Saturday, September 11, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

One of the many statues in Koblenz

I awoke on September 8, my 65th birthday, moored on the Moselle River at the confluence of the Rhine and the Moselle adjacent to the beautiful city of Koblenz.

Our mornings are quite rushed, since the tours begin promptly at 8:30 a.m. Our cruise director talks about a “German minute" which means prompt, precise, and exact!  So we rush our mornings a bit more than usual so that we are not late.

As we left the boat and walked to meet our tour guide, the church bells were ringing. I hear the lovely sounds of church bells every day. In Koblenz, the bells of the Liebfrauenkirche (Church of our Lady) ring for almost a half hour beginning at 9 a.m. I don’t think you could sleep in if you lived in Koblenz.

We enjoyed a wonderful walking tour of the old city then wandered off by ourselves for about an hour window shopping and taking pictures of the beautiful flowers and buildings. I even found a quilt shop.  I see some of the same manufacturers that we find in the States. This shop also had beautiful wool fabric which is not something that I need in Menifee.

It sprinkled off and on, so DH and I hopped into a café for a coffee and sweet roll. The sweet rolls and desserts seem to have less sugar than the ones in the US. They look, however, so much prettier with the carefully sliced fruit and crumbled toppings. Yum!

Believe it or not, there are two other passengers celebrating a birthday today, Carol and Darryl.

We spent the afternoon cruising through the Rhine Gorge which our cruise director, Andrzej, describes as the loveliest section of the Rhine. There are over 30 castles between Konigswinter and Heidesheim. It was foggy and rainy during part of our trip, but we had wonderful views of many of the castles. They were built on hills overlooking the towns to afford protection. We even passed the hill on which Loreley supposedly sang. Castles on the Rhine -- could there be a more romantic way to spend a birthday afternoon?
Castle on the Rhine (in the fog)

In between the towns, there are large vineyards planted on the hillsides. This area is home to many well known wine varieties: Rieslings, Grauburgunders (Pinot Gris), Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir).

After about two hours, we were through the Gorge and approaching Rudesheim, one of Germany’s best known wine towns. We were treated to a train ride into the city where our group gathered at a local restaurant famous for its special drink. The drink is served in unique china cups shaped somewhat like a womans body. First, you pour a generous amount of brandy into the cup, then you add strong coffee, stir just a bit, and top it off with yummy whipped cream and a dusting of chocolate. It was wonderful! Of course, you can buy a gift pack to take home with two of the cups, the long-handled spoons, and a bottle of the brandy for about 50 euros.

We next walked a block to Siegfried's Museum of Mechanical Instruments. What a surprise! I was prepared for something a bit boring, but I was fascinated with the collection. Siegfried collected a houseful of mechanical instruments from all over the world and renovated them so that they can actually play. There are grammophones, player pianos, glockenspiels, and more.  Just a treasure trove.  In each of the 8 rooms that we visited, our guide played one of the instruments for us.

DH and I walked back along the water to the boat. We sat by ourselves for a quiet birthday dinner. Suddenly, the wait staff came out of the kitchen with a little chocolate cake and a sparkling candle. Happy Birthday to me! We shared the cake with the couples at the next table and then -- another cake and another round of Happy Birthday for a passenger from Canada! And, we later learned, a third passenger with a September 8 birthday was at the optional German dinner in town. No cake for her -- she had to down a bottle of a special wine in one gulp!

We partied for awhile in the lounge with Darryl, the birthday boy, and a group of Canadians traveling together. Boy, they know how to party! Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a flash and saw that a town on the other side of the river was shooting off fireworks! What a nice touch on a very special birthday.

On returning to our room, we found a chilled bottle of champagne waiting for us. What a wonderful birthday!

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