Castles and Koblenz, Germany (Christmas Eve 2019)

Christmas Eve morning was spent sailing the Middle Rhine, home to vineyard-blanketed hills and the largest concentration of Medieval castles on the river. Some on the right, some on the left, some grand, some in very sad shape, and some converted into luxury hotels. In their heyday noblemen built them to oversee trade, collect tolls, and defend kingdoms. A few of our fellow passengers got all decked out in their winter gear and stayed on deck the whole time no matter the wind or mist; we, on the other hand, ran in and out when a castle came into view. We also spotted the sculpture of Lorelei, a woman of such beauty that she reputedly caused sailors to wreck their ships by distracting them as she lay sunbathing nude along the river’s edge. Naughty girl!

The commentary that kept us in the loop all morning explained the small, fake castle facades we had noticed along the river. The story goes something like this: The Allies agreed not to target castles and palaces during World War II. Leveraging that lucky break Hitler ordered the entrances and exits to railway tunnels along the river to be embellished with castle-esque facades and, by golly, it worked. From the air with the technology of the mid 1940s these fakes could not be distinguished from the real thing leaving the railroad lines and tunnels intact.

The castles were behind us and lunch was over by the time we docked in Koblenz at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers. We quickly got organized for our walking tour of the small city. Right near the dock were three panels from the Berlin Wall that formed a memorial to the reunification of German at the end of the Cold War. There seemed to be no explanation for the giant thumb monument near the church. In the spirit of the thumb, there is a clock tower that has a man’s face on it. His eyes go right to left with each tick of the clock and his tongue sticks out three time every 15 minutes. Roosters on church spires, whimsical statues of townsfolk, and a roof with 24 windows doubling as an advent calendar are evidence that these locals must be fun folk. We lit a candle for Josie’s Aunt Jerry in the church, as we had done all along the way, and headed back to the ship. As we were dressing for dinner church bells all over town were calling worshipers to evening services.

Some of our fellow passengers brought seasonal spiritwear (a Santa dress, hats, sweaters, vests) which they either debuted at breakfast and wore all day or saved for dinner. We are keeping our Santa hats and the ones we brought to share with Walter and Cleone for tomorrow, but I did bring a special outfit that I worked around a buffalo checked vest that Deb and Tom gave me this Christmas. Just imagine the look of shock on my face and Cleone’s when we met in the hall looking like our mothers dressed us alike in coordinating black and white buffalo plaid! It was especially funny since we had both worn red and black two night ago. Matching outfits or not, we headed off to get our Christmas Eve dinner of veal schnitzel.


Lederhosen originated in France. The highest quality britches are made of deer hide.

The location of the tie on a dirndl indicates the wearer’s marital status.

On this day in 1818 Stille Nacht (Silent Night) was sung for the first time (in Austria).

Koblenz celebrated its 2000th anniversary in 1992.

Otto Griebling, a Koblenz native, was a circus clown who performed
with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circuses.
He was one of only four clowns given the title Master Clown by Irvin Feld.


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