All posts by gavinhamiltoncrawford

Retired from paid work but not from living. Actively engaged in writing cultural, social and family histories, reflecting on a meaningful life and volunteering.

Nurnberg to Southampton, via Bournemouth Southampton, UK Dec 23, 2018

Nurnberg to Southampton, via Bournemouth

Southampton, UK

Dec 23, 2018

If you are planning a trip to Germany and you’re a coffee drinker, then wean yourself off it because you won’t find a decent cup if your life depended on it. If you are happy with Starbucks, you don’t really drink coffee, so you’ll be OK. I only ever drank Starbucks once and that was in Frankfurt after three days when I was desperate.

Here I began the day a little after 6.00 with a cup of instant coffee. By comparison with the brewed coffee, it’s preferable. I then had a gym workout and then headed to the railway station around 300 meters away. I bought filled bread rolls for breakfast and while considering ordering a cappuccino, made the mistake of ordering a Latte. It was only when I was served a long, long black that I looked at the board and didn’t see anything resembling a Latte. I added as much milk as would fit in the cup and returned to the hotel. Here I tried several mouthfuls and eventually after adding two sugars it was drinkable. It’s the first time I’ve had sugar in coffee in thirty years or more.

An uneventful trip to the airport, which is about the size of the Gold Coast airport. Still kicking myself. At the airport duty free, there were bottles of Asbach (German Brandy). On our cruise in 2015, they had served it, and I became addicted. It’s the “Brandy” served in the British officers mess. As we only had 5 minutes to spare before boarding, I reasoned that I’d be able to buy it at Amsterdam airport where we had a 3 hour layover.

Amsterdam airport: “No sir, we don’t sell German spirits” he said. OK, how about Gin instead. Well, Bols isn’t really Gin, its Genever. Both Genever and Gin use juniper berry as a flavoring agent, but Gin’s base is a neutral grain spirit mixed with botanicals, whereas Genever is made with a mash of malted barley, rye, and corn. More like a white whiskey. Then again, I bought the Corenwijn, which translates as “grain wine’, which appears to be, well, I really don’t know but I like it. Whatever ….. as I made my way to the checkout, two staff reminded me …. “Make sure you put it in the freezer”. So, it’s kinda like a whiskey/gin/vodka wine and some say best drunk as a sip followed by a sip of beer (it accentuates the flavor of the beer). I’ll let you know later.

Bols in hand I returned to Ches and discovered that there was a clock above us that appeared to have a cleaner inside. Watched for a while. Not a cleaner but someone painting in the minute hand, then wiping it off and painting again. Turns out it is a video clock with image of a painter changing the minute hand every minute. NOW, to return to the present (Sunday in London), we will be going to the Tate Modern this morning.

Christian Marclay’s acclaimed installation The Clock 2010 has captivated audiences across the world from New York to Moscow.

24-hours long, the installation is a montage of thousands of film and television images of clocks, edited together so they show the actual time. It is a thrilling journey through cinematic history as well as a functioning timepiece.

Following several years of rigorous and painstaking research and production, Marclay collected together excerpts from well-known and lesser-known films including thrillers, westerns and science fiction. He then edited these so that they flow in real time. When watching The Clock you experience a vast range of narratives, settings and moods within the space of a few minutes.

Clocks seem to be featuring in this holiday as we saw numerous sun clocks throughout Germany and Austria.

Back to the journey from Nuremberg to Southampton.

We flew from Copenhagen to Southampton in a small commuter jet operated by KLM. They have a fleet of these 80 seater jets that fly from Copenhagen to many smaller UK airports. The flight was uneventful but the welcome wonderful. With Drew’s foot in a boot, I took on the driving as we ventured in the dark down to Bournemouth for the Christmas Carols concert that we have already reported, and then back to Southampton.

That was the day that was: Nurnberg to Copenhagen to Southampton to Bournemouth to Southampton. If I was a piece of fruit, you’d complain about my mileage.

Nuremberg, Germany Dec 22, 2018

Nuremberg

Nuremberg, Germany

Dec 22, 2018

I’m writing this almost a week after we arrived in Nuremberg. We did so on the Friday morning and Ches and I elected to repeat the city walking tour rather than the WW2 tour. This begins with the drive in from the river and then a circuit of around 2/3rds of the walls. I don’t know how much of these walls survived WW2 bombing and how much are modern reconstructions. Either way, the walls are among the most impressive town walls anywhere. Towers linked by roofed parapets abound. Which prompted Ches to exclaim some days later, when walking the path around half the wall (a couple of kilometers), “Why do you have to photography every tower and wall, they are all the same.” This prompted Jenny to look down from above and also exclaim “Bloody hell Gavin, it’s Burgundy all over again, you have to be taking a photograph every 30 seconds”.

So, Nuremberg. That first day, we revisited the castle and with rain and driving wind, it wasn’t as scenically beautiful as last time. We were the only ones to take our Uniword umbrella to town and were grateful as it kept showering on and off all morning. Once the guide had led us to the Hauptmarkt (the main square), where the main part of the Christmas Markets are set up, we were left to our own devices. At around 11.57 am, we found ourselves in the center of the Hauptmarkt with the Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful fountain) behind us and Frauenkirche (The Church of our Lady) in front. All around us, children had phones out waving them around. What was this all about? At noon, the clock on the church began to chime and then for 5 minutes or more, figures around the clock blew trumpets, rang bells and marched around. As this is the city where the pocket watch was invented and clock making was a major industry, it was only fitting that there be a grand performance at noon every day.

We revisited the shop that sells beautiful tins of ginger biscuits, that don’t have any ginger in them.

While searching for a recipe that best replicates the authentic Nürnberger Elisenlebkuchen (German Lebkuchen), I came across a site with a video of it being made and accompanied by Pachelbel’s Canon in D, and that reminded me of something our guide had mentioned. He said that he believed that Pachelbel (A Nuremberg composer) had been dumped by a Cellist and that in revenge, he had composed the Canon.

“Ah, Pachelbel’s Canon in D. It’s a staple at weddings. It’s almost always found on “relaxing classical music” playlists. It can even be heard during the holidays both in its original form and as incorporated into Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas Canon.

It is perhaps one of the most famous baroque pieces that almost anyone – classical music fan or not – can hum without help. And yet, it is also one of the most hated by musicians themselves, particularly cellists. But why?

Pachelbel’s Canon, as it is commonly known, is one part of his Canon and Gigue for 3 violins and basso continuo. In simple terms, a canon is similar to a round – like Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Typically, one instrument or voice starts the melody and other parts then join in. Unlike a round, however, the parts in a canon don’t have to be exactly identical.

Pachelbel uses the techniques of the canon with 3 voices engaged in the “round”. He adds a basso continuo (bass line) which is independent – making the piece more of a chaconne than a canon. This bass line is the cello part. The same 8 notes that repeat throughout the entire piece with no variation. This is why cellists cannot stand playing this piece. As everyone else in the room enjoys the lovely sounds of the canon, the variations of the melody that travel through the violins and viola, the cello is stuck playing the same two-bar line – one that is so simple it can be played by beginning students. Musically speaking, this is definitely not challenging or fun for cellists.”

Authentic Nürnberger Elisenlebkuchen (German Lebkuchen) Prep Time20 mins Cook Time25 mins Total Time45 mins Servings: 35 lebkuchen Ingredients

  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon quality pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 2 cups hazelnut meal
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons Homemade Lebkuchengewürz

2.5 tablespoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoon ground cloves

0.5 teaspoon ground allspice

0.5 teaspoon ground coriander

0.5 teaspoon ground green cardamom

0.5 teaspoon ground ginger

0.5 teaspoon ground star anise

0.25 teaspoon ground mace

0.25 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 4 ounces candied lemon peel
  • 4 ounces candied orange peel or Homemade Lemon and Orange Peel
  • Backoblaten either 70mm or 90mm
  • Blanched whole almonds cut in half lengthwise
  • For the Chocolate Glaze:
  • 3 ounces quality dark or milk chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or oil of choice – do not use butter
  • Directions: Place chocolate and oil in a small bowl and microwave stirring occasionally, until melted. Use immediately. If glaze becomes firm, reheat in the microwave.
  • For the Sugar Glaze:
  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • Directions: Place sugar and water in a small bowl and stir until smooth.

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Toss the candied lemon and orange peel with about 1/4 of all-purpose flour to keep it from sticking together and then pulse in a food processor until finely minced. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Add the sugar, honey and vanilla extract and beat until combined.

Add the ground almonds and hazelnuts, salt, baking powder, Lebkuchengewürz, and candied lemon and orange peels and stir vigorously until thoroughly combined. (You can use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat for about 2 minutes). The mixture will be wet but if it is too thin to scoop onto the oblaten add some more almond or hazelnut meal.

Scoop the mixture onto the Backoblaten, smoothing down the top and leaving just a slight space around the edges. Set them on a lined cookie sheet.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25-28 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet and allow to cool completely.

Once cooled, place a wire rack over a cookie sheet (to catch the drippings). Dip half the Lebkuchen in the chocolate glaze and half in the sugar glaze, letting the excess drip back into the bowl and then place the Lebkuchen on the wire rack. Arrange 3 almonds on each Lebkuchen while the glaze is still wet. Let the Lebkuchen dry completely until the glaze is hardened.

Keep stored in an airtight container. Will keep for several weeks and the flavor improves with time.

Makes about 35 if using 70mm Backoblaten and about 25 if using 90mm Backoblaten.

So, notwithstanding your efforts to get past this lengthy diversion about Pachelbel and Lebkuchen, an hour and a half at the markets was long enough to buy some tins of Lebkuchen and eat some local sausages, meat loaf and flat local donuts. All in drizzling rain and hands encased in fingerless gloves, which left said gloves and beard reeking of BBQ.

We returned to the ship for an afternoon nap and the final dinner. As we were staying in Nuremberg the following day (Saturday), we knew we had time for exploring the town in more detail, so less guilty about not spending more time that day. Most others revisited the Christmas Markets that afternoon and evening.

As it eventuated, we were able to book into our Hotel in Nuremberg by 10.00am, and that gave us most of the day for exploring the town in better weather. We walked the outside of the walls as described above, and on entering through the gates beside the river which runs under the walls below the castle, I noticed some interesting building in a narrow side street. While there were only three or four small groups of people walking this street, some were stopping to take 30 or more selfies and photographs of each other. Ches didn’t appreciate it when I asked what’s the difference between me taking 30 photos of the walls in a 2km stretch and tourists taking 30 photos of each other in a 20m stretch.

Every house in the street was stunning. Why didn’t our guide take us here and why weren’t there more people here with us now? Maybe the locals want to keep it a secret. I researched later and found that it is Weissgerbergasse The largest ensemble of old artisan houses in Nuremberg, predominantly half-timbered, historic town houses, often with their own wells and a garden, testify to the affluence that could be attributed to the art of leather making.”

I took maybe 20 or so photos.

How appropriate was it that without any knowledge of the leather making history of Nuremberg, Ches bought a new handbag at the Christmas Market. Initially looking at a cow leather bag a similar colour to her current bag which she bought in Rome 11 years ago, she then saw a darker brown bag (buffalo) that had been tooled with a floral design.

Here’s and idea, all those feral buffalo in the Northern Territory to produce leather goods with indigenous patterns.

It had turned into a relatively fine day with glimpses of blue sky as the day progressed. Despite being fine outside, the long walk had lead to Ches needing to sit for a while. We entered a modern Italian café/bar on the main square and had hot chocolate and pastries.

As we had decided that we just had to attend the market at night, we took time out at the hotel for a nap and returned at 6.00. WOW! The city center was heaving. All the way from the gates near the central railway station, down to the central market square was packed with people mashed in between the stands.

What were we there for? “to eat”, when do we want to eat ? “now” and “now” and “now”. What else do you do at a German Christmas Market when you have bought all the Christmas Tree decorations etc. that you need. First up were roasted chestnuts. We had them once before in Dijon and weren’t exactly taken by them. This time, stunning and helped by the atmosphere, as we stood against the stone wall of the bridge, looking down the river to medieval buildings decorated with Christmas lights.

A choir were gathered in the middle of the street entertaining.

Into the main square where we returned to our favourite BBQ stand. Ches had the meatloaf (Pork and Beef mince patty) and I a grilled Pork steak cooked with onion and gravy. Both in crisp small bread rolls. STUNNING! That was dinner.

Nuremberg, loved it and would be happy to visit again.

While on a roll, how about if I also cover our day in transit from Nuremberg to Southampton? Naaaa! Enoughs enough.

Regensburg, Germany Dec 20, 2018

Much ado about …..!

Regensburg, Germany

Dec 20, 2018

For the heritage club cocktail party (previous Uniworld cruisers) and the farewell dinner, I wore my new bright paisley jacket. Now I honestly hadn’t expected to draw attention to myself. I just love bright clothing and felt good wearing it. What did happen was that almost everyone in the lounge bar followed my progress and the bar manager came and asked me if it was “bespoke”. When I said “no”, wanted to know where she could buy it for her husband.

Among the 113 people on our cruise, were a woman, five young men and a young woman. Tiffany Twivey Nonggorr is the principal of Twivel Legal and has been practicing in PNG for 22 years.

Tiffany has practiced widely in law in both PNG and Australia and was formerly a Partner in the commercial litigation section of Gadens Lawyers in Port Moresby, until her move to open her own firm in 2008. Tiffany’s expertise lies in Commercial Litigation, Constitutional Law, Mining, Oil and Gas and Environmental Law both at the National and Supreme Court levels. In Port Moresby, Tiffany has provided long term legal advice to the Prime Minister’s Office, the Department of Attorney General and the Department of Finance, many indigenous Landowners of PNG, Nasfund (Superannuation), Bank of South Pacific, Oil Search, Interoil and other many other governmental institutions and private companies.

Tiffany’s sister died several years ago, and her three sons live in various parts of the U.S. For the last two years she has organized and paid for her son and cousins to holiday together. This year there was her son and his girlfriend and best friend and the three cousins on the cruise. All were aged between 19 and 31. These 7 people were the center of attention the entire cruise.

Every day there was a theme, and she had t-shirts, braces, Tyrolean hats etc. for all of them. They also came with dinner suits etc. The had snow fights … all attacking Tiffany, and she organized activities for the periods we were cruising during the day. They were always having fun and it was infectious.

Our bigoted meal mates began on the first day by declaring that they were Islamist and dodgy. By the end of the cruise, they declared that they were lovely people.

The freaky thing is that I had a tenuous connection to them both. In the case of Robbin from W.A. she grew up living at Rose Bay and Dover Heights. She is three years younger than I, learned to swim at the Watsons Bay Baths with Alf Vockler, the same as me. She went to Kambala, possibly in the same year as Mary Wright (my Godmothers daughter) and basically moved in similar circles to me in the early 60’s.

When I introduced myself to Tiffany, I asked if she knew what Moi Avei was up to these days. Sir Moi Avei was president of the Pangu Party and personal assistant to Sir Michael Somare, the first Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea at Independence. As a schoolboy, Moi along with around 30 other PNG schoolboys attended Ipswich and Toowoomba Grammar schools in the early 1960’s. They were the sons of tribal chiefs, selected to receive university educations and provide the leadership of an independent PNG.

Moi went on the gain degrees from the University of Queensland and London School of Economics, married a Brisbane girl, returned to PNG as mentioned above and I visited him twice in Port Moresby. Once was just months before independence and the other was fifteen years later, and while he served in many governments over the last 45 years, on that last occasion he was disillusioned with the corruption of many of his former school mates. He had returned to his village to try to keep the young people away from Port Moresby and the “Raskol” gangs.

Tiffany told me that Moi is now Chairman of the Ok Tedi mining company and advisor to many PNG companies and government agencies. Tiffany lives in the same residential complex as Moi and will pass on my best wishes and memories of the days in my youth when uninvited he wrote an entry in my autograph album, “silence is golden”. He knew me so well as a 17 year old.

So, following the farewell dinner, with me resplendent in my jacket, and leaving the lounge, someone saw the five cousins all dressed in Tuxedos and remarked, “there’s the rock stars”. One of them turned and responded, “no, here’s the rock star” and he came and put his hand on my shoulder.

For the next two days I had people coming up to me saying how they loved my jacket, and how good I looked in it.

Regensburg, Germany Dec 20, 2018

Regensberg

Regensburg, Germany

Dec 20, 2018

Regensberg

Regensberg is another town that we visited in the summer of 2013 and my memories of it were closer to the mark. This time we docked closer to the old town center and it was only a 500m. walk to the old roman walls and gates that now form part of the foundations, where our real walk began. This was where the Romans became serious about occupying the regions and keeping the barbarians (you know? Huns, Visigoths and Goths) back from the Europe they had civilized. The site of Regensberg was a major crossroad for numerous trade routes and therefore needed defending (like the South China Sea???). They started out with a small force but increased to thousands as they built a walled town with stones that weigh as much as a small car. They built towns like these right across the continent, largely with the main rivers at their back, so Trier at the headwaters of the Mozell River in the west and Regensberg here on the Danube in the East.

For 400 years the Romans occupied the town and region and created a lot of stone blocks to build walls and residences. With the fall of the empire, the barbarians took over the town and called themselves Bavarians. Get it Barbarians/Bavarians or Terrorist/Tourists. They in turn dismantled the buildings and repurposed the stone, building a town with largely stone buildings. The German and Austrian expression for wealthy people is to say they are “stone rich”. Rich enough to build stone houses. Others not so well of who could only live in timber houses are “stony broke”.

Anyway, the connection with Italy stuck, as centuries later, still thriving as a trade center, the influence of San Gimignano became evident. San Gimignano is famous for its stone towers. They served no real defensive purposes, but were built to show off. The wealthier you were, the higher the tower you could build. The Italians introduced the same competition to Regensberg. Here the towers can only be occupied to around the first three floors in line with the surrounding buildings. Everything above is empty space, all for show. We came across one that had a blunted top and was several stories lower than the others. Here a merchant had fallen on hard times, and he was told by his former peers that he should reduce the height of his tower in keeping with his reduced stature as a merchant.

Fortunately for Regensberg, by the time of the two world wars, it had no significant industry or strategic importance. Consequently it wasn’t bombed and it retains a magnificent bridge that crosses the three branches of the Danube, an equally magnificent entrance gate at the end of the bridge and a town filled with grand stone houses and towers and a private family palace like few others.

Regensberg also boasts the oldest takeaway food stall in the world. It’s a small freestanding stone building on the banks of the Danube, beside the bridge and gate. Reputedly set up to feed the workers who built the bridge, serving BBQ sausages, it still participates in the river long competition and claim to serve the best sausages in Germany. We ate here in 2013 and decided they were good enough to eat again. Nine sausages, each the size of your index finger for 9E means you are paying for the experience. They are good sausages. As to the best, the same sausages in Nuremberg are pretty good as well and a lot cheaper.

We also visited the best strudel house in town and purchased one to share as we had given up on ever having any strudel on this trip. This was all before returning to the ship for lunch. More a mid morning snack.

Later in the afternoon, we went to the Christmas Markets set in the grounds of the palace. Now that we have experience Christmas Markets at night, we are sorry not to have seen these ones at night as they were certainly the most stylish of all the markets. In fact, after the event I have read that they are voted as being the best in Germany; the Romantic Markets.

There is a board game called Thurn and Taxis. The board is a map of southern Germany and nearby parts of other countries; it is marked into nine provinces, most of which are grouped into five regions. The map shows 22 cities and a network of roads connecting them. The players move around the board building postal routes. Yup, it’s based on the Princely House of Thurn and Taxis, a family who for four hundred years from the 1500’s to 1800’s were major players in the postal service of Europe. Not just major players but for large areas of Germany, a monopoly. They diversified into brewing and building castles and today are still one of the wealthiest families in Europe.

St Emmeram Castle in Regensberg is still the family home, ruled over by Mariae Gloria Ferdinanda Joachima Josephine Wilhelmine Huberta Gräfin von Schönburg-Glauchau, or as she was known in the 80’s, “Princess TNT”. Some thirty years younger than her husband and something of a marriage of convenience, she wore brightly coloured hair and avante-garde clothing. Today at 58 y.o. she’s quite conservative. The castle is the site for the Christmas markets, both on the outside of two of the castle/palace wings and the vast courtyard inside. The stands are substantial ones, not the cheap timber board ones seen at other markets. Some are cottages. They had surprised looking Llamas, street accordion player and a vintage postal van.

We spent a good hour and a half at these markets, without actually buying anything. The crowds were starting to build, but we missed out on the level of excitement that would have come in the evening.

Our evening was to be the farewell dinner back on board, and I provided the excitement. More of that in the next posting.

Passau, Germany Dec 19, 2018

Passau

Passau, Germany

Dec 19, 2018

Passau has pretty well brought my relationship with my hiking boots to an end. Despite wearing two pairs of socks and rolling one of them down into the top of my right boot, the chafing and bruising on my shin bone is intense. Only be walking and placing my right heel on the ground first gives any relief.

So what do you do when you have set your mind on climbing the cliff behind Passau to photograph the town from above … you grit your teeth.

We visited Passau 5 years ago in summer. Then it was just a week after the highest floods on record and we were told that the 12,000 university students and military had been brought in to clean up the town and that’s why it was fully functioning just a week later. This time we were given a slightly different story by our guide who is a student. She said that prior to the 2013 flood, the relationship between students and residents had been difficult. Students rented the coldest bleakest apartments and landlords were indifferent to making repairs etc. When the floods hit, the students themselves mobilized to help clean up the town, and as a result, the residents developed a greater appreciation.

She also explained that the safest way to prepare for an imminent flood is to flood your house with fresh water. This stops the river water entering the house and depositing mud. It also avoids the risk of the water pressure from the flood waters bursting the doors, windows and even stone work.

As with our last visit, we walked the outer path around the peninsular end of town. My photographs of the monastery and brewery across the Inn river will make quite a contrast to my summer photographs. It was misty and subsequently, my photographs are quite pastel rather than vivid in colour and the edges blurred rather than sharp. Quite atmospheric.

As for the Blue Danube. It’s not blue at any point along its length. Here at Passau, it merges with the Inn and Ilz rivers. The others are definitely greenish but when they merge several hundred meters downstream, the Danube is still, well …. Brown.

I’d climbed the cliff above the Danube on our previous trip, and suggested to a number of people that it was worth the effort. It’s only from the cliff paths beside the castle on the top of the cliff that you can see Passau as a complete town. All the streets are so narrow that when walking around town, you can’t see any major building complete, just glimpse of parts to them. From above, the three major churches thrust up out of the surrounding buildings and you are at the same height as the monastery two rivers across. You have the Danube below, then the town of Passau on its peninsular, then the Inn river and the monastery on the hill top on the other side.

After my fall in Vienna Ches wasn’t too keen on my climbing the cliff. She was also ferful that I’d loose track of time and not be back in time for the ship’s departure. I’d expected others to have taken my advice and that I come across others climbing the stairs and paths. Not so.

I decided that I would give myself half an hour to walk as far up the cliff paths as possible and then to return to the ship. I started with the staircase that takes you three quarters of the way up the cliff to the castle. I’d forgotten that it is a gradient of around 50 degrees. At the top of the steps, my lungs were tight, I was breathing steam and my ankle was ……. I walked along the highest path for around 400 meters and took photographs of the town from the same spots as I did in the summer of 2013. These are quite different with the bare trees framing many photographs and the mist softening the colours and lines of the town.

True to my word, I descended after 30 climbing, taking more photos as I went. As it eventuated, I was the only one to venture up the cliff and consequently, I have the photos that everyone else envies.

I was back on board in plenty of time.

There was time for a quick lunch before we boarded buses for a 30 minute drive to the Bavarian countryside where we were to visit a glass blowing factory and take a ride in a horse drawn covered wagon through the snowy countryside …. but more of that in a part 2 blog to follow.

I should however catch you up on cocktails. Then there is cocktail time. It comes around relentlessly every evening. Too relentlessly because here I am writing this three days later and I can’t remember what I drank on which night. Now I’d had Grand Marnier and Cognac one night, and I mentioned Satan’s Whiskers which I repeatedly miss name as Santa’s Whiskers. It consists of 1oz each of Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Dry Vermouth and orange juice, ½ oz Grand Marnier and 2 dashes of orange bitters. If Ann Marie (the Bar Manager) is mixing it, multiply by three. She also introduced me to B&B (Benedictine and Brandy or Cognac in my case).

Meals on board Uniworld are always amazing. Breakfast and Lunch are always buffet with the option of asking for special omelets or poached eggs with avocado etc. be prepared. Always a very high standard. Dinner is a choice of three entrees, 2 soups, three mains and three deserts with the chef’s special being a combination of the four also offered individually. Always accompanied by white and red wine either from the region where you are cruising or nearby. Never had a bad Hungarian, Austrian or German wine.

Bavarian Forest & Passau, Germany Dec 19, 2018

Passau – Bavarian Forest

Passau, Germany

Dec 19, 2018

Bavarian Forest

Following the morning walking tour of Passau, there was a quick lunch and by 1.00pm we were in coaches heading 30 minutes into the Bavarian countryside. We had made this trip in 2013, however decided that a ride in a covered wagon through a snowy countryside could be extra special.

Our guide was Eva, the same guide as in 2013. We knew who it was from her first utterance. She can’t help herself, she laughs as delivering corny punchlines and every second sentence, and to some she is irritating and to others just good exuberant fun. Unfortunately, she could be the cause of a major dispute. She told us at the end of the excursion when returning to the ship at around 11.30, that this was to be the last time Uniworld will include the excursion in their schedule. Later we were advised by some of the Uniworld people, that it or a similar excursion would be provided by a different “vendor”. It therefore could be that there were complaints about Eva and they have found someone else to do the excursions.

It would be a shame to remove the excursion because the glass museum and glass blowing demonstration at the Theresienthal crystal glass factory at Zwiesel in the middle of the Bavarian Forest and the wagon ride and fresh bread in the village were rated by many on this cruise as a highlight.

Some years ago, the owners of the glass factory decided that it was no longer profitable and decided to close it down, putting several hundred people out of work. A small core of workers just couldn’t let it go. The furnaces if switched off (Russian natural gas) would have been destroyed. They needed to have the heat slowly reduced over weeks, so they continued to work for a while and then generated publicity as they cooled them down. BMW were impressed by the workers staying on, so they investigated and discovered that the manufacturing would have been profitable but for poor management. They were looking to finance the business when one of the senior managers, Max Freiherr von Schnurbein decided to purchase 90% of the shares and left BMW to run the business and rebuild its marketing etc. Today it only employs around 30 or so, and they have 3 year apprenticeships and are quite profitable. Looking at the prices in their factory shop …. OMG!.

With the light fading we then went on to a nearby farming community. As I described the case in Austria, the local farms are small in Bavaria as well. Most of them now rent out apartments to the city people and bake sourdough bread for them as well. The only other income is tourism such as the farm where we take a 30 minute ride in a covered wagon drawn by two short stocky draft horses, return to the farm for mulled wine, freshly baked sourdough (left overs from bread baking, she smothers flat bread dough with sour cream and cheese and bakes in an outdoor stone oven. They also serve small pastries and Bavarian Gebirgsenzian or mountain gentian spirit. It’s a clear schnapps with 40 vol. % alcohol content, produced from the roots of the Alpine gentian plant. For those game enough, we uncapped our bottles of schnapps, followed her in saying a salutation and tossed it down. As good as the last time … tastes a little like celery, warming but not burning like some Eastern European schnapps.

As for the wagon ride, we were all given sheets of lyrics for Christmas carols and sang our hearts out driving through the snow. Across the fields and down through streams, the horses were occasionally put into a gallop. Unfortunately someone in the first cart dropped their phone over the side and when the driver pulled his team up, we in the third cart came within a half meter of our horses hopping into the back of the cart in front. It was that close that the people in the back of the cart could pat the horses on the nose.

All back on the buses for a 30 minute drive back to the ship which had moved up river. We had an hour to get ready to depart by bus again for another 30 min drive to have dinner in a barn in the Bavarian countryside. This was to be the 1st time Uniworld had included this excursion as part of any tour. The story goes that a chef was lured back to his father’s farm on the proviso that he could explore his culinary arts without interference. It had been billed as a Bavarian feast in a barn. The reality was that the barn was beautifully decorated … for a wedding. We’d been bumped.

We arrived to be welcomed outside the door by a Bavarian brass band. O.K. then the owner felt it the right thing to try to gee us up with an over the top welcome. It was 0 degrees and we were still outside being offered Gluehvein. We wanted beer as we had had enough of sweet hot mulled wine. We were then relegated to a rambling building with numerous rooms that ensured that we couldn’t sit with friends or acquaintances. The food was set out in bain-maries and wasn’t very interesting. They ran out of pork, they served one barrel (small) of beer, the waitresses didn’t know what was being served or even where the bathroom was. Very ordinary wines. Very ordinary night and on a midnight run back to the ship, most were amazed that Uniworld would consider removing the afternoon excursion and undertaking this new one.

I remembered attending a conference function at the Gundaroo Pub over 25 years ago. On the bus we were entertained by singers etc. At the pub we were welcomed inside with drinks and steaks straight off the BBQ, entertainment strolling from room to room. Great “Australian” atmosphere. Here we had a lame attempt at “Bavarian” atmosphere.

Many unhappy campers back on board at 12.30 am and questioning why we had put up with such a long day with a poor ending.

Linz, Austria Dec 18, 2018

Linz

Linz, Austria

Dec 18, 2018

Over breakfast, I speculated about Linz. If I remembered correctly, there was a large town square surrounded by many architecturally different buildings from the middle ages and a main street with a tram running down the middle and lined with modern buildings largely retail fashion and the remains of a Roman wall. I didn’t remember correctly, we’ve never been here before.

Then again, this could be an accurate description of Linz. The reason for the speculation was that we had options. We could take a long town walk or short town walk and visit a cider farm on the outskirts of town. Based on my poor memory, I opted for the second option and Ches the first. I’m kicking myself I didn’t talk Ches into joining me.

Linz is the home of the Linzer Tort. Isn’t every Austrian and German town famous for a pastry or sausage? Apparently the Linzer gets better with age. We’ve bought one to share with Drew and Keith on Drew’s birthday at the end of January.

So, the biggest cathedral in Austria is in the third biggest city with a population on just around 200,000 people. It doesn’t have the tallest steeple and will allow Vienna the claim to that, but they insist, theirs is the biggest. It looks hundreds of years old but was only built in the early 1900’s. A new bishop was disappointed in the small church that didn’t befit his status, so insisted on a cathedral which could house the entire population of 23,000 people at that time. Short of granting naming rights, he sold local businesses and gentry on footing the bill with the local bank being the largest contributor. That entitled them to a stained glass window depicting the bank building. Actually. They have amazing stained glass with many depicting famous identities from Linz such as composers and astronomers. Also many that are more like modern art with colours not seen anywhere else.

Since 2009 when the city was named as the European city of culture, the city has flourished as a tourist destination. They’ve spent the money well and established a new university, the Bruckner University (music and performing arts). One of the “gimmicks” they came up with for 2009 was to offer weekly tenancy of a single person “cell” at the top of the cathedral spire. Call the Tower Hermit: 395 Steps to Solitude. They were fully booked for the year and continued it on to the present and there is a waiting list. For 600E you spend a week in the cell, are brought meals and there is a toilet, however you have to walk down to the ground level and back up once a day for the exercise. You can take a book, but no digital devices. You are expected to keep a diary of your reflection and articulation and pass it on to the next hermit. Oh! And the church bells a rung every 15 minutes, so they provide ear plugs.

The old medieval center of town was derelict up till 2009. It was where all the young people (including our guide) used to hang out. In the run up to 2009, the owners didn’t want to have the ugliest house in the street and renovated in a competition not to be outdone by neighbors. The result is now that it’s the most expensive street in town.

When Martin Luther’s teachings reached Linz and the monks were given the option of marrying, they abandoned the monastery and it became the town hall and the moat around it filled in. As part of the beautification programme in 2009, they discovered that the original bridge across the moat had just been buried, so they excavated it and its now a feature of the entrance to the town hall.

So, lots to see and interesting history, however now it was time to visit the Cider farm. This could prove to be the most inspirational story of our trip. Around 20 years ago, Klauss and his wife were nurses. They decided that they wanted to be farmers, however the cost of farms was so prohibitive that they wouldn’t be able to buy one. It was in the lead up to the referendum on joining the EU, and of the 40% of Austrians that voted “no”, the majority were farmers. Farming in Austria is small scale and they feared they would be at an economic disadvantage to the larger German farms. Many decided to re-model their farms, converting farm buildings into residences and renting or selling them off.

Klauss and his wife went In search of an elderly couple with no children and therefore no one in line to inherit their farm. They found a couple and proposed that they immediately join them on their farm and pay them a weekly pension, and in return that they would inherit the farm when they died.

They immediately decided on a new business model. The opened a restaurant that only operated on Thursday and Friday evenings and all day Saturday. They began producing all their own meat. Beef, pork, lamb, chickens and geese. They also taught themselves how to make pear and apple cider.

Klauss tells that the old farmers had always feared that farming would fail and were delighted that Klauss and his wife had actually turned it into a profitable one. In describing his farm, he talked about all of his stock in terms of Kilos and meal portions. Totally self sufficient, he knows exactly how many breading pairs of geese he needs each year to produce enough geese to fill his annual orders in November. November 11 is the saints day in Austria and goose is the meal to celebrate. The equivalent of turkey on thanksgiving day in the States. Austrians however eat goose right through November. He already has a full order book for next November and knows exactly how many breading pairs he need to produce the required quantity.

It was always about life style as well, so they take a family holiday every 8 weeks and have staff to look after the stock on those occasions. They have three sons, the eldest 21, and expect them to make their own careers. If any of them find a partner who is also committed to the lifestyle and they decide to return to the farm, he insists that they have to develop their own plan for the farm and not necessarily follow his.

We began in the courtyard of the farmhouse. Three of the sides are residential and the fourth is for stables. He has other stock buildings, including a cedar clad house for his pigs. A roost for his flock of Brest chickens (eggs and meat). Brest chickens have a red c*** comb, white body and blue legs. Trust the French, tricolor chickens.

We were served a mulled cider and fruit bread while he told us about the farm. He then went into the barn and brought out a 1 hour old lamb. That’s right 1 hour. You’ve never seen a more bewildered look on any creatures face.

We then went into the restaurant where they served snacks and different ciders. More like apple and pear wines that were more flinty than sweet. Outside the mist lifted and the views across the snowy countryside was stunning. Small farms surrounded by snow with the mist from the Danube River rising behind. I almost wore out my camera. The major disappointment was that Ches had decided that she wouldn’t come and had missed out on a great experience.

It was then back to the boat for lunch and our departure up river for Passau. After all the cider and a beer with lunch, a nap was in order. Late afternoon there was a Waltz class. A trio played waltzes while two dancers instructed around 4 couples in how to do a Strauss Walz. We had a cocktail while watching. I decided on “Satan’s Whiskers” I had to give the bar instructions. Equal parts Gin, Grand Marnier, Sweet Vermouth, Dry Vermouth and orange Juice and a dash of Orange Bitters. The way she always mixes cocktails, I had about half a snifter and was ready for the captain’s Heritage Members Cocktail Party. This is only for those who have cruised with Uniworld previously. At the cocktail party a B&B, Equal parts Cognac and Benedictine. Again, half a snifter, so I sipped steadily and returned half to our stateroom to have as a bedtime tipple.