We were stuck up the Neckar for quite a few more days before the water receded and the locks were open. The river brought down debris in the form of tree trunks, branches and other lumps of wood that clogged up the huge flood control gates and were a hazard in the locks. Eventually the waters receded but we were not released from the little harbour in Hassmersheim until Friday noon, by which time we had been there 11 days. The enforced stay gave us more time to get know the local people as well as entertain some of our visitors from Canada. Helga and Helmut were our hosts at the HBV. Helga explained that a few years ago they had taken a cruise to Alaska then travelled around British Columbia by car for four weeks. She had picked up and polished stones from French Beach (on the south west corner of Vancouver Island) and holds them to remember her holiday in BC whenever she felt a bit down. So they had a good idea what our part of the world looked like and very welcoming to us to theirs.
My friend Judi arrived on day eight of our Neckar adventure. She was visiting a friend in Duisburg, then met us in the Neckar town of Heilbronn. Martin and I took the train to Heilbronn to meet her. This gave us an opportunity to look at this pretty little town that hosts an Audi car plant. Everyday we had seen three or four train loads of Audis fresh from the factory pass by Hassmersheim.
Judi is Japanese-Canadian and attracted quite a bit of attention from the people at the boat club. At the BBQ she was able to tell her family story as a third generation Canadian and our hosts were fascinated with her tales of the issues with Asian immigration, the wartime deportation of Japanese-Canadian families from the Canadian coast after Pearl Harbour in 1941 and Judi’s father’s experience in the Canadian army before and during World War II. These were stories that had never been heard in Europe.
We made friends with a couple from Rudesheim – Andrea and Piet who were on their first summer holiday on their brand new boat “Willem III”, which was named for the new king of the Netherlands as Piet was Dutch. This lovely 15m Dutch cruiser had a broad beam and all mod cons like an oven and washing machine. It will, I am sure, be greatly enjoyed by its proud owners.
Judi and I took a day out and left Martin and Kerry on board. We took the train to Stuttgart, the capital of Baden Wurttemberg. It is a city of about 600,000 that has evolved over time into a major metropolis of around 2 million that is home to Porsche and Mercedes. (Yes – we are in supercar country). Stuttgart was a sophisticated city – home to a local prince until 1870 and picked to be the State capital in 1956 when the State of Baden Wurttemberg was formed. The Neckar River flows through the centre. Martin and I had considered going there by boat but it is over 170kms down the river (which means 170kms back) but it was a lock or two too far!
The city followed the contours of the wine growing hills as it expanded. Regrettably Judi and I only had a few hours in the city so we took a couple of city hop-on hop-off bus tours which gave us a great overview of the history and culture of this place of contrasts: urban and forest, old and new, trains and cars, green and industrial. Both of us thought Stuttgart worth another visit if we were in Baden Wurttemberg again.
The Hassmersheim Bootclub was very kind and gave everyone a reduced rate on the moorage because of the flooding. There was a BBQ for those of us trapped on our boats (some people had taken the train home on Monday – to go to work ). It was a nice evening amongst the tepees, with steak and sausages buns etc on offer. Beer was available, but no wine for sale and I took my own fish. Andrea brought wine to share – it was a delicious drink – Lemberger wine (which is normally red) that was white – Noir a Blanc. The grapes are apparently black skinned but there skins are not used so the wine is a white (with a soft peachy hue), quite dry and very smooth. I think I will have to give up wine when I get to the highly priced alcohol in Canada – sticker-shock will certainly limit consumption and the government monopoly on wholesale wine purchasing will limit my choice.
We spent a relaxing day on the boat preparing for our next visitor, visiting the lock to see how blocked up it really was, and walking across the river to Neckarzimmern although we did not make it back up to Burg Hornberg. Martin’s granddaughter Ayja arrived on Friday from Cologne (Koln) and we spent the evening orienting her to the boat and Germany. Many of the ‘trapped’ boaters spent their last evening together telling tales of the flood, as we Canucks planned our next few days.
Early next day Martin and Ayja took our bikes and went up the hill to Burg Hornberg, they even scampered up to the top of the tower to get the view and a couple of bottles of the local wine (grown on the hillside) before we set off with a couple of other boats downstream. We were making 18 km per hour with the current with us. Despite our later start we decided to stop at beautiful Hirschhorn with its historic old town and Burg on the top of the hill. Needless to say both Judi and Ayja were quite mind-blown by the scenery and the view of the valley from the water. We had a sunny day so being outside on deck was a treat.
One of the members of the Heidelberg club recommended that I read Mark Twains account of his experience of travelling the Neckar Valley in 1878. In Heidelberg I purchased “Mark Twain’s Updated Guide to Heidelberg” – edited by Werner Pieper. Mark Twain’s wit and insight were evident in this account of his trip up the Neckar and his attempts to learn German.
As a German speaker (not my mother tongue) I understand his frustration with complexities, rules and numerous exceptions to those rules. I have also experienced the difficulties of German. Martin’s granddaughter arrived and I did not know the word for grandchild or granddaughter in German, so asked many of the Swabish/German speaking people we knew, what the word would be. What I heard was ein Entekind ( pronounced ‘ent e kint’) and discovered that the real word is Enkelkind (enkel kint) or Enkeltotcher and that Entekind means duckling!!! So everyone we met knew that Ayja was our “duckling. I enjoyed reading Twain and understood his humorous insights about learning German.
However his descriptions of Hirschhorn are no longer accurate as this town has been scrubbed clean and renovated (in the original style) and is now a major tourist attraction. There were no locks on the Neckar when Mark Twain visited – instead there was a massive 126km long chain ship system (from Mannheim to Heilbronn). Originally sails and mules moved goods and people up river, then in 1878 the ‘Kettenschleppschiffahrt’ was introduced, and was used until 1930’s when the locks and weirs were completed, and motor boats replaced animal and steam power. Now large barges move bulky goods up and down the river to Stuttgart.
Twain marvelled at German people for their; cleanliness, kindness, work ethic (especially of women), and attention to detail. This book was a goldmine of useless information (a bit like my memory banks) – I discovered that singer Jackson Browne was born in Heidelberg (for all the Eagles fans out there), other famous Americans have spent time here including Frank Zappa, Alan Ginsberg and Timothy Leary. Maybe the US Forces read Mark Twain and other crazy Americans before moving into the area for 60 years!!!
We had a day in Heidelberg with our guests visiting the castle and taking the funicular tram up the Konigsstuhl. We had a good view across the Rhine valley from out high up vantage point. Judi, Ayja and I took advantage of the proximity of the Thermabad (outdoor swimming pool) and had a pleasant dip, followed by a dinner on the dock at Tatianas.
The next morning (Monday) Judi left by train to return to Ireland and then Canada. Martin and Ayja also took a train to Stuttgart to see the city and the Mercedes and Porsche museums and I had a day off. Unfortunately they found out that all museums in Germany are closed on Monday – so they took the city tour and enjoyed the trams and trains in Stuttgart.
Tuesday was a travel day as we made our way to Worms down the Neckar (through two locks) on into the Rhine. The river was still flooding in different places and we could see how high the waters had risen. Going down stream we were able to make good time at 17 – 20 kmh. The Worms harbour was industrialized and noisy, the city was similarly very noisy and a bit of a disappointment. The city is a famous ecclesiastical centre where Martin Luther taught and Leibfrauenmilch was first made. There were vineyards within the city, a few lovely churches, walkable city walls but lots of traffic and traffic noise.
We moved down river the next day, we had cloudy cool weather and a fast river. We just left the Worms harbour when we were pulled over by the river police. We had the wrong frequency on our VHF radio and could not hear their hail, so they were interested in our flag and wanted our documentation. Again, we were all wearing life jackets (including the dog), and the police were not. I think they realized we were both experienced and cautious sailors. By the end of our conversation they were sharing tales of their trips to Canada, and calling up their colleagues down river for information. We thanked them for their help and continued on our way to the tiny harbour but lovely town of Oppenheim.
We arrived in Oppenheim in the early evening after a hairy ride down the swollen Rhine. The tiny harbour was run by a private club – it provided water and very expensive electricity (€1 per KwH), and was located next to the train station and had a fuel station on the dock.
We needed to get Ayja to Mainz for her to catch her train to the Netherlands for her return to Canada. Oppenheim was another centre for wine and produced some very nice local varieties including our new favourite “Noir a Blanc”.
The next day we headed into Mainz by train to have a look around what turned out to be an ancient and modern city, the home of Gutenberg (and his printing press), on the Rhine. We went walkabout and enjoyed a final lunch with Ayja the Cathedral square. Ayja has a healthy interest in alcohol (she works in a wine shop, her mum works for the BC Liquor Board, her dad is building a micro brewery and her holiday reading material was the Wine Bible) as a career choice so she wanted to see and test wines, beers and the occasional fancy gelato (in Prosecco). She enjoyed her tour of the white wine country, and was off the Netherlands for a tour of the Schiedam Jenver distillery and a local brewery. We left her in Mainz as she set off on her own adventure for a day or so.
Martin and I spent another night in Oppenheim. The next morning we filled up the diesel tank – €330 for 220 litres of diesel and began our journey into the hills and eventually to Rhine gorge. We were entering Rhine wine country – romantic castles and houses on the river – each with their own vineyards. We were still sharing the flooded river with the juggernauts and had seen very few ‘sportboots’ but we moved into tourist country and pulled into Rudesheim.
I am writing this blog in England (and this is the funeral part) as I have returned for my Aunty Ethels funeral. Aunty Ethel was 91 and died unexpectedly on June 1 (she was very healthy for her age). This, however, is the third death of an elder this year. My Uncle Walt died aged 85 in February and unfortunately my mum and I were in Spain therefore unable to attend his funeral. Our friend Alan Clapp aged 83 died in April in Victoria, again we were unable to attend the funeral. So going to my Aunty’s funeral was quite cathartic and allowed me to be with one of my tribes from across the globe – my wonderful cousins (on my mothers side) and their families.
The funeral was held on a lovely sunny warm day that Aunty Ethel would have loved.
My heart goes out to the people of Calgary who are coping with massive floods and great losses June 20 -23 2013. I am very empathetic after having been caught in a flood in Germany. I hope the waters subside and normal life soon returns the city.