(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|
|The three elevators are activated by our room keys.|
They all have a window
with a view out to the lobby.
|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
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!|
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).
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.
|Lori and Wilhelmina from Perth AUS. in the subway|
|Unknown helpful London traveler with Wilhelmina and Lori|
trying to figure out the correct bus.
|Lori and Wilhelmina shopping in the Asian Market in|
|Parliament Building at night in Budapest. The third largest Parliament building in|
in the world behind Brazil and London.
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.
|Our cabin veranda for get aways during cocktail hour.|
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.|
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
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!
|We bought two of these bottles for our fridge.|
It was excellent stuff for cocktail hour.
$8.50 E @
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
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.|
|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.|
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.
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.
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|
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.|
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!
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.|
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.
|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.
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.|
|Our guide demonstrating the wheel to control the|
tower position to the wind.
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.
|The Royal Barge, last used in 1962 but still ready|
for use if needed. PERFECT condition in a
climate controlled boat house.
|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!