Saturday, November 24, 2012

Goodbye, Europe

If it's Saturday, this must be Nuremburg.

We've reached the end of our journey here, and it's been wonderful. Our city tour today took us past Hitler's rally grounds and into the unfinished stadium where he expected to address tens of thousands.

Our tour guide was a German man, and he spoke with great sensitivity about the difficulty of growing up knowing his grandparents had been Nazis. He said the stadium would never be finished or used for anything, but also would never be destroyed, lest the German people forget.

Then we bussed to the center of the city to see the castle. It has stood on the hill there for a thousand years, although has been reconstructed after being bombed in the war.

We saw the courthouse where the Nuremburg trials took place, and spent an hour or so in the city shopping area.

Finally we returned to the Viking Embla for our last dinner aboard. Now our alarms are set to leave for the airport at 3:30 a.m.

See you all on the flip side.

Romans and Royalty

We began our day Friday with a walking tour of Regensburg, whose history goes back to the Celts in the Stone Age. We saw Roman ruins, and a great Gothic cathedral.

Our guide said, if you've seen one medieval castle you've seen them all, but that's certainly not true about cathedrals. Each one we've seen has been unique and beautiful in its own way.

One of the cool things, at least if you're a geeky engineer, was the old stone bridge, completed in 1146. An amazing feat of engineering for those times.

In the afternoon we took an optional tour to the palace of modern royalty, formerly a monastery. It was amazing to see the contrasts between the older monastic portion of the building and the very large, elaborate newer section. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but just imagine gilt and silver, brocade and lots of tall mirrors, and huge crystal chandeliers.

We closed out our afternoon by walking around the corner from the palace to a brauhaus. Huh? Oh, a brewhouse. We enjoyed a stein of the local beer before returning to the ship.

One more day. In a way it's sad, but we're also looking forward to getting home.

One final picture for my Muddy babe... a detail of architecture from city hall.

Who knew they fought zombies in the middle ages?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cheers! Hard cider looked like water, but had a kick!
Missed wishing you all happy Thanksgiving last night because we were cruising and the internet was very slow.

Since they don't celebrate our thanksgiving in Europe, we toured all day. First a walking tour of Passau, a lovely town in Bavaria.

Of course there was a cathedral named... guess what?... St. Stephen's, of course! It was the third St. Stephen's we've been to. This one was the best, though, in my humble opinion. Baroque style, very friendly and yet magnificent. It boasts the largest pipe organ outside the U.S. I wish we could have heard it.

After a ship lunch of salmon, mussels and calimari, we boarded a bus for an optional tour of a small farm. Cows, piggies, homemade bread, farm smoked meats, honey, and hard cider were all part of the farm family's products. It's difficult to make ends meet on a small farm in Bavaria, just like at home.

Finally, back to the ship for an "authentic" thanksgiving dinner prepared by our Austrian chef, Karl. Roast turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce, followed by pumpkin cake. It was delicious!

We miss Betsy and Molly and the rest of our family, but we're still having a wonderful time and will soon be home.

Auf wiedersehen for now.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hey, sunshine!

So today we saw some castles and fortresses as we cruised along the Danube. Pretty nice.

The most impressive thing was Melk Abbey. It has been in existence for something like a thousand years, although the current abbey was built in the early 1700s.

We had a nice tour, and I won't bore you with the hundreds of pictures I took.

You're welcome.

Honestly, after days of fog and haze and clouds, the best thing was to finally see the sun for a couple of hours this afternoon.

We walked back down the hill from the abbey to the ship, and then we rewarded ourselves by opening our bottle of Hungarian ice wine. It's Tokaji Aszu 6, and it's delicious. Look it up if you're interested.

Then we had a short German lesson from the staff in preparation for Germany.

That is all. Gute nacht.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Not the Erie Canal

Last evening we went through our first lock on the Danube. May I just say... wow!

You can see from the picture how high that lock was. And we were standing on top of the ship, with three decks below us.

Simply amazing!

We went through some other locks during the night, but we were too busy sleeping to see them.

We arrived in Vienna at about 8 a.m. and immediately got onto out tour bus to see the city.
Cathedral of St. Stephen

Although it was foggy to start, we saw lots of churches and palaces. The guide told us there are 360 churches in the city, so you could theoretically go to a different church every day of the year.

The architecture of the city is just beautiful. The coolest part was the Imperial Palace, or Hofburg Palace, which includes the stables of the Spanish Riding School. They were actually unloading some of the Lipizzaner stallions for their training when we were there. I was so busy taking pictures that I almost got left behind by the tour. Lucky thing Davey was watching for me.

Finally, we spent our free time in the Sacher coffee house, originators of the Sacher torte. It was delicious!

Seems like every place we go on this trip, we get coffee and cake.

The diet starts next week. :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Welcome aboard!

We boarded the Viking Embla yesterday. It was docked in Budapest right by the Chain Bridge, the first bridge built to connect the cities of Buda and Pest.

After a good night's sleep while still docked, we left the ship in the morning and toured the most important sights, including Heroes Square and the gorgeous Matthias church.

Matthias Church
The views were just amazing.

Then the bus had to hurry up river for an hour to catch up with the boat.

Since then we've been cruising along the Danube toward Vienna. It's very calm and a bit hazy, but just lovely.

Just a little while ago we passed Estergom Basilica, rising majestically over the river.
All is well and we're having a great time.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Beautiful Budapest

St. Stephen Basilica
What a wonderful day we had!

This morning after breakfast in the hotel dining room we did a walking orientation of the area around the hotel. Then we found our way to the marketplace, a huge conglomeration of vendors in an old train station. Lunch there, goulash and hot wine, was delicious!

Opera House
After lunch was a walking tour of the Pest area of Budapest. Lucky for us, it included both a trolley ride and a subway, or underground, ride. We went from the Basilica to the Opera House, then to a bookstore/ cafe for cappuccino and cake, then a quick stop at a confectioner.

We topped off the evening with an amazing dinner at an Italian restaurant, supplemented by free champagne, a free appetizer, free after dinner wine, and, you guessed it, FREE limoncello.

Wonderful day! Tomorrow the ship. :)

Oh and last night after dinner, we enjoyed a bottle of delicious Hungarian white. And lucky for us, corkscrew in the room. No opening the wine bottle with a shoe. :D

Friday, November 16, 2012

Made it!

Room with a view: Buda Castle
 Here we are in beautiful Budapest! Getting here was hell, but it was worth it.

Staying for two nights at the Budapest Marriott, right on the Danube. Amazing view from our room.

Not your American McDonalds.
Not going to write too much. Internet at the hotel is quite expensive, so guess where we came to get free WiFi... McDonalds! Not just any McDonalds, though... a historic place, the first McDonalds behind the Iron Curtain. Kids, if you don't know what that is, Google it. :)

Anyway, just wanted everyone to know we're fine.

The Chain Bridge, from our window.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Squirrels'r'us, maybe

A week ago

Trying to figure out how to use Davey's tablet and the micro SD card from my camera to post here. It's not easy! We leave for Europe tomorrow, and I want to be able to keep you all up to date while we're there.

So if I'm successful, here's Molly's pumpkin and its fate.