When we left Regensburg yesterday evening, we also left behind the Danube River. At Kelheim, the Scenic Jasper made a right-turn onto the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, a man-made canal completed in 1992 that was built to allow ships from the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean in the west, to the Black Sea in the east.
The canal was built to take cargo ships, in a time before the majority of cruise companies started running ships on the Rhine and Danube, and one thing that cargo ships don’t have is sundecks. Therefore, while cruise ships are all built to the correct size to fit through the locks of the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, there are many low bridges that require the removal of shade sails and seating from upstairs. As a consequence, despite the beautiful sunny weather, any photography for the next few days would be confined to the cabin balcony.
To be honest though, there’s not a lot to photograph, given that it’s a fairly recent creation that travels through some pretty, but uninspiring landscapes. There are no ancient walled cities that have been built up over the centuries, no castles built to defend the shores or giant abbeys built to dominate the skyline. For the most part, the scenery is rural, although there are a few exceptions, such as when the entire canal passes over a road, and you get to spot cars, trucks and tractors passing far below the ship.
It’s when you dock though that you realise just how much of an afterthought tourism was when building the canal, despite it now making up a significant portion of the traffic. In Nuremberg for instance, the dock is simply an industrial area where cruise boats tie up alongside grain storages and concrete works, and buses are required to ferry passengers the 20-30 minutes into the city centre.
The coach trip for us finished just outside of the walls of the old city – due to COVID restrictions, large tour groups are banned from entering the city by vehicle, and instead are required to break into smaller groups and enter the city on foot. We followed our guide across an old footbridge that crossed the ancient, dry moat, through a gate in the wall and up into the castle complex.
In the Middle Ages, German kings (respectively Holy Roman Emperors after their coronation by the Pope) did not have a capital, but voyaged from one castle to the next across their kingdoms. Nuremberg castle became an important imperial castle, and all German kings and emperors stayed there, most of them on several occasions.
It proved to be a formidable fortress over the centuries, however it ceased to be of importance after the Thirty-Years War (1618 to 1648), until 1936 when the Nazi Party started a series of renovations to return it to its former glory as part of preparations for the Nuremberg
It was extensively damaged by bombing during World War II, when over 90% of the surrounding old town was destroyed. Like much of the city, it took a further 40 years to restore it back to what it once had been.
The view from the castle walls over the old town below is truly stunning, especially on a day like this, with blue skies as far as the eye could see.
There is a very steep, uneven path that leads down from the castle into the old town – fine on a day like today, but I wouldn’t fancy attempting those cobblestones in the rain. Our guide had managed to wax lyrical about one small section of the castle for over 10 minutes and we could see this wasn’t going anywhere fast, so we said our goodbyes and headed off.
Much of Nuremberg’s old town was rebuilt following the devastation of the 1944-45 Allied bombing raids – it’s not immediately evident in a lot of cases, but when you take a closer look, many of the medieval style half-timber homes have courses of modern brickwork at their base, and a number of buildings have a mix of old and new tiles on their roof.
Our plan for the afternoon was to have a look around the old town, grab a bite to eat and then head back to the ship via taxi. We started by heading towards the river Pegnitz that flows through the centre of town, which offers some stunning reflections for photographing.
Of course, no old town visit would be complete without your ABC’s (another bloody church or cathedral) and they’re certainly abundant in Nuremberg.
We visited a pharmacy, which is becoming the new thing for us on this trip, and then made a quick stop for some bath bombs at a Lush store, before wandering our way into the main market square where we stopped for a bite to eat. On such a sunny day it would have been great to eat outside, but it would have involved sitting up to our eyeballs in a cloud of toxic cigarette smoke, so we instead retreated inside where the smoke levels were slightly less offensive. There had been a moment of mild panic earlier when we discovered that the Kathie Wolfhart Christmas store that we’d visited in Nuremberg in 2014 was now permanently closed, however while we ate, Vanessa spotted a new one just below us. Crisis averted.
We stopped to buy some beautiful aged Comte cheese from one of the stalls in the market before wandering across to the assembly point outside the very ornate fountain in the town square. There we caught up with another couple from our trip, and we all decided to split a taxi fare back to the ship. We negotiated a fee of €25 with the driver as we’d been advised by the cruise director – thankfully we did, as there turned out to be an accident involving several cars and trucks at the entranceway to the docks, so our 20 minute trip turned out to be more like 45. Once we were finally back on the ship, we had a chance to unwind at the bar with more Bavarian beer while we waited for the coaches to return through the traffic chaos.