Day 06 – Tuesday, 25th April 2006

Today back home it is Anzac Day. Collingwood will have almost finished playing Essendon by this time. I have sent a text message to Brett asking who won, but they did explain that text messaging could not be guaranteed so I will live in hope until I find out the results.

Andrzej explained that in honour of Anzac Day, we would be served Lamb at dinner time, and they displayed the Australian flag at the entrance to the restaurant. It is this thoughtful type of gesture which will stand them in good steed, and word of mouth will ensure that they get many more Australian guests in the future, now that this type of holiday is being publicised.

This morning we had a leisurely breakfast and then collected our jumpers, sunglasses and cameras, and headed up to the Sky Deck. It was a bit breezy but not very cold, and we did our daily constitutional around the deck for a good ten minutes.

Last night at dinner we sat with an American couple, Jenny and Dan, who have lived all their working lives in Philadelphia, but have retired to St Croix in the Virgin Islands. They now commute between both residences.

Jenny explained that she was leading an American group who was fairly well travelled, so had little to do until they reached Budapest, as everything was covered by the cruise director, and the job was cushy at the moment. She explained that she is employed by her daughter who owns her own travel agency. Dan accompanies her on whatever trip she is making, so they definitely have the best of both worlds.

She told us about a friend’s son in law who was of Italian extract. He is a newspaper reporter and was sent to Australia to cover the America’s Cup trials when it was held in Perth. Being of Italian extract he made a point of getting to know the Italian contingent in Perth for the races.

There were two Italian camps, and both had been decked out by opposition companies, and were equipped with GQ gear from Armani and Gucci to name but two of the companies whose logos they wore.

Apparently, during discussion with the Gucci group, it was mentioned that all they really wanted to see whilst in Australia was a kangaroo. Needless to say, he organised a hire vehicle – 4wd jeep – and they set off at dusk one evening heading north.

They certainly found a kangaroo, or rather, they hit it. It was lying still by the side of the road when they got out to investigate the situation. They were genuinely horrified to think they had killed this animal, but decided to make the best of the situation. They dressed the kangaroo in one of the Gucci vests, added the sun visor and held it up whilst the photo was being taken.

What they failed to realise was that the kangaroo was merely stunned. It came to just after the photo had been taken. It shook itself and then bounded away. To make matter worse the keys to the jeep were in the pocket of the vest the kangaroo was wearing.

Needless to day they had to phone back to the main group and get some one to come and pick them up with a spare set of keys for the jeep. The American wanted to print the story in the newspaper the next day, but his boss informed him it was racist. He reminded his boss that he was of Italian extraction and found it very funny, not racist. However, it was never printed.

So if you are travelling along the road in Western Australia and you see a very well dressed kangaroo, you will know how it came about.

We enjoyed their company, and apparently they enjoyed ours.

Some of the Americans appear very rude, especially when talking to the staff of the boat. They do not seem to think it necessary to say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ and can be very pushy. Mum and I have both commented that there are times when you simply have to hold your ground against them, or they barge in front of you as if you were of no importance what so ever. On the other hand, there are some like Jenny and Dan who are pleasant and polite.

The staff have been heard to comment that they love dealing with the Canadians and Australians on board. We are not only polite, but we don’t make a fuss unless there is a valid reason to do so. More over, we do have common sense and know that if our cabin is too hot then you turn down the thermostat, not complain about it the next day as happened early in the voyage.

We are due to arrive at Cologne during our lunch time, and then in the afternoon we head out to explore parts of the city. We are to take a little choo choo train (Andrzej’s words, not mine) and this is followed by a guided walk of about 90 minutes duration. After that we have some time to explore at our leisure, and then get the train back to the boat. Alternatively, our guided tour finishes at the cathedral – more info later – and it is only a 20 minute walk back to the boat.

The little choo choo train is called the Schoko Express. It is made in Italy and has a tractor type pulling engine and each train has four small carriages on it. By the time they tried to get seats for everyone on the four trains provided, we needed to be very chummy.

Russ and I were separated from Mum and Dad for the journey, and we ended up on the last seat of the last carriage of the last train with a whole lot of aussies. Our train driver also doubled as our guide, and in the fashion of a good Queenslander, he finished every sentence with “Eh”. The guys in our part of the carriage had a wonderful time taking the mickey out of him, and their wives threatened not to let them leave the boat again if they did not behave.

We arrived at the Cathedral. Apparently, during the Second World War, there were some sites that were on a protected list used by both allies and axis powers, such as this cathedral, Westminster Abbey etc. A very small section of the Cathedral was caught by a bomb, and the area around it was extensively destroyed. In fact, in Cologne there was so much destruction that most of a once large medieval town was left as rubble. The people of Cologne (also known as Koln and Colonia) have taken great pride in keeping the remaining buildings in pristine condition.

They are still reconstructing a lot of the city, and they have tried to keep the original facades in place, and then build the new buildings onto the skeletal structures.

It was while they were cleaning up a lot of the bombing in preparation for the new construction that they made many of their greatest finds of 3 century Roman remains under the existing city building rubble.

Many of these have since been fenced, cleaned and protected from people. They have constructed museums around them and you can walk through and view each such things as an intricate mosaic floor, a burial plinth etc.

They also tell the story of the roman road they discovered when they were rebuilding the council chambers, and decided that it should be shifted and preserved for posterity. They dutifully numbered each of the large basalt boulders and moved them beside the new site. However, it rained whilst they attended a party and the numbers were no longer there. In typical Cologne style they decided ‘why bother’ (our tour guides’ words) and they proceeded to lay them out in the prepared space in whatever order they picked up a stone. The Romans would be turning in their graves. It was the roughest surface I have seen for a long time, and no-one would have ever been able to rumble a cart across the surface without doing considerable damage to their wooden wheels.

The Cathedral itself is an amazing work of art. Given that it was built in the 12th century, it properly puts our modern constructions to shame. The stain glass windows are nothing short of spectacular, and I have lots of photos to prove it. It is a catholic church – Cologne was a Catholic community way back then and did not tolerate any other religion – and the work on the Stations of the Cross is so intricate and still very well preserved.

We missed some of the story about why it was built so high in direct contract to the period, but I believe it has something to do with the three magi whose remains are supposedly interred in a crypt inside.

Once our guided tour was finished, the four of us decided to return by foot to the boat and off load all our gear which had not been needed. It was a beautiful 27 degrees. However, when we were half way back to the touring area it began to spit with rain. Of course, our gear was now back at the boat. We grabbed what shelter we could find to wait out the shower, and then continued back to the Cathedral. Russ wanted to take more photos than he had been able to earlier.

Dad, Mum and I rested at the exhibition of Trash People – 1000 life size figures made from garbage, all standing in the square. Once Russ rejoined us we were able to explore some of the shops and pick up a few souvenirs. Mum even purchased her first pair of pierced earrings. She finally intends to get them pierced when she gets back home.

We staggered back to the boat about 5:30 pm, all agreeing that we needed showers and then deep heat for our abused muscles. I found a Sydney newspaper in the Club Lounge and caught up with the downgrade of Cyclone Marion to a deep low, but it was Monday’s newspaper and did not have all the football results.

Dinner lived up to previous expectations. Tomorrow morning we enter the Rhine Gorge where the river narrows and deepens. We also get to see the first in a series of genuine castles.