Heather and Gary in Europe - Spring 2014 travel blog

Gary on deck as we arrive at Koblenz.

Marksburg castle viewed from the river valley.

Heather and Gary at Marksburg Castle.

One of the many castles along the middle Rhine towards Miltenberg.

The famous statue of Lorelei (see text).

The crew hard at work lowering all of the railings on the...

The sun shades been lowered (hydraulically).

All structures on the sun deck in their 'lowered' position.

Friday May 9 -- Koblenz; Marksburg Kastle; cruising the Middle Rhine

Heather woke early and decided to go for a walk around the sun deck. She walked a mile in the early morning sun and then went to collect Gary for an early breakfast. By the time we reached the breakfast table, the boat was docking at Koblenz. It was a "sunny with scattered clouds" start to the day.

After breakfast', we joined the other passengers who were scheduled to tour Marksburg castle. We boarded a bus that took us close to the castle and then we walked the last 200 metres to the castle entrance. The castle which was built approximately 700 years ago was never taken by enemies and therefore appears much the same as when it was first built. We had a guide and a tour of the castle lasted over an hour.

We returned from the castle by bus to Braubach, the small village to which our ship had relocated after we had disembarked earlier. We had to wait a while before the Captain was able to dock, but we were soon on board eating lunch. During the afternoon we sailed along the middle Rhine and received a running commentary on the passing towns and castles from our Program Director, Joey.

The first castles we passed were Serrenburg and Leibenstein better known as the Hostile Brothers. Later, we passed the Maus Castle and still later, the Katz Castle while on the other side of the river was the Rhienfels Castle. Rhienfels Castle was once one of the most important castles on the Rhine. We passed the statue of the Lorelei at a narrow gorge. The legend of the Lorelei was born from accounts of the many shipwrecks that were attributed to have been caused by an enchanted maiden who lured sailors onto the rocks which led them to drown. The truth lies in a history of shipwrecks caused by treacherous currents and submerged rocks in the area.

For rest of the afternoon, we sailed by more castles and small towns. On the sunny side of the river were steeply terraced vineyards; mostly for white wines although the area of Assmannshausen is known for its red wines. We continued sailing for the remainder of the afternoon. It was a cloudy and breezy day with occasional bursts of sunshine, and because we were dressed warmly, it was very pleasant to sit on the sun deck watching the scenery.

Towards the early evening, however, we had to vacate the sun deck as the structures on the entire sun deck needed to be dismantled to enable the ship to pass under the low bridges on the river Main and the Main-Danube canal. The ships of the Viking fleet are built to the longest and widest possible dimensions for the European rivers and to a height that can be adjusted when necessary to get under low bridges.

The process of lowering all structures was quite a labour intensive exercise. All of the sun chairs and chaise lounges as well as the deck railings were folded or lowered manually by three crew members. This exercise took about thirty minutes. The large sun shade was lowered hydraulically and took only a few seconds! Everything else on the top deck (tables, umbrellas, etc. needed to be taken down as well. The wheel-house was constructed with a hydraulic scissor jack which enables it to be lowered to deck level each time the height restriction required this. For the next three or four days, the supper level sun deck will not be usable, including the walking track (12.75 times around the sun deck for a mile).

For dinner we again sat with Pat and Larry, Anne and John from Billings, Montana. During our meal, the ship went through our first lock on the Main River. We had a good meal together and after dinner we went to the lounge with a glass of port. The pianist/singer can't really hold a tune and it was a little painful to listen, so we soon returned to our room, stopping for a moment to step out onto the small second floor deck to see that it was raining. The weather forecast for the next few days looks mixed, but the mixed forecast of the past week haven't turned out too bad, so we will hope for the best.

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