Day 12 – Rhine Gorge-Rudesheim

The original plan A was to travel downstream to Boppard.  This part of the Rhine River is sometimes referred to as a bit of an ABC cruise (Another Bloody Castle) in that there are, what seem to be, an overabundance of them.  Then, the rest of the morning would be spent exploring the town with departure close to lunch.  However, the best laid plans of mice, men and cruise ships are sometimes waylaid by Mother Nature.  First the Rhine itself, having to exist with much less rainfall than normal, is exceptionally low.  Second, passage through some of the locks during the night was delayed due to traffic.

So….plan B was put forth.  Unless there was a specific request (from even one passenger) to proceed to Boppard, we would travel as far as the Loraley Rock, turn around and go back to Rudesheim.  That would have been our second stop for the day regardless, but this change would allow more time in town to see the sites.  No-one objected, so plan B graduated to plan A.  And although there were not nearly as many, castles were still plentiful.

The Loraley Rock has many legends surrounding it, most of which have to do with the numerous ships that have been lost in the area.  One non-legend, however,  is the 2,400 tons of sulphuric acid that was spilt from a capsized barge in January, 2011.  That closed this extremely busy waterway for quite some time.

The little town of Lorch, about 10 KM downstream from Rudesheim, was the end of the line for shipping prior to the 1850’s.  Traffic going upstream had to stop there, unload everything and have it otherwise transported a little further upstream to Rudesheim.  There it would be reloaded onto different ships to continue its journey.  The underlying problem (yes…another intended pun) was the major boulders that covered the floor of the river between the two towns.  During the 1850’s those rocks were dynamited into much smaller segments and posed no further obstacles.

Rudesheim is yet another modest town  (in size – approx. 10,500 pop.) that really has little to be modest about.  It has its first historical reference in 1024 A.D. so it’s been around for almost a thousand years.  It has its main shopping street (as do many other European cities) which extends for only about 144 m. so in that respect, it’s quite short.  Nonetheless there is no shortage of shops, restaurants and winegartens all happily proving, that despite the doom and gloom professed economically around the world, tourists are still quite willing to part with their hard earned Euros.  Fabulous vineyards surround the town bringing to the fore some truly wonderful Reisling wines.

One of the most notable achievements is being the birthplace of the admirable Asbach Uralt (being designated a ‘Weinbrand’ – premium brandy of Germany).  Hugo Asbach started his humble distillery in 1892 in Rudesheim and now his product is well-known around the world.

A visit to the Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum has been noted by many travelers as perhaps not the most enjoyable way to spend one’s time in Rudesheim.  However, I can only surmise that it is possible many (if not all) may not have any musical background to draw on.  Having thoroughly enjoyed the tour myself, I can attest to the wonders it will reveal.

The privately owned collection comprises of 377 instruments, varying in production from 1780 to 1930.  The ‘Banjo Orchestra’ includes a piano, banjo, cymbal, drum, tambourine, and a triangle.  The ‘Weber Maestro’ has 19 instruments in its body.  In 1877 the first phonograph was invented by a young Thomas Edison and ten years later was improved upon by Emile Berliner, becoming the gramophone.  Thomas used cylinders whereas Emile created flat discs producing a much better sound.  The massive horn the music would emanate from had no volume control, so often a sock was placed inside to make it quieter.  Hence…put a sock in it.  A music box containing a bird that would pop up and tweet its song contained not only 315 individual parts, but also had many real feathers on the bird.  Pulling the trigger on a pistol would not injure anyone – rather it would leave its pleasant mark on one’s ear as another bird would spring from the barrel and chirp its chorus.

Maybe I’m a little left of center, but I found this (and so many other things) very fascinating.

Rudesheim has one (ok…there really is more than one) other taste sensation.  It claims to be the place of origin of Rudesheim coffee.  Around the world it has become well known by many names, but it is certainly very well prepared here.  The coffee itself plays a less-than-central role, rather it is the inclusion of Asbach Uralt to the cup that raises this to a true breakfast staple.

First, sugar in the cup then the liberal addition of AU.  This is then flamed to heat the sugar, thus caramelizing it and adding to the flavor intensity.  Add the coffee, topped with REAL whipped cream (to cover the mess that may have been made), and finally, sprinkle with chocolate shavings.  Enjoy…work will then be less of a chore.

Dinner was enjoyed in town (rather than onboard the ship) this evening.  Joined by a glass of local Dornfelder (a rather light but delicious red wine), the wild boar sausage accompanied by white-wine sauerkraut went down smoothly.  The taste buds were appeased and the walk back to the ship was easily accomplished.  What started as a potentially disconcerting day turned into one that was, instead, savored.

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