North America, Europe · 35 Days · 78 Moments · October 2017

A Grand European Tour


14 November 2017

This is Judy Blakeley.....she also coincidently lives in Winthrop. I found out a few days before we left when I partnered with her husband in an exercise class, that we were going to be on the same Viking ship. Not only that, but although we got off the boat in Budapest, and they continued to Bucharest and then the Black Sea, yet we were also on the same plane on the way home as we spend extra time in Budapest and Prague. We make it home Monday nite after being awake about 23hours.....no, the last pic is not our home,just a pic taken by Judy.... it we are very glad to be home.

12 November 2017

The first pic is a typical Check dinner....stuffed cabbage. Ok once on a while, and not expensive. We then flew back to Amsterdam staying at the Ibis Schiphol Amsterdam Hotel. If u need a good nit sleep in a sound proof room, this is a good choice...but it cost 10Euro round trip to go into town, and the restaurants are overpriced. Last pic is my tomato’s soup there

11 November 2017

In the afternoon we walked around Wenceslas Square which functions as a stage for modern Check history. In 1968 the Soviets suppressed huge popular demonstrations (called the Prague Spring) at the square. In 1989, more than 300,000 Czechs and Slovaks joined here to demand their freedom (in the Velvet Revolution). We saw the National Museum, the ugly Soviet building that housed the communist parliament and later Radio-Free Europe, and the Memorial to Jan Palach, a student who set himself on fire in 1969 to protest the regime and other victims of communism. We also find a garden, a great cup of coffee...the best I have had in Europe....and a 5 story mall. There is so much shopping options here, can’t imagine it is only tourists shopping, but also can’t imagine how locals can afford all this stuff.
Today we decided to walk around to places that we had missed from a list we brought to see...AND we never got lost. Our first stop was to The National Memorial to the Hero’s of the Heydrich Terror. A wonderfully documented museum to these fearless people....although many consequences came from this, it is a proud moment in time for the Check Republic.

10 November 2017

High school classmate Sandy Crown Brinks has an American friend who works in Prague, Charlene Walters Preg. We met up with her last nite and had dinner. She also took us up to Petrin Hill Lookout Tower where we saw The Statue for Victims of Communism and a replica of the Eiffel Tower. Charlene took the time to email us many times in advance as to things to do. Thank you Sandy and Charlene. A great evening.
Today we spent our time in the Jewish Quarters. There were 6 areas we saw. These cemetery photos look so crowded because when the grounds was full, more dirt was added and graves were put on top of one another. ...But the grave stones were kept on top of all the soil. The other pics are from the interior of the Spanish Synagogue.

9 November 2017

For my birthday Jay surprised me with this set up when I returned from a tour. He really made a lot of effort.
What’s all the excitement about? Well, this 1400th century clock is about to struck on the hour and it was a marvel at the time because of,the opening of the two doors.
Around and about in Kutna Hora, outside of Prague a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The history of this town is closely linked to the mining of silver ore. In the 13th century, Kutna Hora was providing 1/3 of all the European silver production. Pic. 1...walking to the church Pic 2...the well from 1497 Pic 7... where we had an included Check Republic lunch. I did not care for it....too much gravy and rather sweet.
Went to village of Sedlec where the world famous Ossuary renowned for its 40,000 human bones. The Sedlec Ossuary is a small Roman Catholic chapel, located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints, part of the former Sedlec Abbey in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutná Hora. The ossuary is estimated to contain the skeletons of between 40,000 and 70,000 people, whose bones have, in many cases, been artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel. The ossuary is among the most visited tourist attractions of the Czech Republic - attracting over 200,000 visitors annually.

8 November 2017

We wondered around and found the Municipal building where we bought tickets to a 5:30pm concert. The 1 hour concert included The Four Seasons, Canon in D, Hungarian Dance no. 5, and GypsyAirs op. 20. Concerts are offered all over this city. We also found the St. Nicholas Church, which was among the oldest church in Prague, built in the 12th century. We also saw an Astronomical clock built in 1410. It was a very grey overcast raining day, so no GPS would work on my phone. Rather frustrating to find our way around. Weather here seems to be similar to Seattle this time of year...no blue sky, always grey. We eventually found the Jewish quarters, but were too tired to buy tickets and find all the various locations. Too much thinking and too many cobble stones. So we went back to the hotel, rested a bit and then went to the concert. We were early so had some ginger tea first. Following the concert we walked home slowly and had some pizza next door to our hotel. I tried hot wine too.

7 November 2017

View from the top.....then....We found these swans on our walk back. Apparently they rely on people to feed them.
Of the 20 suits of armor we saw, only 2 covered “the family jewels.” And what about the head armor, that hat wouldn’t do much good either. Check out the torchere devises. Gave me the shivers.
Views outside around the castle. Note workers reworking stones. Looks good but hard to walk on.
There are manny buildings around. We started at St. Víta Cathedral.
We took the express train from Budapest to Prague, almost 7 hours. Finding our way to the tram and then our hotel was a bit challenging, but we did it. Hotel Elite is smaller and not as fancy as K & K hotel in Budapest, but it is comfortable, less expensive, and in a great location....50 yards from a very large mall with a decent food court and reasonably priced restaurants. Typical Budapest and Check food are nice to try, but not every day. Last nite, we had a great Thai meal on the Main Street of the mall. Our location is also only a 15 minute walk from the St.Charles bridge so today we decided to walk to the Prague Castle via the Bridge. These pics were taken on the way to the castle.

5 November 2017

Today we focused on a museum called The House of Terror at 60 Andrassy Blvd. It was a sober reminder of the life of Hungarians during WWII to 1991 when they got their independence from the Soviet Union. The museum covered the Nazi invasion towards the end of the war.....in his last hour, Hitler wanted Budapest destroyed...and it was bombed more than all but two European cities. But the bulk of the museum was about the Soviet occupation from the end of the war into the 1950’s. It was very emotional to follow. The location of this museum was the party headquarters of the German Nazis and the between 1945 and 1956, the notorious communist terror organizations, the AVO and its successor the AVH. There was also a piece of the Berlin Wall, the second piece we have seen during this trip.

4 November 2017

Hop on Hop Off bus mix of photos. We got off on About three stops. Our ticket included an hour boat ride. We got o. The 4pm tour so it was light when we started but dark when we got off. You can see the Parliament building before and the after dark.
We had a rocky start on the hop on hop off bus today. First 5 min. Bus and car accident so we had to get on another, then a stop at the Jewish synagogue, opps, it’s Saturday and closed, then to find some free goulash but too early for lunch....finally the New York Cafe..”The most beautiful cafe in the world” as they advertise....and the most expensive iced coffee and hot chocolate.

3 November 2017

After our spa experience, we walked around the area. There is a zoo, park and this Agricultural museum. We didn’t go in, but found a lot of photo opportunities. After that, we took a tour of the Opera house which included a mini concert in the stair case area.
After a leisurely breakfast, we went to the Szechenyi Gellert Spa. The size was unbelievable. Outdoor swimming pool about 150 meters long. Two others outside and too many to count inside. U could tell the European men by their skimpy bathing suits and most of them didn't look all that good. My knees felt so much better after the experience. All this cobblestone walking has paid a toll on them. I liked it so well, I went back on Sunday, Nov. 5.

2 November 2017

How do u get around in a country that has 44 letters to their alphabet, limited “man on the street”English speakers, and miss information. First, we took a pic of the money exchange (no Euros here), then the metro line u are about to take to find the train station to buy tickets to Prague, then know u are going to have to ask about 6 times how to find it.....then your quest is rewarded with tickets in hand. Yes, u can buy them on line, but only if u understand exactly what u are reading, and u still have to find the sale point in the train station (probably as big as Grand Central station) to actually get your proper ticket (or u pay again). Web site I had found said there are 17 trains a day and wait and buy here. It didn’t say no service in town and u had to go to,the main station. So THAT took a few hours to accomplish. But we are going FIRST class AND taking a taxi to get there this coming Monday.
Part 2 of our last tour.... We continued to Skanzen, a museum, which is a reconstructed village with structures moved there from around the country.... showing the way life used to be. We even got a cooking lesson on how to make Gulyas or Goulash. Back to town late afternoon...then we are on our own.
We added in an optional Viking tour today, even though we are actually off the boat. Part 1...We went to Szentendre, a colorful village selling too many tourist stuff, but a nice walk around.

1 November 2017

The view of our ship the nite before we disembarked. And Jay got a tour of the galley.
We toured around the castle district with its massive hilltop complex.
We arrived in Budapest and took a four hour tour. This was our first stop. A stop at Hero’s Square, a wide open plaza of monuments and statues commemorating the Magyar state.

31 October 2017

Our farewell dinner was on Halloween....it’s our last day of sailing, even though we have another nite on the ship in Budapest. The five ladies who dressed up like witches were a big hit. One of them was celebrating her birthday. We had a great table tonite. Lots of interesting conversation.
The end of our day in Vienna. We even found outdoor exercise equipment on the way back to the ship...we gave it a try....
While jay went to the Schonbrunn museum, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast for the first time on ship, and then took off by foot to the subway for an adventure. I found the Vienna State Opera Concert Hall, two Russian monuments, The Belvedere grounds, and then met back with Jay at St. Stephens Cathedral. We walked around together and then had some soup at Cafe Vienne.

30 October 2017

My tour then proceeded to the Weiner Sangerknaben, the boarding school for the Vienna Boys Choir. There are four choirs of 25 boys each, all in middle school and between the ages of 10-14. Their schooling is in trimesters.....and one of them is traveling around the world. This was a highlight of the whole trip for me. We couldn’t take pics during the performance, but their was a meet and greet afterwards, and we also saw the practice room, the founder of the Boys Choir, and places that the boys have traveled. They travel about 3 months a year.
Schonbrunn Palace and Vienna Boys Choir. I toured the magnificent home of the Hapsburg Dynasty. The rooms were grandly furnished where Maria Teresa resided, and we learned about her extraordinary life
St. Stephens Cathedral, city center
A morning walking tour of Vienna.

29 October 2017

A special dinner celebrating A Taste of Austria
On our way to Krems we see a few ,ore castles and some vineyards on the hills. When arrived, we took a short walk around town. It’s Sunday’s, so all the shops are closed, expect the restaurants...and we certainly don’t need any more to eat...but it did feel good to stretch our legs.
On this windy blustery day we arrive in Melk, Austria. Set amidst an important wine growing region and at the confluence of the Danube and Melk Rivers. The temperature is in the low 50’s, but that is the price you pay for a shoulder season tour...you save on the price and you sometimes pay the price.....anyhow we have all the clothes we need and the tour was mostly inside at the Melk Abby, an imposing 900 year old Benedictine Abby. The beautiful library houses priceless medieval manuscripts and marvelous frescos. No indoor photos are allowed....these pics are of the views and Abby. The garden was closed today because of the weather. Even though it was lightly raining and windy, we decided to embrace the weather and walk through the town back to the boat instead of taking the bus.

28 October 2017

After we got back into town, we walked around and found the confluence of the Inn and Danube River. There was a little park there as well. Can’t take the kid out of us.
On our own we took a bus to a fortress....Veste Oberhaus. The views of the city were magnificent.
We concluded our organized walking tour at St. Stephens Cathedral. This baroque wonder houses Europe’s largest pipe organ, with more than 17,974 pipes, and inspired Liszt to write his “Hungarian Coronation Mass.” We enjoyed a 1/2 hour organ concert with a full capacity audience.
The streets of Passau have flooded due to rain over the years. The last flood, which went up into the city 22’ was in 2013. Our guide said it was a law that no bedrooms could be built below the third floor.
Views of Passau during our walking tour. St. Paul’s church, Bishops Residenz.

27 October 2017

Regensberg.... The Gothic St. Petersburg Cathedral stands tall.
Approaching Regensberg we see a Viking ship going the other way. A view from the 12th century bridge, the Alte Wurstkuche (old sausage shop), the oldest restaurant in Germany and the bridge which is still used today.

26 October 2017

Together we went back in the afternoon on our own and toured around the market square. It is famous for this gingerbread and beautiful fountain.
We toured old time Nuremberg were our guide explained a very complex past. This medieval city is surrounded by 13th century walls, with many gates and watchtowers fully intact. From a bus I saw the grounds where Nazi rallies were staged and passed the Palace of Justice. Jay took a different tour and actually went into that palace where the Nuremberg trials were held. Here are pics of our walking tour once off the bus. The black and white photo is how the town looked right after the war. It was a foggy morning, but eventually it burned off. Here are pics of my walking tour. Churches and more churches.

25 October 2017

A welcome back to the ship by the dining room staff. We are certainly well-fed on this journey. Also a beautiful view of the sky and water.
Coat of Arms displayed in. Rothenburg.

24 October 2017

The garden grounds of the Wurzburg residence.
In the afternoon we continued to the Wurzburg Bishops’ residence, one of Germany’s largest and most ornate palaces. It was built over a 25 year period and finished in 1719. Highlight was the frescos in the main lower room and the stunning 2000 Square foot “Four continents fresco painted by Venetian artist Giovanni Tiepolo.
The town of Rothenburg. We had time to walk around on own.
We tours one of Germany’s last remaining walled medieval towns, Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Centuries ago, Rothenburg was ruled by the Holly Roman Empire. It was a busy merchant city until the 30 years’ War and the plague threw it into Poverty. In 1802 it was rediscovered by German Romantics. These pics are from our walk on that wall. There are stairs every so often so u can get on and off as you want

23 October 2017

Afternoon walking tour In the afternoon, we walked around Miltenberg, a delightful riverside town with fairy-tail charm. We saw medieval houses fronted with flowerbed balconies. The Zum Riesen (Inn of the Giants), Germany’s oldest inn, first opened its doors in 1411 and has been open ever since. We had an hour tour and them about 45 minutes to look around, really. It enough time.The only....but as it was the boat had to continue on, then we were bused to catch up. The locks take a while to get through so the boat got a head start. Note the crooked beam in pic #5.....trees didn’t grow straight,....no it wasn’t because of too much beer.
Coming in to the town of Miltenberg.
Over the course of our 15 days of sailing from Amsterdam to Budapest, we will go through 69 locks! The locks are all the same width, and the boats are made to mist fit in. If the locks were wider, the ship would drift to the sides and bounce off.

22 October 2017

This afternoon we cruised the middle Rhine, they most picturesque stretch. Often called the Romantic Rhine, the river flows through one of Germany’s most scenic regions. We passed many quaint town and vineyard-blanketed hills whose steep slopes require vintners to pick the grapes by hand.
The Marsburg castle in Braubach is the only castle in the Rhine Valley to never have been destroyed. It has watched over the town of Braubach since the 13th century. Because this magnificent structure was built with such strong fortifications, it was never besieged by enemies. We toured the citadel, the impressive kitchens in the Gothic Hall, and stepped into the ancient torture chamber to view some pretty grisly instruments. Pictures include the bedroom with a 6’ bed. They believed if u slept laying down on your back like a corpse, u would die...so they slept sitting up. To keep the room warm there was a stove and rocks were heated on it and then placed in the bed. Around the turn of the century, a guild was formed that collected all the suits of armor. Unlike on TV, the knights many times fainted for lack of oxygen or ran into things as they couldn’t see well. Once guns were invented, the 40kilos of armor were discarded. They made all their tools on premises, but not weapons
View from outside the Marksburg castle, a 550’ perch above the river. It was never besieged by enemies because it was built with such strong fortification. Our guide holds up the key that opens the door. There are two families that live here permanently....one is a care taker and the other a regular family.
We got of the ship and walked to the bus for our next tour. Our views on the way included this famous statue and apiece of the Berlin Wall . Apparently the Germans made the wall in pieces in secret and when they put it up, our guide said it was like putting together legos....quick before anyone realized what was happening.

21 October 2017

We took an optional tour in the afternoon to the lavish 18th century residences called Schloss Falkenlust and Schloss Augustburg In Schlosspark. We saw two summer homes owned by C Augustusburg. The first was his favorite where he trained falcons and the second was mainly for entertainment. Townspeople even paid to watch up in the balcony while the lords and ladies ate dinner, sometimes 12 courses. No indoor pictures were allowed.
More views from our morning walking tour. Picture #2 is a Coat of Arms over a restaurant entrance. Note the statue mounted on the building wall in picture number 4. Our guide says this means the people of Cologne do not think highly of the local politics. We learned about medieval and Roman history along the way.
We took a walking tour of Cologne. The cathedral was a highlight. Cologne Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne and is a renowned monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture. in 1996 it was declared a World Heritage Site and It is Germany's most visited landmark, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day and currently the tallest twin-spired church at 157 m (515 ft) tall. Construction began in 1248 and continued in several stages over 7 centuries. Finally completed in 1880, it escaped most damage inWW2.

20 October 2017

We took a walking tour of Kinderdijk, a village in South Holland, about 9 miles from Rotterdam. Known for their 19 working windmills, the village was granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1997. The 100’ blades are framed with Oregon pine trees and steel enforced. Lard lubricates it. Oak wood, which is very strong and has a rare grain, is used for the wheel. It was a bit cold, but no rain and then the sun came out. Our guide said it literally rained buckets for 6 days recently. In the words of the UNESCO organization, “The Kinderdijk-Elshout mill network is an outstanding man-made landscape that bears powerful testimony to human ingenuity and fortitude.”

19 October 2017

We arrive on the Viking Aegir. This is Max the dog....my first friend on the ship. Turns out he is owned by the man who is filling our ship with fresh water...and actually, he is waiting for his cookie that the staff gives him on every filling. All the staff know Max. And my first views of two barges.
Our last walk in Amsterdam before boarding our ship. The bridge photo shows our hotel (it has a spiral). The funky Odessa looks like it might be a lot of fun.

18 October 2017

Because I helped bring up the rear on our bike ride, I got this bell from the bike shop for free. Everyone on bikes here have these type of bells to worn people ahead. I was thinking of buying one for my new Hibike Cross...and I wanted red and black. I’m not sure it will fit on my handlebars, but I think so....
A countryside bike tour which started through the city, and then continued biking out to the beautiful countryside in Amstelland. It was challenging getting out of the city...many bikes, people and cars....not used to all the commotion at once, but the locals seem to have no problem and there are surprising few serious bike accidents. The Dutch children learn 2 things when young....how to swim and ride and be a passenger on a bike. We road along the Amstel River beyond the edge of town passing funky houseboats, rowing clubs and people fishing. We stopped at one of the few remaining authentic windmills. We stopped at the Rembrandthoeve farm, where we visited an eccentric and entertaining Dutch farmer at his cheese farm/clog factory. I got a second dose on how to make cheese (Gouda in this case)and wooden shoes. Best part, free authentic dutch cheese samples. And according to our tour guide, the average Dutch person eats 18 Kilos per year.

17 October 2017

Zaanse Schans...last stop on today’s tour. We got a demo on how to make wooden shoes. I had some that I got in my 20’s and since they didn’t fit in my backpack, I wore them home. Very uncomfortable, no matter how many socks u have on. I donated them to El Dorado for decoration use upon my retirement
We continue our tour to Edam. Wonderful colorful houses next to the canal.
The bike culture of Holland is unique and fantastic! Many people bike to a tram station, and then when they get off, they have another bike to get to their destination. Bikes used this way are usually inexpensive and not necessarily will maintained. If you have a mechanical problem, one of my guides said their is a number u can call....like AAA for bikes. No one wears a helmet unless they are on a racing type of bike. Note how some bikes are set up for two children.....one in the front and one in the back.
We took a tour of the Dutch country side....our first stop was Volendan. Jay tries herring...yuck says me. but the cheese....oh, the cheese. We bought some to take home. As long as it is not opened, it is good for 2 months without refrigeration.

16 October 2017

After the museums, we walked around and found a nice place for dinner…the Amsterdam Bottl Kitchen. Notice the special “Spuitwater” bottle. According to our server, there are few of these still around. The temperature is a wonderful 70degrees......everyone is outside. There seem to be more bike riders than walkers. Notice all the bikes in the background of the water bottle pic.
We checked out the Jewish Cultural Quarter....it included entry into 5 sites.... Jewish Historical Museum, Portuguese Synagogue, Holocaust Memorial and Holocaust Museum. A sad but necessary reminder. We were unable to get tickets for the Ann Frank museum as it was sold out.

15 October 2017

Evening walk on the canal behind our hotel. The first pic is a man-made neighborhood island called Java-eiland. Apparently there are a few such islands around. The second is a hotel that is build partly in the water.

14 October 2017

During our Amsterdam stay, we are at the Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Center. Great location with the tram right outside our door. It was also a Trip Advisor recommendation for a hotel near the Viking docking ports. Nce restaurant on first floor. Had a coffee to keep me awake for the day. The plane ride from Seattle was 10 hours and we arrived in Amsterdam at 9am their time with no sleep. Rooms are always expensive in Amsterdam, but this hotel does have quite a price range. We went simple....bathroom down the hall. This is the city of bikes. Sometimes u wonder how people find their own....or if some have been left there forever. Some are locked, many are not.
Since we couldn’t check into our room at 10:30am, we checked our luggage there and went to the Rijks Museum and enjoyed a patio dinner in the square. The gals on the bike are real people. I watched for a long time...they did not move...they were good. I don’t know how people can stay so still
Bike culture of the Netherlands. Many bikes with seats for 2 kids. Bikes can be left up to 2 weeks, then they are supposed to be tagged and taken away. One of our guides said some commuters have 1 bike at home that they ride to the tram, then another that they have at the end of their tram ride to get to work.

11 October 2017

We are settled in our Seattle hotel anticipating our month long European adventure. We have 5 days in Amsterdam, then a Viking river cruise from there to Kinderdijk, Waal, Merwede (Netherlands)....Cologne, Koblenz, Miltenberg, Spessart, Wurzburg, Bamberg, Nuremberg, Regensburg, Passau (Germany)...Melk, Krems, Vienna (Austria) and Budapest (Hungry). Once off the ship we will stay on our own for 6 days in Budapest, then travel by train to Prague and stay there for another 6 days before flying back to Amsterdam for a nite, then to Seattle....all in all, a 32 day trip.