Budapest

Budapest is the capital of Hungary with its two cities on the Danube River, Buda on the western bank, and Pest on the eastern bank. As our ship sailed the Danube into Budapest it was a magnificent vision. The Parliament Building greets all with its 691 rooms. It is their crown jewel and tours are available.

Below are pictures of other structures along the Danube. The Palace is now an exceptional art museum and having toured it I can attest to the quality it possesses. Worth the visit.

And we caught a bride and groom as we sailed past..

Graceful bridges, statutes, and architecture also adorned the Danube cruise as approach to Budapest docking neared.

Once docked our tour began in Hero Square. Built in 1896 as a military memorial Angel Gabriel is the key figure holding the Hungarian crown and cross atop the tower. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After World War II one third of Hungary was in ruins. A moving tribute to the Jews lost in World War II was found next to the Danube. Here Jews were told to remove their shoes then gunned down by Nazi soldiers.

Shoe Memorial Picture courtesy of Anil Gola

Then in 1956 the Russians invaded with 22,000 disappearing during this time. Now Hungary is free of Russian rule and is a parliamentary democratic republic with a social security system, universal health care, and universal free secondary education. It holds the world’s 58th largest economy and 10% of its GDP is based on tourism. (Info: Auntie Google).

From here it was time to explore Budapest’s pastries, museums, a historic Catholic Church and pass palace guards.

Matthias Church or Church of Our Lady is in Holy Trinity Square. This Gothic church has spectacular views of the City and during its 700 year history held coronations.

In this area are many gift shops, restaurants, and the oldest pastry shop in the City. It bustles with tourists and citizens. For those seeking good luck locate the statute of Andras Hadik and give his horse’s testicles a rub then watch your fortune change! I gave it my all and will let you know. 🙂

Tour concluded and my journey began…

Walking to the museum one passes palace guards and gardens. The streets of Budapest are cobblestones so wear thick soled shoes and pay attention.

Further down the walk the Museum looms with its building as lovely as its collection. One can spend an afternoon or a couple hours here taking in the masterpieces of international art. Cezanne, Pissarro, and Monet all hold a place here.

Post Museum I located the Great Market Hall of Budapest and what a delightful shopping experience this was. I even managed to bring home pepperoni which I savored daily. They have everything from soup to nuts, and did I mention tourism information??? And for those cooks out there, don’t forget the paprika!

After this I explored the streets of Budapest with preparations being made for Christmas Markets.

Then on to the Basilica of St. Stephen. He was the first king of Hungary and his mummified right hand is housed in the church.

And one last church before my final destination..

Budapest is a city of caves and minerals. There are tours available for those with spelunking in their blood, however with time at a premium, I elected to see a cave at Gellert Hill. Here is St. Ivan’s Cave, believed to be where the hermit lived using thermal water to heal the sick.

It now is a church and place of quiet meditation.

Across the street is the Gellert Thermal Bath, of which I had the pleasure to visit and soak. What a relaxing experience.

Gellert Thermal Bath

This is the lobby where you pay for the experience. Remember to bring a bathing suit and towel. I forgot the towel and had to blow myself dry. Ha! Ha!

The pool area is for swimming and if you wish to partake a bathing cap is required. There are also soaking tubs with various temperatures, saunas, steam rooms, and an outside pool. Cost is approximately 20 USD, but bring euros.

And now a short captivating walk back to the ship. How beautiful the bridge is at twilight.

Final ship entertainment was an on board Hungarian music and dance fest.

Leaving me with wonderful..

Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava is another interesting town along the Danube first settled by Celtics. It currently reigns as Slovakia’s capital and it’s culture, charm, and friendly citizens are alluring.

Our tour began in center square enjoying the architecture of this historic old town. Fortunately much of the 15th century architecture remains as Bratislava saw few bombings in the World War.

Dolls in Native Dress

While the town remained intact sadly 70,000 of its Jewish citizens went to concentration camps with 53,000 never returning. A beautiful memorial honors these citizens.

There currently are 4,000 Jews in Bratislava with one synagogue. Believe it or not, their rabbi hails from New Jersey.

Adjacent to the memorial is St. Martin’s Cathedral where 8 Hungarian Kings were coronated. Pictured below is the choir practicing for Christmas mass.

The town with its unique architecture has also been seen in the movie The Peacemaker starring Nicole Kidman and George Clooney.

Photo by Edgar Colomba on Pexels.com

Shops sell local wines, honey, and Bratislava roll, a poppy seed filled pastry to die for.

Post tour in city square was a festival with music, food, and wine from local vineyards. Here I sampled the local fare of potato pancakes, sauerkraut, and chicken as well as several varieties of red wine. Delicious!

Slovakia wine is quite good and I particularly enjoyed the warmed red wine. Residents were friendly as I sat among them and listened to American music. The Beach Boys still rock in Slovakia as does jazz.

And we are not done..

Bratislava has an amazing castle which looms over the town. While it states closure is 5 they do not allow admission past 4, so arriving at 4:02 I was refused entry. However, the views were worth the hike and if you visit in spring and summer there are amazing gardens.

And this is the view you have…

This asymmetrical suspension bridge is the second of it’s kind in the world. The first is found in Maine, that being the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and I have seen that vision as well. Gee, I feel like I’ve won Double Jeopardy!

And here are some night pics from and of the Bridge.

This concludes the Bratislava tour. And to all the friendly folk living there..

Vienna

Vienna is music and after the evening concert this adage rings true.

However, it also is a city of pastry and chocolate.

And one of faith, St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

And architecture..

But did I mention Lipizzaner Stallions? Our tour was lucky enough to see the passing of not one,

but two.

The Lipizzaner Stallions are a 450 year old tradition in Vienna. They train 6 days a week and rest on the 7th. There are currently 72 horses and if you speak German you can apply for the honor of working with these horses.

From horses we moved to the royal Winter Palace and the porch from where Hitler gave a speech annexing Austria to the German Empire.

And the Parliament buildings which after 150 years are being remodeled.

Vienna is where Dr. Sigmund Freud studied and practiced psychoanalysis, and Mozart lived the last 10 years of his life. But in modern day this vibrant City of 8.8 million is rated one of the best cities in the world to live. While WWII damaged 30% of the City much has been renovated. The Viennese have an extensive subway, tram, and bus system with residents enjoying and thriving through its use.

Free education is available for all residents and students who are residents of EU member countries. This stated the City welcomes and has a large student population.

As we traveled to Schonbrunn Palace, we past a rather odd site. This gold topped cylinder is an incinerator which provides energy for the City. Our guide explained this incinerator is a source of clean energy.


Schonbrunn Palace

This Palace was the summer home of the Hapsburgs monarchs. It is the most visited site in Austria and was the home of the only female ruler of the Hapsburgs, Maria Therese. She and her husband Francis had 16 children with Marie Antionette, queen of France her most famous offspring.

The Palace tour is generous with many rooms available to visit. It is a Palace which is unique to none experienced. While not as large as Versailles it often is placed in the same category as the French castle.

The grounds of the palace are also spectacular with many statutes throughout the gardens and the entrance to the Vienna Zoo can be glimpsed beyond this statute in the yellow building.

Another busy day comes to a close with Bratislava next.

Danube Views. Melk Abbey. Vienna Concert.

Sailing today included a stretch of the Danube known as the Wachau Valley. It is thought to be the most beautiful portion of the Danube with old world charm appearing on both river banks.

Also on the journey was a tour of the Melk Abbey. Here is the entrance.

Melk Abbey began as a castle given by Leopold II in 1089 to the Benedictine monks. Currently the 500 room Baroque style abbey is home to 40 monks, a school, and a library with an extensive collection of manuscripts.

Their 12 room library houses over 100,000 volumes of valuable books. The site is a Unesco World Treasure and has been undergoing renovation since 1975.

And here is a picture of the church’s main altar taken from one I purchased.

No words can describe.

Vienna Concert

After a day of such beauty what can be next? A Viennese concert with opera, ballet, and strings of course.

And what a way to end a beautiful day!

See you tomorrow.

Salzburg, Austria

The Sound of Music movie and Salzburg are synonymous. Our guide started his tour in the fountain area where Maria and the children sang Doe A Deer and we did just that in the gloomy rain. And by the end of the tour no one felt wet. That’s what Salzburg does to you!

Then on to one of the exquisite churches..

With its interesting cemetery where a scene from The Sound of Music was shot.

Through the retail district with its intricate signs..

As well as the shops which sell Lederhosen, dirdnl, and Tracht.

And Mozart’s home of many years..

Then there were the Christmas decorations in our restaurant..

And after lunch a visit to the fortress..

Fortress Hohensalzburg sits high atop the City and is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. It dates from 1066 and though tram less on this day I took the trek and it was well worth the hike with its amazing city views.

interesting marionette museum, and

chapel.

Ah, yes another European church and who would think in such a spot?

All in all a fabulous day in Salzburg…

Munich to Regensburg

Photo by Hert Niks on Pexels.com

Upon departing from Munich our group boarded a bus for journey to the port where we joined our ship for the Danube cruise. Driving through Germany I was amazed at the fields of hops, mustard plants, solar panels, and wind turbines which were extensive in the many small country towns. Germany has bypassed their EU goals for green energy and has almost ended nuclear power usage.

Our Ship

Starting the cruise in Regensburg I found an idyllic town with roots dating back to the Celts in 500 B.C. then later the Romans in 179 A.D. This town prospered through the Middle Ages being the capital of Bavaria. Suffering no major damage in WWII due to air defenses it is a treasured UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Let’s begin the tour with some Regensburg churches starting with the most famous Regensburg Cathedral also known as the Cathedral of St. Peter.

Church construction began in 700 and after fires and the like was finally completed in 1872. It is a fine example of Gothic architecture.

Adjacent to the Cathedral is the Church of St. Johann, (St. John),where worshipers prayed during Cathedral construction. This is a simple yellow church, stop by say hi to Mary, and visit the interesting crypts in its basement.

Regensburg has many churches as wealthy patrons built churches in the hopes of indulgence for Heaven entry.

Then there are the many shops. To rekindle business after WWII buildings were sold cheaply as long as owners placed stores in their buildings. It worked creating a resurgence in the town’s economy.

And don’t forget to stop at the mustard store or Johnny Depp’s hat shop.

Ask for the clearance bin to get a good deal..

But mainly stroll the streets and enjoy. Further uptown there are even Marshall’s and Dollar Stores.

Lastly, stop at the most famous sausage restaurant in the world. You can’t miss it as it’s right next to the town’s famous bridge.

Oberammergau and Neuschwanstein Castle

Driving through the Alps

This was a day of much anticipation with the visit to these two extraordinary sites. Oberammergau is the site of the Passion Play which occurs every 10 years.

Passion Play Theater

This event came to be when citizens in 1634 offered to do Christ’s Passion in a play giving thanksgiving for being spared the Black Plague. Since that time the play has occurred every 10 years with all townspeople participating. The play runs five days a week from May 2020 through October 2020.

Oberammergau is a quaint, quiet town surrounded by majestic mountains. Homes have painted themes on them and townspeople are friendly.

And here’s my favorite home..

During our visit the town was quiet and serene. I was the sole worshiper in the Church of St. Peter and Paul. Here are some pictures.

Then there was the church cemetery with the Alps backdrop.

And next on the agenda…

The Fairy Tale Castle Neuschwanstein

What can be said regarding this masterpiece?

Neuschwanstein was the creation of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and built in the 19th century. This royal palace was created as a tribute to honor Richard Wagner, a friend of the King. Ludwig modeled the Castle after Hohenschwangau Castle where he spent his childhood and is located near Neuschwanstein.

View from Neuschwanstein noting Hohenschwangua Castle, the boyhood castle of King Ludwig II.

The Castle was built purely from King Ludwig’s funds, no citizen or tax monies were used. In today’s terms this would be $250 million. Ludwig was uniquely and intimately involved in its construction installing many new innovations such as central heating and telephones. While he never saw the completion of the Castle he did reside there during its construction.

Scenes along the trail to the Castle

There is a bus or horse carriage ride available leading to the Castle then a long walking trail leading to the entrance. On the way is a side tour to Mary’s Bridge which gives stunning distance views of the Castle.

View from Mary’s Bridge courtesy of fellow tourist Anil Gola.

Once at the Castle entrance there is timed entry with limited numbers in each group for the visit. No pictures are allowed and tour guides are well versed in King Ludwig II and Bavarian history. Visitors are able to view grand hallways, the throne room, Ludwig’s office, and bedroom as well as a theater area dedicated to Wagner, a German composer known for operas and theater composition.

The tour lasts close to an hour and a must see is the footage post tour which describes the building of the Castle. Also available post tour is a cafe with reasonable fare and several places where one can take in the beauty of the Bavarian Alps.

The lovely village surrounding the Castle has many gift shops and great restaurants with tasty German beer. While our guide stated this area pricey in viewing shops in other areas of Germany I found the prices more reasonable with good selection. Here I found a cuckoo clock I liked for 100 euros less than at another site later in the tour. Sadly I waited and if only… The cuckoo clock remains in Germany, ? next visit… 🙂

On to the Danube, farewell Neuschwanstein.

Munich City Tour

Interesting Character

Today was the official half day Munich City Tour. Started the day learning that our hotel was formerly on the grounds of a beer garden where Hitler gave frequent speeches. It was also one of the locations of a failed Hitler assassination of which there were 43. Fascinating fact.

Munich began in 1158 as a trading city and now has 1.5 million inhabitants. During WW II they had over 70 air raids therefore much of the City was rebuilt. Nazi buildings in the City were not bombed as their flat roofs had canvases with houses painted on them. From the skies it looked real therefore the buildings were not bombed. While destroying these buildings were considered after the War, they remain and have been repurposed.

Munich is a haven for museums as well as cultural events. During the war art was stored in local monasteries and castles so art museums are present. There are also scientific and historical museums as well.

Munich Opera House rebuilt after the War by local families.

And then there is beer. The city has 6 breweries and as stated previously no chemicals are allowed in the beer. In fact, it’s a law. Germans are quite serious about their beer.

Fun fact: Beer began as a medicinal drink with monks producing. Beer was cleaner than water at the time.

Let me close with a picture of the historic clock in the main square.

Hello Munich

Arrived in Munich at 2 pm and began exploring. Started with a museum dedicated to a comedic duo similar to Laurel and Hardy. While the museum provided no English translations you got the drift. What a hoot and here are some pictures to verify my observations.

Make sure you go to the cafe on floor 3 as even more craziness is there.

From here I explored the City with its many shops. They certainly had much Xmas regalia for sale along with the usual restaurants and beer halls. These are easy to find and much fun. German beer is chemically free and tasty.

Walking further into the City saw some unusual street vendors and art work.

Then the St. Peters Church and Tower loomed. Did I want to climb the 14 flights to the top of the Tower? Well, I first stopped in the church for a prayer to help with my decision..

Main Altar

Taking St. Peter’s guidance I made the journey up the 14 flights. While making several stops due to respiratory distress I made it to the top.

Here are the views.

Well gotta go time for the 7 pm trip orientation.

Frankfurt Airport

After a good movie, tasty dinner, and nice sleep on Lufthansa Airlines I arrived in Frankfurt Airport at12:45 pm. This is a new airport clean and sleek with many windows and interesting upgrades. I always like to see what other folks are doing and found some keen stuff.

This airport had the usual expensive shops with George Clooney selling watches but also had some other fun things.

Items such as leisure rooms, automated coffee service, water machines and …

signs that told you how far to your gate.

But the best was the name of the coffee shop.

So have a perfect day, until tomorrow.