Europe · 18 Days · 31 Moments · July 2017

Andi & Art's Grand European Tour

11 August 2017

What a unique and fabulous last night in Budapest. One of our friends from the cruise, Genevieve, hired a guide to take us on a night photo shoot. He picked us up a little after 7 pm and we went to so many unique photo op sites until after 11 PM. Our first stop was to the Statue of Lady Liberty, which was built by the communists. Most of the statues built by the Communists were taken down and put into a separate park but this one was kept because it had become a symbol of independence of Budapest and freedom. The Inscription at the base of the statue says it is dedicated to those who gave their lives in the pursuit of happiness & to the independence and freedom of Hungary. We took pictures of the parliament bldg. which is the 3rd largest in the world! Then to the Castle garden bazaar and the Chain Bridge, the first bridge built that crossed the Danube in Hungary.Our last stop was at the Margit bridge, which connects Buda, Pest and Margit island. Our guide, Balazs, was amazing!
Well, this will be my final final post of our big journey from Amsterdam to Budapest!! We're at the Budapest airport, & things are not going well. We have too much luggage for this small plane that goes to Frankfurt. Art's camera bag which he has to carry on weighs too much, so the tkt guy wouldn't tag it & more or less said take your chances. Then we were looking at our boarding passes & United moved my seat to the back of the plane. These were tkts that Art upgraded 6 months ago! United has been an absolute nightmare thru this whole process. They even cancelled Art's ticket about a week ago. He's fighting with them now. Besides that mess, I did want to share a bit about the ship we were on. It was the Viking Lif, 443' long, 186 passengers, 50 crew members...all of whom were fabulous. The food was good, some excellent, some just okay, & plenty of it!! We all complained that we ate way too much. The wine was marginal, at best! So we just bought our own in towns.
Our last day in Budapest, and the last day of this incredible journey. We spent the day using the On Off Bus to see the city. We started at the Chain Bridge , then got off at Hero Square. Back on to the "famous" New York City Cafe...some say it's the most Beautiful café in the world! From there we went to the Castle Hill Funicular, which links the Adam Clark Square and the Chain Bridge at river level to Buda Castle. Then we walked back to the hotel via the Chain Bridge!! Oh yes, bought a pair of shoes along the way!!!

10 August 2017

First full day in Budapest. Spent a few hours at the Dohany Synagogue, which is the largest Synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world. There are thousands of Jews buried there who died in the ghetto during the war. Despite that, the sanctuary was beautiful and very uplifting. Early this evening we visited a relative, Aranka, who lives here. She is 96 years old and speaks no English. Her grandson, Zsolt, was our translator. I believe Aranka is my second cousin, but not sure!! What a great visit. She showed us pictures of the family going back more than 100 years. I promised to send her some new pictures. Aranka is a holocaust survivor. I have to say this was the highlight of this whole trip...for both Art and me.
Our final breakfast on our cruise...bittersweet saying goodbye to new friends, some acquaintances and some forever friends. On to our next adventure. 2 days in Budapest and meeting relatives who live in Budapest!

9 August 2017

This afternoon we went to Lazar Lovaspark, which is a 24 acre horse park where they have the Hungarian cowboys performing on their beautiful horses. Our final night on the ship and we're cruising around Budapest on the Danube watching the lights of the city! Magnificent!
This is a memorial to the 3000 Jews who were shot on the banks of the Danube by the nazis and all that was left were their shoes.
Arrived in Budapest this morning and we took a city tour. Went to Buda and then Pest. Apparently, there is some rivalry between the 2 parts of the city. Buda is more hilly and high end residential. Pest is more apartment living and the business district.

8 August 2017

Wonderful day in Vienna. Started with a tour of the Schonbrunn Palace which was the summer home of the Imperial family (the Hapsburgs). Only 1400 rooms in this place. I think we saw 20, very ornate rooms. Maria Theresia made the palace what it is today. In her time, she ruled the empire and was the only woman to rule the Hapsburg empire (they ruled for 650 yrs). Interesting fact: the term Flea Market comes from a time in Austria when, because of their lack of hygiene, men were having "issues" with head lice, fleas, etc, so they would go to the market where you could lay your head down and the monkeys would "clean" or "pick" your hair and get rid of the offenders!! Oy! Spent the afternoon meandering the streets of Vienna with our friends, Claudine & Jim, and shopping, of course. Mel: found a Desigual store. Look for a package when you get home!! Took the Metro back to the ship!

7 August 2017

Last night we went into the city for a concert. It was at the Vienna Concert Hall in the famous Schubert Hall. The 10 piece orchestra played Mozart and Strauss music, and there were 2 opera singers and 2 dancers performing. The acoustics were incredible...the orchestra music was so pure, it reached into my heart.
We're in Vienna for 2 days. This morning was a walking tour mostly around the Hofsburg Palace, winter residence of the Hapsburg, with over 2600 rooms! Also saw the stables of the Lipizzaners; 72 stallions living in Vienna all year. No mares-they distract the stallions!!! Austria got its independence from Russia in 1955. People didn't start moving to Austria till the late 90s after the fall of communism. Now considered one of the best places in the world to live as far as lifestyle & job opportunity.

6 August 2017

This afternoon we are in Krems, Austria. We went on a wine tour at Winzer Krems Winery, a huge operation. Dinner tonight was a special German/Austrian feast ...all local foods, sausage, schnitzel, sauerbraten, cheeses, sacher torte, schnapps, beer, and more! Vunderbar!!
Melk, Austria We're finally in Austria at a little berg called Melk. It's known mostly for the 900 year old Abbey, which is still an active monastery with 29 Benedictine monks and a school with over 900 students. It was a rainy day so not many pictures of the beautiful rolling hills around the Abbey, and no picture taking inside!!

5 August 2017

Passau, our stop today, is the city where 3 rivers come together: the Danube, the Inn and the Ilz. It's a quaint 2000 yr old city that has a history of flooding. There are measurements markers showing dates & height of the water level. In 1662, fires decimated the city. Italian craftsmen were imported to rebuild the city in the Baroque style because 50% of the population had died during the plague; so there were few people left to rebuild. One of the highlights of our time in Passau was the organ concert we attended in the St. Stephens Cathedral. The organ has 17974 pipes and 233 stops.

4 August 2017

Regensburg is a 2000 yr old city that has only recently been recognized for it's role in history. In 2006 it became a UNESCO Historic site. There is the usual mix of old and new architecture.
Around Regensburg today, we saw walls that would have a stone with Hebrew lettering that were gravestones. The Romans desecrated Jewish cemeteries and used the headstones as building materials. We also learned that according to German history, pebbles were placed on top of Jewish tombstones instead of flowers because there were no flowers in the desert, and because stones are more permanent than flowers and that's how it became a tradition to place stones on top.There were stones on top of a plaque honoring Oskar Schindler even though he isn't buried in Regensburg (he did have a house there). On a more pleasant note: There is a sculpture on a wall of the "Little mouse of the city." Rub him if u want to come back to Europe

3 August 2017

More pics of Bratwurshausle
Nuremberg could be translated as Rocky Mountain. Nuremberg is an interesting mix of old and new, especially because 90% of the city was destroyed during WWll. Courtroom 600, where the war trials took place is still in use as a trial courtroom. In 2018 it will be preserved as a national monument only. The older generation has a tendency to ignore anything about the nazi regime. However, teaching about the nazis is now mandatory in the schools. In the 60s the school year ended about the time that history classes would teach about to get to 1933, when Hitler started to rise to power. Seems like most German towns' claim to fame is their beer, and Nuremberg is no exception. They say 600 breweries in Bavaria (the largest state in Germany). Nuremberg is also famous for their sausage, of course, we had to try it the local way...called three in a bun! Yum!!

2 August 2017

Our stop yesterday was Bamburg, known primarily for the 300 beer breweries in the area, and for a particular type of beer called smoked beer. It tastes kind of like bacon (but not good bacon)! Bamburg is also known for its rose gardens. The rose garden at the old cathedral boasted over 60 varieties of roses. I probably smelled 30 different roses and they were not very fragrant!! This is one of the few places in Germany that was not destroyed during WWll, so most of the buildings date back to the 10th century.

1 August 2017

Wonderful day in Wurzburg. Wurzburg is a mix of mideival pre-World War II architecture and post World War II architecture because 90% of the city was destroyed during Workd War ll. First we toured the Bishops' Residenz, one of Germany's largest and most ornate baroque palaces. 342 rooms. Each more ornate than the last. Unfortunately, pictures are not allowed! Then we took a walking tour of the town & then we spent the afternoon on our own. Our new friends, Claudine & Jim and Art & I had lunch at the oldest restaurant, Stachel, which has been a restaurant since 1413!! This area is known for its wine, mostly white. Delish!! Then Claudine & I did a little shopping & the boys did their thing...back on the ship in time for Jim & I to do a little yoga!!

31 July 2017

Visited the cutest German town today, Miltenberg. Finally got some shopping in!! The picture of the sign with what looks like a Jewish star hanging from it is actually the beer brewers union symbol. It's hanging on the oldest building dating back to medieval times. We've been going through a number of locks, and we were told that there are 68 locks we'll go through by the end of our journey.

30 July 2017

This afternoon was a leisurely time on the sun deck of the ship where we passed many castles, each one more striking than the last one!
Went to the Marksburg Castle today. It was built in the 1300s, and was built mainly for protection, with it's steep climb up to the castle and then even steeper and narrower hallways in the castle, that would keep the enemy out (because the armor they wore prevented them from passing through the narrow places! It took about 300 years to complete and was the only castle of 40 castles in the area which was never destroyed.
A good time was had by all!

29 July 2017

We've been on the Rhine for 2 days now! Yesterday we visited an area where there were still working Windmills, called Kinderdijk. Fascinating. Then we toured a cheese farm run by a family for 6 generations. Sampled lots of delicious cheeses, even bought some to take home! What a day we had today! The ship stopped at a place called Zon, dropped us off, and we got on busses that drove us to Cologne, about 30 minutes away. In Cologne, we took a walking tour. Our guide was very knowledgeable especially about the Cologne Cathedral which is the 3rd largest church in the world. It took 600 years to build, starting in 1248 and being completed in 1880. Had Lunch at Peter's Brauhaus where we enjoyed the famous local beer, Kolsch. It comes in 7 oz glasses and if they see an empty glass, that's the signal to fill it up again. You put your coaster on top of your glass whe you're done. Took a little train back towards the ship. Before we got on the ship we took a cable car across the Rhine!

27 July 2017

Went on a great tour today called "Eating Amsterdam." We met at a tiny cafe in the west part of Amsterdam, called the Jordaan District (pronounced yordaan). Our guide, Merke, is a fifth generation Netherlander. The Jordaan is a very old neighborhood with houses built in the 1600s, a butcher shop that's been around since the 1800s and a cafe every few feet! At our meeting place we had the "best" apple pie in Amsterdam! We then walked to a shop that served us Indonesian Satay. Yum! Next stop was at the oldest butcher shop in Amsterdam where we tasted 4 different kinds of sausage. All locally made. From there we stopped at the fish market, where we sampled herring (of course), and we ate it the Dutch way...dipped in onion and with a slice of pickle on top, AND a shot of locally made Vodka! Next stop was at a bakery where we had the "poor mans cookie." These cookies are 2 flat waffle like cookies with a type of syrup in between. Their Dutch name is Stroopwafels. And, we aren't done yet.
The next part of the tour was on a boat named The Tourist, built in 1909. It was all beautiful mahogany wood. The most famous passenger this boat had was Winston Churchill!! So we toured the canals, and our captain described the buildings and lots of Amsterdam history. Meanwhile we were eating locally made cheese, bitter balls, Jewish sweet pickles and onions and drinking a local beer! Our final stop after we got off the boat was at another cafe where we sampled Poffertjes, mini puffy pancakes. A serving is about 15 mini pancakes! When the tour was over we took a tram to the Centraal Station and then walked the last mile or so to the dock, where our Viking boat, the Lif, is moored. We had a lovely dinner and now we're resting in our very nice stateroom, all ready for our cruise through Germany, Austria and Hungary

26 July 2017

Had a wonderful afternoon with Sharon, Jorge, Max, Asher and Renzo at a delightful cafe at the old church adjacent to the Red Light District.
In the Red Light District this afternoon meeting cousin Sharon, Jorge and kids!!
Arrived in Amsterdam yesterday and spent the day wandering around the museum quarter. Went to the Rijksmuseum, which has something like 80 rooms filled with paintings, sculptures, pottery, furniture and more. Last night we found a cute pizza place for dinner. They had about 20-25 different kinds of pizza. All on display by the slice. You pick whichever ones you want, they heat them up and then serve them. Delicious!! This morning we did a walking tour of a small part of the city and then went to another museum, called the Moco, which had a showing of Salvador Dali and Banksy. We're meeting cousin Sharon, Jorge and the kids this afternoon!

25 July 2017