A stroll through Cologne is a stroll through time.  With an ancient Roman wall, medieval and Gothic churches, avant-garde structures and a brand-new postmodern quarter right on the river, there is so much to see and do.

Cologne's most famous attraction is its cathedral, whose filigree twin spires dominate the skyline.  Known locally as The Dom, it is Germany's largest cathedral.  A cultural mecca, Cologne is home to dozens of museums and galleries.  Museum Ludwig at Heinrich-Boll Plats is devoted to modern art and houses one of the largest collections of work by Pablo Picasso.  The Fragrance Museum, Farina House, opposite the Town Hall in the heart of the city, claims to be the birthplace of eau de Cologne.  Chocolate lovers always head for the Schokoladen Museum, a shrine to the art of chocolate-making, conveniently located on the river just a short walk from where our ship was supposed to dock...

I say "supposed to," because things are changing yet again on our river .  While the United States has been experiencing some violent and/or unseasonable spring weather, the European continent has had one of the wettest springs in over a decade.  As a result, the Rhein, Main and Danube rivers (our thoroughfare for this excursion) are at record high levels, making it impossible for our ship to pass beneath many of the bridges that lie between us and our ultimate destination in Budapest.  Thus, we will debark from the Viking Tor tomorrow morning and board buses that will carry us to Bamberg, where we will board the Viking Skadi, the ship on which we were originally scheduled to sail for the entire trip.  The weather today was exquisite, with lots of sun and balmy river breezes, but the previous torrential rains are playing havoc with plans as they were first laid out.

One of the drawbacks of this situation is that we have to leave the wonderful, delightful and always-eager-to-please crew members of the Tor.  We have become extremely attached to some of them, although we have known them for such a short time; Gary even offered to smuggle Laszlo, our handsome (but 6-foot tall) waiter in one of our suitcases so he could get to his home in Budapest.  As it is, the Tor will return to Amsterdam, and the Skadi will turn around from Bamberg and return with us to Hungary after the two ships' exchange of passengers.

However, this change in plans will not really put a damper (you should pardon the expression) on our enjoyment of this voyage.  It has been amazing to us how much our sense of time seems to have expanded since our arrival on board, so calming is the cruising itself and so unhurried the pace of activities.  The only thing we have to be sure to have accomplished is our re-packing before dinner this evening (more about the fabulous onboard dining in another post!), so that we can enjoy two-hour pub crawl afterwards without guilt.

A note for my WW members and colleagues: I was happily surprised to find a walking track on the topmost sun deck, so I have been able to get each day started with some invigorating laps while the sun comes fully up from beneath the horizon.  If you had told me that I would be rising at 6:00 am on my vacation, and enjoying doing so, I would have told you that you were crazy but, there it is!

Depending upon the amenities on the bus tomorrow, I may be able to use some of the shore time to bring you earlier updates for the day.  Until then, auf wiedersehn!


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