We sailed away from Budapest in the evening, heading for Vienna. Leaving the sliding door open all night, it felt like old times being on the water. Skip woke up really early in the morning and sat in the lounge. He’s addicted to the espresso machine in the lobby!
As we glided through Slovakia, we had the mandatory safety drill. It was warm and sunny early and then got windy, chilly and rainy. We stayed on deck as long as it wasn’t raining and watched beautiful scenery go by. I went to an apple strudel demonstration with tasting, of course! I may get tired of eating sausage but not apple strudel!
After dinner docked in Vienna, we boarded busses for the optional Mozart and Strauss concert. The show was very entertaining and enjoyable. There were only 10 musicians and they played beautifully, accompanied by 2 opera singers and 2 dancers.
Our morning tour of Vienna was a combination of bus ride and walking. Our guide, Wolfgang was funny and irreverent, always a good combination. He infusion the usual history lesson with commentary on current politics. The central shopping area is very trendy with expensive stores surrounding the gothic St. Stephen’s cathedral. (I think every town we visited had a St. Stephen’s church!)
It was much colder than we expected so we purchased a few additional layers. I found an H&M store — always stylish and cheap. Oh well, what’s another denim jacket?! Skip found the coffee shop and tried a double espresso. The Viennese coffee culture is quite the thing.
We ended up with Wolfgang again on our afternoon tour of Schonbrunn Palace. He amused us as we toured the palace while making sure that the Chinese tourists didn’t barge in front of us. They don’t allow photos inside the palace but we got to see many opulent rooms and paintings from the Hapsburg Dynasty. The palace was built to rival Versailles and the ornately patterned wood floors and hand painted silk wallpaper were remarkable. The room that was painted to look like porcelain but was all made of wood was amazing. I would have liked to spend more time in the vast gardens which included a cafe, maze, zoo and many other attractions.
Our Chinese tourist poses. I would still like to know why they pose like that!
We slept in the next day as the boat cruised along the Danube in the Wachau Valley before reaching Melk, our last stop in Austria. It was a gloomy, rainy day with fog sitting on the hillsides. We saw many hills covered with vineyards, quaint towns and a few castles. I learned that the churches topped with crowns were Catholic and the ones with roosters were Protestant. Interesting!
Arriving in Melk after lunch, we were taken by bus to the Melk Abbey, a UNESCO site that sits high on a hill overlooking the town. It’s a beautifully restored Baroque Abbey that’s still in use by Benedictine monks. It was originally built in 1089. The monks are known for making products from apricots grown on their lands. We bought samples of schnapps, liquor and chocolate to try.
We were given an excellent tour (no photos allowed inside) and took a walk through the gardens before walking back to the boat through the town.
The next day it was rainy again. We arrived in Passau and boarded a bus for our side trip to Salzburg. Our guide, John, was very informative and easy on the eyes! Along the way we learned that lederhosen are made from deer hide and are treasured family heirlooms that are passed down from generation to generation. They also are never washed! Hmmmm….
Bavaria is very different from the rest of Germany and they’re proud of being Bavarian. Now that we’re in Germany, we learned a lot about beer. They have over 5,000 different beers and each town makes its own variety.
Salzburg is the home of Mozart and also where The Sound of Music was filmed. The central old town has narrow streets full of shops & restaurants. The are many squares and churches. We didn’t visit the castle that sits above the city as it was too overcast for a view.
Lunch at St. Peter’s square was at the oldest restaurant in Europe called Stiftskeller, started in 803. Music students serenaded us with songs from The Sound of Music while we ate a lunch of sausages, beer and, of course, strudel. After lunch, we had free time to explore Salzburg. It started to clear up just as we were leaving the city.
Upon returning to the ship we learned that we will have to change to a new ship on Sunday. A barge went aground due to low water north of us that caused backlog of traffic through the locks. We’ll be bussed to our next stop in Regensburg tomorrow and will change ships in Nuremburg. Oh well, we know all about dealing with boating issues. Having to change cruise ships is really a first world problem. Our new ship, the Baldur, will be exactly the same as the Magni except for the crew. We were happy to hear that our cruise director, Caitlyn, will be transferring with us. She’s great!