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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Avignon was the home to seven Popes between 1309 and 1377. Avignon remains encircled by Medieval ramparts and fortifications.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Day 13 (Wednesday) – Vienne, France
We arrived in Vienne, France, after dark. I took these pictures from the top of the ship.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Day Eight (Friday) – 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.
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.
After the walking tour, we had time to walk around the old town area a bit and do some souvenir shopping.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Overnight we docked in Linz for our tours the next day.
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.
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 tour continued by taking us up to the castles, which includes a church and the President’s offices.
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 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.
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.
We arrived at the boat in time to unpack our rooms and have dinner.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.