Over the next several posts, I will share bits of this trip. In addition to being a much welcome break from the stresses and physical exertions of helping my dad and step-mom close out their retirement cottage and move into a sheltered care apartment, this trip appealed to an historic curiosity I had. More on that in just a bit.
Amsterdam is one city we have visited several times. Its reputation for tolerance is well-deserved. You quickly learn, for example, that a coffee shop does not JUST sell coffee. This history of tolerance gives Amsterdam a special place in our families' histories. Both my husband and I come from families whose ancestors left Europe--specifically Switzerland and Germany--centuries ago. They were Anabaptists, people whose beliefs clashed with both Catholic and Protestant reformers. They were persecuted by both sides, and were sometimes killed for their beliefs. Consequently, they fled their birth countries, traveled UP the Rhine River (which flows into the North Sea) and landed in Amsterdam. Just as with the so-called Pilgrims from England, they stayed in Amsterdam for a time before making their way to the New World in America.
Even today, the Rhine River is a superhighway. We saw many other ships, mostly hauling cargo. These ships costs millions, so few individuals can own their own ship. Instead, those who operate the ships are under contract with larger companies. Many families live on their ships. We saw most ships with one or two cars on the back--transportation for when in port. Ships have living quarters as part of their construction, and even had play yards, all glassed in. Several times, we saw children playing on board--talk about going along with dad or mom to work.
In the course of our trip--from Amsterdam to Vienna--we went through 66 different locks. The tallest of these locks were some 80 to 90 feet high. Sailing west to east, we first went through locks that slowly increased our elevation. We eventually crossed the continental divide of Europe, at which point the rivers flowed into the Black Sea.
On our second full day of sailing, we sailed along the Rhine River Gorge. This is the most picturesque portion of the Rhine River, complete with tunnel entrances disguised as castles, as well as REAL castles. The story on the tunnel entrances had to do with bombing during World War II. Allied bombers tried not to bomb any ancient buildings intentionally. Rail travel was so vital to the German war effort; consequently, the German High Command ordered tunnel entrances disguised as castles. Apparently that Allied resolve did not always hold--think of the leveling of the city of Dresden.
The other constant scenery along the Rhine were vineyards. Rows and rows of grape vines. Our trip was early in the spring, so the greenery was just beginning to sprout.
We had daily stops along the way, and as you journey with me, I will show you some of the enchanting little towns and villages we visited.
All aboard for the rest of the journey--cruising down a river.
P.S. this post is my 601st--so I have now passed the 600 mark.