Did you miss us?
We've been cruising happily down the Danube river through Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. It's been quite an eventful few days.
After finishing up in Vienna, we proceeded to the Intercontinental Hotel to drop off our luggage and board the bus that would take us and the rest of the cruisers to the ship. Having been on a cruise before, we were aware that the average age is often... well, older than us. We quickly realized that we would be the youngest on this particular voyage - and for the most part, by a long shot.
Not to take anything away from the wonderful people we met that were more experienced cruisers, but we were more than excited when we walked onto the bus and ran into our new best friends for the next 4 days, Janea and Dean. Our similar age drew us to each other, but we quickly became very close and spent almost all of our off shore excursions with them - save for the one Dean was a little too hungover to make it for :-)
Jill was her usual creative self in making sure that our table in particular always had enough free wine to not only last us through dinner, but also through the first hour of the dancing/social part of the evening as well.
The grumpy Hungarian musician even left his equipment turned on so that Graham could continue his impromptu tour across Europe, entertaining any who will listen/put up with him.
Our port calls were as follows:
Melk - A very brief stop in this very small town to see the very large Abbey that looms over it. It was impressive, ornate and old. The church actually was one of the more impressive ones that we've seen thus far.
Durnstein - Another sleepy little town on the Danube, though with an interesting story. The town's church had an addition of a large blue spire back in the days of Richard the Lionheart. Turns out on his journey home from a battle, the people here caught him and locked him in the tower. The only reason anyone found him was that one of his minstrels was journeying through the town, whistling a tune that the king recognized, and whistled it back. The ransom that was paid to free the king was what paid for the large new addition to the church, which really stands out as you cruise to the town down the Danube. An order of monks also had an establishment on the mountain side near the town. No walking tour was offered to this destination, as it was quite the climb. The younger folk couldn't resist the challenge, however, and shared the incredible pictures we got at the top of the climb to those who couldn't make the trip.
Bratislava - Dean and Graham were quite excited at the prospect of catching an IIHF game at this stop. Sadly, as our luck would have it, the day we spent here was the day off between the round robin and play off rounds. Graham caught up on the goings on in the tournament from the local pubs showing highlights, though. Hopefully Canada can pull the next game out against the Russians! The city was very much dressed up for the event, though, with life sized statues of hockey players stationed throughout the downtown area of the city. Though we didn't run into any actual team Canada members, it was still neat to be in the city at the same time as the tournament was going on.
We did a walking tour of the city, and saw all the sights. We learned that after an invasion by Napoleon, any homes that were damaged by cannon ball fire were given money to fix their houses. This lead to people purposefully driving cannon balls into their walls - some of which are still embedded there today.
We spent the afternoon sipping some fine Slovakian beer on the cobblestone streets before boarding the boat bound for Budapest.
We will update again once we're able to find some time to gather our thoughts about Budapest as well, as the past 4 days have been more of a blur than usual. Partly due to the wine, but mostly just due to the number of great people and sights we've seen.
Wish us luck with the Hungarian language...
- Graham and Jill