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.

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