Camping in the Snowies

Camping in the Snowies

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Danube River Cruise Ship: Viking Freya May 9-15, 2015

Viking Cruise Lines calls this ship and others in her class, Longships. They are long and low so as to navigate shallow water and pass under bridges, even at high water. The bridge, manned by the captain and his assistant, can be seen on the top deck just forward of mid-ship. All structures on the top deck including the bridge can be lowered to pass under tight spaces. 

                   Another Viking ship looking very much like the Freya. 

There are four decks with staterooms on all but the top deck. The staterooms on the first deck are below water level but had small windows. Our stateroom was on the second deck mid-ship. We had a floor to ceiling window that opened but did not have a balcony. Other staterooms had balconies and there were two suites located at the back of the ship on the third deck. All the staterooms except the suites had much the same amount of space with adequate shelf, drawer and closet space if you were judicious in packing. Dave and I brought everything in a carry-on size bag and backpack and tote. 

Below are some photos of our room. 
                                   The river was just below our window. 

The bathroom was fine with a step in shower with smoky glass separating the shower and the bedroom. You could press a button in the bath to make the shower glass become transparent. It was not a feature that we used much. I brought along a small hanging organizer for my products that kept clutter off the small vanity space. 
Large mirrors helped to make the space feel more expansive. Bottled water was refreshed frequently. A small refrigerator and a safe were also part of the amenities in the room. Vivien, our steward, was a gem at keeping our room spotless and always there when we needed something. 
Vivien and Dave in front of our room. She is Hungarian and was looking forward to seeing family when we docked in Budapest. 

We ate breakfast and dinner in the main dining room most of the time. It is located on the second deck toward the front of the ship. Floor to ceiling windows were on both sides of this great room. A buffet was provided at breakfast or you could order off the menu. Here are some photos of the dining room. 

   Our dining table mates for evening meals were from Oklahoma and South Carolina. Marko was our waiter. He was a very personable guy making each of us feel special. 

                        Breakfast table

On the third deck toward the front of the ship was the lounge which was about the same size as the dining room. Entertainment, music and informative programs were held in the lounge. Here are some photos taken there. 

 To get to the lounge you climb a pretty staircase located in the mid-ship area where the concierge and hotel manager had desks. Here is a photo of our South Carolina friends with waiter, Cruz, who dubbed them "the Spicy Girls."

Here is a photo of the concierge, Andrea, who helped us find a restaurant and a wine tour in Budapest. 
                                                           Andrea and Dave

An elevator was provided for the more physically challenged passengers. It was located in the mid-ship area. On the third level, mid-ship, was a small library, computer area, sofas and benches where the WiFi was stronger and two coffee and snack areas. Coffee, tea, pastries in morning or cookies in afternoon were available. 

Forward from the lounge was the terrace where lunches were served inside and outside. 

A lunch buffet was set up in this space. Hot and cold sandwiches, soup, salads, fruit and desserts were offered along with any beverage you desired. 
The terrace was a great spot to watch scenery.  The ship traveled mainly at night so the best scenery watching happened as we were going through the Wachau Valley as we approached Vienna. 

Here are some photos of the top deck. We had a captain's tour of the bridge one day. 

Putting greens and herb beds on the upper deck. Solar panels provided some electricity and were located on both sides of the top deck. 

The best view was of Budapest at night. We enjoyed schnapps and good company while we watched. 
                      Photo of Dave and I and the SC gals taken by Esther S. 

       Dave and I with the Budapest Chain Bridge in the background. 

In closing this post I will say that the Viking company and the Viking Freya staff were instrumental in our enjoyment of this wonderful trip to Europe. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Our Danube Cruise~An Overview

Our Viking Cruise was to begin in Nuremberg Germany traveling down the Main-Danube canal and the Danube River to Budapest Hungary. Our ship, Viking Freya, could not travel upriver due to high water and low bridges. The ship was docked near Regensberg. Terri and David Holłingsworth from Tulsa, also on this cruise, joined Dave and me in a comfy large bus hired by Viking. After picking up a cruise ship employee and 5 women who had spent the day in Nuremberg waiting for us, we were on the way to our ship. We enjoyed the beautiful Bavarian countryside over hill and dale and finally 20 some hours after we left Phoenix we saw the Freya. 

                      This is the Viking Tor but the Freya looks just like it. 

It was dinner time and we were hungry. Our table mates were the Hollingsworths and the five women we picked up in Nuremberg. The other passengers on the cruise were established on the ship and  had eaten so it was the nine of us at our table.  We remained table mates for dinner the rest of the cruise. 

     Terri Hollingsworth, Dave, me, Lynn, Esther, Ann, Betty, Alice and David Hollingsworth

I will write more about these nice folks and our great waiter, Marko, in later blogs. We were all aboard and sometime in the night we moved to dock at Regensburg. 
Regensburg is a well preserved medieval city. Careful conservation of medieval buildings and its 12th century Stone Bridge (Germany's oldest) make Regensburg worth seeing.  

           Regensburg town hall and regional seat of government in medieval times. 

                                          Gothic St. Peter's Church

Our next outing of the day came after lunch, a boat trip on the Danube Narrows to Weltenburg Abbey.
First came a coach ride to a monument to commemorate a defeat of Napoleon. Built on a bluff above the Danube, it dominated the valley and sent the message that the Germans were a cohesive force and ready to fight for their country. 

                   Monument commemorating the defeat of Napoleon

Back on a smaller ship, we are served beer and pretzels as we travel to the Abbey. 

              Weltenburg Abbey on the Danube Narrows seen over Dave's shoulder 

Weltenburg Abbey was founded at the beginning of the seventh century and is one of Germany's oldest monasteries. Beer has been brewed here since 1080. The beer garden was popular the day we were here. High water has been marked on the side of a building near the water. 

                                                  High water marks 

The church is located on a slight hill above the water fronted by a cobblestone courtyard. The interior is spectacular. 

                                             Weltenburg Abbey church

The next day we chose to stay in Regensburg and not ride a bus back to Nuremberg. A pleasant morning spent exploring this old city sounded preferable to us. St. Peter's Cathedral, cobblestone streets and plazas with farmer's stands showing fresh strawberries, asparagus, fennel, greens, artichokes, white and red radishes, dried fruits and nuts. An Evangelical Lutheran church built atop a Jewish ghetto that had been demolished in early days was as sparse as the Catholic Church was lavish. After lunch at an outdoor cafe and a gelato to share, we board the ship. Dave wrote a song he began composing in the night and Andrea the concierge printed it off so he could sing and share it with our table this evening. 
During the night the Freya leaves Regensburg for Passau. Dave got up in the night and watched out the window as the Freya and another ship are side by side in a lock. 
                                   Going through a lock during the day

Passau is another ancient city first settled by the Celts, then Romans and eventually dominated by the Catholic Church. The bishop was all powerful, controlling river traffic and taxing all commerce. Three rivers converge here so flooding has been a threat. High water marks were prominent on buildings near the river bank. 

            The city of Passau from the Bishop's fortress, the Overhaus. 

The Danube is in the forefront and the Inn River is in the back. St. Steven's Cathedral is the green domed building just beside Dave's watch. We took a walking tour of this part of the city in the morning including a wonderful organ concert at St. Stevens. In the afternoon we visited the fortress and hiked back down to the Freya through the forest. 
The ship leaves in the afternoon today so we sit on the terrace in the front of the ship and watch the green hillsides of the Bavarian Black Forest pass before us. A waiter brings a sip of plum wine in a shot glass. 

     The terrace has tables and chairs for dining and rocking chairs at the bow for relaxing. 

A special dinner is served this evening. A feast featuring German and Austrian dishes includes a roast piglet with an apple in its mouth. Our waiter Marko makes his special ice cream bombe for us. Too stuffed to move but we are promised special music later. 

        Our waiter Marko is the best. He is attentive and informative and inventive!

     We are stuffed from too much rich food, wine and beer but we are having a great time. 

The ship travels through the night and docks near the Austrian town of Melk and the Benedictine Abbey which is over 900 years old. This was first a fortress belonging to the Babenburg family and then the Hapsburgs who ruled Austria. It was given to the Benedictines when the Hapsburg dynasty fell. 
The Abbey has a school, a museum, a wonderful library and a nice gift shop selling Abbey made chocolates and apricot products including wine. It s a baroque marvel atop a hill with the town of Melk below. The town has one cobblestone street and quaint shops. 

                                          The courtyard of Melk Abbey

             Inside the impressive church. 
The afternoon was spent sailing down the beautiful Wachau valley. Green wooded hills gave way to lots of vineyards with the occasional village. Each village had a May tree in the main square. The foggy, rainy day cleared and we enjoyed the sunshine. 

                         Vineyards and orchards on both sides of the river. 

   Old towns right on the river make me wonder about flood control. 

                            An RV park seems to be doing a good business. 

Sonya the cruise director gives a talk on Mozart and Viennese coffee tradition and Ronald the head chef demonstrates strudel making. Of course we have samples of both before the Freya arrives in Vienna, a big city and a change from the little ancient towns we have seen thus far. 
The Freya is the first to dock and soon two other Viking ships are docked alongside making three deep docking. Dave and I walk along the river noticing the great number of cruise ships also docked. This is big business here. The bus business is doing well, too. Each cruise company uses buses to ferry their passengers to events in the city so bus after bus is lined up along the docks, each sporting the logo of the cruise ship whose passengers they are carrying. 

                                  We take a walking tour of Vienna

                        Then have some coffee and pastry at Cafe Demel. 
In the afternoon, a tour of the Schonbrunn Palace the Hapsburgs constructed to compete with the spectacular Versailles in France. 

    Gardens and vistas with an amphitheater getting ready for a huge fund raising concert. 

Back to the ship and on down the Danube to Budapest. I would like to return to Vienna and see some more. 

We arrive in Budapest after sailing the night. We had a bus tour of Buda and Pest in the morning. Heroes' Square and St. Matthias church were highlights. Budapest is proud to be Hungarian and free after being under communist rule after World War II. 

                                               Heroes' Square

                      St. Matthias Church unlike any church we've seen. 

                                  Chain Bridge linking Buda and Pest.

                  Budapest is famous for its thermal spas. We visited Gellert Baths.

In the evening after dinner which included a birthday cake for David Holłingsworth and myself and the Birthday song, the ship took us on a cruise to see the lights of Budapest at night. It was quite a fine ending of our Danube cruise. 

                                                            Chain Bridge

                                                        Parliament building

Dave and I spent two more days exploring Budapest following the cruise.
Thanks to everyone who has been patient waiting to hear about our cruise. We have been very busy selling our house in Laramie so blogging took second place. What a spring we have had!