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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.”
We made this trip between May 9th and May 26th. Once again, circumstances conspired to make this post quite late.
Lior, the youngest son of our Rego Park neighbors, Anat and Shimon, was going to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah at the Kotel in Jerusalem. We have known Lior since he was born and felt that we had to be there. So we scheduled a trip to Israel. Sounds simple… It wasn’t.
Susie decided that since we were heading to Israel, we should also visit her cousin Shelley in Aix-en-Provence. Shelley and her husband, Michael have repeatedly asked us to visit them and it was time that we do just that. That side trip was not as easy as I thought it would be. When I tried to book it myself, the trip was double th cost of a direct flight to Tel Aviv and back to New York. We turned to our travel agent in Sarasota for help in getting this trip done. Our travel agent found that it was not a simple thing because we wanted to fly on El Al, the Israeli airline.
To get to Aix-en-Provence, we left New York on Thursday afternoon and landed in Barcelona, Spain on Friday morning. In Barcelona, we took a high-speed train (the French TGV) to Aix, arriving there on Friday night. The trip involved 22 hours of travel during which we hardly slept. Shelley and Michael picked us up at the railroad station and took us to their home.
On Saturday morning, Michael drove us into the Aix. It was market day and there were several markets where vendors were selling fresh food, antiques and Flowers. The town was quite crowded. When we got to the main street in Aix, Cours Mirabeau, we learned of the other reason for the crowd… the next day was the running of a 70.3 Mile Ironman Race. Aix is a fascinating city and I wish we had the time to see more of it.
On Sunday morning, Shelley, Michael, Susie and I headed to Marseille, about 45 minutes south of Aix. My description of Marseille is a port area surrounded by hills. We parked in the Old Port and spent the morning and a good part of the afternoon walking. The upper part of the city contains a lot of narrow streets and stairways by which the area is navigated. By mid afternoon, we were all worn out and headed back to Aix.
On Monday, May 13th, We headed back to Barcelona. As I said earlier, there was no other way for us to economically make the trip to Aix-en-Provence and then to Israel. The trip required two changes of trains. The first leg was on the high-speed train to Marseille, a trip that took about 11 minutes. We then took a regional train (slower than the TGV) to Montpellier where we changed to the high-speed train to Barcelona. Not only did we change trains, but we also had to change stations. This was accomplished by taking a free shuttle bus to a light rail station. The light rail dropped us off near the second station. We arrived in Barcelona in late afternoon and stayed overnight in an airport hotel. The next morning we took our flight to Israel arriving that afternoon, local time. We rented a car and headed to my cousins Noemi and Yair in Ramat HaSharon.
On Wednesday, May 15th, we headed into Yaffo, one of the oldest cities in the world. Yaffo is now part of the city of Tel Aviv-Yaffo. The visit to Yaffo with my cousins Noemi and Yair, is something we have done every time we came to Israel. We walked along the Tel Aviv Promenade where you can a good view of both the Yaffo and Tel Aviv waterfront.
One of the highlights of this visit was eating at an authentic Arab restaurant. A variety of appetizers absolutely filled the table, with just enough room for the plates. After filling up on the appetizers came the main course… we didn’t need a big dinner that night.
Thursday, May 16th, was devoted to Lior’s Bar Mitzvah. We left Ramat Hasharon early in the morning and headed on our first of three trips to Jerusalem. Our destination was a parking lot adjacent to the Pais Arena, where we boarded a bus to the Dung Gate of the Old City. On the way, we stopped at the Jerusalem Windmill for breakfast. The lack of parking anywhere near the Dung Gate necessitated the use of the bus. The Dung Gate is located adjacent to three structures that are significant to two religions. The first and secondare Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, holy to Islam. Both of these are located on Temple Mount. The third structure is the Western Wall, known as the Kotel to Jews.
The area in front of the Kotel is managed in accordance with Orthodox Jewish tradition, the men and women are in separate areas, separated by a fence (see picture below). The picture below was taken during our visit in 2014. It was taken on Wednesday when no Bar Mitzvahs are held at the Kotel because the Torah is normally read on Saturday, Monday, and Thursday.
The crowd on Thursday is a lot larger with the men in the Bar Mitzvah party pushing closer to the wall. The women are trying to get closer to the fence so they can watch the proceedings over it. My pictures of Lior’s Bar Mitzvah were limited because the professional photographer was in the best position, as he should be, and blocked my shots.
After the Torah reading the group proceeded out of the Old City accompanied by musicians. We boarded the bus and headed to a restaurant for the reception. After the meal, we boarded the bus again and headed to the parking lot to retrieve our car for the trip back to Ramat Hasharon.
The next few days were spent with my cousins. The highlight was a dinner on Friday night with our five cousins and their significant others.
On Saturday, we drove through Jerusalem to the settlement of Kedar, to attend Lior’s Bar Mitzvah in the local synagogue. We had to Leave Ramat Hasharon early to make the 8am start time for the service. I left my camera at my cousins because photography was not permitted in the synagogue.
On Monday, May 20th, accompanied by Noemi and Yair, we headed to Haifa. A week before we left New York, Susie learned that she had a second cousin, on her paternal side of the family, who lived in Haifa. Up until this point she had very little knowledge about her grandmother’s family. It turned out that the newly found cousin’s grandmother was Susie’s grandmother’s sister. While still in New York, Susie contacted her cousin, Sharon and arranged a lunch meeting at a restaurant on Dado Beach near Haifa. Prior to meeting Sharon, we went to Mount Carmel, where we viewed the Bahai Shrine and gardens. Following the lunch, we headed to Caesarea, to visit her cousin, Anne.
On May 22nd, we went back to Jerusalem. Susie wanted to revisit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. We had visited it previously in 2000. Photography was not permitted in the museum, so.. No Pictures.
Before we left New York, Susie learned that her friend and colleague, Barbara Stripling, was going to be in Jerusalem on this day. So, we decided to meet for a few hours. That turned into a minor comedy. Barbara told Susie the name of the hotel. Unknown to us, there were three hotels in Jerusalem with the same name. Of course, Susie and I went to the wrong one. A helpful front desk clerk helped us locate Barbara.
We had one last excursion on May 23rd. That was back to Caesarea. We had already visited Caesarea a few days earlier, but this time we just went to the beach north of the town. The beach sits alongside the ruins of a Roman aqueduct that I assume supplied ancient Caesarea. It appears that there is some stabilization work being performed on the aqueduct as well as some beach replenishment from the sand on the land side of the aqueduct.
Friday, May 24th was spent relaxing and walking on the shopping streets of Ramat Hasharon. Saturday was a day of rest and an early night. On Sunday, we left Ramat Hasharon at 5 am for an 8 am flight to New York. The flight was long, eleven hours, but uneventful.
This was a great trip. We saw Lior at his Bar Mitzvah and we saw Susie’s and my relatives. We are already talking about another trip in two years, God willing.
On our way to Florida for the winter, we stopped in Washington, DC for a long weekend, to attend the festivities surrounding the wedding of the son of one of my cousins. On Thursday, October 4th, our only evening without any scheduled activities, we took a night tour of Washington, DC. Over the course of 2 1/2 hours, we stopped at the Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Memorial, Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, and Marine Corps Memorial. Susie and I highly recommend that anyone visiting Washington take a night tour.
I have not done much low light photography and this tour was quite a challenge for me. My camera does not have a flash… it would be useless for most of the pictures I took; I left my monopod and tripod in the car, which was in the hotel garage, so I had to take all the pictures free-hand. Fortunately, I took enough pictures changing camera settings until I got a usable shot. Below is a selection of what I felt were the best shots of the night.
Note: I didn’t realize that I the copyright date on the pictures was wrong. I thought I had updated it. All these pictures were taken on October 4, 2018, and the copyright is for that date.