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Xmas on the Rhine: Koblenz

Just before the heavens opened up . . . .

Just before the heavens opened up . . . .

From our riverboat, now docked on the Mosel River, we ventured out on a dark and dreary morning to see the sights of Koblenz. Any city more than 2,000 years old has a lot of history to cover and we just scratched the surface with our guide who conducted a brief tour concentrating on giving us a quick overview of how the city developed. She also showed us the core of the city, founded by the Romans. Most of Koblenz has been beautifully reconstructed since WWII, much of it since the mid-80s. They have very successfully mixed old and new with reconstructed and managed not to lose the threads of their interesting history.

I loved the whimsy of the city – including the Napoleonic-era Schangelbrunnen, “The Spitting Boy” mascot who statue adorns a local fountain (and whose likeness is on the manhole covers). Another favorite was the comical face on the clock in the main square, whose eyes move constantly back & forth and whose tongue sticks out, four times a day, to mark the time.

We saw the small Christmas markets scattered around town, but did not get to linger since the rain began to come down really hard. They need the rain desperately in this region, so it really doesn’t seem justified to complain too much. We did get to see Koblenz’s large Christmas “pyramid” constructed of wood, fan blades and lights. Another Koblenz Xmas tradition is to open the windows of a local government building on the main square – one each day of Advent – today is day 2.

Even in the rain it was a really charming experience.

After lunch on board the S.S. Antoinette, we sailed on a smaller ship down the Rhine to St. Goar to see . We saw the castles of Marksburg, Stolzenfels, Sterrenburg & Liebenstein, Rheinfels and Maus & ‘Katz’. At the cliffs of Lorelei the captain played the sailor’s ballad lamenting the siren’s call to destruction on the rocky shores.  on a week like this, the sailors would have no trouble seeing even the gravel, not just rocks on the shores of the Rhine.

Castles in the rain.

Castles in the rain.

While we were on the Rhine, our ship repositioned to Boppard the better to avoid the Koblenz evacuation and bomb disarmament scheduled for this weekend. We did get to see the area where the 1.8 ton bomb, and its smaller companions, are buried in the shallow water and mud.

Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.  What a Blast!

On the Uniworld S.S. Antoinette

Carollers at the Alter Market entrance.

Carollers at the Alter Market entrance.

I’m sitting by myself – listening to the most wonderful pianist play Christmas music . . . it’s like I have a private performance. Even though Uniworld is a British company (owned by South Africans), I feel like I’m in a salon at Versailles; we have boarded the beautiful S.S. Antoinette riverboat for our adventure along the Rhine. While Mom is having a little reading and resting time, I’m taking care of business trying to get us organized and check in with my emails.

The ship is fully decorated for Christmas – all in a white/snow glittery theme – it’s lovely and somehow very tranquil.

While I’m on the topic of decorations let me explain how they do things here . . . there are dozens of healthy looking evergreens pretty much everywhere you look. Of course, trees are in the Christmas Markets, but also around every corner and placed up against the multitude of construction barricades around downtown. Lights are white and used much more sparingly than we do in the USA. Ornaments generally are a single color and large with colors of choice being red, blue, silver or gold. It’s a beautiful effect.

We’ve had another sunny, beautiful day, but with the angle of the European winter sun you find yourself generally in the shade. The temps are in the 40s during daylight, 30s at night. It’s completely dark here by 5pm. Of course, the better to see the Christmas lights!

We got two more Christmas markets under our belts today – the Neumarkt (also known as the Angel Market) and the Rudolfplatz (aka Fairytale Market). Although named the Neumarkt, this is actually cologne’s oldest market launched in the 70s, and features really beautiful decorations on the top of each stall and lots of lights and stars in the huge trees. As with the other markets we’ve seen, there is a huge focus on food and there seems to be lots of locals taking advantage of the culinary opportunities. Even though these markets attract tourists, it’s all very German and most of the visitors seem to be German. I have made one significant discovery – I do NOT like the Gluhwein – in fact, I find it a little nauseating. Heat up and spice your next glass of red wine and see what you think. I do love the cute little mugs, however.

We had a lovely walk to the Rudolfplatz through an attractive, high-end shopping area on Mittelstrasse, but the market itself was very disappointing. It was a much smaller market and even seemed a little seedy compared to the others.

Knowing us, you will have guessed that to fortify ourselves for all these new experiences, we began the day at a wonderful bakery/coffee shop . . . then off to catch the cute “Christmas Market Express” train that gets you to the main markets efficiently. Roundtrip tickets were €7, and one way tickets are €4. The little yellow cars are enclosed and keep you warm while listening to Xmas music. Our route took us down by the Rhine, past the Chocolate Museum and Cologne’s newest market: the Harbour (sometimes called Port) Market.

Our hotel graciously extended out check-out time until 2pm, making it really easy for us to have a leisurely market experience, get back, reorganize and take a cab over to our ship. It was a good thing I called to double-check the ship location, because it was not where I had been told.

Of course, we had to have a light lunch right after we boarded . . . .

We spent the rest of the day learning about our ship, how the crew has planned to deal with the low water situation (good news – I think they have everything beautifully worked out), making new friends and enjoying a lovely dinner. Since this is one of the only riverships with an actual swimming pool, one way they have made our ship lighter in order to navigate the lower water levels, is to empty the pool. The Captain joked that if we had to evacuate the ship while sailing, we would be able to just walk off. In any case, we will still be changing ships in four days.

Gute Nacht.