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  Part 1: The River Rhine Part 3: The Upper Danube Part 4: The Lower Danube  

2018: From Amsterdam to the Black Sea

2. The River Main, and the Main-Danube Canal

Rijksmuseum

You pass this sign as you leave the Rhine for the Main

Leaving the Rhine through a shallow lock, we joined the smaller (and more gently flowing) river Main. Our first stop was Miltenberg, a mediaeval town with a delightful street of original buildings and an amazing hotel, reputedly Germany's oldest, whose modern claim to fame is that Elvis Presley had stayed there. It was very pretty but with few facilities in the old part of the town it survived primarily through its tourist trade, and we noticed that many of the buildings were in very poor condition behind their elaborately maintained facade.

 

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Like most towns in the area, Miltenberg had erected a Maypole
The narrow old main street of Miltenberg
A local artist lives here
Miltenberg's town square
Miltenberg's town square
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The old brewery has a symbol of its function over the door ...
... as does the bakery ...
... as does the hotel ...
 .. and this hotel / restaurant / brewery / beer-cellar

A cold wind drove us rapidly back to the ship, and soon we set sail up the river again. As the ship travelled through the night, we were on deck to witness a close call where we nearly passed the wrong side of a navigational marker; with much bow-thrusting and Hard Astern we just managed to regain the correct course. This and a number of minor service issues led us to feel slightly uneasy about the command of the ship; clearly we were not the only ones, for next day the captain was summarily replaced.  Immediately the ship's navigation, the staff service, and the quality of the meals, all improved dramatically. The new captain was very approachable (unlike the previous one who had apparently pretended not to speak English so that he wouldn't be pestered by the passengers) and we held a number of interesting conversations about steering and navigation techniques.

Our next port of call was Wurzburg, where we were treated to a fabulous tour of the stunningly beautiful Residence Palace, followed by a wine-tasting in their cellars. Strangely we liked their cheapest wine most of all, finding the others rather too sweet for our tastes; of course we had to test several glasses of each to be certain! Wurzburg is in the area of Frankenrech, which means Land of the Free; our guide explained that the inhabitants interpret this as meaning that they should always speak their mind freely; certainly everyone we spoke to was very outgoing with a wonderful sense of humour.

 

Wurzburg Residence Palace

The amazing Residence Palace at Wurzburg
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In the Palace wine cellars
In the Palace wine cellars
Spooky sculptures over the door of the Bishop's Palace
Spooky wall friezes on the Bishop's Palace
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Sculptures in Wurzburg
The architect was so fed up with all the regulations that he had to meet, that he included this sculpture of a man "tied up with red tape"
Leaving Wurzburg involves passing through a lock ...
... and passing under a very low bridge

Back on the Rhine the ship had struggled to keep to its schedule because the river was flowing very quickly, and we had hoped that the slower-flowing Main would allow us to catch up some time, but this was not to be because the river had only recently re-opened after some mild flooding and priority was being given to commercial vessels so that they could all get through before the level dropped too much. Several times we had to pull over and wait in the shallows to let a commercial barge come past; then of course we had to wait at the locks while they went ahead and then wait again until a ship came the other way to use the lock because the lock-keepers would not waste water by turning an empty lock around for us. As a result we waited nearly 2 hours at each lock, and were soon well behind schedule, but we counted ourselves lucky because the Rhine and Main were both fully navigable for us, and the Danube was reportedly at a good level too; this balance is quite rare, and most people whom we know to have travelled these rivers have reported that their cruise had been seriously curtailed by the river conditions where it was too shallow to navigate, or too high to pass under the bridges, or too fast-flowing for safe travel, etc.

Because we were several hours behind schedule, arrangements were made for us to leave the ship at an impromptu mooring point where coaches could take us ahead to Bamberg and let the ship catch us up during the afternoon. We had a lovely time in Bamberg, although the Palace was rather disappointing after the one at Wurzberg, but to our Tour Director's dismay the ship had been further delayed and was still travelling up the river as we concluded our tour of the town. She rose magnificently to the occasion and immediately arranged tea, cakes, and beer to be provided for all 150 of us at a couple of local cafes; then as the ship was further delayed she somehow found a hotel that could accommodate us all for dinner after an additional short walking tour. Once we had finished our dinner the ship arrived - 9 hours late - and we immediately embarked. Amazingly, several passengers immediately went to the dining room for a second dinner, saying that they had paid for it so they were determined to eat it somehow.; we, on the other hand, retired straight to the ship's bar.

 

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The Town Hall at Bamberg stands in the middle of the bridge over the River Main
The exterior of the Town Hall is beautifully painted
The exterior of the Town Hall is beautifully painted
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This grand building is painted in a glorious blue; it looked to us like a Wedgwood ornament
The ancient balconies of the annex to the Bamberg Residence
This wall painting depicts a favourite sport of Bamberg, jousting from a punt!

The next day was spent at the infamous town of Nuremberg. Since a certain Herr Hitler decided that he liked the place, and turned its old airfield (the Zeppelin Field) into a venue for his iconic rally, everybody's perception of the town became irrevocably changed. Herr Hitler had such great plans for the town: he built a stadium which he intended to use for every Olympic Games from 1940 onwards, he transformed the transport links to the town, especially the railway, to accommodate thousands of travellers, and of course he built the rally area which is even now utterly and frighteningly awe-inspiring

 

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Nuremberg: the huge stadium, on the 'Zeppelin Field', where Adolf Hitler held his famous rallies.
Hitler also built an Olympic sports stadium at Nuremberg

We also visited the court house, venue for the famous War Trials, before seeing the rest of the town; the old town was magnificent, with its Mediaeval Castle and its beautiful Market Square where we browsed the stalls and bought some wonderful items including some wonderful mixed herbs to take home and some delicious gingerbread to enjoy on the ship.

 

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Old Nuremberg has an impressive castle; the coat of arms on the door is iconic of Bavaria
Wonderful buildings in old Nuremberg; artist Albrecht Durer was born in the far cottage
The impressive Gothic facade of the 14th century church dominates the Market Square
It is supposedly lucky to touch the gold ring on the railings of the gilded fountain in the Market Square. Debbie was only just tall enough!

Leaving Nuremberg we were again immediately hit by a 2-hour delay to give priority through the lock to a commercial vessel that we had followed the day before. We had travelled through the night to get ahead while he was moored up; but he had caught us up during the morning and now was ahead of us again. The lock, like all those on the Main, was huge, being a couple of feet wider than our ship but at 980 feet they were at least twice as long with the capacity to take a motorised barge and its unpowered butty end-to-end

We were supposed to moor at Regensburg, the first town on the Danube, the next morning. However we were so far behind schedule that once again an impromptu mooring was arranged on a small jetty where coaches could collect us and take us to Regensburg while the ship caught up with us. This impromptu mooring was at Kelheim below the amazing Hall of Independence (the Befreiungshalle) which was constructed to commemorate the victory over Napoleon in 1814.

 

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A pair of barges on the Main; the motorised barge here is pushing an un-powered one
The locks are incredibly long to take the pairs of barges
We moored at the 'Befreiungshalle' at Kelheim; it looked like a giant wedding cake!
A crew member often had to be winched aboard after the gang-plank had been taken up
Later (on the Danube) we passed this amazing replica of the Greek Parthenon

Regensburg is a very pretty town with a beautiful bridge across the Danube. Legend has it that the townspeople struck a deal with the Devil that if he helped them complete the bridge they would let him take the souls of those two who first crossed the bridge. The people outwitted the Devil after the bridge was completed, by sending two cows across before any person set foot on it; so the Devil got only the souls of two cows - and the bridge still stands.

Regensburg is a beautiful old town, dating right back to the Stone Age and Roman times, whose Mediaeval buildings remain largely intact to this day; it has been a peaceful free-trade town for most of its history, and it was hardly bombed at all during World War II. We enjoyed walking around its ancient streets, and after enjoying a coffee in the market square we also took a diversion to the rooftop of a department store that gave a great view across the rooftops.

 

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The 12th century bridge at Regensburg
The 12th century bridge at Regensburg
A giant wall painting on Goliath Street
The rooftops of Regensburg
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This master hat-makers famously made the Mad Hatter's hat for Johnny Depp in the remake of Alice in Wonderland
A locksmiths, would you believe?
The 13th century Regensburg Cathedral
Yet another eagle stands guard over Regensburg Market Square

The navigation by-passes the town along a short canal, and it was here that the ship caught up with us. About one-third of the passengers left us at this point, to take a coach to Munich and fly home, while we travelled non-stop to Vienna where another group of passengers would take their place.

 

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The beautiful old abbey at Melk; to us it seemed to have been over-restored as a museum

We actually sailed straight past the ancient abbey at Melk, in order to arrive at Vienna on time, but then while some of the passengers got ready for their visit to the Opera House in Vienna (which we declined because it was very expensive and we are not that keen on Opera) we instead took a coach back to Melk to see the Abbey. It was beautiful, and their Library was extremely impressive, but it has been so stylised as a tourist museum that it has lost all its character so we were not impressed by its charms.

And so we were ready to explore Vienna before sailing down the Danube ...

 

Melk

Debbie admires the view from Melk Abbey

 

  Part 1: The River Rhine Part 3: The Upper Danube Part 4: The Lower Danube  
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