Rhine and Rhone Cruise Part Four

Day 14 (Thursday)  – The Ardache

The next morning found our boat moored in the town of Tournon-sur-Rhone.  We began the day by hiking up the side of a mountain to see some ruins before our first excursion.

Ruins of a tower overlooking Tournon-sur-Rhone that we saw during our morning hike. Note the statue of Mary on top.

The Ardache, in which Turnon-sur-Rhone is located in a traditionally impoverished part of France.  The cruise director downplayed the area during the previous evening’s port talk, but I found the town nice and quite picturesque.  When we got into the country during our excursion, the region had a bit of an Appalachian feel.

Tournon-sur-Rhone from up the side of the mountain.
The statue of Marc Seguin in town commemorates the inventor of the suspension bridge and advances in steam locomotive design.

Our morning excursion featured a steam locomotive ride through rural Ardache.    Duncan, Betty, Candy, and I went on this excursion while JJ and Karen went on a hike through a vineyard.

Betty and Duncan on the open-sided carriages of the train.
Supposedly the oldest bridge in the area (or France?) (or the Universe?) (I don’t remember.)
The structure to the right of this image is an aqueduct. It collects the rainwater washing down the flint and slate mountains, and directs it through the valley to the hydroelectric dam.
A view of the train as we rounded a bend.

The afternoon was spent sailing down the Rhone until we reached the small town of Viviers.  Viviers was founded in the 5th century.  It was a former Roman settlement that became a Bishop’s seat—centuries of conflict required the town to be fortified.  The Renaissance was a more stable period and wealth—many buildings in town date back to Middle Ages.  The commanding feature of the town is St. Vincent Cathedral.

The motley crew at lunch on the Viking Hermod.  (Duncan, Candy, JJ, Karen, Robert Redford, and Betty.)

During the morning excursion on the train, our guide was Frances.  I thought her British accent made her sound like Haley Mills.  She was outstanding.  When we got to Viviers, Viking organized a late evening walk through Viviers.  Frances told us that she lived in Viviers.  Our cruise director told us we could just pick any of the three guides for the walk.  We glommed onto her since we already knew that Frances was good and lived in town.  She had some interesting anecdotes about the town and its people that made the walk fun.

A view of Viviers during our evening walking tour (JJ on the left and Frances on the right).
A view down a narrow road in town.
A very non-picturesque walk to the old town.
The statue of Mary in town.
Frances begins our tour.
Some of the buildings in town had an Italian Renaissance look to them.
Note the mural at the bottom of this picture.
While the street looks deserted, it is also quaint and picturesque.
As the sun began to set, this was a town view.
Another view of Mary.
Another view of the town at night.
Again parts of the town appear to be Rennaissance inspired.
The door to the cathedral.

   After the evening walk through town, we said goodbye to Frances, and the Hermod set sail down the Rhone again.

Day 15 (Friday) – Arles

In the last days of the Roman empire (back when Candy was in high school), the city of Arles was the capital of Roman Gaul.  Arles has a Roman arena that seats 20,000 and still hosts bullfights and plays today.  Farmers from Provence come to town for the market.  Van Gogh lived in Arles and painted some famous artwork there.

Chappelle Saint-Anne near the center of town.
Our mob in the hospital where Van Gogh was admitted due to his mental illness.
There were a number of these posters around Arles showing a Van Gogh painting and the real building or scene depicted in the image.
Another poster of a Van Gogh painting.
The remains of the Roman theater that is still used for concerts today.
A panoramic view of the amphitheater still used for bullfights and concerts.
The remains of the Medieval bridge over the Rhone.
The Medieval bridge is flanked on both ends by these lions.
We saw a building in a small square in town during our walking tour.
A portion of the interior of the amphitheater.
Another plaza in Arles.
The exterior of the amphitheater.
The interior of the amphitheater.

The amphitheater was built in the first century and seats 21,000 people.  It has large tunnels containing wild beasts and gladiators.  Spectators could also watch chariot races.

After our walking tour of Arles, we took an optional excursion to the Medieval town of Baux and the Carriers de Lumieres.  Baux is a Medieval town (imagine that!) atop a mountain.  We spent about 40 minutes exploring on foot.

A view of the area a Baux.
The mineral bauxite used in aluminum production was mined here, named after the town of Baux.
Part of Baux.
A view of Baux from below.
A church in Baux.
This part of France is rocky and doesn’t look like any other part of France we saw.
Carrieres de Lumbers is an old quarry that is now an art exposition. The quarry is darkened, and artwork is projected on the walls. The painting moves, and it is accompanied by music. We stayed for an hour, which was the week’s highlight.
Another view of moving artwork.
A moving portion of Starry Night.

Evening entertainment on the boat was the group The Gipsy Kings.  I have some of their albums.  While the entertainment on the Viking ships is quite good, this was the first time I had heard of the group coming on board.

Day 16 (Saturday) – Avignon

Candy and I began our day in Avignon with a short canoe trip on the Rhone.  This was an optional excursion.  None of the others in our group were interested.  In fact, of 180 people onboard, only four of us chose this excursion.  It was a relaxing and quiet experience rather than another walk through a Medieval town.

Looking this good should be against the law.
Avignon from the water.

Avignon was the home to seven Popes between 1309 and 1377.  Avignon remains encircled by Medieval ramparts and fortifications.

A structure and houseboat along the Rhone
Our guides, Phillipe and Jerome.
Candy, John Wayne, and our two buddies for the canoe trip
A reasonably close view of the Medieval bridge. I asked the guide if the bridge had been bombed in WWII like other bridges we saw. This one was poorly constructed, and parts of it washed away due to occasional flooding.
We approach the bridge.

While we were canoeing, Duncan, JJ, Betty, and Karen took the included walking tour of Avignon and the Pope’s palace.  Candy and I had planned to walk around Avignon by ourselves in the afternoon.  It was a scorching day.  During the morning excursions, one of the people on our boat was pickpocketed.  Those returning from the walking tour spoke well of the Pope’s palace but described Avignon as a hot, dirty, crowded den of thieves.  At the last minute, Candy and I decided to take the optional excursion to see the Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct.

There was an excellent and impressive museum about Roman engineering at the aqueduct site. One of the exhibits within the museum was this example of how a wooden form was used to ensure the various arches were the same size.
A diorama depicting a stone quarry 600m from the aqueduct.

A map of the site.
The aqueduct brought water for Uzes to Nimes. Nimes was a major textile town. During the California gold rush, the city of Nimes sold high-quality cloth in California. This fabric became known as de Nimes (from Nimes) or denim.
The aqueduct arches were three arches pressed against each other for stability.
Who are these people? They keep photo-bombing me!

Our last supper aboard the Hermod (Duncan, Scott, Candy, Kim, Karen, Betty, some movie star, and JJ).  After dinner, we had drinks on the top deck of the ship.  See Scott and Kim in this picture.  We started getting eight-person tables even though we only had six people so that we could get to meet some other folks.

Rhine and Rhone Cruise Part Three

Day Eleven (Monday) – Lyon and Perouges


Our visit to Lyon began with a walking tour through the city.  The included excursion was a bus tour with occasional stops; however, we spent five hours in a bus the previous day, so JJ, Karen, Candy, and I elected the optional “trek” tour.  We did not regret our choice.

A view of Lyon from where we began our city walking tour.

Lyon is located at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers.  The Saone ends here, and the Rhone continues.  Lyon was originally built in 43 BC by Julius Caesar and was called Lugdunum.  It later became the starting point of a Roman road and, for a time, was the capital of Gaul.  During the time of Louis XI (1461-1483), annual fairs were held here that drew merchants from great distances.

These towers are meant to resemble Olympic torches. An Olympic-sized pool at the base of them was constructed when Lyon was bidding for the Olympics in the 1960s or 1970s.
Lyon is situated at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers. After passing over a bridge over the Rhone, we walked across the old portion of town on what is called the peninsula and then another bridge over the Saone. We then took the funicular railroad up Fourviere Hill to the Basilica.
A view of the Basilica atop Fourviere Hill
A different view.
A view of the interior.
A view of Lyon from atop Fourviere Hill near the Basilica
This map shows the UNESCO-listed portions of Lyon (in red). The tip of the peninsula is off to the right of the map.
Near the Basilica was the excavation of two Roman amphitheaters. They are both used for performances today. The closer one was for plays. The farther, smaller one was for musical performances. The modern structure to facilitate performances spoils the view of the site, but it is nice that, like the forum in Verona, it is still in use.
We continued our tour by walking down Fourviere Hill through the Rosary Garden. Unfortunately, when we were most of the way down, the guide realized that the foundation hadn’t yet unlocked the gates that morning, so we walked back up the hill and came another way. The guide, Clemence, is on red on the right. The girl in the white shirt is Anica, a Polish girl working on the boat who joined our tour on her day off.
A Cathedral sits at the base of Fourviere Hill. This is actually the third church at this site, and you can see some of the remains of a previous one here.
I found this sign incongruous. The image doesn’t seem to align with being next to a cathedral.
Karen is hamming it up.
We stopped for a short rest to have a drink near the cathedral, which you can see on the left of this image.
The front of the cathedral.
Clemence talking about the traboules.

The Croix-Rousse district of Lyon was the heart of the 19th-Century silk trade.  Silk merchants used covered and enclosed passageways between buildings for safe passage to the markets.

You can see that these traboules were quite ornate, this one designed in the Italian Renaissance style. There are 600 or so remaining in Lyon that are still in use.
From this view, you can see how the traboules wound between rows of buildings. It appears that these were the “empty space” between buildings later formalized as passageways.

During WWII, approximately 4000 citizens of Lyon were killed, and another 7500 deported to concentration camps by Klaus Barbie, the “butcher of Lyon.”  Barbie was sentenced to death for war crimes in 1952 and 1954 but wasn’t extradited from Bolivia to face life in prison until 1987.  Lyon is reputed to be the heart of the French resistance movement that sprang up when the Germans invaded Vichy after the Allied landings during Operation Torch in North Africa.  I asked one of our guides if the Resistance movement conducted active military engagements or focused on intelligence gathering that later aided the Allies, but the answer was unclear.

A view of a Jacquard loom in the workroom used by Jacquard’s descendants.

The highlight of the walking tour, and something not in the included bus tour, was a stop at a silk shop.  The guide said that one of the French kings wanted to create silk production in France and permitted Lyon to start the business.  Italy had been previously the European producer of silk in the West.  These are the only silk looms in Lyon that are open to the public.  The look used punch cards to control the weaving.  The looms still work.  The owner, a descendent of the inventor of the Jacquard loom, said it takes a skilled worker all day to wave 4cm of silk.  The process of drawing an image on graph paper, creating the punch cards, and using the cards to weave intricate images was fascinating.

This image of Jacquard was WOVEN in slik.
The owner (on the left) demonstrated the use of the Jacquard loom and answered many questions (through our guide as an interpreter).

This concluded the walking tour.  We returned to the boat for lunch and then departed on our bus journey to Peroughes, a medieval walled village about an hour outside Lyon.


We took a bus ride to the medieval town of Peruges in the afternoon, about an hour outside Lyon.  The guide walked us around the village and gave us a little time to explore on our own.

We were walking along one of the picturesque roads. Perouges is essentially built as a circle with shops around both sides of the road and a square in the center.
Candy and Karen are mugging for the camera.
Our guide passes on information.
The tower is near the center of town.
Inspired by the Liberty Tree of the American Revolution, the people of Perouges planted this Linden Tree in the center of town. When the monarchy was restored, these liberty trees were uprooted nationwide. This one survived because Perouges was below the radar. It is interesting how logs support the massive limbs.
The view from Perouges to the countryside below.
Karen acted quickly to hold up an arch that was going to fall.
We sampled a French dessert called galette, a sugar-and-butter pizza.
A restaurant in the center of town. Reportedly, Bill Clinton gave a speech from here when he was president.

There is an old church in the center of town.  Our guide said that some famous opera singer really likes the acoustics in the church and has recorded two albums there.  Our guide then proceeded to sing a medieval tune that was masterful.

A sundial on a building in the center of town.

Day Twelve (Tuesday) – Beaujolais Wine Country

We boarded buses to head to a nearby vineyard to learn about the product of Beaujolais wine, the prevalent wine in this part of France.

The next morning we again boarded buses to head to a vineyard.  Along the way, we stopped in the town of Beaujeu for a rest and an “opportunity” to shop in a gift store.  In town was a very nice little church that was surprisingly ornate inside.

The chuch in Beaujeu.
A view of the interior of the church.
The altar of the church.
The town square of Beaujeu.  The town is on this year’s Tour de France, so they had begun to decorate.
500-gallon oak casks for aging wine.
The chateau of the winemakers.
The primary grape in the region is the gamay. Not being a wine person, I had never heard of them, but the French in this area are quite proud of them and the Beaujolais wine they create.
We tasted four different Beaujolais wines, each drier than the previous one. I was not too fond of the wine, but others bought cases of it to have shipped back home.  They were so dry that I felt like I had walked ten miles through the desert after just one sip.
After returning to the ship, we set sail. This picture shows us approaching one of the 12 locks on this portion of our trip.
Candy enjoys the cool breeze.

That night, Phillippe and Caroline provided the on-board entertainment covering Edith Piaf’s songs.  About a year ago, I discovered Edith Piaf on Pandora on the French Cooking Music channel.  Caroline sounded just like her.

Caroline and Phillippe were so good that I purchased their CD.

Day 13 (Wednesday) – Vienne, France

We arrived in Vienne, France, after dark.  I took these pictures from the top of the ship.

Gauls originally inhabited Vienne. This particular group of Gauls aligned with Rome and became citizens. Over time, the city transformed into a Roman-style city. When Rome occupied the area, there were 30,000 inhabitants — about the same number as today.
There was a light display on the front of the Church of Saint Maurice, who was a Roman soldier who converted to Christianity (before it was legal) and was martyred. The lights kept changing their pattern.
Another view of the church a few moments later.
We had Clemence, our guide, in Lyon for our walking tour of Vienne. Our first stop was at a portion of the Roman wall surrounding Vienne.

In 47 BC, Julius Caesar transformed Vienne from a Celtic city to a Roman colony.  Vienne sits at the confluence of the Rhone and Gere Rivers and was an important trading outpost for Rome.  Many of its Roman monuments remain, including the Temple of Augustus, two amphitheaters, and some portions of the Roman circus.

The Cathedral of St. Maurice has occupied the center of town since the 4th Century. Construction of the current church began in 1130 and took almost 500 years to complete. Protestants damaged the church during the Wars of Religion (1562-1589 and the French Revolution. The Council of Vienne was convened here by Pope Clement V, leading to the abolishment of the Knights Templar and King Philip V of France confiscating the Templars’ wealth.

During the Wars of Religion and the French Revolution, many church statues were decapitated. This depicts the three wise men’s interview with King Herrod.
This is a view of the Temple of Augustus in the center of Vienne. The exterior is original. The wooden roof supports and the central building have been restored. This still exists, while most Roman buildings do not, because it had been converted into a Catholic church at one time, with the central building being torn down and walls constructed between the pillars.
Another view of the temple more clearly shows the restored central building.
This piece of Roman mosaic tile was uncovered in the city and made into a wall ornament.
When Thomas Jefferson was our first Ambassador to France, he visited Vienne and is said to have modeled several of the buildings in DC on the Temple of Agustus.

JJ, Karen, Candy, and I walked up to the top of Mont Pipet above Vienne.  It was a bit of a climb, but not too bad.  From there, we had excellent views of Vienne and the Roman amphitheater.

A view of the Roman amphitheater from Mont Pipet.
A view of Vienne amphitheater from Mont Pipet.
Chapel de Pipet atop Mont Pipet

The Church of St. Pierre that JJ and I passed while Candy and Karen were shopping for clothes. It is now a museum.
When we set sail, the sun awnings on the upper deck collapsed so we could pass under low bridges.

Rhine and Rhone Cruise Continued

Day Seven (Thursday) – Speyer

This is a view of our boat, the Viking Kara, docking in Speyer.

Our next stop on the Rhine and Rhone cruise was in Speyer.  Like many of our stops along the Rhine, Speyer is a medieval town with a large church in the center.

A view of the spires of Speyer from our boat.

Speyer’s Imperial Cathedral, a Romanesque-style church, was built between 1030 and 1061 by Emperors Kongrad II, Henry III, and Henry IV.   It was restored in the 1950s.

Another view of the church.

Other than the church, Speyer is famous for giving the Protestant Reformation its name.  The name comes from a letter of protestation signed by six princes and fourteen representatives of Free Imperial Cities during the Diet of Speyer in 1529.  In 1521 the Diet of Worms condemned Martin Luther as a heretic, banned his teachings, and criminalized actions supporting Luther or his beliefs.  This proved difficult to enforce, but in 1529, Charles tried to reassert the Edict of Worms without the benefit of a general council. Still, the six princes and fourteen representatives protested, demanding religious (and political) self-determination.

This statue near the church depicts the betrayal of Christ after the last supper.
Another view of this statue.
Statues at the entrance of the church.
The remnants of one of the city gates in Speyer.
Beginning in medieval times, German towns used these poles to tell visitors what services and crafts were available in town. You can see from some of the more modern symbols on the pole that Speyer has continued this tradition.
We had some time to walk around Speyer and do some shopping. This is a view of the shopping area entrance from the church’s front.
We stopped to take some pictures on the way back to the boat.  This is Karen and JJ.

Day Eight (Friday) – Strasbourg

The covered bridge leads over the Ill River into the Petite France portion of Strasbourg.

When Strasbourg was a free city of the Holy Roman Empire, the Grand Magistrate isolated the sick in the tanner’s district on this island.   French soldiers were sent to the hospital there to be treated for syphilis, which they had contracted in Italy.  The locals referred to syphilis as the French Disease and called the hospital area Petit France.

Another view of Petit France
JJ, me, and Duncan.
One of the canals running through Petit France.
We saw one of the small canal bridges swing open to make room for this sightseeing boat.

The walking tour of Strasbourg included visiting the Cathedral Nortre-Dame de Strasbourg.  This church was built between 1015 and 1439.  It is the world’s sixth tallest church and the highest existing building constructed entirely during the middle ages.  Until 1874 it was the tallest building in the world.

Here is a view of the church’s exterior, clearly showing the flying buttresses. In the days before metal construction, the weight of the stone pushed outward on the walls of the buildings, and flying buttresses were used to provide inward support so that the building wouldn’t collapse under its own weight.
This is one of the many stained glass windows within the cathedral.
This is a close-up view of the details above the main entrance. The entire church is covered with a similar level of ornamentation. It is no wonder it took so long to build the church.
This is a slightly wider view of the cathedral entrance.
We all stopped for lunch to try an Alsatian specialty, flammenkuchen. While a Frenchman would likely take offense, this is the French version of a pizza. The crust is thin, almost like a water cracker. A variety of toppings can be applied.
Guttenberg is said to have invented the printing press here; although, the first Bibles he printed using that method were produced in another town.
Here is a longer shot of the cathedral to get a sense of scale.
Candy in the traditional Alsatian outfit.
Karen, Duncan, and Betty

After the walking tour, we had time to walk around the old town area a bit and do some souvenir shopping.

That evening, we returned to the boat for the Bavarian feast onboard.

Day Nine (Saturday) – Colmar and The Black Forest

This was a busy day.  It began with the guys taking a tour of the fighting in the Comar Pocket while the girls took a tour of the historic parts of Colmar city.  This was probably my favorite day of the cruise.

This is the entrance gate to the old part of the village where the WWII museum is located. It was a short walk from this gate to the museum.
The museum is not particularly well-marked, just this brass plaque on the door.

The fighting around Colmar is not well known, partially because it doesn’t give British historians a chance to criticize Americans and partly because the Battle of the Bulge gets all the press.

The museum only has two rooms, but they are packed with artifacts found on the battlefield. Farmers are still turning up items from time to time. The museum has several dioramas depicting US, French, and German forces during the battle. This one shows a US crew of a .30 caliber machine gun.
This diorama shows that the fighting in the area occurred in the dead of winter. Eisenhower wanted Colmar captured before the ground in the area thawed, preventing armored vehicles from supporting the infantry.

While I did this tour three years ago, I had forgotten that Himmler personally directed the German operations in the area since many of the German units were part of the SS.  I didn’t realize that Himmler ever got this close to the fighting.

JJ and Duncan inspect various mines and booby traps.
Me in front of a 105mm howitzer in the museum courtyard.

After visiting the museum, we took the bus to the US war memorial on the hill where the Allied attack on the Colmar pocket began.

A plaque on the memorial
The base of the US flag.
In the distance, you can see a French flag in the middle of a French war cemetery. There were several French divisions involved in the fighting.
This is a wide view of the open area the US Third Infantry Division had to cross against determined German opposition by SS units. The commander decided to try to skirt around the Germans through the slightly better terrain on the left to get to Colmar.
Duncan, me, and JJ in front of the war memorial featuring the shoulder patches of the units involved in the fighting.

From there, we took the bus down to the memorial for Audie Murphy at the site where he earned his medal of honor.  On the way, we stopped for a quick rest in a village with another war memorial.

This wall shows the remains of a building after the fighting in the area. Note the stork nest on top. Storks are the symbol of this portion of France.
This plaque is mounted to the ruins.
The guide did an excellent job describing Audie Murphy’s one-man stand at this point in the Colmar pocket. They know this is the exact spot where the fighting took place because they found the tactical telephone wire he used to call artillery on the advancing Germans. The guide’s presentation was stirring and emotional.
The memorial to Audie Murphy depicts him firing a .50 caliber machine gun from the back of an M10 tank destroyer.
This is Audie Murphy’s view of the advancing Germans. The houses constructed after the war have cut the distance from the town to Murphy’s position in half of what it was during the battle.
A view of the memorial area without tourists.
This plaque briefly describes the action in this area.

The guide provided excellent historical details throughout the tour that made this trip worth the extra cost.

We returned to the boat for lunch and then took a bus tour into the Black Forest.  We did this tour last time we were on this cruise, so Candy and I elected to skip the cuckoo clock and Black Forest cake demonstrations and instead take a hike through the Black Forest.

This is a reconstructed toll house and a portion of the original road through the Black Forest.
This is a view of the cascades in the Black Forest along the walking path.
The oldest chapel in the Black Forest.
You can see the viaduct through this portion of the Black Forest. The Allies tried to bomb it several times during WWII, but the Germans reportedly employed barrage balloons to make that harder. Ultimately, the Germans blew it up during their retreat to deny it to the Allies.

The Allies tried to destroy this viaduct through the Black Forest several times, but the Germans protected it with barrage balloons. Ultimately, the Germans demolished it to deny its use to the Allies.

Day Ten (Sunday) – Transfer Day

Our cruise was two cruises, one along the Rhine and a second along the Rhone.  On Sunday, we transferred from Basel, Switzerland, to Lyon, France, by bus.  Five hours in a bus, even with a short stop for lunch in the scenic town of Beaune in wine country, was not a fun day.  Even though we had just gotten off one Viking ship, we had to go through the capsize drill, safety briefing, and obligatory welcome briefing a second time.

A view of Beaune
Another view
A statue of the vineyard workers in a town in French wine country.

Our new home for a week.
Other passengers arriving.

Český Krumlov

The next day was in Linz.  We elected to take the excursion to Český Krumlov, a quaint mediaeval village back in the Czech Republic.  This town was largely untouched by WWII, so the castle and town are like they have been for hundreds of years.  After a walking tour of the town and castle grounds, we all sat down for a traditional Czech meal and then had some free time to spend money on stuff we didn’t need.  We also climbed the tower of the castle and looked at the museum inside the castle tower during our free time.  Despite the hour and fifteen minute drive in each direction, we arrived back in Linz in time to walk around the town a bit and get some Linzer tortes.

Our first glimpse at a portion of the castle.
Our guide, Stephan, did a great job showing us around the town.
Two movie stars we met during the tour. Viking provides a “Vox” device with an ear piece. This allows the guide to narrate the tour without yelling or bothering others not on the tour.
Another view of the town.
School is ending soon in the Czech Republic. There were many school groups in town. Here you can see one school group rafting down the river.
The castle walls. Here you can see how different sections of the castle were built in different decades with different styles.
The town was hosting a group of high wire enthusiasts. In many of these pictures you can see the lines high over the river or town.
Approaching the castle.
The castle was built over many decades. The castle, consisted of five courtyards, each built in a slightly different style. Many of the walls had frescos on them. This is the archway leading from the castle to the town.
The town from the castle walls.
The government is in the process of adding a military museum to the castle. Here are a couple of cannons on display.
They claim that this is one of the first two breach-loading cannons ever built, but the guide was a little hazy on the specifics other than that it was produced by Krupp.
Another of the courtyards. We later climbed to the top of that tower.
Another courtyard picture.
Many of the walls were painted to look like large bricks, but the walls were actually just flat plaster.
Another view of the faux brickwork painted on the walls.
Karen and JJ
A gingerbread shop in town. Cookies and booze seem like an unusual taste combination.
We had a traditional Czech meal in several courses in a restaurant, called the Water Mill.
The meal consisted of a very tasty soup. Then a tray of meats, including duck, chicken, beef, and pork, was brought out family style. This included red cabbage. Like most means over the past two weeks, vegetables other than cabbage were in short supply.
Many of the buildings in town were decorated with these detailed frescoes.
Another view of part of the town. The buildings were painted in a number of pastel colors.
Český Krumlov
After lunch we were released for some free time. We chose to climb to the tap of the castle tower.
The tower from below.
Candy in the tower with the town in the background.
A view of the town from atop the tower. You can see some of the high-wire lines in this photo.

After a little shopping we boarded the bus and headed back to Linz.  I don’t fee like we missed anything in Linz by spending the day in Český Krumlov.  It is a largish German city with a handful of churches to see.  We had a couple of hours to walk downtown and shop for Linzer tortes to bring home.  The shopping area in Linz was just a city street and was not really unique or quaint.

Passau and Beyond

After our time in Prague, we boarded a bus for along ride to Passau, Germany, where we boarded out boat.  Arriving a little before dinner, we received out orientation and unpacked in our rooms.  We stayed in Passau at the dock the first night.  The next morning, Duncan, Dave, and I took the “Hiking the Hills of Passau” walking tour, while everyone else took the normal walking tour of town. Our tour covered the same downtown (Old Town) area of Passau, but we also saw a monastery / church overlooking Passau from one side of town and the castle on the other side of the river.  The tour was billed as “strenuous,” but it really wasn’t too bad except for the climb up the hill to the castle.

JJ, Karen, Betty, Candy, Greg, and Nicole get ready for their walking tour of Old Town Passau.
A picture of Passau. We started the “hiking the hills” tour pretty early.
The altar in the church / abbey / monastery overlooking Passau that was the starting point of our our.
The group preparing to hike the hills. Viking combined us with a group from another Viking ship traveling the opposite direction along the Danube.
The church that was our first stop.
The cemetery for many of the priests and monks who had lived at the abbey.
A view of Passau from the abbey.
We’re walking, we’re walking…
Oh, how artistic…
A fountain in the middle of Passau.
This is my kind of garden. This is what I call the “riot of color” look.
Walking along the Danube toward the bridge to the castle.
A good view along the wall of the castle. You can see how the styles changed over the hundreds of years of construction.
Another portion of the castle.
Passau from the castle. You can barely see our boat behind the vegetation.
A building along our hiking route.

A portion of the castle.
Dave, me, Duncan at an overlook on the hill we walked up to get to the castle.
A view of Passau from the castle. In the distance, on the hill, you can see the abbey where we started our perigrination. The white line coming down from it and then turning to the left of the picture is the covered pilgrim’s way with 300+ steps.
A partial view of the interior of the castle.
Sitting on the sun deck as we departed from Passau: Duncan, Betty, Karen.
In the afternoon, there was a demonstration in the lounge of how to make strudel.

Overnight we docked in Linz for our tours the next day.


Danube Cruise, the Adventure Begins in Prague

Well, it finally happened.  After our Viking river cruise of the Rhine in 2019, we scheduled a cruise along the Danube in 2020, which was postponed to 2021, and then 2022.  Along the way, we encouraged several other couples to participate: Greg and Nicole with whom we took the Rhine cruise, Duncan and Betty, Dave and Brenda, Eric and Vickey, and JJ and Karen.  Our journeys began seven days ago with our flights into Prague for the “pre show,” three days in Prague.

Our first night in Prague Greg had identified a pretty neat restaurant called “the skewer.”  All of the food had a skewer stuck in it.  Some had two skewers.  The food was self-serve, and at the end you paid for the number of skewers you had eaten.

JJ, Karen, Candy, Greg, and Nicole.
Eric, Vickie, Brenda, Dave, Betty, and Duncan

After a stroll around downtown Prague (Praha), we all returned to the hotel to try to get some sleep despite the jet lag.

The next morning, we all took the included “Panoramic Prague” walking tour through the city.  The guide, Radick, did a nice job of showing us the highlights of downtown Prague, despite some heavy rain.

The astronomical clock in the Old Town Square that chimes every hour. The 12 apostles process past the blue windows. The skeleton rings a bell to summon people, but the other statues shake their heads to stay on earth at least another hour.
A street in Prague
A view of Prague, including the castle on the hill.
A building in the town square. Many of the buildings had these nice frescoes on them.
Another building in the Old Town Square.
Taking cover from the rain.
This is a church in the Old Town Square. Note the mutliple spires. This seemed to be common among many of the churches in Prague. Also note the connector from the main spire to the corner spires. This too seemed to be common in Prague. I am not sure if this is decorative or structural or merely provides a covered walkway to the corner spires.
By the time we reached the Charles bridge on our tour, the rain and clouds were fading.
Crossing the bridge.
A canal near the Charles Bridge.
A paddle boat made to look like an old car on the river near the Charles Bridge.
A long shot of the bridge.
Another canal near the Charles bridge looking in the opposite direction toward an old water wheel.

The tour continued by taking us up to the castles, which includes a church and the President’s offices.

One of the many stained glass windows in the church within the Prague castle.
Our guide provides information about the church.
Looking down the long axis of the church toward the altar.
Because the castle hold’s the president’s offices, there were both ceremonial and real guards on duty.
Candy and me in front of the church within the Prague castle.
The inner courtyard of our hotel looking down toward where we had an included breakfast each morning.

That night Duncan, Betty, Dave, Brenda, Candy, and I attended a traditional folk dinner in a rural area outside of Prague.   This included dancers performing traditional folk dances and a three-piece band playing traditional music.  The food included some kind of cheese spread on bread, soup, meat, cabbage, and potatoes.  It was a fun evening.

The band playing at the Folk Dinner.
Our servers.
The entertainment.
Dave and Brenda
Betty, Duncan, some movie star, and Candy.

The next morning, on our own, we went to find the History of Communism.  I don’t know how anyone can support Communism, Marxism, and Socialism after visiting this museum.  The Czechs know first hand the evils of these philosophies, and they are not afraid to oppose them.

Some of the displays at the Museum of Communism.
One of the boards next to some of the displays.
I love this quote. Centralized, government control has never and will never work. The museum provided a number of examples of how a powerful and controlling central government created hardships and shortages for the people.
Reassembling after the museum tour. Duncan, Betty, Brenda, Dave, and Candy.

We walked around the Old Town Square in much better weather than the previous morning.
I saw this winged moose on a building in Prague and thought is was interesting. I need to add one of these to one of my games.
Several of us took the optional Operation Anthropoid tour. Anthropoid was an OSS operation in WWII to assassinate Heydrich Reinhardt, the “Butcher of Prague,” who also designed the “final solution” resulting in the creation of the concentration and death camps throughout Europe. While the operation was a success, in that they killed Reinhardt, all of the Czech parachutists involved were killed.
We took an evening tour of Prague. One of the stops was a monastery on one of the hills near the castle for a beer and a scenic overlook.
Some of the gang waiting for their beers: Dave, Brenda, JJ, Karen, Candy, and Eric.
The monastery
Karen and Candy with evening Prague behind them.

Our last morning we had to drop off our bags by 1000, but the bus wasn’t scheduled to depart of Passau until 1300.  So, Karen, Candy, JJ, and I walked across the river and along it to the Charles Bridge.  We stopped at a couple of shops to look at stuff we didn’t need, then we crossed the bridge and made one last trek through Old Town Square back to our hotel.

A local group performing on the Charles Bridge.
Assembling for the trip to Passau: JJ, Betty, Duncan, Candy, Eric, Vickey, Dave, Brenda, and Karen. Where is Buck?
The bus ride from Prague to Passau. Like any good paratrooper, Dave was asleep before the bus door closed.

We arrived at the boat in time to unpack our rooms and have dinner.

Eric, Vickey, JJ, Karen, Betty, and Duncan


Napoleonic French

I recently completed these three battalions of French Napoleonic infantry and mounted them for the under-development Wars of Eagles and Empires.  Eagles and Empires is an adaptation of Wars of Ozz for purely historical games.  The initial version will be Napoleonic, but there will be supplements for other historical periods, such as the American War of Independence (AWI), Jacobite Rebellion, Crimea, and others.

Early Old Glory French Napoleonic infantry.

These figures are very early Old Glory figures.  These were sold with separate heads, and you could get them with bicorns or shakos.  At the time, I was building Davout’s III Corps for 1805-1807.  Almost half of his regiments were still furnished Royal white uniforms instead of Napoleonic blue uniforms.

I don’t know if these were Old Glory’s first 25/28mm figures, but they were very early ones.  I think I purchased these at Old Glory’s first Historicon.

Another view of Old Glory French Napoleonic infantry.

I have recently be remounting all of my Napoleonic infantry for Wars of Eagles and Empires from Empire.  I had painted three battalions of these figures.  In Empire a battalion of French was typically twelve figures.  In Wars of Eagles and Empires, French regiments are generally six bases; although, there is no prescribed number of figures per base.  The figures from Nick Cirocco that I converted from Column, Line, and Square were mounted six figures to a base, because that’s how Minifigs Napoleonics were packaged.

During my rebasing, I found a bunch more of these figures that I had filed and primed.  There were enough figures, when combined with the 36 I had already painted, to make three full battalions of them for Wars of Eagles and Empires.

I block painted the new figures to match closely the ones I had painted 35 years ago.  The result is passable.  I just love the look of big battalions!  May that is because of my dad’s collection of 54mm Britains that surrounded me as a kid.

I will be holding another Napoleonic play test this week, and these figures will be on the table.  “Buck’s Law” states that the first time you put new figures on the table, they usually get spanked.  We’ll see what happens…

Artillery for my Orcs

When I started working on Wars of Orcs and Dwarves (WOOD), I found that I had very few fantasy figures, as I prefer historical games in general.  So, I started on my journey to create several “brigades” of hobbits, orcs, and goblins for WOOD. I completed the hobbit army some months ago.  To complete the orc army, I needed some artillery.  After posting to The Wargames Website, which is a wonderful alternative to the troll-infested Miniatures Page, I received some good suggestions.

This weekend I completed two “artillery pieces” for the orcs.

A war engine from manufacturer unknown. Note that my orcs and goblins are painted in AD&D yellow instead of GW green.
This engine was a gift from my buddy, Dave Wood. It was partially painted, but I reprised it and started over.

This piece will be mounted on a 4″x4″ base like large creatures.  It will melee like a large creature in WOOD, but it will fire like a catapult.

When I saw this figure, it just cracked me up. The cyclops giant troll think has a catapult on his back and appears to be launching orcs or goblins at the enemy.
I like the guy on top getting ready to be launched.
My wife liked all the arrows stuck in the catapult.
I think this would get your attention.

Dave will be using my figures to run a WOOD game at the Recon convention in April in the Free State of Florida.  I can’t wait to see these guys on the table.

Foldable Terrain

I found foldable terrain pictured recently on The Wargames Website that are available from Badger Games LLC in the US.  I have not been a fan of 4Ground in the past, because I don’t like the exposed tabs, and they don’t seem to sell touch-up paint to cover the tabs in matching colors.  The concept of foldable terrain intrigued me.  Badger has a subset of the building kits.  The full listing can be found here.

I purchased one of the brig buildings just to see how easy they were to assemble and how they looked.  In general, I am very pleased the the results; although, there was definitely a learning process for the first floor I assembled.  There are no tutorial videos that I could find, so it was a bit of trial and error.  Hint:  you never put any glue on any white paint in these repainted buildings.

Here is a picture of the final Americana shop with the optional third floor.

Note the typical exposed tabs of 4Ground buildings. I will try to match the gray and cover the tabs and also paint the concrete sections between the stories to make them gray instead of laser-cut MDF brown.
The floors come apart and have their own floors.
To fold a floor, you start by lifting the floor sections, which are hinged.
Then the walls fold together on hinges.

I am very interested in the mediaeval ones.  I have reached out to see if I can order them from Badger or if I need to order them from England.

Does anyone know how to find paint that matches the 4Ground colors?

Munchkin Attack on Gillikin Village

Last night, I hosted a Wars of Ozz game.  The game involved three 20-point Munchkin brigades attacking two 25-point Gillikin brigades.  The Gillikins were defending a village that the Munchkins sought to capture. We had two guys who were familiar with the rules, and one newcomer who quickly grasped the rules.  We played four turns.  We probably needed a fifth turn to come to a conclusion, but the consensus was that the Munchkins would have captured the town.

The starting locations of troops with the Munchkins on the left and the Gillikins on the right.
The center Munchkin brigade in its starting location. It consisted of Zoraster’s Guard, Sourdough’s regiment, a Landwehr regiment, and a medium artillery battery.
The Munchkin cavalry brigade on their right: two heavy regiments, one light regiment, and a light gun.
My two Gillikin cavalry regiments had early success pummeling a Munchkin Landwehr regiment, but then the tigers and Munchkin infantry mopped them up.
While the tigers had little hope of closing with my Gillikin cavalry, since both units were badly mauled, their charge against my cavalry was enough to rout the goat riders from the table.
The Gillikin infantry holding the town got involved in a firefight with a unit of Munchkin infantry. Despite the cover of the town, the Gillikins didn’t do well in the firefight. In the bottom right, you can see one of my Gillikin infantry units moving up to support the town.
The Munchkins brought up a batter and a second unit of infantry. The Gillikins decided to defend inside the town to avoid being cut down by Munchkin musketry. My infantry unit on the right and my cannon were able to knock out a base of Munchkin infantry, but when the infantry later charged, they were smashed by the Munchkins.
Initial dispositions of the Gillikins on our left. Wayne was quite aggressive with his goat cavalry while his musketeers and bowmen kept plinking away at the Munchkin cavalry.
Early maneuvers on the Munchkin right (cavalry brigade) and Gillikin left.
The fight on the Munchkin right heats up. By the end of the game, all three Munchkin cavalry regiments had routed thanks to aggressive cavalry action by the Gillikins on goats and the support of the Gillikin infantry in the woods.

As I said, the consensus was that the game would have been a Munchkin victory if we had been able to play one more turn, but it was a “school night,” and we quit about 2200.  The game was fun.