Viking River Cruise - - Day Eight, Fri 10/16/15
I slept well, got up around 5:30 and showered and shaved in the dark. I'm getting pretty good at it. I went up to the lounge and wrote, and went to the dining room at 7, when they're supposed to be starting to serve breakfast. But the lights were out and there was no one in there! Maybe the waitstaff was a little tuckered out after all that vigorous dancing the night before. And maybe they had some schnapps themselves after hours. They opened at 7:30. I was going to have the eggs Benedict, but changed my mind and had a plate of things from the buffet: scrambled eggs, a chicken sausage, a slice of cheese, and a heavenly mixture of fried onions, bacon, and mushrooms. Plus an English muffin with peanut butter and honey. And coffee and juice, of course. Moises came over to say hello. We talked about the high jinx the night before, and he said he had five hours of sleep. He was still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed however, unlike Silviu, who looked a little droopy.
A general comment about the cruise: a few times passengers have come up to me or Mom or both of us and commented on how sweet it is to see the two of us on this trip together. It really couldn't be clearer that we're mother and son, and people think it's awfully cute. Mom tells the story like this:
MOM: Christopher and I have a phone date every weekend. Sometime over a year ago he called me and asked me what was on my bucket list. I told him I had no intention of going away anytime soon! But I knew what he meant, and I told him I always wanted to go on a river cruise. So he told me I should choose the river and he would book the cruise.
We had one of these conversations with a woman in the lounge the night before, and Mom mentioned my husband Richard in the context of the story. The woman asked how long we had been married and it turned into a discussion of how great it is that we're married and that her husband's best friend had been gay but had died years ago, but would have been so thrilled to see where things stand today. Of course I applaud this woman being in support of LGBT rights, but something about conversations like this makes me itchy. There's always an element of "some of my best friends are Negroes", and it rubs me the wrong way.
The focal point of our day was a WW II tour of Nuremberg. Our guide was a wonderful Scottish woman named Fiona.
We started the tour at the end of the story, in the courtroom where the Nuremberg trials were held.
I've been a fan of the movie *Judgement of Nuremberg* for about half my life, so it was intense to be in the room where the real trials happened. The trial was held from November 1945 to October 1946, 218 days in court, 9 to 5 Monday through Friday. On trial were 23 of the surviving highest-ranking members of the Third Reich.
There were eight judges: two each from the US, the USSR, Great Britain, and France. Only four judges had a vote, the other four were advisors. They had decided that if a verdict came down 2 to 2, they would give the lesser sentence. All of the defendants put in a plea of "nicht schuldig": not guilty. This was the first truly international trial, and as such, the first trial to have simultaneous translation in the courtroom - - every word spoken was translated into German, French, English, and Russian.
Our next stop was the Nazi party rally grounds. Six rallies were held there between 1933 and 1938. The grounds held up to 70,000 spectators and 250,000 soldiers. Again it was a film that sparked my interest: Leni Riefenstahl was hired by Hitler to make a film of the 1934, the brilliant and infamous *Triumph of the Will*.
Our final stop was the documentation center at the rally grounds, home to a permanent exhibition, "Fascination and Terror", about WW II from the German perspective.
It was one of the greatest museums I've been to, right up there with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though the overall impression could not be more different! They have a first class audio tour. It was upsetting and exhausting to walk through the exhibits for an hour and a half. The exhibit ended with a film of elderly people telling their stories of having been in the concentration camps as children, but I chose to end the tour with the exhibits on the Nuremberg Trials. I'm not sure if it was a conscious decision, but I wanted to put a happy ending on the story.
Back on the ship. Not a lot of talking on the bus, people were a little shell-shocked by the museum. I got changed for dinner - - I had brought four bow ties and had only worn two, so I figured why the hell not. Mom and I packed. Our bags had to be outside our door by 6 AM the next morning.
We went up to the lounge and had a toast and took some pictures with the two couples. We're definitely going to stay in touch with them, and hope to see them again soon.
Dinner that night had five courses:
1. Tandoori chicken with tomato relish.
2. Creamy mushroom soup with bacon.
3. Pumpkin ravioli with lamb, with a red chile sauce.
4. Italian sea bass with fennel, carrots, olives, and barley risotto. We had the choice between that and beff Wellington, and Mom and I both chose the sea bass. I felt like I'd eaten enough beef that week.
5. A light and frothy sour cherry cake, with crumbled Oreo cookies on the side.
An incredible meal, as usual. We got some pictures with Moises and Georgeta.
Back up to the lounge for a musical program by "The Sound of Europe", three singers and a pianist. The baritone opened with one of the Papageno arias from *The Magic Flute*, then he and the soprano sang the Pagageno/Pagagena duet. Then the mezzo sang "No so piu" from *The Marriage of Figaro*. Other numbers: "La ci darem la mano" and "Vedrai carino" from *Don Giovanni*, the Habanera from *Carmen*, "Vissi d'arte" from *Tosca*. The pianist played Mozart's "Rondo alla Turca" during the Mozart sequence, he was great. They did a *Sound of Music* medley: the title song, "Do re mi", and "Edelweiss". They ended with "O sole mio."
The baritone was my favorite, he had a nice strong voice and knew what he was doing. The mezzo was very good, but didn't deliver quite as much with her singing. And the soprano was my least favorite. She had what I call a ceiling on her voice: the high notes always seemed like a strain, and were often just a little shy of the mark. Her performance of "Vissi d'arte" brought to mind a story from the 90s - - the Director of the UW Opera, Bill Farlow, brought in his old friend opera singer Nova Thomas to do a recital of arias. Martha Fischer was playing for her, so of course I was turning pages. Nova was fantastic, she had a real operatic voice and manner, very old school, she was thrilling. I got a little chummy with her, so after the concert I told her she should sing "To this we've come" from *The Consul*, that would be a great aria for her. She said, in her thick Southern accent, "Oh I love that aria, but you know, I studied with Eileen Farrell, and she owns that aria. I don't think I would do it justice. That aria is two dress sizes too big for me." The soprano in The Sound of Europe had no business singing "Vissi d'arte" - - that aria might be four dress sizes too big for her.