Monday, October 29, 2012

Blue Monday



Cruising down the Li River in China May 2009.


Oct 14 continued - Cruisiing the Rhine



 

As mentioned in my previous post I would post about spending an afternoon cruising the Rhine from Koblenz to Ruedesheim. It was a rainy dull afternoon but we still managed to get photos of the amazing castles along this gorgeous part of the Rhine.
Approximately 40 castles and fortresses, stretch along a mere 65 kilometres of the River Rhine between the cities of Bingen and Koblenz, constitute one of the most outstanding features of this UnescoWorld Heritage Site. Such a concentration of castles within such a small area is to be found nowhere else in the world!






















The mighty slate rock Lorelei in the Romantic Rhine Valley - around 16 miles/ 25 km from Rudesheim. rises up almost vertically to 145 yards/132m above the water-level. Downstream the river is squeezed into its narrowest and deepest (24 yards/22m) point, so the Middle Rhine at this point used to be very difficult to navigate and the correct passage is (today) clearly marked with buoys.

Even in the 19th century, reefs and rapids made it extremely dangerous for ships to pass this point. The legend tells us, that a siren called "Lorelei" bewitched the hearts of the sailors and when they looked up to the rock, their boat crashed and they sank.






 Pfalzgrafenstein Castle

In 1326/27, this toll castle was built because of a dispute over the Rhine toll between the Pope and King Ludwig of Bavaria. The King, who belonged to the Wittelsbach family of Counts Palatine, had made some dangerous enemies by raising the toll in Kaub. Three times, Pope John XXII called upon the archbishops of Cologne, Treves, and Mainz to excommunicate Ludwig and take action against the Kaub toll, but his calls were ignored.
Instead, King Ludwig ordered that a tower be built on the rocky island of Falkenau in the middle of the Rhine, a construction that would enable him to control the waterway on the right side of the river. Between approximately 1338 and 1342, a defensive wall was built around the tower.
Shaped like a boat, with its rich variety of roof and oriel structures, Pfalzgrafenstein possesses a picturesque charm, while its position on the river and its carefully planned design make the well-preserved castle even more unique.





Sunday, October 28, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?



 



It's Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. For this meme, bloggers post what they finished last week, what they're currently reading, and what they plan to start this week.


I was away on a river cruise since my last post so this is a recap of my reading since then.

FINISHED:
The Sense of an Ending

Synopsis here.
This is an interesting novella, winner of the Booker prize. I felt that the main character was hard on himself.
Tony Webster,is  a sixty something lonely divorced man filled with nostalgia and regret about the past. The other characters, especially Veronica were not interesting or likable.

Attachments
Synopsis from Goodreads
Beth and Jennifer know their company monitors their office e-mail. But the women still spend all day sending each other messages, gossiping about their coworkers at the newspaper and baring their personal lives like an open book. Jennifer tells Beth everything she can't seem to tell her husband about her anxieties over starting a family. And Beth tells Jennifer everything, period.

When Lincoln applied to be an Internet security officer, he hardly imagined he'd be sifting through other people's inboxes like some sort of electronic Peeping Tom. Lincoln is supposed to turn people in for misusing company e-mail, but he can't quite bring himself to crack down on Beth and Jennifer. He can't help but be entertained-and captivated- by their stories.


Cute. And as an IT person who remembers Y2K (yawn) and the advent of office email this made me smile at the memories it evoked.

Viral
Synopsis from Goodreads
Two brothers race to stop a political mastermind's massive bioterrorist plot in this terrifying espionage thriller.
In remote pockets of the Third World, a deadly virus is quietly sweeping through impoverished farming villages and shanty towns with frightening speed and potency. Meanwhile, in Washington, a three-word message left in a safe-deposit box may be the key to stopping the crisis—if, that is, Charles Mallory, a private intelligence contractor and former CIA operative, can decipher the puzzle before time runs out. 
 
What Mallory begins to discover are the traces of a secret war, with a bold objective—to create a new, technologically advanced society. With the help of his brother Jon, an investigative reporter, can he break the story to the world before it is too late—before a planned “humane depopulation” takes place?
 
As the stakes and strategies of this secret war become more evident, the Mallory brothers find themselves in a complex game of wits with an enemy they can’t see: a new sort of superpower led by a brilliant, elusive tactician who believes that ends justify means.


The premise of this story was good but it just moved too slowly for me.


Keepsake

For her previous novels (Things We Didn't Say, The Life You've Imagined, Real Life & Liars), author Kristina Riggle has garnered fabulous reviews and established herself as a rapidly rising star of contemporary women's fiction. In Keepsake, she explores that most complicated of relationships, as two sisters raised by a hoarder deal with old hurts and resentments, and the very different paths their lives have taken. As always, Riggle approaches important topics poignantly and honestly--including hoarding and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in her remarkable Keepsake--while writing with real emotional power and compassion about families and their baggage. For readers of Katrina Kittle and Elin Hildenbrand, Kristina Riggle's Keepsake is a treasure.

I found this story a little uninspiring. It reminded me of Dirty Little Secrets. I couldn't really like any of the characters either.

The Butcher's Boy

Murder has always been easy for the Butcher’s Boy—it’s what he was raised to do. But when he kills the senior senator from Colorado and arrives in Las Vegas to pick up his fee, he learns that he has become a liability to his shadowy employers. His actions attract the attention of police specialists who watch the world of organized crime, but though everyone knows that something big is going on, only Elizabeth Waring, a bright young analyst in the Justice Department, works her way closer to the truth, and to the frightening man behind it.


Now this book had my interest! The story is a little quirky and caught my attention.
It was originally published in 1983 and re-released in 2003 so it feels a little dated. Finding a phone is an issue, computers are black with green text, printouts are on continuous paper. I did find it interesting that the word "avatar" was used.
The characters are smart and I became interested in their personalities. I would definitely read more of his work.


Death in Summer

There were three deaths that summer. The first was Letitia's, shocking and sudden, leaving her husband haunted by the details of their last afternoon. No one expected that drizzling Thursday in June to signal the approach of two more tragedies — deaths that shook both the apparently blessed and the obviously afflicted. William Trevor gives us an unputdownable novel, beautifully written and wonderfully sympathetic.

My first comment doesn't have to do with the story but I felt that there were so many grammatical errors that distracted me, being as anal as I am. But the lack of apostrophes in their proper places drove me crazy.

It is a real quick read and I didn't want to put it down. It is a sad book dealing with death and loneliness. There is abuse of an orphan as well to deal with. 

STARTED THIS WEEK:
The Broken Shore

Peter Temple is currently being hailed as the finest crime writer in Australia, but it won't be long before he is recognized as what he really is--one of the nation's finest writers, period. Born in South Africa, Temple is writing a dynamic kind of literary thriller that ultimately defies classification. "The Broken Shore," his eighth novel, revolves around big-city detective Joe Cashin. Shaken by a scrape with death, he's posted away from the Homicide Squad to the quiet town on the South Australian coast where he grew up. Carrying physical scars and more than a little guilt, he spends his time playing the country cop, walking his dogs, and thinking about how it all was before. But when a prominent local is attacked in his own home and left for dead, Cashin is thrust into what becomes a murder investigation. The evidence points to three boys from the nearby aboriginal community--everyone seems to want to blame them. Cashin is unconvinced, and soon begins to see the outlines of something far more terrible than a burglary gone wrong. 
Winner of the Colin Roderick Award for Australian writing as well as Australia's major prize for crime fiction, the Ned Kelly Award, "The Broken Shore "is a transfixing and moving novel about a place, a family, politics and power, and the need to live decently in a world where so much is rotten.


2012 books read (87 to date):
The Coast Road - John Brady
Still Midnight - Denise Mina
The Bulgari Connection - Fay Weldon
Good Bait - John Harvey
The Heretic's Treasure - Scott Mariani
Dead I Well May Be - Adrian McKinty
The Devil's Elixir - Raymond Khoury
A Darker Domain - Val McDermid
The Impossible Dead - Ian Rankin
GB84 - David Peace
The Emperor's Tomb - Steve Berry
Stonehenge Legacy - Sam Christer
Inquisition - Alfredo Colitto ABANDONED!
The Troubled Man - Henning Mankell
Nineteen Seventy-Four - David Peace
Faithful Place - Tana French
Dead Like You - Peter James
Brother and Sister - Joanna Trollope
The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton ABANDONED!
A Beginner's Guide to Acting English -Shappi Khorsandi
The Snowman - Jo Nesbo
The Leopard - Jo Nesbo
The Stone Cutter - Camilla Lackberg
Miramar - Naguib Mahfouz
The Gallow's Bird - Camilla Lackberg
Nineteen Seventy- Seven - David Peace
Timeline - Michael Crichton
Millennium People - JG Ballard
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 
Birdman - Mo Hayder
Clara Callan - Richard B. Wright
The Paris Vendetta - Steve Berry
Little Girls Lost - Jack Kerley
The Reutrn of the Dancing Master - Henning Mankell
Nemesis - Jo Nesbo
Dublin Dead - Gerard O'Donovan
City of Bohane - Kevin Barry
This Beautiful Life - Helen Schulman
The Copenhagen Project - K. SandersenPrague - Arthur Phillips
Fortunes of War - Gordon Zuckerman 
The Cold Cold Ground - Adrian McKinty
Before the Poison - Peter Robinson
The Mozart Conspiracy - Scott Mariani
Dancer - Colum McCann
Pig Island - Mo Hayder
Old City Hall - Robert Rotenberg
The Paris Wife - Paula McLain 
The Last Good Man - A. J. Kazinski
Homesick - Roshi Fernando
Black Friday - Alex Kava
Only One Life - Sara Blaedel
A Perfect Evil - Alex Kava
People Like Us - Dominick Dunne
The Ottoman Motel - Christopher Currie
Even the Dogs - Jon McGregor
The Red Book - Deborah Copaken Kogan
Faith - Jennifer Haigh
The Salesman - Joseph O'Connor
The Last Hundred Days - Patrick McGuinness
The Girl Below - Bianca Zander ABANDONED!
Hocus Pocus - Kurt Vonnegut
Drowned - Therese Bohman
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
The Paris Directive - Gerald Jay
Criminal - Karin Slaughter
The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Moshin Hamid
The Good Muslim - Tahmima Anam
My Korean Deli - Ben Ryder Howe
The Ghosts of Belfast - Stuart Neville
Bad Boy - Peter Robinson
The Guilty Pleas - Robert Rotenberg
The Vault - Ruth Rendell
A Train in Winter - Caroline Moorehead
Turn of Mind - Alice La Plante
The Buddha in the Attic - Julie Otsuka
Swipe - Evan Angler
Absurdistan - Gary Shteyngart ABANDONED!
The Butterfly Clues - Kate Ellison
The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes
Attachments - Rainbow Rowell
Viral - James Lilliefors
Keepsake - Kristina Riggle
The Butcher's Boy - Thomas Perry
Death in Summer - William Trevor



Oct 14 - Koblenz - Ruedesheim Germany


Koblenz morning until 11AM
This morning you may wish to join an optional tour of Koblenz, located at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers, before returning to the ship and continuing towards Ruedesheim.
We opted to walk into town on our own. It was Sunday morning so nothing was open. The view from our cabin.


Koblenz, population slightly over one hundred thousand, is a real river town. It is situated on both banks of the Rhine River and on the Moselle River. The rivers’ meeting point is known as the Deutsches Eck (German Corner). In addition to these two magnificent rivers there are three mountain ranges and a third river, the Lahn not far away. The name Koblenz means confluence or merging rivers.

In the late 19th century a monument was erected for General August von Goebenhim at the "Goebenplatz", for 10 years he was commanding general of the Koblenzer VIIIth army corps. After WW II the square was "demilitarized" (Goeben-monument removed) and the square was named after Koblenzer publicist and historian Josef Görres. In the middle of the square the 10 meter high fountain “history column”, artist Jürgen Weber tells in 10 juxtaposed “floors” in 3D scenes the history of Koblenz.

This statue was fascinating and we took photos of each the "floors" which I'll show in a later post.





Since everything was closed up we strolled back to the boat the long way along the promenade.
There we came across the largest statue/monument ever.
A monument of Emperor Wilhelm I dominates the park. Originally erected in 1897, it was destroyed at the end of World War II. In 1953, a flag and flagpole were mounted on the base as a memorial to German unity. It was rebuilt in 1993 based on original plans. Today, unity is marked by a ring of flags from every state of the reunited Germany.

Can you see John standing at the bottom of the stairs???

The sun was trying its best to come out and it was not cold at all along the water.
Speaking of big...






We got back on board and start sailing to Ruedesheim.


Koblenz recently celebrated its two-thousandth anniversary. During the Middle Ages Koblenz took advantage of its strategic location to control both Rhine and Mosel trade. Most of the city is situated on the west bank of the Rhine. On the east bank, facing the city, is Festung Ehrenbreitstein, Europe’s largest fortress after Gibraltar. This fortress sits on a mountain four hundred feet above the river. It now hosts a youth hostel and a museum.
As we sail we get a very good view of the fortress.



I will cover the afternoon sail down the Rhine in another post as it was just wonderful and deserves to stand on its own.


Ruedesheim – we arrived around 5PM but it is dreary and wet outside so we decide to remain on board for a while. For the people who purchased the optional tour of the town a tourist train arrived to escort them around.


Around 6PM we decide to walk into town armed with umbrellas provided by the boat.




We walked around and then decided to have dinner in town to sample some local flavour. This would be a wonderful town to visit in the daylight and better weather. It had the feel of a seaside resort town full of quaint little lanes.

We settled on a restaurant The Lindenwirt based on a guy standing outside in his lederhosen.

Sample of the menu



We chose the plate for two people as stated on the menu:
Unsere beliebte Spezialität •
Our guests’ favorite
Rheingauer Sauerkrautplatte
Saumagen, Rostbratwurst und Schweinshaxe
mit Sauerkraut und Kartoffelpüree
“Rheingauer Sauerkrautplatte”
Saumagen, roast sausage and knuckle of pork with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes



Even though it was a Sunday night there was a band playing (Abba!!) and other songs. One couple even had their dog with them which is so strange to any North American to see a dog in a restaurant.

We were told that we must try the local specialty, Rüdesheimer coffee, which is brewed with a powerful local liqueur (burned to caramelize the flavor), thick cream and chocolate sprinkles, and served in delicate porcelain cups. 

Just the thing on a rainy, damp autumn evening!