|Wednesday, June 19
In the morning we visited Strasbourg. On the way into town, we went through an area where many storks nest on the rooftops.
We also passed the building that houses the EU parliament. It is designed to resemble the coliseum in Rome, complete with broken top.
Here we did go into the cathedral. Very impressive! It is like Notre Dame in Paris (before the fire). Except it only has one spire--they never finished the other one.
Inside there is an astronomical clock built in the fifteenth century--it allowed them to predict the dates of Easter, etc., years in advance. Also, it has movable figures that advance every quarter hour.
Strasbourg is a city that has changed hands between Germany and France many times. The region is called Alsace. Apparently someone born at the right time (or the wrong time) in the 1800s could have changed (or had to change) nationalities 5 times during their life without ever moving. Sometimes this also meant changing religion between Protestant and Catholic during those times when the religion of the prince determined his subjects' religion.
The result is a mix of German and French architecture, as well as Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance. Our guide pointed out all of these differences; I remember some. We had a short amount of free time before going back to the ship. I bought a French fleur-de-lis pin for my hat. Then we managed to switch to the "leisure" group, which took taxis back to the ship, instead of walking back to the buses. :-)
After lunch, Larry took an excursion to the Mercedes-Benz factory. L: Talk about social status as a selling strategy . . . I didn't know that Mercedes also sold children's bikes, and kiddy cars, and perfume -- all with the Mercedes logo prominently displayed. I could only take pictures in the "sales shop," which was a bit of a disappointment. The "sales shop" was where buyers showed up to take delivery of their custom ordered vehicles, and to get a personalized introduction to their new rides. If I remember the numbers correctly, up to 40% of the 300,000 vehicles produced in a year are personally transferred at the "sales shop." There was also a classic Mercedes and an F1 race car, among other things on display. The F1 racer was extremely impressive. It wasn't gassed up so I couldn't drive it -- and I'm not familiar with movable ailerons anyway.
I did get a bit of a tour of the Mercedes factory. No pictures, but in retrospect I don't know what I would have photographed. Maybe the best way to describe it would be as solving an automated jigsaw puzzle using robots with human helpers -- over and over again. The pieces show up, are stuck together in predetermined places in a predetermined order, and -- 'magic' -- a car is born. After the tour and as a result of my observations of the assembly line, I asked our tour guide what percentage of the work force was female. She said, after some hesitation: "About 10%." :-(
S: I went on an excursion for Alsatian wine tasting. We rode on a bus through several small towns.
We visited the owner of a small vineyard and wine-making operation. He is a little eccentric, perhaps. He explained how to learn the nature of a wine, the fruitiness, sweetness (not the same), acidity, etc. We tasted 4 wines while he discussed them, then had an opportunity to purchase some. For him, the soil is the most important factor in the nature of the wine--the type of rock, the minerals, etc. It was interesting, but I guess an hour is not enough time for me to learn all of this. I had a hard time detecting the differences in some of the wines. These were all white wines.
After our return, there was a talk about disembarkation procedures as well as tomorrow's excursions. We are skipping the morning "extra" excursions into Colmar, but we will take the Black Forest excursion in the afternoon.
Dinner was a buffet of traditional German foods. Interesting.