Wrapping It Up

I loved Germany, the German countryside, the small, neat and clean villages, always with a tall steepled church in the middle. Although I liked everything we saw, the trip was physically difficult for me due to my back problems.

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Marienplatz in Munich

Cities developed around villages and have “old town” city centers. Everywhere you looked you find quaintness and charm. Castles and churches are everywhere like a fairytale. The way to tell the difference in a castle and a church is that churches usually have clocks on the tower, castles do not.

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Castle along the Danbue River

If I never see another cobblestone street in my entire life, that will be soon enough. They look charming, but trying to walk on them is very difficult, especially when you can’t walk well anyhow.

Europeans have very efficient public transportation with an efficient train and subway system. They refer to it as the underground.

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The people of Europe are more environmental conscious than we Americans. Glass cola bottles have a deposit that is refunded when it is returned, like in the U.S. when I was a kid. We saw numerous solar energy farms, especially in Germany. Roadsides are clean and billboard scarce, mostly seen in town. Sometimes, however, ads are found in strange places, like on historic buildings.

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Morris at Roland’s Fountain, Old Town, Bratislava

Some graffiti is seen on walls, or under bridges, but it is fairly minimal and often of the artistic type. Beggars and peddlers are few and not annoying. I was only approached once by a young man with a cup for coins. Street vendors do not get in your face to the point you can’t enjoy seeing things like they do in some countries.

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The Danbue River was very low causing steep gangplanks and deboarding difficulties. Steps on the riverbanks were minimal, though, and had bannisters which helped a lot. The city tours were either on a large new and comfortable motor coaches, where you see things the best you can out large windows, or were long, difficult walking tours.

Meals were mostly onboard with not much opportunity to sample local cuisine. The one meal we ate on our own after first arriving was delicious. There were two other meals off the ship, the one with the purple sauerkraut, and the one with the rubber dumplings. If there were others, I don’t recall them and it is probably just as well. Guides sometimes suggested cafes, but why pay out of your pocket for food when meals on the riverboat are included and you have just eaten onboard and are not hungry.

The Oktoberfest segment was false advertising as far as I am concerned and some other people were quite upset about it. The few hours we spent there were a major selling point of the tour. It was a total disaster. I was so dead from walking up the hill that I just sat and waited and didn’t get to do anything. Some people tried to go into the beer halls, but were rushed and by the time they found a spot at a table, they could only swig a quick beer.

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Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany

Germany and Austria were both picturequesque and quaint. Slovakia was a surprise to me. I had no expectations, but found it quite interesting. Budapest was fabulous. I had no idea how beautiful it would be. It is suppose to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and I must say it is truly the most beautiful city I have ever seen. I’ve heard that Paris is also beautiful, but have not been (yet).

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Budapest, Hungary

The water of the Danube was not polluted according to locals, but foam floating on the surface of the water, especially downriver, could only be cause by pollution. There are many large and modern suspension bridges, which are feats of engineering, as well as older ones across the river.  I was surprised by the number of locks we went through [16, more or less] an ugly little detail not mentioned by travel agents.

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I thought I would be able to view the Alps in the distance in Austria, but did not see them. That was disappointing as I’ve always wanted to see the Alps. I could swear I saw a picture of mountains in the travel brochures, but I can’t find it now. I either imagined it, or we passed this area at night or in the fog.

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Cruising to Vienna

As I have mentioned several times, the tour seemed loosely planned and was not efficient. On the riverboat, everything was perfect. The food was tasty, the entertainment good, the crew and staff spoke English and were friendly. The tours off the boat were a problem. We seemed to spend a lot of time just waiting and then zipping by things without time to fully appreciate what we were seeing. While it is not possible to control every detail, there were obvious problems. This was not a bargain or discounted tour.

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The Blue Danbue Cocktail – I had to try one.

The local currency was Euros, which I found user friendly. Euros are worth more than U.S. dollars, which you have to keep in mind when shopping. The bills were marked and different amounts were different colors and sizes. The smallest denomination was five Euros. Smaller amounts, such as one Euro and two Euros were coins. Most places prefer currency and some places will not accept a credit card. Thank goodness I planned ahead.

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Photo Public Domain

Language was not a problem. All staff on the ship spoke English, tour guides, of course, airport personnel, and shop keepers. Even the general public could switch easily to English. It seems English has become almost a universal language. Europeans are much more versatile with communication than we are. Americans tend to think our own ways of doing things are the best, but the rest of the world does not view  us as we view ourselves. Many brochures advise you to try not to act like an American in mannerism or dress.

I liked everything I saw. I would have liked it better from a tram or in a smaller tour group. Hopefully, I will eventually forget the pain I endured and mainly remember the things I saw. As an inexperienced traveler, I did not check out the travel agency carefully enough to be sure it had been in business a long time and had guides that were experienced with our agenda. There are many hidden expenses, such as extra tours and services and tips.

Traveling makes you want to travel more. It broadens your horizons and expands your knowledge and understanding of people different from you. You learn to appreciate how well off Americans are and to see our shortcomings in greater depth. Others do not view Americans as well as we view ourselves. I will not plan a long trip again until my back improves and I can walk without pain, but I hope at some point I can travel again. There is a whole world out there and what most of us have seen is only a fraction of the diverse cultures of the earth.

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Glokenspiel, New Town Hall, Munich

In spite of the inconveniences, some of which can be expected, and my petty complaints, I still am grateful to be able to take this trip and see how other parts of the world live.  What’s next? Well, I mentioned Paris and Switzerland. Thailand, China would be interesting, as well. I am open to suggestions if you have any.

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Vienna, Austria

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In Vienna they appreciate the finer things of life and have many statues, fountains, and buildings with grand architecture. We were supposed to tour Vienna on a bus. For the afternoon we have “at leisure time.” I hoped this didn’t mean walking around a large city in a foreign country without knowing where you are, unable to speak the language, and with no guide. If I wanted to wander around by myself, I would not have signed up for a tour.

Much to my relief, my fears were unfounded. As it turned out, the tour was okay, more or less. The tour guide was one of the best we have had. She said she was a ballerina at one time, and she knew a lot about music as well as a lot about Vienna. We drove around on a bus and looking at historic buildings. Then we got off the bus and walked to “City Center,” which I suppose is the Times Square or Piccadilly Circus of Vienna. The guide walked slow enough getting there, but on the way back she shifted gears and took off. *sigh* Nothing new.

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We were supposed to look around on our own for a while and meet the  guide back at a big clock. I hobbled along with my cane, doing the best I could on cobblestone streets. Mo had quit helping me by now. I was going to tour the old church, but it was a mob scene, so I decided to skip it and look around the souvenir shops. Then I found a bench and sat down and waited. Not much more I could do by myself.

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St. Stephen’s Cathedral

I think the company tour directors may finally “get it” that old people cannot walk fast. It seems that a company that specifically markets to old people and senior organizations would know this. I am not walking slow on purpose. My knees and my back hurt and I’m afraid of falling down and being seriously injured. I can only do what I can do. The amount of walking was the low point of the entire trip for me.

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Mo was fixated on getting a converter plug to replace the one he shorted out, but didn’t find one in a tourist area, of course, and wasted the entire time looking. After we got back to the boat, he decided to get a taxi and go back to town. He paid I don’t know how much to get the taxi to take him to an electronics store where he could buy a converter, even though he could share mine and didn’t need it. Then he went to the souvenir shop and bought a sweatshirt exactly like the one I bought earlier. While he was gone, I took a nap as I was worn out again.

Tonight we got the massively “good” news that the water was too low to move the boat at night, so we would have to sail tomorrow afternoon instead of having time at leisure. I didn’t really care whether I had time at leisure or not. The Captain said they were going to drain the pool to lose some weight. What next? Will they throw off all the luggage and if that doesn’t work ask for volunteers to jump? (Okay, okay, an old joke. Sorry about that.)

We got more “good news” that not enough people had signed up to the Hungarian Horse Farm optional trip and it was cancelled. It is probably because they want to move the boat during the time we were to go to the show. I am beginning to suspect everything is a ploy.

A small string orchestra entertained on the boat after dinner and that was nice. Most people liked the food the boat served. I called it banquet food. It was course after course, salad, soup, appetizer, main course, (a small portion of something with gravy drizzled on the plate and a garnish on top) and dessert. Every meal except breakfast was served with wine. I later found out the chefs were Russian. I thought it did not seem like German food, and it certainly was not American.

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Vienna Opera House

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Tribute to Holocaust Victims

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