March 2013

The day was spent in Bamberg, Germany. It is a lovely town that somehow avoided being bombed during World War II so there are lots of original buildings dating from the medieval to the Gothic and Baroque periods. If you want to see a variety of building types, this is the small town to visit.

Bamberg is also called the Venice of Germany because of all the lovely homes built along the river.

It was not bombed during the war because it simply was not an important target. There was nothing of interest there to waste bombs on, however, there are legends of other stories about why the town was protected.

During the Middle Ages, the local king or emperor, Henry II, married Kunigund, a descendant of Charlemagne. She was said to be a wonderful woman who was adored by her husband. Legend says this was a true love match because the couple never had any children and yet the woman was not divorced, killed, or banished so the emperor could marry a fertile woman.

The other opinion, of course, is that it was a political marriage and there wasn’t enough fraternization to produce children. Either way, they never had any children and I have no idea what happened to the rule after the emperor died. I do know that Kunigund outlived her husband by many years.

The next legend about this protector of Bamberg is that she spread her loving arms over the city and protected it from bombs during World War II.

There was another Kunigund who lived in a different time from the one mentioned above. This apparently was a popular name back then. This other Kunigund was not a nice person and murdered her children, but I don’t recall her motivation. When she died, she was sentenced to wander the street of Bamberg as a ghost.

There is a story about a tour group taking a night tour of the city to see its splendor in the artificial lighting as well as moonlight. As the tour group wandered the twisting narrow cobbled streets, they came upon a local woman walking in the other direction. One of the group stopped her to ask if she had ever seen the local ghost. She replied, “I’ve never seen one and I’ve been walking these streets for 500 years.”

The reason you may have heard of Bamberg before is because they are famous for their lace. They make beautiful lace in the city and much of it today is designed by the locals but produced with machines using the patterns from here. In times past, it was made by hand and probably prohibitively expensive. There were beautiful lace things from decorative pieces to tablecloths. Most was done in all white, but some was multi-colored.

The rathouse is the local city hall, not because it is full of rats but because that is what they call it. During the baroque period, there was much decoration of the buildings with the paintings designed to look three dimensional. However, there was usually one place where there was some actual sculpture included and in the local town, there is a leg that protrudes from the painting in the lower center of the west side of the building.

There is a river running through the city. On the west side of the river lived the townspeople of lower means and on the east side lived the clergy and rulers of the town. Therefore, the east side of the river had much nicer buildings, residences, and even streets.

On the west side of the town we came upon the market square and there was a fountain with Neptune rising from the center. But the old locals weren’t really aware of ancient Greek mythology and they had no idea who Neptune was. So they called the fountain, The Man with the Fork.

St. Martin’s cathedral is on the west side of the city and it is still used today. However, the building is unstable with lots of cracks in the ceiling and dome. The priest has said he will continue to say Mass here and all the parishioners should just pray harder. The church was of a more Gothic style and older than the church at the top of the hill on the east side of the river. It was still impressively built and wonderful to look at. Barb and I decided that if had stood for hundreds of years, the likelihood of it collapsing while we were inside was small and so we entered the sacred space.

The most amazing thing about these old churches is always the size. The vaulting ceilings, the art, the sculpture, the immenseness is all overwhelming and that is true even with the ability to have seen large new buildings. Their ability to create these massive structures without all our modern tools and gadgets is simply amazing.

We also walked to the bridge crossing the canal and there were hundreds of locks attached to the wires making up the sides of the bridge. There is a custom, started in Venice many years ago, where young lovers attach these locks to the bridges. They proclaim their love and mark up their padlock with their names or initials and then lock it on the bridge. They turn their backs to the bridge and throw the key in the water thereby making the lock impossible to remove. The lock will last as long as their love.

But, that doesn’t quite work. While an individual padlock doesn’t weight much, when they get to hundreds or thousands, they start adding up. These bridges were constructed with the carrying capacity of people walking on them and with cars and trucks driving over them. They didn’t know to including the extra weight of thousands of locks. So, when there are too many locks on the bridge, it becomes worrisome and the local authorities come by and cut the locks off. The pessimist in me says that many of the couples have already split anyway.

Back in the Middle Ages, the river was not in the same condition it is today. It was not only used to transport goods but it also was used to transport garbage. One of the first buildings after the low bridge was the butcher’s shop. It is obviously the butcher’s shop because there was a large pig over the door to let illiterate and foreign language people know what the hell the building was used for. It was a slaughterhouse.

Because there was a great need to use as much as possible and not waste, the skin of the pigs or cattle was saved and sent on to the tanner. Another reason the river area was less that totally magnificent was because of the manufacturing going on. The animals at the butcher’s house weren’t any more pleased about their fate than they are today. So there were a lot of upset beasts around.

Then at the tannery, one of the ways to turn hides into usable leather is to cure it and the tanning process needs the alkalines found in urine. So there was some poor schmuck whose job it was to collect the morning pee from the locals and bring it to the tannery so the hides could be cured and leather could be produced. This is a rather rotten job, but at least it wasn’t truly crappy.

All the usable parts of the critters were, in fact, used. But even those who use as much as possible will end up with offal to dispose of. That was done by sliding it down a chute so that it landed in the river. People were rather nonchalant about dumping their own waste and garbage into the river as well. This is why it was always best to live closest to the part of town where the river entered into the city rather than the part of town where every Tom, Dick, and Harry had already dumped icky stuff into it.

Bamberg was the home of a bishopric and so there was a cathedral high on the hill overlooking the town. This church with fortification was St. Michael’s and was built in the Gothic tradition. However, time moved forward and there was more money than sense and some redecorating was done. The living quarters for the bishop’s minions was torn down and rebuilt in the Baroque style. This was a grand building and like all Baroque stuff, needed to be perfectly symmetrical. The plan was to tear down the bishop’s house and build him a mirror image of the already constructed living quarters but they ran into hard times and the old Gothic bishop’s house stands.

When it was built, there was still the need to show off a bit. To proclaim one’s wealth, one did useless things just because one could afford it. I don’t know which bishop built the house, but he could afford a bit of grandstanding, as it were. When facing the grand house, off to the right side for two stories, there was an area that was built out like an enclosed balcony. It was not for blessing the masses or delivering sermons. It was simply to show that the bishop had so much money, he could afford this frill.

In these cobblestoned old towns, the roads are narrow and twisting. But even in the 1200s they knew to build little troughs to carry the waters away. There were holes, now covered with grates and I have no idea how they looked many years ago, every so many feet. The water could thus be effectively removed from the streets.

The streets are narrow unless they have been improved. But in the older parts of towns, they are cobble stones as are the walkways. But because everything is so narrow, people often just walk wherever they feel like walking and then there are shouts of “Car” or “Truck” or something in German that none of us understand, and we obligingly move out of the way. Drivers will then swerve around the annoyances in the street who close in once again behind them waiting for the next warning shout.

Bicyclists are a different problem. They tend to swerve in and out and try not to fall over or stop and getting out of their way is probably more important for your safety than getting out a car’s way. They usually have bells and ring it constantly as they approach and you better get the hell out of their way because they are coming through.

It has been difficult to tell if we are taking our lives in our hands or not because quite frankly, there are alleys that look no different to me than streets where it is perfectly permissible to walk anywhere. But even after saying that, it also seems perfectly permissible for a car to just decide to take the alley as a shortcut.

The cobblestones are beautiful to look at and charming, but they get to be a bit of drain after walking on uneven and unstable ground all day. I’m glad I’m getting to see this stuff but I’m also glad I live in the land of pavement, asphalt, and concrete.


We had to be ready sooner than normal this morning. Luckily, Dick’s knee wasn’t too bad and he was able to walk. He said his hand was bothering him more than his knee. My rash was almost gone. We are such great world travelers, aren’t we?

I have now washed by hand the rest of my shirts and underwear. I have socks to wash tomorrow and then I might make it until I get home to my washing machine. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

This morning we took an extra tour. Our entire group went on this trip. We were booted off our ship at Kelheim. We were then to board a ferry. Our ferry’s name was Renate and we were able to go topside and get a wonderful view of the gorge.

The first thing pointed out to us was the Liberation Tower at the top of the hill. It was built by Leopold I exactly 150 years ago. It was to memorialize the victory of the Germanic people over Napoleon. The number 18 is a theme of the building since important dates for Napoleon’s defeats took place on the 18th day of a few months.

Many years ago, Kelheim was where royalty lived. It was a dangerous time and royals were often targets of assassination or perhaps just general mayhem. At any rate, the Duke’s son was killed in Kelheim by some nitwit and in a fit of pique, the royal family packed up and left the city to go and live elsewhere. That is why Munich is such a great city today and Kelheim is mostly unknown.

As we sailed out of the dock, we could see a beautiful green and white church on the right. It was a church of the Benedictine order which was supposed to be less ostentatious and so they did not believe in spires. Luckily, there was a tower right next to the church that could be associated with the church and looked exactly like a spire but was not part of the church. How clever.

We were able to see beautiful scenery, lovely limestone mountains reaching high into the skies, which started out blue and with sunshine but eventually turned gray and cold. It was not cold enough to force us inside, since there was such beauty surrounding us.

We were able to see how early barges were brought up river. Back before powered boats, ropes from the barges would be run to the shore and horses would drag the boat upstream. We passed an area where a meteor struck long ago and a perfect circle depression was off to the side of the river.

We saw where the Danube River was both the narrowest and the deepest. The water ran quickly and was quite dangerous as we passed through the gorge. Shortly after passing this region, we were in sight of the Weltenburg Abbey.

This was a Benedictine Abbey established in 610. It is the oldest continually operating abbey in Europe and they have the distinction of being the makers of the oldest beer in Europe which began production in 1050. That is because the other contender was bombed during World War II and they are the people who brew their beer with the oldest recipe in Europe.

We got to see the Abbey’s church, built by the Assam Brothers during the high baroque period and was filled with high baroque art. One of the brothers was a painter and the other was a sculptor. They worked together to build the space and decorate it to a high level of astounding beauty.

They were taken with the number 4, 8, and 12 as well as the number 3 for the trinity. The organ of the church is the oldest still working organ in Germany. The church was filled with so much beauty, it was impossible to take it all in. However, I’m hoping pictures will help me remember what I have seen.

We went to a home visit with a local family after our lunch. We were assigned to meet with a woman who had prepared cakes and coffee for us. Our kaffeeklatsch hostess was named Sebina. She is married with two small children. Her son, Elias, is three and her daughter, Abbie, is seven. She was out shopping with her grandmother, getting things together for the coming holiday.

Sebina owned a shop selling Himalayan salts, homemade soaps, and other healthy/natural goods. She works a few mornings a week and her sister in law works a couple mornings and then she has a hired woman who works in the afternoons allowing her time to be with her family.

Her husband was trained as a woodworker and worked for a local man after school. However, that shop closed and he has since gotten a job with Audi, 25 miles away. He was home today and chopping wood while we were there.

Their home is situated at the end of a street with a climbing hill behind it that is tree covered up the slopes on the side and in the center is cultivated farmland. There is no chance that it will be developed as there is no access to it. At least for now.

She has a vegetable garden of her own in the backyard and grows fresh produce. Last year at this time, she was able to make a salad from the garden. This year, they haven’t even been able to plant yet as it has been too cold.

Sebina made a traditional Bavarian treat for us, kuchle, which is a lightly sweetened round pastry covered in powdered sugar. She also made a chocolate cake with a ganache type frosting. She had coffee and tea for us as well.

We learned that her son’s “kindergarten” which is what we call preschool is €75 a month. The state of Bavaria has grade school and high school for free but is currently charging college students around €600 per semester which they find extremely offensive as education should be free to all. We in the states find this amazing as a cost for college of that minimal bit would be considered almost as good as free. Even taking into consideration that it is about $900, it is a bargain.

Sebina spoke wonderful English. All students must learn English in school but she hadn’t spoken the language for a while. She is in her early 30s and it has been a while since she was in school. She was helping her mother in law host home visits and took a refresher course for her English before signing up to be the hostess herself. We were her second tour through.

There were several solar panels on the slope of the roof of her house with a matching number on the other side. One side was used to heat their water while the other was to produce most of the energy needed to run all their electric things. They had a most unusual fireplace. It had a glass encased place for the fire itself and they burned wood. Then the avant guard shaped stucco and ceramic covered and tiered structure produced enough heat to heat their entire home as well as heating the floor via heated water under the ceramic floor.

We arrived back at the ship and were served dinner and then were told about the RMD Canal. That is the Rhine, Main, Danube canal. Just as a point of interest. Rhine and Main rhyme.

At least since Roman times, there was a desire to connect the Rhine with the Danube. The Danube is the second largest river in Europe with only the Volga being longer. The Rhine River carries more traffic. Even so, it was helpful to connect the North Sea with the Black Sea and it would be very helpful for shipping as well as military reasons.

The Romans simply did not have the technology to carry out their plan. Next came the “Fossa Carolina” which was begun in 793 and abandoned soon after. Charlemagne hoped to connect the rivers via the Rezat and Altmuhl Rivers which was a fairly short distance of not too many miles. The landscape did not cooperate and was compounded by issues with the weather.

No matter how much digging took place, the sandy soil would collapse in on itself and the ditch would again fill in. There are a few places where it was successful enough to survive but the overall idea was again a failure.

The dream did not die and in 1921 a business venture was begun to plan and then execute the building of the RMD Canal which covered 106 miles. The technology was finally available and the canal was finally built. However, there were some major problems to overcome.

First, as they were getting ready to build, the world was thrown into a great depression and the funding dried up. Then building was diverted to Hitler’s more important grandiose buildings to glorify the Fuhrer and finally World War II started and building a canal wasn’t important. The building finally began in 1961 and the entire canal was completed in 1992. There are 16 locks that are part of the canal which includes the European Watershed or Continental Divide.

That lofty point is at 1,340 feet above sea level. There are three locks, immediately after crossing the Divide that are 82 foot drops (in our case as we are heading west) or rises (if approaching from the other direction).

To get from our starting point in Vienna to the Watershed, we had to pass through 19 locks. Between the Divide and sea level at Amsterdam we will go through another 47 locks. The locks on the canal are 18 meters wide. Our ship is 17.8 meters wide. It is very closed in on each lock.

We were also given a little look at how the locks actually work. Water enters on each end and there are up to three different reservoirs that reuse the water so that each passage doesn’t have to have the inflow and outflow that raises or lowers the ship, but only the water that would have flowed across that distance without raising or dropping the level. It was enlightening and interesting. We were given a certificate to mark our passage of the Continental Divide which still had not yet taken place. We did that at two in the morning. We opted to sleep through this momentous occasion.

We made just a little teeny tiny mistake last night and sat at the table over there in the corner and found out later it was the captain’s table. We were willing to get up and move but were told to just stay put. We never did see the captain himself and so didn’t have to explain ourselves to him. That was good.

We sailed all night and there were two times when we had some pretty intense bouncing activity. The captain is an experienced man and there is a second mate to also steer the ship along with a pilot in training. I’m guessing it was either one of the two younger men who were bouncing us against the walls of the locks during the dark of the night.

It wasn’t really enough to disturb our sleep and certainly did no harm to the ship. We sailed through the night and around 9 AM we arrived in Regensburg, Germany.

The town has been settled since 179 AD by the Romans. They built a fairly large fortification here covering the space of 33 football fields inside the walls. The walls held 32 lookout towers. As the Roman Empire fell, the Romans themselves (at least those who had not integrated with the locals) left the space and the native tribes were able to take over.

They inherited not only the enclosed fortification space, but the Roman road system. Regensburg had been a local hub for the Romans and so there were roads along with the two rivers, the Danube and Regen River, to help with the town’s survival. Because these advantages were great, Regensburg became a merchant hub for goods traveling around the countryside and across the continent.

In the middle of the 1100s, as the town continued to prosper from trade, it was noted that the wooden bridge across the Danube likes to fall apart with distressing frequency. So a stone bridge needed to be built. There is a tale about this bridge’s construction.

It was said that the builder of the bridge and the builder of the cathedral had spent a night in a bar drinking strong Bavarian beer. After too many beers and alcohol inspired bravado, they each bet the other they could complete their project before the other. The loser of the bet would have to give his pay for the project to the winner.

The cathedral was climbing up the sky and the bridge construction seemed to be stalled. The bridge builder was short of funds and couldn’t hire any more people. But he was going to lose the bet and he didn’t want to lose his money. So he thought of a cunning plan. He called on the devil for help because certainly the devil would like to see the cathedral fail.

The devil came to help and said he would gladly make sure the bridge was completed first but there would be a price to pay. The first three people to cross the bridge would have to forfeit their souls to the devil.

Soon the bridge was completed and the night before the Grand Opening, the builder finally remembered his promise to the devil and realized the three people to cross the bridge would be the bishop, the mayor, and the ambassador – all three wonderful men, good men, and not really souls to be sold to the devil. The builder was restless throughout the night, worrying about what he had done and how he had condemned three innocent souls. He finally game upon an idea and in the early hours of the morning he gathered together three chickens and stuffed them in a burlap sack.

The Grand Opening for the bridge began with speeches and grandstanding, just like these things today. Finally it was time for the three noble men with great souls to cross the bridge. Before they could set foot on the bridge, the builder released the three chickens who quickly crossed the bridge and the only souls collected by the devil were chicken souls.

This angered the devil no end and so, in retaliation for this trickery, he caused the Danube to swirl and coalesce amid the bridge supports and he gathered to himself the souls of those who fell into the river here and drowned in the swirling waters.

What a cool story. The biggest problem with the whole thing, aside from the devil which apparently isn’t an issue here, is that the cathedral and the bridge were not built at the same time but rather about 150 years apart. By the way, the bridge took twelve years to build.

Regensburg remained a wealthy city for much of the medieval period and was a great trading hub. This brought much wealth to the area and even though much of Bavaria was under one Duke/Prince/Ruler, the city itself was given over to self rule. The wealthy in the town were able to have some power and the local peons were given a rather small voice in the election of the wealthy men to power so it was a beginning to democracy but nothing at all truly egalitarian. But it was better than nothing.

As power grew and the Holy Roman Empire also grew, there were many dukes under the emperor and he needed a place to bring all the power brokers together to have a say in the spending of their money. Because of the location in the near center of the empire’s holdings, these meetings were held in Regensburg. So the Town Hall was used not only for local politics, but in more widespread decision making as well.

As the town grew even richer, there was a period of ostentatious building. The idea was to see who could build the highest and the greatest tower to rise above the city. At one time there were still the remains of many of the Roman towers, then there were the spires and bell towers of the many churches, and then there were over 60 of these fancy “I’m rich and look at me” towers.

The highest of these towers still stands and is nine stories high. It is made completely of stone which is a much more expensive building material than timbers. So this was some really rich Warren Buffet or Bill Gates kind of dude. He had all this money and wanted to show off tremendously. The family wealth came from the cloth trade and everybody needs cloth. He built this high tower but only the first three floors were usable. The remaining floors contain nothing in it but a spiral staircase. It is nothing but show.

Others built towers and not all of them were useless space. However, the economy shifted and their wealth would wane. So some of the families used these towers as banks. As they needed cash inflow, they would tear down a story of their tower and sell the stone to someone who needed it and have an inflow of cash to live on.

Since this area was the home of the bishop, there needed to be a cathedral here as well. No one really knows where the first cathedral was built but there are some guesses. They must remain just educated guesses because excavation would mean tearing down other buildings to look for the old foundations. So the supposition remains.

A second cathedral was built in the Roman style. And then a great gothic cathedral was built later. However, the site of the Roman and the gothic cathedral are the same. Instead of tearing down the Roman cathedral and not having a church for the bishop for a couple hundred years while they built the new one, they decided to use the same space.

They didn’t build from the ground up, however. Instead, they started in the east with the most important part of the church and built it westward. The old Roman bell tower could still be used to call the people to Mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral. Since the peasants didn’t have clocks they needed these bells.

It took fifty years to build from the east end where the altar is located to the Roman bell tower. However, the spires of the church would be farther away and the peasants still needed to be called to Mass. Not only that, but because they were using the same space for the church building, they needed the support of the old tower to help keep the cathedral from falling down, always a bad thing.

So they left the Roman tower in place and built gothic stuff around it. At first, they were going to encase the old Roman tower in gothic structure, but times got hard. In fact, times were so lean that they really slowed on the building of the rest of the cathedral. They had to build in fits and starts and then they really ran out of money before the spires were completed. They simply roofed them over and waited. Finally, a king took pity on them and paid for the completion of the towers.

So it took fifty years to build the eastern portion of the church and another 250 years to complete the rest.

There are many 700 year old houses left standing in Regensburg. This is due in part to their falling from favor and lesser economy. Because of these factors, they were not a prime target during World War II and they missed being carpet bombed at that time. Therefore, many of their medieval building remain standing.

The streets and walkways are cobblestones and narrow. Many of the spaces between buildings are only alleys today as they aren’t wide enough for cars to navigate. Because real estate was at a premium, the buildings were made of three or four floors. One had to pay taxes on the area covered on the ground. Therefore, ingenious people would bump out the higher floors another 2 feet over the level beneath. When this was done on both sides of the street, the top floors were nearly touching.

This doesn’t sound too dangerous until you remember the catastrophe of fire. The upper floors were extended with timbers or straw or anything they could use to bump out the walls. If a fire started, it was very difficult to contain because there was nearly no space between one building and the next. Regensburg was lucky enough to not be devastated by any of these fires, but other towns were not so lucky.

After our tour we went to a jewelry/clock shop and learned about cuckoo clocks and how they are built and how they work. They are made in the black forest and several different families combine forces to produce just one clock. One family would do the wood carving for the house itself and another family would be responsible for making decorative overlays such as animals or leaves. Another family would be responsible for hand carving the people who dance around or are animated on the exterior of the clocks while yet another would be in charge of the painting. Then all the parts are shipped to a central location where the clocks are put together.

For those that play music, the music box comes from Switzerland. However, when the music box is held in your hand, it is barely audible. When it is set on wood, the music can be heard. The wood resonates and helps to project the sound.

There was another story about a woman who became famous in Regensburg. Barbara was a young woman who was helping her grandmother with the serving of a visiting royal. The King of Spain was in town with his entourage and the grandmother operated a lovely dining establishment. Barbara was happy to help. She was a beautiful young woman and the young lady was willing to serve the King in any way she could, making his stay memorable.

Barbara was a saucy 18 year old and scandalously still unmarried. However, the King didn’t mind and found her enchanting. When he left the region, it soon became obvious how enchanted he had been. Barbara was pregnant and this did nothing to increase her standing in the town. She was ostracized and her life was somewhat diminished. She gave birth to a lovely baby boy.

The King found out he had a son back in the Holy Roman Empire and being a nice man, sent a minion to marry Barbara to make her life as well her son’s more bearable. They were supported by the King and were living happily ever after, except that the town still was scandalized and unkind toward the newlyweds. They decided to move away.

They loaded up all their stuff and took off. While on their journey, the young boy was kidnapped. He was brought to the court of Spain. The King could not really acknowledge the child as his son, but he did take a special interest in the lad and made sure he had the best education and a chance for a better life. In order to keep the boy hidden from his mother, he was called Don Juan d’Austria (obfuscating his place of birth). It was thought that he would become part of the clergy.

However, Don Juan did not want to be a priest. He was a fiery young lad, like his mother, and he insisted on military training. He was given training and eventually rose up to take command of the Armada. The Turks were threatening trade in the Mediterranean and the Italians called for help in quelling this threat to trade and profit. Don Juan came to the rescue and defeated the Turks. He was given a statue in his honor. As a side note, he died seven years later, reportedly of syphilis.

For dinner tonight, we were taken off the ship and brought to a local restaurant. We were served a Bavarian meal of sausage and more sausage, and sauerbraten, and potato dumplings and sauerkraut. We were offered beer with dinner as well as a white or red wine. The starter was a lovely potato soup and dessert was apple strudel with a vanilla sauce. I ate the soup and dessert. Those who like this kind of food said it was delicious.

We had to walk to and from the restaurant. Walking to the place wasn’t so bad because it was light outside. We walked down to the old stone bridge (see above) and then most of the way across and then down 45 steps (yes, I counted them) and then wended our way back to the restaurant. On the way back, it was a little more tricky because the sun had set and it was quite dark.

We climbed up the 45 temporary steps hoping that the builders hadn’t missed any bolts in putting them together. They felt unstable but they did not fall apart while we climbed higher and higher. At the top of the stairs was a walkway and then cleverly hidden in the dark was one step down. I sorta missed that part and grabbed hold of Barb who was in front of me and both men made merry at my expense. But I didn’t fall down and they kept pointing out it was a good thing I didn’t drink.

We walked across the bridge which does have some lighting across it. The cobblestones are uneven, but we are getting used to walking on this surface. Then we needed to turn left and work our way back to the ship which was about a half mile down the road.

We were walking on a narrow walkway with a building close to it and the road right on the other side.

All of a sudden, Dick was laying spread eagle, face down in the street. We thought he was horsing around but no, he had missed the edge of the curb, stepping only part way on flat surface. He fell and hit his knee. We got him picked up out of the street and he hobbled over to a bench where we could look a little more.

His jeans were intact and didn’t seem to be soaking up blood. We got him back to the ship and he finally took off his gloves/socks. (We didn’t pack gloves because we really didn’t expect it to be this cold. We have been wearing socks as gloves for a few days now.) He also scraped or cut up his little finger. We got him washed up and band aids applied and then put some ice on his knee.

He is going to be pretty battered by tomorrow, but at least nothing truly serious is wrong.

So, that was our exciting day in Germany.

Our day started with snow in the air and on the boat and coating the ground to the sides of the flowing river. That meant it was cold which wasn’t so nice, but the snow coating everything gave it a lovely look.

Right after our breakfast of too much food, we had a demonstration on making apple strudel. The pastry chef and the speaker came and looked for a volunteer from the audience to make the second strudel. Al volunteered to be the second chef.

The goal was to roll the dough so thin that one could read a newspaper through it or something like that. The dough was prepared in the kitchen so they could use their modern appliances to mix it. The apples were peeled and sliced as well. There were 1.5 kilograms or about 3 pounds of apples. Added to that was raisins, sugar, vanilla sugar, lemon juice, nuts, bread crumbs, and cinnamon.

Then it was rolled together and brushed with egg whites. Each of the two strudels would serve 40. So it was probably a bit much for a family of two. We had the strudel for our dessert at lunch with some vanilla ice cream and vanilla sauce and it was excellent.

As we sailed up the Danube, we came to an inauspicious bridge and at that point, we left Austria behind and entered into Germany.

The first town one comes to in Germany is Passau. After docking and putting on every bit of clothing we brought, carrying an umbrella just in case it warmed up, and packing our cameras and our private receivers for hearing the guide, we set out looking like a flock of Michelin men or perhaps like drunken Frosties bumping down the street.

I did not bring any gloves. My hands have been freezing. Today, I had a fetching pair of black and white striped socks on my hands which went really well with my lovely black raincoat. I was warmed by the quilted vest and the black jacket donned over the white jacket which looked lovely with my shirt. I felt like Ralphie’s little brother from A Christmas Story.

We walked around Passau and the Ober Castle on the other side of the river was pointed out to us. It was the home of the local bishop who was also the secular ruler of the area. Built in 1499 it was quite a large fortress as well as ritzy place for the bishop to live.

As time moved on and the town became even more prosperous, the bishop needed some city digs as well as he house on the hill. So he built another home here in the town on the other side of the river. And because it was later in time, it had to be bigger and better than the other house. Today, the block long, three story mansion is used as an office complex, museum, and some government offices.

In front of it was placed a beautiful fountain with three angles included. One of the angles wears a Tyrolean hat, one has a oyster shell with a pearl, and the third holds some wheat. Passau is founded on a peninsula formed by the confluence of three rivers. One is the Danube which is the source of the moving wheat of the bread basket region here. The second is the Inn which has its headwaters in the Alps. The third is the Ilz which actually has fresh water pearls still available to the lucky diver.

Connected via an arch and allowing the bishop to move from his residence to his church was a bridge connecting the palace to the cathedral. This is the first St. Stephan’s Cathedral and the upstart Vienna would later name their cathedral after the same saint paying homage to this older cathedral here in Passau.

The city itself is quite old, dating back to Roman times. However, there are certain things that have haunted the city, also since Roman times. The three rivers flow together here and when there is lots of snow melting or lots of rains falling, the region floods. It seems one of the past times here to record the high water marks when the river crests in bad years.

The last bad flood came in 2002. Several of the other high water marks are recorded. When it floods, people move to a higher floor and wait it out. The buildings are made of stone and can withstand the flooding. After the waters recede, they repaint and all is well until the next time.

However, another problem is fire and the whole town burned down and was rebuilt in a baroque style. I wish I could tell you when the fire was, but I don’t know. I looked it up because even though I am currently in the middle of nowhere, I have internet access. The fire was in 1662. The town called in architects from Italy who came to help rebuild and it is due to this Italianate style along with the location of the various waterways that the city is sometimes called the Venice of the Danube.

The St. Stephan Cathedral here houses the largest pipe organ in Europe. There are 17,774 pipes and the organ has been played by Mozart. There is only one larger pipe organ and that is the Mormon’s at Salt Lake City and the Tabernacle Church there. The cathedral was filled with frescos and paintings and carvings and statues and just everywhere you looked there was more beautiful stuff.

The outside of the cathedral had discolored with time and is being restored to its pristine white which research has shown was the original color of the outside walls. The bishop’s house was white with blue detailing.

After our tour of the cathedral, Dick and I backtracked and went to the glass museum. Some person who has personally collected approximately 17billion pieces of glass created this museum to share his collection. We took an elevator to the fourth floor and wound our way down to street level and through over 35 rooms of various glass items.

There were rooms or shelves filled with this type of glass or that era of glass and there were wonderful labels and signs telling us what was in the cases. Unfortunately, it was all in German and we weren’t really literate. There were beautiful things to be sure and they were gathered together in some logical way, but we don’t really know what that was.

There were glass pieces of every imaginable color and painted and etched in any combination possible. It was all beautiful but because there was so much, it became first overwhelming and finally when our senses were sated, just boring. It probably would have been more interesting if there was some way we could have known what we were looking at. But we were nitwits speaking only English and so we under-appreciated the entire museum. However, we still had enough sense to know that there were beautiful pieces included even if we didn’t know exactly what they were.

I started itching yesterday and thought perhaps my skin was dry from so much cold. Today, the itching was so back, I scratched myself until I was bleeding. It was at this point that I remembered being allergic to the detergent used in hospital sheets. I went and talked to the hotel manager, Eva, who said she would have my sheets rinsed and hopefully that will make the itching stop.

I was also told where to buy an anti-itch cream. Off we went in search of Fenistil and was able to purchase something that made the itching less.

When we returned to the ship there was a local woman giving a talk to those who were interested about current life in Germany. She was a local teacher and we missed the beginning of her talk but the part we heard was really interesting. Their educational system allows for the fact that not everyone is college material. They have a fast track to college and then they have a regular educational course and they also have a track for kids who are apprenticed in hundreds of different occupations. When they finish their studies, they are ready to go out and practice a trade.

Since this is our first day in Bavaria, we had a Bavarian dinner tonight with lots of traditional food. After dinner, there was polka dancing in the lounge as we continued to sail onward to our next destination.

Our All Aboard time for our last day in Vienna was 2.15 AM and we left the dock at 3. This was not a problem for us as we were tired and after the Captain’s Dinner, stuffed as well. We turned in much earlier than the 2.15 cut off point and were sound asleep before we left the dock and missed the entire event.

I woke up at 6 and since I don’t really know these people, went out and got myself a cup of coffee wearing my jammies. They will learn to tolerate such behavior or not, but what the heck, they think I’m odd because I travel with a gnome and I might as well complete the image.

I finished my coffee and took a shower. I tried shaving my legs and this is just as awkward as any other cruise ship we have ever used. But I managed to complete the task without drawing blood. Dick took over the bathroom when I exited. I sat there at the window watching it snow and looking at the snow shrouded shore and then I noticed it looked like the shore was getting closer.

There were high concrete walls appearing along the shore and we got closer and closer. When we were about four inches from the wall, I realized we were going through a lock and it would be much better to see this from the front of the ship. I was mostly dressed but my hair wasn’t combed. I still had on my glasses. I threw on my shoes and appeared as a brunette (wet hair is darker) at the bow of the ship.

Dick said when he came out of the shower, the entire room was dark because we were mere inches between the concrete wall and the ship and not much light came in. He finally figured out the problem, too, and appeared at the bow of the ship as well.

We had passed through a lock at 5 AM but we had slept through that as well. This was fun to watch the process and we got a brand new respect for the Captain.

We were then served breakfast and then met again in the lounge to watch our scenic passage through the Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage area.

Story of the King’s Ransom.

During the Crusades, King Richard the Lionhearted of England went to fight. Although he was English, he was the grandson of William of Orange – a French Viking who had come to the British Isles earlier. His mother was from Aquitaine in the south of France and he spent most of his life there. However, he was officially the monarch of England even if he probably didn’t speak English.

He went on Crusade and in the Middle East, he offend the Duke of Austria, Leopold V. One of the duke’s banners was flying and Richard threw it to the ground so you can see the great affront and how upset the duke would be. Well, maybe you can’t, but apparently he was really THAT upset by this.

On the return, Richard’s ship floundered and he had to cross back to France/England via a land route that took him through this part of the country. He knew the duke was ticked off and so he was traveling incognito but apparently as one of the Marx Brothers or something. He was discovered either because his disguise did not include removing his royal ring/signet or because he demanded to be served roast chicken, a meal fit for a king and served only to aristocracy. Perhaps there was some other reason, but he was found and taken to Durnstein Castle and thrown into the keep. The duke, now with a king in his castle, demanded a king’s ransom to release the little twerp back to his people.

It took nearly a year to gather the ransom, which was 65,000 pounds of silver or three year’s worth of the entire income of England at the time. All the churches were asked to contribute their silver and gold and the gold was sold off for more silver until finally Richard could be freed and released to continue back west. So our idiomatic phrase of a king’s ransom came from the 1180s.

Durnstein Castle was the first fortification in the area because it was on prime real estate, a high curve on the Danube. The silver coming into the area was the basis for the founding of the Vienna region. This influx of cash allowed for greater expansion and increase of power.

Danube River

The Romans used the river back in Empire days. They referred to the river as Danuvius River. Persians who did not have such waterways in the desert, found this largest river in the European Union to be fantastic. They called these waterways Danu which for them simply meant River. The Germans call the waterway Donau. The river is 1,777 miles long and runs through or borders ten countries. The source is in the Black Forest and empties into the Black Sea.

This area was inhabited for thousands upon thousands of years. The region has many small villages (more about this later) and one of them is Willendorf where a 22,000 to 24,000 year old statue was found about 100 years ago. She is a fertility statue or fetish and called Venus of Willendorf.

Whoever these people were, they were followed by the Celts who occupied the region for a long time and recognized the region as great for crops, especially grapes. They began building the terraces into the mountains and began the tradition of fermenting beverages.

The Romans were basically stopped by the Danube, but were in the region as well with the river being their northernmost border. The Celts migrated westward and southward and eventually went all the way to Britain and Ireland, leaving the Germanic tribes to take over the region. They were quite successful and remain here.

The Romans were quite civilized and able to bring trade to the region even without actual conquering the region. There are artifacts here from the Roman Empire days that originated in North Africa. After the fall of the Empire, the region lost much of the sophistication and technology associated with the Roman Empire. It took until the late 1700s or early 1800s before the same Human Development Index was reached.

When Rome fell, the region was not a large nation as we see today. Instead there were many small duchies or bishoprics, without vast areas under one person’s control. With the rise of the church, the Bishops were often the rulers of the region rather than just the leaders of the religious side of life. Eventually they started to condense power and coalesce into something more along the line of nation-states, but the process was slow and Germany itself didn’t form into a country until the 1800s.

Traveling father upstream along the Wachau valley we come to the White Church Village which is called something long and unpronounceable in German but translates to white church. Amazingly enough, in the center of the town is a white church. Back when these massive buildings were constructed, they weren’t just spiritual spaces. They had walls built around them and locals would huddle inside the walls and stay as safe as possible from marauding armies.

The Danube is such a wonderful river that many armies have used it as troop transport. The Ottoman Turks were one of these and this is the farthest north they managed to get. It was at this point that the Muslims were turned back. The church also was useful when Napoleon came through the region.

The church as built as a Catholic church and used as a safe haven during the 30 years war which was a confrontation between those Lutherans and Catholics who disagreed over who would rule the region.

Wachau Valley and UNESCO

Because UNESCO has granted special status to this 22 mile stretch of the river, there are certain things that cannot be done.

The most noticeable is the building of bridges. There are no bridges along this stretch of river. If locals want to travel from one bank to the other, they use ferries which are roped between sides and use the current to move the boats back and forth across the river.

The towns and villages along the river cannot “upgrade” and commercialize. There are no modern fast food restaurants, no huge yellow Ms anywhere. The houses must be maintained to their hundreds of years old look.

The terraced vineyards must be maintained as they have been for millennia. The stones are placed without mortar and must be realigned as needed. There is not room for tractors and most of the work is done as it was hundreds of years ago – by hand.

The region is preserved in natural splendor and with a quaint and beautiful ambience.

There are many castles along the way, several falling into ruins. The last castle of the valley was built in the early 1200s and is 900 feet above the river. It is said that those who were captured were given three choices for their “release” from there. They could pay a ransom and be set free. They could be left out at the base of the castle to starve to death. Or they could leap to their death on the rocks below. Those medieval dudes were tough!


We docked at Melk, a small village that was founded by the Babenberg family of Bavaria. The region had been a Roman stronghold and the Bavarians took it over and by the end of the 900s, they made it their Ducal Seat. A hundred years later, they Babenberg Duke Leopold III handed it over to the Benedictine monks who converted it into a fortified abbey. It became both a spiritual and intellectual enclave of the region.

Maria Teresa travelled often between Vienna and Salzburg. Unfortunately, even though she was royalty, she didn’t have a car and had to travel by horse drawn carriage which was much slower. It was an entire day’s travel from Vienna to Melk and amazingly enough she issued an edict that Abbeys were given as one of their charges, the task of housing travelers. There were no hotels at the time and so she needed to have some place to stay.

Being reasonable and not happy to stay in a monk’s cell, she also contributed lots of cash for improvements to the abbey making it a place where royalty could stay in comfort. The monks were skilled workworkers and had beautiful woods available from their many acres of forests. Their inlaid floors were works of art.

They also were led to believe that having a bit of heaven on earth would make for greater glory to God. The Baroque period was sorta crazy like that. However, it led to beautiful floors and beautiful ceilings with stuccoes in place, glorifying whomever. The room that Maria Teresa used also had a gorgeous porcelain fireplace in it rather than the more mundane ones in her entourage’s rooms.

At the beginning of the Baroque period, the Abbot wore really nice vestments with really nice miter and matching shoes and gloves. As the years went on and more glory to God was available, they went from just really nice silk with golden thread to mostly golden thread with pearls found in the Danube and included in the design.

But it wasn’t just spiritual, it was intellectual. There are 13 different libraries each with thousands of volumes in it. The main Baroque era library was tremendously appointed. Since the period demanded symmetry, all the old books were rebound in matching leather covered with the same designs to the look would be appealing.

The library had 16 sections and each section held its own type of books. Therefore, section I had Bibles, section II was lives of the saints, section III was stories from the bible expounded upon, etc. It was an early Dewey Decimal system so that the monks could find the type of books being sought without going through the thousands of books.

In the more secular portion of the building, the frescoes on the ceilings were made to look like the ceiling was domed. They were rounded for the first few feet, but then the ceiling itself was flat. However, when one got to the more intellectual and religious side of the building, the ceilings were actually domed because it wouldn’t be nice to try to fool those looking for spiritual guidance.

The church itself has the patron saints of Peter and Paul. It was high Baroque period and there is nothing I can say that would be adequate. I will have to hope the pictures can speak for themselves, but they really are simply inadequate. Such splendor is indescribable.

The day started nice and early when our alarm clock for reasons known only to itself, decided to go off at midnight. It is a rather strange clock and so I could not figure out how to make it shut off. I could also not make the little light over the bed work so I could see enough without my contacts in to figure out how to turn it off. I finally figured out how to turn on the light, but still couldn’t turn off the alarm. I just started hitting buttons and finally was able to turn it off.

During the night, we moved from one docking space to another and we woke to a different port of call. This one is closer to the center of the city. At least it is closer to the UN. Yes, I said the UN. The UN has four points of presence in the world. There is the one in New York City, one in Switzerland, one in Nairobi, and one here in Vienna. The Viennese built the building and rent it to the United Nations. They signed a lease for 99 years back in the 1970s so there is still time on it. They rent it out for a symbolic 1 shilling per year. However, there are no longer any shillings and so the rent is 0,13 Euro per year.

Some funny stuff about being here. Instead of a decimal point between the Euro and the cents, there is a comma. So something that is $1.50 in America would be written as €1,50 here (assuming an even exchange rate – so just work with me here). This is very disconcerting when you are asking for a couple hundred Euro from the ATM. €200,00 just looks too much like $20,000 to these old eyes and yet is such a huge difference.

The electricity is different and we expected that. To turn on a light, you push down on the switch and to turn it off, you push up. Didn’t expect that part.

Vienna is known for its coffee shops and all things coffee and yet, they have a lot of instant coffee around here and my American sensibilities aren’t quite all that pleased. I do have the ability to make my own coffee using real coffee and my travel mug French press. Thank goodness I brought this along.

After breakfast today we met together as our larger group and we are the red group on this tour. We then boarded a bus and took a bus tour of the city along the Ring Road, where the city walls used to be and is now the ring encasing the center of the city. There are many “historic” buildings here, but they aren’t as old as the building in the center of town because the city walls were only torn down about 150 years ago.

Greek style building. The builder became so famous for his work, he eventually could afford a mansion on the road here for himself.

Greek style building. The builder became so famous for his work, he eventually could afford a mansion on the road here for himself.


Even though there are more than 365 churches in Vienna, this is not one of them. This is the town hall.

Even though there are more than 365 churches in Vienna, this is not one of them. This is the town hall.

This was the place to be and many of these large buildings now housing entire hotels were where the aristocracy once lived. They are fabulous building elaborately decorated and massive. There are enough churches in Vienna to visit a different one each day. The city is 70% nominally Roman Catholic although not that many actual practitioners. There are over 350 Catholic churches here and about 25 more Protestant ones.

We drove around Ring Road and then wended our place back to the cathedral. It was crappy weather out there, snowing, cloudy, cold. Our pictures from yesterday were much nicer. We began there and slowly walked for about an hour. We saw the church, the fancy monument I took pictures of yesterday were commemorating the 16 waves of plague that took about ¼ of the city’s population in just a matter of weeks.

We were shown the actual palace and many of the buildings accreted as time and power increased. We were lucky enough to see some of the famous horses kept at the palace. We saw the opera house in there, too. I wish I could remember more of the stories, but they are already fading.

Part of the Winter Palace complex consisting of many, many buildings - each more lovely than the one before.

Part of the Winter Palace complex consisting of many, many buildings – each more lovely than the one before.

This is one of the special horses that are coddled and trained and we weren't supposed to be able to see, but we were there at the exact perfect time to see them walked out of their stalls.

This is one of the special horses that are coddled and trained and we weren’t supposed to be able to see, but we were there at the exact perfect time to see them walked out of their stalls.

After an hour of walking, we were once again in the bus and able to warm up. We drove the 3.5 miles from the winter palace to the summer palace – a distance that was too far for the help to travel back when they were both being built. We also saw the Belvedere Castle, a third Habsburg  castle.

We learned a great bit of Viennese history as well as the history of the Habsburg  family, legitimate and illegitimate alike.

Maria Teresa was a Habsburg  daughter and her father had no sons. So he had to make a new rule that his daughter would be good enough to follow him in his rule. She was not, however, permitted to be called Empress because it still took a man to lead. Her husband was the leader, but he wasn’t allowed to rule and she was the de facto ruler. She did call herself Empress, but it was an affectation beloved by the populace as well as herself.

Statue of Maria Teresa

Statue of Maria Teresa

She had sixteen children who spread out across Europe, marrying into families of wealth and power. Back then, pregnant women were off limits for conjugal visits so it was common for the husbands/fathers to find a girlfriend during this time because for the love of all that is holy, they surely could not abstain. So Mr. Maria Teresa had about fifty kids. That is counting all of Maria Teresa’s children as his offspring but apparently there was a lot more bed hopping back then and who can tell for sure?

When Napoleon was rampaging through Europe, he was unsuccessful in Vienna due to the skill and power of the Habsburg  family, but he was encroaching on the region. His own wife, Josephine, was too old to bear him children and he needed a legitimate heir. It is supposed, at least by me, that he had the other kind of offspring elsewhere. But he ended up marrying one of the Habsburg  clan and the wedding was held here at the Habsburg  winter palace church – which has its own name but I have no idea what it is right now.

Anyway, the bride was 15 years old and had grown up calling Napoleon the Antichrist and having nothing in the way of fondness for the ruler. Now, in an effort to garner favor with man, she was given to him in order to give him a legitimate heir. Napoleon was a bit too busy to show up here in Vienna for something as frivolous as a wedding so a proxy was used. This was not abnormal.

However, the bride’s cousin was chosen as the proxy. He was the man who had led the armies against Napoleon and bested the man in war. Therefore, the two people standing at the altar were not in any way feeling at all benevolent toward the missing groom.

The daughter went off, met Napoleon enough to produce a son. The child was only a toddler when Daddy ended up exiled. Napoleon thought his loving family should go off to exile with him. Mother and child returned to Vienna and were apparently much happier away from Antichrist Napoleon.

During World War II, most of the bridges were destroyed as the war was coming to an end. That meant that there were lots of bombs dropped near the Danube. That also meant that many of the historic buildings near the river were damaged in the bombings. St. Stephen’s Cathedral was not hit by bombs but the reason there are newer buildings across the street is because some of them were hit.

That did not protect the cathedral completely. Sparks from the fires from the bombed buildings moved in the wind and roof of the cathedral caught fire. The roof was completely destroyed, but sandstone does not burn and the cathedral itself was saved. Most of the stained glass windows, however, were also lost at the time. A famous local glass maker donated the replacement windows which is why the many windows are made of pastel crystal – beautiful but not like the old few remaining stained glass windows that were not destroyed up near the altar.

Also kind of freaky, beneath the altar are vessels containing some of the vital organs of the Habsburg  family members are stored. There are relics of the true cross there, as well.

Cool story from the Schonbrunn castle. During World War II, the castle grounds were hit by many bombs, only 20% of which actually exploded. I’m not sure who was dropping the bombs as that was never mentioned. Anyway, only one bomb hit the castle itself (now no longer a regal dwelling as the aristocracy was dissolved at the end of World War I in 1918). It hit the roof and did not explode.

We were in the rooms where the bomb had lodged in the roof. There are huge ceiling frescos of magnificent artwork. This is the only place in the entire castle of over 1000 rooms where there is a military theme in the art. And this is where the bomb hit.

Belvedere Castle was built by a Frenchman who game to help the Habsburg  defeat the Turks. He was not a powerful man in France and yet may have been the illegitimate son of the king. He met up with the Habsburg s who needed any help they could get. Even though the man was small, sickly, slightly built and with a humpback, he was welcomed aboard. He arrived at the age of 18 and without any money. By the time he died, he was still ugly and hunchbacked, still just five feet tall and not beautiful, but he was rich and had eight castles to his name. He had never married (apparently there are some things money can’t buy) and left his holdings to his unmarried 52 year old ugly cousin.

She was luckier (or maybe straighter) than her cousin and it wasn’t long before a young man “fell in love” with her and married her (money). He was a gambler and within a few short years, she was selling off castles to pay his gambling debts. That is how Belvedere Castle came into the possession of the Habsburg family.

Another story: There was only one bridge in all of Vienna that was not damaged or destroyed during the World War II bombings. A few years after the war, the bridge collapsed. Fortunately, it was in the middle of the night and only one car and one bus were on the bridge. The water was not too high at the time. The driver of the car was killed in the disaster, but the bus survived and was not submerged by the water. When the bus driver was rescued after the wreck, he was found on top of his bus smoking a cigarette, becoming a famous person for his unflappable demeanor.

Tonight was the Captain’s Dinner and they plied us with champagne to meet the captain and the crew and then served us a five course dinner. I’m stuffed and can hardly move.

Today was our day to depart the hotel, but not Vienna. First thing we did was find breakfast and today the coffee machine was working. Well, for a brief few minutes it appeared to be broken but it was just making new coffee. So that disaster was averted, much to my relief because I certainly needed more coffee.

Gned getting ready to leave the hotel.

Gned getting ready to leave the hotel.

We checked out and had our luggage held in storage. I would not leave the hotel until our stuff was locked up, so we were the last people to leave. Fortunately, catching up to the others was not a problem. This tour caters to the “mature” tourist and so I’m pretty much on the young end of the age spectrum – something that hasn’t happened to me in a very long time.

We then went to a local flea market/open market via the subway. Eva had fought with the system and managed to make them understand that selling us a ticket for next week didn’t help us at all. We weren’t going to be here for next week. The rule is that they sell tickets from Monday to Monday. When Barb and Bill got here, it was early enough in the week that their ticket was still for THIS week. The next day, when we finally showed up at the subway, it was so late that any reasonable person would want the ticket for next week. Apparently selling them from date of purchase and for a week’s time didn’t occur to anybody.

We were handed a couple tickets to ride once out and once back on the subway. We were legal and she was going to handle it for us. We walked around the market and it was fabulous. Well, half of it was fabulous. The food side is open daily and there was a fantastic selection of foods available.

There was an assortment of meats and fish

Octopus for sale along with other fish

Octopus for sale along with other fish

There were vegetables


and olives


and sweets


and spices


and hookahs. I don’t know why these were there, but they were.


On Saturdays there is a flea market full of real crap available. There were some really nice things for sale and then there were some breathtakingly ugly/nasty things for sale. Everything was haggled over and we had no idea what would be a good starting point even if we had room in our luggage.

We stayed until we were frozen and then we opted to go back to the hotel. I was trying not to wet my pants and we finally found a bathroom (pissour) and there was a guard lady in there who yelled at me in German and I was able to say I didn’t speak German in German and they she told me I needed to pay to use the bathroom and I knew I had some change, but without my reading glasses, I didn’t know what was what and rather than mess with all that, I just scurried back to the hotel and used their stuff for free.

The bus showed up and we were taken from the hotel to the ship. We were very impressed. The pictures online looked different and usually when that happens, it is the reality that is in disfavor. But instead, this is much nicer than we had expected. The rooms looked smaller in the pictures. They are small to be sure, but they are nicer than we thought they would be. Gned liked it all, too.


Gned under glass

Gned under glass

Safety first

Safety first

The first thing they did for us was feed us. Good plan there. Nothing like a hoard of hungry people being quelled with excellent food. Then we toured the ship.

There is a lounge at the bow of the ship.

Gned at the bow of the ship

Gned at the bow of the ship

They sell drinks here


all kinds of drinks


whatever you might want.


They have a library and game room as well as a sitting area and other amenities. The fitness room has a treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, and rowing machine along with a Jacuzzi and sauna. If I ever feel well enough to actually breathe, I hope to use some of this stuff. However, it doesn’t open until 8 AM which is a bit of a problem.

There was a shuttle service from the boat back into Vienna. We took that and went to see St. Stephen’s cathedral which was breathtakingly beautiful. The holy space inside was awe-inspiring. There was so much to see no matter when you turned your eyes. It was stunningly gorgeous inside and out.

St. Stephen's cathedral

St. Stephen’s cathedral



Over the confessional

Over the confessional

Outside the doors

Outside the doors



The spire of the cathedral reflected in the mirrored building across the street.

The spire of the cathedral reflected in the mirrored building across the street.

We walked more among the beautiful buildings and fountains and then we needed to get back to where the shuttle bus would pick us up for the last run of the day back to the ship. It was essential that we get back because without it, we were not going on a river cruise.

The streets are twisting and turning and surrounded by high buildings. We had noted the national bird of Austria, the crane, up near the drop off. We figured we should be able to see that and Dick did see it up over there. Then we were worried that there might be other cranes, but it was the only construction we had seen so we just hoped for the best.

We kept walking downhill because we were dropped off close to the river. But we came to a point where everything was heading back uphill. Luckily there were three police walking toward us and I said loudly while making eye contact, “Excuse me, where is the Danube?” We were pointed over there and told to turn left and sure enough. When we got to that corner, there was the Starbucks and McDonald’s we had seen when we got off the bus. We hadn’t gotten lost and there was time to spare.

We saw some familiar faces at the bus stop and they were quite angry. Apparently they had been let off at the back of the line at 3.15. We missed that bus and didn’t arrive until 4.15 and we were let off at the head of the line. They had been standing in the cold for almost an hour waiting for the bus that they said didn’t show up at 4.30. But Dick and I and the other lady that rode in with us all said it had been there.

When the bus showed up, we went to get on it and the other passengers all said it wasn’t the right bus. But it had our sign in it and it was the driver who had brought us over. It was NOT the same driver from the hour before us.

We all made it back to the bus and eventually to the ship. On the ride back, the lady over there said she thought she was going to be able to text for free over here. She was from the US. I chimed in, cuz I’m so shy and stuff, and said that it was one price to send and a different price to receive, but it all cost per text. I mentioned the price of a phone call per minute and I said the data was all the same rate either download or upload.

This woman did NOT buy a data plan either. She has been sending pictures to her daughter from Europe for a couple weeks, from what I could gather. I don’t know how many pictures. I assured her we used Verizon and perhaps AT&T was different, but I don’t really think so. I also pointed out that keeping your Wi-Fi turned on meant that the phone was sending out and receiving data all the time pinging towers. I added that GPS did the same thing so you might want to turn that off.

Someone wanted to know how to tell if your GPS was on. I asked if she could tell me the local temperature, and she could. I told her that her GPS was on. I also told them that airplane mode would stop all the data transmission. I offered the woman over there who had been sending pictures the use of my computer to look at her bill. I said that if it would make her less nervous, she could look and if she preferred, she could pretend I didn’t offer this service.

Later she told me she might want to look. I’m so glad I took the time to stop at the Verizon store and admit how stupid I was so that I didn’t do this stuff, too. I did make sure she understood that I only knew this stuff because I specifically asked some young man to help an old fart learn to use her phone.

Back at the ship we had our first briefing and then went to a lovely dinner. After that, I came back here and Dick went to the bar. Soon I will join him there.


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