Tuesday, June 6, 2017 – Happy 10th Birthday, Skyler!!!
It was a ‘River Day’, heading to Vienna, Austria. We always like ‘Sea Days’ on ocean cruises, so we enjoyed a relaxing ‘River Day’ on the Viking Baldur. I wondered what the meaning of the word Baldur was and saw a plaque on board that said: “Baldur is the Norse god of light, joy, purity and innocence. Beautiful and just, he was loved by everyone.” Now we know!
Breakfast was at 7:30, we had our safety instruction drill at 10:00, lunch at 12:30, a Wheelhouse Tour (photo above) at 3:00, a live demonstration on how to make traditional Austrian apple Strudel (which we got the recipe for and also got to sample), a lecture at 4:15 about Vienna coffeehouses, a port talk @ 5:30 about Vienna excursions and events, and dinner @ 5:45! A lot of passengers went to a concert tonight in Vienna, but we stayed on the boat. When they all arrived, ‘goulash soup’ was served at 10:00. Great bedtime snack, don’t you think? It was good!! We pretty much ate, ate, and then ate some more today!
Apple Strudel – it was very, very good!
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
We enjoyed a morning overview tour of Vienna, Austria’s elegant capital city. The tour focused on the impressive buildings on the remarkable Ringstrasse – the boulevard laid out on the site of the old city walls of the mid-19th century. Palaces, elegant public buildings and grand residences line this world-famous avenue, including the Hofburg Palace and the home of the Spanish Riding School with its incredible Lipizzaner horses. The tour ended at the great, Gothic, St. Stephan’s Cathedral, not the same St. Stephen that we saw in Budapest. We opted to stay in that amazing area to do a bit of shopping and find the well-known Cafe Sacher to try Sachertorte, and experience Vienna’s coffee houses that we learned about in a lecture on board yesterday! The Sachertorte lived up to it’s reputation!
Before the six of us returned to the Viking Baldur, we had a bite to eat for lunch, and then rode the U-Bahn (Vienna subway) back to Pier 2. We attended the Port Talk for tomorrow before dinner, then at 9:00 we went to an enrichment lecture on Austrian history by historian, Alexander Kugler. He was NOT your typical historian! His lecture was both informational and humorous! After that, it was time for bed!
Thursday, June 8, 2017 – Melk, Germany
Today began (at 8:00) with 18 miles of scenic cruising through the Wachau (the W is pronounced like V) Valley, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The region is known for it’s prolific grapevines and quaint wine-producing villages that stretch as far back as Celtic & Roman times. That’s a LOT of wine! ha I didn’t count how many different castle ruins there were, but I got pictures of several!
The Viking Baldur arrived in Melk about 11:00 and we had lunch before leaving for the 900 year old Melk Benedictine Abbey. The Abbey is perched on a cliff high above the Danube and is still functioning today with 30 Monks residing there and with more than 700 students attending school here from ages 10-18. It is a baroque architectural wonder, with 365 windows (one for each day of the year) and the views from its balcony are stunning. The library houses over 80,000 leather-bound books – it was quite impressive and it didn’t even smell old & stinky like some old libraries do! My thought was, “How in the world do they dust them all?!” We’ve seen a lot of churches and cathedrals in our travels, but this one was one of the prettiest with all of the gold-leaf trim on nearly everything. We couldn’t take pictures anywhere inside of the abbey.
Melk Benedictine Abbey
We walked back down the hill from the abbey through the quaint little town of Melk to the Viking Baldur with one brief stop for an ice cream cone. The sun came out & the temps were warm enough to make that a delightful treat! Chocolate, of course.
Cast off from Melk was @ 4:00, with Austrian teatime as we left, heading for Passau. It was a busy time after that, as we had a Viking Explorer Society (VES – previous Viking travelers) cocktail party to meet other travelers and get to know the Viking staff. There were probably about 25 there as it seems there are LOTS of first time Viking travelers on this trip. The port talk for Passau was at 6:45, dinner at 7:00, and the evening entertainment was an Elvis Tribute theme with Oscar, one of the duo who sing in the Lounge each evening. He sounded more like Elvis than looked like Elvis, but it was an enjoyable evening, and when it was over, it was bedtime!
Friday, June 9, 2017 – Passau, Germany
Our day began with a walking tour of Passau. This is a beautiful little college town of about 50,000 people! Founded by the Celts more than 2,000 years ago, Passau is one of Bavaria’s oldest cities, and is where the German-Austrian border begins. It’s known as the “City of Three Rivers”, as it sits at the confluence of the Inn, Ilz and Danube Rivers. It has had major floods in it’s history, and we saw the water levels marked on some of the shops we walked by as recently as 2015! It was the medieval center for the salt trade, which they considered to be white gold!
Our walking tour took us through the narrow little streets to yet another St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the patron saint of the cathedral. St. Stephen was the deacon of the early church in Jerusalem and the first Christian Martyr and I think this is the same St. Stephen as the cathedral with the same name in Vienna.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
We returned here a bit later to hear a 30 minute concert on the 2nd largest cathedral organ in the world, with 17,974 pipes. It was an acoustical delight in this lovely setting.
The Oberhaus Museum, originally a 12th century fortress, was atop a big hill across the Danube River from the 14th Century City Hall. The six of us decided we needed to go up there to have lunch and a beer at an open air patio garden that we could see – the Lowen-Brauhaus. We both had a Mediterranean Salad and a huge ice cream sundae, both of which were very good. The views from up there were breathtaking!
The Viking Baldur was to leave at 3:30 and to give those who wanted more time in Passau, (and to others who made the excursion to Salzburg) they had a bus pick us up at 5:30 in Passau to (supposedly) meet us in Regensburg. Little glitch in the locks waiting to get through, so the bus pulled over not far out of Passau and the ship picked us up there! It was sort of funny! We all lined up and stuck out our thumbs as to ‘hitch’ a ride on the ship!
Another good day, but both of us were more than ready for bed after dinner and the delay in the Port Talk for Regensburg.
Saturday, June 10, 2017 – Regensburg, Germany
Our walking tour was from 9:30-11:30, with free time after that until 3:45 when we had to be back on board the ship. Regensburg is a medieval city that was untouched by WWII bombing so was rich in original gothic architecture in Bavaria, unlike many other places that had much rebuilding to do. It was a lovely city, and what made it quite nice was that it was just a short walk away from the ship. Our tour explored the Jewish history and heritage there, including a synagogue memorial and the Oskar Schindler house. We were told that he was the only Nazi buried in Jerusalem.
Miracle in Regensburg
An amazing thing happened here! After our tour, I wanted to have a lunch at the world’s oldest, and possibly smallest, bratwurst grill, Historic Wurstkuche. Our guide had mentioned that they can serve a lot of people in a short time, so we were waiting in a line & I looked over at the people filling the outside tables and saw our neighbor, Jeanne! (See photos above!) Even though we knew we were both going to be cruising in the same part of the world, she was on a different cruise line with a different itinerary! Small world, isn’t it? We couldn’t have planned that meeting even if we’d tried! God is good!! And by the way, the sausage with sauerkraut (all on a bun) was delicious!!!
After that, we walked back to the shopping area near St. Peter’s Cathedral. Spectacular! They were having an electric car exhibition in front of the cathedral, which also included a Tesla! We took a picture of Terry in front of the car wearing his Tesla shirt! So seeing a Tesla in Regensburg also put a smile on our faces! I wanted something sweet after the sausage, so we went to the little outdoor Cafe Prinzess and had a tiramisu and latte and Terry had a beer, which he said was the best one he’s had this trip. As it turns out, this cafe has been famous for it’s delicious sweets and chocolates for hundreds of years! It was fun place to be as it was by a church and a wedding had just taken place! We could also hear the music by two xylophone players, Neo Percussion, nearby. We purchased a CD from them earlier.
After we got back on board, we went to a presentation on the history of canals and the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal. It was very interesting and amazing.
Sunday, June 11, 2017 – Nuremberg, Germany
On the way from Budapest to Amsterdam, the ship passes through 68 locks – we went through the 3 deepest locks between Regensburg and Nuremberg, about 80 feet tall/deep on the continental divide. They really are engineering marvels!
We had a relaxing morning, which was good as Terry coughed most of the night. We started our Nuremberg city tour at 1:30 and had about a 30 minute bus ride into the city before starting the walking tour through the Old Town. Our bus took us past a huge, beautifully curved building erected for Adolf Hitler The outside was very stately and ornate and the inside was never finished. All a facade. We also drove past the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds where many political rallies were held during the Hitler regime.
In Nuremberg, the Nazis saw the ideal setting for their activities. It was here that the fanatical party rallies were held, the boycott of Jewish businesses began and the infamous Nuremberg Laws outlawing Jewish citizenship were enacted. Lots of history and many museums here for history buffs!
This medieval city is still surrounded by 13th-century walls, with many gates and watchtowers fully intact, although they did have to be rebuild after WWII. The painstaking reconstruction, using the original stone, returned the city to some of it’s former glory.
Wedding Cake Fountain – Nuremberg
Market Square was hopping, even though most everything else was closed (Sunday). Nuremberg is the capital of Lebkuchen, the beloved German Christmas cookie! Spiced and nutty, they are sort of like a soft gingerbread, so of course we had to purchase a few. It was a wonderfully, warm (80 degrees) day, so we enjoyed an adult beverage break before returning to the bus and back to the ship at 5:30.
We ended the day at 9:00 in the Aquavit Lounge to listen to three young musicians — masters of the violin, contrabass and guitar — for an hour of delightful Franconian music. They were EXCELLENT!
Monday, June 12, 2017 – Bamberg, Germany
Woke up to discover that Viking Baldur had been sitting for 3 hours waiting for repair of a lock. The internet seemed to be working here, so it was a great time to catch up with my journal, post some pictures on FaceBook, send some emails, and work on my blog.
At 10:45, our on board engineer told us that that the Viking Longships are made in Rostock, Germany, and that they are 445” long and 38” wide and weigh 2,650 tons. The diesel fuel tank holds 35,000 gallons. Lots of other facts, but these are the ones I could relate to!
After lunch, we headed to Bamberg, founded in 902, for a walking tour of the medieval-looking city, the home of rauchbier, meaning smoke-flavored beer. More about that later.
Bamberg is called the ‘B’ city – for Bamberg, Bishops, Baroque, Beer and Basketball! It also marks the northern terminus of the Main-Danube Canal.
In 1007, Emperor Heinrich II made Bamberg the center of the Holy Roman Empire and the capital of his reign. He wanted the city to become a second Rome, and like its Italian model, Bamberg was built seven hills, each with a church on top. There are several monuments and art treasures in this dark cathedral, the most famous is the Bamburg Horseman, an equestrian statue carved around 1230. My favorite one was a massive tomb of of Heinrich & his wife, with carved marble made in their images. Scenes from “The Three Musketeers” were filmed on the grounds just outside the cathedral. Bamberg is also noted for it’s Old Town Hall, situated on a twin-arched bridge over the Regnitz River, in the medieval city center.
Caathedral Tomb in Bamberg, Germany
Bridge over Regnitz River, Bamberg, Germany
Directly beneath the mighty cathedral of Old Bamberg in the middle of Old Bamberg is the historical brewery Tavern Schlenkerla, the birthplace of the Original Schelenkerla Smokebeer. This tavern is the most productive, most visited and most traditional Smokebeer source in Bamberg. Smokebeer from Schelenkerla is a dark, aromatic, bottom fermented beer which has an alcohol content of 51%. Several have described what they think the smoked beer tastes like, so we wanted to try it. It didn’t taste as bad as we thought it might! They say that it brings together the local with the stranger, as it is common in Franconia to share your table with others, which we did! It was a fun experience!
Tasting smokebeer – I had wine!
Back on the Viking Baldur, we had dinner, then went to the 9:00 “Country Music” entertainment by Noemi & Oscar.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017 – Wurzburg, Germany
We were bused for about a half hour for a walking tour of Wurzburg. I find it interesting that our guides pronounce the ‘v’ as ‘w’, and the ‘w’ as ‘v’! So it was pronounced Vurzburg! Surrounded by beautiful vineyards, Wurzburg was heavily damaged during WWII, but has since been completely restored. This is a prestigious university city and is a jewel of baroque architecture.
Our first stop was to the Bishops’ Resident palace, a great example of pomp and glory. Of course, we couldn’t take pictures in here. It is is one of Germany’s largest & most ornate palaces. The rooms were incredible and Tiepolo’s giant 2,000-square-foot ceiling fresco is the largest in the world, even larger than the one in the Sistine Chapel in Rome! Fortunately, due to the construction and design of of the ceiling in that area of the palace, the ceiling fresco wasn’t demolished during the war. It was beautiful, as were the other rooms in the palace, and English-style the gardens lined with ornate statues outside the palace.
A stone bridge, Germany’s first, built in 1120 once stood over the Main River. Twin rows of graceful statues of saints line the bridge. They were largely destroyed in 1945, but have been lovingly restored since then. It’s a lovely bridge in a lovely setting!
We were encouraged to try the Franconian wines here, so made a stop on the stone bridge to do just that! It was a darling little shop and the wines were good! And yes, we bought a bottle!
We could have stayed longer in Wurzburg as Viking Baldur was to arrive there at approximately 6:00 p.m., and even though Wurzburg was a great little city, we decided it would be too long to just shop and drink wine or beer, so we took the bus back to the ship at 12:30 to eat lunch, relax a bit, and work on the blog, pictures, etc. Good decision!
Tonight’s activity @ 9:00 was a glassblowing demonstration by Hans Ittig, the son of a traditional German glassmaking family. He was very funny & entertaining, and I’m looking forward to visiting their store in Wertheim tomorrow!
Wednesday, June 14, 2017 – Wertheim, Germany
Since there isn’t room service on the river cruise, Terry usually gets up and goes to the Aquavit Terrace and brings me back coffee, fruit, muselli and a pastry! Works great while I’m either getting ready or captioning photos or whatever! Room service by Terry! 🙂
We boarded a cute mini chu-chu-train for the short ride into Wertheim, situated at the confluence of the Main (pronounced like mine) and Tauber Rivers. It’s another simply charming little city!
Our ride into Wertheim, Germany!
Because of the rivers, this little city has experienced many floods, as have so many of the other places we’ve stopped! The water levels have been documented on the sides of many houses and buildings. I can only imagine what a mess it must be to clean up after these floods!
Watermarks on door frame from different floods.
At the end of the tour, we had to option to extend an additional half-hour to learn about the Jewish history in this area and see the Jewish Cemetery just outside of the city. Our guide was a German lady named Ursula and had been a tour guide for 10 years. They asked her to lead a Jewish informational tour, but because she had not even heard of the Holocaust at any time during her education, nor had her family talked about it, she didn’t think it would be right because she was uninformed and she was also German. They convinced her to study & learn so she agreed. She made the statement, “You don’t inherit guilt, you inherit responsibility.” I thought that was quite profound. She gave excellent information and told of her family’s background relating to all that has happened during this time. This was the second additional Jewish history tour we went on (the other Regensberg) and prior to my preparation & training leading up to my March Israel trip, we would probably not have even considered going on these two additional tours.
Wertheim Jewish Cemetery – outside the city.
Our tour guide told our group NOT to leave Germany without having a piece of Black Forest Cake, so of course, I complied! We actually took it back to the ship to eat after lunch. It was very moist and yummy, but different than the Black Forest Cake at home in that the cake wasn’t chocolate. It looked sort of like a spice cake, but it didn’t taste like a spice cake. It was very good!
Black Forest Cake – YUM!
After our tour, we visited the seven generation Ittig family glassblowing shop. Hans put on the demonstration @ 9:00 last night. His family luckily settled in Wertheim in 1950 after escaping from East to West Germany and became one of the official founders of the scientific glass industry here. Their specialized glassblowing techniques are taught at the Pilchuck Glass School, founded by Dale Chihuly! We did pick up a little glass window ornament there!
Glass Shop! Hand carry purchase home!
The dukes built Wertheim Castle in the 12th century at this strategic spot. It was captured and destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War, but after being partly renovated, it is still an impressive sight, peering down upon the medieval town center & half-timbered houses! Today it has a restaurant and an information center and free restrooms! Not sure how far it was up, but I got as far as the restaurant before time to turn back to catch the little train back to the Viking Baldur.
The Wertheim Castle at top of picture.
The ship left at 1:00, so it was a brief but great time in Wertheim.
The afternoon was spent cruising on the Main River. one of Germany’s most important waterways. It is very easy to be impressed by Germany’s beauty & cleanliness! I remember feeling that same way the first time we came to Germany, probably more than 25 years ago!
Thursday, June 15, 2017 – Koblenz, Germany
Sometime in the night, we went from the Main River to the Rhine River, often called the Romantic Rhine. So this morning we have been passing beautiful landscapes and quaint villages seeing vineyard-blanketed hills, splendid castles and where the Rhine narrows, the Lorelei Rock (large bottom left photo of cliff). The legend of the Lorelei has been the source of many different songs and poems. I took LOTS of pictures of castles, all of which will be called “castles on the Rhine”!
Gutenfels Castle & the Pfalz
The Loreley on the Rhine
I’ve been wondering why some places end with ‘berg’, and other places end with ‘burg’, and this morning we were told that that ‘berg’ refers to a mountain, and that ‘burg’ refers to a castle, so the towns were named accordingly! Not sure what they call the town if a castle is on a mountain!
After lunch, we stopped at the base of Braubach to tour Marksburg Castle. It’s strong fortifications were built in the13th century and because of it’s strong fortifications, it was never besieged by enemies and destroyed. The view of the countryside from its 550 ft. perch was spectacular, and the weather made it even more so!
View from Marksburg Castle
We saw some grisly instruments in the ancient torture chamber. Yikes! I would not have wanted to live during that time! It was a very interesting tour, and the castle was much nicer inside than I would have imagined, but not nice enough to change my mind about living in that time!
Dinner tonight was “German Night”, a hearty fare with performers serenading us with their accordions with medleys of music from this area. The tables were decorated with red & white checked napkins and the had cheeses, salami types of meats, and pretzels hanging from a rack on each table. It was a fun night and the food was especially hearty and tasted great!
After we ate, we got a chance to go inside the galley where all the food is prepared and meet the behind-the-scenes staff in the kitchen . It was a very small little area and was a treat to see how they get all the food ready for us each day!
During dinner, we were told about a statue very near to where Baldur was docked, so after the galley tour, we walked over to see the massive equestrian statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I, the first emperor of the newly united Germany. It was destroyed during WWII, but replaced in 1953. This pointed bit of land is the intersection of the Rhine & Mosel rivers and is called the German Corner. Pieces (3) of the Berlin Wall stand on the Mosel side, a memorial to those who died. There were several flags hanging here, including an American flag.
I’m in white in the center opening – Terry & the Berlin Wall
Sunset on the Rhine & Mosel – Interesting Sculpture – Koblenz, Germany
Friday, June 16, 2017 – Cologne, Germany
The excursion today left at 9:30 for a walking tour of Cologne. First stop was The Dom (house of God) or Cologne Cathedral. The 14th-century Gothic cathedral towers over the Old City. Thank goodness, it was spared from the bombing in WWII. The twin spires make for a distinct sky line!
Museum & Dom in Cologne
Tunnes & Schal Statues – Cologne, Germany
Respnse to mooning city hall sculpture
One of Cologne’s Beers
Padlocks on Hohenzollernbrucke Bridge in Cologne
Cologne’s sights – Cathedral, Statues, Clock, Beer, Padlocks of love!
We walked back to the Baldur (2 miles) and had lunch, then took the shuttle back to the city center to wander around the HUGE shopping area. By this time, the crowds were huge! We did pick up a couple of little things, but didn’t make it back to the shuttle to the ship by 4:00, so rather than wait for the next one an hour later, we walked back to the ship again! So, we got our steps in today!
Tonight’s entertainment was a ‘Classical Music Journey’ by 3 young performers (cello, clarinet, and piano) from Cologne’s Academy Music and Dance. They were excellent!
Cologne’s “Dom” by night – BEAUTIFUL!
As has been the case, we were ready for bed!
Saturday, June 17, 2017 – Kinderdijk, Netherlands
First scheduled activity today was the disembarkation program @ 10:30, followed by a presentation on the Dutch Golden Age. Always interesting to hear about the different people groups!
We arrived in Kinderedijk after lunch and left for our excursion to visit the area of the 19 splendid Kinderdijk Windmills, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. They were built around 1740 as a part of water management to prevent floods! The expression of the Dutch is, “To keep our feet dry” as no less than 26% of the Netherlands lie below sea level.
The ‘millers’ actually live in the windmills, and we toured one as it would have been in the early1900’s. They have actually been updated, but they’re very small! Probably about like living in a tiny house, except with 3 stories!! This trade has been passed down from generation to generation!
Windmills in Kinderdijk, Netherlands
Tonight’s dinner was surf & turf, and it was delicious! Mary & Cary had unused ship credit, so we went up to the lounge to have an after dinner drink. One of the youngest passengers on the ship was a beautiful young (34) gal named Nicole, and she was quite noticeable on the trip. She was traveling with her mother, and she organized a game of bingo which we participated in before calling it a day. Joe actually won the game & got a bottle of local wine, which we all shared! It was an unexpected activity to end our trip!
Sunday, June 18, 2017 – Train from Amsterdam to Paris, France – Father’s Day
Goodbye to the Viking Baldur at 10:00! On to the next adventure beginning in Paris.
Our Program Director on the Baldur was one of the best PDs we’ve had on our cruises. HIs name was Rob, and he was from South Africa. He explained at the beginning that his greeting for his presentations would be “Howzit”, and that should be our response back to him. The saying originated in Hawaii, along with the hand sign (hang loose), and South Africa picked up on it and use it today! It was a fun touch to use that greeting throughout the trip!