Sunday, August 12, 2012
After over a dozen cruises on big ships, this time it was on a small river boat from Viking River Cruises, once done visiting Prague, Czech Republic.
Here are the stops: Prague, then by bus to pick up the Viking River Ship at Nuremberg, Germany. Then on to Regensberg, Germany and Passau, Germany. Then on to Melk and Vienna, Austria. The cruise ended in Budapest, Hungary.
Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic and like many cities in Europe, very old and historical. Every step of the way there seemed to be something to photograph. By the way, at cruise end, I took over one thousand photographs and whittled it all down to around 200, which is probably still too many. Some highlights include touring Lobkowicz Palace at Prague Castle and their collection of art recovered from the Nazi’s and communists, lovely Charles Bridge, a classical concert, and a disturbing visit to Terezin, site of a Nazi Concentration Camp in World War II. The enormity hit me. Graves. Every grave a MASS grave. Jews and Christians alike. This was the site of the Nazi’s fooling the International Red Cross into thinking it was a health spa. Our tour guide told us the schedule would be we would tour Terezin and then have a late lunch so we would not have to come back. That was wise. I was hungry by 2pm. They bused us to the town of Litomerice and a place called Labut or Swan. I noticed quickly that this might have something of personal interest and I was right! A “minipivovar” or micro brewery! Lunch was fun and so was the conversation with Sabina Zakova. I had earlier done a photo essay of micro breweries in Santa Fe, New Mexico so it was enjoyable for me to tour this little brewery. It was obvious to me that this is a small brewery for local businesses and clientele. Small, but good taste! You can learn more about Labut by going to http://www.minipivovarlabut.cz and ask for Sabina. This was one of many pubs and breweries I was to visit in the countries ahead of me. These people INVENTED beer. I said a few times I thought our American taste buds had atrophied. This is GOOD beer, not the swill we have in the USA. For instance, Budweiser “Budvar” in Prague is NOT even remotely like Budweiser in the USA. I actually like the Prague Budweiser. Well, more than like but not any kind of goofy love. I mean I like this stuff.
Then that night we went to a Czech folk dancing and food celebration. First off, the food was plentiful. Once they knew I liked beer, that tap was stuck in the “ON” position and I was in heaven. They could have stopped with the bread and butter, beer, and giant pot of soup. I could have been happy. But no, there was more and more food… then the entertainment began. Delightful Czech singers and dancers. I actually was drafted to participate in the “broom dance” which I messed up terribly, but I got a chance to dance with a few of the cute Czech girls so it was a-ok by me. Plus, more beer waiting for me! You know, another thing… in the USA drinking beer is seen as something of a problem but in Europe it is like water and it more of a thing to do with friends. On my trip, I found of all the Americans, I was about the only one that really relished the fine beer. Hey, more for me!
From Prague a bus lead us to our Viking Ship the “Bolero” to the Danube River and Nuremberg. This is where the Nazi’s had their famous parade ground and after World War II, the Nuremberg war crime trials. In old town, they had a lot of booths up, including (you guessed it) several serving local beers. I had to sample!
And then it was through the many locks of the Danube on to Regensburg, Germany. After walking around what is considered one of Europe’s best preserved medieval cities, it was off by bus to Kelheim and then by ferry to enjoy the Danube Gorge’s dramatic scenery and its spectacular 400-foot chalk cliffs. And of course, I had to visit the famous Weltenburg Abbey, famous for its dark ale, brewed by monks since 1050. And I had me a few. A lovely beer maiden found out I enjoyed their product. I told her it was a darn shame my fellow Americans would only take a sip then walk away. She went around and gathered up several beers that hadn’t been touched and said “here ya go!” DANKE DANKE!!!! ZEHR GUT!
On to Passau, Germany! This is the meeting place of the Inn, Ilz and Danube Rivers. I saw the impressive Oberhaus Fortress and and the baroque St. Stephan’s Cathedral and had the treat of a special concert played on the 17,000-pipe organ, considered Europe’s largest church organ. I ended my visit of Passau at the city hall, maybe 100 feet from the ship, and the pub there. I had a Lowenbrauerei, whose slogan in German is, “Drei Flusse. Zwei Lowen. Ein Bier.” Translated, it means “Three Rivers. Two Lions. One Beer.” It was not brewed at the city hall, but at another location in town. ZEHR GUT, once again! As an aside, I should put together a beer and brewery tour of Europe some day. Just a thought.
We cruise to Austria and the first stop is the Benedictine Abbey in Melk. Then on to lovely Vienna. I wish they allowed cameras in the concert hall they took us to. Classical Viennese music in Vienna. I can tell you it was a few hours of lovely memories.
Our destination was Budapest, capital of Hungary. I saw Heroes’ Square to learn more about Hungarian history, then went across the Danube to Buda’s Castle District and Fishermen’s Bastion and Matthias Church. Later in the day it was off to Eastern Hungary and Uj Tanyacscarda, where they breed and train Hungarian horses. I actually got to use one of the Hunagarian cowboy’s whips, knocked the bottle off a ledge, and was given a bottle of Hungarian wine, which I shared at dinner with a lovely couple from Scotland. The final night onboard was spent listening to Hungarian singers and then taking photos of Budapest at night.
Note: In the spirit of full disclosure, I am now an agent for Cruise Brothers. I’ve taken over a dozen cruises from the biggest ships to the smallest river cruises. I invite you to visit my page and if you want more information, just email me!
Here is a slideshow of my trip to Prague and down the Danube from my Flickr Site: