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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

2016 Budapest to Amsterdam trip

NOTES FROM A TRIP:  This article is my way of remembering what happened on our trip in 2016.  There may be too many details but read what you want.  Pictures all have captions and can give you the gist.

(A related article has a photo tour of our Viking Longboat.  click here)

Monday/Tuesday (travel days and we lost one day in transit)

Left on Monday from Arlington at 9:15 AM, Arriving Amsterdam at 10:30 AM and in Budapest at 1:30 PM.

As we prepared to leave the farm in Arlington WA, we heard that Delta Airlines central computer had crashed (our airline) and hundreds of flights were cancelled and delayed.  Undaunted we headed out to Seatac a bit early.  On arrival at the airport we were greeted by a HUGE cluster at the Delta counter but since we had already gotten our boarding passes the night before we were able to get our luggage checked in and passports checked easily.

There was a glitch as we waited in the TSA line when Lori discovered she had dropped her passport and had to go back and look for it.  A tense moment but she found it after a 20 minute tour of the airport with tough english speaking assistance.

Our flight was delayed by 2 hours, meaning we flew out around 3:45 PM.  After 9 hours in the air, we landed at Amsterdam.  The Delta cabin crew and amenities were VERY good.  The seats were getting tough to deal with for my long legs.

We landed at Amsterdam and had 25 minutes to get to our connecting flight to Budapest.  This meant going through a passport check and then to the other side of the airport.  The passport check had a 'short connection' line which passed us right through and then a fast walk on conveyors in a beautiful airport to the other side of the terminal.  We made it on time!

It was too fast to really appreciate the layout and amenities at this airport.  Truly nice!

We landed at Budapest and discovered our only checked luggage (1 piece) did not make it with us.  Not a worry as we had full carry ons with the necessities.  The Viking River crew picked us up and transported us to the hotel Sofitel which is right on the Danube, 1/2 a block from the moorage.
Lori on the pedestrian road where we chose our first night's dinner.

The train station, photo taken from top of the "Big Bus" toursit
double decker we took around the city!

This is a 1st class hotel!  We have an upgraded room (from classic to luxury) which overlooks the docks and park.  The beds were feather beds with down comforters... AMAZING!

Lobby of Sofital Hotel in Budapest
A visit to the ATM outside the hotel was a trip as I got $1000F which was about $3 US...  Had to do another bit of withdrawal as I went shopping after to get a cold bottle of wine for us in the room.  $3300F for a good bottle like a Pinot Grigio, ($12 US?)

The three elevators are activated by our room keys.
They all have a window
with a view out to the lobby.
Very fun!
note the airplane hanging above the lobby!

We got a Big Bus ticket in the lobby from our VR tour guide to sightsee ($~30 each) which is good for 48 hours.  We got on the same bus route twice but the second time we figured out the headphones to hear about the sights.  Good fun with lots to look at in perfect weather for shorts and tee shirts.  This is a crowded city with lots of walking tourists and a very young crowd too!  Lots of 20 somethings everywhere.

Showing an Aperol Spritz being consumed with relish!
Note the color.  It is gorgeous, nearly as pretty as the girl
drinking it.
Also this seems to be an expensive city although converting to Forints are hard to convert at $10 = $2700 F.  Two drinks (Aperol Spriz, a new favorite) and two Ceasar salads was $35 E or $~8000 F which we figured was $40 US give or take.  The pedestrian thoroughfare was VERY busy with people walking and looking at all the street side open cafes.  A very fine way to watch the crowd while having a great dinner.  We were totally pooped at this point and came back to the hotel and crashed at 9:00 PM local time.

Sleeping was like being dead until 3 AM, which converted to tossing and turning for a couple hours and then crashing hard until 9:00 AM!  I think we are over jet lag.  Taking the Melatonin seemed to help.  Supposed to reset our circadian clock???

Note:  There are a lot of nice cars here in this city.  Lots of S class MBs and big Audis.  All cars are nice and newish and the traffic down here in tourist central (looking at the Chain Bridge) is very heavy.  I am glad not be driving.

Wednesday the 10th:

Woke up and went to breakfast in the hotel.  Totally the best breakfast one can imagine!  It is included with the price.  The selection of foods and service are top shelf!

Around 11:00 AM we started walking toward a bus stop but enjoyed the walk so much we kept walking the 15 blocks or so to the Market.  What a clean and huge place!  It puts the Pike Place Market in Seattle to shame!  The lower floor was fresh fruit/veggies with lots of meat places, both fresh and cured or smoked.  The upper level had tee shirts, purses, lunch counters, gift things, etc..

At 2:00 PM I had had enough and called for a break, so we went across the street to Anna's Cafe and had two beers.  I drank most of both of them as Lori went back to shop in the market leaving me to watch the people go by.  Very scenic.  The two beers were $2500 HUF (Forints) about $9 US total.

Lori emerged around 3:30 and we walked back through a people only road with lots of shoppers.
Shopping walkway.  Note the number of tourists!
 We got back to our hotel with the wind cooling things down and Lori decided to go back to the market to buy a purse.  Well, she took a bus and got her purse just as the shop was closing but on the walk back got caught in a downpour of rain.  Her one hour side trip was an adventure!

I ordered popcorn from room service and we finished a bottle of wine; VERY fine!  Rain is slowing now so hopefully it will not be too wet for our dinner outing.  My raincoat is in the lost luggage!  Hers is here.  All is good.

At 7:00 PM our lost luggage showed up so I could wear my raincoat to dinner.  Didn't need it for the rain but it broke the wind nicely and I was glad I had on my light coat and the rain shell as it was a bit cool out.

We ate at a restaurant called Salt and Pepper which had a remarkable salad with grilled chicken breast, almonds and sweet vinaigrette dressing.  Cost was $10,000 HUF ~ $35 US.

Thursday: Day 3

Breakfast at the hotel, which is amazing once again.  We need to check out by 10:00 AM and put our luggage outside the room.  We can check in at the boat around 1:00 PM so we will have to figure out something to do.

It was strange to get Mariner scores at 7:15 in the AM but they are winning and have swept the last two teams to come to Safeco field.

We toured the museum in the Palace for 3-4 hours and got the history of Hungary.  The Magyars were the kick ass original tribe leaders.  There is a Hero's Square with statues that reminded me of the bad guys in Conan the Barbarian movie.  click here for image link

We walked back to town and caught the Big Bus which took us to the Freedom Statue park and allowed us the view of the town from the highest vantage point.  click here for image of statue
View of Budapest from Freedom Statue Park

We came back and boarded the boat around 3:30 PM and were very impressed with our cabin.  Our luggage had been moved from the hotel while we toured the city.

Dinner was served at 7:00 and we ate in the upper dining area which is less formal and smaller than the main dining on the 2nd floor (main) of the Viking Aegir (Aegir is the Norse god of the sea).

Boat Description:

There were 6 of these vessels built in 2012, All sister ships.  443' long x 37' wide and only need 2 m to float. 4@ electric driven props shafts, turning independently, with counter rotating props on each shaft.  The props are .8m in dia.

After a tour of the main brain by one of the two engineers on board, I was given way more information than I could ever write about.

Some highlights:  20 km/h top speed, enough fuel to go round trip from Budapest to Amsterdam. Fueling is done in Vienna along with water and sewage dump.  The waste water is treated and discharged while the sludge is dumped as needed.

Four diesels:  One main V-12 of 1000 hp, 3 6 cylinders with abou 700 hp.  All for generation of electricity.  Props are driven by electrical motors of 300kw.  AC is the next biggest use of power and then water and heat.

 Top shelf doors, drawers, fixtures,etc... The bathroom floors are heated electrically, Vacuum flush toilets, Queen sized beds, fridge, wifi, outside deck with two chairs in our upgraded cabin (no charge).

The food is excellent with a standard menu each night and then two or three other choices added on each meal. The staff is very accommodating!  Our steward, Vinnie, is trying so hard to keep us happy it is kind of embarrassing to mention any little want.  He will try and get it done.  Amazing!

We took a night tour of Budapest for our first night aboard.  Seeing the city all lit up was very impressive from the water.

Friday, day 4

This was our last day in Budapest with the boat leaving the dock at 6:00 PM.  We had the day to mess about so Lori and I took off walking.  We toured St. Stevens Basilica which is gorgeous Catholic church and then went to see a large Jewish synagog.  We saw the outside of it but then ran into a very adventuress gal from Perth. She mentioned she was going to take the subway and bus system to visit a Chinese Market outside of downtown.  Lori liked the idea of shopping for some inexpensive stuff as she wanted some harem pants.

Lori and Wilhelmina from Perth AUS. in the subway
in Budapest
Wilhelmina got us to the Metro and figured out which line and which direction to take.  Apparently all the subway and buses are free to EU members over 65 years old.  We faked the EU membership and rode for free.  This was my first subway ride and it was fast and fun.  Another passenger assisted us in which bus to take.  Her English was good  and she was very helpful.
Unknown helpful London traveler with Wilhelmina and Lori
trying to figure out the correct bus.

Lori and Wilhelmina shopping in the Asian Market in
We got off the bus at the correct stop and walked 1/2 a block into a HUGE conglomerate of shops selling everything you could want.  Lori and Wilhelmina were enthralled to shop at all the booths and I found a good chair in the sun with a beer, $1 US for 16 oz. of German beer.  They joined me for a great lunch for $4 US and then went shopping again. They got all they wanted and we headed back to the bus stop.  

We took the first bus but it drove around in a totally different route and ended up at a Metro different from the one we took out from Budapest.  This train was newer, smoother and faster than the seemingly Soviet era one we took out from town. It all worked out and we even got off where we got on in Budapest.  We parted company with Wilhelmina as she was going on a different cruise boat than us and leaving a day after us to Amsterdam.
Night tour on the Danube in Budapest.  
Parliament Building at night in Budapest.  The third largest Parliament building in
in the world behind Brazil and London.
Saturday, On the boat all day:

It was a lazy day aboard as we cruised towards Vienna.  We passed by
Slovakia, a small country next to Austria and Hungary.  Didn't stop.  The sun was out all day and we walked about 3 miles on the walking track on the top

We saw 10 or so of these Russian designed hydrofoils
moving over 20k up and down the Danube.
deck or read in the shade or just watched the fishing cabins on shore and other boats go by.  We saw a hydrofoil go past 3 xs.  Apparently Russian design with two forward wings and one aft.  Maybe going 20+ knots.
Our cabin veranda for get aways during cocktail hour.
We arrived in Vienna around 6:00 PM but just got off for a short walk before dinner.  The two hour dinners are fun and we sit with and meet different folks for each meal.  That is a very fine feature of this type of boat.  Many new acquaintances!

Sunday, Vienna:

Tour bus  dropped us off at the Hapsburg palace.

Walking tour with Wei-Ler who seems to know all about Vienna and it's history.  That was about an hour, seeing multiple palaces and then the Lippizan stables where they keep only30 or so .  Lori found a ceramic white horse for a living room memento for $13.

Outside the Natural History Museum in Vienna
The Museum of Natural History in Vienna.
Then the group thing was over and Lori and I went into the museum of natural history.  This was built by a Hapsburg king specifically for use as a museum.  The rock collection is followed by the largest meteorite collection in the world.  Then it goes on to cover early man and his progress of living utensils.  There is a fossil and bone collection showing dinosaurs, birds, reptiles and mammals, stuffed and skeletons.  An animated and fierce looking dinosaur is roaring 3 feet away with a bronze skeleton next to it.  Then it goes to planetary observations starting with a Copernicus device built in the 1800s and going on to a planetarium show.  This place is amazing but after nearly 3 hours we were burned out and had to retreat to the street.

Lunch was found by looking for shade from a large building and outdoor dining.  Umbrella shade by itself was too warm.  A beer and sandwich was $15 and very satisfying.  It bolstered us to go to the Underground Subway and take a ride out to the Schonburg Palace and grounds.  That was a challenge to get the correct connection, ticket purchased, etc..

The ticket was bought at a vending machine that talked in English if requested but needed a pin number for our Visa , which doesn't exist so we paid cash and got change.  Very cool.  We claimed age and bought the ticket for two trips for both of us.  $5.50 E for the ticket which we stamped in the automated access.  No one was monitoring that we could see.

Once aboard the first train, we sat next to a young couple and she spoke perfect English.  They provided a map of the subway system and some very timely advice on how to navigate it.

A very 'Steam Punk' looking green house.  Inside you cannot
see the amazing steel work holding the glass
We got off within a block of the palace and decided to just walk the grounds.  As we walked the acreage (huge grounds) we found a very cool greenhouse that was built in the 1800s.  It had it's glass blown out in WW2 in Feb and all the plants died.  Rebuilding was finished in 1952.  The young man selling tickets decided to give us a $1E break on the ticket price because we had fun with him.  Cost $5E each for the walkabout in the Palm House.

Back to the boat by subway and then we walked the wrong direction to the boat from the station and had to back track.  We ended up walking over 10 miles as measured on the iPhone heart app.  Dinner aboard kind of took the edge off, so instead of going back out to ride the 100 year old Ferris wheel we went with our dinner companions up to the lounge for a dance/trivia contest.

Our group ended up in a tie with another group but they knew which year JFK went to Germany while we had the extra  question of the name of Don Quiote's horse  (Lori knew that).  Dancing was fun as The Count danced with 4 ladies and showed off the Countess in some fancy West Coast Swing and Foxtrot.  A great night and then  we retired to our room at 10:30 PM for a rinse off shower.

Monday:  Melk, Germany

We arrived  at about 11 AM and our bus for the visit to the Abbey (Monastary) (Old Palace?) left at 1:00 PM. It was only a 10 minute ride to the top of the hill.  We toured this religious based historical wonder and I decided that I was getting very tired of religion.

It was too much.  I did like to see the building and the library was incredible.  The church part just had too much gold and decoration.  No more of that needed.  Lori and I walked back through Melk but only the restaurants were open as it was a National holiday.  It was a 20 minute walk through a forest on an island to the moored Viking Aegir.

One of the many VERY cool bridges we just cleared under.  Apparently if the water is too high we would have to transfer
boats.  If the water is too low, we might go aground.  We had Goldilocks water, JUST right!
The souvenir store/pub/restaurant  by the dock had wine for sale.  We bought two bottles on the recommendation of our tour director.  We had a glass for cocktail hour and it was very good.  It was made with grapes from the Wachau valley that we had been cruising through all day.  Apparently the Romans were the ones to establish the terraced vineyards and now most of the valley has these.  We didn't see anyway for tractors and vehicles to get around on this farming land.  Too steep, but very scenic.
We bought two of these bottles for our fridge.
It was excellent stuff for cocktail hour.
$8.50 E @
Cruising the Danube again going upstream.  We caught up with the Viking Var at a lock.  They are going to  Nurenberg.  The locks will take both boats with about 18" extra width to spare.  The locks must be  a bit over 500' as there is room in front and behind when we go in as both identical  Viking boats are 443'.

Lori and I had dinner in the very bow area. Room for maybe 30 outside and another 15 or so inside what we (most passengers) all think is the Cold Zone (the AC is really cranked up here). There is a  limited menu but our waiter was able to get the desired extra items from the dinner dining area below and Lori and I were watching the  scenery go by without all the noise of the dining room.  The waiter brought us blankets to wrap up in and we watched the sun go down and 3/4 moon come up before heading back to our stateroom around 9:00 PM

Tuesday, Passau Germany

We woke to fog in the AM which cleared off before 9:00 AM our arrival time in Passau.  We disembarked and took a walking tour with a guide using our ear pieces and radios supplied by Viking.  Our guide, Babette, was very knowledgable about this little town. We went by St.Stevens Church and  were given tickets to hear the largest organ in the world which was in this church.  We lasted about 10 minutes and then went out to check out the shopping and sites.

Baroque church.  St. Stevens in Budapest.   The gold is a bit

The weather was perfect, once more, and we did several shops finding a cool raven/crow print and a nice fancy butterfly tee shirt for Lori.  Back to the boat for lunch and then out to walk up to the top of an old fort that overlooked the river.  That was a workout but needed after  our lunch which included a waffle and ice cream for dessert for me.

The Viking Aergir departed at 3:15 while we were napping.

Wednesday Regensburg Germany

Going to
dock at or near 9:00 AM and have a walking tour at 9:15 .

Sunrise this AM out of our window was spectacular.  This is gorgeous country with a LOT of solar panels on the barns, houses and industrial buildings.

We will be in a canal later today that was finished in 1992 and connects the Rhine and Danube.

Ingelin and the Count in Regensburg, Gm.
8:00 AM I left the boat for a power walk along the river and managed a 15:26 minute pace for 3.65 miles getting back to the boat just in time to take a group walking tour with Inga.  She was a hoot, corraling me in by making me escort her with an arm link.  Also, she was hugging me and kissing me because I reminded her of her husband who was 6'6" and apparently had a bad back and couldn't keep up with her usual hugs.

Gothic Cathedral. Probably in Cologne but they all look the same
after seeing 3-4 of them.  This one took 600 years to build
starting in 1247 and finished in 1905.
The cleaning of the outside will assure employment forever!


Regensberg was never bombed so the buildings were pristine as was the bridge built in 1139 (built in 11 years).  The town had a Roman beginning around 179.  The location was for trade at the juncture of rivers in the salt trade.  Lots of churches again in the Medieval style with less detail and taller columns than the overdone baroque style. The Church of St. Peter was built in 1274 and took 250 years to complete, very close in execution to Notre Dame in Paris.
Ingelin and Lori.  A very huggy girl who was a great tour guide.
We tried the beer, sausage and sauerkraut.  No need for more sauerkraut.  The sausage and beer were excellent!

Our boat had to back down the river so we could turn and get into a canal, completed in 1992 that links the Danube and the Rhinc rivers.  It is 106 miles long and contains many of the 67 locks we will see in all.

Evening entertainment was Scrabble and a Dance Prediction (which song would see the most dancers).  The bar at night was empty by 11:00.  Not a late night crowd.  Lori and I came in 2nd in the Scrabble game and we got lots of compliments on our dancing.

Nuremberg on Thursday:

Our waiters checking out the 83' bottom of the
lock as we start exiting.  Zeljko on the right
was our favorite waiter.
The canal allows us to move along peacefully, not that the cruise hadn't been to this point.  The first lock I saw at 7:00 AM was 80+ ft. deep!

Nuremberg was a bit depressing as this town has a lot of  Hitler history including the 100,000 person rallye on Zepellin Field.

 We were taken to the old town that still had it's wall in place from Medieval times.  However in WW2 Churchill was pissed off (or so the story goes) and told the bombers to reek heck on the old town (which had no value for winning a war) to get back for the bombing of London.

Anyway, the old town was 90% wrecked and now it is rebuilt.  Pretty and quaint appearing.

We and 5 others bailed on the tour after we hit the bathroom line, not wanting to hang about for a 10 person line for the ladies!  We walked down to the market and Lori shopped while I looked about.  We found a grocery store in the basement of a large department store and bought some chocolates and salty chips for cocktail hour in our cabin.

Amazing stringed muscians playing 'gypsy' music.  All were
very talented.  Perhaps the best live violin I had ever heard.
Back to the boat by bus at 5 PM  where on boarding we were given a chocolate dipped strawberry.  We were ready for a nap/shower and then dinner. Entertainment was a 3 piece 'gypsy' band playing a stand up Bass, Violin, and Guitar in our lounge area.  The musicians were excellent and we enjoyed this a lot.

Friday, Bamburg Germany.

We were dropped off in an industrial area and bused into town then picked up int he afternoon and bused back to the boat which was now docked in a log yard.  The boat can only fit in a ~500' slip so docking options downtown were  limited.

Another Gothic Cathedral with the Count and Lori
Bamburg has a smaller river through it .  A very picturesque town as all have been.  Their claim to fame is the smokey beer which was good but maybe not my complete cup of tea.  We had a great guide (Jena who is a student here) and she was able to point out Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture all in one square.  We also saw a square used in filming the 3 Musketeers.  She had photos of various things that actually helped her tour.  Again, we went into a Gothic church that was consecrated in 1237!  Whoa.  The ceiling are so tall and arches are so grand without all the scroll work and gold of the Baroque churches.

After being released from the tour group we saw a couple of gondolas in the river that were in new like condition.  Lori went shopping until we needed to taste the smokey beer which we shared.  We found a great Raven sculpture but they wanted $80E and not bargaining a bit!  We will shop online and see if we can find it.  It was VERY cool.

The log mill we were picked up at due to the size of the boat.
We got back to the bus pick up about 10 minutes early and everyone was there from two Viking Ships.  We had to be careful to get on the correct bus to be driven about 30 minutes back to the boat.  It was located in a large saw mill.  The staff were all lined up with letters spelling Welcome Back!  As we boarded we were given a creme puff shaped like a swan!

Saturday, Wurzberg Germany

We docked at a nice soccer field and loaded into buses for a 30 minute drive past all the grape vines to the town of Wurzburg which was the capital of Franconia (a people who live inside the state of Bavaria, kind of like the Kurds in Turkey).  Did you know that Germany is about as big as the state of Montana and has 16 states?  Also Bavaria is the largest of these.

We were taken to the palace of the Prince-Archbishop who had more money than anyone else.  He purposely built his palace longer by 2 meters than the current Emporer at the time in the 1700s.

A couple of the wings were bombed pretty well in WW2 but rebuilt.  The center was intact and lots of the tapestries were hidden away until after the war.  This was a splendid spot with a huge ceiling fresco that was painted in 237 days.  Even more remarkable was the plaster work done in the  ballroom that only took 90 days for all the scroll work etc...  Totally amazing!

There was even a carousel with two wooden horses and two upholstered seats that was pushed by servants.  The lances were there that were used for putting through the brass ring,  They even had a couple of dart boards you threw at when the thing was moving.

 No photos were allowed in the palace.

We walked the grounds and it was exremely fine.

We walked back the to boat for lunch but our boat wasn't there yet.  Oscar amd Gita are a couple we are hanging with as they can walk as fast as us.  Gita maybe faster!  She is a trouble maker and she and I had the idea of going aboard the other boat (the Viking Modi) and having a beer.  So we did until our own boat arrived and tied up next to this one.  The Modi was built in 2015 vs our Aegir which was built in 2012.  One could see the difference in wear in the upholstery in the lounge.  Anyway we got our drinks and the waitress was a bit frustrated by our crashing the boat but after all was said and done with our offer to pay for the drinks, they were free.

The Aegir arrived at 1:00 and we had lunch aboard then rested a bit reading.  Around 2 PM we went back out for shopping with Lori.  Also we had a mission to buy a bottle of the local wine which we found in the supermarket located in the basement of a large department store.  The wine is called a Silvana and comes in a bottle like the Mateus of old.  We enjoyed walking around the town and just soaking up the atmosphere.

Back to the boat around 4:00 which took off at 6:30.

We had a custom dinner of curried chicken and prawns with rice.  Gita had ordered it for all 4 of us.  We are trying for Thai food tomorrow night.  The custom menu allows us to eat in the bow of the boat. That is much quieter than the dining room, but usually with limited choices of menu.

At 9:00 PM we had a glass blowing demonstration in the lounge which had a gentleman who loved his Yagermeister!  Quite a character but very skilled and had a good show.

Sunday, Wertheim Germany

We offloaded onto a road train for the short ride to town.  Kind of silly for the length of the ride but fun.

We got a great tour from Ursula and even though the shops were closed it was a very successful stop.  She pointed out all the flood levels in the various parts of the old village.  We waved to a 94 year old man who was across the small river and sees the tours going by all day.  It is his activity I guess.

The alleys were built crooked so each house could look down to the square from back in the alley/road.
The lower floors were all storage due to the nearly regular flooding.  Lots of flood marks for the past 500 years (?) on many of the buildings.  Now that is all retail but there were some empty shops ready for a new tenant. These are the first open shops I have noticed on this tour.  During one flood the parking garage trapped a bunch of  fish and the harvest was pretty good.

Emily and Gita (Gitaben) show off the snowball pastries.
Powdered sugar and chocolate dipped.
I think chocolate dipped kline would be good too!
We finished our tour and then visited the  bakery and had a chocolate snowball'' with our coffee and tea with 4 others from the boat. There were powdered sugar, cinnamon, and plain shortcake versions available too. What a fun munchie!  I have never seen these before but they are common round this part of the world.

Suitably fortified we started walking UP to the fort at the top of the hill.  What a fine exploration we had!  This was one of the best poking around experiences of the trip.  We walked back down and then to the boat for lunch, cast off and started a day and a half motor enroute to Koblenz on the Rhine.  We will even get our sundeck back tomorrow.  The railings and sunshade had been folded down to allow passage under a lot of low bridges the last couple of days.

We bought two glass birds at the shop of the well known glass blower who came on the boat for a demo.  Turned out he had attended  The Pilchuck Glass School near our house in Arlington, WA.

That evening the staff played a game of Liar, defining odd words and making the teams pick out the real definition.  Fun.  Then 7 of us played Scrabble and I came in 2nd from last.  Also fun!  There were dancers bopping about all night and some of our Scrabble group joined them for a bit and then bed.  I am pretty sure the lounge was empty by 11:00 PM.

Monday, Koblenz Germany

Photo of a poster!  Good view of the castle.
We took a 20 minute bus ride to the top of a hill to see a castle that had never been defeated.  It is now a  UNESCO site.     It was very cool and had the kitchen recreated with fake birds hanging and a fireplace big enough to spit and roast a cow!  Great blacksmith shop, the deluxe toilet hanging out of the wall for the duke or whoever it was.  The place was started to be built in 1200 and in continuous use since.  There were 6 and 12 pound cannon up there that could shoot across the Rhine, about 2 km..

The evening entertainment, after the best meal so far, was a violinist and pianist.  Fabulous!  Great dual numbers on the piano.

We got a phone call at 3:20 AM wondering if we were on board as I had forgotten to turn in our check in cards.  OOOPS.

Tuesday, Cologne Germany

Off the boat at 9:00 AM and into a bus for the 10 minute ride to the Cathedral.  We were mixed into our walking tour groups (6 I think with about 25 in each ).  We were in group 11F today (after being in 11A yesterday).  We might have been demoted because I forgot to turn in my boarding passes?  Not true...
Exiting a lock on the Rhine.  A view of the forward outside dining area.  The folks sitting there are about to take a short
dripping shower and don't realize it from the lock gate.
The cathedral is a dominating bit of downtown Cologne.  The twin spires are capped with a top that has a model on display in the courtyard. Each top bit weighs 9 tons!  How the heck they got it up there is amazing.  The church was started 1247 and finished in 1905.  It is still being worked on for   rehabilitation and cleaning on the outside.  The foundation is 17 meters deep!
A model of the 9 ton top part of the twin spires.
How did they get that UP there?

The twin spires in Cologne

There is a basement where the tradesmen are employed to renovate the bits that need it.  Many are employed and it is a constant work and will be forever.  Carving gargoyles is not an easy skill to pick up.

Our tour was 2 hours of history of the church including the interpretations of some stained glass, tiled floors that told a story,  some relic that may (or NOT) belonged to the 3 wise men and their bones were also supposedly there.  A bit of gold was present but not overwhelming but the tour took it's toll on me.  I had to leave after 1.5 hours and just stood outside and waited for Lori to appear.

A 15 minute walk back to the boat where we acquired lunch and a beer, then back into the fray.,  Lori and Gita went shopping while Bhasker and I looked at the crowd.  It was a crowd!  Many young folks and all shopping like crazy except for us.  We followed the girls and periodically saw others from the boat also shopping.  Finally we told them we would go ahead and sit and have a coke in the shade as the temps were in the mid 80s.  That was a grand idea but the cokes were $5E for two little glasses!  Amazing!

Great singing and rhythm
Beauty in motion!  It was not hard to get swept up by the
fun these girls were having.  
The girls found us and gave us bags to take back to the boat and we were free!  After navigating over a fun stream fountain thing we were confronted by a group of dancing Hari Krishnas!  There were 10 (?) dancing girls doing a marching dance that flowed very prettily.  Followed by 8-10 guys in orange singing and drumming.  They were good and made your feet move.  It was entrancing to watch!  A highlight of Cologne.  MUCH better than seeing and hearing about another cathedral.

Then we heard how the disembark thing would occur when we got to Amsterdam. There are several ways for this but some, who hadn't signed on for an extended hotel in Amsterdam would have to get off the boat by 3:30AM!  Since we are doing the hotel we don't have to leave until after breakfast with a departure time of 8:30.

The crew then cleans the boat and prepares for a new load of passengers for the trip back to Budapest.

Wednesday:  Kinderjjk Netherlands
Wind mill built in 1730 to pump water out of the diked areas.
We docked out in the middle of the country.  There was a group of 8 windmills that were used to pump water out of the diked areas.  The wind mills pump water and could grind grain but mostly used  for water removal. The advent of diesel pumps supplanted the wind pumps and now it is done with electricity and is vastly more efficient.

Our guide demonstrating the wheel to control the
tower position to the wind.
A great tour of a mill that showed how the mill could be aimed at the wind, the brake applied and the living conditions.  Apparently the last family had 13 kids!  I have no idea where they all slept as the space was actually fairly small.  Cooking was not allowed in the wind towers so there was a small shed for that activity.

Thursday, Amsterdam Netherlands

We departed the boat at 8:30, took a walking tour for 2 hours and then walked 10+ miles for the rest of the day in 85F heat.

Pot is available in coffee shops but not head shops.  Very odd.  Doesn't really invite me in for either activity. One smells it but the smell seems to be low grade to me.  But what do I know?

Found a pizza joint last night for dinner with sidewalk seating outside with beer and ice tea.  $23E ($25 US).  Good stuff!

Friday, Amsterdam Netherlands

Had breakfast in the hotel Movenpick.  Missing our fare from the boat already.  I am some what anxious about the gain of weight.  Maybe the heat and walking will assist in getting right in weight.

Found two huge cruise ships moored to the dock adjacent to our hotel this morning.  Another departed the river this AM early and all of them dwarf our river cruise boat!  Amsterdam is on a huge freshwater lake that was made by sealing off the north end of the inland sea, done a few years ago.  Very impressive!

There is a lot of marine traffic outside.  There were 6 large sail boats (40-50') heading out at once. Maybe a race?  Early cruising weekend?

The Royal Barge, last used in 1962 but still ready
for use if needed.  PERFECT condition in a
climate controlled boat house.
Last night there were seemingly thousands of boats out for an evening cruise.  Old sailboats without mast, dinks, tour boats, inflatables, and every one was full of bodies.  We met a couple from our river cruise who took a canal tourboat and found it low with not much vista, plus no shelter from the sun.  We shall see.

The stern of a replica (1986) East India
Ship out of Holland.  Quite remarkable.

We intend to take in the Maritime Museum today and then see what happens.  Lori doesn't want to do a bicycle rental.  This is a bicycle city!  Very aggresive riders and they have their own lanes, motorcycles and scooters are also allowed on these.  One really has to keep an eye out for the two wheelers.

Our last night in Amsterdam was Thai food that was the BEST!
Ma Praam Naan on a small alley with over 100 cheerleaders
going by and having fun!

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