On August 12th, our cruise with Viking down the Rhine and its tributaries truly began, and it would last for a week. The week we would spend on the cruise ship would be the first time Laura and I would stay in same place for a week straight since July, so we were eager to explore our surroundings.Unfortunately, we started out a bit behind because we got on the boat later than everyone else. When the people who checked us in told us we could stay in Amsterdam until departure, by God, we were going to stay in Amsterdam until departure. In doing so, apparently we missed a “briefing” where everyone was told what to expect on the ship. Oops. So we were those people who wandered around cluelessly, secretly watching the other people to see what to do.
We soon found that the ship was awesome. The bathroom floor was heated, which meant that the shower floor was heated. This is the kind of luxury that I didn’t know I would enjoy as much as I did until I experienced it, kind of like the fingerprint reader on my iPhone, which enables me to unlock my phone without punching in a code like some kind of cave man.There was an area with a coffee machine to provide unlimited coffee next to a machine that provided unlimited sparkling water. And those were next to UNLIMITED FREE COOKIES. And somehow on the ship this carafe and the glass together counted as one glass of wine:
We also discovered that out of the 190 passengers, we were definitely in the top ten youngest. In fact, we weren’t even in the same generation as most of the other passengers. This meant that during shore excursions, there were numerous warnings about anything that might require physical exertion. Here’s something the tour director might have told us before we departed the ship:
“The bus can only meet us down the road a ways and not right alongside the boat. I’m truly sorry, but that means that we will have to walk for twenty minutes or so. This hike over a few hundred yards of level terrain cannot be avoided. But I believe in you, and together we will overcome this obstacle.”
Over the seven days, we would be making a number of shore excursions to see some of the noteworthy sights in the Rhineland. Our first excursion was in Kinderdijk, which is known for its windmills, which range from over 100 years old to several centuries old.
The windmills were not used to grind grain, a typical function in other areas; instead, they were used to pump water. The windmills kept the reservoir full and prevented the canals, several of which were below sea level, from rising too high. Today, these giant screws are used to keep the water levels where they should be.
Most of the windmills are still owned by local millers, but one has been converted into a museum. Tourists could climb the first two levels and see how the miller and his family lived. A few takeaways:
- Windmill blades are gigantic, giving me a better understanding of just how crazy Don Quixote was. Apparently, Cervantes tried to think of the craziest thing he could make this character do, and in his time, this was clearly charging giant windmill blades on a horse.
- No wonder children left home by the time they were eighteen years old in those days. The interior of the windmill was tiny, and the lack of private spaces meant that the children would be in the room while their parents were making more children. The whole time they lived in the windmill, they must have been thinking, “I’ve got to get the hell out of this windmill.”
Fortunately, I had watched the highly entertaining safety video, which told me wear to find the life preservers along with other important tidbits.
The boat was like an American island for land for tourists from the United States; the staff even defaulted to serving ice in water, which is very unusual in Europe. The one difference from typical American life was dinner, which was later and fancier than the dinners most Americans have. Confronted with the three forks surrounding my plate at dinner, I felt something like this:
Next up – we visit Cologne, drink German beer, and see some castles.