Monday, 22 July 2013

Germany & Luxembourg - Countries Seven & Eight!

Sooooo, on to the Rhine. And what a river the Rhine is. Here is Stephen after our first day on the Rhine, his face clearly saying "A beer? Of course I want a beer!"

In this area, the border between Germany and France is the Rhine and on our first night on the river we moored on the German side, in the village of Greffern.

The harbour/marina there is part leisure and part commercial with huge commercial boats calling in to collect aggregate from the adjacent quarry. I like to see the industrial areas beside the rivers and canals; they aren't in any way beautiful, but they are a reminder of the real reason the canals were built and the reason both the rivers and canals are maintained - without the commercial traffic on the larger canals and rivers, it would not be economically viable to maintain them just for the pleasure boats.

The picture immediately below and the one below that give an idea of the scale of the river and the traffic it carries. It is immensely wide and the commercial boats are up to 200m long. The wake they produce is enormous and I really found it quite frightening at times on the river; Stephen prefers to call it "challenging".


Despite the "challenges" the Rhine valley is very, very beautiful. Lots of fairy-tale castles built on rock promontories, beautifully ordered vineyards and immaculately kept towns and villages.

The appearance of the towns and villages is one of the major differences between France and Germany (ignoring the language). As I have written before, France does shabby-chic wonderfully; Germany, not so much. Everything is sanded, painted, swept & weeded. I rather like it, it makes Stephen feel on edge. You can guess who is the messy one in our house.

One evening we moored at a deserted marina with locked gates and no way out on foot. So, Stephen and Emma took to the dingy to explore. I must admit I was rather nervous in case Emma decided to have an impromptu swim or to move around too much in the dingy, but actually, she behaved wonderfully on this occasion and sat still to enjoy the trip.

Koblenz was the furthest into Germany we ventured. It is where the Moselle meets the Rhine, so we were able to take advantage of the fast current going along the Rhine (our top speed: 12.5 knots - 7 knots of our own and 5.5 knots of current) then move onto the Moselle, which is much more gentle for that part of the journey where we had to go against the current.

Koblenz is a very attract city, lots of beautiful buildings, nice open space etc. All very tidy (of course!) but still the chance to see the unexpected:

How often do you see a man running down the road carrying a double bass? Late for a performance? On the run after a music shop heist? We will never know.

Emma found her own way of enjoying herself. Having a sudden rest on a bench followed by dancing in the fountains.

This part of Koblenz she was less interested in, the historic centre. It wasn't clear how much restoration had taken place post-1945 and it seemed rude to ask.

Next, on to Trier and the first stop was the Porta Nigra, or Black Gate. A wonderfully preserved Roman gateway into the city centre.

We opted for the Tourist Train method of seeing the city which, in my opinion, has several plus points:
  1. Emma loves them and will sit still for the whole trip
  2. Emma loves them and will sit still for the whole trip
  3. Emma loves them and will sit still for the whole trip.
'Nuff said.

Below is the rather wonderful Cathedral, part Roman, part not. Sorry, the history of the "not" part escapes me.

I was pleasantly surprised how much of my school German (two years study, 30 years ago) came back to me. And pleased I was able to make use of only two of my three best-remember phrases (apologies of spelling mistakes obvious to any German speakers):
  • Wie com ich ambestern zu ............. (How do I get to the ..........)
  • Zwei bier bitte (two beers, please)
  • Mein bein is gebroken (thankfully, I didn't need this; it means "my leg is broken".)
Then, on to Luxembourg which is country eight for us. To be honest, there was nothing particularly distinctive about it, but (thanks to Wikipedia) I have learned that it is the place with the highest consumption of alcohol per head in Europe. But actually, it's just all sold to the Germans and French just over the border, as the tax is lowest.

Based on my own research, I can tell you they have the highest priced loo-paper in Europe. E4.50 for four tiny rolls! I think not!

But we did pass through Schengen, home of the Schengen Agreement, which is where Germany, France and Luxembourg meet.

So, now we are back in France and heading along through Lorraine. It's very hot, 36c in the shade this afternoon, and I am praying for a thunderstorm and a lot of rain to cool us down.

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