Wednesday, September 26, 2001 – Koblenz

It so happens that I read for the visually handicapped on the KPBS Radio Reading Service on odd Tuesdays of the month. At 2:30 AM I suddenly woke up realizing that I had not made provisions for a substitute reader for October 2, the first Tuesday. Right then, I sent an email to another reader asking if she could find a substitute for me, and by breakfast time I got a message back saying, “Consider it done”. What a relief.

Beheaded Luther Von Der Koben with rolling eyes and tongue sticking out on the hour.

This morning we took a leisurely 10:30 AM tour of Koblenz. It was a typical European town combining architectural styles from many periods, particularly Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque. Although it was not a particularly strategic city in World War II, it has, like many other towns, been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries. Our guide Heike Beaujean told us about Luther Von Der Koben who was beheaded for a crime while vehemently protesting his innocence. Legend has it that even after his head was separated he rolled his eyes and stuck out his tongue at his executioners. On a building wall is a relief with the eyes continually moving and every hour the tongue sticks out. We visited a church which had been a monastery or convent in the 11th century but was now a Protestant church. In a dark, four-foot wide opening in the ceiling there is

Both a medieval and modern procession

supposed to be an unexploded bomb but as hard as we looked, we could not really see it. Nearby there was a vertical mural depicting a procession held once before 1000 BC and more recently to a meeting to set the Germany-France boundary. We also visited the Catholic Liebfrauen Church which had tombstones on the wall to the right as we entered. Their City Hall has 24 windows and at Christmas time each window is opened in succession before Christmas. We also saw the Koblenz “Bad Boy” which is a popular tradition here. We learned that every two minutes he spits a substantial stream of water as one of his mischievous pranks. The only thing is I learned thaat fact a little too late and got soaked, but it provided a good demonstration and amusement for the group. We then headed back to the boat for lunch.

Castle watching

After lunch Teresa and I went out on the top deck with a blanket to see the Rhine River castles. It got colder so I wound up on deck by myself with a map of the Rhine and its castles. The  castle at Rhens was where seven electors came to elect their King. Four came from the Rhineland itself, and three came from other locations. We saw the Marksburg Castle which is the only one which has never been destroyed over the years, and is now the home of the Center for Preservation of Castles. It seems like a logical choice to me!  To defend themselves from sieges, some castles have long tunnels through which provisions were carried. Of course, they still use that technique across the US-Mexico border, but for a different purpose. Louis XIV spared no effort in his drive to convert the land to the French character.  I would say he did not succeed.  There are not only castles but villages along the river, and trains.  The trains looked like toy trains to me because the quaint buildings alongside the right of way look like the buildings you find in model train layouts. We learned that the Rhine River has a male “personality” while the Mosel is female. It is a more peaceful river.  Even though the Danube is two times bigger than the Rhine and frequently floods, it wound up with the feminine character.  Go figure.  As I heard the other day from a female presenter at Rotary, “If the world were logical, men would rise side saddle!” The castles were often built to support the collection of tolls. The nobles and the Cardinals were the landowners and extracted everything they could from the merchants. There were 30 toll collections between Mainz and Cologne. So trade was very expensive. There was only one castle that was successfully defended against Louis XIV.  That must be the Marksburg Castle.  In another part of the river, The Katz and Weinfeld castles on each side of the river held a stranglehold on river passage.  That must have been expensive for merchants. That afternoon I put out some pictures at dinner, with a key to who they were. I don’t know how many people actually saw the pictures before I was asked to put them away. That evening we had dinner with Art who is involved with medical statistics and Kathy and Andrew who has a medical research laboratory and does research on specially bred mice.  We had an interesting discussion of the general subject of medical research.

The Party

That evening we had a concert by a really good singer and keyboard player, and we had a great time dancing. Our host is DeJean Stansic, who really takes good care of us.

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