The Fragrance and the Leg
First port of call and included excursion was Cologne and the picture postcard view of Cologne is the twin towered Cathedral. After a fire in 1248 work started to build a bigger and better Cathedral to rival Reims and Amiens. Work was finally completed in 1880 (over 600 years and Linda says I’m slow) and at that time it was the tallest building in the world at 157m. It also has the distinction of being one of the small percentage of buildings not completely destroyed during Allied bombing during WWII. Cologne is also the home of Eau de Cologne (water of Cologne), so although the city didn’t smell bad, I expected a more fragment bouquet. A gay parade added spice to our visit, cut short by a thunderstorm which meant we arrived back at Impression like drowned rats. I couldn’t understand the receptionist’s reluctance to give me a welcome back hug.
That evening we took the option of a Bistro tasting evening, giving us a multitude of small tasters and wine from the Rhine, Main and Moselle Regions. The chef surpassed himself on this one and our taste buds were on sensory overload in the best possible way.
Cruising one of the most picturesque parts of the Rhine the following morning was narrated by Robert (Cruise Director) revealing the stories behind the multitude of castles, churches, towns and vineyards along the banks. This includes mock castles and churches built at the entrance to tunnels to fool allied bombers and the legend of Loreley. Her statue on the rocks marks where her ghost would sing and lure ships and sailors to perish on the rocks, all because she was jilted by the Prince. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
After sampling a nice Riesling at the Bistro evening, as if by magic, we arrive at Rüdesheim with vineyards producing this very wine. The real attraction though was the Museum of Musical Mechanical Instruments in the 16th Century Brömserhof. An amazing selection of working instruments driven by punched tape and the like, a really interesting excursion (see video below).
Before our trip out to explore Miltenberg’s 15th Century half timbered houses, we were treated to an on board Zither concert by Tomy Temerson. It looks an incredibly difficult instrument to play but his mastery of it was delightful. His repertoire included his own composition Ambulanz Polka, which is exactly what they would have had to call for me if I’d have tried to get my fingers in those positions.
Franconian splendour greets us the following morning for our trip to the Residenz in Würzburg. This (rebuilt) lavish palace of the 1700s was built to show the wealth and power of the Prince-Bishop of the time. Despite the opulence of some of the rooms, particularly the gold and mirror room, the highlight was undoubtedly the largest ceiling fresco in the world above the staircase. A masterpiece by Tiepolo and his sons, it depicts the four known continents of the world at that time, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas, much to the disgust of the Australians in our group. The Cathedral (Dom) and the Main bridge, with its sandstone statues of Bishops etc. were well worth a visit. There was always a warm welcome back to the ship, with moist towels a drink and a cheery smile, non more so than from the superbly efficient ladies at reception Irena and Frances. I seem to have lost my Silvertraveladvisor bag to their charms (see picture).
Impression has a lovely sun deck with plenty of tables, chairs and loungers, many of which are under canopies to provide shade. There is also a small whirlpool on this deck. Unfortunately because of the low bridges it is closed for safety reasons for a few days on this route.
Arriving at Bamberg you immediately think of spark plugs, Levi Jeans and Messerschmitts, no you don’t really, but we found that each has its place in the city’s history. For instance Bosch make 1 million spark plugs a day nearby. More likely you think of its UNESCO World Heritage status because it escaped relatively unscathed from WWII (at least from an architectural perspective) and contains beautiful examples of everything from 12th century Romanesque buildings onwards. It’s a great place just to explore on foot admiring the various styles and murals (especially the one with the leg sticking out of the wall). We wouldn’t have wanted to miss a visit to the Dom either, the Bamberg rider (1225) and the imperial tomb being part of the highlights. As with much of this journey so far the beauty of narrow cobblestone streets, is normally accompanied by hills and many steps to fully enjoy the attractions on offer. Realistically this isn’t a trip that can be fully enjoyed if you have anything more than middling mobility issues, however, it’s worth checking with Avalon if you have any doubts to ensure your own personal circumstances can be catered for.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Avalon Waterways