Cruise takes travelers down path of history By Bob Karolevitz Nuremberg, Germany (delayed) � We have been enjoying a 16-day cruise down the Roily Rhine, the Muddy Main and the Dirty Danube aboard the 360-foot River Princess with some 130 other passengers.
While the Danube isn't blue, the three rivers are like the Missouri in the old days. The difference is they are super-active commercial arterials with huge barges in a constant parade, carrying petroleum, scrap metal, ore, building materials, coal, and who knows what else.
Our first stop was at Cologne, the toilet water capital, where we visited the mammoth cathedral which survived the World War II bombing. It is standing right next to the busiest railroad terminal I've ever seen. The latter was wiped out by Allied planes, but the cathedral was unscathed.
We also passed the giant Bayer company currently embroiled in a legal battle over a cholesterol pill it marketed. If it would have stuck to aspirins, it wouldn't have had that headache.
There were two highlights for me on this phase of the trip. The first was a stop at Mainz, Germany, where Johann Gutenberg � the father of printing � was born and did much of his work with the movable lead type he invented. Being an old letterpress printer myself, I was especially fascinated to be where it all began.
Incidentally, Gutenberg died in 1468, "poor, childless, hopelessly in debt and with few, if any, friends." No one knows for sure where he is buried.
The second highlight came when Phyllis and I stopped on the same balcony in this city where the heinous Adolf Hitler harangued his Nazi followers and reviewed his goose-stepping troops. Needless to say, it was an eerie feeling to climb up the stadium steps which Nuremberg has done little to preserve.
The scene of Nazi arrogance is now used mostly for rock concerts; and the residue of a recent show � the cans, cigarette butts and other trash � was there as a fitting tribute to the mad man who upset the world.
On our walking tours of Koblenz, Rudersheim, Frankfurt, Aschaffenburg, Miltonberg, Rothenburg and Bamberg, we saw more churches and basilicas than you could shake a bishop's crosier at. There were lots of steps to climb and millions of cobblestones underfoot.
At Wurzburg we ssaw the home of Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen, inventor of the X-ray. I dropped out of the official guided tour to listen to an organ playing in a small church there. Then, in my inimitable fashion, I fell headlong onto the stone floor.
Our group � including Phyllis � had gone on its way, but a kindly German couple helped me up, and a nice Korean lady made sure I was all right. Actually I took the tumble just to strengthen international relations. I bent my glasses, sprained my wrists, but I didn't skin my nose. After that my wife kept me on a short leash.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, known as the greatest of German poets, was born at Frankfurt-on-Main, and we kept running into statues and references to him throughout our journey. Next time I'm asked for the author of Faust in one of my crossword puzzles, I'll know right away.
We passed the village of Marktbreigt where Alois Alzheimer was born. In 1906 he identified the awful debilitating disease now bearing his name. Unfortunately none of the promotion literature mentioned these famous individuals.
If I were to find fault with the tour, I would say that the emphasis was too much on wine, vineyards, castles, cathedrals, shopping, eating and what happened centuries ago. But, then, maybe that's what the folks are interested in.
Me? I wanted to know about the people, factories, crops and the ravages of World War II, but these were subjects our guides glossed over, opting for the more touristy things.
So far, though, the trip has been well worth it, and I'll enjoy it even more if I can stay on my feet.
© 2001 Robert F. Karolevitz