Day 5 – Nibelungen, not Romans

The city gates. There used to be a moat

The city gates. There used to be a moat

Duisburg is in the middle of the Ruhr industrial area, basically levelled in WW2. The glory days as the industrial center of Germany are gone. Only one of the coal mines is still operational, scheduled to close in 2018. These days steel is made in “third world” countries like China and India. Duisburg is a major inland harbour, with many man-made waterways coming from the Rhine.

Pete was sick in bed, so I went off on the tour to Xanten with another lady. The weather continued warm and sunny, but with quite a breeze. Xanten is an ancient city, dating back to before Roman times. As early as the first century a considerable Roman garrison of eight to ten thousand legionnaires was stationed here and it’s a major archaeological site. We expected to see the Roman ruins, including a reconstructed arena, but it didn’t happen. However, we were taken on a brief tour to see the remains of the city’s walls and gates, which are medieval. The cathedral is an interesting mix of Gothic elements – but also lots of Roman arches. No flying buttresses. The inside is definitely Gothic with the usual pointed arches. We wandered around the city marketplace and shopping areas for half an hour – not enough time to shop, but enough to find Pete some aspirin. In Germany one must go to the Apotheke for even that most basic of medicines.

Xanten is the birthplace of Germany’s mythical hero, Siegfried. He stars in the Nibelungen Lied and Wagner’s Ring Cycle. The guide told us the story of how Siegfried slew the dragon and bathed in its blood. That made him invulnerable – except for a piece on his shoulder where a leaf got stuck. Through a bit of treachery, Siegfried’s ‘friend’ convinced his wife, Kriemhild, to mark the spot on Siegfried’s clothing, thus providing Hagen with a target. Here’s the story in more detail.

Another city gate

Another city gate

It's not just the Dutch who had windmills

It’s not just the Dutch who had windmills

The cathedral

The cathedral

The interior of the cathedral - not particularly ornate

The interior of the cathedral – not particularly ornate

The market place in the town square

The market place in the town square

My companion and I startled ourselves by… well… basically forgetting where the group meeting place was when we ducked into the cathedral for a quick look. Our hearts went pitter-pat. Stuck in Xanten without transport! But all was well. We’d walked through an archway – and you know what happens when you do that.

On the way back to the ship we stopped at a brewery to sample a glass of Diebels dark ale. It wasn’t bad. But I would have liked to see the beer vats and a bit of the beer-making process. Maybe another time.

Tomorrow we’ll be seeing Koblenz and the Moselle River.