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Buildings, cultures from medievalto modern highlight overseas trip

Melk Abbey, left, is one of the most imposing architectural masterpieces north of the Alps. The view of the Melk Abbey from the Danube is considered one of the most impressive sights in Austria. Monks of St. Benedict have lived and worked there for more than 900 years.
June 22, 2005 - A March riverboat tour along the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers featured buildings and culture from medieval to modern, but for those Americans with me the trip was a new adventure as we cruised from Vienna to Amsterdam.

Among the highlights was a trip to the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Bamberg, the oldest brewery in the world in Weltenberg, Nuremberg and the room where Nazi war crimes trials were held, Warzburg and Rothenberg. At one point during my tour of Bam-berg I was able to see examples of Romanesque, Gothic, Renais-sance and Baroque buildings simultaneously through my camera lens.

Residents of Nuremberg said they took shelter in underground beer storage facilities during Allied bombing raids in World War II and the phrase "thank God for beer'' still can be heard in modern taverns. The city was destroyed, but now nearly is restored into a medieval showplace.

All of Europe appeared to be under renovation. Scaffolding was everywhere and residents thanked us for the Marshall Plan when they found out we were Americans.

March may not have been the best time to take the trip because spring floods made it impossible for our riverboat to pass under bridges.

After being stopped in Nuremburg for two days, the tour company took our group inland via the Autobahn in buses. It appears that everyone in Germany learned to drive in Detroit because there doesn't seem to be a speed limit.

After departing the Autobahn we toured the quaint village of Rothenburg in horse-drawn carts. Local artisans had prepared Easter candies, handmade toddler push toys, dolls and finely embroidered tablecloths.

Among my favorite discoveries was the 18th century artist Giambattista Tiepolo, a Venetian painter brought to the country in 1750 by a German prince who wanted his home decorated. Tiepolo's paintings so impressed American occupation forces after World War II they aided the effort to preserve them after they had been exposed to the elements by Allied bombings.

The tour took us through German wine country and we enjoyed several tastings, including one in Rudesheim where they are said to have invented sherry.

I returned to St. Louis with several examples of German handicraft, including bottles of the oldest wines and beers brewed by mankind. While the beer has been made the same way by the same Benedictine monks, it was all new and exciting to me.

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