Early this morning, Tauck's ms Grace docked in the peaceful little German town of Bernkastel on the Moselle River. I was working on my blog and watching as the Captain sailed in reverse to our mooring spot. The river here looks more like a glass-smooth lake.
ms Grace docked in Bernkastel, Germany
We walked off ms Grace at 8:30 this morning to board our motorcoach for the one-hour drive to Luxembourg. This will be our first visit to the smallest, and richest (per capita income), country in the European Union. As we drive to Luxembourg, the weather is starting to turn ugly and it is beginning to look like the decision to bring our umbrellas was a wise one. Kati, one of our Tauck Tour Directors, talks about the area we are driving through and what we can expect when we arrive in Luxembourg. Since we are going to be off the boat all day today, Tauck is providing each of us with 20 Euros to buy our lunch in town at the end of the walking tour.
Lunch money for me and Rickee
By the time we arrive in Luxembourg, it is starting to rain. We are part of the green group again today so we meet our local guide, Josette, who is holding the green Tauck sign. When everyone in our group gathers, we begin our walking tour. Taking pictures is more difficult today because we have to hold the camera with one hand while holding an umbrella with the other. Plus, it is difficult to get good photos in rainy weather.
Tauck guests tour Luxembourg in the rain
This walking tour seemed a bit more chaotic than what we have experienced on our previous Tauck excursions, with several different groups converging at a single place, making it very crowded at times. I don't think the local guides here are quite as organized as we have come to expect. This becomes even more apparent in the rain when everyone is using an umbrella, which increases the amount of "personal" area needed by each person. Nevertheless, we were able to see many of Luxembourg's attractions, in spite of the crowds and rain.
Our walking tour ended at a main plaza in the heart of the city. We were informed that this was the meeting place at 1:15 for the guides to take us back to the motorcoaches. With that information in mind, we set off to find our souvenirs and a place for lunch. We walked by an interesting little bistro serving soup, so we decided to check it out. Several other Tauck guests were already in line waiting for food, so we decided to give it a try. It helped that this little restaurant actually had a menu translated into English which we used to make our selections. We ordered the soup and sandwich combo for about 8€ each, and with drinks, the total came to about 20€. My vegetable soup with tortellini was very good, and the accompanying tomato and mozzarella cheese sandwich was filling. A good choice!
Soup and Sandwich
As we were eating our lunch, we could see the weather was clearing up and the sun actually beginning to shine through the clouds. By the time we left the restaurant, we were able to put away our umbrellas and enjoy a walk around the town square area. There were lots of local shops, along with the high-end brands that you see in most every major city. We bought some souvenirs, enjoyed a couple of macaroons from a local bakery, and spent the rest of our free time just wandering up and down the streets of Luxembourg, window shopping and people watching.
A photo stop overlooking remains of Luxembourg's old city walls
We rejoined the group at 1:15, and re-boarded the motorcoaches for our 20-minute drive to Hamm where we would visit the American WWII Memorial Cemetery. When we arrived at the cemetery, the entire group's mood seemed to change to one of solemn reflection. Tauck provided guests with white roses to lay on the graves.
The graves of 5076 American soldiers buried here are each identified with a white marble cross (or Star of David) with the name, rank, division and state they represent along with the date of their death.
The most famous grave in the cemetery is the final resting place of General George S. Patton, commander of the 15th Army in American-occupied Germany, who died on December 21, 1945, from injuries suffered in a automobile accident. Patton wanted his grave positioned so that it looked out over all the men who served under him and that wish was granted by placing his grave at a location at the top of the cemetery grounds beneath a pole flying the Americn flag.
General Patton's Grave
Many Tauck guests laid their white roses on Patton's grave, a sign of how much respect people still have for the man more than 60 years after his passing. At 2:00pm, taps was played over the loudspeakers, followed by the Star-Spangled Banner. It was an emotional moment and one we will never forget. The one-hour drive back to the ship was somber, but as soon as we stepped off the coach in Bernkastel, everyone's spirits began to lift.
Guests board Grace after a day in Luxembourg and Hamm
We dropped off all of our gear in our stateroom and headed out for a walk in the town of Bernkastel. We have never been here, so you know what that means: souvenirs! We walk across the bridge that spans the Moselle and find ourselves in Bernkastel. It does not take long to realize that this is one of the most picturesque little places we have visited so far. The German architecture butts right up to near-vertical vineyards, and there are decorative fountains and sculptures around every corner. The half-timber houses and flower-filled window boxes add to the unique German feel of this town.
The town is not too crowded, although there are lots of people at the sidewalk cafes and bistros enjoying a glass of wine or an early dinner. There is no shortage of souvenir shops and we quickly acquire our refrigerator magnet and a Christmas ornament. Success! We spent the better part of an hour just walking through the narrow, often steep, streets and alleyways of the town. Occasionally, we would step into a little shop and look around, or stop to take a photo of a fountain. It is one of those places you just love to explore on your own.
After an enjoyable visit to Bernkastel, we walked back to ms Grace for Cocktail Hour and reflected on all we had seen today. Tomorrow, we will visit the town of Trier, another new destination for us.