Danube & Denmark 2014

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We always liked the idea of river travel and the Danube sounded like an attractive route. We started looking at Travel companies and settled on Viking, which was having a 1/2 price promotion and had availability due to their new fleet of ships. We asked our friends & neighbors Cindy & Ray if they'd be interested in coming along and they readily agreed. The Viking cruise started in Nuremberg and ended in Budapest. We planned to stay an extra three nights in Budapest. After Budapest, Martha & I would fly up to Copenhagen for a 3 night visit with her niece who lives in the countryside in Denmark.

Martha & I arrived in Munich and then caught a direct bus to Nuremberg. We joined the boat/ship and our friends about 9PM. Dinner was over but the crew fixed us up with some nice sandwiches and we settled into our stateroom. When we booked, the low end room were the only ones available, and ours was mostly below the water line. Right at the surface of the water we had a small porthole to let in light.

The crewman proudly demonstrated the wall between the sleeping area and the bathroom. An electric switch changed it from transparent to translucent. The only possible reason for this was that when transparent, the room might appear larger. The disadvantage was that all bathroom activities would be visible. When translucent, the bathroom light streamed into the sleeping area. I've noticed this strange trend in hotels also. The sister ship to which we transferred later had a nice old-fashioned wall, much preferred.

The next day they took us on a bus tour of Nuremberg. The have a nice collection of medieval buildings and churches but the most notable structures were built by the Nazis for the aggrandisement of Hitler. They guide made it sound like the Germans were somewhat apologetic for what had transpired during the Third Reich.

At this point in our travels we were not yet on the Danube river but on the canal that joins the Main River to the Danube. We had to gain elevation and then go down a bit to meet the Danube. This involved a series of large modern locks. We motored all night and in the morning we were in Regensberg and on the Danube. Regensberg seemed a handsome city with old nicely maintained buildings and bridges. Ray & I joined the optional tour to the BMW factory.

BMW is a major employer in Germany and in Regensberg they have about 9000 employees. It was quite impressive. The steel comes in large rolls and is sheared into flat blanks to be fed into the stamping mill. This was all automated and after being stamped by four giant tools, the finished body panels popped out formed and trimmed. They said the stamping tools, giant blocks of steel, could be changed for different body types in 20 minutes. The most amazing to me was how the body panels were assembled into a finished shell. It's 98% robotized with giant arms lifting, positioning, welding, and applying glue, etc. The finished shell is then united with the drive train, brought in from another factory. Most of the emplyees are used in final assembly with only a few automated or robot assisted tasks. Different models march along the same assembly line with the appropriate parts arriving. The factory didn't allow photography so I lifted a couple of pics from the web.

Our next port was Passau, where two other rivers join the Danube. On the organized tour we saw a beautiful baroque church, listened to its organ, and had an included lunch in town. We had some time to ourselves so we walked into town and wandered. I bought a hat. Before the boat was scheduled to leave, the four of us crossed the bridge and hiked up to where we got some idea of the other rivers, the Inn and the Ilz. One was blackish and the other whiteish. The Danube was by comparison, somewhat blue.

At this point in our travels we got the news that our boat could not travel any further downriver because of low water levels. Plan B was to swap boats with a sister boat coming upriver. We would tour Melk Abbey, then the bus would take us South where we would board the other boat. Presumably other folks were doing a similar dance heading North. We packed up our luggage and headed out to Melk Abbey.

Melk Abbey was a large complex, nicely maintained, with a fancy museum and some interesting stuff to see. We chuckled at the re-usable coffin, where after the ceremony the lever is pulled, the body is dropped into the grave, and the coffin is then ready for reuse. Melk Abbey is the final resting place of the martyr and Irish prince St. Coloman (variously spelled Koloman and Colomanni). This caught my attention and I imagined that he was surely an ancestor of mine. The poster however shows a less than handsome fellow.

On my list for Vienna was to ride in the classic Ferris Wheel, built in 1897. Each of the 15 cabins hold about 12 people. The wheel, called the Riesenrad (giant wheel) is located in Vienna's amusement park, the Prater. After our ride we headed back to the boat and ran into a protest march. As far as I could tell, the Turkish immigrants were demanding something. Our direct route to the boat was blocked by line of police in riot gear so we went around the block.

Vienna was a big city. Most our time there was organized but we did have an afternoon to ourselves. Ray & Cindy went to see the Lipizzaner horses and Martha & I went wandering. It was a holiday in Vienna (Corpus Christi) so most shops were closed. But there was a procession in the middle of town which we enjoyed watching from a cafe. We then found the famous Demel bakery. We had an elegant lunch, saw the bakers in action, and bought some goodies.

We motored overnight and got to Budapest. The highlight of our Viking visit to Budapest was a nightime cruise up and down the Danube looking at the lit buildings.The Viking stay in Budapest was shorter than planned in the published itinerary, but we were OK with that since we had independent time later.

Our hotel was the Gellert, an art deco marvel from the early 1900s. Our room had a view of the Danube and Green Bridge. Cindy & Ray noticed that there was a classic car rally happening in front of the hotel so we went down and saw the Hungarians and their cool vehicles. I saw an Alfa Giulietta, the same as brother Richard's. The next day we took the Metro out to the park and had great fun at the flea market.

Our hotel stay inculded a visit to the thermal baths. Budapest has many baths, some very large, but the Gellert Baths are classic. They are connected to the hotel and quite beautiful. We tried all the different temperatures ranging from swimming pool cool to hot tub hot, using the hotel supplied robes and spending several lazy hours there.

In the evening we walked across the Green Bridge to a street filled with cafes. Very lively place with street entertainers and musicians. We had dinner at a place near an amazing guitarist, Django Reinhardt style.

We had heard of the famous covered market so we spent much of our last day in Budapest there browsing among the many stalls. Dinner was again at the street across the bridge. Next morning we said goodbye to Cindy & Ray, then caught our flight to Copenhagen.

We rented a car and used the included GPS to great advantage getting past the city and out to Lisa and Rune's house in the countryside. Most of the land near them belongs to "the castle", a property kept more or less intact from the days of royalty. They own their parcel but use the extensive castle grounds for walking and recreation. Looking out their window one sees ponies and black sheep grazing on the hill.

Their house is over 150 years old and they have been working hard restoring it to prime condition. They've hired some specialists to help with the thatched roof and house structure, but they've done much of the work themselves. Rune showed me his restoration of the garage, now workshop. Like the house, it's post & beam construction, the lumber fitted together with tenons and dowels, no screws or nails. The beams are dowsed with a tar mixture which lasts for many years and the brick and plaster between the beams is coated with a white chalk wash. Very traditional. The inside is decorated to Lisa's taste, very cozy and warm.

Our first day with them they took us into Copenhagen. We drove to a Metro station, parked for free in the street, and got into town easily. We saw the Queen's palace and changing of the guard. We had a boat tour of the canals. We had lunch at a very nice restaurant, sitting outside in ideal weather. Rune took us to Christiania, an unincorporated area on the edge of Copenhagen. The people there have rebelled against civil authority and have declared Chrstiania as a separate sovergn country. The Danish government tolerates this to some and varying extent. Cannibis is popular there and is usually tolerated.

The next day we took a long walk in the castle grounds to see the castle. It's not very "casteley", looking like a very large manor house. It had large neatly groomed gardens and a children's play area. Rune had parked his car strategically so we could ride back. We arrived at the car just has the heavens opened and it hailed strongly for the next 20 minutes or so. He started driving but at one point had to stop beneath some trees until it let up.

In the afternoon we drove to nearby Roskilde where we had a Viking cruise of another sort. This one required us to row and sail our own traditional boat. It was great fun and we managed quite well. Shopping had been promised, but most of the shops in Roskilde were closed by the time we got there. A lot of fun activiy packed into one day though. Thanks very much to Rune and Lisa for being such great hosts and tour guides.

Danube (& Denmark) 2014 All Pictures
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