November 15, 2009

Viking River Cruise (VRC) Overview: Romania to Germany on the Danube

At 1775 miles, the Danube is the 2nd longest river in Europe (the Volga is the longest) and the only river to flow from west to east.  My travel buddy Teresa and I took a Viking River Cruise on the Danube and the Main-Danube Canal through Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany.  We passed through dozens of locks.  When you see pictures of us in snow and ponder our decision to take the last cruise of the season, tease Teresa about her famous last words "I would rather be too cold than too hot".  

Our days were filled with learning, exploration and a lot of walking (needed to partially offset the delectable pastries, marzipan, gelato and chocolate.)  All tours were included with a good variety of sights and experiences. We were pleasantly surprised by the balanced views given to us by our guides, especially in the former communist countries.  Some missed the free education and guaranteed jobs under communism and others detailed how their families had suffered.  At night we ruthlessly culled, sorted and uploaded photos to Snapfish for safekeeping via free wi-fi on the ship. 

November 14, 2009

VRC Germany: Nuremberg

Unlike most of the other stops on the cruise where we docked within walking distance of town, we had to be taken quite a distance by bus to Nuremberg.  That was because we were not really docked on the Danube itself but rather on the Danube-Main Canal.

We were taken first to the site of the Nazi Party rallies held annually from 1927 through 1938.  Our guide explained how carefully these rallies were staged for maximum impact, and how "normal" people were persuaded to participate.  He said that after the war, most Germans wanted to destroy everything with the hopes of erasing all memories.  But it was decided that it was important to leave a reminder if it helped to prevent a repeat of such atrocities.

Nuremberg is also a medieval city and we had plenty of time to explore Nuremberg Castle and enjoy the views.

As we entered town, we were greeted by some sculptural spoofs of Durerstadt's famous rabbit sketch.

We finished our tour of the town and then wandered around the Hauptmarkt as it was being set up for the Christmas Markets.

November 13, 2009

VRC Germany: Regensburg

We walked more miles in Regensberg than anywhere else.  During and after our orientation tour, we took many photos of the town. 

We happened upon a special tradition after a civil wedding ceremony.  We cheered with everyone else as the couple cut out a heart in the white cloth held up by their friends

We made our obligatory stop at the cathedral.

Then we started walking and walking.  We snapped whatever seemed interesting at the time.

We discovered a castle to explore.  When we couldn't see the familiar Regensberg "skyline", we asked some schoolgirls to point us toward town.  They said we were really far away, the buses were not running, and we should call a taxi. 

The girls finally gave us some preliminary instructions and we got back just in time for the 2pm cuckoo clock tour. 

After some well earned sausages at THE best place in town, we were ready to cross the bridge (completed 1146) and explore. 

November 12, 2009

VRC Germany: Passau

Passau sits where the Danube joins the Inn and Ilz rivers.  After a short orientation tour, our guide bought tickets and deposited us in front of the Glass Musuem.

We returned to St Stephen's church to admire the 2nd largest church organ in the world (the largest is in Los Angeles.)

We found a cafe to give us strength.

We wandered many hours peeking into shops and alleys while taking photos of the many whimsical touches we found everywhere.

November 11, 2009

VRC Austria: Melk

The view of baroque style Benedictine Melk Abbey perched high above the Danube was visually stunning, as was the view of the town from the abbey itself.

Inside, we saw treasure after treasure displayed in glass cabinets.  The library filled with globes and books was fascinating. 

At last, we stepped into opulent abbey.  We were allowed to walk back to the ship via the picturesque town and a wooded path.

November 10, 2009

VRC Austria: Vienna

Everything in Vienna always seems to be on a larger and grander scale than anywhere else in Europe.  However, today was a rainy day and it got dark early.  It was off-season and the two highlights of our day - Belvedere and Schonbrunn Palaces - did not show well.