Day 12: Musical instruments and robber baron castles.

posted in: Other, Travel | 2

Getting through all those locks can be a bit of a trial because you have to wait your turn. As a result we were a bit late getting into Rudesheim, which is famous for wine. Cherie had organised for a little tourist train to pick us up and take us to a place called Siegfried’s Kabinet, a museum for auto-playing musical devices – think music boxes and player pianos. The little train was a hoot, with all of us packed into carriages facing each other, playing kneesies. Off we went, wheezing up the steeper inclines, while a recorded commentary told us what was what.


The train stopped outside the music museum and we all trooped in with a local guide. I actually found this much more interesting than I thought I would. The instruments had all been beautifully restored, and worked. The guide played short pieces on all of them, ranging from simple music boxes, to player pianos playing the Blue Danube waltz, to devices programmed for whole orchestra.

The highlight for me was an old record player – a very early one with a horn on it – playing a great rendition of Doris Day singing Que sera sera.

Because we’d been delayed, we didn’t have time to do much more than walk back to the boat. We were off to the Rhine Gorge!


Everybody’s heard of this rocky stretch of the Rhine, with vineyards on the slopes and castles perched on the cliffs. Unfortunately, the weather had decided it really was November; cold with a brisk wind, but at least no rain. Cherie told us stories about the castles as we passed. One I remember from my childhood was about Bishop Hatto and the mouse tower. (It’s quite gruesome – with the greedy bishop getting his comeuppance). Then there was the story about the enemy brothers who had castles on the ridges above the town of Bornhofen. And then, of course, there’s the Loreley, the river siren who lured sailors to their deaths with her songs.

In a few of these pictures you’ll see what look like decorated tunnels on the riverside. These are railway tunnel. Remember that “gentleman’s agreement” I referred to, where the Allies didn’t bomb the living daylights out of ancient castles? The Germans didn’t want their railway tunnels bombed, so they disguised them as bits of castle. Dirty pool, or just smart? Take your pick.

Let’s cruise down the Rhine Gorge.

The mouse tower
Train with decorated tunnel
Elaborate tunnel disguise
Looking back past the Loreley. See how sharp those curves are. It’s treacherous water
A statue of the lady herself (of course)
Late season vines
A patchwork of vines
The night sky as we cruised towards Cologne.

That evening we all got dressed up and boarded buses for the trip to Schloss Namedy where we were to have dinner with a princess. The renovated castle belonged to the Hohenzollern family, an offshoot of the branch whose most famous member was Kaiser Wilhelm II of WW1 fame. I’m sure I spied his portrait on the wall. We were left to explore the rooms of the place on our own, glass of champers in hand. After we’d finished the first course of our meal a young man from a nearby music school entertained us with a piano recital.

Is that Kaiser Bill up there?

All in all, this wasn’t the best night of the cruise for me. The food wasn’t as good as we got on the boat, the princess wasn’t there (we were greeted by the house manager) and while nobody doubted the pianist’s ability, his choice of pieces to play may not have been the best. He played heavy music, nothing like the light and wonderful tunes we enjoyed in Vienna. The castle itself struck me as more of a hunting lodge, with its many stuffed animals and heavy wooden pieces. The visit would undoubtedly have been of more interest to me if we’d arrived in daylight and been able to see over the grounds.

Never mind. It was quite enjoyable nevertheless. (That’s called damning with faint praise 🙂 )

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