Thursday, April 21, 2011

The print on the page...

Yesterday we visited the Guttenburg museum. We had to endure a truly awful walking tour with a Fin who didn't speak very good English to get there. The cool part was that I got to take part in a demo of a Guttenburg screw press. She was a beauty. Printed out a page from a Guttenburg bible in 3 colors on good quality Amalfi paper.

Upstairs in their treasury they had several amazing books including 2 original Guttenburg Bibles. Each was slightly different as their owners had requested extra illumination to decorate some of the pages. They said it was hard to estimate their value but it was certainly in the millions. Depite being such an important figure a lot about his life is unknown. Although it does seem he was a terrible businessman. Several lawsuits and a few unpaid loans. He did gain some status later in life but didnt live long enough to enjoy it. The museum also has a wing dedicated to the Chinese, who, contrary to what I had learned, also developed some movable type (although impractical due to Chinese being a pictographic language requiring thousands of blocks). I knew they had done block printing, but movable type was a surprise.

We dumped the latter half of our walking tour to go back and just gawk at the amazing presses and books (both hand written and printed). When we left I noticed a print shop next-door to the musuem that appeared to be associated with it, but there was no time to find out for sure.

Although there is no evidence to supporso such a thing, I sometimes get a strong feeling that I was somehow associated with printing and books in some previous life. It's uncanny.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The bonds of the sea

Last night we officially began cruising on the Main river. The ship is almost silent and very little disturbs it. We are travelling down river and this requires passing through a number of locks. After dinner I went up on deck as night fell and witnessed this process first hand. The First and Second captain (there are three) were sipping drinks which alarmed me at first.I mean this IS Germany and they do drink a lot, but apparently their shift was over and they were just relaxing before going below. The third Captain wasnt actually in the pilot house. He was posted at a set of controls port side. There is a matching set starboard. Although the ship is fairly narrow there is no room for error in entering the locks.

As the ship moved forward the captain made dozens of small adjustments using bow thrusters. Inside the pilot house a mate and a sailor watch the radar and use binoculars to keep an eye out for obstructions and other craft. Not only is the ship a tight squeeze side to side but top to bottom. Some of the locks and bridges are so low that the pilot house and a sun screen must be lowered in order to make it underneath them. This was done as we entered the lock. The pilot house lowered about three feet into the body of the ship.

About five of us male passengers stood on deck for this, despite the cold. A woman popped up top and asked what we were doing looking so intense.

" We are sharing the bond to our seagoing ancestors" I said.


"We're ready, at a moments notice, to unfurl sails, or heave to on the mainbrace. Should there be call, we will waltz the capstain and climb the mizzen."

The woman looked at us like we were mad, shivered, and went below.

The man folk kept our vigil.

"Does this ship have any of those things?" asked the man next to me, as we narrowly passed below a gangway on the lock.

"No. But but thats not the point, is it? We could."

Monday, April 18, 2011

All aboard.

We have left Prague behind. I wish we could have had at least 1 more day to explore. We boarded a bus and drove to Nurenburg, a walled city we have visited before. It being Sunday most of the shops were closed but there was a market day in the town square. Sausages and kraut!

We had an all too short walking tour of part ofnthe walls before rebounding the bus and driving past the buildings were the post war Nazi trials were held. Then we visited the massive parade grounds were the glory of Nazi Germany marched by their Messiah. These must have been awesome and terrible sights to behold. Today, the stands where Hitler stood are crumbling away and the encircling spectator stands are mostly overgrown except for one corset which is apparently a soccer field. The area around and in front of the stands is a park where people rollerblade, play with RC cars and show off their motorcycles and pimped out rides.

We left Nuremburg and finally arrived in Wurtzburg to board our ship. Our cabin is a small and efficient affair. Two single beds. A bathroom that doubles as a shower. We are right above the water line which is freaking Rossana out a little bit. Our fellow travelers are, for the most part, an older lot. But interesting. There's a couple from Cuban I'm keen to speak to.

Today we will visit the Residence palace and then take an excursion to Rothenburg, one of my favorite cities. Last time we were here, we abandoned our group and spent the day enjoying the city and the medieval market. Alas, we can't do that today as we need to get back to out boat before it leaves without us.