When my parents came to visit, Ben and I always tried to do something special. Once we decided to take a week-long river cruise on the Rhine. It started in Düsseldorf went to Koblenz and up the Mosel then back to Düsseldorf. We took the train to our starting point, boarded the ship and off we went on our memorable journey.
It was a small ship, a fraction the size of the Queen Elizabeth and was named the Rhine Princess. There was no dress code for meals and no pool. Apart from the nice crewmembers there was one slot machine in the entrance to the bar. There were also daily guided tours you could sign up for. We were all looking forward to seeing Germany from the Rhine.
Guided Tour through the Castle of Drachenburg
As with most guided tours, our group followed the guide from one place to another learning about what we saw. Our guide, a member of the crew, wasn’t especially versed in the fine points of the castle. In fact, I don’t think I would be completely off base if I said this was probably her first attempt at being a guide. She had two or three pages of notes to help her pull off this feat. It told her where to take us and what to say.
Vases in the Castle
One of the things she showed us were two huge oriental vases on either side of a door. She stood facing the group. Then pointed to the vase on her right and read from her paper “On your right you can see…” . She then pointed to the vase on her left and read “On your left you can see…” At that moment she realized what was on her right was on our left and vice versa. Somewhat flustered she started over.
Stain Glass Windows in the Castle
Towards the end of the tour she had gained a bit of confidence. She scanned what she was supposed to say and then just adlibbed it. We stopped in front of a stain glass window depicting reformers among others. She pointed to the stain glass portraits saying who was who. When she got to Martin Luther she said ‘Martin Luther King’. Oops, quick history lesson needed. Martin Luther was a white German professor of theology. He was born in 1483. Martin Luther King Jr. was a black American Baptist minister and a spokesperson for civil rights. He was born in 1929. Depicted was a white man.
Realizing what she had said, Ben started to chuckle, then Mom, Dad and me. No one else in the group even batted an eye, I guess they weren’t listening. Or maybe they thought that was what Martin Luther King Jr. looked like. This time the tour guide didn’t even realize she had made a mistake. She was probably just glad her tour was almost over.
There were no tours organized by our cruise in Rüdesheim. We were let loose to discover the town by ourselves. It is a picturesque town and home to a brandy called Asbach Uralt. ‘Asbach’ is the name of the founder and ‘Uralt’ means ancient. We thought it would be interesting to take a tour of the distillery.
When we got there we saw that there were tours in English and German. Since my parents don’t speak German, we decided on a tour in English. While we were waiting for the tour to begin a large English group poured into the waiting area. These people looked like an English branch of Hells Angels. Scary. They were all wearing black leather. The men wearing open vests without shirts which showed their tattoos, chest hair and piercings in the best possible light. When they walked the metal chains they were wearing made clinking sounds. Similar to a human version of cowbells. All in all they were loud, obnoxious and more than likely drunk. They were obviously looking forward to having fun on the tour.
It didn’t take us long to decide to switch to a German tour which started earlier than the English. Ben and I decided we could translated what the guide said to mom and dad. Not too difficult and probably a bit safer.
Once our tour was over we left as quickly as possible so as not to run into any of the Hell’s Angels.
Like I said in the beginning of the post there was a slot machine on board the Princess. We didn’t spend a fortune on it but it was almost impossible to walk by without dropping in a coin. There is something magical about pulling the arm down, letting go and have it pop back up. Then watching the three fields spin and stop one by one. The chances of winning are minimal, hence the name one-armed bandit. But who cares, it was fun.
Once, near the end of the cruise, after coming back from a tour, we all went back to our cabins. Or so I thought. After a couple of minutes we heard a knock on our door. When I opened it I saw Dad standing there with a huge smile on his face. He looked like a child on Christmas morning with his eyes lit up. All he could say was ‘Look, look!’ Then he stuck both his hands in his pockets and pulled out two fists full of coins. At the same time he spilt just as many on the floor which were rolling all over the place!
After he had caught his breath, he told us he had won the jackpot! I guess to make sure we knew he didn’t just rob a bank. We could barely stop him from pulling more money out of his coat pockets to show us.
It was like something you would see in a movie, a sight to remember. We all celebrated with champagne in the bar. Good times. I still smile thinking about it.