Danube Adventure – Retrospective

What are the main thoughts that stay with me at the end of the cruise?

(None of the photographs here will be new. Just a recap.)

A sense of amazement at this * * * * * living. Five star livingA wonder that most of the building s we saw, even if they had a history that went way back, had been rebuilt more recently, especially during the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. Like here in Bratislava.Bratislava castleor Melk Abbey. Melk Abbey

The width of the river Danube. Even when we were furthest from the sea in Linz.The Danube at LinzAnd the size of the buildings in the cities. BuildingsAnd how ornamented they were. Ornamented buildingespecially some of the roofs. Ornamental roofsHow Baroque the inside of most of the churches were. Baroque church

And how beautiful the Budapest parliament building was Budapest parliament buildingespecially at night. Budapest parliament building at nightAnd climbing up the path to Durnstein castle Climbing up the path to the castleThe only really ‘old’ place we visited. Durnstein castleAnd the beautiful Wacau Valley.Wacau valleyThis is now my final post on this cruise. I hope you enjoyed coming with me. Next summer, the only holiday I have planned will be in Dorset. Lots of walks and no cities!

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Danube Adventure – the food

Now I am not going to give you a blow by blow account of every meal we had, just a bit of a taster!

Breakfast

Breakfast was one of those large buffet affairs. Breakfast There were juices and a variety of cereals and fruit and yogurt and even porridge. The normal butter and jams plus a great variety of cold meats and cheeses to accompany a variety of breads and croissants. There were also small muffins and danish pastries. I am pretty sure there was also the ability to make toast and a variety of normal cooked options though I didn’t bother with those.

Here is a closer look. Breakfast closer look When you sat at your table you would be offered tea or coffee. My daughter, who is used to a large mug of coffee for breakfast got tired of the little cups and bought a very nice mug (no photograph I am afraid) in Ezstergom and thereafter presented it for filling. The waiters seemed to find this amusing.

There was the ability to make tea or coffee in the cabins but we rarely took advantage of this as tea and coffee was so readily available elsewhere.

Lunch

Lunch was also buffet style and was largely in the same place as breakfast, though there was an alternative menu in the little restaurant at the other end of the ship.

There was normally a meat and fish option with vegetables and potatoes or rice and such.

The only lunch I photographed was this porkholt. (You may know it as Hungarian Goulash.) I am especially fond of it and as it is an especially Hungarian dish I thought it warranted a photograph. Porkholt I had it with the vegetable noodles and some salad. There was always a good variety of salad items available.

Tea

There wasn’t an opportunity for tea everyday as it depended on when the outings took place, though I think tea was available for those who chose to stay on the ship.

No photographs but there was always an amazing array of cakes.

Dinner

Dinner was always a multi-course affair with waiter service. This worried me a bit at first as I don’t eat as much these days but the portions were always very modest with plenty of space in-between.

The only time I photographed my meal was when we had the final dinner so I will show you the photographs with a few comments as how this differed on the other days.

Normally, there were two choices for each course with an extra couple of options like chicken or steak and vegetables for the main course.

First let me show you the place setting on our last night. Place setting We were told that we could keep the napkin. The bow is just a paper shape.

For the final night it was a fixed menu.

The first thing that happened always was that you were offered some bread and there was piped butter on the table. Dips for bread Here you can see that there is also some olive oil for dipping and also hummus (I think).

After this there was often a small morsel on a specially bent dessertspoon. I forgot to photograph this.

On this last night it was “Veal Liver Mouselline, Pineapple Compote, Toasted Brioche.”

This was followed by the soup. Soup “Essence de Canarde du Barberie: Consomme of Barberie Duck with Quenelle.”

Fish course: Fish course “Caramelized Scallop, Sweet Pepper Puree, Corn Risotto, Green Asparagus.”

The main course was: “Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb (Pink), Sweet Garlic Rosemary Gravy, Horseradish, Flageolet Beans, Oven Dried Tomatoes, Pommes Dauphine.” Main course You can see I was finding it hard to take photographs before eating by now.

For any vegetarians there was: “Melanzane: Aubegine, Coated Parmesan, Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella.”

The pudding or ‘dessert’ if you prefer was entitled “Lord Byron’s Parade” and was a bit of a mystery until it happenened.

The lights were turned down and all the waiting staff paraded in carrying baked alaskas with fireworks shooting sparks out of the tops.

[There was also a guy with a fire extinguisher!]

At this point it became harder than ever to take any photographs but here is one showing the baked alaska on the side and you can see the fireworks have been removed and placed on a dish.Baked alaska

When the pudding was finally served it looked like this.  And I ate it all, including the ‘Lord Byron’ in chocolate. Helping of pudding I had to increase the ISA rather a lot as you can tell!

The meal finished with tea or coffee, petit fours, though I think I would have called them truffles, and brandy.

While we were on the trip my daughter would always make sure she had done her 10,000 steps and I would join her walking round and round the deck of an evening, to the amusement of the other passengers. It paid off however as I only put on a couple of pounds overall.

There was also a small chocolate on our pillow each evening!

Danube Adventure – Budapest by day

As in many other places we were taken around the city by coach and really taking pictures from a moving coach is rarely successful. So most of the pictures I have for you were taken when we were dropped off by the Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias church and left to our own devices for a while. This of course is 1n the Buda half of the city because Budapest, as you may know, was originally two towns on opposite sides of the Danube that only merged into one in 1873.

But first here is a photograph of the parliament building on the Pest side, not as enchanting perhaps in the day, but still beautiful.0417-parliamentbuilding As I said, the area where we were deposited was near to a construction called the Fisherman’s Bastion. 0417-fishermansbastionAlthough what you can see is relatively recent, apparently the name goes back to the time when this part of the city was defended, when necessary, by the guild of fishermen.

Now it is a restaurant but we were told that if we went in very quickly and took a photograph of the view no one would mind. So that is what I did. 0417-budapestlongviewYou can see the parliament building on the other side of the river among other things.

Near the Fisherman’s Bastion is a large statue of St Stephen, the first king of Hungary. 0417-ststephenstatue0As our time in Budapest was limited since we only arrived at 2.30pm, I do not have as  many photographs to share as other places, so I will include more detail than I would have done otherwise. Here is a closer view of the statue. 0417-ststephenstatuecloserThis area also includes the Matthias church (church of Our Lady) which is really beautiful. 0417-matthiaschurchHere is another view taken slightly to the left. 0417-matthiaschurchotherviewAnd a closer view of the roof. As I mentioned in Vienna, I really liked these ornamental roofs. 0417-churchroofIn this photograph you can see a raven on top of one of the towers. Not a real one of course!

The raven is part of a story concerning the king Matthias and he holds a golden ring in his beak. 0417-ravenandringIn this area there was also a plague monument. I remember reading about these in a book by Frank Tallis (a murder mystery set in Vienna.) But they obviously had them here in Budapest as well and this was the first time I was able to get a decent picture of one. 0417-plaguemonumentThey were erected as a thanksgiving to God for the ending of a plague.

Although my daughter and I went out the next morning for a quick bit of shopping (on the Pest side) before we were taken to the airport for our return flight, I didn’t take any more photographs. However I will leave you with a daytime photograph of the Freedom Statue (also on the Buda side) that I had taken from the ship when we arrived.0417-freedomstatueMy last lot of photographs next week and these will be about food!

Danube Adventure – Vienna

By this time I was beginning to feel quite tired and my daughter and I opted to buy ourselves lunch during the day so as not to have to return to the ship. So I hope that my photographs are still worthy of inspection.

Actually it is hard to give a representative view of any large city and many of the buildings I would have liked to photographed were viewed fleetingly from the coach as we went on a tour of the city.

We had decided that after the guided tour we would have to choose maybe just one priority place to view, each.

While being taken on a tour of the city, as with other places, the buildings were far too large to encompass in one photograph, so I found myself picking out interesting decorations and embellishments.

Like this double headed eagle. Double headed eagle Most of the photgraphs I now took I realise are part of the Hofburg Palace , a very large and impressive building.

This appeared to be of Hercules holding up the world.Hercules carrying the world?These horses especially captured my attention as did the ornamentation.Horses on Hofburg palaceWe had more Hercules statues either side of this archway. Hercules statuesAnd I always love green copper roofs. Hofburg palace green copper roofI had to take a photograph of this statue but as with other places tourists seemed to get in the way. Hofburg statueHere is an attempt at a bit of a wider view of the front of the building. Hofburg from Michaeler platzNearby was an area sometimes called the In der Burg or Innenhof.InnenhofShame about the heras fencing.

I took a quick picture of St Michael’s church nearbySt Michael's churchand later the impressive cathedral, which was where we were left. CathedralThey have such lovely roofs in this area of the world.

Now we were on our own and my daughter’s choice was to visit the Snow Globe Factory museum. These are the people who invented snow globes and as my granddaughter was building up a collection this seemed a very appropriate place to go.

When we got there I took a photograph of their window all decked out ready for Halloween. Snow globe museum window Unfortunately they were closed. Thanks to the help of a kind local we discovered that the museum was only open Monday to Thursday. This was Friday.

A little disappointing but one of my daughter’s passions is riding on trams and our trip had afforded the chance to ride on a couple. I took a few photographs of the trams and this is the best one. TramWe had a lunch in a self-service restaurant which was an easy option given our lack of German and desire to spend as much time as possible looking around.

My choice had been to visit the Belvedere gardens and palaces, particulary the upper Belvedere in order to see the Klimt paintings and other art works, especially of course the famous painting: “The Kiss”. We weren’t allowed to photograph the paintings of course but I did buy a postcard and a fridge magnet.

It was a beautiful place and to give you a taste here is one of the many spinx. Belvedere sphinx A long view of the Lower Belvedere Upper Belvedere and the Upper Belvedere Lower Belvedere where the paintings were (entrance round the other side). It would have been easy to spend all day here.

We spent a little time after this back in the centre, having coffee and cake and doing some souvenir shopping.

On the way back for supper I expressed a desire to visit the Prater Park and to see, and at least to photograph, the big wheel that dates back to 1897. Wheel I would have liked to ride on it but by now it was getting late and starting to rain, so we headed back to the ship.

Next week we are back in Budapest to do a little sightseeing.

Danube Adventure – Salzburg

I have wanted to go to Salzburg for a long time, and not because of ‘The Sound of Music’ which it seems is the reason lots of people go.

Saltzburg is not on the Danube so the ship stopped at Linz Linz and we took a coach to Saltzburg.

I wasn’t especially happy with the photographs I took that day but I have put together what I can to give you a flavour.

The main thing that seemed worth photographing during the coach journey was this mountain formation that looks like a sleeping dragon. (Head to the right.)Sleeping dragon mountain Once in Salzburg the first place we saw were the Mirabell gardens.

I find them a bit spooky but they had these people dressed up and standing as still as statues around the gardens. Man in park I was happier with the real statues.

There were four representing the four elements:  Earth, Air, Fire and Water, using mythological themes, which particularly took my fancy.

This is ‘Earth’ and is Hades carrying off Persephone down to the underworld. Hades and Persephone I would have been happy to spend more time here.

I thought all the roses were lovely. Rose gardenOn our way to the older part of the town on the other side of the river, View across river we crossed this modern bridge which was covered in padlocks Bridge with padlocks One of the first things we did, once across on the other side, was to walk through a narrow street with beautiful old signs above the shops. Old street The thing that struck me most and made me smile was the fact that McDonalds were not allowed to have their normal brash sign ouside their restaurant but had to have this subdued version. McDonald's sign Of course we had to be shown Mozart’s birthplace. Yes that is a ‘Spar’ below!Mozart's birthplace We walked from square to square seeing all sorts of buildings and I got a bit bemused. So I have just chosen this photograph to share with you. Square with fountain There was an old cemetery which was well worth a visit. This photograph is probably the best one to give you an idea of what it was like. Cemetery After lunch, which was a bit disappointing as the sandwiches had added cucumber and tomato which made them a bit soggy, we crossed back to the other side of the river and I took a few photographs of this interesting set of fountains. Fountains By now I was feeling a bit tired, so of course we had to stop for coffee and cake. We found a charming cafe Cafe and I found it hard to choose which cake to have. In the end I had the raspberry topped one you can see on the left. Cakes It was delicious!

The next photographs I took were ones of the water as we travelled into a lock on the way back down the river, as I showed you a fortnight ago.

Next time Vienna.

Danube Adventure – Melk Abbey

Melk Abbey was amazing and I took lots of photographs though when we were being taken on a guided tour it was fairly speedy and I would have liked more time.

I’ve been aiming for twelve photographs of each location but I have had to stretch to fifteen here.

Melk is very much a working abbey but I imagine that the tourists help supplement their income.

Here we are at the main entrance to the abbey.Arriving at Melk abbeyWe were left to wander around in the outer courtyards for a while.Outer courtyardThe sun was very bright and it was impossible to take in the whole area in one photograph.

The inner courtyard was more interesting. Side with towerI especially liked the four modern paintings of the cardinal virtues. (One on each side).

The one you can see in the above photograph was probably my favourite. It represented Wisdom (or Prudence).Wisdom paintingI photgraphed all four but not to overwhelm you I will just share the one opposite, under the clock, which represented Justice.Justice painting with clockAs it was so hot, we eventually settled for resting in the area between the two courtyards and I had to take a photograph of the ceiling. Outer courtyard ceilingas it was so beautiful.

We were taken inside and one of the areas we went to contained many old vestements and religious artefacts. The light was low and everything contained in glass cases so taking photographs was tricky.

Just as an example I have chosen this black copeBlack copeand this golden chalice. Gold chaliceWe moved on later to a large hall with a trompe d’oeil ceiling. I couldn’t photograph the whole ceiling but I have included these two photographs to show how the effect worked well when standing in the centrePart of trompe d'oeil ceilingBut if you moved to the edge you could see that it was an illusion as the persepective changed.Edge of ceilingAnother amazing trompe d’oeil effect was this spiral staircase. Spiral staircaseIt is hard to believe that this is just a flat painted surface, it seemed so real at the time.

Here is a close up so you can see that it is indeed just paint. Painting close up(We did also visit the library but I didn’t take any photographs there it was too tricky.)

We finished in the Abbey church Abbey churchbefore going out into the gardens. Abbey gardenCan you see the cut out animal shapes around the place?

What I especially liked round the back was this sort of Zen garden. Zen gardenFrom Melk we travelled on to Linz and a day trip to Salzburg which will be what I share next Thursday.

Danube Adventure – Locks & Wacau valley

I am someone who tends to believe in saving the best to last so I am going to talk about the locks along the river Danube first as the photographs I took here were all taken in a hurry and just to give a memory.

A lot of the time we went through the locks at night or during supper so that made it even harder to get any photographs.

I was surprised to discover that a river had locks but did not think at the time to ask why. Searching on Google it was hard to find a definitive answer but it does appear to be about the need to use the river for navigation.

The locks are not at all like on a British canal where you mostly have a couple of gates and one place in between for a boat.

Here the separate locks cover a large part of the river as in this photograph. Approaching locksOf course if the locks don’t cover the full width the rest of the width has to be blocked off.

The locks are very narrow and the walls can be very close. Here is a photograph I took from our cabin with the window open. Wall of lockI managed to get a photograph at one point as we rose up out of a lock. Rising above lockHere is one showing what being in a lock does to the water. Wavy waterThis was taken as we were entering one on our way back.

Those are the best of my few lock pictures so now on to the Wacau valley.

The Wacau valley starts before Durnstein but that is where we first encountered it. On one side it was wooded and on the other (the south facing side) there were terraces of grape vines.

I didn’t take many photographs of these but you can see them here as we negotiated a bend in the river.Wacau valleyGoing through the Wacau valley I was mostly happy just to lie back and take it all in but we were given a running commentry on what we could see including some stories so I did get up to take a few photographs.

This town along the bank. Wacau townYou can see the terraces in the background.

The ‘Nose’! The noseThis church. Wacau churchAnd this castle. Wacau castleWe then arrived in Melk after lunch and that is what I will tell you about next Thursday.

Danube Adventure – Dürnstein

On Wednesday we awoke at Dürnstein for a day when we would visit Dürnstein and Melk and travel through the Wachau Valley. This post is just about our time in Dürnstein.First view of castleDürnstein is best know as the place where Richard the Lionheart (King of England at the time of the third crusade) was held captive by Duke Leopold V of Austria.

Hence climbing up to the castle ruins high above the town was what my daughter and I were most interested in. And since I love walking and nature even more than interesting cities, it was something of a highlight of the trip.

We had been given a map and instructions on how to reach the castle but we didn’t really start thinking about such things till we were wandering along and realised we were at a bit of a loss. Getting lostWe did find this little gift shop however Gift shopwhere I bought my son a T-shirt.

There were lot of tourist/child interesting displays about Richard the Lionheart along the way which I didn’t bother to photograph.

But I did photograph the other notable thing in the town which is the blue tower of Dürnstein Abbey. Blue towerRemember this blue tower you will be seeing it again.

Eventually we found steps up to the castle. I say steps but as you will see they were very uneven and non-existant in places  so we clambered as well as climbed.

With my daughter striding ahead and other people on the steps there wasn’t much opportunity for looking behind Looking behindor ahead Looking aheadand taking photographs.

However, after a while, my heart was pounding so hard, I stopped and took my pulse and when I got to twelve before I got to five seconds, I decided that a short rest might be in order.

This allowed me time to take a few photographs.

Back down to the town. Looking down to riverLooking up to the castle. Looking up to castleand out to the valley beyond the river. Looking out across the riverMy daughter was happy to rest for a bit too but eventually we started again and reached the castle. Taking photgraphsYou can see my shadow and hers in this photograph.

I took her picture against the ruins. My daughterand another view to show how high we now were.Blue tower down belowAs we left the castle and looked for the alternative route back, I photographed this arch Archwayand this plaque of the three leopards of England. 3 leopards of Englandamong other things.

We decided to return by the path we were told was the way up to the castle.Path back down(The steps being the way down). [Personally I was much happier climbing up those steps than I would have been trying to go down them!]

This was a much easier walk but not so picturesque and exciting as being among the trees.

The last photgraph I took before returning to the ship. Grapes and cartYou can see the vines and an old cart for transporting the grapes that had been decorated as a garden ornament.

Next Thursday I will be showing you a little more about the river, the locks and the Wachau Valley.

Danube Adventure – Bratislava

The next day, Tuesday, we had sailed on to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.

I noticed on the whole of my trip that in these big cities the buildings seemed very large, too large to easily photograph in total even with a fairly wide angle lens, so I found myself very often taking pictures of small pieces of decoration of which there was a lot.

The most striking thing about Bratislava was how much art work there was everywhere so this is what I have concentrated on showing you. (Not to overwhelm you with too many photographs.) Perhaps you can see the city in the background!

This statue of a fairy was one of the first things that caught my eye when we got off the ‘Noddy train’ that took us into Bratislava from the river.Fairy statueOur first visit was to the castle.The castleYou have to imagine another half of this to the right, a mirror image of what you can see.

From here I took a sneak peek down towards the river.View towards the riverAs we were high up I was also able to look across to the other side of the river towards the industrial Industrial areaand residential districts. Residential areaWe didn’t have time to visit it but there is a restaurant in that saucer shaped construction at the top of the bridge tower.

Then we went into the old city – very picturesque.

The tower you can see is at St Michael’s gate where we entered the old city. Near St Michael's gateThere were a lot of interesting and amusing statues around the place.

Here is a Napoleon with his back towards the French embassy.NapoleonWe were shown places where Napoleon’s cannon balls are still embeded in walls!

Also this statue made in memory of an old citizen who was once a familiar sight round the city, CitizenWe were told  a charming story about him.

And here is a man climbing out of a manhole. Man in holeI also took a quick picture in passing of this madonna and child up high on a building. Madonna and childand this dragon Dragonand lion Lionthat adorned an archway.

Before we went to be taken back to the ship Catherine and I wandered in a park where there was an exhibition of photographs: colour and black and white.

Here is one of the monochrome displays. Photo exhibitionFurther along we found a satue of Hans Christian Andersen. Hans Christian Andersenand of course I had to photograph this horse with a crochet headpiece. Horse with crochet headpieceNot a comprehensive view of the city but I hope you enjoyed it.

Danube Adventure – Esztergom

Writing these posts is a great way of attaching my memories of the correct places.

On Monday morning we awoke in Esztergom having sailed there over night. Still in Hungary, Esztergom was a lovely small city. EsztergomThe weather was very warm and sunny, almost too sunny for photographs and the sun was not always in the right place. Still I have found more than enough of my many photographs that I think are worth sharing.

Things I saw along the way as we walked from the ship.

This statue of Erzsebet (Elizabeth) a popular empress of Austria/Hungary.Elizabeth statueI thought it was a shame about the bird droppings. I also notice it has a palm leaf like the statue in Budapest.

This passageway. ArchesI would have loved to go exploring down to the other end!

These bells. BellsThe main attraction seemed to be the basilica. On the way to the basilicaIt was quite restrained for a baroque church which I liked and I took lots of photographs. Basilica naveI will just share four more.

The painting over the main altar.Painting over main altar According to Wikipedia this painting of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Girolamo Michelangelo Grigoletti is the largest painting in the world painted on a single piece of canvas.

I had to take a picture of the St Joseph altar as my parish church is St Joseph’s St Joseph altarThey also had a statue of St Elizabeth of Hungary, my confirmation saint. St Elizabeth of Hungary statueand how could I leave out this magnificent icon of the first king – St Stephen. St Stephen iconAfter this we decided to go up the tower to get a view over the city – many, many steps. Part way up looking back at the river.View through windowThen up at the top. View with towerA lovely clear day.View with towerThe city nestling in the hills.

Back down again and returning to the ship we passed the statue of St Stephen’s coronation. St Stephen coronation statueI hope you enjoyed this small excursion into part of Esztergom.