Saturday, June 30, 2012

Day 12:  Mainz and Rudesheim.  Today we went to Mainz.  It was very different front the other towns in that it is a successful mix of Gothic, Baroque and ultra modern architectures.  Mom and I were in different groups.  She got a great guide and I got one that was not so good.  Then we got back on the boat, ate lunch and travelled to Rudesheim.  Mom watched the demo on making apple strudel.  I stayed in the cabin and read my book (read that... took a nap).  We arrived in Rudesheim in time to take a train to a restaurant, where we ate and drank, then watched the sad demise of the German team. One exciting update to my yoyo-ing education..... I can throw the yoyo out in front of me and catch it! I feel pretty darn good about that!!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Day 11:  Heidelberg  Today we were in Heidelberg, which is known by some as a tourist trap.  I thought it was very interesting.  We went to a piano recital at the University of Heidelberg in a chapel.  We heard pieces by Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and more.  The pianist was very accomplished, but "sturdy" in his technique.  Mark Twain was suffering from writers block and visited H. He finished Huckleberry Finn here. It seems that many famous people came to this town to complete or recover from something.  We saw the largest wine barrel in the world, which contained the worst wine in the world!  Not only were peasants required to pay large amounts of money in taxes, they were also required to give a part of their grape harvest.....of course they gave their worst grapes, hence .....  We also heard the shortest legend in the world: A lord asked a lady to be his bride. She turned him down and ......he lived happily ever after!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 10: Wertheim Today is the first day off we have had.  We had nothing to do and nowhere to go, although we did have a morning walking tour of the town.  It was very cool that the ship docked right at the edge of town so we could go into the city and then wander back to the boat many times during the day.  You could really get a lot of shopping done without realizing it, because you could dump off your bags and keep on shopping!  They had a euro store (dollar store), a terrific grocery store, and lovely outdoor cafes which were just perfect for trying the different brewers types of beer.... pilsner, wheat and land ...... today the pilsner won. This is a glass blowing city.  We had a wonderful demonstration by a very well known glassblower on the boat, then we saw the the shop of the glassblower in the town.  Some serious shopping happened in the glass shops :-)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day 9: yoyos

Day 9: Gerlachshausen/ Wuerzburg/ Yoyos One of the best parts of our trip is our program directors!  They are very experienced and funny.  You can tell they are friends, because they are always playing tricks on each other.  They come up with skits for us, teach us phrases to use when we go out into town, solve problems effortlessly.... all the while making us laugh.  They are Daniel, Daniella and Steven, alphabetically.   The guide for our group is Steven, patient, knowledgeable, cheerful and unflappable.  Every town seems like his hometown because he appears to have the inside scoop on everything.  All of the program directors must do their own research and come up with their own tour information.  It is fun at dinner to sit with people outside your group to hear what the other PD's have said during the day.   Daniel loves to yoyo and he carries two yoyos on his belt in specially made yoyo holders. His favorite brand is Henry, a German brand.  After a tutorial, I decided to try my hand again at yoyoing! What a blast! I can now use both hands at the same time AND I am learning the cool way to rewind the string.  I am now the proud owner of two brand new yoyos, thanks to Daniel, who found some in the town today.  Several people  indicated that they also are experienced yoyoers and were happy to show me their skills, which upon execution, appeared a little rusty, but enthusiastic none the less.  Today we toured the loveliest town, Gerlachshausen. I think this would be a wonderful place to live.  We had a delicious lunch in a local restaurant, which is the first place off the ship that we have eaten a meal.  We went to a famous Christmas shop, where we purchased the obligatory tree ornament with the town printed on it. Then we walked around the town for the afternoon, peaking in shop windows. European soccer championships are being played right now and Germany is going into the semi-final round.  Everyone here is going nuts with flags flying on cars, hanging over balconies and soccer stuff in all kinds of unlikely places like bank, pharmacy and bakery windows! I guess pictures will have to wait until I get home to add them to the blog.  My computer will not boot up and I can't load pictures to the blog from my iPad.  Smooches to everyone!

Day 8: Bamburg

Day 8: Bamberg Today is Sunday.  It is a beautiful, sunny, cool day.  We went on a walking tour of the city with a local guide.  We have these lovely headsets which lets the guide carry on a dialogue without having to yell and it also let's you straggle back and take pictures, but still hear what is being said.  The headset idea is just awesome! Bamberg is a beautiful city which dates back to AD 902 and is one of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites that we have seen.  What I found most interesting was the information we learned about tanners, which was a huge industry in Bamberg.  Their homes were 3 or 4 stories and were built along the river so they could use the water to clean the hides after tanning and dry them in the upper story of the house where it was warmest.  In the shop windows we saw beautiful leather goods, but because it was Sunday..... all the stores were closed.... so sad.... Saved a lot of money! This afternoon we are traveling to Rothenburg, it must be a long way because we got under way right after lunch but usually we travel at night.

Day 7: Nuremburg

Day 7:  Nuremburg For some of you the name Nuremburg is vaguely familiar.  Especially if you are an old movie buff, this city will ring a bell.  But many will not remember that this city was the site of the Nuremburg trials of the Nazi leaders from WWII. The city still lives in the shadow of their  past.   We saw a building honoring Hitler, which was under construction at the time of WWII but never finished, left as a dump rather than a rallying point for Neo-Nazi groups.  Our guide said that the largest groups they teach at the Nuremburg memorial center are students and military personnel.  The military are requiured to be educated in all parts of military history.  We were taken on a bus tour around the city by a very witty, very knowledgeable, local guide.  We also visited the courtroom used for the trials of the highest ranking prisoners of war.  Our guide said the movie, The Trial at Nuremburg, with Spencer Tracy, is an extremely accurate account of the trial. They played it on the ship last night and it was startling. Today is Mom and Dad's anniversary.  It has been a little tough for Mom, but as you all know, Mom is not a whiner and she never let on.  Another couple was celebrating their anniversary and asked us to sit at their table and share a bottle of champagne. We also toasted Mom and Dad, which was nice.  There was dancing in the lounge this evening and Mom danced with one  of the gentlemen on the ship.  I think that really made her happy.  She came back to the cabin smiling from ear to ear. Everyone on the ship loves Mom.  They all admire her spirit and grit.  They look at her age and say, "wow, If Jeanne can do it, so can I!" This also goes for me!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day 6: Kelheim, Bavaria, Germany/ Baroque Abbey, Beer and a Home-hosted Visit Bavaria is an area of Germany that has great pride in their heritage.  Our bus driver, Patrick, said there is no place else he would rather live.  He said the Pope, when asked what he thought Heaven would be like, responded, "I think it must be like my hometown in Bavaria" and if that was good enough for the Pope, it was just how he felt as well.   Our first stop this morning was at Weltenburg Monastary, where there was an amazing Baroque church which also has the oldest monastery brewery in the world.  They have been brewing beer for 1,000 years and it is really good!!  Nothing like a tankard of beer at 10 a.m., with a pretzel thrown in to soak up all the alchohol!  Next was a ferry ride through an amazing gorge, down the Danube, with about 50 bicyclers headed for Vienna (350 miles away) and a few locals.... beer was also served with this adventure. We did have another stop, but it would take too long to describe it and really, you wouldn't care when I was done. Back to the boat.... more food, lunch, then off to a home visit with a REAL (vs. unreal) German family.  This was lots of fun. Our group was met by a mom and her 20 yr. old daughter.... the dad was at work and the son was avoiding us completely :-). The fun fact about the mom and daughter is that it was the daughter who talked the mother into hosting home visits!  She had a friend whose mom was also doing it and she told her mom she had to do it too.  That was several years ago and now the daughter is in college to be a translator!  We had an hour and a half with the family, which sounded like waaaaaayy too much time on the front end of the visit, but was not enough time in the end.  There are so many interesting things I could say about this family, but I don't want it all to get boring.  I will make a little list about what was great and if anyone cares to hear about something on the list, please let us know..... Garbage cans Gardens Driver's licenses Cars, bicycles and driving year around Generations living in the same house Then we went back to the boat, had cocktails, a review about the upcoming day, dinner and holy cow!! it was 9:00!! Mom and I got into our jammies. She read and went to sleep.  I am writing.  Now  I am done and headed for bed.  Smooches!!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I May Never Wear Pink Again

We got our luggage!! I've never been quite so excited about socks and underwear. Because of no Internet service, we have gotten pretty far behind. The days have been full from morning til night.... walking, buses, meeting people, and lots of delicious meals. I am having trouble getting the pictures uploaded because of my computer. I will keep working on it and will add photos a little later. I will say, everything is lovely, .... the boat, the scenery and the people of each country. So here is a little catching up from the last three days:

 Day3: Wachau Valley / Melk Abbey, Austria
 We cruised up a gorge with passengers sitting on the top deck in the sun, eating ice cream and listening to the tour director tell us about everything we saw. One interesting castle had become the prison for the worst criminals in the area.

Another church had little rabbit sculptures along the roof. The legend was that the snow was so deep one year that the rabbits stayed up on the roof to stay above the snow. When the snow melted, the rabbits were left up on the roof! I love these stories! Melk Abbey was beautiful, but I have to give you the short version because this really reminded me of all the places we (the sisters) visited as here we go... a boys school with 900 boys...none of them there! 30 monks in residence at this time. Lots of churchy gold and an organ concert. Want anymore? I have a brochure I can send you.

Day 4: Linz, Austria/ Mauthausen Concentration Camp/Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

Mauthausen is the only concentration camp I have ever seen. I am sure Mom will write more later about this because she has something else to compare it to. Mauthausen was very different. They did not put people to death, they worked the prisoners to death. It was a camp only for men... men of all different nationalities. Without a common language, they had no way to commiserate, communicate or plan escape.

They mined granite at this camp. This is a picture of the steps the prisoners walked each day down into the mine and back up.  Sometimes the guards would push a prisoner, causing him to fall and other prisoners then fell like dominoes.  They had one suit of clothing, issued on the day they arrived and worn until the day they died unless they could steal someone else's clothes.

Two to four men slept in a regular bunk bed. Incongruities were everywhere. The prisoners played soccer against the guards, but the prisoners also had a soccer team that played outside teams from the area and won the state championship one year. The guards had a swimming pool outside the walls for after work exercise. Prisoners were in charge of prisoners and could kill them with no issue.

This was the only Level Three concentration camp... the only one of its kind. This statue represents a prisoner who was tied to a post during winter and water was dripped on him, one drop at a time, until he turned into a solid block of ice.....

We came back to the ship, had lunch, then went to the Czech Republic! An hour plus ride on the bus, but what a beautiful city! This was a terrific trip for me because I had never been to the Czech Republic before. Czechoslovakia was a country I always respected by the way they earned their freedom.

An unexpected rain shower caused a little creative problem solving on the part of our program directors.  They dashed into the grocery and picked us up some black trash bags, which we were able to design to our own desires.  We were quite the fetching bunch!

After an informative walking tour, we were able to wander on our own. We found an ice cream stand for Mom and a toy store for me! I bought finger puppets that were made in the C.R. and they are adorable. I will post them if I ever get the pictures up! We arrived back at 7:30, had dinner and all went to bed!

Day 5: Regensburg, Germany/ Walking Tour/ Concert by the Regensburg Domspatzen Boy's Choir We were pretty tired after yesterday's adventure and it was nice to have the opportunity to sleep in. Mom woke up at 5am, but she was nice enough to stay busy somewhere else until I could drag myself out of bed at 8:00. We cruised along the river and through the locks until 3:00 when we arrived in Regensburgh. During the day, we had a German lesson including some pretty cute skits, which I also hope to upload. Here is the best part of Regensburg.... we met a lovely couple, Jim and Jane, from Canada. Jim said he had searched every river cruise company in the world for a ship that would be in Regensburg on June 21st. Why? Because he wanted to take his wife, Jane, back to the town where she was born on her birthday and Regensburg was where she had been born and had never been back to since she was a baby. Okay, that is a great story, wouldn't you agree?! So, we came back from our afternoon at 6:00, washed up, went to dinner, then walked back into town for a concert at a beautiful cathedral. The boys choir was actually an acapella men's quartet. They were amazing... Sounded like the church version of Il Divo. Now, I am sorta kinda caught up. I will try to load pictures next, but don't hold your breath, my laptop was stuck in reboot mode. I'll be nice to it and see what happens. I think we'll be able to get on again tomorrow, so stay tuned for an update!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Well, we have had an exciting couple of days!! We got to the airport in plenty of time,thanks to Dick. We had seats opposite each other on the isle. We had free wine... Mom was able to sleep, but I could not. We met so many adorable people. Our favorite people in the "surviving the trip over" category were: .... the 15 month old beautiful, adorable girl that will be building space stations as soon as she reaches her teens. .... the adorable boy from Hungary, who just finished his freshman year at Univ. of Oregon with a scholarship on the tennis team. He was the first person to tell us our luggage probably wasn't going to make it out of Charles de Gaulle... he was sooo right. The people, the food and the accommodations are wonderful and we are having so much fun!! Tomorrow we move on to Melk and maybe we will get our suitcases! :-)

Friday, June 15, 2012

48 hours and counting down!

Patrick drove me down to Hobe Sound today. I weighed my suitcase and discovered it was 15 pounds over the weight limit (you were right Janice Link)!! I then spent the next two hours trying to figure out how to reconfigure my wardrobe for the next two weeks. I whittled and whined, then weighed ... only down 6 lbs! Whittled, whined a lot more and redid my whole idea for evenings....finally I am down to 48 lbs. whew... Mom is also refiguring and repacking. She packs her bag, picks it up and worries because it feels pretty heavy (no it doesn't). Mom gets finished, except for cosmetics, and we weigh her in.... Are you ready? 29lbs. Seriously? I'm going to bed.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Fifteen days to go and I am working on finalizing the clothes and picking out accessories.  I need an intervention!  I can't seem to pare down, instead I added two things...eek!  Everything just seems so necessary.  Do I really need five jackets?  Probably not, sigh, I guess I'm not quite done.