Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz - 2002

2002

DANUBE RIVER CRUISE

KAY GILMOUR, PHOTOS

LOIS GRAY, AUTHOR

10 FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS CRUISE THE DANUBE

JULY 31 TO AUGUST 10, 2002

ESCORTED TRAVEL with GRAND CIRCLE TRAVEL

C ONTENTS GERMANY - REGENSBURG...............................................................................................4

WALKING TOUR.........................................................................................................10

PORTE PRAETORIA .................................................................................................... 11 GERMANY - PASSAU...................................................................................................... 14

AUSTRIA - STIFT MELK................................................................................................... 24

AUSTRIA - DURNSTEIN .................................................................................................. 32

AUSTRIA - VIENNA......................................................................................................... 38

GRINZING.................................................................................................................. 38

UPPER BELVEDERE PALACE ....................................................................................... 40 HOFBURG PALACE..................................................................................................... 42 DEMEL'S CAFE ........................................................................................................... 44 ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI CHURCH................................................................................. 45 ST. STEPHEN'S CATHEDRAL ....................................................................................... 46 THE JEWISH MUSEUM VIENNA.................................................................................. 47 LICHTENSTEIN CASTLE ............................................................................................... 48 SLOVAKIA - BRATISLAVA................................................................................................ 53

BRATISLAVA CASTLE.................................................................................................. 53

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ST MARTIN'S CATHEDRAL.......................................................................................... 56

HUNGRY........................................................................................................................ 64

KALOCSA - HORSE SHOW .......................................................................................... 64

CITY TOUR - PEST - HEROES SQUARE......................................................................... 78 CITY TOUR - BUDA SIDE - CASTLE HILL ...................................................................... 82 CITY PANORAMAS ..................................................................................................... 86 DOHANY SYNAGOGUE............................................................................................... 89 ST. STEPHEN'S BASILICA ............................................................................................ 94 COOKING COMPETITION ........................................................................................... 99 HUNGARY - HOLLOKO ................................................................................................. 102

HOMEWARD BOUND .................................................................................................. 108

INDEX.......................................................................................................................... 109

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BEAUTIFUL BLUE DANUBE WALTZ

GERMANY - REGENSBURG Grand Circle Travel representatives met us at the airport and took us by bus to our boat at Regensberg which was a ride of about an hour and a half through lovely Bavarian countryside with its neat farms and fields, looking lush and highly productive. Hops seemed to be the most prevalent crop and it was interesting to see how they “string it up” to grow (like green beans only much higher. Makes for very pretty fields. Our guide told us interesting facts about Bavaria and the Danube port city we were approaching. Bavaria is Germany’s “bread basket” as well as its beer capital; all the hops grown in Germany are produced in Bavaria. This is also the biggest of Germany’s “provinces” in land area.

We arrived at the port and boarded the M/S River Aria about 11 AM.

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If only we had known, every Wednesday during the summer there is an organ concert at noon at St. Peters Church—Regensberg’s fine Gothic cathedral. But alas, we did not. So we spent an hour unpacking our things and getting ready for our first light lunch on board. So at 1:30 PM we got off the Aria and went walking about the charming, medieval town admiring all the colorful buildings, the interesting architecture, many intriguing shops, and lovely churches.

OLD STONE BRIDGE

Commanding considerable attention and respect in Regensberg is the venerable “Old Stone Bridge” which we happily and serenely strolled across. It was built in the twelfth century (1250-1320) to cross the Danube. What a miracle that it still stands after all

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these years of war, floods, and other natural disasters. But stand it does, seeming to lean into the worst the “Blue Danube” can throw against its stolid stone arches and span. The Danube is not blue any more, anywhere along its great stream, but it is mighty and important in European history and commerce. The “Blue” has long ago disappeared under the outflows of pollution and consequent changes in its ecosystem. Connected with the stone bridge and almost its equal in antiquity is the Wursthaus right alongside it. Today it still offers the customers its beer and sausages just as it has since the late 1300s. Embedded in its walls are plaques denoting the high watermarks of Danubian flooding. The “historische wurstkuche” (Sausage Kitchen) is billed as the world’s first fast food restaurant. Next to it is a salt warehouse from the 16th century.

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SAUSAGE KITCHEN AND SALT WAREHOUSE

Right around the corner is the Gasthaus zum weissen Lamm with plaque memorializing the overnight stay of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1786.

GOETHE SLEPT HERE

St. Peters Cathedral was begun in 1260, so it’s “younger” than the old stone bridge older than the church are its stained glass windows which were actually started in 1220. It’s a magnificent structure with the most amazing & lovely high altar of silver statuary and all. One of the spires is being renovated so it is covered in scaffolding which makes it look oddly like a Japanese pagoda.

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The stone filigree work on the church’s exterior is quite breathtaking in its complexity and detail, including the gargoyles and birds statues outside. We all enjoyed our views of the cathedral, even though there was a little bitterness in some of us at having missed the concert!

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Up at 7:30 AM after a wonderful night’s sleep in our surprisingly commodious cabins. The beds swing down from the wall and rest on the day’s couches and are amazingly comfortable. Most of us slept uninterrupted from about 9:30 PM straight through to the morning and all of us needed that rest after that flying night.

Breakfast was our first order of business, of course and then we went to a “rules of the game” lecture at 9. We were given a rundown of how the days would be spent and what we could expect of our PDs and what they would expect of us (like being on time to the buses, etc.). The ladies seemed quite personable and as the trip progressed we were all impressed with their aplomb, friendliness, and organizational skills, not to mention their restraint and tact in dealing with some pretty fractious and querulous fellow passengers.

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WALKING TOUR At 10 AM we joined a local guide (Elizabeth) for our walking tour of Regensberg. It was very informative to be with her and see all the sights we had viewed in relative ignorance the day before as well as some new ones she introduced us to. The patrician houses and towers built in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were quite extraordinary, especially considering that they too have survived all these years, despite wars. We were told that Regensberg declared itself and “open” city during WWII and thereby escaped bombing raids.

PORTE PRAETORIA

BRÜCK TOWER

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The houses of the rich merchants and nobles are quite impressive and each of them supports a decorative tower which was really meant only to show off their wealth and prominence. The towers usually had an open “floor” for entertaining and other floors for storage. Many of the open floors have been closed up over the years as the weather changed and sitting in an area open to the elements became less attractive. PORTE PRAETORIA We also walked by the Porte Praetoria which had been the North Gate of the Roman walled city of Castria Regina in 179 AD which predated the modern city of Regensberg. Elizabeth also explained some of the history of the city and of Bavaria in general even going so far as to explain a little more about Regensberg during World War II. It seems that it was city’s women who demanded that the city be undefended to avoid bombing and street fighting. A local hero, Bishop Maier, spoke for the women to the Nazis and outlined the desire that the city be left “open” and though the town was granted that status, the good Bishop was murdered by the authorities for his efforts. The house where Barbara Blomberg was born stimulated more history lessons. She was the daughter of a local nabob who caught the eye of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The marriage produced Don Juan of Austria who defeated the Turks in 1571 at the Battle of LePonto. It seems that the ever-busy French colonel, Napoleon, also conquered Regensberg in 1809 and in the process destroyed one of the towers of the old stone bridge, thus accomplishing what Danube flooding had never done. He also gave the city imperial status which greatly enriched the locals and helped to preserve its character and environment. There are currently 1400 extant medieval structures left in Regensberg! After leaving Elizabeth, we came back for lunch on board and then at 2:30 we walked to the Palace of Thorn & Taxis. We found that we could not get into the Palace except on a tour and that the last tour in English had already taken place. So we got a ticket to go into the Treasure Room, the stables, and the carriage house. The stable area was

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amazing because it was like huge rooms in a palace with columns, stone flooring, sculptures and paintings on the wall. Many of the pictures were portraits of favorite horses and falcons, richly caparisoned and adorned. There was an enormous collection of seriously lethal looking rifles, pistols, crossbows, swords, and knives. Then the tour wandered into other display areas with china, flatware, silver service pieces and jewelry. Finally, we got to the end of this enormous stable area into the biggest room of all where the carriages of the noble family were displayed. They seemed to have a conveyance for every special occasion, from marriages and funerals, to romps in the snowy fields. The family was and still is enormously wealthy and they have all the accoutrements to prove it! Their wealth derived from the fact that they developed the first postal delivery system in the world! Post Offices Rule!!

NEW PARISH CHURCH

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The next stop on our own self-guided tour was the Church of St. Emmeram where we were able to hear the organ since the musician for the church was practicing. Even though he was only working on his pieces for the next service, it sounded pretty wonderful to our ears. Those cavernous stone churches are definitely the best sounding boards for the pipe organ. We went to a German lesson on board at 5 PM and then it was time for our Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party in the lounge—champagne and hot hors d’oerves—another great start to our cruise. We had a port briefing about our visit to Passau tomorrow and then it was off the Captain’s Welcome Dinner at 7. Six courses of pretty delicious food: fish mousse, French onion soup, but the best thing was the crème brulee which finished off the meal - and us! After dinner we all went the horse races in the Lounge to try our hands at some gambling, riverboat style. It’s pretty obvious that the River Aria could not handle a real horse race, so instead we had really big chess pieces decorated as various characters (like Dolly Parton, Mickey Mouse, Sailor, Bavarian Hunter, etc.). The dance floor was marked with tape to create squares and two greatly oversized soft dice were thrown to move the pieces along the board. It was silly fun and one of our group won $4 on Bavarian Hunter and another won $7 on Sailor. At 10:30 PM, we all went up on the sundeck to watch the River Aria set sail on the Danube heading for Passau, Germany. It was a lovely evening and a beautiful sight to see Regensberg slipping away behind us. The wheelhouse had to be lowered to get under the last bridge in the city. Many bugs played in the lights of the ship and the lights of our now favorite medieval city twinkled in the air and water. It was all very calm and peaceful with next to no motion felt and very little engine noise heard.

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GERMANY - PASSAU We passed through locks in the night and this morning, but we slept through it all. Some of us felt a big bumps in the night but others did not. Guess we are all still catching up on our sleep. But I am sure we will get to see the ship enter and leave locks during the daylight hours later on in the cruise.

THE OLD TOWN HALL AT THE DOCK

Our docking in Passau was right next to another cruise ship which we had to cross on its sundeck from ours in order to reach the pier. That meant a climb to our own sundeck and then crossing a “bridge” from ours to theirs followed by a descent into that cruise ship’s interior to use their gangplank to shore.

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We learned today that the Danube River is 1661 miles from the Black Forest (where it has its source) to the delta at the Black Sea. The river runs west to east chiefly. There was 45 feet difference in low and high water before the first dams were constructed, meaning that parts of the river were not navigable due to rapids, etc. The Danube is subject to flooding and freezing and it can freeze over very rapidly, causing ships to make much haste to avoid being crushed. This River has never been the vibrant commercial artery that the Rhine has been through history. However, that relative neglect of the commercial possibilities may in part explain why the areas we cruise through are pretty much devoid of development and why the little towns and villages have remained so isolated, small and charming. Our morning lecture on Germany post l945 was helpful in reminding us about fairly recent events, such as the Berlin airlift, the Wall’s original construction, the fall of the Wall, the troubled reunification of the two Germanys and what that has cost the country economically, socially, and culturally. We got off the ship over the back of the other ship and met with another local guide, Anita, for a walking tour of the Baroque city of Passau. Regensberg is called the Gothic city. Passau is on a peninsula formed by the confluence of three rivers: the Inn from Switzerland, the Ilz from Bohemia in the Czech Republic and, of course, the Black Forest born Danube. It’s a city of 42,000, much smaller than Regensberg. It also shows lots of colors on the buildings, though those colors are more subdued than those of Regensberg. The Old Town Hall is impressive both within and without. The General Assembly Room is very church-like due to its having been designed by a church architect, Friedrich Wagner (no kin to Richard Wagner). The paintings on the wall were baroque in style though they were not actually done until the nineteenth century. Continuing our walk, we saw the Capuchin Monastery across the Inn River up on a hill, where now only one lonely monk lives and serves. Anita told us about the new (since 1975) Passau University which attracts students from all over Germany.

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The city’s other two claims to fame include the terrible history of Danube flooding and the magnificent organ in the gorgeous Baroque church of St. Stephen; the organ is reputed to be the world’s largest with its 17,733 pipes and 274 stops. The organ was displayed so opulently, except for Part V which is hidden in the ceiling.

The church itself matches the splendor of that remarkable instrument. There is a modern sculpture depicting the stoning of St. Stephen who was the first Christian martyr. Even St. Paul took part in his execution before his own conversion. The statuary, paintings and stucco decorations were highly detailed, robust, fleshy, and entirely human.

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We were We privileged to hear a wonderful concert at 12 noon for 30 minutes which displayed both the organ and the masterly organist. Though I would have liked a bit more fortissimo, it was still a wonderfully virtuosic performance. Following our return to lunch on board, we hurried to catch a shuttle bus up to the OLD Prince-Bishop’s Palace across the Inn River. The NEW Prince-Bishop’s palace is next to the Cathedral and is currently used chiefly for the administrative functions of the Church and diocese and only one floor is the Archbishop’s home.

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The views from the Oberhaus were well worth the 2.50 euros we spent to make it to the top of the hill since there was not time to walk up and back and still re-board the boat on time. Actually, there was a bit of a problem for some people because the jitney that returned closest to the 3:45 PM sailing was too full and the young male driver would not allow passengers to stand—no matter what incentives were offered him: money, kisses, or threats of violence. However, the folks who were not allowed to enter that bus did find a shortcut down the hill and made the hike in sufficient time to get on the boat without mishap. Back on board, we went topside to watch the ship leave Passau and float on towards Melk. It was lovely upstairs and we all enjoyed being out in sunshine watching the scenery drift by before we had to go downstairs for a port briefing.

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We passed several castles and fortresses, many built by the prince-bishops of the area. Our sail was quite lovely with the many little villages tucked into saddles in the hills and mountains or hugging the shoreline. There are lush green fields with leafy trees on the hillsides and swans swimming in the fast currents of the river.

We went through the Jochenstein Locks which were a joint project of Germany and Austria in 1956. Those locks raised the water level 35 feet. We went through in about 30 minutes beside an enormous barge-like vessel. We also went though the “Meander of the Danube” which is a very large “S” curve called the Schlogener Schlingen. It’s more than just an oxbow because it doubles back on itself after the big “S” figure.

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AUSTRIA - STIFT MELK Another “gemutlichkeit” day in the Austrian Danube cities, towns, monasteries, abbeys and cliff-sides. We started early with our visit to Stift Melk, after having been here 20 years ago. Our approach was quite different from before (when we walked up through the tiny town) and because we actually got inside the Church, the Library, and the imperial guestrooms where many public displays of monastery history now reside.

Based in this Benedictine monastery where they claim to have a “fingernail size” piece of the True Cross as their holiest relic. The displays are interesting and informative, using modern technology to demonstrate changes in the façade, holographs to picture

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the exquisite cross reliquary, the finely drawn handwritten books documenting the Benedictine Rule.

INNER COURTYARD

The banquet room for imperial travelers who stayed here (and in other monasteries) on their travels was so baroque! Pillars, trompe l’oel paintings that made a flat ceiling look curved, fleshy folks with pink soft skin, angels well-padded and glowing with heavenly health. The balcony (loft really) overlooking this room was the domain of the musicians who provided entertainment from behind a screen wall with 3 circular windows which could be fully open, partially closed, etc., to vary the volume of the music wafting or blasting to the royals below. Even the ceiling for the loft area was

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incredibly beautiful. I suppose it couldn’t be allowed that the royal eyes might be cast, even momentarily, on anything not fully adorned and decorated.

THE BANQUET ROOM

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Then it was outside on the semicircular parapet in front of the church that links the two sides of the complex for views of the village of Melk, and the Danube beyond!

Next, our guide took us into the handsome and ancient book-filled Library—also very ornate and opulent in decoration. Books found here are in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and German on law, medicine, religion and philosophy. There was a clever way of getting light into this room by putting windows behind the bookcases which were designed to leave openings among the books to admit the light. The Library was too valuable to allow monks and scholars to use candles, so study was a daytime activity only. This Library is the one used in the Sean Connery movie, “The Name of the Rose” based on the novel by Umberto Eco.

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Though everything we had previously seen was simply too beautiful for description, the real “jaw-dropper” was the Abbey Church. It was the absolute antithesis of St.

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Benedict’s rule of simplicity and poverty.

Gold leaf covered every surface, even over wood, metal, plaster, brick and marble! Intricate carvings were everywhere of angels, crowns, saints and church fathers.

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Glowing Carrere marble was all over the place. It was just so totally at odds with the simple life St. Benedict advocated for monks and nuns that it was mind-boggling. The wealth displayed in that Abbey would have made a Romanov blush! It was so gloriously “kitschy” and overdone that it inspires as gasp from every visitor.

The grounds were flower-filled and much more conducive to contemplation, but we saw no monks nor any of their 800 coed students. But it is clear they are here because the grounds and gardens are very well maintained.

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AUSTRIA - DURNSTEIN We got back on the River Aria at 10:45 AM for our “run” on down to Durnstein, the prison-city for Richard the Lion Hearted. Everyone sat atop the ship again and basked in the sunshine and beauty of the justly famed Wachau Valley as it slipped by and past us. Erika narrated the trip, telling us about the grapes, apricots, and peaches grown on the hilly terraces here in this surprisingly warm micro-climate on the Danube. Austria claims that these grapes produce the best wines in Europe! There were storybook villages from Grimm’s Fairy Tales and storied castles and fortresses all along our way. One expected to see Rapunzel and her long blonde hair blowing the breezes from the windows of these surreal places.

CASTLE / PRISON ABOVE DURNSTEIN

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There was an early lunch at noon so that we were ready to disembark for a Durnstein city tour. The sun was intense and the temperature high as we followed Andrea through the streets of this lovely medieval town were the Duke of Austria imprisoned Richard I for 16 months due to a quarrel over who really won the fortress at Acre in Israel.

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Richard had had the temerity to haul down the Austrian flag and run up the British colors, thus really riling the Austrian fellow. Robin Hood and many others worked hard to raise the ransom for Richard (7 tons of silver) so that he could reclaim his throne and rid everyone of Bad King John. The story holds that Richard’s troubadour, Blondel, wandering the streets, found Richard by singing a song only he and Richard knew until he heard his king answering him with the correct words of the song. Four of us climbed the very steep steps and 500 ft. up to the ruined castle-prison. The view from the walls must have both inspired and tormented Richard during his captivity.

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The scene was lovely but it must have made him wish for the freedom to explore it at will. We wondered if he too saw all the wild swans swimming below him, at liberty to go wherever the tides and breezes took them? However, we thought him fortunate in probably having to go up and down the accursed steps only once each. It is hot, sun- baked and steep all the way up.

VIEW FROM THE CASTLE

On the way back to the ship, we bought some apricot liquor, the drink of this area. We sat on the sundeck again until high tea and then joined the others for some fine delicacies. How on earth were we going to do full honors to our dinner in Grinzing tonight? Just watch us. After a nice shower and change of clothes, we were all ready!

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AUSTRIA - VIENNA

GRINZING The buses met us around 6 PM to take us into Grinzing for our “heuriger” (new wine) dinner. The huge restaurant is called the Alta Weinbottel Heuriger and it’s about 270 years old, functioning all that time as a restaurant. The place is rustically decorated with a pine-bough hanging in the doorway to signify that the new wine is available (that sign is present in all the heuriger inns and restaurants in Grinzing). The tables are long trestles where food is served family style.

Everyone is boisterously good-humored and ready to burst into song at any opportunity. There were old pieces of farm equipment and tools, carpentry tools, and wine bottles and flasks from a long time ago leaning out at us from the walls.

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The wine was good but rather “raw” tasting, and it flowed plentifully. The main course was Weiner Schnitzel, roast chicken & boiled potatoes—all quite tasty. The beginning salad was a little unusual, assembled as it was of beets, German potato salad and sauerkraut, but it was good too. The pancake soup (with strips of pancake dough in a clear broth with noodles) was excellent too. Dessert was a ball of ice cream with a center of apricot rolled in nuts or something crunchy.

We all got pleasantly tipsy even if we were uncomfortably full of delicious but heavy Austrian food. However, the tipsiness helped us loosen up enough to join in the singing coming from all over the restaurant. The musicians, an accordionist and a 12-string guitar sort of thing with two necks, roamed about as well to encourage us to sing lustily. We had a wonderful time laughing and yelling at each other above the general din. Following this rollicking meal, the bus driver took us for a ride around the Viennese Ringstrasse at night. How lovely everything looked through our somewhat bleary eyes 39

with lights twinkling everywhere and buildings glowing from spotlights trained on their surfaces, corners and windows.

UPPER BELVEDERE PALACE Vienna - city of our dreams! We started out on buses at 9 AM for our city tour. We rode along the Praterstrasse where we could see the jumbo Ferris wheel even more clearly and then we circled the Ringstrasse again so that we could see it all materialize from its night-time magic into the clear light of day which did not diminish the handsome good looks of the city at all!

The first stop of the day was a visit to Upper Belvedere which Prince Eugene built his home and his entertainment center. Upper B is the “amusement park” and Lower B is

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his opulent home. Prince Eugene was an ugly little man with real genius in organization skills and nerve. He defeated the Turks outside Vienna, preventing them from over- running Austria, and thus he became wealthy, famous and much adored by the ruling Hapsburgs. The flowers were radiant and the reflection pool dramatic in its image of the building (never meant to be lived in but to be danced in) and the surrounding structures across the street. Statues were carved with history and legend.

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HOFBURG PALACE In the stupendous government complex, the Hofburg, we could see the glory and pride of the Hapsburg kings. Each one would add another annex to the ever-growing edifice until it reached the considerable size it enjoys today.

THE HOFBURG PALACE

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It would take days to see the entire palace, even the parts that are actually open to the public, so we saw only a small but interesting part of it: the National Library (like our Library of Congress), the Augustiner Kirche where the Hapsburgs worshiped, the Assembly Rooms, colossal statuary proclaiming the power of the Hapsburgs.

STATUE OF EMPEROR FRANZ

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DEMEL'S CAFE Next we were treated to a cup of coffee and a single cookie at the world famous Demel’s Café. We had been warned that we could not ask for tea or hot chocolate or a second cookie - any substitutions would be denied! Becky ordered a “light” coke for which she was willing to pay and pay she did—3.35 euros

It was raining on us as we continued our walk, towards the Capuchin Church where all the 140 Hapsburgs are buried in various kinds of sarcophagi, revealing many eras of art history. We reached the Jewish Memorial Plaza which was depressing & grim with brutally graphic statuary around depicting the debasement of Jewish life and Jewish culture. Not far from the Memorial Plaza was the excellent Jewish Museum which some of us later returned to visit.

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The tour continued around the Ringstrasse. We noted that many of the government buildings and private homes had been designed by the same architect - Lucas von Hildebrandt who used a “navel motif” to mark all his work.

ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI CHURCH

ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI CHURCH

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ST. STEPHEN'S CATHEDRAL We left the bus at the closest place to St. Stephens Platz to visit St. Stephen’s Cathedral, probably more crowded than usual because of the continuing rain which had increased its intensity. Later we would learn that this constant rain was a portent of much worse to come for the people of this area of Central Europe—in the form of record-breaking floods just a few days after we left.

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This cathedral is certainly less Baroque than the Melk Abbey church and is actually rather dark inside (more so due to overcast skies, I’m sure). Many of its stained glass windows had been destroyed by fires connected with the bombing during 1945. THE JEWISH MUSEUM VIENNA We picked up a couple from the cruise who joined our friends for lunch together in a fast food restaurant before deciding what to do next; a visit to Schonbrunn seemed useless because of the downpours. So we opted for the nearby Jewish Museum which turned out to be a fascinating visit because of a joint project with a New York Museum wherein young Austrians have been interviewing surviving Viennese and other Austrian Jews about their experiences during WWII. Some of the interviews have been filmed and are played continuously in German/English versions in the Library section of the Museum. All are fairly compelling as are the written responses to a lengthy set of questions which are filed in the same room. Before the War, Vienna was home to 250,000 Jews; now there are somewhere between 6000 and 10,000. Following a couple of hours in that Museum, we found our subway station at Stephansplatz and started back to the ship. It was really easy to get back—a good subway system. The very large parish church near the docking area called to us so we looked inside. Much less flamboyant on the inside though it is a Neo-gothic structure on the outside. It is about 100 years old and functions strictly as a local (and apparently very active) congregation. Then we had cakes and peanuts snacks when we reboarded the River Aria until time to get ready for our optional musical adventure in Lichtenstein Castle - a privately owned building leased out for concerts and performances. We had 10 professional players, 5 ladies and 5 gentlemen: piano, flute, clarinet, bass, cello, viola and 4 violins. There were also 2 ballet dancers and 2 opera singers. The leading violinist was quite good in particular but it was difficult to judge the singers’ quality since the little orchestra pretty much drowned them out.

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LICHTENSTEIN CASTLE

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GOODBYE TO GERMANY AND AUSTRIA

HELLO TO SLOVAKIA AND HUNGARY

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SLOVAKIA - BRATISLAVA Up earlier this morning to go through Slovakian customs and passport control. Then we hopped on our buses for the city tour. Dagmar was our local guide today and she showed us the Bratislava Castle, which began its existence as a Roman fortification, continued through the Hapsburgs as a palace, and is now part government building, part concert hall, and part museum. BRATISLAVA CASTLE The fortress has 14-20 foot thick walls and is painted a yellowy-ochre. It sits atop the highest point in the city. Historical impressions: remembered that the Roman Empire stretched so far across Europe and that the Hapsburgs - that very rich family originating in Switzerland - had claimed so much of that previous Empire.

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BRATISLAVA CASTLE

Just below the Castle is the Dom St. Martin (St. Martins Cathedral) where many Hapsburgs have been crowned. The Hapsburgs liked to be crowned in various parts of their realm in order to cement the loyalties of their far-flung citizenry. The Cathedral is Gothic in style and it still contains some beautiful stained glass windows, despite the depredations of war and pretty abject poverty for the country. We passed the memorial to the Soviet soldiers who “liberated” Slovakia, along with its then other half of the Czech Republic, the communications tower, the upside down pyramid of the communications bureau, some housing and newer neighborhoods. All is pretty drab and grim Soviet style concrete solutions to the housing problem after the war. Then we were dropped off the bus in Old Town for our walking tour through the

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medieval, Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque period sections and architectures displayed there. Slovakia seems a very poor country. Its “divorce” from the Czech Republic has not fared well at all. The Czechs are prospering under the new regime while the Slovaks are suffering real cash flow problems and have no way of renovating and refreshing their wonderful treasures from their past. There is ugly graffiti everywhere in the city, old and very creaky streetcars, squares in varying stages of disrepair.

John, our local guide, introduced us to the oldest parts of “old town” Bratislava and

REDUTA - HOME OF SLOVAK PHILHARMONIC

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then we were turned loose for about 30 minutes of free time.

ST MARTIN'S CATHEDRAL We ran to St. Martins Cathedral to see the coronation church. Ropes stretch across the aisles so that visitors are restricted to viewing everything from the very back of the building. It is Gothic and spare inside and obviously this church has lost some of its stained glass windows as well. We went entirely around the outside of the church trying to get an overall impression (& picture) of it, but it is so closely surrounded by other unrelated buildings that neither was possible.

As time was growing short, we scurried back to the Main Square to do some shopping before meeting our group to return the ship. We bought a lovely Bohemian crystal mug and a small crystal cat figurine; the prices for both were amazingly low. Then we

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found a framed drawing of the Castle and St. Martins Cathedral in a booth on the square and purchased that as well. Bratislava and Slovakia itself appear to have suffered much in the days of communism and everything looks gray, dowdy and a bit down in the mouth. Their politics has been chaotic since the fall of communism in 1989 and even more so after they and the Czech Republic peacefully separated into two different countries. Obviously, the lack of money, both public and private, is a critical factor in the continuing problems of this country of but 5 million people, 420,000 of whom live in the capital of which 120,000 live in the grisly, gray concrete boxes erected during communism.

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We then took time to admire the rather droll public statuary.

NAPOLEON - RETURNS AFTER 1809 SIEGE

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THE WATCHER

After lunch, we passed through a 42-mile long canal which Slovakia built beginning in 1983, diverting the waters of the Danube to create hydroelectric power. At first Austria and Hungary were in on the project but lack of money and concern for the environment, the surrounding farmlands, etc., caused them to pull out. Now there are many hard feelings about the whole thing and the matter has been put into the hands of the World Court for some sort of disposition regarding money, water rights, etc.

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The locks associated with the canal system and dam are complete and are the largest in Europe, but there is evidently quite a bit of the project not complete yet as they await the World Court’s decision. It’s quite a major undertaking from an engineering and financial viewpoint whatever opinion one may hold of the project. The canal is like a gigantic aqueduct to hold the water of the Danube above and away from the land. The water is often 50 feet deep and about 300-400 yards wide. We were asked not to discuss the project within earshot of any crew-members since the matter is such a sore subject to all involved nationalities.

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Continuing our picturesque cruise towards Budapest

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Our last night on board, we had our farewell cocktail party and dinner as well as the much anticipated crew talent show. That dinner ended with a Baked Alaska (a nice harbinger of our upcoming trip there five days after we return from Europe); the whole meal was delicious and punctiliously served. The River Aria does produce some quite excellent meals all through the cruise. The crew show was very entertaining but it was a definitely a “you hadda be there” experience as well. All the crew, except for a few kitchen workers who were preparing the next day's breakfast, took part including the captain. It was a silly little skit with such scenes as crocodile hand puppets singing “La Habanera” from Carmen, fellows performing YMCA dressed like the Village People, little “nuns” doing the Whoopi Goldberg Sister Act bit singing “I Will Follow Him.” We laughed a lot and enjoyed ourselves at the foolishness.

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HUNGRY

KALOCSA - HORSE SHOW This was our last full day and night on the River Aria and we shall sorely miss its conveniences, delicious food, comfortable lodging, etc. Today, we disembarked at 9 AM to ride buses to a horse farm in Kalocsa. What a treat!

The ladies and gents were dressed in traditional garb with lots of embroidery for the ladies and lots of blue flowing pants and cloaks for the men.

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Brandy was served hot - hot all the way down - most of us were good for only one sip for a polite taste. Because an accompanying cake was dry and rather tasteless, I think the mare corralled with her new foal got a lot of the leftovers from those secretly feeding them to her. She seemed to enjoy it more than we did.

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Next we sat in a wooden covered bleacher affair with rugs on the seats to watch the considerable skills of the riders and amazing feats of their animals. The riders were dressed in black boots, flaring dark blue pants, very wide-legged, full blowsy shirts of blue with wide sleeves, and round black straw looking hats. Each carried the elongated, sharp cracking whip which sounded like a rifle crack when snapped in the air. They appeared to be made of leather with a knotted string at the end. The men rode saddle-less throughout the show. One man rode a cute little donkey who could do all the tricks the horses performed, though of course he did not run so swiftly and gracefully.

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The riders demonstrated how the animals had been taught to lie flat on the ground on command, heedless of the whip cracking about their eyes and ears. This technique enabled the Magyars to hide from their enemies more easily. Even when the horses were allowed to raise up their heads, they still seemed oblivious to the whip cracking.

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Then the riders told the horses to “sit” and sit they did, just like a dog sits.

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The little donkey did all these tricks too—just because he is little didn’t mean he wasn’t smart!

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Next, they showed some of the other ways horses have been useful to the Magyars: pulling a farmer’s cart with three horses, 2 matched pairs of horses pulling a typical rich persons carriage.

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The “piece de resistance” however was a rider who stood on the backs of a pair of two beautifully matched horses with three other matched horses running in front of them. The five horses were connected only by the reins in the rider’s hands, not to each other. He stood on the backs of the rear two horses with foam or sponge squares under his soft-looking shoes. It was an amazing bit of horseback riding and the horses were astonishingly well controlled and coordinated. They were a lovely dappled grey in color. This feat was called the “five in hand.”

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After the show, we were invited to try driving a “fly” type carriage with one horse, ride the cute little donkey or one of the horses. Three of our group took the challenge and rode the burro. Another was able to get a horseback ride but we missed out as they had retired the horse before we had completed the burro-riding experience. We found the burro's back was quite slippery and his little belly hard to grip. Sliding off was easy – getting back on was harder. Only a moment’s dignity was lost. After the individual riding and driving possibilities, we were invited to climb aboard a covered wagon to ride through the farmland owned by the farm. The wagons were rough-riding, hard-seated vehicles pulled by two horses. There were several wagons required to accommodate our whole group. We all enjoyed this visit to the Magyar Horse Farm immensely—a good experience for sure! At lunch today, we celebrated a friend's birthday with little gifts and good wishes. The River Aria supplied the delicious chocolate Esterhazy pie and ice cream. Our afternoon was free until 3 PM when we had our second Hungarian lesson. Erika is an effective teacher and she had us answering questions, singing Hungarian folk-songs, and learning vowel and consonant sounds which was not easy for our ears and tongues. All this in spite of the fact that Hungarian is not a cognate language with English since it is not in the Indo-European family of languages. At 4 PM we left the ship again to visit the St. Mary's Cathedral on Holy Trinity Square. There was a Franz Liszt statue for the 100-year memorial of his death in l886. The Square also contained a World War I memorial statue, as well as one of King Stephen I, the first Christian monarch and the creator of Hungary itself. We were to see Saint Stephen cathedrals and churches all over Hungary since he is also Hungary’s patron (and only) saint.

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The cathedral is baroque and quite lovely, not nearly so ornate as Melk! Pastel colors were surprising inside the church—pink, yellow, powder blue. Very impressive altar with lovely canopy and marble columns that appeared to be alabaster when sunlight or artificial lighting struck them - then they look positively glowing and translucent.

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The priest of the church gave us an organ recital on the princely instrument played for the very first time by Franz Liszt himself who was a friend of the Archbishop. The organ has over 4000 pipes and sounds perfect in that lovely building. We heard Bach, Weber, Schubert & Liszt pieces there. Such a treat!

Following the concert, we visited the train station - small but beautifully decorated by hand done paintings of mostly floral patterns. The waiting room for dignitaries was especially heavily painted and highly decorated. The Archbishop could wait for his train in style. This little train station was symptomatic of a larger problem in Hungary though. Apparently the communists had punished the town of Kalocsa for its strong Roman Catholic heritage and loyalty by cutting the direct train routes out of the city. Now 76

folks have to go 40 kms out of their way to reach a station where they can catch a straight through train to Budapest. Why they haven’t restored the service now that communism is dead remained a mystery to us—the tracks themselves are still in place! Our final adventure in Kalocsa was a visit to Aunt Julia’s Tavern where we had a delicious supper of chicken paprika and apple strudel for dessert. We all shopped like crazy there because it was wonderful to see the little ladies of all ages working on their embroidery and then viewing the finished products. We bought embroidered napkins, a baby dress, and some embroidered sacks with real Hungarian paprika inside. We also listened to a gypsy band serenading us through dinner. The instruments they used were a violin, a bass and a previously unknown instrument called a columbium, composed of wooden keys, hit by mallets, sounding rather like a marimba.

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CITY TOUR - PEST - HEROES SQUARE Last couple of hours on the River Aria and we enjoyed our usual breakfast, turn in the keys, and after about 1 ½ hr. we follow the luggage onto the buses. There we meet Cristina, our local guide, who took us on a city tour from 9 to 12:30. We were driven around both the Buda and Pest sides of the city, beginning with Pest, the flat side. The first goal was Heroes Square, where the l956 uprising against the communists was born. There are statues of historical Hungarian leaders of the seven tribes which together created the Hungarian people and nation.

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Other figures included St. Stephen, the Archangel Gabriel, figures from mythology representing law, science and philosophy. Gabriel reputedly gave the Holy Crown to the first monarch, St. Stephen, for his coronation in order to legitimize the Hungarian kings who did not possess a straight and uncontested bloodline claim to the throne. Bordering the Square are the Museum of Art (no Hungarians represented there) and the Museum of Modern Art. The Square is impressively expansive and rather moving considering that ruthlessly thwarted uprising in 1956.

Then we drove through ever more impressive architecture, which were houses of rich people in earlier times, but during the communist era had been confiscated and divided into apartments for several families. Some of these buildings have been renovated, but clearly there is insufficient money in this country, too, for the massive 80

rehabilitation that these lovely buildings warrant. #60 Andrassy was pointed out to us as the address of the infamous and dreaded AVO during the communist era (Secret Police). It is now a museum recording those terrible times, called the House of Terror. People were taken away to that place and tortured before being deported or killed. Often their families never knew the fate of their arrested loved ones. A wide boulevard, openly modeled on Paris’ Champs Elysee, was our next destination. There were many nice shops, apartments and restaurants along this street. There is not as much green space in Budapest as in Vienna, but it is still an attractive city in these sections. However, Pest is the lower cost housing part of the combined city with Buda commanding much higher rents. As we turned towards the Danube to visit the Buda side, we passed the statue of Padre Gillert who had helped Christianize the Hungarians, but no thanks redounded to him since during a pagan uprising he was placed in a barrel with nails driven into it and rolled downhill until he died. Grisly tortures the Hungarians are capable of dreaming up and have evidently used through the centuries. Later the good Padre was canonized and he now has a section of the city named after him - some consolation?! The other statue we passed was Lady Liberty erected during the Communism period. After the fall of that regime in l989, there was considerable debate whether to retain the statue, but the Hungarians decided she was even more appropriate now that they are free again and she stays in her honored position. Between Buda and Pest is an island in the Danube called Margaret’s which is now a wonderful park with no cars allowed. There are pools and spas with natural hot springs, jogging paths, plenty of shade, picnic tables. Cristina told us the park is very well used by all the citizens of the city. There is hot water under the Pest side as well and there several Turkish baths there still in use as well as other pools with hot mineral waters and even a hospital for patients whose physicians prescribe the water cures.

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CITY TOUR - BUDA SIDE - CASTLE HILL The area we were to explore on the Buda bank is called Castle Hill and is the place where the royal palace sits high on a bluff overlooking the Danube. This area also gives the best views of the Parliament buildings which are closely copied from the British Parliament Houses. Cristina told us that air-conditioning had probably been invented in Hungary because the architect had devised a system where breezes blown over ice blocks were circulated through the building so that the legislators could be comfortable during the really hot months of the year. A little later, the same system was incorporated into the Opera House, so obviously it had been a big success. We walked to the St. Matthias Church and a shopping area with miniature stores, taverns and restaurants. Since we had 45 minutes to explore the area, we made tracks first for the promenade along the river because the views were supposed to be quite photogenic and they certainly proved to be so. After much “shooting,” we ran to the Church which has an interesting history which has created a quite exotic appearance to the inside of the building. Outside, the church is Gothic in style, having been built by wealthy German merchants in the city in the sixteenth century. When the Turks took Budapest for their 150 years of command and control, they transformed the church into a mosque, adding Muslim writing and decorations and whitewashing over much of the Roman Catholic iconography. When the Turks were expelled, the Catholics restored the church to the ranks of their churches but left the beautifully decorated columns and walls with the Turkish patterns. Then stained glass windows were added to complete the Christian look, using blues and greens predominantly to blend with the Turkish color scheme. The stone flooring in Turkish floral patterns was also left intact. The amalgam certainly makes for a magnificent interior.

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