Monday, 16 December 2019

Magical Markets of the Rhine Valley

Join us for a long weekend trip by coach to the German Christmas Markets along the River Rhine, 6-9 December 2019.

Each article can be accessed by clicking/tapping the six photos below. A link on each page will bring you back here.

Rudesheim Christmas Market

Sunday 8 December 2019. We arrive in Rudesheim and the coach parks a little way out of town. A road train has been booked for us to ride all the way in.

The train drops us off behind the river front and right at the start of a string of Christmas Market stalls.

There is also a mechanical music museum, though when we try to get in, we are turned away with the phrase "We are completely booked for the rest of the day" even though half an hour earlier Les, our driver, had phoned to ask if they could take a party of ten or more... Unfortunately, we were the only ones who thought it would be a good thing to visit.

There are some rather inviting hostelries too - although the painted cat on the front of the Stadt Frankfurt looks more suited to Halloween than Christmas!

Unable to visit the museum, we console ourselves with a somewhat massive cone of chips... The Germans spell pommes frites exactly the same way the French do and having only learned French at school I once made the mistake of pronouncing them as "pom freet" in Bavaria. One diner laughed so hard he choked on his own chips and the waitress glared at us sternly and said "pommus frittus!" in an affronted tone. I got it right this time...

A large Nativity scene. It reminded me of a trip to Bethlehem six years ago where the Palestinian guide pointed out the hillside where the Shepherds had been and said "Lets all sing the song..." He was sadly disappointed.

We had a good look round the market and found more stalls on the side streets as we walked back towards the river front. This however is an alley off a side street and doesn't have any...

A goods train was passing as we came to the river front. We turned left to walk along another row of market stalls, getting split up a few times, there were so many people there.

We also had a look in the souvenir shops. A bottle of wine was chosen to grace our Christmas table and one or two other bits and pieces were bought, including the inevitable fridge magnet.

Then we crossed the road and level crossing to walk along the riverside back towards the coach. Much too far... We should have turned off the river bank after a short distance but were blindly following another couple who just kept going. There should have been a clue in the way they kept turning to see if we were still following them...

Eventually we reach a ruined bridge. It was dark now but I could make out a sign saying it was the Hindenburg Bridge. An arch still stands. The arch next to it had broken away from the support and leans drunkenly in large chunks of masonry against its neighbour. The spans over the river were destroyed by air raids in 1945 during World War II and the German Wermacht destroyed the arches in an attempt to hold up the Americans who were advancing through the region.

We caught up with the other couple who were panicking a little and then got some conflicting directions from people and I rang driver Ian. After some confusion we got back to the coach just about on time. Others needed Ian to go out searching for them. But we all got back on the coach safely in the end. We were not the only ones to walk as far as the bridge!

Monday, 9 December 2019. A very early start for our journey home. The hotel puts take-away breakfast bags together for us at 5:00am. Another pre-packed lunch is available at the coach interchange before we come back through the tunnel to England. We get a 25 minute stop on the motorway - just time to wolf down a MacDonalds burger - never my favourite meal. The coach looks amazing from the easy chairs at the back of the vehicle. For some reason we leave it at Blackburn for a taxi to Blackpool but our way into Blackburn is blocked by an accident and we have to reverse up a side street to turn and then detour around through Darwen. We get home on schedule though at 11:30pm.

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Sunday, 15 December 2019

Assmannhausen and Wiesbaden

Sunday 8 December 2019. It's Sunday morning and with quarter of an hour before we have to get on the coach, we dash down the street to take a few photos of Assmannhausen.

The streets are very narrow and the corners very tight. And the sticky-out bit just above the pink on this building, very scarred from meeting buses, coaches and lorries...

Looking back from further down the hill.

At the bottom of the hill is a level crossing. Railways run along both sides of the Rhine. Our side gets more goods traffic than passenger traffic and the other side vice versa. Time to get on the coach.

Our first stop of the day is a city called Wiesbaden. It's Sunday morning and as yet is fairly deserted.

There is a skating rink and a small Christmas Market, but as yet most of the stalls are still boarded over and closed. Wiesbaden is a spa town and has 14 hot springs. It once had 26 apparently. Anyway, we didn't see any of them...

We wandered through a shopping mall with no open shops and then along a few streets of offices and shops that were also shut and got a bit lost. We saw a Big Wheel slowly turning and that turned out to be shut as well, as we were turned away at the turnstile. (That's as many "turns" as I can get out of a Big Wheel...)

A few stalls of the Christmas Market were starting to open, but it was bitterly cold for walking about.

We found the skating rink again. I confess I've never strapped either skates nor planks of wood to my feet and have no intention of doing so. We wandered back to the coach, freezing, about an hour before we needed to. We weren't the first ones back by any means.

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Saturday, 14 December 2019

Koblenz - Our First German Christmas Market

Saturday 7 December 2019. The third part of today's excursion, after the Rhine cruise and Boppard, is Koblenz.

It's mid afternoon as we arrive in Koblenz, the city at the point where the River Moselle flows into the Rhine. Several river cruise ships are moored up here and we sneak a peek inside as we walk past. The standard of furnishings in the cabins looks very high and luxurious.

We are walking up a main shopping street, Miss Franny looking in wine shop windows picking things for me to juggle later on our walk back to the coach... Bits of music in several different styles reaches us and eventually we come across these four guys who happily pose and/or blink as I take a photo. You win some, you lose some...

A massive shop selling Christmas decorations. I went all nostalgic when I saw these as my parents had a couple of glass birds just like these when I was still playing with my toys on the floor with bare knees rather than from behind a microphone. The pink one next to the gold one came home with us.

Ta Da! Our first Christmas Market! We've glimpsed others down side streets but decided to walk up the shopping street and then work our way back down doing the side streets.

Glűwein is mulled wine and lots of people were wandering round with glass mugs getting emptier and eyes getting glassier!

Well I don't mind if I do... The mugs came home with us too.

Not really sure what this was about... The policeman seems amused but what is that she's holding? A turkey foot? A set of withered bagpipes? And she's reaching for a bribe out of her purse too...

Time for a wander and getting into the Christmas Spirit. Or should that be "getting Christmas Spirits into us"...?

Ham and cheese on a stall. Fran considered getting a small cheese as it would have been cold enough in the hold of the coach. Kaiserschinken as the ham is labelled, is literally King Ham. Miss Franny shook her head. "I might want some cheese but I don't want any king ham..." Blimey... Alright, alright, calm down..."

We had a good wander around all the side street markets on the way back down. A group of people with brass instruments were playing just short snatches of Christmas Carols, getting a round of applause after each one. Literally just one verse for each one. Perhaps they were enjoying the applause!

As it starts to get dark it gets quite a bit colder. We set off back to the river with about 45 minutes before we are due at the coach, to walk along to a significant landmark. We reach the junction of the Moselle and Rhine rivers and looking across the Rhine, we see the cable car.

This is the landmark. A huge statue of Kaiser Wilhelm of WW1 fame with the base made into a prison by Hitler. It was specifically to hold Winston Churchill in WW2 and to incarcerate and humiliate him in sight of passers-by.

I have no tripod with me, but can't resist taking a few photos of the Moselle River at night.

I've always loved night photography anyway. Often quite ordinary buildings can look wonderful when picked out by lights against a dark sky.

We walked as far as the first bridge over the Moselle River and then turned back to return to the coach for our trip back to Assmannhausen and our hotel.

Once back we had just enough time before dinner to trot a way down the street to take a photo of the hotel.

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Friday, 13 December 2019

An Hour in Boppard

Saturday 7 December 2019. The cruise along the Rhine onboard the Loreley Star has brought us to Boppard, where we spot our coach parked up ready to take us onto our final destination for the day.

More of that later though, as first we have some time to explore this ancient town. One of the first buildings we see after turning away from the Rhine Promenade is this slate-built inn.

Many of the older buildings are highly decorated either with carving or painted murals, such as this coaching scene.

St Severus's church dominates the end of the this row of impressive buildings. Remains dating back 13,000 years were found near here and there are Roman remains in the vicinity also, though we failed to stumble over them.

But hang on a moment... This is about half past twelve in the afternoon on a Saturday. Where is everybody? Fran suggested they may have all gone to find a Christmas Market, but even so, the streets are very quiet.

Admittedly the drizzly weather wouldn't be helping, but we trot about looking for something to eat. We only want a snack. Sandwiches are not easily found in Germany as far as my own experience provides any evidence. We found a bakery and opted for croissants of which there was a selection of types and flavours.

Our short time in Boppard was coming to an end. We made our way back to the Rhine to see that the Loreley Star seemed to have given up any thoughts of another trip for the day.

We had a short walk along the river to where the coach was parked. Behind it this building had a rather strange structure on the corner of a garden or patio wall.

All aboard! Our next - and final - stop for the day will be Koblenz. Final stop, but first Christmas market! Lead on MacDuff - oops... Herr von Duff...

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Thursday, 12 December 2019

Rhine Cruise from St Goarhausen to Boppard

Saturday 7 December 2019. We are on a weekend trip with Leger to the Rhine Christmas Markets and our first day in Germany is about to kick off with a boat trip along the Rhine.

We take the coach to St Goarhausen, where we are to pick up a river cruise up the Rhine to the town of Boppard. Driver Les is coming with us whilst Driver Ian takes the ferry across the river and will pick us up in Boppard.

St Goar, seen from St Goarhausen. The Rhine has quite a strong current as can be seen by the foaming of the water as it hits the bouys that mark the deep water channel.

St Goarhausen. We don't have time to wander far as we wait for our cruise ship to come. We watch as Ian takes the coach onto the car ferry. Bridges are few and far between at this part of the river. St Goarhausen sits just north of the famous Lorelei Rock.

Barges are still a major way of transporting goods. They carry the crew's cars at the rear so that once the barge is delivered, the crew can go home.

Having loaded, the car ferry makes its way across to St Goar, taking Ian and the coach with it. We watch him safely to the other side and then he sets off north towards the town of Boppard where we shall end up once our boat makes an appearance.

Lorelei appears on a number of signs and motifs around St Goarhausen. She has a carved monument too. The legend is she was on her way to a nunnery, betrayed by a lover and accused of witchcraft. She saw the rock and asked permission to climb it, whereupon she threw herself into the water to her death. The tale is a fiction dating only from 1801, but has taken on a cult-like status with many believing it to be an ancient folklore.

Ah yes... Apologies if this made you reel back in horror, but this is me, complete with tea cosy hat preferring the somewhat bracing fresh air on the open deck at the back of the saloon onboard our ship the Loreley Star. Loreley is the German spelling for the tragic spurned lover of our tale. Somehow most depictions of her seem to have her without clothes. It must not have been the middle of December then, is all I can think! Apparently the Lorelei Rock juts out into the water which causes a humming noise as the river hits it. Before the Lorelei tale started the noise was said to be caused by dwarfs who lived within the rock. They have now been forgotten about as they don't look as good in the nude on signposts and shop fronts...

Even in the flat and somewhat dull light of a December morning, the scenery hints at the splendours that summer light would lend to it. Castles are common as muck around here. They perch high above the river on bends and craggy bits of rock. I kept an eye on the turret windows so that I might spot any imprisoned princesses with very long hair. I could do with some of that...

The Onderneming IV, a general cargo ship, was built in 2005 and is 135 meters long, sailing under the Netherlands flag.

Unless there was a sign large enough to read from the centre of the river, I had no way of identifying the villages and towns we passed. Every church had a ball directly under the cross on top of the spire. These hold the plans of the church, enabling it to be rebuilt to the original plan should it be destroyed by fire or war.

Even where there was a sign I wasn't exactly sure whether that was the name of the town or village or was marking the private mooring of a hotel.

We reach Boppard and have to leave our ship, Loreley Star. She was built in 1999 and has two decks with a further open top deck. She takes up to 600 passengers and has a length of 50.2 meters with a width or beam of 11.2 meters.

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