Saturday, 20 May 2017

Speyer to Strasbourg

Having cruised through the night, the MV Emily Bronte arrived and was mooring at a river crossing near Plittersdorf by the time I woke up at six thirty this morning. It's hard to find on the map, but the place is about 10km north of the first river lock we encounter on this journey to Switzerland, near a village called Iffezheim. This place is the nearest a long cruise ship like ours can moor and deposit passengers for collection by coach, for visits to Strasbourg, which is three quarters of an hour's drive south, and west across the Rhine in France. It's a demanding exercise in logistic punctuality, as the aim is to give visitors three hours in the city, and get them all back on board in time for a departure during lunch, to meet the Iffezheim lock schedule. 

So, we were obliged to breakfast half an hour early and be on board the coaches - all four of them for 130+ people - by eight thirty. Needless to say, some of us dozed on the coach, there and back. Each coach load had its own guide for a walking tour of Strasbourg's historic World Heritage Site old town centre, ending up with a visit to the amazing Cathedral of our Lady, with its vast exquisite array of huge stained glass windows, its highly ornate and detailed late Gothic west front and 169m high spire, one of Europe's tallest. The array of well preserved houses from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century from the times of both German and French rule, is truly impressive.

By a quarter to twelve, I'd had enough visual amazement for a morning and photos to prove it, so we wandered for a while around street vegetable and flea market stalls, then drank a local beer in a pub, before returning to meet the rest of our party, to be escorted to the coach parking lot in a different place on the edge of the city centre. The city was very busy and crowded with tourists. Managing throughput through narrow streets with millions of visitors a year must be headache for the authorities. I imagine the regulations for handling coach parties has to be very strict, if chaos is to be avoided.

We were both ready for a hearty lunch by two, when we got back, after an earlier than usual breakfast. By quarter past, the ship was under way again, and an hour later we passed through the first and largest lock on the ascent to Basle. There are several more to come, and for this reason we'll be cruising from this afternoon until early tomorrow morning, when we will disembark once more for an excursion into the Black Forest town of Breisach and a visit to the Titisee. 

We last visited the Black Forest region as young back packing hitch-hikers in 1965, for a brief meeting with my parents who were staying at Lahr im Schwarzwald on their first ever and only package holiday. After this brief encounter, we travelled on to Taize for the first time and stayed the weekend. As we were getting ready to depart we received a message to say that my mother was in hospital with a serious stroke, which for her was the end of fully active and hardworking life, and five years of infirmity until her death. It has never occurred to us to return there since then.

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