The Retirees visit Warnemunde Germany

As we left a thick sea mist settled upon the water. Grey surrounded us and moisture hung in the air. the mist followed us for the two days sailing to Warnemunde and the joyous tune of the “Love Boat” blared into the fog. We killed time with cards and board games, feasting on the smorgasbord and other things which I have now forgotten. Little did I know that a sinsiter shadow was following me all that time.

Resting in our cabin I noticed we had a visitor in the form of a small land bird seeking refuge and probably lost in the fog.

The fog disappeared suddenly as we docked at Warnemunde. This is the port for Berlin 3 hours south. as we had spent 5 fantastic days in Berlin we were not considering sitting in a bus or train for 6 hours going to and from Berlin so we tumbled ashore to see what it had to offer. quite frankly I was pleasantly surprised.

From our cabin we could see a warm day rising. However I was now aware that I had a shadow. Warnemunde is a busy port as you might expect. Warnemünde  literally Mouth of the Warnow is a seaside resort and a district of the city of Rostock in Mecklenburg, Germany. It is one of the world’s busiest cruise ports. Founded in about 1200, Warnemünde was for centuries a small fishing village with minor importance for the economic and cultural development of the region. In 1323 Warnemünde lost its autonomous status as it was purchased by the city of Rostock in order to safeguard the city’s access to the Baltic Sea. It was not until the 19th century that Warnemünde began to develop into an important seaside resort.

We walked along the peir towards the railway station and the crossing into the township passing two other cruise ships of similar size to our SS Regal Princess before we encounter our first opportunity to purchase souvenirs. Out front of this establishment was a sand sculpture – why I don’t know exactly but it was very impressive in its artistry and detail.

A lefthand turn through a tunnel and we were out into the township with the rail station behind us. As we walked we encountered various buskers but this one caught my eye as very clever singing “Sitting on the dock of the bay”. the town’s fishing heritage can be seen with the fishing boats lining the canal whilst the new monarch of the seas stand large in the background.

The towns economy depended on fishing for centuries so you would expect some history around that. I found a well preserved fishermans house which had been enlarged with a modern extension to house a museum. The front entrance takes you back in time to when the last of the fishing families lived there. It is very much like someones home at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. as you walk through the home you are lead to the extension and the history of the community. I was impressed with the charm and the stories told by this museum. Like the story of Stephan Jantzen who went to sea at the age of 14. In 1856, he was granted a patent for skipper on a long journey. In the same year, he became captain of the 38-meter Bark “Johannes Keppler”; Jantzen personally commissioned this ship and had shares in this ship, with which he circumnavigated the earth twice in the period from December 1856 to 1866, mostly accompanied by his wife and his firstborn son Magnus. The second son Varelius was born on one of the trips aboard. Both sons of Jantzen later became sailors as well.Jantzen sold his vessel in 1863 and became commander of the local sea rescue stations of the German Society for the Rescue of Shipwrecked Persons and received numerous awards from Germany, Sweden and Portugal for his bravery and daring in rescuing shipwrecked persons.

I was the only one interested in the fisherman’s house so when I emerged I was all alone. I headed toward the town square and found my co-explorers who were oogling the markets in the square. As is the case in small towns and villages of Europe there was a collection of vendors selling everything from suasages to sauerkraut. We gathered a few items for a platter whilst playing cards on the ship. One item that abound in Germany is white asparagus and they are popular. What was unusal was a pub off the square called the “Captain Bligh” from mutiny on the Bounty fame (a bit of the south pacific in Wandemunde).

The town is on the Baltic Sea coast and has large sandy beaches and a unique beach chair. There is not a lot of wave action but the Germans are at the beach in great numbers. Nearby is the mouth of the river and great lines of ships can be seen sailing into the wharves in the river. We walked down the beach and over to an odd shaped building house an inviting cafe serving odd german beers – a Rostocker for Rod and a Duckstein for me. Having quenched our thirst and sampled the odd beach chairs we moved into the fishing wharves area and the major tourist strip. Still our ship was the largest thing in sight.

We returned to the ship ready to rest play cards and nibble on our market snacks. Relaxing in our cabin I realised how industrial the area around thei town has become. Later that afternoon just as we were readying to sail I saw a naval ship sail past. It was only then that I noticed the naval base behind the undergrowth on the island beyound our ship.


The Retirees go Abroad – Cologne –Back to Long Eaton via Monchau.

Next morning we arose with the alarm to finish packing and put the cases outside the cabin have breakfast and get on the bus. Thus far on this trip our bus drivers had got lost three times and our tour guide Jill was found wanting in her knowledge outside of the script given to her by Shearings. So it should not come as a surprise that Jill forgot to tell those of us waiting in the lounge to board the coach leading to a late scramble to board the bus. Derek our new driver from Lancashire seemed a bit more positive in his knowledge so when we ended up at Monchau and not the retail designer outlet village that had been a feature of our return journey, there was consternation in the camp – Kerry let him know her opinion and she was right; they had changed the itinerary without informing us.

After sharing our opinion with Derek, we went off to view the village and a pretty village it is. Established in the 12th century the village had its glory during the 18th century making fine quality clothe and some of the buildings evidence the wealth of the town. Most of the village is original as it was saved from damage through the Second World War probably because it no longer had any commercial importance or strategic value. Our walk took in the oldest church, and the river that runs through it a cafe where we enjoyed goulash soup and a strudel, the into the oldest part of the town where we found a family of coffee blenders and some chocolatiers making chocolate with mustard from the local mustard factory, the Red House (an impressive 18th century mansion now a museum which closes at lunch time of course) and lots of other quaint buildings.

We then had a wearisome drive to our hotel arriving at 7.30 pm because of traffic. After a good night rest (the first time in a bed larger than a ships bunk for 6 nights) we boarded the coach only to learn that the refugees had been rioting at Calais again. Despite this the bus driver insisted on stopping at a duty free store for all the addicts to stock up on nicotine (one woman had the habit so badly that even though the weather got mist and freezing winds , she would stand outside the hotel sucking on a ciggie chain smoking rather than forsake the ciggie and join us inside). Our worries about the ferry and delays proved unfounded but the French are taking it more seriously. Two police were posted at our hotel to stay with the bus overnight to ensure no illegals hid on the vehicle. We boarded the ferry on time and at this rate we expect to be at Long Eaton by 6.00pm tomorrow will be a busy day finishing the packing and moving out of our home for the last 18 months.

The Retirees go Abroad – Cologne –Rudeshiemer by night

Back to the boat for a rest then after that we prowl Drosselgasse for a nice restaurant. Drosselgasse is the local tourist strip containing all the authentic German restaurants and all serving traditional foods and the local specialty – Rudeschiemer Kaffe – a liqueured coffee. We ended up at the International – Bie Hollerne where two rather Asian entertainers appeared to be enjoying a karaoke night singing English and German tunes with an electronic keyboard and electronic backing. The food was traditional German with lots of sauerkraut and potatoes. I picked a shwineaxe and Kerry selected a veal schnitzel. The schnitzel was melt in your mouth but my schwineaxe stunned me. About 1/2 a kilo of pork joint baked with crackling on a bed of sauerkraut with mashed potato. Well I struggled and I was beaten – no way was I going to eat all of that.

Of course we had to try the coffee. It is served in a traditional pink and white cup into which blocks of sugar and the local brandy Asbach are placed. The waiter then lights the brandy melting the sugar pours black coffee over the flaming sugar and finishes with a scoop of cream. Delicious.

After loosening the top button on my trousers we headed for the boat and a peaceful night free of boat noise and trains rattling by. Well the boat was quiet but even though we were some distance from the train they could be clearly heard echoing through the valley.

The Retirees go Abroad – Cologne – On the Rhine to Koblenz and Boppard

The boat sails at 10.30pm for Koblenz and whilst Kerry pretends to sleep I start this blog. It will be a rough night with the motor noise and things shaking through the night.

We are woken by the silence. The ship’s engines have stopped. We have arrived in Koblenz. Koblenz is at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. After breakfast and a consultation with the tour manager we decide to go it alone. Map in hand we head for the Oberes Mittelrheintal a complex of stately buildings in the centre of medieval Koblenz. On one of the houses is a clock with a face below. The eyes in the faces move with the second hand and on the hour the faces extends its tongue – I don’t know why but it does. Alongside it is the local church (note two bell towers they are very big on twin bell towers) and nearby an impressive school.

The tour manager gave us a few clues as to what to look for and one was the pissing boy. We did not find the boy but may have found his father hard at work selling his wares. Then another church and a walking tour of Americans – weren’t we lucky. A little further along we came across a monument which represent the time line for Koblenz’s history.

Time is getting on and we want to visit the Skyrope and the castle across the Rhine. So we head for the river and find the Skyrope (a cable car) but it doesn’t open till 9.30am. As we wait Martin and Christine (co adventurers on the boat) turn up. It was their idea to go to the castle and not the tour offered by the boat so we join them in a trip up to the castle and then they headed off to view the park around the castle whilst we visited the castle. On the way up we could soon why this site was chosen for the castle – it commands the confluence of the two rivers.

Whilst most of the castle structure remains, the internal areas have been largely converted to various uses. The castle appears to be based on the Dutch design of a star shape with a gate separated from the main gate by a moat. Where once you would have entered the castle by coming through the barbican and climbing the steep hill to the castle gates; these days you came directly into the old fortifications. The castle is now a number of things from military museum to commercial. One of the displays was a trip around the world and through history with Play Mobil figures. In the court yard you have the best views of Koblenz and the two rivers and the old path climbing the hill.

We must return to the boat by 11.30 or miss the boat. So we take the return trip with the Ropewalk and walk to the junction of the two rivers where a bloody big monument has been erected. It appears to celebrate the first unification of the Germanic states. The horse a top the monument column was so real to life it even had the world’s biggest brass balls. Kerry had heard or read that there was even a memorial to the third reunification – parts of the Berlin wall.

We made it to our boat in plenty of time. One thing that we find strange is the dining room is located on the water line as you will see in the following photos. Some people are getting sea sick every time another boat passes. We retire for lunch and the boat sails to Boppard a charming little village just designed for trapping tourists. So we take the unconventional route behind the town to avoid the tourist shops. We were excited to discover an ancient tower now converted into a home and shop – quite unique. This lead us to the main square and the local church again with twin bell towers – what is it about twin bell towers. Digging around in the back streets we found parts of the old city wall still standing and now incorporated into houses and other buildings, the last remaining city gate and a variety of buildings dating from the 16th century. Not much else to report on Boppard. It has a chair lift but it did not seem to have anything other than views to visit.

Now it is time for a kip then shower time and dinner. Hard life!

The Retirees go Abroad – Cologne

There are only a few weeks before we go home and to make the most of our last few weeks we have decided to try a bus trip to Cologne in Germany with a trip down the Rhine River for a few days. Yes it may seem odd to travel by bus but it was cheaper by far than plane, train or automobile. So our adventure starts at 5.00am with the alarm going off so we can catch our bus 100m around the corner outside the job centre at Long Eaton. It is a foggy morning and bloody cold as well but there is our bus awaiting us. On board are the driver and a couple from Chesterfield who had to get up at 3.30 am to catch the bus.

It is a bloody boring drive to Stop 24 where we meet our tour bus (they collect everyone and sort them out at Stop 24). We bought some lunch as we thought we were there for an hour and a half but no sooner do I have the subway foot long than the call comes over the intercom – passengers for bus 24 your bus is ready for boarding.

Another boring bus ride then a ferry ride with P&O. We are used to My Ferry and it is a shock to see the difference on the P&O ferry – most disappointing. We are overnighting at Lille or so we are told but it turns out that we are staying at Neuville near the Belgian/France border. The accommodation is fine the meals are shit and the walk after dinner into the village was most interesting. Nothing is open – Its France on a Sunday – but it is a pleasant village with some unusual shrines which I expect are all small chapels giving thanks for peace. After all this is one of the deadliest battle zones of WW1.

The next morning we are promised we will be in Cologne by lunch – we forgot to ask what time is lunch. Breakfast is fine and I get to teach a few Poms how to tell the difference between a boiled egg and a fresh egg. The bus ride is painful with the old biddies in front unable to shut up and Barbara behind us snoring like a trooper.

We arrive at Cologne and the bus driver cannot find the boat. This is the second driver who did not have a clue about his destination. The previous driver could not find Northampton bus station. We find the boat at the end of a bike path – I would never have guessed that the driver would have to reverse his bus up a bike path to drop us off. Two o’clock is lunch time and the food is good so we look set for a decent feed at least once per day.

We have the afternoon in Cologne. We walk for about 30 minutes past some amazing buildings and bridges to cross the Rhine and make our way to the Cathedral but we never made it.

Michael on the cycle stopped us. I bumped into an Irish man who looked my age driving a pedal rickshaw offering guided tours of Cologne and the deal; was so good we took it on. I wanted to see how this old bastard was going to pedal us around Cologne. An electric bike is how. Oh well at least I knew I would not have to push.

He took us to the Cathedral. Michael told us that the Cathedral contained the bones of the three wise men who visited Jesus at his birth. Frederick Barbarossa had stolen them from Milan and built a Cathedral to house them and here they remain. They are contained in a golden shrine in the eastern end of the cathedral.

And then to a memorial to the 6 million Germans killed by the Nazis and then to view a railway bridge and pontificate on the financing of the Cathedral by a levy on boat traffic on the Rhine. Even though the levy was raised for 300 years it took 600 years to finish the Cathedral.

From there we went to see the flood levels of the Rhine in recent history, the new docklands where the old docks of Cologne had been gentrified as apartments. We then returned along the river front to Mick’s favourite Irish pub, the old square containing the medieval city hall (Rathaus) and the Jan and Greta memorial as well as some irreverent grotesques – one poking his tongue and the other baring her bum.We left Michael and returned to the Cathedral and this time went inside.

We decided that we would return to the boat as there are free drinks on tonight. Back at the boat we dine (the food is alright again) and then go to the bar with our dinner companions for a few drinks. Great afternoon and night. This bus tour may turn out alright!

The Retirees go Abroad – Verona Onto Salzburg

We discovered that we did not have any maps in our GPS for Austria or Germany. Alarm bells! What were we to do, we were half way to Salzburg and our host was expecting us at 15.00. We also realised that we had not experienced a German speaking country before. We decided that in respect of the GPS we would do it the old fashioned way and buy a map, and in respect of the language we would play dumb (which we were) and hope to find English speakers.

The road to Austria and through Austria has some of the most spectacular scenery we had seen so far. High mountains followed us throughout the day. Large castles appeared among the villages springing up throughout the valleys and sometimes perched precariously on the mountains. The .weather was threatening rain most of the day but the scenery made up for it. We even passed through the Dolomites which are a mountain range located in north eastern Italy. They form a part of the Southern Limestone Alps. The name “Dolomites” is derived from the famous French mineralogist Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu who was the first to describe the rock, dolomite, a type of carbonate rock which is responsible for the characteristic shapes and colour of these mountains.

Before entering Austria we called in at a services area to get our map. By now we were satisfied that the cord for Kerry’s IPhone was broken as her phone was not charging so when we bought the book of maps we also bought a new cord. 45€ later we were walking out of the service station office when I notice a sign in Italian with the Austrian two headed eagle on it and other ominous looking words and so I thought I better enquire. It turns out Austria has a road tax and before entering the country you need to buy and display a vignette. Of course the servo sold them and a ten day pass cost 9€.

Well with Kerry’s phone recharging we realised that we could use it for directions so the book of maps was unnecessary. Then we realised that it was not Kerry’s cord but the power outlet in the car – the fuse had blown for our auxiliary outlets on which we ran the phone and the fridge. Just one of those days.

We also encountered an extraordinary number of tunnels and bridges; too many to count although I think I got up to 28 tunnels before losing count.

Well when we finally arrived we were dismayed. The house was surrounded by scaffold (my picture is of the back of the house which is more flattering). Petra the owner was quickly at the front door and showed us inside speaking very good English. She explained that she and her father were renovating whenever she had the money to do some more, but the flat we were renting was complete on the inside. It certainly was and had every comfort. She gave us a run down on the buses and other things and then showed us her part of the house inviting us to call if we needed anything. So we unpacked and headed for town. As we walked to the bus we noticed a huge castle on a nearby hill which turned out to be Hohensalzburg in the centre of Salzburg. We passed a red phone box which had been converted into a community borrowing library, passed over a canal and noted that Austrian houses had a distinct Swiss appearance or vice a versa.

Not much else happened that first day but as the photos show we were in Salzburg.