Guest Author - Ann Carroll Burgess
After visiting Dresden in "River Cruising the Elbe," our next destination would be the town of Meissen, made famous by its porcelain. Thanks to Johann Friedrich Bottger who, in his attempts to turn base metal into gold, discovered the process of making “white gold” – porcelain. A visit to the factory and a tour is a must for any visitor.
During the mid-eighteenth century the height of style and taste was setting your table with Meissen objects or dinnerware. And a few carefully placed Meissen object d'art would enhance your decorating style even more. The factory still turns out objects of desire, and even a painstakingly hand-crafted thimble can set you back about 150 Euros or about 180 US dollars.
If gazing on china is not to your desire, simply walking the town of Meissen is worthwhile. It comes by its nickname of “Little Rome” honestly, as it too, stretches over seven hills. Take the time to climb Castle Hill and visit the sixteenth century castle and the Meissen cathedral, a thirteenth century creation before you descend cobbled walkways to the marketplace, still alive and bustling with vendors selling items to tempt tourists.
Our next port of call on the Viking Fontaine would be the town of Torgau, filled with wonderful Renaissance Houses, the fortified Hartenfels Castle, a market square and a riverside monument commemorating the historic 1945 meeting between Russian and American troops.
The next morning, we docked just outside of Wittenburg and took a short bus ride to the city center. There was something about the light grey buildings and cobble-stoned streets that completely captured my attention. The very heart of Wittenburg is traffic free, and the decrease in decibels made for a very peaceful walking journey. Left in the care of a most capable guide we were off to trace the history of the reformation beginning with Martin Luther’s home and chapel, Then we walked to the Scholosskirke, where, on the church door, Luther posted his 95 theses. Next was Luther Hall, the largest museum in the world dedicated to the reformation, we completed our Luther immersion at the Parish church of St. Mary’s, the church where Luther preached his memorable sermons.
I wish I could better describe to you exactly what it was that so captured my imagination in Wittenburg. This is an ancient city filled with historic and gracious architecture. For me, it remains a place to which I would happily return.
My voyage on the Viking Fontane would come to a conclusion at Magdeburg, the stop for those continuing onto Berlin; it was a short transfer to the train station and a short trip into Berlin. Like Wittenburg, Berlin had my attention from the moment I stepped off the train. After a quick transfer to the hotel it was onto the Brandenburg Gate. Those barricades made so infamous with the building of the Berlin Wall. Now, you can simply stroll, unchecked, through those gates and, perhaps, into the Starbucks, only a block away. Or you could advance onto the Reichstag and its glass dome, now home to the German parliament. From the very top of the building is a stunning 180 degree panorama of Berlin.
All too soon my drift along the Elbe and my stay on the Viking Fontane had come to an end, but I hope I will be back, there is still too much “terra incognita” contained in my mental map of Europe.