Taking a river cruise on the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers is not all stopping to tour historic sites, eating fantastic meals, enjoying a glass of beer or wine or talking with new-found friends. Some days your ship will just cruise along between stops at a leisurely pace, maybe 7 miles per hour, and you will have plenty of time to enjoy or photograph the varied scenery along the river.
The Rhine, Main and Danube have provided transportation since Roman times and thus villages and towns line their banks on both sides.
In the United States,the Mississippi River banks are lined with 30 ft high flood control levees on both sides for most of Louisiana. It is only possible to see over them if you are on the top deck. When the levees end, the mighty Mississippi winds its way through hundreds of miles of agricultural land. Rivers are used for transportation of bulk cargoes in the US, and consequently rather than quaint villages, a passenger might see factories or silos of one kind or another, as towns are often built away from the banks because of flooding. Of course, European rivers also flow past industrial areas, but in general there is much more to see.
After sailing through the Rhine gorge and our stop in Rudesheim, the Rhine turned towards Basel, Switzerland and the Maria Theresa continued along the Main River towards the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal.Thus, on the fourth day of our cruise, the Maria Theresa, after sailing at night, arrived in Miltenberg at breakfast time. We would have the morning and early afternoon to enjoy the quaint historic old town of Miltenberg.
All the groups, including the Gentle Walkers, were bussed to the entrance of the Alstadt, where we met our guide, a tall Dutchman who had married a local girl. He was both funny and knowledgeable and told us much about the town history as well as its quaint buildings. The foundations of Miltenberg date to the 2nd century A.D. when the Romans established an outpost there. During the middle ages the town took shape as a small but prosperous business center where craftsmen shaped columns and grindstones. Miltenberg was initially protected by a castle built ca. 1200, and had a hospital by the beginning of the 14th century.
Miltenberg still boasts the oldest inn or guesthouse in Europe, the Hotel zum Reisen and a number of timber-framed houses that looked like they could provide background for Grimm’s fairy tales. Most date from the 16th century at least. Miltenberg’s old town has plenty of cobblestone streets that lead upwards to the hills that surround the town. Because of flooding problems near the river, Miltenberg had limited growth potential and it is a long and narrow presence along the left bank of the Main River. However, recent flood control programs have stopped the flooding although land is still scarce. Miltenberg has started to expand on the right side of the river after buying land from a neighboring town.
After the tour, everyone had a chance to chose another more specialized tour but the Ramblers decided to just walk slowly back to the ship. Although we were bussed to town, we had to find our own way back. There was almost no chance to get lost as we merely had to amble down the cobblestone paths enjoying our walk through the village until we reached the banks of the Main and turn towards the Maria Theresa.
As it turned out, this was quite a hike for us Ramblers, especially since some improvements were in progress on the street next to the river. This meant there was no access to the benches along the bank and the traffic was particularly heavy.
We later learned that the traffic was due to a well-known local event. The last week of August is the time of St. Michael’s Fair (Michaelesmesse) in Miltenberg, although it doesn’t coincide with St. Micheal’s feast day which is in September. Because it is the largest end of summer fair in this part of Bavaria, it draws a considerable crowd from the region.
Although it was still early in the afternoon, many families had already arrived, probably because they wanted to get a good parking place.
Old towns like Miltenberg sprang up long before the auto traffic, and there usually aren’t too many places to park in the historic area,.This was the case here and the road work made it worse.
The Maria Theresa sailed at 2 PM and all were able to enjoy a wonderful view of the town from the river as we headed towards our next stop, Wurzburg.