Day 161, 12 December 2012, Nuremberg, Germany. Tour and Christmas Market. We awoke to the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal this morning - which is a huge deal in engineering terms, connecting the three rivers and allowing watercraft to navigate. We actually passed the highest point of the European watershed on the canal overnight - unbelievably we were at 1332 feet / 405 metres above sea level (as measured against the Baltic Sea). The highest point in the world navigable by watercraft. Impressed? We were. Particularly when we learned the bridges over the canal are at 6 m. And the height of the Sound of Music is 5.85 m. Which is why they collapsed all the railings on the sundeck yesterday! 15 cm is not much of a clearance. The other big deal is whilst the Danube was flowing water, the canal isn't - so leetle patches of ice are now floating past us. As the morning progressed the ice got bigger and it wasn't too much of a leap (for me at least) to think we were on an icebreaker and the penguins were just around the corner. We tossed a coin and James stayed in the cabin to pack in peace and I joined the cool folks in the lounge to learn about the system of locks that we have progressed through as we've headed upstream in the Danube all the way to the canal. Essentially a water staircase across Europe. We made excellent time (given the icebergs and invisible penguins) and docked earlier than expected at Eibach, Hafenstrasse - 20 minutes outside of Nuremberg's old town. It was a good opportunity to keep the curtains shut as the outlook was somewhat industrial to say the least - I suppose the view looking in through our windows would have amused the dockworkers though!
Lunch was more of an extravaganza than usual to be honest - a Bavarian feast, including a roast suckling pig complete with apple in his mouth. Starvation was imminent so we did our best and then headed out into the snow for the bus tour. We learned a huge amount from the local guide even whilst suffering location overload (where are we? what day is it? what country is it?) and history overload (Nuremberg.... Nuremberg... rings a bell). It was particularly interesting to stand in Zeppelin field and see the Fuhrer-pulpit where Hitler stood whilst the rallies and marching occurred. The metal standard bearers were in place and historical photos made for a time-warp experience. The sites are preserved not as monuments to the events but more to preserve the history. In fact there are annual rock festivals staged in the field because it's a useful piece of land. The nearby Nazi congress hall was never even used during the war and is now utilised as a warehouse for the Christmas Market stalls during the year. Part of it is even a museum - Dokumentation Zentrum.
We headed to the old town on the bus, via the Castle and soaked up a little more history en route - the city walls and defense towers were historic in the extreme - but the funniest thing is the medieval old town - which is all of 70 odd years old. It's estimated that 91% of the historic quarter was bombed to smithereens in WWII and after long debate it was decided to rebuild it as closely as possible to the original. Quite beautiful. Quite strange. The Christkindl market is considered to be the largest in Europe... we'd have to agree - every time we turned a corner, there were more stalls, more trees and a neverending supply of gluhwein, sausage and christmas baubles - highlights of the main square in Nuremberg include "the beautiful fountain" and the history of the square - now called Hauptmarkt it was called Iron Mike Square immediately after the Americans arrived - for the simple reason no one wanted to have a victory parade in Adolf Hitler Square.... Who'da thunk it. It had been a long day and the bus was cosy on the return to the ship so it was lovely to doze as our guide explained more about German Christmas traditions. One story in particular appealed... Angels arrived as the shepherds tended to their flock and cooked bread. The Angels told them of "Christ just born" - a little of which is captured by the concept of Christkindl. The shepherds left immediately but realised a few days later that they must return to their sheep and that their bread would have been ruined. They got back to their camp to find that the angels had stayed, and tended the bread - using their wings to gently fan the flames. Spices had fallen from their wings and so came gingerbread and it's connection to Christmas. Sweet. Yes?
I rubbed the sleepy angel dust from my eyes when we arrived back at the ship and packed. The captain had advised that if we'd brought dress up clothes and jewels then the Gala Farewell Dinner was the time to bring them out. Sigh... Smile... we did the best we could! Great night. The people on board and the crew have probably ruined us for future cruises - it was all too good. Oh what a dilemma to have.
Off to Prague, Czech Republic tomorrow. Sleep tight.
PS - for the folks back in Australia sweltering in 30 degrees +++, the minimum today was minus 10 degrees - it warmed up to minus 3 degrees during the day (14 degrees F / 26 degrees F).