Trip to Germany Part 3
The River Rhine
by Ron Kitson
The Rhine sounds pretty much the same in German but gets spelled Rhein and is one of the most beautiful rivers of the world. It is said to carry more traffic than any other and is one of the most popular destinations for cruise ships.
The Rhein is born of the Swiss Alps, widens into a 220 square mile lake they call the Bodensee, bordered by Germany, Austria and Switzerland. (An English map may show it as Lake Constantine). The area was first settled 8,000 years ago and is today, one of Europe's favorite vacation destinations. The lake is 40 miles long and 8.5 miles at it widest point.
We spent several hours at the Bodensee, near the foothills of the Alps, another holiday paradise that tugs at you when you leave. The region is a haven for tourists and one should plan on spending a week here to truly appreciate its scenery and history. For more information, go to www.livinglakes.org/bodensee or, www.konstanz.de.
Your author a couple of years ago, well, more than a couple I guess, and somewhere in those dark hills lies the Bodensee and beyond them are the barely visible white capped Swiss Alps.
From here, the Rhein shifts to the West to meet up with the French border before wandering Northward nomadically enhancing and nourishing the lush valleys of the Rheinland on it's eight hundred and some odd mile sojourn to the North Sea.
Ports of call may include among others, Basel Switzerland, Strasbourg, France, the ancient German cities of Speyer, Karlsruhe, Mainz/Franfurt, Wiesbaden, Bonn, Köln (Cologne) and Dusseldorf before traversing the Netherlands and emptying into the North Sea.
Also, an elaborate canal system allows ships entry into other famous European waterways including the Moselle, Main, Elbe, the Danube and others. We did not visit Strasbourg but would like to do so another time.
Accommodations in South Germany
near the Austrian Border
While the entire journey offers an unending stream of "eye candy" one of the most picturesque portions lies between Mainz and Bonn where the Rhein meanders among steep mountains dominated by ruins of medieval castles.
Remember the Technik Museum in Speyer? We visited it briefly in "Germany Part 1." According to their website, the city is 2000 years old. It has been over 5000 years since the first farmers settled here and artifacts from the Stone, Bronze and Iron ages attest to it.
Roman soldiers set up camp here around 10 BC which eventually led to the founding of the town. Around 150 AD, the town appears in a Greek world map as Noviomagus as well as in a Roman Empire handbook under the same name in the third century AD.
About 500 AD the town became known as Spira and records from 614 tell of a "Bishop of Speyer." History can be interesting to read about or to see in pictures but ya gotta be there to feel it.
Its cathedral, the huge Speyer Dom, has been around for over 900 years. The foundation stone was laid by Emperor Konrad II in the year 1030. He, along with other members of his dynasty rest in *ewig peace in its crypt.
The cathedral was built without drawings or even much in the way of plans. Rather, the architect would simply draw his thoughts in the sand each morning and the grunts would erect it. To be real certain it would never blow over or get knocked down, all dimensions were tripled producing base walls of stone that are over eight yards thick and tougher to penetrate than those delicious Brötchen or breakfast rolls I was telling you about.
Its two highest spires tower 71.2 meters (almost 230 ft.). The twin spires at the other end reach up 65.6 meters and can all be seen for many kilometers. They stand out in our photo taken from the wing of that Lufthansa 747 at the Museum.
The famous Technik Museum Speyer displays among other things, 70 airplanes, 50 vintage cars, 40 old fire engines and 20 steam locomotives.
Not all from Germany mind you but vintage machines from around the world including an old RCAF Dakota twin prop aircraft I was very familiar with and of course the USAF was well represented. Many of the vintage vehicles are privately owned and completely roadworthy. They are constantly being exchanged for other models so the show keeps changing.
Continuation of Part 3
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