Day 12/15 Viking Ve, Grand European Christmas Markets River Cruise. Sailing from Mainz, Germany to Koblenz, Germany.
We were told last evening in our port talk that we would be sailing through the most interesting part of the 800 mile long Rhine River today; the 36 miles from Mainz to Koblenz, Germany. The Viking Ve was leaving Mainz at 7am this morning and we were told we should be up and about around 8:30am to hear Program Manager Daniel’s commentary on this scenic sailing. So what did we do?
WE SLEPT IN! Until 9:25am! OMG! I was mortified! I thought when else am I going to get the chance to sail up this 36 miles of beautiful Romantic Rhine River? So I quickly threw on a bath robe, grabbed my blankets and sat out on our balcony! I didn’t want to miss any more than I already had missed on this romantic sailing by sleeping in! The temperature was a balmy 4C, but heh! I’m Canadian and that is not freezing!
I don’t think we really missed too much frankly because there were lots of castles to see as we went up the Rhine. I will try and identify the castles we did see that were worthy of putting in the blog:
Pfalzgrafenstein Castle, Kaub Germany: Island Castle built as a toll castle. Built in the 14th century and built to look like a bow of a boat!
Gutenfels Castle, Kaub, Germany was built in 1220. It was used with the toll castle Pfalzgrafenstein in the middle of the Rhine. Between the two castles they provided an impenetrable anti-toll zone for the Holy Roman Emporer until Prussia purchased the area in 1866 and ended this toll in 1867. Formerly run as a hotel, the Gutenfels Castle is now a private residence.
Burg Katz, St. Goarshausen, Germany: Built as a military base in the 14th century to protect Rheinfels Castle. Burned and demolished many times and rebuilt, it had been a hotel at one point, but now it is again in private hands.
MAUS Castle: is a castle above the village of Wellmich. Established in 1353. This castle was never destroyed though it was shelled during WW2. The castle hosts an aviary that is home to falcons, owls and eagles and flight demonstrations are performed for visitors during the summer.
Stolzenfels Castle: is a former medieval fortress castle turned into a palace near Koblenz. The castle was a former ruined 13th century castle gifted to the Prussian crown prince Frederick William in 1823. He had it rebuilt as a 19th century palace in Gothic Revival style. Today it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Upper Middle Rhine Valley.
We arrived into Koblenz, Germany and were greeted near our pontoon docking pier by the famous promontory of Koblenz called “Deutsches Eck”. The Mosel River joins the Rhine at this point and a statue of William I, first German Emporer was erected in 1897 in appreciation of his role in the unification of Germany.
We had a quick lunch on the Ve before heading out to meet our bus for our afternoon demanding tour. Lunch was very good today. I had leek and potato soup and beef bolognese with penne. Richard had the soup as well as a salmon salad concoction. The food has been excellent on this Viking River Cruise. I would say the food is 100% better than the 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise!
As we were walking to the bus for our tour along the promenade we could see how high the water was in the Rhine. Our docking location for the Viking Ve was unaffected by the high water level at pontoon 2, but pontoons 3=6 were under water. Luckily no other river cruise was in Koblenz today so we could get pontoon 2 for docking.
We had about a 20 minute bus ride to get to our tour. Usually the Viking river cruise pontoon for docking is in the town of Braubach, Germany. The bus would normally meet us at the pier in Braubach and take us up to the Marksburg Castle, but today because our pontoon in Braubach was completely underwater, we ended up instead docking in Koblenz, and making the 20 minute bus ride to complete our tour. Usually the Viking ship drops people doing the tour of Braubach, and then sails on to Koblenz, but not today.
Marksburg Castle, Braubach, Germany was built in the early 12th century. The Lords of Epstein built the Romanesque castle complex. The castle was bought by Eberhard II, Count of Katzeneinbogen in 1283. These counts were one of the wealthiest lineages in the Rhineland. The new owners built the Gothic part of the castle, giving the castle its striking form. Many different owners have owned the castle until 1866 when the castle was taken over by Prussia in the Austro Prussian War of 1866. The castle was used as living quarter for soldiers. In the year 1900 the German Castles Association (whose main task is the protection and preservation of castles and stately homes) bought the castle for 1,000 gold marks and the Castles Association now has their head office at the castle.
We had to walk up two sets of very steep steps to get to the top of the castle for our tour. There was a winding road that some people took up instead which had a slower incline. Given we are fairly fit, we took the stairs.
When we got to the castle we had free time to look at the gift shop, restaurant, use the WC before we finally started our tour. I found that the snack bar was giving away home brewed shots of apricot schnapps so I managed to get Richard and our friend James from Pinehurst a shot each of the schnapps. There were bottle of the schnapps for sale in the restaurant and the bottle was on a lean. The employee told me that if the bottle looks straight to you it’s time to stop drinking schnapps!
Our tour guide’s name was Max and he had a flair for the dramatic which drove Richard a little crazy. I told RIchard to roll with it. We were at a castle and the guide is trying to make it interesting for us imagining what it was like to live in this castle 800 years ago!
The inside of the castle was an extremely difficult walk up hill on uneven pavement with nothing to hang onto! Whenever you see green stuff growing on rocks, you know it might be slippery, so BE CAREFUL! Richard is always anticipating for me since I broke my femur 3 years ago and he doesn’t ever want to see me slip and fall like that again!
We entered the castle through the wine cellar, which then led to the large open kitchen. The servants would have slept in the kitchen on straw because it was the warmest place for them in the castle. Right above the kitchen was the Master’s bedroom.
The bed in the Master bedroom was extremely short, and narrow. Apparently people in the Middle Ages were on average 3-4 inches shorter than tdday.
The ornate door in the grand hall led to the commode which was just a hole in the bench that the owners and guests of the castle would sit on. There was no system to collect the waste, and it just fell to the outside of the castle. The commode was something to show off to say they had ‘indoor’ facilities!
We walked around the herb garden which has been planted to replicate the actual herbs that were used in cooking and apothecary in the medieval times.
The views of the Rhine River Valley were beautiful from this vista by the gardens.
The castle has on display weapons that were used in battle.
We then saw a collection of military uniforms throughout the years which were very ornate and very heavy as well.
Our tour took us to the torture chamber and then finished off in the blacksmith’s shop.
I enjoyed the tour of Marksburg castle but I was surprised at how small it was inside. I guess I had dreamy, romantic notions from watching TV shows or movies about how big the grand hall inside a castle really was!
We had a 20 minute bus ride back to Koblenz. At 4:55pm after we reached the bus drop off location, we decided to walk into the old, pedestrian area of Koblenz. There were still some Christmas markets open with lots of people standing around drinking wine or Gluewein.
The streets of Koblenz were very easy to navigate and while we liked window shopping there was really nothing I needed so after about an hour we headed back to the Viking Ve as we did not want to miss the 6:45pm port talk on Cologne.
Tonight was a special meal prepared by Viking’s chef and staff. We were having a German themed dinner and all of the serving staff were dressed in beautiful red and white checked shirts. On the table were pretzels, cold cuts and various kinds of cheeses for us to enjoy before the main course was served.
For the main course we had various German foods included cheese sausage, warm potato salad, red cabbage, sauerkraut, spaetzle and some kind of pork and chicken that I gave to Richard to eat. The red cabbage and sausage were excellent!
For dessert we were pleased to be able to share an Anniversary cake that was brought to our table by the staff for Graham and Alice on this their 10th Wedding Anniversary! Congratulations Graham and Alice!!!
After dinner Viking had arranged to bring in a local opera singer whose husband also played French horn. They played for 45 minutes accompanied by a nice piano soundtrack and we really enjoyed their performance of classical and show tune music.
While we missed a little bit of the Romantic Rhine River Cruise today, we did enjoy seeing the romance of Graham and Alice enjoying their special day in Germany on their 10th wedding anniversary. Love and romance was definitely in the air today in Germany!
Tomorrow we head to our last port in Germany. Cologne!