A Day in Miltenberg with Avalon Waterways
Saturday, September 16, 2017
It feels more like December outside than September. I’ve taken a few fall European river cruises before, and I can’t recall one where the weather was as cold as this. Our temperature this morning was a sweltering 5°C, complimented with the thickest pea-soup fog this side of the Grand Banks.
Still, the unseasonably-cold weather gave Avalon Waterways ‘ Avalon Expression an even cozier feeling during our morning of scenic cruising the Main River en-route to the town of Miltenberg, Germany. The Germans have a word for this: gemütlichkeit, a feeling of friendliness and coziness, for which there is no direct English translation. But Avalon Expression has plenty of it this morning.
I managed to go up on deck to watch the long, arduous lock process, which I’m calling “riverboats in the mist.” Locks have been providing access to these waterways for centuries, and the same process – heavily reliant on gravity and water – continues to allow both pleasure cruise traffic and cargo traffic to transit the rivers and elevations of Europe.
To my surprise as I finished a light lunch in the ship’s lounge (a larger spread is also served daily in the main Restaurant on Deck 2), the sun came out and temperatures began to warm dramatically. It couldn’t have come at a better time, either: we were scheduled to participate in a 2.5-hour hike up to the Mildenburg castle, from which some pretty spectacular views of the city of Miltenberg can be had.
Now, this isn’t a heavy hike or anything super-active; if you can walk a couple of kilometres over cobblestones and up a gentle incline to the Castle, you’ll be completely fine. But you should be mobile, and those with knee or back problems might not want to participate due to the uneven terrain, which is a bit tricky coming downhill.
The hike, however, is well worth your time. On the way from the ship (docked next to one of Miltenberg’s most popular tourist attractions, the ESSO gas station), you’ll pass the whimsical Hotel Zum Riesen, considered to be one of the oldest hotels in Germany dating back to 1411. I had a beer in the courtyard here back in 2015, and would have been quite happy to have done so again today, but our hike would have continued without me.
After our hike up to the castle, we were rewarded back in the town center with samplings of locally-produced black-currant schnapps, which went down all too easily. To help it on its merry way, we indulged in a variety of local sausages, including some superb blood sausage which, despite its name, is rather tasty and pairs well with the schnapps and the requisite bread that’s typical of this charcuterie-type snack.