Big city. Beautiful city. A lot like Paris. Or maybe Paris is like Vienna. Marie Antoinette was one of the 16 children of Marie Theresa, the Hapsburg queen so which way did the influence flow? I should have studied harder in college.
The ship tour takes you on a bus ride to see all the huge buildings, then you walk through the town center and see some of them again. I don’t take photos of them because you can get better pictures on google. Big buildings with lots of gold and bronze all tend to blur together on a tour like this anyway. We went through where the famous horses live, and saw their stables.
Okay, I have one building photo. The roof of St. Stephans Cathedral, in the town square, is interesting.
And here’s a shot of the interior of the cathedral–actually 5 shots, blended together. I’m trying to learn to do this better, hope it works out here:
After the tour, we went back to the Albertina museum, where they had a major exhibition of the work of Joan Miro, the brilliant Spanish surrealist. We took the audioguides, as always, and were both fascinated and educated.
Great art comes out of the artist’s life and experiences. Miro lived in a time of political upheaval in his native Spain as well as massive change in the concept of art with the introduction of abstract expressionism, surrealism and cubism. This exhibition covered his entire life and you could witness European history and the evolution of modern art on his canvases.
Exiting the Miro show, we went to see the other large exhibition of the museum, Monet to Picasso, the collection of a very prescient European couple. One thing I noticed is the creative way the show was hung–usually you have white or slightly off-white walls, but here the curator painted the walls a deep purple or blue:
I always take the audio guide because there is so much to learn, but sometimes they are just spouting artsy bullshit. On this next painting, The Blue Cow, by Natalia Gontsharowa, the commentor spoke about the “muted color palette”. If this palette were any less muted it would catch on fire:
After the museum, we crossed the street to the Cafe Mozart for lunch al fresco. We had the classic Viennese waiter in a tuxedo, speaking rapidly in a variety of languages to the motley group of customers, doing 6 things at once and doing them all well.
Gail had goulash with a dumpling–but not like any dumpling I ever saw before:
Jack and Carol then went walking, while Gail and I went to another museum, the Leopold. We saw works by Egon Schiele and Georg Klimt, but on the whole were not awed by anything.
I can’t resist cute kids. This little guy has nothing to do with anything, I just liked him.
Here’s what is awesome: coming out of this last museum, we wanted to go back to the ship. We were on a very busy street with no place for a taxi stand, and I didn’t see any taxis cruising. So I picked up my phone, opened the app for Uber, and 6 minutes later a late model Range Rover drove up. The driver, in a black suit, asked if I was Chris, and we headed back to the ship. The car featured bottled water, both still and sparkling, and wi-fi! Better wi-fi than I get on the ship, too. He drove us right up to the gangplank, opened the doors and said thank you. The bill comes automatically in your email, charged to your credit card (on file with Uber) No tipping. I have seen the future, and it works.
There are a goodly number of fiacres, or horse drawn carriages, working the tourist trade here. I enquired about getting one to take us on a short ride and the prices were horrendous. We walked.
But I did notice something odd. All the horses have their ears in little sweaters.
I don’t understand this at all. It certainly wasn’t cold. I didn’t see swarms of insects. I don’t think they are like blinders. They did come in a variety of colors, which might mean something to the locals. Google didn’t help, but maybe I didn’t ask the right question. Any ideas?
And that’s the story of Vienna. We sailed late because it is only 40 miles down river to Bratslave, Slovakia, our next stop. Check back tomorrow for more.
We’re in Nuremberg, a very modern city since it was 95% destroyed in 1945. We chose the optional expedition to see the artifacts of Nazi architecture and the location and history of the war crimes trials.
You might not think of architecture as propaganda, until you see these places. We began with the coliseum, the never completed temple to the glory of national socialism, modelled after the Coliseum in Rome but twice the size, planned with a dome.
Inside the coliseum is now a museum devoted to the history of the national socialist party and the second world war. Germany faces its past in a very forthright manner, insisting that all schoolchildren learn about it in depth, to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. The museum is ultra-modern, brilliantly and beautifully designed, and starts with Hitler being jailed for treason in the early 1920’s, his subsequent rise and then the war, the holocaust, and the demise of the reich.
The next stop was the Zeppelin field, where Count von Zeppelin himself brought in his airships. It was turned into a massive ampitheater where rallies and parades could be held, and where the fuehrer himself gave his most bombastic, stem-winding crowd pleasing orations.
After the big buildings, we headed to the Palace of Justice where the war crimes trials were held. The building is not only still standing, it is still in regular use, and historic courtroom 600 may or may not be available on any give day. It was not open to the public when we arrived, so we were herded into the museum of the war crimes trial upstairs, which is vastly more interesting in any case.
This was one of the few times Viking let us down, not providing the handheld wands with the translation of what the exhibits said. We had them in the earlier museum that day, but not here. Our guide was quite helpful, but not as much as knowing what I was looking at would be.
Still, we were enthralled with the detail, the photos, the sense of the place. The world came together and put war criminals on trial and then executed a goodly number of them, imprisoning others for long periods, through a system of justice and not blind revenge. That’s the way the world should work, and I wish it still did.
As we were leaving an announcement was made that courtroom 600 was open, so we stopped in. It isn’t really a large place for the amount of history that occurred there.
The tour bus dropped us off in the middle of town, near the cathedral of course. We decided to try something native for lunch, and found a crowded bratwurst house. The sausages here are quite small. They are boiled, then put on the grill until brown. You can order 6, 8,10 or 12 of them, with potato salad or fries. I went with 10:
There are rolls and large, fresh, soft pretzels on the table. The potato salad was warm and excellent, with very little vinegar.
Gail tried the pig’s knuckle:
It’s really just ham. Gail likes most anything with sauerkraut, and enjoyed her lunch after her intial shock at its appearance.
There is a tower in the market square that was bricked up to protect it from the bombing. I guess I owe them a photo:
And that’s all the fun we could have in Nuremberg. Now down the river towards Vienna.
Not every town can be San Francisco or St. Moritz. Someplaces just have to be Keokuk IA. Germany has many lovely cities, and Bamberg.
Not that there is anything wrong with Bamberg, it just isn’t spectacular. It’s a city where people live and work and study and love and eventually die, just like Cincinnati. We went there because it was Thursday, and we had to be somewhere.
We started out in the Grunmarkt, the green market in the center of town. Where once this was a thriving farmers market, now there are a couple of vegetable vendors and lots of stores just like at home–H&M, McDonalds, cell phone stores, drug stores, etc. The statue was nice:
In any town on a European grand tour, you have walk from the wherever the bus parks to the cathedral. That’s the drill, every time. And that means uphill, because they always build the house of God as close to Him as possible. So up the hill we trudged. In this case you walk across a bridge to a tiny island in the river where the town hall was built. The mural on the side of the building was interesting:
The artist did some serious showing off–the painting turns three dimensional with this angel, pointing to the artist’s signature:
We’re in Germany, so everything is neat and tidy. Here is one of the older buildings in town, a brewery where they produce the local beer–a very strong, smoky flavored brew. They say if you don’t like the first liter, have a couple more. I decided not to try that technique–the stuff is apparently on a par with Guinness for flavor, and I’m not. The building is gorgeous, though. I don’t know how they keep the flowers blooming this late in the year, but everywhere in the city there are beautiful windoboxes.
Reaching the top of the hill, gasping for air and holding both knees in pain, we arrived at the cathedral, or, as they say on these tours, “ABC”, another bloody church. Dark, imposing, gothic, cold, nothing very interesting or notable until I saw the imagery for the Stations of the Cross on the side wall. I don’t know anything about the artist, but I thought they were the most interesting thing in the entire city.
The tour ends at the cathedral, and you are left to find your own way back down the hill to the meeting point, which isn’t difficult since there is only one main street and you just follow the tourists.
Having time, we wanted to stop and have an ice cream, which seems to be national passion here. The creations go far beyond the simple chocolate sundae, and we had to have one.
For some reason, the local ice cream parlors specialize in trompe l’oeil ice cream construction. I had what was called a “pasta carbonara” sundae. The chocolate ice cream is extruded in the shape of spaghetti then topped with nutella, hazelnuts and whipped cream to simulate a dinner entree.
Carol had a sundae prepared to resemble a chocolate truffle:
She thought it tasted like wine, and sure enough, there was sherrylikör in the ingredients list. That’s probably illegal in California, but it sure tasted good in Germany.
And that was enough fun for Bamberg. We had to hurry back to the ship to get ready for dinner, and try to pretend to Gail that I hadn’t ruined my appetite with my plate of “spaghetti”.
On to Nurenburg.
This is a great cruise; we’re having a wonderful time.
I haven’t been sharing that with you because the “high speed internet” they promise isn’t. It’s low speed internet, at best. No-speed internet much of the time.
They claim they have the best system available, but here we are in the middle of high-tech Europe and it works lousy. Two years ago we were on the Mekong river in the middle of God-forsaken wilderness Cambodia and had a decent signal all the time. AMA Waterways was up to the task, Viking is lying.
Okay, I got that off my chest. It’s been frustrating as hell sitting here with photos to share and opinions to opine and not be able to do so.
I’ll start with Rothenberg. Cozy little town, overlooked by the development of the 18th century and then most of the second world war, it has become the Carmel of the Main River. We took a special expedition there, about a 45 minute bus ride from the boat. The bus leaves you just outside the town walls, because the streets are too narrow to accommodate it.
This is a small town inside the 1000 year old walls, not destroyed by Allied bombing and beautifully maintained. Their main industry seems to be tourism, so everything is cute and kitschy. They are very, very big on Christmas decorations, all year long.
In the old days, the gates to the city were closed at night. If you were out too late, tough luck. There was a very small door you might get the guards to open, if you paid them a fine/bribe.
The wall is well preserved, as is the gate house:
The narrow, cobblestoned streets don’t appear to have changed in the last 600 years. Going here is very much like going back in time.
The group went to lunch at a restaurant that has been in the same family for over a century. They own vineyards outside of the city, and serve their own wine.
The meal was the traditional bratwurst and sauerkraut. You get this a lot in Germany, and I always like it.
The local pastry delicacy is a call a schneebälle, snow ball. It’s basically the trimming from a pie crust crumpled up in a ball, baked, and covered with powdered sugar, cinnamon or chocolate. Everybody told us how dry it was in the middle, so I ordered mine with a cup of tea to dunk it in, but didn’t really need to.
I think I’ll finish this with a panorama from the guard house over the valley and river Taube. Then I’ll change the header on the blog to another panorama, facing back towards the first.
One city down, plenty more to talk about. Hope the internet keeps up for a while.
We’ve spent quite some time meandering along the canals that connect the Rhine to the Main, going through innumerable locks as our ship goes up and up and up. Eventually, we ended up here, in Miltenberg. Everybody has to be someplace.
There was an official tour this afternoon, but it entailed two hours of free time stuck in the town square of this burg, and rain was predicted. That seemed like a bad combination to me, so we decided to just stay on the ship and play cards.
I did get off the ship for a few minutes, just to walk a couple of blocks and buy some diet Coke for the refrigerator in our room. The experience convinced me that we had made the right decision for the day because it was colder than a stepmothers kiss out there, and the wind was blowing the rain sideways.
The interesting thing was running across this car. A magnificent looking two seater, clearly not new but perfectly maintained. I just don’t have any idea of what it is. There is a nameplate on the front, “Marcos”.
Take a look. See what you think. Does anybody know anything about this vehicle? I’m fascinated.
Now we’re in Germany, and the first stop is Cologne. The big attraction here is generally the cathedral, which is insanely large and dominates the downtown area right next to the river where we tie up.
This trip, however, held a bonus for me. Photokina, the largest camera trade show in the world, is held here every 2 years, and this is the week. The concierge on the ship got me all the information, and off Gail and i went.
Most trade shows are closed to the public, but Photokina is not. There is a clear distinction between trade and public events, though, with the largest manufacturers having dedicated areas to entertain their big buyers and cut deals. The hoi polloi are not welcome there, but I hardly felt excluded–the show is hundreds of thousands of square feet of exhibits of all the camera equipment porn an enthusiast could want.
There is enough eye candy to keep anyone involved and interested for hours. Many of the companies set up a place with models and lights where people take photos, although I have never understood it. If someone else has a concept, hires, dresses and makes up a model, sets up the lighting professionally, why would I want to take a photo and claim it showed my skills? What do the people huddling around furiously clicking get out of this? It’s beyond my understanding.
One booth had something dirrerent–a mime, covered in gold paint, who was, in Gail’s word, “adorable”. He brought people onstage and posed with them so their friends could get fun photos.
The Canon booth was the largest, taking up an entire exhibition hall. But I shoot Nikon and Sony cameras, so who cares?
Sony makes some incredible cameras, including my “little” camera I carry in my pocket. I wanted to see the latest iteration, the RX 100 III. It has some great features, but not enough to justify trading in the worn and battered one that is with me most of the time–all the photos in this post came from that camera.
Nikon has failed to update the D300, the large model I use for serious stuff. When it came out, it was one of the most popular models they had ever produced, and now 6 years later the photo world is crying out for an update and refresh. Canon just came out with what would be the perfect example, if only all my Nikon lenses would fit. But they won’t. Somehow this situation will have to change or Nikon is going to lose a significant market sector. I hoped to find some news, or a realistic substitute, at the Nikon booth, but they let me down once again.
On the other hand, they had the director of one of their advertising promo videos onstage to talk about the making of the film, and he was fascinating.
It’s a film about 3 great photographers and how deeply involved with their work they are–this is not a job to them, it’s a passion. The film was intriguing, and we enjoyed seeing that the director travels with his wife and 14 month old daughter, combining home and work.
Along the side of the stage, Nikon has mounted cameras with the very long, and expensive, lenses that the pro sports shooters use. People got to try them, and pretend that they were in the big leagues.
After we finished looking, we headed back to the cathedral area. Because it was Saturday, there were many weddings happening, which are on an assembly line–each group forms outside the cathedral, are let in for a few minutes for the ceremony and then are ushered quickly out so the next group can have its turn. There is a large cheer for each exiting couple, from their friends and from the hundreds of people waiting in line for the tour.
Gail and I had lunch across the street in a lovely outdoor terrace full of tourists and locals who came for the fancy ice cream concoctions. I had a bowl of pesto pasta that filled me up for 2 days, Gail had a savory crepe that she wisely did not finish. Nobody goes hungry here.
Back on board, it was time for the drill. Not a lifeboat drill, because there aren’t any. But then if the ship sinks, the sun deck will still be above water, because the river isn’t very deep. We all had to clamber up there in our silly looking life vests, but it’s always a great photo op.
The ship offered an excursion at night, to go bar hopping and try the local beer. That wasn’t for me, so we stayed in and played bridge in the lounge. There is inevitably some yokel who needs to walk by and yell “7 No Trump!”, as if that were clever. And that life on the river.
I’ve always associated windmills with milling, the grinding of wheat into flour. While that’s indeed a common usage, the original and main purpose of the windmill is the pumping of water to reclaim land below sea level.
But I’m getting ahead of myself–I should start with breakfast.
For the most part, it’s a buffet. You can order pancakes, waffles or eggs benedict a la carte, but everything else is self-serve. There are the usual fruits and pastries, hot and cold cereals and a smiling chef to make omelets.
Their scrambled eggs look almost as good as mine do:
You can tell the people on their first European trip by their astonishment at on particular dish:
Filled up and ready to go, we walked up the gangplank, over the dike and into the World Heritage Site that is Kinderdik. It’s name comes from a legend about a barren couple who found a baby floating in a basket. I thought that was Moses, I guess this is the Dutch version.
There are 19 windmills here, all for the purpose of raising the water up and shipping it off to the river and out of the polder, or area below sea level. The land/water management of the Netherlands is amazing, especially considering that they started this all in the 11th century–still in the Dark ages.
We had an overcast, misty day which made poor sightseeing and great photography.
The morning dew accentuates the many spiderwebs we saw:
The first windmill we saw:
A field of windmills–there is a lot of water to pump.
A pumphouse from the 1970’s. The Archimedes screws turn in opposite directions so they don’t tear down the building with their torque.
Some things never change. I saw a workman wearing wooden shoes. I asked if he really wanted to wear them or they were part of the job: he said if he didn’t like them he wouldn’t wear them. They are of very soft wood and only last about 3 months before they wear down and get holes in the soles, then he gets new ones.
And that’s all the fun we could have in Kinderdik. Back to the ship and we set off for Cologne. Spent the afternoon playing cards with Jack and Carol, ate a good dinner, listened to the lecture about All things Dutch or at least cheese, genever (the local, original, version of Gin) and art. Hit the sack and got ready for a big day in Cologne. Tune in tomorrow.
We served our time in Heathrow and got paroled. It’s only a 1 hour flight to Amsterdam, then a one hour walk (or so it seems) from the gate to baggage claim, immigration and out to a taxi.
Our first night here was in the Doubletree Hotel, which serves big hot cookies just like at home–and I get a few Hilton Honors points, which is always a bonus.
After a nap, we went to the top of the hotel to see the view and have a bite to eat. I haven’t been in a a disco bar in a verrrrrrrrrrry long time, but they are just as loud as ever. At least this one was well designed and decorated:
The next morning our ship had arrived. We are on the Viking Eistla, one of a huge fleet of modern river cruisers Viking operates. This ship just one year old, house 190 guests and is pretty spectacular. It was a 150 meter walk or a 1 mile taxi ride, but we had lots of luggage, and those Mercedes Taxis are so nice. Jack and Carol were waiting for us on the top deck, and we had lunch, then headed out to the Van Gogh Museum.
The museum was jammed, but we played the tired senior card, cut the lines and got in quickly. Which was a good idea becaue we faded fast and headed back to the ship.
Getting to the museum, we took a traditional taxi, but returning we called Uber, got a car in 3 minutes and saved €3 on the fare.
After a nap and dinner, Jack and I went for a walk. The ship docks next to the Central Station, and is just a few blocks from downtown Amsterdam. The night was balmy, and there were thousands of people just walking and sightseeing as we were.
The more thing change and all that–I remember my mother taking me to the Automat in New York when I was 5 or 6, then they closed the place down. It lives again in Amsterdam:
It wouldn’t be Amsterdam without some overt sexuality. We avoided the red light district, De Wallen, but we still smacked in face like this:
We passed a “seed shop” selling all sorts of marijuana paraphenalia (the weed itself is sold in the coffee shops) with lots of photos of their products illustrated with naked ladies. This is not a shy city.
There were restaurants serving outdoors alongside the canals:
And a final shot of some monuments in a square on the walk back to the ship:
That was enough fun for one night. The ship left the dock at 11:45, on the way to our next stop. Stay tuned.
Gail and I are on an adventure, currently sitting in the airline lounge in London waiting for a flight to Amsterdam. We’re going on a cruise from there to Budapest Hungary with our friends Jack and Carol Scott.
Sadly, we have a five hour layover here. British Airways has separate lounges for first and business class, and we are clearly the peasants here. Business class is certainly not getting the upscale amenities here in Terminal 5 south.
Not that it’s all bad–unlike the States, lounges here have open buffets with decent food and open bars with good quality liquor. You could get completely snockered on single malt Scotch if you so chose.
What is strange is the ancient, shabby, tatty furniture. The serious lack of enough electric outlets. The almost nonexistent places to sit upright and work on your computer. This place reminds me of my college dormitory when it should be a high tech retreat for the world traveling executive.
And then there are the Coke cans. 150 mililiters, just 5 ounces. I’ve never seen a miniature can before. Hope I never see one again. That just isn’t enough soda to quench anyone’s thirst.
I wanted to do something different for the brunch we had this morning for a few of our friends. I wanted to cook an ostrich egg.
Ever since we got back from Africa in June, I’ve been wanting to experiment like this. My friend Zina at the bridge club, who is from South Africa (and a fantastic cook), assured me that there is no significant difference in taste. Nothing strange, weird or gamy.
You can’t get an ostrich egg at the grocery store. Some Whole Foods purportedly carry them, but not in Lafayette. Eventually, I bought one from a ranch Tucumcari, New Mexico. It came Priority Mail, wrapped in newspapers, bubble wrap and two infant size diapers, which fit the curves very well.
Here it is before cracking:
Ostrich eggs are tough–that’s a 200 pound bird sitting on them. You usually have to open one with a hammer and chisel. I got lucky that all that packaging failed, and my egg was slightly cracked. I was able to pick out a piece of shell, open the membrane and pour out the copious contents into a bowl. The mostly intact shell went home with Harry Siter, who will create something special with it.
Not wanting to add much flavor, so we could savor whatever there was to savor, I scrambled the egg with just a touch of cream and scrambled it with butter an a bit of shallot. It filled the frying pan:
The key to making good eggs is to cook them slowly, on very low heat. There’s some scientific reason that goes over my head about high heat polymerizing the proteins, I just follow orders and turn the fire down.
After 15 minutes of gentle stirring, I had a plate of fabulous ostrich eggs. A very large plate:
Zina told me one ostrich egg is equivalent to 2 dozen chicken eggs, and that’s pretty darn close to right. We had 11 for brunch, and just enough egg. If I had snuck a couple of chicken eggs in nobody would have noticed.
This has no significance, I just thought it was fun.
|Visit this group|