Monday, August 01, 2005


Ten years ago today - the birthday wine cruise

Once again, another instalment from my travel journal. Are you enjoying reading these? There haven't been too many comments, but now that I've started getting these out I am enjoying reliving the experience. Ten years ago today, I turned 26 years old. I think my 26 year old self would be pleased and impressed with the state of our life in 2005.

9:00 am, 1 August 1995
On the Mosel, docked at Bernkastel-Kues

Happy birthday to me! To celebrate, I'm taking a six hour cruise down the Mosel from Bernkastel-Kues to Trier. The "schiff" leaves in 15 minutes.

I feel kind of out of place here... the only lone traveler, the only traveler under 30, and I don't speak German. Oh well, we'll make due.

9:45 am, same day
On the Mosel

How can I describe these vineyards? The mountains rise straight up from the river, with 400-600 feet to the top. Every available surface is covered with orderly rows of grapes, kilometre after kilometre, all the way down to the river.

How interesting, we must be near an air force base because three fighter jets just zoomed by, completely shattering the morning calm.

But back to the vineyards... aside from seeing a helicopter doing some spraying (talk about shattering imagery) it appears that the vineyards are still tended by hand. They must be - I can't imagine how they would manoeuver farm equipment on these slopes! Every available surface on the slope is covered. Where a rock outcropping is too inhospitable even for the grapes, the vineyard just surrounds it. It is SO beautiful!

I may have committed a bit of cultural faux pas earlier... a waitress came around taking orders and since it was 9:30 in the morning and I hadn't had breakfast, I ordered a coffee and an orange juice. Imagine my surprise when she started bringing up our orders and almost everyone else had ordered wine. At 9:30 in the morning! A few had ordered beer instead, and one or two ordered the ubiquitous Fanta (Europeans seem to love orange Fanta.) Mine was the only coffee! Oh well, I enjoyed it nonetheless.

We just went through the coolest lock... it was industrial sized, for those huge river barges, but the water rose so quickly - at least one or two metres per minute, and the whole lock is at least 100m long.

We just passed by a huge rock face. There were tiny areas of vineyard scratched into the side of the mountain, accessible only by water!

6:50 pm, same day
Trier, Germany

I find it impossible to believe that each city I visit is more beautiful and enchanting than the last, but it's true (with the possible exception of Koblenz.)

Trier is a 2000 year old city, the oldest in Germany. The "Porta Nigra" (black gate) in the city centre is the gate of a 2nd century Roman city wall, and the "world's best preserved Roman gate." There's also Konstantin's Basillica, and more ancient and medieval structures and ruins than you can count. Tomorrow I'm going to check out some 2nd century Roman baths and a Roman ampitheatre.

It's SO hot. At 5:30, I saw a thermometer registered at 38C. The heat takes a lot out of you; it's 7 pm and I'm exhausted. I thought I was going to melt on the ferry, and then I had to hike across the city centre with my pack on in the mid-day sun. Finally, I found the hotel recommended in Let's Go and it is great! The tiniest little room, but the bed is soft, and it's ultra-clean (no centipedes!) and it only costs 34DM per night ($Cnd = 99 pfennings; 100pf = 1DM). As soon as I was rid of my infernal pack, I was off to explore the city.

I can't believe how well this trip is turning out! (touch wood) They days of exploring are wonderful, and each hour brings a new adventure. The only time I am really homesick is at night. I have been especially homesick the past few evenings. It gets especially bad when I think of the time difference... when I'm having lunch, everyone else is still asleep. When I start getting lonely in the evenings, everyone is still at work but by the time they are home from work, I'm in bed... you get the picture. At least I can call home tonight. I've been looking forward to it all day! Yes, I'm spending a small fortune in phone calls, but it's worth it.