Locks, Planets, and Mills

We woke this morning to a full moon on the IJsselmeer. I thought we’d reached Harlingen, our destination for the day, but I was wrong – we were waiting for the water to rise in the lock separating the IJsselmeer from the North Sea.

A couple of hours later, we were indeed in Harlingen, home of the Brown Fleet. Several ships of the Brown Fleet were leaving the harbor for a day of sailing; unfortunately, they were under power and their sails were still rolled up.

We boarded the bus for our morning excursion; the first stop was the Eise Eisinga Planetarium in the town of Franeker, about half-an-hour from Harlingen. It had just been named a UNESCO World Heritage site two weeks ago, and they were very proud of its new status.

Eise Eisinga was a wool comber who taught himself math and decided to build a model of the solar system in his house – and it’s been up and running for more than 250 years, the oldest working planetarium on Earth. The planetarium has displays (mechanical displays, of course) for the positions of the planets in their orbits, sunrise and sunset, and much more.

Eisinga constructed the planetarium over a seven-year period from 1774-1781; it runs by gears and cogwheels, powered by weights which have to be wound weekly.

Eisinga and his family lived in the house; as was typical at that time, they slept in very short beds with their heads raised, because people thought you’d die if you slept fully-horizontally.

There were quite a few scientific instruments and clocks and the like on display throughout the house; I could have spent hours there. We didn’t have hours, though, so we went outside to enjoy the garden (which, of course, had a sundial).

Our guide gave us a brief tour of Franeker (one of the 11 cities of Friesland), beginning just outside the planetarium at the Eise Eisinga monument.

We walked along the canals which brought ships into Franeker in earlier centuries; today, they are more picturesque than useful, though they still help with flood control.

We stopped briefly outside St. Martins Church to admire the Oort Cloud Fountain, one of the 11 fountains installed across the province in 2018, when the capital, Leeuwarden, was named the “Cultural Capital of Europe”.

Our next stop was about 20 minutes away – the Vrouwbuurstermolen, a working windmill which still is used to grind grain into flour. We were greeted with sugar cake made from the flour they’d made there; it was quite tasty. We got to climb up to the second level of the mill and see the sails up close, but I didn’t get good photos that close!

Conny, our guide, told us about the “owl board” found on barns and houses – not only does it provide a way for owls to rid the structures of mice, but it also indicates the status of the farm (whether it’s rented or owned, for example).

We drove along an old dike, with reclaimed land on both sides. After the dike was built, the currents in the North Sea shifted and the sea started depositing sediment outside the dike; a few decades later, they built a new dike to keep the sea from taking back the land that had been created. It is very good farmland.

Some of our shipmates went to see a Frisian Horse display and show; we had to settle for seeing a couple of Frisian horses from the bus.

I would have liked to have been able to stop and sample some of the produce available on the roadside!

Conny pointed out the town of Sexbierum (named after Pope Sixtus II); apparently they have a problem with disappearing city limits signs! The WhatsApp sign under the name is for a neighborhood watch group – I guess they don’t have Nextdoor in the Netherlands.

We returned to the River Empress for lunch; it was displaying the Frisian flag to honor our hosts.

Conny had told us that the commercial harbor had been moved to a location a few kilometers away; some of the larger facilities in this harbor that were left behind have been converted into hotels. You can stay in a crane, a lighthouse, or a sand funnel – if you have several hundred Euros burning a hole in your pocket.

After lunch, Diane and I took a walk through Harlingen. The White Swan, which is apparently the oldest yacht in the Netherlands, was moored near our ship; if we’d had time, we could have walked through it.

We wandered through the touristy part of town. There were lots of people on the street and a few interesting buildings and canals.

This building at Havenplein 14 was built in the 17th Century and remodeled in 1728 by Captain Hendrik Coops van Der Woude; by 1890, Harlingen had fallen on hard times and there were 38 people living in the house! Today, it would sell for about half-a-million Euros.

Harlingen had one of the 11 fountains, too; theirs is named “The Whale” and looks like a stranded whale. It’s supposed to spout water from time to time, but I didn’t see that.

We left Harlingen and sailed back into the IJsselmeer; the scenery was quite different by daylight!

During dinner, we crossed from the IJsselmeer to the Markermeer. While we were waiting for the water in the lock connecting the two to reach the right level, our waiter pointed out the highway running under the lock.

The Netherlands is an interesting place – and they know how to manage their water!

A bridge so near

We crossed into the Netherlands overnight and awoke in Arnhem, just a few hundred meters from the John Frost Bridge, the rebuilt “Bridge Too Far” from Operation Market Garden in World War II.

Arnhem was just a staging location for us today, though; our real goal was Paleis Het Loo, the former home of the Dutch Royal Family. The Palace was built for Statholder-King Willem III and Queen Mary in the late 17th Century; they were also King and Queen of England, Scotland, and Wales. In 1960, Queen Wilhelmina declared it would be donated to the nation when she died (which happened in 1962); the palace has been open as a state museum since 1984.

Our visit started with a walk through the gardens behind the building. They were designed by Daniel Marot, who emigrated from France for religious reasons. Symmetry is the overriding principle in the design.

There are many fountains in the gardens, each with a symbolic meaning. The Venus Fountain, for example, is a reference to Mary’s having crossed the ocean to marry Wilhelm.

We entered the Palace and took a look at Mary’s kitchen (she liked to make marmalade!) and her shell cave.

I really liked the ceiling of the shell cave, especially the way the decoration in the center had been subtly brought into the 21st Century.

The Palace itself was divided into two wings – Willem’s wing and Mary’s wing. Today, the tour of Willem’s wing shows you how the rooms and the furnishings in that wing reflect the politics of the day.

Mary and Willem in the Old Dining Room
New Dining Room – Visitors were allowed to watch Willem dine!
Royal Chapel – Protestant (for Willem) and Anglican (for Mary) services were held here.
The mirrored ceiling in Mary’s library was supposed to make her collection seem larger. I wonder if that was its only use.
Mercury in love with Herse – Cornelis van Poelenburgh (in the Picture Gallery in Willem’s wing)

The tour also took us through the Great Hall, Mary’s bedchamber, Willem’s bedchamber, and his private closet, but I didn’t take any photos in those rooms.

The tour of Mary’s wing focuses on Queen Wilhelmina and her parents and descendants. We started with Queen Wilhelmina’s study.

Then we moved on to her daughter’s salon and bedroom, which Juliana furnished herself when she was 18, mostly from a catalog (palace furniture was usually custom-made).

Prince Hendrik became the Netherlands’ first Prince-Consort when he married Queen Wilhelmina. His drawing room includes some of his kills from a trip to India before he was married.

Eventually, Queen Wilhelmina gave Hendrik a “real job” – overseeing game and forest management at Het Loo. He still hunted, of course.

Wilhelmina’s father, Willem III, used this bedroom; in fact, he died here and then it became Wilhelmina’s official bedroom (though she was only 10 at the time).

Willem I (Wilhelmina’s great-grandfather) used this office; it had originally been decorated in Empire Style by Louis Bonaparte, who had been appointed King of Holland by his brother, Napoleon.

Our final stop brought us back to Queen Wilhelmina and her drawing room, which was her private space when she was Queen.

We sailed away from Arnhem soon after we returned from the tour, so I didn’t get to visit the bridge. The afternoon sailing took us through pleasant country, though I was taken aback by these Imperial Walkers attacking some poor innocent sheep!

This windmill seemed more appropriate, though.

The ship set up challah, wine, and Shabbat candles (well, electric ones) and invited anyone who was interested to join in Kiddish; we had about 30 people in the room, not all Jewish. It was a very nice gesture.


There were two tours offered in Cologne – a 90-minute walking tour (with treats) or a 4.5-hour Jewish Heritage Tour (no treats). There were only six of us on the Jewish Heritage Tour, which made for an intimate morning with our guide, Irena. She isn’t Jewish but is knowledgable about Jewish history in Cologne; she was also willing to say “I don’t know” when the questions got beyond her level of Jewish knowledge.

We began by dodging the crazy bicyclists on the Rhine Promenade as we walked to Fishmarkt Square, where we sat and listened to the story of the Jews of Cologne and their relationship to the Archbishops during the early part of the Second Millennium. We could see Great St. Martin Church behind the Fishmarkt Fountain.

We continued walking and talking, passing the Paolozzi Fountain before beginning our ascent towards the Cathedral.

Israeli artist Dani Caravan was commissioned to create an outdoor piece – Ma’alot – located where the final 6377 Jews living in Cologne in 1941 were loaded onto trains and sent to extermination camps. This blog post describes the work and some of its interpretations; I think it’s worth reading for yourself.

We finally got close enough for a clear view of the back half of the Cathedral (which was the first part that was built, starting in 1248 and pausing in 1473).

Irena pointed out that some of the gargoyles on the Cathedral were explicitly antisemitic; there was one showing a monstrous Jew wearing a tallit, and another one showing a “Judensau” (a pig with Jews suckling at her teats). There have been many recent controversies in Germany about removing such “art” – some even going to court, but it’s still there.

Work resumed on the Cathedral in 1842 and it was officially completed in 1880; Emperor Wilhelm I attended the ceremony. Leading families, including Jewish families like the von Oppenheimer family, donated stained glass windows for the Cathedral – I wonder if any other Christian churches have stained glass which shows a synagogue?

There’s a lot of other stained glass in the Cathedral, too, of course.

The Cathedral was originally built to house the Relics of the Three Kings; I didn’t see them, but I did see the Tomb of Gottfried IV.

We left the Cathedral and walked past the site of the old Jewish quarter; they are building a new Jewish museum, but there was nothing to see there today.

We boarded a bus to visit the Yavne Memorial and Educational Center, located on the site of the Jawne reform grammar school, whose headmaster, Erich Klibansky, helped to organize the Kindertransport and save dozens of German Jewish children from the Nazis. Klibansky and his family, along with at least 1100 children and young people, did not escape and were transported from Cologne and murdered by the Nazis.

We began by seeing the Lion’s Fountain Children’s Memorial, which has the names of the children murdered by the Nazis.

We heard about the history of the school and the work to preserve its memory; our guide showed us a couple of short videos about the visit of one of the survivors (whose family had escaped to the Netherlands and then to the US) and his grandson. And then we heard from Gabi, an Israeli-German activist, about his efforts to keep the mainstream media from normalizing antisemitism in today’s Germany.

I would have liked to have had time to see the exhibits at the school but we had to get back on the bus to return to the ship.

We drove past the Roonstrasse Synagogue, the only Cologne synagogue not to have been completely destroyed on Pogrom Night; it was saved because its neighbors were afraid it would take their houses with it if it burned, so they called the fire department! It is once more an active synagogue, and is under continuous police guard.

Roonstrasse Synagogue

After lunch, we set forth to try the local beer, kölsch; Irena suggested we go to Delftes Haus, not far from the ship, so we did. Both of us thought it was too bitter (but not very hoppy), but I’m glad I tried it.

We took a short walk through Heumarkt (yet another major market and restaurant square) and paid our respects to King Wilhelm III.

We had just enough time before All Aboard to visit the store at the Chocolate Museum and stock up for our trip home.

And that was it for Cologne except for views from the river as we sailed away.

Lots and Lots of Castles

It’s late so today’s pictures will mostly have to speak for themselves.

We took an early morning stroll on the Sun Deck and were greeted by St. Killian’s Church in Wiesbaden.

St. Killian

We left the Main for the Rhine during breakfast and enjoyed castles all morning.

Castle Brömersburg
Germania Monument
Castle Ehrenfels
Castle Rheinstine
Castle Reichenstein
Castle Sooneck
St. Mariae Himmelfahrt and Castle Honeck
Castle Fürstenberg
Castle Fürstenberg
Gutenfels Fortress and Pfalz
Gutenfels Fortress
Castle Schönburg

We docked in Oberwessel; Diane and I took a short stroll before lunch.

Diane and River Empress

Even though we’d docked in Oberwessel, the excursions were in Bacharach, a few kilometers upstream. Most passengers went for a wine tasting, but Diane and I climbed up to Castle Stahleck to enjoy the view.

Castle Stahleck – we made it!
Rhine Selfie
Stahleck Tower

Our guide, Paul, took us on a stroll through Bacharach; they’re already getting ready for their annual Weinfest.

Weinfest is coming!

The only Jewish content today was a brief glimpse of the former Jewish Quarter – it was, of course, outside the walls.

Former Jewish Quarter

We said goodbye the Bacharach and Oberwessel and boarded the Empress for tonight’s cruise to Cologne. We passed the Lorelei soon after departing.

Loreley Statue

There were more castles before dinner.

Katz Castle
Katz Castle
Rheinfels Castle
Maus Castle
Liebenstein and Sterrenburg (note the wall between them)

And during dinner.

Marksburg Castle
Stolzenfels Castle

We sailed past the confluence of the Moselle and the Rhine just in time to see the Kaiser Wilhelm I statue before it got too dark.

Deutsches Eck

I took nearly 300 photos today…and I still have 182 of them in Lightroom. Maybe when I’m more awake….

Same Port, Different Ship

We woke up this morning and found ourselves on the Main River, sailing towards our docking location in downtown Frankfurt. At breakfast, I caught a glimpse of Höscht Castle.

Höscht Castle

We docked a bit after 10 and were joined by Matthias Gemächlich, a history professor at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, who gave us a talk on “Jewish Life in Germany” from the 1st Century to today. He said that the first documented anti-Semitism happened in the 11th Century with the First Crusade; the 14th Century had some significant pogroms, too. In the 19th and early 20th Centuries, Jews in Germany finally were legally equal to other Germans; more than 100,000 Jews fought for Germany in WWI. Many German Jews were unwilling to leave Germany after Hitler’s rise…until it was too late.

After lunch, we took a quick stroll to the Städel Museum Garden to admire (or be puzzled by) the sculptures. The Garden currently hosts a temporary exhibition of Ugo Rondinone’s Sunrise. East., which occupies most of the back garden.

Sunrise. East.

Some of the other sculptures were a bit more straightforward, like August Gaul’s The Donkey Rider or Tobias Rehberger’s Capri Moon.

The Donkey Rider

Capri Moon

I especially enjoyed Olaf Nicolai’s Shutter’s Lullaby / Ellipse for Städel.

Ellipse for Städel

As we walked over the bridge to return to the ship, I was surprised by the Goodyear Blimp!

Goodyear Blimp over Frankfurt

This afternoon, we took a tour at the Frankfurt Jewish Museum, a ten-minute walk from the ship. It incorporates two buildings – the Rothschild Palais and a modern extension.

Frankfurt Jewish Museum

The sculpture in the courtyard sporting the two buildings was quite interesting; our guide, Alexandra, asked what we thought it represented and one of the other people on the tour immediately responded “Like the Torah, it’s a tree of life”. The sculptor, Ariel Schlesinger, chose not to title it to allow viewers to react organically.

Untitled - Ariel Schlesinger

Unlike many others, this museum isn’t heavy on “Judaism 101” and exhibiting ritual objects and books; instead, it’s focused on the Frankfurt Jewish experience from the enlightenment to today. One exhibit presented the history of three Frankfurt families: the famous Rothschild banking family, the middle-class merchant family Frank (you may know of their daughter Anne), and the Eastern European family of the well-known author and communist Valentin Senger.

Although the exhibition doesn’t focus on ritual objects, I thought this Torah Shield was interesting – it has “Jewish” elements (the palm leaves) and “German” elements (the oak leaves), illustrating that Frankfurt Jews in the late 19th Century thought of themselves as Jews whose permanent home was Germany, not as temporary residents until they could return to the Land of Israel.

Torah Shield with Oak and Palm Leaves

I discovered that Germans don’t refer to “Kristalnacht” – they call it “Pogrom Night” or the “November Pogrom”, because it wasn’t just one night, and much more than glass was broken – four of the five synagogues in Frankfurt were destroyed, and hundreds were killed. And that, of course, was only the beginning.

It was an interesting and sobering day.