July 29, 2015 – This week in gardening

Along with Sarah’s hanging gardens, we have quite a few other edibles in our tiny garden. The cooler weather plants are not enjoying the combination of hot weather and reduced watering due to the drought so they are showing some stress and the parsley is starting to bolt. So far we have eaten two tomatoes, one eggplant, thyme, basil, oregano, marjoram, and sage. Also, as you can see in the ground pictures our patio and garden are being inundated with tiny flowers from our pagoda tree. John blows the deck off daily but the flowers seem endless.

Sarah and I also went to the Farmer’s Market this past Saturday and found Italian eggplant! We made so much eggplant parmesan. We have enjoyed the eggplant for three dinners and one lunch so far. There is still a small portion left.

Produce from the Farmer's Market

Produce from the Farmer’s Market

So much eggplant parmesan!

So much eggplant parmesan!

July 24, 2015 – Nathan in the play, Princess Kaguya

Nathan is attending the California Theatre Center’s Summer Theatre Conservatory In Los Altos. John and I are invited to see him in the play, Princess Kaguya. In the production he plays the part of Satoshi, a narrator/guardsman. He speaks clearly and loudly which is a real plus to our old ears. Many of the children speak very quietly or are looking down or facing away from the audience so it is difficult to hear them.

The gist of the play is that a bamboo cutter finds a baby girl in the mountains and takes her home to live with his wife and him. She grows quickly and soon the father is looking for a husband for his daughter, Princess Kaguya. She is not interested in marrying anyone and sends a series of suitors away on impossible tasks that they cannot complete. However, the emperor decides that she will be his wife anyway. At this point, it turns out that Princess Kaguya is actually from the moon and her moon father has decided it is time for her to return to the moon. The emperor mounts an attack to keep her earthside but is no match for the moon people. Princess Kaguya bids everyone a tearful farewell and leaves a group of sad but wiser suitors and family.

Nathan does a super job staying in character and saying his lines. Afterward he poses with the scenery that his class has made, his friends, and family.

Nathan as Satoshi

Nathan as Satoshi

Nathan with his sword

Nathan with his sword

Nathan with his friend

Nathan with his friend

Three generations of Pilat guys

Three generations of Pilat guys

Ryan and Jon with Nathan and Sam

Ryan and Jon with Nathan and Sam

Nathan with Auntie Leigh

Nathan with Auntie Leigh

Sam doing his interpretation of a big smile

Sam doing his interpretation of a big smile

July 21, 2015 – Sarah’s vegetables!

Over a month ago Sarah began growing container vegetables. She has four baskets hanging from the overhead trellis. Each basket contains plants growing both up and down from the containers. From left to right super chiles and Japanese eggplant, basil and cherry tomatoes, thyme and indigo rose tomatoes, and sweet peppers and Casper eggplant.

P1000866 (1024x768)

Today is the first harvest!

P1000865 (1024x768)It is a perfect little indigo rose tomato.

P1000867 (1024x768)P1000868
The flavor of the tomato is both sweet and tart. Perfect! I guess it is not really the first harvest since we have used the basil and thyme but the tomato is very exciting. There’s also a five inch white Casper eggplant that if almost ready to pick. The sweet peppers are turning yellow and there are lots of super chiles. Sarah tends her crops every day making sure they have enough water and sun. She has big plans for next year when every available sunny space in our tiny yard will be filled with vegetables!

July 18, 2015 – Hookslide 15th Anniversary Show

On Saturday we attend Jonathan’s Hookslide 15th Anniversary show. We sit at the family table. Sarah joins us and Rose and John as well as Ryan, Leigh, Nathan and Sam are there for at least part of the time. Since the show is at Angelica’s in Redwood City, dinner is part of the experience as well. It is really my first outing since getting sick on the cruise and I am careful not to get too close to anyone. However, it is sweet that both Sam and Nathan give me hugs. I haven’t seen them since they were with  us in St. George at the beginning of June.

Hookslide does a great job singing and also telling funny stories about their experiences over the years. Jon does his beatbox solo which is always a big hit. We have a really good time.

Hookslide rocking!

Hookslide rocking!

Sarah at the concert

Sarah at the concert

July 1, 2, 3, 2015 – The End

The last two days of the cruise include a trip to Cologne, Germany and then to Kinderdijk, Netherlands to see the windmills. My last last two days are basically spent in bed. John is so sweet ferrying food to the cabin and going out in Cologne to find cold medicine. But this is no ordinary cold, it is the wrath of all the bacteria and viruses concentrated on a cruise ship.

Our cabin attendant, Zita, is so sweet.  In between asking if I need to go to the hospital or should she call an ambulance, she makes whimisical towel animals to cheer me  up.

My towel elephant

My towel elephant

I stumble up on the deck the second day and take a picture of windmills.

Windmills

Windmills

The non-stop from Amsterdam to San Francisco is endless. I am so sick.

Turns out I have pneumonia and here it is two weeks later and I’ve taken all the medicine but I am still not totally better. I am hoping for a better plan of action when I visit the doctor today (7/16).

The cruise was fun. Being with Peg and Ted was great. John and I, though, are just not cut out for the tour group kind of travel. We want to see what we want to see and spend as much time as we like looking at it. We enjoy the adventure of being in a foreign place not in a little pod of transported U.S. shuffling along on a pre-determined itinerary. We like to try new foods. We enjoy talking to real local people.

Maybe my views are colored by the fact that I have gotten so sick. I think you stand a better chance of remaining healthy on vacation when you are not in the same accommodation with same people day after day.

For the first time in a long time I am not planning or looking forward to my next trip.

June 30, 2015 – Koblenz, Germany

This morning we sail through the Rhine valley. It is very picturesque. I am still not feeling quite right but hope that whatever is bothering me will go away.

It is very scenic with lots of castles.

Castle along the Rhine

Castle along the Rhine

Castle along the Rhine

Castle along the Rhine

Castle along the Rhine

Castle along the Rhine

The trifecta - a castle, a cute town, and vineyards

The trifecta – a castle, a cute town, and vineyards

One of the perks of booking the Explorer Suite on Viking is that you get a personal invitation to visit the captain in the wheelhouse. Since I have no interest in doing this, I arrange for Peg and Ted, who are avid water people, to visit in my stead. John takes some pictures. While we were going through the high water our clearance under the bridges was really tight. The top deck was closed to the passengers and the whole wheelhouse sank into the body of the ship on hydraulics.

Captain in the wheelhouse

Captain in the wheelhouse

Hydraulics used to raise and lower the wheelhouse

Hydraulics used to raise and lower the wheelhouse

Peg and Ted watch the captain

Peg and Ted watch the captain

The captain steers the whole thing with a joystick

The captain steers the whole thing with a joystick

Ted is so happy in the wheelhouse with the captain

Ted is so happy in the wheelhouse with the captain

Captain's view

Captain’s view

When we arrive in Koblenz Peg and Ted go with a group to the Marksburg Castle. John and I opt for the Mosel tour and wine tasting. It is more our area of expertise.

Wineries in the Mosel Valley

Wineries in the Mosel Valley

A visit to Richter Winery

A visit to Richter Winery

Mosel Valley

Mosel Valley

In the winery

In the winery

We meet for drinks and dinner.


After dinner we listen to the Sounds of Europe. It is enjoyable.

Violinist

Violinist

Mary enjoying the music

Mary enjoying the music

June 29, 2015 – Wertheim, Germany

It’s all running together now,  the bergs, burgs, and heims. Get off the boat, look at how high the floods have gotten up to, view the cathedral and the ruins of the old castle. See where the Jews used to live except there is barely a trace, all either evicted or killed. I think I am getting traveled out. I’m also feeling a tightness in my chest and wonder if I am getting sick.

To keep track of where we are I take a picture of the label on the map.

Our location

Our location

Our tour guide shows us the sights of Wertheim.

Leaning tower of Werheim

Leaning tower of Werheim

Look how high the flood waters were throughout the ages

Look how high the flood waters were throughout the ages

Charming stteet

Charming stteet

Even more evidence of the floods

Even more evidence of the floods

Derelict castle

Derelict castle

We are only in Wertheim for a short time and are underway again in the afternoon on our way to Koblenz. There is a German tea time in the afternoon which we don’t go to. We are  not  pastry types. I struggle with the internet trying to write my posts. It is in and out all afternoon and finally gives up the ghost late in the afternoon for the rest of the trip. We are not happy about this.

We meet for drinks and watch a program about where else we can go on Viking. Sick of peanuts, we have brought along our bag of pretzels and chips. Peg and I dive in. Dinner is forgettable.

Crab cakes

Crab cakes

Some kind of vegetarian lasagna glop

Some kind of vegetarian lasagna glop

June 28, 2015 – Wurzburg, Germany

(Note: Internet was non-existent the second week of the cruise. According to the boat staff it was “broken.”  We saw them plugging in new circuit boards late in the afternoon of the last day of the cruise. So now I have to reconstruct our days from memory, John’s notes and pictures.)

Wurzburg, how many times I have been here. A lot. A couple of times with John, once with John and Sarah, and once with Sophie and Eileen. We decide that since the boat should be in Wurzburg for the whole day, we will ditch the itinerary and make one of our own. First order of business, rent a car. It being Sunday this is not the easiest thing to do but Krum, the concierge, has taken our request as a challenge and arranges the whole thing. Part of the problem is that the boat is disgorging its passengers before it reaches Wurzburg and then picking them up someplace in Wurzburg.

We get on the bus with the rest of our compadres but when they get off for their tour we stay on and the bus driver, John and I, drive to the train station where there is a Sixt rental car office that opens at 10 AM. The fellow at the office is very nice even going to the trouble of finding us an automatic transmission since he knows that Americans no habla the manual transmission. (We could totally have driven a stick shift.)

Our automatic Audi Q3

Our automatic Audi Q3

We program the GPS and we are off! First stop, Herrgottskirche in Creglingen to see Tilman Riemenschneider’s Marianaltar carved 1505-1508. Today will be an intensive Riemenschneider (hereafter T.R.) day. We find the church with no problem. But, uh oh, NO FOTO! I am willing to buy a postcard but none of the pictures seem good enough. So I am snagging a couple off the internet.

Herrgottskirche, Creglingen, Germany

Herrgottskirche, Creglingen, Germany

Interior of Herrgottskirche, Creglingen

Interior of Herrgottskirche, Creglingen

Marianaltar carved by master carver, Tilman Riemenschneider showing the assumption of Mary into heaven

Marianaltar carved by master carver, Tilman Riemenschneider showing the assumption of Mary into heaven

Detail of Marianaltar - expressive faces and beautiful hands

Detail of Marianaltar – expressive faces and beautiful hands

Back in the car! Our next stop along the T.R. trail is Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber, a kind of medieval disneyland of a place. It’s mostly all authentic having been passed over by the centuries. After a lengthy detour we finally find the town and spend the next few hours visiting the the St. Jacob (James) church and having lunch.

Entering Rothenburg through one of the old wall gates

Entering Rothenburg through one of the old wall gates

Typical pretty street in Rothenburg. St. Jacob church in the background

Typical pretty street in Rothenburg. St. Jacob church in the background

St. Jacob’s church is renowned for its Blood Altar carved by T.R. The altar fits exactly in its spot with the window detail reflecting the actual windows of the church. Once again the faces are so expressive and the hands are beautiful.

Blood Altar, St. Jacob's Church, Rothenburg o.d.t.

Blood Altar, St. Jacob’s Church, Rothenburg o.d.t.

Last Supper detail

Last Supper detail

The central moment when Jesus hands the bread to Judas marking him as the traitor. Bag of coins in Judas's hand

The central moment when Jesus hands the bread to Judas marking him as the traitor. Bag of coins in Judas’s hand

There’s also another great altarpiece here in the main altar area. This is the Altar of the Twelve Apostles carved in 1446 by Fredrich Herlin. The big innovation between F.H. and T.R. is that T.R. eliminated the paint from his figures letting the wood shine through.

Altarpiece of the Twelve Apostles, St. Jacob's

Altarpiece of the Twelve Apostles, St. Jacob’s


Lunchtime! Just outside the church we find the Hotel Reichs Kuchenmeister with its outdoor eatery. We decide it is time for some real German food – wurst, kartoffel, sauerkraut und bier. Unknowingly, I order a raspberry beer the size of a small swimming pool. What a tasty lunch!

John und bier

John und bier

Mary und bier

Mary und bier

Wurst, kartoffel, und sauerkraut

Wurst, kartoffel, und sauerkraut

Our work here in Rothenburg is finished and now we head north again to take a look at the Stuppach Madonna by Matthias Grunewwald painted in 1519. The painting has its own little chapel and is considered to be one of the most important works of medieval panel painting. It’s an odd picture of the madonna in neon-like colors with a strange looking God the Father looking down from the left hand corner. At first look he looks like a set of praying hands but on closer inspection he’s actually a cartoonish diety.

The Stuppach Madonna

The Stuppach Madonna

God the Father from the upper left hand corner

God the Father from the upper left hand corner

We have one last stop to make before we return the car and that is to the Mainfrankisches Museum in Wurzburg where there is a whole room of Tilman Riemenschneiders!! This is where we first became acquainted with the Fourteen Holy Helpers, a group of Saints to pray to when ill or troubled. Each Saint has his or her specialty and they are shown in the T.R. carving with their various attributes. I especially like St. Denis on the right end. He helps with headaches due to the fact that he was martyred by having his head cut off and then walked around carrying his head and preaching sermons. In this rendition he not only carries his head but sports the original one as well.

Tilman Riemenschneider's carving of the Fourteen Holy Helpers

Tilman Riemenschneider’s carving of the Fourteen Holy Helpers

Detail - St. Denis carrying his head on the right

Detail – St. Denis carrying his head on the right

And just because I love the hands that Tilman Riemenschneider carves, here’s a whole gallery of them.


It’s time to return the car to the train station. Exactly at 6 P.M. as promised a taxi rolls up to takes us back to the boat. Our concierge has done an outstanding job!

Tonight I opt for one of the standard dinners – ribeye steak. At least these are not precooked so there’s a good chance that you can get it medium rare (if you order it rare.) John makes a main course out of the first course octopus. I think we are getting the hang of ordering food on the boat!


Peg and Ted have also had a good day with the tour group. They look happy!

Peg and Ted

Peg and Ted

June 27, 2015 – Bamberg, Germany

This morning we have a talk by the Captain and hotel manager about life on board and technical aspects of the boat. The Captain who is Slovakian is a little difficult to understand since he doesn’t speak English too well. This is followed with a presentation about the Main-Danube Canal. I skip the canal talk so I can try to get my blog up to date. With most of the people listening to the lecture, I have better speeds on the internet. Unfortunately it turns out that the internet will not be working until Tuesday.

Around 1 PM we pull into Bamberg, a medieval town that was only lightly damaged during the war. Disembarking, we are met by our guide. We start at a statue called the gabel moo. It is actually a statue of Neptune but the people of old Bamberg, not knowing who Neptune is, renamed him “man with a pitchfork.” He figures prominently in our tour today since he is the starting and ending point.

Gabel moo

Gabel moo

Since streets did not have names in medieval times, often shops or homeowners put some sort of painted sign or sculpture on their buildings so people could find them. For instance, they might say to a friend, “meet me at the unicorn house.”

Unicorn house

Unicorn house

Interesting story about the old city which is built on the river and must be reached by bridge, it seems that the townspeople wanted more say in the government and wanted to construct a civic building for meeting. The prince-bishop said okay, but you can’t build it on any land I own. The prince-bishop owned all the land in the area. So the wily townspeople built their city hall by sinking pilings into the river and constructing the town hall in the middle of the river.

Old town hall

Old town hall

View of Bamberg's Little Venice from the bridge

View of Bamberg’s Little Venice from the bridge

The tour continues down cute streets bedecked with flowers. We stop outside a tavern which sells the special local beer, Rauchbier. The Rauchbier has been smoked! People say it tastes like liquid bacon. John and I do not partake.

Typical Bamberg street

Typical Bamberg street

Sign for the tavern selling Rauchbier

Sign for the tavern selling Rauchbier

Lastly on our tour is the Bamburg Cathedral, built in the late Romanesque fashion with some early Gothic pieces. The tour does not go inside and instead we visit the Rose Garden where the tour ends.

Bamberg Cathedral

Bamberg Cathedral

Rose from the garden

Rose from the garden

John and I visit the Cathedral after the tour is over. After two Cathedrals which burnt down between 1012 and 1185, the current cathedral was built and consecrated in 1237. Inside, the best known piece of art is the statue of the Bamberg Horseman. No one is quite sure who he is. There are also lots of statues of saints and a tomb to the sainted imperial couple, King Heinrich II and his consort Cunigunde. The tomb is carved by mastercarver Tilman Riemenschneider.

Bamberg Horseman

Bamberg Horseman

Statue of a cephalophore saint, maybe St. Denis? (a cephalophore is a being whose head has been chopped off but he walks around carrying it)

Statue of a cephalophore saint, maybe St. Denis?
(a cephalophore is a being whose head has been chopped off but he walks around carrying it)

Cunigunde walking over hot plow blades to prove she did not cheat on Heinrich II

Cunigunde walking over hot plow blades to prove she did not cheat on Heinrich II

After all this walking, John and I need a place to rest and have a snack. We choose a table in an outdoor cafe and enjoy a beer and pretzels. It is fun to watch the crowds ebb and flow. As we walk back to the Gabel Moo the sky darkens. Then there is pitchforked bolt of lightning followed quickly by thunder. Perhaps Gabel Moo is throwing lightning with his pitchfork to banish the hordes of tourists from the riverboats from his town. We stop standing under his tree and run into a doorway. It starts to rain really hard, really, really hard. Since we can’t leave until 6 PM our little group huddles in various doorways. At 6 our program manager appears and we tear for the buses. Everyone is pretty wet but in good spirits.

John, beer, and pretzels

John, beer, and pretzels

Our time in town has lasted about 5 hours and we are happy to reboard the ship to change into dry clothes and have dinner.

June 26, 2015 – Nuremberg, Germany

The day starts with an informative lecture about Bavaria. We learn about the food, dress, history, and geography of the region. It is a little dry – just the facts. There is a question and answer period afterwards and I would like someone else or myself to ask how Germans view their horrendous behavior in World War II but we are all too polite.

We get on the buses around 2 PM for the trip into the Nuremberg. Bus gets a little confused and we are on the bus for about an hour before arriving at Hitler’s Nazi Rallying Grounds. It is a large unfinished stadium that was to be larger than the Coliseum. Hitler planned on staging his party rallies and other grand affairs here. The money for such endeavors ran out after the war began so it was never finished.

Nazi Rallying Grounds

Nazi Rallying Grounds

Our bus ride includes a ride around the outside of the city wall. We see many rebuilt historic buildings. Our guide keeps reminding us that Nuremberg was 90% destroyed. My general feeling is if you didn’t want your city destroyed you probably should not have started the war and committed atrocities. We also drive by the building where the war crimes trials were held.

Historic rebuilt Granary

Historic rebuilt Granary

We get off the bus to visit the castle inside the old city. It has a lot of towers – towers with hidden entrances, square towers, square towers inside round towers, five sided-towers. But since we have been riding around in a bus for over an hour and we are all old people, the most important tower is the bathroom tower.

King's escape tower

King’s escape tower

Square tower with flag of Franconia on one side and flag of Bavaria on the other

Square tower with flag of Franconia on one side and flag of Bavaria on the other

Castle grounds (near restrooms)

Castle grounds (near restrooms)

From the castle we start our walking tour of Nuremburg. We pass the Albrecht Durer house. Rebuilt in a modern style after the war.

Modern Albrecht Durer house

Modern Albrecht Durer house

Albrecht Durer lived here plaque

Albrecht Durer lived here plaque

Now we are left on our own to wander around for about 40 minutes. We visit the rebuilt Catholic Church of Our Lady. The interior is a mix of old and new.

Catholic Church of Our Lady

Catholic Church of Our Lady

Interior of Catholic Church

Interior of Catholic Church

Nuremberg was a Catholic town but after the Protestant Reformation, they switched to Protestantism. There is a large Lutheran cathedral dedicated to St. Sebald. It is so highly decorated that we wonder if it is a Catholic Cathedral. It probably started life out in a different religion. I’ve always thought that Protestant Churches were rather devoid of saints and decoration. I guess not. The foresighted parishioners started hiding their precious stuff in caves in 1938. When they rebuilt the church they were able to redecorate with the original artwork and sculptures.

Interior of St. Sebald's Lutheran Cathedral

Interior of St. Sebald’s Lutheran Cathedral

Since there’s not enough time to stop for a beer before we need to back to the bus, we wander around the market place. The fruits and vegetables look delicious and are really not all that expensive. Asparagus is in season and we see lots of the white variety.

Vegetables and berries at the market

Vegetables and berries at the market

Later at dinner we have unusual dinner companions. We are sitting with an older couple who left Germany after the war for Canada and made their way to Florida. The man is quite elderly. He says quietly that he had been a Nazi soldier in 1945. What?! He was conscripted into the Nazi army when he was 17. He was in a group of soldiers who surrendered to American forces rather than be captured by the Russians. He spent 6 months as a POW. So here I sit between my Jewish husband and a former Nazi soldier. Really don’t know how to handle the situation. My first inclination is to leave the table but that would seem impolite. So we stay, eating our dinner but I think we shall avoid them in the future.

What’s for dinner? Since I am a little flummoxed, I forget to take pictures of our main courses.

June 25, 2015 – Regensburg, Germany

It’s a beautiful day and the Captain seems to have overcome the high water problem so we are off on another city tour. After a short ride to Regensburg through beautiful rural scenery, we find our guide and are ready for the tour. Uh oh, problems with our quiet boxes! Ted comes to the rescue holding our group sign as our guide, Melanie, straightens out the problem.

Ted keeps our group together

Ted keeps our group together

Regensburg is a medieval town and as we cross the 12th century stone bridge we see the Gothic spires of St. Peter’s Cathedral and the 900 year old Wurstkuchl. We’ll be stopping back there later for sausages and sauerkraut.

St. Peter's Cathedral in the background and the Wurstkuchl in the right foreground

St. Peter’s Cathedral in the background and the Wurstkuchl in the right foreground

Some buildings in the old part of the city have painted facades and others have  towers. After the third floor the towers are totally empty. Building a tower was just a way of showing off to your neighbors about how rich you were.

The Goliath House

The Goliath House

Pink patrician tower

Pink patrician tower

We pass the charming old city hall on our way to St. Peter’s Cathedral with its Gothic spires and carved figurines.

Old city hall

Old city hall

Cathedral of St. Peter

Cathedral of St. Peter

Facade carving of St. Lawrence

Facade carving of St. Lawrence

Inside the church it is quite dark and very Gothic. Light filters dimly through the many stained glass windows.

Stained glass windows behind the altar

Stained glass windows behind the altar

Close up of a window

Close up of a window

Up until the 1500’s Regensburg had a Jewish community which existed under the protection of Maximillian I. Three days after Maximillian died in 1519, all the Jews were expelled from Regensburg, thrown out in the middle of winter with only what they could carry. Everything trace of the Jewish population was destroyed and there only remains a memorial where the synagogue used to be. Even the Cathedral has a stone carving of a Judensau, a sow with suckling Jews underneath. It was carved on the side of the cathedral facing the Jewish quarter as an insult and a sign of the anti-Semitism in Regensburg.

Judensau

Judensau

After a stop at a local mega-mart for some chips and cheese, we head down to the Wurstlkuchl for a tasty lunch of sausages, sauerkraut, and beer. Yum!

Great lunch!

Great lunch!

John and his weissbier

John and his weissbier

Even Peggy has a beer!

Even Peggy has a beer!

John and I head back to the boat for a little r & r while Peg and Ted continue to explore. We meet for a cocktail party and dinner. Unfortunately I forget to bring my camera.

Tomorrow, Nuremburg!

June 24, 2015 – Passau, Germany

I am not feeling well this morning so John proceeds to the walking tour of Passau without me. I am hoping to feel better this afternoon and have John give me a private tour himself.

After a nap and lunch things are looking up. We head into the pretty town of Passau.

Town of Passau

Town of Passau

Passau is situated at the confluence of three rivers, the Danube, the Inn, and the Ilz. So of course it gets flooded frequently. In 2013 it experienced the highest flood waters in 500 years. There is still evidence of the flood in stucco and bricks that remain wet even after 2 years.

Watchtower with watermark from the 2013 flood

Watchtower with watermark from the 2013 flood

The town has a lovely Baroque cathedral, St. Stephen’s. The church was originally medieval but was mostly burned in the town fire of 1662. It was replaced with an updated interior. There are many paintings and sculptures in the side altars. John and I walk around identifying as many of the saints as we can by their attributes.

Approaching St. Stephen's

Approaching St. Stephen’s

St. Stephen's Cathedral in Passau

St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Passau

Interior of St. Stephen's

Interior of St. Stephen’s

St. Jerome with his lion, skull, and hat

St. Jerome with his lion, skull, and hat

We stroll around the town on the way back to the ship. There is a picturesque artists’ alley with colorful umbrellas hanging overhead. The city hall has an old clock and a painted facade.

Artists' alley

Artists’ alley

Old City Hall in Passau

Old City Hall in Passau

Detail of City Hall with painted facade

Detail of City Hall with painted facade

We join Peg and Ted and another couple for dinner. I have osso buco and John has halibut. Both dishes are okay. We finish the evening listening to a musical tribute to Elvis Presley. I think you have to be over 70 to appreciate it.

June 23, 2015 – Melk, Austria

Viking ship with Melk Abbey in background

Viking ship with Melk Abbey in background

Today’s adventures start with a scenic sail down the Wachau Valley in Austria on our way to Melk. John goes up top to take some pictures and listen to the commentary while I struggle with the internet. I have been trying for hours to get the text and pictures from Vienna to load. At this point I decide that it is just not worth it for me to spend my time in the cabin in front of my non-responsive computer and miss what there is to see. So I decide to just start typing text and leave most of the pictures for when I get home.

As we sail down the Wachau Valley we see the Durnstein Castle ruins. Durnstein castle held Richard I (the lion-hearted) as hostage in 1192-93 until England paid a large ransom for him. There’s also lovely scenery in this grape-growing region. The Gruner-Veltiner grapes are grown on terraced hillsides.

Castle Durnstein ruins

Castle Durnstein ruins


Ruins with the town of Durnstein below

Ruins with the town of Durnstein below


Vineyards

Vineyards

We pull into Melk around lunchtime and head out at 2 PM for our visit to the immense Melk Abbey. We have a perky female guide and she steers us through the complex. First we visit a modern museum housing some of the church’s treasures. I find the modernism, bold colors, and electronics a little jarring next to the ancient manuscripts, reliquaries, and monstronses. Among the highlights are a 15th century painting of St. Peter and a 12th century crucifix.

Melk Abbey

Melk Abbey


Early crucifix

Early crucifix

After taking in the sweeping panorama of Melk from the terrace, we head into the library which houses 90,000 books. No pictures are allowed.

Town of Melk and countryside

Town of Melk and countryside

Finally we reach the gold encrusted church. These ornate churches always leave me a little cold. So much opulence when there are needy people outside the doors. Our guide, Viktoria, explains that in the Baroque period, church interiors were so lavish in an attempt to bring God’s glory to earth. Sts. Peter and Paul are shown on the altar giving each other a handshake goodbye while prophets from the Old Testament look on.

Church interior

Church interior


Closer look at high altar

Closer look at high altar

Our boat departs at 4PM and is headed to Passau, Germany. John and I sit out on our back deck and watch Melk recede behind us. We and our sister ship, Viking Njord, enter a lock and sit side by side. The two boats are so close that John reaches out and shakes the hand of a fellow on the Njord.

Sister ship Njord entering lock behind us

Sister ship Njord entering lock behind us


Last view of Melk Abbey as the lock closes

Last view of Melk Abbey as the lock closes

Later we have a disappointing dinner of hummus and baba ganoush as a starter and Chinese noodles in a spicy peanut sauce. The sauce is not spicy nor flavorful.

June 22, 2015 – Vienna

(Last post with full complement of pictures)

We arrive in Vienna early in the morning and set off on the bus/walking tour shortly after breakfast.

Best meal on the boat is breakfast

Best meal on the boat is breakfast

On the way to our walking tour portion we pass by the Imperial church, Vienna’s iconic ferris wheel, the Opera House, Parliament building, and the votive church. Finally we are dropped off at the Museum square by the statue of Maria Theresa, the only female ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Church of St. Francis of Assisi built to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reign of Franz Josef

Church of St. Francis of Assisi built to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reign of Franz Josef

The Wiener Riesenrad (Vienna Giant Wheel) at 212 ft. tall and built in 1897 is the oldest operating ferris wheel in the world. Built for the Golden Jubilee of Franz Josef. It now has 15 wooden gondolas which can be rented out for weddings, dinners, and parties.

The Wiener Riesenrad (Vienna Giant Wheel) at 212 ft. tall and built in 1897 is the oldest operating ferris wheel in the world. Built for the Golden Jubilee of Franz Josef. It now has 15 wooden gondolas which can be rented out for weddings, dinners, and parties.

 

Vienna State Opera House built 1861-1869

Vienna State Opera House built 1861-1869

 

Parliament Building - Greek Revival style built between 1874-1883

Parliament Building – Greek Revival style built between 1874-1883

Neo-Gothic votive church completed 1879. Built to thank God for sparing Franz Josef after an attempt on his life in 1853

Neo-Gothic votive church completed 1879. Built to thank God for sparing Franz Josef after an attempt on his life in 1853

We walk through the grounds of the enormous Winter Palace and see the porch from which Hitler announced the annexation of Austria to the cheering crowd. Our tour guide is quite frank about the Austrian complicity in anti-Semitism and Nazism.

Small piece of the Winter Palace

Small piece of the Winter Palace

 

Porch of the palace from which Hitler declared the annexation of Austria to cheering crowds

Porch of the palace from which Hitler declared the annexation of Austria to cheering crowds

Our walking tour takes us to Vienna’s great cathedral, St. Stephen’s. We are set loose at this point and John and I along with Peg and Ted take a look inside the cathedral. We want to buy tickets for a self-guided tour but are told that they are about to hold mass and we will have to leave. Rats! Mostly we have to be content with looking at the beautiful sculptures and artwork from a distance.

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Peg and Ted rejoin the tour and will visit Schonbrunn Palace and gardens later today. John and I will walk back to Museum Square independently and visit the Kunsthistorisches museum.

It is very nice to be on our own. We stop for lunch at the museum cafe and have a yummy lunch of Sacherwurstel in a beautiful venue.

John in the museum cafe

John in the museum cafe

 

Sacherwurstel with two mustards, fresh horseradish and a roll

Sacherwurstel with two mustards, fresh horseradish and a roll

The museum has two picture galleries – one with southern European works and the other with northern European works. The art is mostly from the 16th and 17th centuries, not totally in my wheelhouse. But I enjoy many of the works especially those by Arcimbaldo, an Italian painter best known for creating imaginative portrait heads made entirely of objects such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, and books. There is also a lovely Vermeer, The Art of Painting, which is frustratingly housed in a blocked off room. Museum workers make seeing it very difficult.

Arcimbaldo painting

Arcimbaldo painting

 

Get out of the way!!!!

Get out of the way!!!!

We take a taxi back to the boat, have dinner, and exhausted from our long day, turn in.

June 21, 2015 – Bratislava, Slovakia

(Finally, am able to get pictures!)
We spend the night and morning sailing to Bratislava. Everyone watches while the boat goes through a lock. It was built to facilitate a large power plant built in the Soviet era.

In the lock

In the lock


Coming out of the lock

Coming out of the lock

Then we have a life vest drill. Everyone is looking very spiffy in their Italian designed life jackets. Also before lunch we attend a slide show presentation on Mozart.

John is Italian design life vest

John is Italian design life vest


Our boat, the Viking Ve, commissioned in 2015

Our boat, the Viking Ve, commissioned in
2015

We get to Bratislava around 2 PM and are out on the city tour about a half an hour later. We see many sights in the city and have a walking tour of the castle grounds and the old town. Slovaks are very proud of their country and independence and we hear many stories about the bad old days of the Communist regime. Bratislava is only about 2 km from Austria but anyone caught in the forest looking to try to make it over the border was shot.

Bratislava castle

Bratislava castle


"Old town" square

“Old town” square

After a drink in the lounge and talk from the program director about what is coming up tomorrow in Vienna, we have dinner. There is a Slovak folk show in the evening but John and I are very tired (it is the dreaded third day of jetlag) and we retire early.

June 20, 2015 – Budapest

I have so many pictures and the connection is so slow!

Today started off with a tour of the city by bus and on foot. Budapest is a remarkable mish-mash of 19th century buildings, parks, memorials, and Communist architecture (if you can call it that.) We board the bus and listen to our guide, Gyorgy, explain everything we are seeing. It is a lot to take in.

Peg and Ted ready for the tour of Budapest

Peg and Ted ready for the tour of Budapest


19th century spa

19th century spa

Our first stop is at Heroes Square, a statue complex featuring the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars and other important national leaders. It was built in 1896-1900 to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin and the foundation of the Hungarian state in 896. It is dedicated “To the memory of the heroes who gave their lives for the freedom of our people and our national independence.” We wander around the immense square taking pictures of it and ourselves. Unfortunately for the Hungarians, their heroes often gave their lives in a losing effort or on the wrong side (World War I.)

Heroes Square

Heroes Square


John at Heroes Square

John at Heroes Square


Mary at Heroes Square

Mary at Heroes Square


Peg and Ted at Heroes Square

Peg and Ted at Heroes Square

Back on the bus we continue our ride through Pest, the lower city. We pass through the Jewish quarter where almost a million Jews lived at the beginning of World War II. More than three quarters of the Jewish population were killed by the Nazis. About 100,000 live in Budapest now. We see the memorials of the Weeping Willow with each frond inscribed with the name of a victim near the synagogue and the memorial, Shoes, near the Danube. Sixty Jews being protected by the Swedish Embassy were taken at gun point ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. The iron shoes represent the shoes left behind on the bank.

Metal Weeping Willow inscribed with names of victims at the Jewish Memorial

Metal Weeping Willow inscribed with names of victims at the Jewish Memorial


Shoes, a memorial to 60 Jews shot January 8, 1945

Shoes, a memorial to 60 Jews shot January 8, 1945

We continue up to Buda, the hilly part of the city across the river. We visit the St. Matthias church and the Fisherman’s Bastion with views of the river and Pest.

St. Matthias Church

St. Matthias Church


On one of the spires is a raven which was the heraldic animal of King Matthias.

On one of the spires is a raven which was the heraldic animal of King Matthias.

Time for lunch!

Originally John and I were going to go on a tour of the Jewish quarter but it is not be given today because it is Saturday (Shabbos.) Then we were going to go to the St. Stephen’s Basilica but it closed at 1 PM. We decide instead to take the Opera House Tour. The Opera House is small but quite ornate and we are treated to a performance of selections from Carmen and The Marriage of Figaro.

Budapest Opera House

Budapest Opera House


Performance

Performance

We meet Peg and Ted at the lounge before dinner. They have taken the optional Equestrian Tour and are very pleased with their visit to a local horse farm.

Time for dinner!

After dinner we are treated to Budapest all lighted up as we start our departure for Bratislava. It has been a busy and wonderful day!

Leaving Budapest at dusk

Leaving Budapest at dusk


Peg and Ted at dusk

Peg and Ted at dusk


It's chilly! Mary and Peggy huddle in blankets.

It’s chilly! Mary and Peggy huddle in blankets.


Palace in Buda lighted up at night

Palace in Buda lighted up at night


The Parliament in Pest at night

The Parliament in Pest at night

June 18-19, 2015 – to Budapest, Hungary

John and I were riding down to Indian Wells when I got a call from my older sister, Peggy. Her birthday is this summer and she decided as a celebration she wanted to take the Viking riverboat cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. Would John and I come. So even though we had a lot of other stuff already planned, of course I said yes.

We spend most of Thursday and Friday traveling to Budapest. There is nothing wrong with the flights just long and uncomfortable. Both planes are delayed and we end up getting to the boat around 7 PM. Peggy meets us at reception and there are big hugs all around. We get shown to our very nice suite and head down to dinner. Food is fine. The trout is pretty tasty. We sit downtable from four other people. We are the last people to be seated for dinner since our flight got in late. While earlier in the day I was super friendly with fellow passengers, at dinner we are pretty quiet. A little tired I think.

Inside the bus for the ride to the Viking Ve. It's not a young group.

Inside the bus for the ride to the Viking Ve. It’s not a young group.


The obligatory food pictures –

After dinner we talk to the program director and the concierge about what we want to do. I think since we are usually independent travelers taking the morning city tour overview and then spending the afternoon doing our own thing will work best for us.

Right now the boat is situated on the Danube across from the palace and near the Parliamentary building. At night the bridges between Buda and Pest are lighted up and the whole scene is quite magical. We sit in the lounge for a while listening to the pianist play 70’s music and sip cognac. I think this trip is going to work out really well!

Other pictures from the day…

Our suite

Our sitting room with a wrap-around porch and two bottles of champagne!

Our sitting room with a wrap-around porch and two bottles of champagne!


Bedroom (pretty tiny)

Bedroom (pretty tiny)


Nice bathroom

Nice bathroom


Hallway from entrance toward sitting room

Hallway from entrance toward sitting room


View out the back
Bridge crossing the Danube from our porch

Bridge crossing the Danube from our porch


The lounge and the night view from the terrace
John in the lounge

John in the lounge


The palace on the Buda side

The palace on the Buda side


Another view of Buda

Another view of Buda

June 6-13, 2015 – Nathan, Sam and Jonathan visit St. George

We had a great visit. Here are some pictures –

Nathan and Sam at LAS

Nathan and Sam at LAS


Cocktail time on the back patio

Cocktail time on the back patio

Sam at Zion National Park

Sam at Zion National Park

The bus ride out to the hiking trail at Zion is too long!

The bus ride out to the hiking trail at Zion is too long!

Kids and Jon taking a break from hiking

Kids and Jon taking a break from hiking

Trail mix is an important part of hiking

Trail mix is an important part of hiking

We walked along the Virgin River

We walked along the Virgin River

Sam and Beeba

Sam and Beeba

Another day we went to Sand Hollow Aquatic Center with their awesome big slide

Another day we went to Sand Hollow Aquatic Center with their awesome big slide

Jon and Sam in the pool

Jon and Sam in the pool

Uh oh, minor infraction at the pool

Uh oh, minor infraction at the pool

Nathan hikes with Daddy at Snow Canyon State Park

Nathan hikes with Daddy at Snow Canyon State Park

Snow Canyon State Park

Snow Canyon State Park

Snow Canyon State Park

Snow Canyon State Park

Jon and Nathan play with the Wii

Jon and Nathan play with the Wii

Lunch at Mad Pita

Lunch at Mad Pita

Before the show, When You Wish, at Tuacahn

Before the show, When You Wish, at Tuacahn

Nathan and Jon in the audience

Nathan and Jon in the audience

The stage is set

The stage is set

I made a carrot cake!!

I made a carrot cake!!

John readying the S.S. Pilat for deployment

John readying the S.S. Pilat for deployment

First launch was not successful and the boat had to be towed back

First launch was not successful and the boat had to be towed back

Ice cream at Rowley's Red Barn in Washington City

Ice cream at Rowley’s Red Barn in Washington City

Sam watches the duck family

Sam watches the duck family

A visit to the St. George Children's Museum

A visit to the St. George Children’s Museum

Jon needs a little rest after the visit to the Children's Museum

Jon needs a little rest after the visit to the Children’s Museum

Second launch of the boat goes much better

Second launch of the boat goes much better

Nathan and Sam control the boat

Nathan and Sam control the boat

Another visit to Tuacahn

Another visit to Tuacahn

This time we see Beauty and the Beast

This time we see Beauty and the Beast


It is always special to have Nathan and Sam come to visit. As they get older we will have to find new and interesting things to do. It keeps life exciting!!

May 25, 2015 – Memorial Day

On Memorial Day we have a BBQ. It’s all the usual fare – burgers, sausages, potato salad, etc. Nathan brings along his football and we all have a spirited game of Three Flags. Three Flags is a game that Nathan and his friends play at school. One person is the flinger and everyone else tries to catch the ball. Whoever catches three balls first is the new flinger. Jonathan is especially adept at poaching catches. I am adept at ducking and covering and also smashing fingers. Good times!

Nathan and Sam

Nathan and Sam


Nathan flings the football

Nathan flings the football


Good follow-through

Good follow-through


Zayde throws while Sam watches

Zayde throws while Sam watches


Jon and John vying for the same ball

Jon and John vying for the same ball


The whole family plays

The whole family plays


Leigh's turn to catch

Leigh’s turn to catch


Of course there is always time for a little relaxing and a glass of wine

Of course there is always time for a little relaxing and a glass of wine

May 5, 2015 -Monreale

Today is our second and last attempt at seeing the Cathedral of Monreale. Our flight to Rome is this afternoon so if the cathedral is not open, too bad for us. Since we already attempted to visit on Sunday, we know exactly what to do – how to get there, where to park, etc. Yay, the cathedral is open. We rent the excellent audio tour and do a thorough job looking at the beautiful mosaics. The Norman Cathedral was begun in 1174 by William II and is a national monument of Italy and one of the most important attractions of Sicily.

Stepping into the Monreale Cathedral

Stepping into the Monreale Cathedral


Jesus dominates the central apse

Jesus dominates the central apse

A madonna and child are beneath

A madonna and child are beneath


Along the sides are three tiers of mosaics depicting old and new testament subjects

Along the sides are three tiers of mosaics depicting old and new testament subjects

Last Supper

Last Supper


We are so glad that Sarah has a chance to see this beautiful cathedral. Now we head to the Palermo airport for the one hour flight to Rome. We check into the horrible Rome airport Hilton and await our endurance test for tomorrow – 9 hours to Philadelphia, 2 hour layover, and 6 hour flight to SFO. It’s been a fabulous trip full of new experiences and old favorites.
Are we home yet?

Are we home yet?