Having ones cake and eating it tooOctober 1, 2019 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C
We'd been told by the excellent Cheri, our Tour Director, that we'd be getting into the main part of the Rhine gorge overnight and that we'd be in an area of castles from about 4.30am. No castle is worth getting up that early for, but in a heroic act we set the alarm for 6.30am. Looking out the cabin window everything was still pitch black, so whatever we missed, we would have missed anyway.
We headed up to the top deck at about 7.30 and joined a few hardy souls who were already there and madly taking photos. No question, there was plenty to see, with many photogenic little riverside towns, impressive church towers and, yes, quite a number of castles. Our GPS-driven audio guide would tell us what was coming up, which was very helpful. Brian managed to get quite a few (hopefully) good photos. We shall see.
The only slight downside was the weather. There was a cold wind blowing, and even though we were well rugged up it was a bit of an act of endurance. After a couple of hours, having viewed the famous Lorelei, we retreated to the lounge to watch the changing view from there. Every so often, when there was an interesting sounding alert on his audio guide, Brian would head upstairs to get some more pictures..
We were headed for the town of Rudesheim, where we'd been given the choice of two alternative shore activities. We could visit the museum of mechanical musical instruments or we could take a ride in a semi-enclosed gondola to the summit of the hill overlooking Rudesheim.
As the weather was so unpredictable we had opted for the former, even though Brian was cynically expecting it to be little more than a rather kitsch tourist trap. How wrong he was! It was absolutely amazing and we'd love to have spent a lot longer than the allocated 40 minutes there.
The museum has been in the hands of the one family for three generations and they have a true passion for collecting and restoring these ingenious machines. Most of them date back to the early years of last century and many are in good working order. Some of the more elaborate ones are up to 2.5 metres tall by about 2m wide and incorporate various instruments - piano, multiple violins, pipe organ, drums and so on. They contain the most ingenious mechanisms which are governed by perforated paper rolls similar to pianola rolls. The working models were able to play instantly recognisable versions of very well-known musical pieces.
We'd been told that we would have enough time if we so wished to buy our own tickets and take the gondola ride. At that stage the weather had cleared a bit so we strolled the 50 metres or so and bought our tickets. It really is a highly scenic and enjoyable ride to the top. We travelled the whole way above vineyards, the Rhine Valley being famous for its wines. The views on the way up and from the summit are really great. One looks over the very picturesque town and beyond it to the river. There is also a giant memorial at the top, built in 1877 to commemorate Germany's victory in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870.
Rudesheim is a beautiful town. While it is undoubtedly busy during the tourist season, we were fortunate enough to be there when it was very quiet. While doubtful at first we were pleased to have enjoyed both of the available tour options and so, to have had our cake and eaten it too.
Having dined in a palace with a real live princess the previous night it would have been too much of a shock for us to go straight back to dining with the hoi polloi in the main restaurant the following night. Fortunately we had a way out of that difficult situation. The ship also has a gourmet restaurant, named Chef's Table , seating up to 24 guests. Anyone can book it at no extra cost, the only stipulation being that one can book it no more than twice on a voyage. We'd already booked it a couple of days previously for 1st October, so that worked out rather well. Our table of nine had some real characters and was rather riotous, particularly after a few glasses of the free-flowing wine had been consumed. As one might expect, the six-course meal was superb.
As we were leaving the restaurant a quiz night was just starting in the main lounge, so we decided to join them. We won, the prize being a box of chocolates which none of us really needed. On the strength of our quiz success and of having got on so well together we made a block booking for the Chef's Table for 6 October. A great day all round.Read more