Today it is Strasbourg. Cheryl was not feeling well and stayed back to rest, but Kevin went into the city as planned. We started with a 4-hour tour, first about 45 minutes by bus, then the rest on foot. Again, our guide is a local and a professional guide. She told us it started as a Roman military camp on the Rhine frontier, and was part of the Province of Gaul. When the Western Empire collapsed in the 5th century, the area was gradually made Germanic, and wound up part of Charlemagne’s Empire. As that dissolved, the Alsace region remained part of the Holy Roman Empire. This meant it was mostly part of Austria for about 6 centuries. In the 17th century Louis IV of France conquered the area and it became French. But in 1870 Prussian Chancellor Bismark managed to provoke Napoleon III into declaring war, which both unified Germany under Prussian rule and let Germany add Alsace and Lorraine to the new Reich. Than after World War I the Treaty of Versailles gave it back to France, and then in 1940 the Nazis took it over. Finally in 1945 it became French again.
When Germany took it over in 1870 Kaiser Wilhelm was determined to make it a major part of the Reich, and invested a lot of money in building what is still called the Neustadt (New City) with modern buildings, and several major universities. Because of the combined French and German heritage, and also because it is on the border between two countries that have fought so many wars, it is now considered one of the most European of cities, and many European institutions are here, such as the European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights.
The city is on an island formed by the Ill river, which is a branch of the Rhine that splits off above the city and rejoins below it. Canals run through the city. It has two parts, the old city, and the Neustadt built by the Germans. In the old city you see half-timber buildings, while the German areas are of course more monumental.
After lunch Kevin went back to the city for a boat tour on the canals, and discovered that the canals are on two different levels so that locks are required to move about 1.5 meters up or down. Then he climbed most of the way up the Cathedral tower. That consumed what was left of the afternoon, and then back to the ship. After another excellent dinner there was a trivia contest, and Kevin’s team did respectably but not brilliantly.
The morning excursion was to Heidelberg. We docked in Mannheim, then boarded the bus that took us to Heidelberg. We started with the Castle, which stands on the Königstuhl mountain overlooking the city of Heidelberg. It is now largely a ruin due to French forces of Louis IV who invaded during the War of Spanish Succession and decided to strip the castle and then destroy it. The unofficial “mascot” that you see around Heidelberg is Perkeo, who was given that nickname because when he was offered a drink, his reply (in Italian) was “perché no?”, or “Why not?” So you will see his portrait in tavern signs in particular.
The Castle was added to significantly when Frederick V, Elector Palatine, married Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of the English king. They brought over English architects such as Inigo Jones and Salomon de Caus to develop the property. It was at one time Catholic, then became Protestant during the Reformation. Luther had a famous Heidelberg Disputation in 1518 where he continued to argue the views put forth in his Theses. The largest church in town is now Protestant, but there is also a Jesuit Catholic church. When there was a change in the Prince Elector, the religion might also change. (“cuius regio, eius religio”) This formula which helped end the Thirty Years War meant that the religion of every region would be the religion of the prince. One sign of the attempts to “re-Catholicize” the area is that you see frequent statues of the Madonna.
We then went down the mountain to visit the town, which sits along the Neckar River. The Neckar flows into the Rhine, and gets its name from a Celtic term for “wild water” or “wild fellow”. The addition of locks along its length has now tamed it considerably. We parked the bus along the river, then walked through the town along the central main street, which is pedestrian only for most of its length, then moved to the river bank and walked back again, ending at the old bridge. We got a photo of the brass monkey which was meant to remind those who crossed it from either side to look over their shoulders at where they’ve come from. Whether a Heidelberg citizen lived inside or outside of the city, it reminded them they were no better than their respective counterparts. There has been a monkey statue there since the 15th century, but the current statue was installed in 1979. Then we got back on the bus and returned to the ship.
The ship cast off as soon as we returned to get us to Rudesheim, where there were a couple of excursions available, but they involved food and drink so we passed and elected to remain on the boat for dinner. But as we cruised the river we relaxed and watched the sites. We docked at Rudesheim and stayed on board for dinner, but after dinner we went for a walk in the town, then to bed.