Location: Budapest, Hungary
After a light lunch on board we disembarked and were driven to our hotel which was situated in the middle of the Jewish quarter. Later in the afternoon we visited the largest Synagogue in Eurasia. It was five minutes down the road we had an English speaking guide who filled us in on the architecture of the Synagogue and some of the Jewish traditions.
In the complex were a number of graves that symbolised the Hungarian Jews and their families that were put to death.
The tree of life was a shimmering silver sculpture with the leaves having the names of those people who helped shelter or saved many Jewish lives.
We were sorry not to get to the Jewish shoe memorial.
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Early arrival in Budapest provided some good photo opportunities.
After lunch off on a bus / walking tour to see the well known sites, Heroes Square,Jewish Synagogue, the hilly suburbs of Buda and the flat area of Pest.
Budapest is a city of bridges and statues. The bridges named after Habsburg royalty and statues after Saints and Generals. Overtime Budapest lost large chunks of land and population to Austria, Slovakia and Russia .
The centre piece of Budapest is Buda Castle perched high on a hill it commands a magnificent view of the city, especially from the Fishermens Bastion which in the past was a lookout for fishermen. The church of St Stephens provided a spectacle it had been recently cleaned and stood out gleaming white against the blue sky.
Our pre dinner entertainment was a troupe of Hungarian dancers.
A night cruise along the Danuabe provided a spectacular ending to the cruise, all the buildings along the river were floodlit and the old buildings outshone the new.
Complementing the buildings the statues high in the hills were illuminated and provided a striking contrast to the dark sky.
Location: Bratislava , Slovakia
Slovakia is only an hours drive from Vienna, on the way we passed through a town called Carnuntun which was a large Roman centre and has a reconstructed Roman City quarter in its midst. The other outstanding feature were the scores of wind farms which stretched as far as you could see.
We visited the Bratislava Castle which serves as an administrative centre to the Slovakian Parliament which is over the road. The view from the Castle gave a good overview of the city which showed a stark contrast between the utilitarian Communist housing, factories etc and modern day developments.
The old city was a maze of streets and squares with many shops and cafes it had a Parisian atmosphere.
It was so hot that the city council was giving away cups of water and had walk through water moisturisers to help cool down as we walked through the squares.
During our two hour free time we enjoyed a lovely lunch with the locals.
On the way back we stopped at a little village which had wine cellars which were decorated and painted like little hobbit houses.
The night ended with a cocktail party and the Captains farewell dinner.
Tomorrow we sail for Budapest.
Location: Vienna, Austria
The first day in Vienna took in all the highlights such as the Opera House, Ferris Wheel etc. and other historic buildings on the ring road. In th afternoon it was a guided tour concentrating on the inner city especially the Emperors Palace this was the winter Palace for the Habsburg Dynasty which ruled Austria until World War 1. The other imposing landmark was st Stephen's Cathedral and like most of the churches was undergoing restoration. As it was 34 deg we were glad to get back to the air-conditioning. At night we attended a classical music concert at the Palais Liechtenstein which started with champagne in a large reception room. The rooms were full of gold leaf statues walls and ceilings the program include a selection from Mozart, Strauss and other Austrian composers. After the concert we had supper of apple strudel and rich cakes.
Location: Melk, Austria
The Abbey of Melk is truly an impressive group of buildings. It was the home to the Babenberg family while accommodating Benedictine monks for over 900 years.
You enter the Abbey through an imposing gateway into a large courtyard and then into a smaller courtyard. One wing was set aside for the Babenberg family and their guests while on the opposite wing was the Monestary and never the twain shall meet.
The museum section showed the history of the Abbey and many religious artefacts, some still in use today. Out of the museum onto a terrace that had sweeping views of the countryside.
The Monestary library had to be see to be believed with 1000s of books old and new set upon row after row around the room. A quick visit to the church itself as the monks wanted minimal disturbances.
Our last stop was a formal French style garden which covered a large acreage and was immaculately cared for by twenty three gardeners.
Another hot day 36 deg.
Location: Salzburg , Austria
We were glad to board the train and head for Linz to rejoin the ship, on the way back we were entertained by singers in traditional costume singing selections from Mozart and Sound of Music.It was a hot journey home - 36deg and the air con was just average.
We were exhausted on arrival back on the ship after a long day 8am to 7.30pm and walking 8k.
Annette's walking with Pam and Noela kept her in good stead.
Location: Salzburg , Austria
After a quiet day Monday cruising down the Danube today was the reverse, with the Salzburg Hills alive with the sounds of tourist buses.
From Passau we drove to the station and boarded the Majestic Imperator bound for Salzburg. This was a reconstruction of the train which was built for Emperor Frans Joseph and his wife Sisi. The carriages were individually furnished in the most opulent styles.
A two hour journey during which champagne, coffee and pastries bought us to Salzburg where we had a fast paced tour of the main features. It was just as well we had visited Salzburg before so did not miss much because of the fast pace.
On to lunch at Castle Hellbrumm this was a country retreat for some noble and had hectares of parklands. No prizes for guessing what was for lunch - Weiner Schnitzel.
Just inside the gates was the rotunda where Leisl sang sixteen going on seventeen and this morning a plaque was unveiled in memory of Charmain Carr who played Liesel in the movie. This was done by Nicholas Hammond who played Frederich who is on our cruise with his partner Robyn Nevin.
A hour long drive to Mondsee followed to view the interior of the church where the wedding took place.
Apart from the church being a tourist magnet, Mondsee is a holiday town situation on a beautiful lake.To be cont....
Location: Nuremberg , Germany
On the way down we walked over beer vaults, huge underground cellars used for beer storage and during the war for the safe keeping of art treasurers etc. given that 90% of Nuremberg was totally destroyed. Being a Sunday most of the shops were shut hence very few people which meant walking around was a pleasure.
We visited two churches and being very ecumenical one Catholic and one Protestant, a rather ornate waterless fountain and watched a mechanical animated tableau on the top of a church which takes place at 12 noon each day.
After dinner there was an informal presentation by Nicholas Hammond, who played Fredrich Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. He spoke about the making of the movie and the misfortunes and fortunes of the Von Trapp family after they escaped Austria.
On balance I would have liked more time on the Nazi era and the German people rather than Medieval history and cobblestones.
Location: Nuremberg , Germany
A short early morning drive bought us to a huge unfinished red brick building based on the Coloseum this is where Hitler proposed to hold National Congresses of his political party it was proposed to have a suspended glass dome designed to highlight where he was seated it was never finished as money was siphoned into the war effort. Nowdays it is used by the city council and other organisations as a storage house.
The centre piece of Nazi propaganda was a long and wide outdoor area where military parades, rallies etc. were held with Hitler standing high above the area ranting and raving about Germanic power and supremacy but no mention of war.
It was early morning when we arrived and only a few people were around so it was eerily quiet. Our guide gave us a detailed account of the happenings that took place here and around the Nazi centre piece. The photo shows Zeppelin Field as it was during the Nazi across. Driving through the parklands it was hard to imagine what had happened in the past.
From the recent past to the distant past when we arrived in the old town with its fortified walls and castle built on an outcrop of sandstone which gave the army a magnificent but strategic outlook over the surrounding countryside.
To be continued....
Location: Bamburg , Germany
Our arrival in Bamburg coincided with not only the weekend but their annual magicians and jugglers festival which brings hoards of participants and onlookers all which meant street choking crowds.
Bamburg is well known for its breweries, thirteen in a town of 70,000 people and eighty one in the region. It's unique beer, smokey beer, which has a taste of bacon,I can't verify this as we did not taste it.
In the middle of town is a white water kayak course which passes the old town hall which also sits on an island in the middle of the river.
As Bamburg was not bombed their are many buildings dating back to the mid 14th & 15th centuries. The two most impressive was the Cathedral with its soaring interior, spectacular altar.
The second - the Arch Bishop of Bamburg's Palace was palatial and surrounded by a small village.
The rose garden behind the Palace wa a lovely place to sit and relax. It contains 140 rose plants and 44 species all planted in well attended beds.
If you could remove the excess crowds Bamburg is a fascinating place.
After dinner we were entertained by a singer and her European song book which featured popular songs from European countries eg Danny Boy - Ireland, Never on a Sunday - Greece amongst others.
Location: Wuzburg, Germany
Wuzburg is the main city of the Franconian wine industry. All the surrounding hillsides are planted with vines in neat vertical rows. Our excursion bus took us through the farming areas to a small town called Rothenburg. This is a small but perfectly preserved Medieval village. The old town is surrounded by a city wall around which you can walk if you have a spare 45 minutes. As expected for a tourist town there are numerous cafes, hotels as well as everyday shops but all house in Medieval buildings. The most amazing shop was the Christmas shop which had a maze of rooms crammed with fascinating mobile and static decorations. The centre piece of the shop was a huge decorated Christmas tree. Sadly photos were not allowed in the shop.
At night we were entertained by a Bavarian group who played traditional folk songs which had the passengers up and dancing.
Location: Miltenburg , Germany
Late nights and early mornings don't give a lot of time to write diaries. My book remains unopened!
Yesterday was a visit to Miltenburg a small village with half timbered houses the lower halves were made of stone which acts as a barrier to the floods. Our Bavarian guide gave a thorough history lesson which included a stop at a fountain where many so called witches were put to death.
During the guided tour we had tastings of meats, hazel nut cakes, pretzels and a miniature bottle of Schnapps.
On this stretch of the Main River there are thirty four locks and many low bridges which means the sun deck has been close for safety reasons.
Location: Rudesheim, Germany
Rudesheim is a winemaking town at the beginning of the Rhine George and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is full of cobblestone streets and beautifully decorated resturants and shops.
A highlight of the day was a visit to the "Siegfried's Musical Kabinett" museum where a guide demonstrated many mechanical musical instruments, others chose the Gondola or Cable Car Ride.
We finished the day with the local Rudesheim coffee (coffee, brandy, sugar and cream)
Location: Bonn, Germany
Off to Bonn the former capital of Germany before reunification. A small city 250,000 but the home of many important events and people. This was the city where Beethoven was born, the burning of books by the Nazi's, the Church where Cardinal Ratzinger began his ministry and then went on to be the Pope. On many pavements there were trip stones - plaques commerating Jewish families murdered by the Nazis.
There were also bronze book spines with famous authors whose books were burnt by the Nazis.
The Arch Bishop of Cologone's Palace and gardens is now the University of Bonn.
Dinner was a step back in time at the Burg Namedy Castle. Drinks and nibbles in the great hall surrounded by ancestral paintings and stuffed eagles, wandering through the countless rooms, a sumptuous three course dinner ( for 157 guests) in the mirror hall plus a piano recital. The owner Princess Heide hires out the castle for functions music festivals etc. to help pay for the upkeep and restoration works.
Of windmills, cheese,clogs and tourist traps. The windmill village made a picturesque scene- windmills with multicoloured sails, green fields, grazing sheep, goats and quaint houses. Inside the windmill the Miller was grinding pigments for artist's paints. After climbing steep stairs to where the Miller changes the sails to catch the prevailing winds which also gave us a magnificent view of the countryside. The next tourist trap was the cheese shop with young girls in traditional dress convincing tourists- many Japanese- to buy rounds of cheese. Despite this samples of goats cheese with lilac and truffles were very tasty.
The clog factory - a large shed was clammed with all sorts of clogs. The most outstanding clog which caught eye was a bling encrusted clog called "The Diamond"
On Saturday we visited Anne Frank's House a vey interesting and emotional visit you could ask yourself could your family stay hidden for two years undetected! The house was narrow in the front but rather long and multi storied. However the rooms were very small and had minimal washing, cooking facilities.
The hop on hop off bus and canal boat gave us both an on road and on water perspective of Amsterdam. The canal traffic was like peak hour with all sorts of craft plying up and down.
Before we left for the river boat we visited the Museum and took photos particularly of the garden areas.
Sunday we were out and on the boat by 3pm,unpacked and settled in and enjoyed our first dinner.
The river boat is narrow long and has 157 guests our cabin is at the end of a long corridor the glass sliding Windows open up to the river.
The passengers are a mixed lot young and not so young and many women on their own either by choice or necessity. Many are from Australia especially the Geelong area.
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam is truly a city of bikes you have to keep a sharp lookout as they come at you from all directions, just to add a it of spice the motor scooters are in the same lane as well as on the road.
The Marriott Hotel is centrally located with easy access to many cafes and bars as well as all the tourist attractions.
We toured the immediate area on day one and had a relaxing dinner overlooking the river. Amsterdam has daylight saving and is still light at 10pm.
Behind the hotel is Vondel Park with bikes, walkers and runners. It is a peaceful oasis from the city traffic.
We only have access to Wi Fi in the lobby so our diary is brief until be board the river boat tomorrow.
Location: Melbourne, Australia
On our way and enjoying lunch with a glass of wine while waiting boarding.
A pleasant change being driven to the airport without the hassle of driving, thanks to a Flight Centre voucher.
Location: Melbourne, Australia
July 6th is just two weeks away and we are heading to Amsterdam for a 15 day river cruise to Budapest. We continue on to Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri and the Amalfi Coast before a three day stay in Singapore.