"Black and Blue"

Trip Start May 25, 2013
Trip End Jun 23, 2013

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Flag of Germany  , North Rhine-Westphalia,
Saturday, June 1, 2013

We wake to find the industrial heartland of Germany outside our window. Power stations, heavy industry and container wharves glide by. High tensile power lines crisscross the countryside and smoke stacks are everywhere. It is not raining, but the day is a dreary grey.

We are somewhere between Duisburg and Düsseldorf in the Rhine proper. The river is about 500m wide and seems quite high, judging by semi-submerged graffiti on the bridges. It flows very rapidly with a definite chop.

Overnight, the traffic rules seem to have changed with barges now passing us on our left. There are markers on the bank... 740, 739, 738. They are counting down in kilometres or nautical miles, but to what? I am going to have to quiz a staff member before too much longer about all matters shipping. I spend quite a while watching a computer screen on the wall in the foyer. It shows the same navigation map as that on the bridge and is a fascinating blend of water depths, points of interest and live markers for every other boat nearby.

Düsseldorf comes and goes with a string of suspension bridges, an old town centre and a modern silver Frank Gehry building.

It is just 9.15am when smells of soup waft up from the kitchen below and thoughts turn (already) to lunch!

We pass some more black and murky factories including the huge Cologne Ford Body Assembly factory which extends about two kilometres along the riverbank. Lunch concludes as we pull into Cologne and dock in the shadow of the railway bridge that carries 1200 trains a day.

The learned Dr Stefan, with a PhD in art history and an interest in architecture and textiles, leads us on a walking tour of the inner city. He is brimming with knowledge about his city and especially the Köln Cathedral, a Gothic Roman Catholic Cathedral commenced in 1248 and finished in 1880. The cathedral is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and has the second-tallest spires and largest facade of any church in the world. It is one of the few buildings in the city that survived destruction during WW2 and is traditionally believed to hold the remains of the Three Wise Men.

After the two hour walk, four of us escape in search of another treasure... some reasonably priced iPad SIM cards! German officialdom requires ID and forms in duplicate to buy a €5 SIM but the task is accomplished for three of us and we scurry back to the boat in time to... eat more food.

An inky black night descends as we listen to live music in the lounge, reconnect electronically with the outer world and pass through Bonn.

"Black and Blue" by Van Halen
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Kim Schmidt on

Enjoying this... Next installment please

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