5 Years of Blogging
I almost missed this anniversary. I started my blog back in May 2005, so that makes it five years of blogging, and a number of photos I didn't even count. I've met online friends through this blog (some I even met in real life), and photographing - something I always liked doing - is even more fun when I know I can share the pictures with my readers.
I hope I'll be around for the next five years with more interesting posts about the Romans, Mediaeval emperors, old castles, and beautiful cathedrals. And I hope you'll stay with me, because readers are the ones who bring a blog to life. Thank you for that.
Found this particularly haughty looking lion outside the Romanesque church in Boppard. I don't know how old the statue is, but he really amused me.
A note about Followers: I don't use the widget showing the followers that many bloggers display in the sidebar because it doesn't work under Classic templates. But I can see who's following my blog on the dashboard. I for my part follow (= read regularly) all the blogs I've listed on my sidebar.
A Rainy Rhine Cruise
The Rhine between Koblenz (the ancient Confluentes, where the Moselle confluences into the Rhine) and Mainz (where the Main river joins up with his big brother) is considered the most scenic. Because of the mountains, the river could not be straightened like it was done in other places to make naval transport easier; only some of the riffs and sandbanks that made travel on this part of the Rhine dangerous in Roman and Medieaval times have been eliminated, albeit the sandbanks are an ongoing problem that has to be dealt with regularly.
One of the cruise ships
There are a number of cruise ships that travel this part of the Rhine. I picked one from Boppard somewhat upriver of Koblenz to Bingen near Mainz; a trip that took four hours (it's some 25 minutes by train). The fleet is called Köln-Düsseldorfer which is a bit of a joke, because the towns of Köln and Düsseldorf (both further north) are old rivals. There were not many people onboard due to the bad weather.
Boppard is a pretty little town like so many along that part of the river - there's no space to develop into big, ugly cities. Most of them have a long history dating back to Medieaval or Roman times and some, like Boppard, are even older.
There's a bit of sunshine, but you can see the dark clouds ominously gathering over the mountains.
Dark waters and dark sky
It didn't take long for the rain to pour down, and it more or less stalked us - I suppose bad weather uses river valleys as highways. Photographing became a challenge because of the light, or lack thereof, and the rain that made the pics blurry. It can be a veil indeed. The few tourists on the upper deck vanished downstairs, but I ordered a hot tea and held out until St.Goar to take photos. But it was too cold to stay outside the entire 4 hours, so during the later part of the journey I only went up for special sights.
A meandering river
In former times, the Rhine meandered like that from its origins in Switzerland to the North Sea; it's the Rhine the Romans knew. Today it has been straightened where possible, leaving old bends as lakes in some places (the Altrheinarme
), while they were filled up in others. Part of the flood problems is caused by those changes.
A cargo vessel
The Rhine is an important shipping route and the transport ships are long, unwieldy things with houses at one end where the shipper and his family live. Complete with curtains and potted plants in the windows, and a car parking on the upper deck.
Amnis viridissime ripas
When the sky lit up a bit one could see how green those mountains are, covered with woods and vineyards. A 'river of the greenest shores' indeed, even though Ausonius said that about the Moselle. I remembered his poem
I came to know when I visited Trier at the Moselle back in 2006.
I wonder if any Roman ever waxed poetic about the Rhine. It was mostly a frontier for them, and an unruly one at that.
Shoals and currents
I mentioned that the most dangerous rocks have been blasted and currents diverted, like the (in)famous Binger Loch
, but there are still a few left outside the fairway. I would not recommend to cross the Rhine by swimming, and not only because of all the ships. There are whirls that can suck you in and you'll find yourself on the ground, playing with the Daughters of the Rhine to Wagner's music.
A glimpse of sunshine
That's how the tour may look on sunny days. Though there's a flip side to it; I'm sure the ship would have been full of tourists.
The mountains along the Rhine are littered with castles; some genuinely old ones, but most of them have been altered in the 18th and 19th centuries, and a few even built only then. They look more like Victorian (now with Extra! turrets and oriels) versions than Medieaval German castles. But I took a series of photos from the ship, so there will be a castle post.
The bend in the river here was one of the dangerous spots of old. And not only that; there sat a beautiful maid on the top of that mountain, combing her long, blond hair and singing enticing songs, so the sailors would only look up to her and not care about the right course, and they'd end up in the currents and whorls and drown together with their boats. The maid is called Lorelei and can still be spotted sometimes today. Though obviously not during bad weather. There's a song about the legend that was played on the ship as it passed. Safely.
A paddle steamer
Most of the ships of the fleets that offer Rhine cruises are modern, but there are also more nostalgic ones around, like this paddle steamer. Not quite the Mississippi tour, but still nice. Some of the larger ships offer cabins for a longer journey, including a luxury variant with lots of gold, mahoganny, and velvet.
Another transport barge
I didn't catch the entire barge, there are some metres missing at the bow. Except for the cabin part, they are very low profile though sometimes the cargo is higher than the railing, with the covers remaining open.
Another cruise ship
Another of the cruise ships going downstream. In the background is one of the many castles along the Rhine, Ehrenfels, framed by vineyards. There's even a bit of blue sky. In a way, it's the archetypical Rhine picture.
Some Things I Found on the Way
Here's the usual teaser post with some first impressions from my Rhine tour. The sky is grey on most of them because the weather tried its best to fulfill all clichés the Romans had about Germany - wet, cold, dark, and full of trees (yes, the latter belong to the weather because they throw branches at Romans, *grin*).
-- Reconstructed Roman buildings
Harbour Temple, Archaeological Park Xanten
The Archaeological Park Xanten (APX), with a number of completely or partly reconstructed buildings of the Roman town Colonia Ulpia Traiana is definitely worth a visit. Judging from some photos I had seen I suspected it might be a bit like a Roman Disneyland, but it's not like that at all, but a genuine glimpse into a Roman town with spotlights onto some chosen buildings.
-- Remains of Roman buildings:Römersteine, Mainz
(Roman Stones) are the real thing: remains of a row of pillars that once supported the aquaeduct delivering fresh water to the town of Moguntiacum. The outer layer of smothely hewn stones has found its way into other buildings centuries ago, but the inner part made of opus cementitium
, the Roman concrete mixed with stones or sometimes pottery shards, has survived until today. Something you can't say about most modern concrete.
-- Bling:Golden horse figure, 5-6th century, APX Museum Xanten
There's a new museum in the APX (opened last year, in time for the Varus Battle Anniversary) which has an interestingly presented display of all things Roman. Besides the Roman bling (and other Roman finds) I also discovered some Celtic and Merovingian shinies in other museums.
-- Churches and cathedrals:St.Martin Cathedral, Mainz
The Rineland has a good number of old churches. Often the later Romans introduced Christianity into the area and built the first churches. Larger places like Xanten or Mainz would soon develop into religious centres and erect churches to match their importance. Most of them have been rebuilt on the foundations of older chapels, enlarged and altered over time, but you can still find some genuine Romansque and Gothic cathedrals. And even smaller towns often have pretty, old churches.
-- Rain at the Rhine:Cruise ship on the Rhine
Rain showers at the Rhine can compete with the Scottish ones any day. I stayed on the upper deck nevertheless - fortunately part of it had a roof though no protections on the sides. I suspect it was that day that gave me the nasty cold, and I could blame my readers and their greed for photos, but I'll be honest and blame myself for not bringing the warmer jacket. When the sun came out - which she surprisingly did a few times - it was quite warm, though.