We rode a bus from our dock in Frankfurt on the Main River (pronounced “Mine”) to Heidelberg for the day. On the way we passed a monument to the Berlin Airlift of 1948 (when the USSR blockaded West Berlin). After a guided walking tour of Heidelberg we spent some time learning from a current student about life at Heidelberg University, founded in 1386. In our free time we came across a renaissance faire with music, food, crafts, clothing and games of the period.
After lunch we had a guided tour of the Heidelberg Castle built around 1300 on a hill overlooking the city. Among many other features the castle is home to the world’s largest wine barrel. It was built in 1751 with a capacity of 58,000 gallons.
Wertheim is proud of its glass-blowing artisans, and before arriving at today’s destination we enjoyed an on-board demonstration by a local glass-blower. Like many of the cities we visited, Wertheim has the ruins of a castle on a hill above the city, built starting in 1183 and continuously expanded until the 17th century. The Main River has flooded regularly over the centuries, and a nearby house has flood levels marked dating back to 1764 when the floodwater was about 12 ft deep. One result of the flooding is a noticeable lean on the 13th century 120-foot tall Spitzer Turm (“pointed tower”) that was once used as a jail.
On our guided walking tour we visited the site of a synagogue which was built and torn down at least four times from the early 1300s on. It is now a memorial to 800 years of Jewish persecution. Another interesting sight was the church clock tower, which has a normal clock with two hands facing the town and another facing the castle with only an hour hand. Apparently the aristocracy had no need for accurate times.
After lunch we went in small groups to different homes around the area for a hosted visit with a local resident, to learn more about life in Germany. Our host lives in a refurbished 100-year old house with a barn dating to 1875, and regularly hosts visits from Grand Circle cruises. Before dinner Connie and I had time to go up the hill to check out the Wertheim Castle. We found ourselves completely alone in the ruins – a little eerie but very picturesque.
After a morning of cruising along the Main River we set out on a guided walking tour of Würzburg, founded in the tenth century. Overlooking the city is the imposing Fortress Marienberg, built in its current form on the site of fortresses dating back to the 7th century and home to the Bishop-Princes of Würzburg from 1253 to 1719. Our first stop was on the Old Bridge built from 1473 to 1543, with its 12 statues of saints added around 1730.
Other landmarks we visited included the Town Hall and its memorial to the 1945 fire-bombing that destroyed the entire city in 20 minutes; the Marienkapelle church (Mary Chapel) built from 1377 to 1441; and the Würzburg Cathedral originally built from 1040 to 1187 and enhanced in the 13th and 18th centuries. After dinner we were entertained on board by the Würzburg Shanty Choir, a group of former seamen which sang mostly Irish folk songs!