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Our tour of the Rhine left in the afternoon of Monday the 15th, allowing us time to sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast, and find a cafe with free internet to catch up with friends and family. The Zum Ritter St. Georg hotel has lots of old-world charm, but no free wifi. Hauptstrasse, the street the hotel is on, was lively with tourists Sunday night, and quieter early Monday morning, but as we sat interneting, it began to bustle again.  

The modern side of Heidelberg you see around the train station is disorienting after being immersed in tourist photos while planning your vacation. The area around our hotel is the "old city"--the Heidelberg you see in photos, with its cobblestone streets, bridge over the river, and a castle overlooking it all. This area is disorienting in itself, as the old street has been turned into a pedestrian mall with upscale boutiques. I was on a mission after our internet interlude, however, to replace my rucksack, so we shopped the Hauptstrasse, then had to rush back to meet our tour and were forced to rely on the packaged meat salads with crackers we'd bought for the plane (and never used--we were well-fed) for lunch. I never did find a satisfactory replacement rucksack.  

The tour began with a drive to Frankfurt past cultivated fields, scattered industrial lots, and stretches where the trees blocked any view there might be. Frankfurt is where the tour company office was, and there we dropped off some people who had had a morning tour of Heidelberg and picked up some folks for the Rhineland tour. What we saw of Frankfurt was pretty random--a fancy neighborhood with huge houses, downtown office buildings, a scenic bridge across the Rhine, low-income housing.  

The bus to the tour left our hotel at 1:25 p.m., the tour itself embarked at 3:15 from Frankfurt heading into the Rhineland. The Rhineland represents a startling contrast to the stretch around Frankfurt. Verdant hills rising high from a wide river swathed in trees, vineyards, and dotted with old (700-1100 years) castles. Picturesque villages nestle between the hills.  

The tour included a one and a half hour boat ride down the Rhine, a wine-tasting, and dinner. For some reason, I assumed the wine-tasting was on the boat, so when we were informed we had to buy our own drinks, I bought Deborah and I each a glass of wine, which turned out to be quite generous. We sipped our wine and sat out on the back deck watching the hills, villages, and castles go by. Our pictures of the castles and vineyards from the bus turned out better than the ones from the open deck of the boat, though, as the afternoon was waning into evening and the hills were in shade. Germany seems proud of its white wines, but the red wine is wonderful. The weather was clear, but a little warm.  

We disembarked in the village of Assmahnhaussen (I kid you not), where we had dinner at a restuarant with an elaborately-decorated mermaid/nautical theme. We ate a delicious whole roasted chicken dinner, drank yet more wine, and indulged in apple strudel for desert. The single glass of wine in the restaurant was again generous, so you can imagine our dismay when they informed us after dinner that the *actual* wine tasting was to begin. Luckily, it was just four tiny samples, one red and three whites (including a variety known as "ice wine", because it is harvested in winter). We bought a bottle of the red to share in the last days of our journey, then sloshed onto the bus for the journey back to Frankfurt. There, a car was waiting to take the two of us to our hotel in Heidelberg. We got the real high-speed autobahn experience then.