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Cruising the Rhine – Day 3

RhineCruiseHC_Heather at Heidleberg Castle

Day 3 – Speyer and Heidelberg

Speyer

By morning the Amadeus Princess was moored in Speyer where we were a five minute walk from this pleasant small town with a very big Romanesque Cathedral. In past centuries the town had a large Jewish population who were invited here by the German Emperors to oil the wheels of commerce. The first stop on our walking tour was a look around the medieval Mikveh or Jewish baths, used for ritual purification, where the water of heavens (rainwater) and earth (groundwater) mingled.

Our walk continued to the Lutheran Trinity church where we admired the beautifully decorated roof and gilded altar to the accompaniment of an organist who was practicing for a wedding. Finally we visited the cathedral with soaring pillars built of the local red sandstone and descended to the crypt where many of the kings and emperors of Germany from the 12th century are buried. On seeing the huge stone coffins I marveled how they had managed to manoeuvre these heavy blocks of stone into the narrow niches where they now sat. At the front of the cathedral we noticed a stone bowl 2 metres wide and learned of the custom that each new bishop had to fill it with wine for the people of Speyer as part of his inauguration.

Heidelberg

After lunch back on the ship we took the coach for our afternoon excursion to the famous university town of Heidelberg, which escaped bombing during the Second World War. The ruined castle on the hill gives the town a romantic aspect and our first walk was around its courtyards and stone facades carved with statues and pillars. From the castle terraces we had a bird’s eye view over the red tiled roofs of the town with two churches and the old stone bridge across the Neckar river. In the castle cellars we found an enormous wine cask, but just around the corner was an even bigger one, with a stairway leading to the top where there was a small platform once used for dancing.

Driving back down to the town centre, our guide pointed out to us several houses decorated by flags, owned by wealthy fraternities of university students who gather there (men only) to drink as much beer as possible and practice sword fighting. We enjoyed our walk around the pedestrianized centre of the town with plenty of cafes and beer gardens and walked over the old stone bridge where we saw the marks of the water levels in past centuries when the town had flooded. We came across Kathe Wohlfahrt, a shop devoted entirely to Christmas decoration as well as a room full of cuckoo clocks, where we chose a wooden tree decoration to take home as a souvenir. Finally we stopped for a coffee at the Gundel café, where I tried their special Kurfürstenkugel cake, a sponge ball filled with cream and covered with chocolate, which was created in the 17th century, in honour of Prince Frederick V and his wife Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of the king of England.

Rhine Cruise_Speyer Cathedral & Lutheran Church_Bridge Heidleberg

Speyer: Romanesque Cathedral and Lutheran Church. Stone Bridge at Heidleberg
Heather Cowper

Our guest author, Heather Cowper writes at Heatheronhertravels.com about inspirational travel destinations, bringing you stories, photos, videos and podcasts from Europe and around the world. You can also connect with Heather on her Twitter page @heathercowper and on her Facebook page

Heather’s Rhine River Cruise was hosted by Lüftner Cruises who specialise in European river cruises on the Rhine, Danube, Rhône and other destinations in Europe, with personal service and Austrian hospitality.

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