After three plus years of limited travel due to Covid-19, we are finally going to start traveling again and invite you along. The “Road” consists of the Danube, Main and Rhine Rivers and takes us from Budapest, Hungary to Amsterdam, Netherlands.
July 8, 2022 – Budapest
Our River Journey was planned last year, and we hoped that it wouldn’t suffer the fate of the other major trips we planned since Covid struck in 2019. It didn’t. However, things didn’t quite go as planned.
Our journey was to begin on July 7th with a flight from Miami to Frankfurt and on to Budapest, with our arrival on the afternoon of the 8th. We decided to go to Miami on the July 6th and stay at an airport near the hotel near the airport that had a “park-stay-fly” offer that involved a night before we fly and a night when we return and parking for the duration of or trip. Since we had not seen my cousin Liz and Don Hess in over three years, we stopped at their home for a visit before heading to the hotel.
With the large number of cancellations by airlines this year, I had a bad feeling about one of the two segments being cancelled. My feeling was reinforced by the experience on our first flight since May 2019. We flew to Washington for Susie’s American Library Association conference last week. On the return, we were booked on the only non-stop flight from DC to Sarasota. It was a fully loaded plane with a pilot and a missing first officer. After an hour of trying to find a replacement for the missing first officer, our flight was cancelled. While at my cousin’s home we got a call from our travel agent advising that both segments of this current itinerary were cancelled. She managed to get us booked on a flight to Budapest with stops in Washington and Munich. However, we were assigned seats that were not together. Fortunately, none of the segments were cancelled and we arrived in Budapest without any problems.
Tomorrow, we are on our own in Budapest. We board the riverboat on July 10th and have a tour of the city on the schedule. Friends and family members that have been here have offered some suggestions. We don’t want to visit places that are on Tauck’s tour. We have some homework to do…
I should have provided more information about Budapest in yesterday’s post. I was a bit tired and rushed through the post. Rule number 1- Don’t Try to write a Post (or anything important) after more than 24 hours of Travel with minimal sleep.
We were on our own today. The first thing I wanted do this morning was to take a picture of the view from our hotel window.
This the Royal Palace on the Buda side of the Danube and our hotel is almost directly on the opposite side the river. The Danube is flowing downstream from us and will eventually empty in the Black Sea.
After breakfast, we decided to walk along the left bank of the Danube. One of the sights we wanted to see the “Shoes on the Danube Bank.”
Close up of a pair of shoes with Memorial Candle left by a visitorCast Iron Sign. Two others are in Hebrew and Hungarian
Our next stop was the Parliament Building. It is a large building. Even with a wide angle lens, I had difficulty getting it a single shot. Thanks to Photoshop, I was able to stitch three pictures into the single picture, below.
The next stop in the morning walk was the Jewish Quarter. There were two buildings in particular that we wanted to see, The Rumbach Synagogue and the Dohany Street Synagogue. Both synagogues are no longer functioning as a houses of worship, but they were closed because it was the Sabbath. We have some free time tomorrow, prior to boarding the river boat, MV Esprit, so we will walk back to the area and see the interior of the synagogues.
A Memorial Tree of Life at the Dohany SynagogueMass Graves at the Dohany Synagogue
After lunch and giving our feet some relief from the morning walk, we headed to the Great Market Hall. By the time we walked there from the hotel, it was nearly closing time and some of the stalls were already shut down. We did a quick walk through the aisles of the first floor and headed back to the hotel, walking along the riverbank where many of the riverboats were tied up. We spotted the MS Esprit getting ready to receive us tomorrow afternoon. By the time we got back to the hotel, we had walked 6.8 miles.
Today we have a half day on our own before we board our ship for the beginning of the cruise. Yesterday we visited the Great Synagogue (also known as the Dohany Street Great Synagogue) from the outside because it was closed for the Sabbath. A guided tour is recommended so you could pick a time convenient time and avoid the lines. The synagogue tours are available in multiple languages. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and fluent in English.
Great Synagogue Viewed from Across the Street
Detail of the Bimah (a raised platform in a synagogue from which the Torah is read). The Torahs scrolls are kept in the Ark in front.
The Heroes Temple Dedicated to the Jewish Soldiers Who Served in the Hungarian Army During World War I
Heroes Temple Interior
Tree of Life
Memorial Leaves on the Tree of Life
Hundreds of Jews Were Massacred in the Synagogue in the Closing Days of World War II. These Mass Graves Contain the Remains of Hundreds of Victims, Many Unidentified.
This afternoon we were picked up at the hotel and transported to the MS Esprit. The afternoon was spent unpacking our bags. In the evening we attended a welcome reception and orientation, followed by dinner.
This morning we left the Esprit to tour Budapest. The tour focused primarily on the Buda side of the Danube. Buda is elevated above the Danube, while Pest is fairly level. Our first, essentially the only, stop was the Royal Palace, which, as you have seen in a previous post, dominates the hill on the right bank of the Danube. We didn’t go into the palace itself.
Medieval residential area adjacent to the Royal Palace. Historically, this area was reserved for the nobility.
Cathedral at the Royal Palace, Front view
Rear of the Cathedral viewed from the Overlook
Royalty on Horseback. The testicles on the horse are shiny. University students rub them for luck before exams.
After the tour we boarded the Esprit and started our voyage upriver. Enroute to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, we passed small towns and ruins of castles on hills. These scenes repeated themselves all along the journey.
This was a humorous scene. The child was enjoying running from the wake created by the Esprit. The sadder side of this picture is that under normal conditions, this “beach” is underwater. The water usually is up to the tree line.
This morning we toured Schönbrunn Palace. This palace is considered a museum and no photography was allowed within the walls. The Palace contains over 1,400 rooms and only a few are open to the public. We didn’t have enough time to walk around the gardens before returning to the ship.
After being dropped off at ship’s dock, we decided to walk into town on our own.
This morning’s stop was at Durnstein, a historic village sitting below the ruins of Durnstein castle. The castle history includes the imprisonment of King Richard the Lionheart of England during the Third Crusade. Susie was not feeling well this morning, so I walked up the hill into the town. The narrow streets contain the usual shops selling souvenirs and local products, wine being one of them. Tourists walking on these streets have to be careful because there are no sidewalks, and you share the street with cars.
Durnstein Castle ruins seen from the river level
The entrance to Durnstein. The town is about 200 feet higher than this point.
The narrow streets of Durnstein
We continued up the Danube along the Wachau Valley to Melk for a tour of the Melk Abbey. Lining the Danube in this stretch a number of interesting towns and many vineyards. We didn’t have any time to go the town of Melk. The main attraction is the Abbey. As in some of the other palaces and abbeys, the Melk Abbey is considered to be a museum and therefore does not allow photography. The link to the Abbey, above provides some pictures of the interior.
Spitz, in the Wachau Valley, is typical of many of the towns in this stretch of the DanubeWeissenkirchen (meaning White Church). Only a small part of the church is white. Melk Abbey, viewed from the Danube on our approach to the dockEntrance to Melk AbbeyMelk Abbey interior courtyard
After we left Melk, we were advised that the cruise was canceled because of low water in the next stretch of the Danube. The ship’s Captain had been monitoring the levels on a regular basis. The draught plaguing western and central Europe has caused the levels to drop quickly. The Esprit is a relatively small river cruise ship. We were not the only ones that have to cancel or modify their trip.
Today we docked in a small town down river from Passau, Germany, where we boarded a bus that took us on a whole day trip to Salzburg, Austria. Susie and I were in Salzburg in 1971 and didn’t expect many changes, although we did notice a McDonalds which definitely was not there on that visit. The first part of our visit involved a guided tour of the historic Old City. A lot of people relate the movie, “The Sound of Music,” to Salzburg. The tour guide made minimal references to the movie… the locals don’t want to be associated with it. After that tour, we were on our own and wandered around the town.
The Old City viewed from across the Salzach RiverMirabell GardensPegasus Sculpture in Mirabell GardensThe Hohensalzburg Fortress, as seen from Mirabell Gardens
A couple heading to the Registry for their wedding. Pictures are taken in the gardens afterward.
Mozart’s birthplace is on the fourth floor
These are bell pulls that ring a bell in the kitchens. You can see the wires in the picture, above.
One of several alleys containing shops
Yes… McDonald’s is here, but the golden arches are tiny and are in the wreath hanging on the sign. See closeup below
It is not hard to identify the product sold in this store.
Old Market Place Plaza
One of the historic buildings in the market plaza. Note the date of construction at the top.
The Salzburg CathedralThe Rezidence… The Bishop’s PalaceThe Fortress Dominates the Rezidence Plaza We didn’t have enough time to get up to the fortress before we had to be at the bus stopA sign in the Rezidence plaza commemorating a Nazi book burning The 1823 quote by Heinrich Heine loosely translated states, “This is only an appetizer When Man burns books In the end Man will also burn People.”
We boarded the bus for the trip to Passau and the official end of the cruise. All of us have to be to be off the ship by Monday, July 18th. Most of the crew will be unemployed and have to return to their homes.
Instead of writing a post about our “Misadventures,” I am posting a chain of texts between me and our children, Carrie and Rick. All times in Eastern Time… Add six hours for the time in Europe.
Wed, Jul 13, 1:51pm
We just got word that the cruise is cancelled due to low water in a stretch of the Danube. We are exploring alternatives.
Carrie: Oh geez
Wed, Jul 13, 3:31pm
Rick: Oh boy
We are trying to work out our options. Probably won’t know anything until tomorrow afternoon. Problems is that every ship going up and down the Danube has the same problem and are trying to get their passenger out.
Rick: Have you spoken to the travel agent?
Thu, Jul 14, 1:23am
We are working on it. The time difference doesn’t help. We are continuing the trip through Passau. They can’t go any further. We are hoping to get a flight out of Munich. Tauck will arrange transportation to Munich.
Sun, Jul 17, 2:47am
We are scheduled to leave the ship for Munich at 10:30 local time. We have a room booked at the Hilton near the airport. As of now we leave Munich on United flt 31 to Newark and then on United 1252 to Miami. If there are any changes, I will let you know.
Sun, Jul 17, 5:33am
We made it to Munich airport. Taking the subway to downtown Munich. Already checked in at the hotel and United Airlines.
Sun, Jul 17, 7:18am
Our misadventures continue… We are a few stops away from our destination in Munich and our train stops, first between stations, and then in a station. Unauthorized persons were on the tracks and someone must have been hit. We got out of the inbound train and are standing on the outbound station heading back to the airport. Been here an hour at this time and don’t know when the trains will start running.
We got the first train heading back to the airport. We had not planned to be in Munich, nothing lost except some time.
Sun, Jul 17, 9:38am
Rick: Oh Jesus. You guys should write a movie
Would it be a tragedy, comedy or horror?
We are back at hotel after a stop at a famous German restaurant, MickyD.
Rick:😂 It would be all 3
OK. You are the pro… you write it.
I would wait to write it until we are home in Osprey. The way things are going there may be more calamities. I HOPE NOT. If the plane taking us to EWR lands on time tomorrow morning (the same flight we had coming here), we should be OK. Then we only have to worry about EWR to MIA flight.
Mon, Jul 18, 4:13am
Incoming flight delayed in DC.
We are now on board. Scheduled departure is in 20 minutes. The Newark-Miami leg is delayed giving us about an hour to go through customs. We are told we will get on the flight.
Mon, Jul 18, 12:59pm
Just landed in Newark.
Mon, Jul 18, 2:14pm
The comedy continues. It took longer than usual to get the luggage and go through immigration. We had to get through customs, which was nothing. Recheck the bags to Miami. We then had another security check that didn’t take long because of TSA precheck. We ran to the gate which was already starting to load passenger. Here is the kicker… the plane is delayed because the crew was diverted to Philadelphia and they won’t load the plane until they are here. Current estimate for departure is 4pm.
Rick: Oh boy. Glad you’re on the plane. Lmk when in fla
Mon, Jul 18, 5:19pm
We are still in Newark. We have a cabin crew and waiting for the pilots. They were making regular announcements. It has been silent for a while and the gate agents are not at the gate. A lot of flights have been canceled. It is hard to be optimistic right now.
We are finally on the plane. Expect to land after 9pm.
Rick: It’s an adventure Hopefully this flight takes off
From your mouth to God’s ear.
We have been in the plane for about an hour. Now we are in a Air Traffic Control hold because of severe weather in our flight path. We may here for another 30 minutes.
Rick: Oye You’ve pulled away from the gate?
We’re sitting on the taxiway with engine in low idle.
It’s all weather related. Can’t blame United completely. Part our delay was due to the need to get seats for two crew members coming off a flight. If they didn’t do that we might have been in the air.
I’m going to have to shut the phone down soon.
I will let you know when we get to the hotel. We will probably miss the last hotel shuttle. This is a long 24-hour day for us.
Carrie: You must be exhausted.
It’s almost 24 hours since we got up. Air Traffic Control just cleared us for takeoff.
Mon, Jul 18, 11:22pm
Thanks. It is 24 hours since we got up. Time to call it a day.😃
As Seen on the Road
We are always on the lookout for something unusual to place in our posts. We call those items, “As Seen on the Road.” This one is better titled, “As Seen on the Danube.”
Viking’s smallest river cruise ship heading downstream on the Danube. Low water doesn’t stop them. Going upstream may be a bigger problem.