The Rhine River Trip Begins… The River, a Cathedral and a Chocolate Factory!

While the first part of our journey lacked the beauty and castles of the Rhine River Valley we were about to explore, it wasn’t lacking in charm.

Birthdays are important to Peggy. When we first met, she told me “Forget my birthday and you are toast.” She was kidding, sort of. Apparently her first husband forgot the warning. I never have. Grin. Decade birthdays are even more important. For her 70th, Peggy planned a special outing. We would take the whole family on a riverboat trip up the Rhine. The kids and grandkids loved the idea (who wouldn’t), tickets were purchased, excitement grew, and then Covid struck. 

While Peggy is usually laid back and willing to ‘go with the flow,’ she assumes a more regal persona when it comes to her birthdays. I laughed when I came across this crown chair in Rheinstein Castle and asked Peggy to pose under it, which she did good naturedly. Note the shocked expressions on the faces of the two Norse gods.

Fortunately, our kids came up with an alternative for Peggy’s big 70. They rented a large house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for the celebration. We hopped in Quivera, our small RV/van, and zipped across the country. Carefully. Covid was raging. It was a great celebration and Peggy was quite happy. But the riverboat trip was not forgotten. We still had the tickets and would use them as soon as Covid calmed down and Europe let us back in, which happened this past summer.

I’ve already done two posts on Amsterdam where we started and ended the adventure. Today, I am kicking off the series about our trip up the Rhine. 

It was special, no doubt about it. The boat trip in itself was a delight— good food, nice rooms, and great service. (Admittedly, Peggy went first class. But what the heck, it’s only the kids’ inheritance.) While I am not a fan of mega-cruises with thousands of people and their impact on local communities, I will admit they are good for family outings. People have their own space. They can come together or go their own way. No one has to plan entertainment, no one has to cook, and no one has to clean up. It reduces the likelihood of the trauma that sometimes accompanies family get togethers. Our riverboat offered all of these advantages plus one more, a big one: there were only a hundred people.

Our boat, the River Empress of the Uniworld Boutique line.
An example of the gourmet food we were served. I’m lucky I only gained a couple of pounds on the cruise.

Today, I am going to feature the first part of our journey. The countryside was relatively flat and industrial centers frequent. While it lacked the scenery and castles of the romantic Rhine River Valley we were about to experience, there was beauty and charm. And, we ended up in Koln/Cologne where we visited one of the world’s most beautiful cathedrals— and a chocolate museum/factory. Have I ever shared how much Peggy loves chocolate?

The photos for this post and all of the Rhine River series are all taken by Peggy and me unless otherwise noted.

There was plenty to capture our attention along the lower Rhine including colorful towns…
Historic buildings…
Attractive, modern cities and, I might add, a lot of beautiful bridges.
If we ran out of other things to entertain ourselves with, there were always barges, scads ands scad of them, each carrying up to 2500 tons. Annually, more than 300 million tons of goods are shipped along the Rhine serving Switzerland, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, making it the most important river in Europe for commerce.
The ease and inexpensive nature of river travel has encouraged the development of industry along the Rhine. For example, one fifth of the world’s chemical industries are located along its banks.
As might be expected, fighting pollution in and along the river is a major challenge. Global warming presents another problem: Drought has lowered the level of the river so much by late summer that it limits the ability of barges to navigate it.
Coming into Cologne, one of our first views was of the magnificent Cologne Cathedral that we were going to visit. First up was the chocolate factory, however. Peggy does have priorities. It was like Christmas to her…
She found a chocolate Santa and made a beeline for it. Who needs chocolate bunnies?
Of course there were chocolate bunnies, and even chocolate elephants. This is the mold for one.
But the prize, from my perspective, was the purple cow. Our grandson Cody agreed to pose with it and I recited the old poem to him: “I’ve never seen a purple cow, I never hope to see one. But I can tell you anyhow, I’d rather see than be one.” Maybe the last line should be changed to “I’d rather see than eat one.” I’m 99.9% sure the cow would agree with me.
The pre-Columbian artifacts on display caught my attention even more that the purple cow.
I’m not sure if the ancient artists had a sense of humor in creating their art, but these made me smile.
As we left the Chocolate Factory/Museum, our five grandsons agreed to sit with Peggy for a photo. It’s something akin to herding cats. I think she bribed them by buying them chocolate goodies. Cooper, the youngest is in front. He just turned 10 this past week.
As we left the museum, we took a final photo from outside.and started our hike over to the Cathedral.
The Hohenzollern Bridge loomed up in the distance.
As we approached the bridge, we saw that it was filled with people walking across. Most of them were involved in Cologne’s Gay Pride festivities that were taking place.
We also passed by another of Cologne’s famous landmarks, the Great St. Martin Church.
Finally we reached our objective, the Cologne Cathedral, which kept both of our cameras busy in an effort to capture its beauty. This is the back of the church.
Every angle provided a different perspective.
A view from the side.
We discovered gargoyles lurking near the top.
Making our way toward the front of the cathedral.
A front view.
Looking up from below.
Another perspective.
A view from inside.
Looking up.
Stained glass windows.
I’ll finish up today with one of the things I find strange, if not downright weird, about so many of Europe’s medieval churches is their collections of pieces of long dead saints, like a finger, or a toe. The Cologne Cathedral is known for its collection of Magi parts, the Three Kings who came to see Christ bearing gifts. I believe they are stored in this gold reliquary.

Next Friday we will visit our first castle as we begin our trip up the Romantic Rhine River Valley. And— we meet some old friends we had never met before!

23 thoughts on “The Rhine River Trip Begins… The River, a Cathedral and a Chocolate Factory!

    • Definitely a way to get in deep doo-doo. Fortunately Peggy’s is the only one I have to be 100% sure I remember. And, July 5th, the day after the 4th, makes it easy. I can slip by without Google.

  1. So many good things about this post, Curt. It’s great seeing Peggy crowned, as she should be, ha ha. So for her 70th she got TWO celebrations? That’s pretty cool. I completely agree: birthdays are the most important day, and decade birthdays are for a great big trip. My favourite photo in this collection is the one of the St. Martin Church, with the colorful homes in front and the beautiful church and the crepuscular rays. You set that up wonderfully. Also, I appreciated every single angle of the Cathedral. I can’t get enough of them. I agree that it’s weird to keep parts of saints. I believe that was a money-making scheme in the earlier days, but the part I can’t understand is why a finger or a toe bone is not considered morbid and disrespectful. Does anybody store a chunk of pelvis, or the knee bone? It’s usually something more acceptable, right. Just….weird.

    • I once read that a whole forest of pieces of the Cross was sold during the Middle Ages, Crystal. Then there was the pass on all of your sins if you gave the church enough money. Apparently hell was reserved for those who couldn’t afford to buy their way out of it.

      The cathedral was amazing. We certainly haven’t seen all of the cathedrals in Europe, but we’ve seen enough to know that it is among the most impressive.

      St. Martins was a plus. I had several photos but decided that the one that also featured the colorful houses was the best.

      And yes, Peggy does know how to get the most out of her birthdays. 🙂 –Curt

  2. I want to go back Curt. It would be terrible to have gone later when the river was too low, but we arrived at the end of our trip after 17 days of rain out of 21 [we had some add-ons at the beginning and end] and the river was closed due to the worst flooding in 500 years. Later “river cruisers” were taken to each stop on buses! We had a great time anyway, but I had wanted Alie to see it in the sunshine as I had about 50 years before while hitchhiking.

    • We have certainly arrived at an era of extremes, Ray. If it isn’t politics, it’s the weather. We were lucky with our timing on the Rhine. We had sunshine every day… and without excessive heat.

  3. Happy Birthday to Peggy! That woman knows how to celebrate (oh, the crown). Fun photos of the chocolate factory with the gang, Curt, and I loved the pics of the church and cathedral. Such remarkable architecture and beauty. They don’t build them like that anymore. I’m looking forward to the Rhine castles. 🙂

  4. That birthday crown is perfect. I presume you keep a collection of crowns available for daily use — she deserves it. (Happy birthday, Peggy!) Any trip that involves both cathedrals and chocolate’s a good one. With the river cruise as a plus, it sounds just about perfect.

    • One floated around for a while, Linda. As I remember, Peggy inherited it from her mother. Isn’t that how the whole royalty business is supposed to work?
      Really hard too beat. Grin. Next up is the Nile. Pyramids will have to be substituted for castles, but I think we can manage it.

  5. I love Peggy’s crown. It suits her. I think all senior women should be called Queenagers 😁 we’ve earned it.
    As for your little boat trip, it looks fabulous. I’m jealous.
    Did I tell you I’m jealous? Oh right, I guess I did 😂

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