Our first day on our Grand European cruise was spent in Kinderdijk. This is a small village in a region of Holland that is well below sea level. Most of Holland is below sea level and the land is maintained by many dikes around the country and a series of canals that allow the excess water to flow out to the sea. Kinderdijk is best known for the nineteen windmills in the area that were created for the purpose of pumping the water from the regional canals to the higher level canals that allow the water to flow out to the sea. These windmills were originally built back in the 1700’s to control the water in the country. The operators for the windmills were part of the country’s Water Management Association and each member was considered a noble. They were well trained on the control and operation of the windmills and the responsibility of the windmill operation passed down to other family members. The whole family of the windmill operator lived in the windmills.
It was amazing to see how small the beds were and how cramped the living quarters were. Sometimes there might be 16 family members living in one windmill. Today the windmills are no longer used to pump water. They are strictly maintained as museums and for historical purposes. They are also a large tourist attraction for the country.
Water is still pumped today in Holland from one canal to another but large modern electric pumps are used to more efficiently pump large quantities of water that these windmills pumped over 300 years ago.
Our second day on our Grand European cruise was spent in Cologne. This is the fourth largest city in Germany. It is best known for the large cathedral which you can see from anywhere in the city. It is over 500 feet tall and when built was the largest structure in the world until the Washington monument was built a few years later. Construction started in 1248 but it was not completed until 1888, over 600 years later! Still today the cathedral is the largest in Northern Europe. It is truly an amazing cathedral and the stain glass windows are very beautiful.
Besides the cathedral, Cologne is also known for “eau de Cologne” which Giovanni Farini created here in the early 1700’s. It was originally made as a medicine but the Europeans soon found it had a very appealing citrus smell. Eventually it was sold as a perfume and became very famous throughout Europe. There is a Fragrance Museum here where it also describes how Wilhelm Muelhens developed the famous “4711” brand which was named for the street address it was originally produced.
There is also a Chocolate Museum here that is another very popular tourist attraction. There are several melted chocolate fountains you can see or have some chocolate fondue. We did not go through the museum since we have seen the growing of cocoa and origins of chocolate in South America and the Caribbean when we have visited some of these ports. We did however visit the “souvenir shop” to pick up a bag of chocolate candy to snack on.
Besides sampling some chocolate we also had to sample some bratwurst and some Kolsch beer. We picked one of the famous brauhaus (beer house) around the cathedral and enjoyed the refreshing beer while tasting our bratwurst. The Kolsch glasses are very small and they have a specially designed tray to bring them to your table. If you don’t put something over your glass the waiter will continue to bring you a fresh beer whenever you have finished your last one. What a great way to get good service!
The large railway bridge across the Rheine River allows 5 or 6 trains to cross at the same time. The bridge is most famous for the many locks that have been placed on the chain link fence on the bridge. Lovers put a lock on the bridge to show their love and then throw the key into the river to show how everlasting the love is. We were told there are over one million locks on this bridge now.
The city has many beautiful buildings and history. Many of these buildings were rebuilt after World War II. Almost everything was destroyed except the cathedral during the war. Even the cathedral was seriously damaged a few times and required immediate repair to ensure it did not fall down. Like much of Germany the World Wars played a significant part in what the city looks like today.
Our ship did not leave until 11 PM which allowed us to go out for a final walk after dinner to take a few night pictures. The cathedral was beautiful in the early evening sky. This was a great city to visit and spend some time exploring. We ended up walking 15 miles in this city and still did not see it all.
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