge since it was still raining.

In the old parts of Amsterdam there were canals and bridges everywhere!

After that we had a PowerPoint overview of what is coming up on our tour as we marvelled at some of the commercial barges which whistled by with incredible loads on them from all sorts of gravel, sand and coal (the highest tonnage I saw noted on a barge was well over 3,500) to containers and even one with new cars which Norm estimates would have held well over 100 semi loads of them....at a conservative estimate. Between the briefing and the rain we have yet to get any photos of them so hopefully will manage some before we get away from the commercial centres.

The welcome on our 'internal balcony' on arrival yesterday afternoon

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We have had a quiet day today after breakfast. Did a little bit of wandering about town between showers before we came on board. It was raining when we checked on and then has set in throughout the afternoon so have stayed put rather than exploring more of Amsterdam.

A bit self conscious but one of Norm's favourite shots of the trip (note the new coat and hat...happy with the purchases).

The Ship is just beautiful and our cabin comfortably large with an internal and external deck which means 2 chairs and a table inside a window and 2 chairs and table on an outside deck.

Dam Square behind our hotel. This wheel was set up overnight and today they were attaching the carriages....the wheel people at Docklands should come and get some lessons in rapid assembly here perhaps....

We had a lovely bottle of wine and some yummy chocolate and shortbread snacks waiting for us along with a steward who will look after our cabin in transit and then a butler to help with my unpacking and anything else we want basically….after we had finished unpacking. Not quite sure how to deal with that….sooo not used to such things.

A last look at last night's hotel. The Duke of Windsor Bar which has been decorated with the same timber panelling, luggage racks and furniture as the 'Orient Express' and the connection with the Duke of Windsor was that he had his own carriage decorated in the same manner. Nice and cosy feel.

Once we had unpacked we set about exploring the lounge, library, gift shop (not yet opened) and restaurant. We checked out where the beauty salon and health centre were and how to get to the sundeck and swimming pool on the roof. Not sure about the pool, sounds more like a big spa (28 degrees so nice and comfortable) have to get the bathers out of the case after all. After that we were compelled to have a drink in the lounge and then head back to have a nap before we headed back to the lounge for a cruise briefing. What can I say….it’s a tough life but someone (albeit Norm and I) has to do it.

MS Amaverde at the dock in Amsterdam as we boarded

Bits and Bobs:

I know this is actually a way to ask people not to put junk mail in the mail box here in Holland but the warning made us giggle how it translatd so well to English when we thought of all the unfriendly jokes about solicitors. (Sorry to my solicitor friends).

We travelled all over France and didn’t see one of these but came across this today in Amsterdam. What a ‘pisser’ if you’ll pardon the pun

Last nights’ accommodation:

The Convent Hotel (MGallery)
Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 67
Amsterdam NL 1012

A very nice hotel in central Amsterdam. A combination of three buildings at least but this is not noticeable inside. The public spaces are lovely and the staff very helpful with excellent English….it feels a bit strange not concentrating on starting a conversation with bon jour madam or monsieur but we can cope. The rooms are nicely laid out and bathroom comfortable as well. Décor perhaps getting a little tired but well maintained. A comfortable bed but think that one of the bases was lower than the other as I slept on a hill all night…very weird. There were also some other Australians staying here to join the cruise.

The Convent Hotel

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