Europe, August 2014: WE LEARN HOW TO PRONOUNCE "BUDAPEST" SO IT SOUNDS LIKE "BUDAPESHT" AND SEE A LOT OF CHURCHES ALONG THE WAY
So this summer we decided to do another Viking cruise, this one covering the rivers between Budapest and Amsterdam. Let me tell you, 15 days on a boat is a long damn time. We met some very nice people, made some new friends, and saw many sights. I've tried to capture the essence of it here. Before you begin to move from image to image, I have to apologize: rather than create double images and more pages than you'd care to count, I decided to do it all in one page; so you'll have to do a lot of scrolling. Scrolling is sort of a web design no-no, but the alternative was too painful to contemplate. Sorry...
This is us in Vienna. titled, "We'll always have Vienna." It sort of sums up who we are: regal yet unimposing; classical yet approachable. yep, that's us alright...
One thing more: because all of our stops seemed to run together in my head--the cities all had foreign-sounding names--I've opted to just arrange things alphabettically. So, while Amsterdam was our last stop, it comes first. Hey, it's my site; I can arrange things the way I want. Thank you for understanding.
The Viking Eistla - This is the boat we cruised on. Named after the favorite breakfast cereal of the King of Sweden, the Eistla carries about 200 passengers and offers the best quality in food, service, and singing program directors.
Amsterdam at night - We barely got to see Amsterdam. We arrived in the wee hours and left for home at 6:30 a.m. Ever the intrepid photographer, I did get up in the middle of the night to take this photo, but it's one of very few images I captured in the city.
Swans in Amsterdam - I can never resist the chance to photograph a swan. I'm told they're thoroughly nasty creatures, but they sure do look good in a photograph.
Bridge Over the Danube - Alright, we have to immediately dispell a couple of erroneous notions. First of all, the Danube is not blue. I'm going to repeat that so you can move beyond hyperventilating: The Danube is not blue. This photo was taken near Bratislava, Slovakia, and shows the bridge that joins You're in Bratislava and Youre Not in Bratislava. I'm told they're both nice towns, but nice towns don't make a brown body of water change color. The second notion we have to put behind us is the one that suggests I have a clue about what I'm saying or a whit of concern with the idea of being truthful.
The Bridge Between Buda and Pest - Budapest, our guide informed us, was originally two cities; however, because international law frowns on the practice of using four-letter words to describe major metropolitan areas, the names of the two cities were combined. In 1721 a coin toss was held and "Budapest" was chosen over "Pestabud." One other note, the name of the city is pronounced "Buda - Pesht" in honor of Joe Pesci, who has never been there.
The Chain Bridge - Although this image was taken from the Buda side, looking toward Pest, you can also travel from Pest to Buda on the same bridge. It's one of those "wonders of science" things. The Chain Bridge was destroyed during the Second World War but rebuilt in the 1950's.
Needlework Vendor - I'm sure you're wowed by the clever and innovative titles I assign to my images, but it's part of the art. Still, thank you for noticing. All I know about this woman is that she is Hungarian, a skilled craftsperson, and capable of bench pressing 800 kilos.
The Park By the Tracks - I took this photo from the Chain Bridge, just as it ended in Buda. Graffiti is a worldwide phenomenon, and we've seen it everywhere we've traveled. Three years ago, when we were in Rome, we actually saw the Pope buy spray paint and walk into the Papal Garden. We had to move on, so we don't know what he did with the paint.
Hungarian Parliament - The Parliament building is every bit as beautiful as it appears in this photograph. Sitting on the bank of the Danube, it's a popular site for visitors. In the background, the broad plain of Hungary stretches out to the horizon.
The Pest Side of the Danube - With the side of the Parliament facing us in the distance, I took this photo from the Chain Bridge. The boat in the foreground is similar to the Eistla but much smaller. It's not a Viking boat, and we were told by the Viking crew that this particular boat uses passenger-powered oars to move. I have no reason to disbelieve that information.
The Violinist - At lunch in Buda, we were entertained by this talented musician. For a small gratuity, he entertained us for over an hour, playing selections from Pink Floyd, James Taylor, Dave Brubeck, and Hank Snow.
Hungarian Parliament by Night - As we were cruising away from Budapest, we all gathered on the sun deck to see the city by night, take some final photos, and watch our drunken crew cavorting in the moonlight. It was a beautiful sight, and the city was also nice.
The Cologne Cathedral - A friend, Bill Hohmann, dubbed the cruise"The ABC Cruise," "ABC" being the acronym for "Another Beautiful Church." He didn't make that up. Every city we visited had a cathedral, and every guide felt compelled to show off his city's cathedral. It made for a long cruise. Bill's wife, Judy, was the source of 90% of the information I'm sharing with you. She was a veritable fountain of knowledge.
The Heavenly Choir - Outside of the Cologne Cathedral there's a workshop where the constant cycle of repairs and renovations is planned and executed. In a yard there I spotted these spare rainspouts, sitting side-by-side, appearing to be singing in harmony.
Dead Boat - In Kinderdijk, The Netherlands, we were checking out the windmills when I saw this boat, sitting in the water, gradually filling up with water. It's the kind of image that speaks to me. Notice the raindrops on the water? The boat was saying, "Hey, stupid, why do you have that pricey camera out in the rain?"
My First Windmill - We were cruising along on the Rhine when Judy, the wife of Bill, called out, "Hey, look, a windmill!" It was the first one we'd seen and the first one I'd ever seen. I'm not sure why this image has such a dreamy look to it. It's probably a function of the light rain that was falling and the dull light of the day. I like it.
Pears - I was going to name this "Celery," but then I decided that was too obvious. I was walking along a dike in Kinderdijk, when I happened upon this pear tree and said to myself, "Self, a picture of some nice juicy pears would be a perfect addition to the host of images you're going to post." I agreed, so here it is.
Reeds - Nothing I know of goes with pears like a wall of reeds growing from a murky body of water next to a windmill in The Netherlands. It seemed to me that if you've made it this far you deserve to see something a but more abstract. By the way, please note that I call the country "The Netherlands" because the locals will slit your throat if you call it "Holland." They're very nice, very docile folks; but they take the name of their country very seriously.
Three Windmills - I know you're not stupid, so it's obvious that there are three windmills in this picture, but I had to name it something, and the only other title that came to mind was "Why is that annoying piece of grass sticking up in the foreground?"
Windmill Lurking - This may well be my favorite image from the entire trip. Its dark, foreboding feel brings back my memories of the anticipation that accompanied meals on the Eistla.
A Little Help Here - In Koblenz, Germany, we came upon this storefront that was obviously in the process of being re-done. The store was closed, so things weren't going to change for a while. I like everything about this image. Do you?
Beggar - Now, I recognize that placing this image immediately after the storefront shot may seem insensitive, but that's the order in which they fell, and I can't just alter the order willy-nilly. We went into the church, and when we came out the beggar was moving laboriously across the plaza. It was painful to watch him. In the midst of our holiday and posh meals, his plight was sobering.
Castle - Cruising on the Rhine River, just south of Koblenz, we saw a series of castles. This one had survived from the middle ages. An interesting bit of true trivia: during the Second World War, Hitler had railroad tunnels masked with structures that looked like castles because the Allies would try to avoid bombing cultural sites.
Deep Thought - We were sitting in a restaurant in Koblenz when I spotted this man. I don't know why his posture intrigued me, but it did. When I noticed the reflection behind him, I knew I had to capture the moment. The light posts, the people, the building that appears behind him are all a reflection off of a window.
Light and Shadows - When I saw this scene in Koblenz, I was immediately aware that there was something special going on with the light. I was on a tour, though, and had to shoot quickly and think later. Later, when I had time to give it some thought, I realized what it was that attracted me to the image: the bright reflections on the wall to the left are bouncing off of the windows of the building on the right. That phenomenon probably only occurs for a few minutes of a few days in the year, days when there are no clouds and the rays of the Sun are projected at an angle that lets them shine into the narrow alley and strike the windows. Pretty cool, ey?
On the Danube - I was struck by this small village and its town hall, sitting on the bank of the Danube River in Germany (or is it Austria?). I later learned that the village is named Burgenstickelheim, and that it's the source of 94% of the world's supply of kosher peanuts. Travel is so broadening!
Village on the Danube - Located just south of Melk, Germany, this small town boasts of absolutely nothing beyond being picturesque.
Nuremburg Courtroom Number Six - It was unsettling being in the courtroom where the trial of the Nazi war criminals was held. The room was much smaller than anyone had expected--although it had been reduced some by post-war alterations--but the distance from left to right was the same.
The Palace of Justice - In this building the Nuremburg Trials were held. The four windows on the top floor are courtrooms, and the two windows on the left are the windows for Courtroom Number Six.
Zeppelin Field - It was on this site that Hitler staged the major party rallies that we see so often in newsreel footage. The site was bombed during the Second World War and has been stripped of its Nazi decorations, but it's still chilling to stand there and think about what the site represents. The clouds are real, I didn't put them in, but they seem perfect.
Longing - Many of the cathedrals have details that are downright funny. The cathedral in Passau, Germany, is a great example of this. The ceiing and walls of the many alcoves feature beautifully executed murals and statues of cherubs. This one in particular caught my eye, as the cherub seems to be checking out the half-naked young lady. Makes sense to me.
On the Quay - We were waiting for the ship's crew to complete their docking tasks when I saw this couple walking along. It seemed to make a nice composition, so I took this picture.
Woman Wearing a Red Coat - I'm constantly surprised by the power of red in an image. In this photo the woman is quite a ways away, but her coat makes her stand out. She had just stolen Joan's purse and was running like a track star, but I got the shot.
Cathedral in Vienna - Are you sick of churchs yet?
Cathedral Pipe Organ - This pipe organ is in the Vienna Cathedral--it might be Saint Stephen's, but then every other cathedral in Hungary, Bratislava, and Germany seemed to be named after the guy--caught my eye almost immediately. I just love the rich colors and the texture of the image.
Sacher Torte - If you go to Vienna, I'm told, you must go to the Hotel Sacher and try their torte. I'm not saying it wasn't good--it was great--but compare it to a Tastykake Peach Pie and you might have a struggle deciding which you want for your next dessert.
Vienna Street - One of the main streets of Vienna, you can find everything here you'd ever need: Burger King, McDonald's, and Starbucks dominate the scene. I have it on good authority that the inconspicuous guy with the plaid shirt is a CIA operative.
Wertheim Street - One of the prettier little towns we visited was Wertheim, Germany. Home of the everlasting pretzel and the 1931 Kirby Vacuum Cleaner Sales Convention, it's a wonderful blend of medieval torture and modern bratwurst.
The Wertheim Tower - According to our guide, a seedy looking character who charged an extra 5 Euros each if you wanted to hear his tour in English, this tower is crooked because it just was built crooked. (For those insights we traveled to Germany!!) To make up for the fact that the tower was leaning, they changed contractors and thus the top section has a different look to it. (Don't tell me you hadn't noticed.) The tower's original use was as a torture pit: criminals would be taken to a door that's on the backside--combined with the shape of the thing, this is all beginning to sound pretty raunchy, but stick with me--and dropped 20 or so feet into the pit below. There were no lights, water, or beds, and I'm guessing the food was below par, and prisoners would be fed one meal a day. Ah for the good old days!
Saint Stephen - Yet another Saint Stephen reference, this statue is part of a fountain in Wurzburg, Germany. I couldn't find out why he was cast looking so dejected, but I don't think the bird poop sliding down his nose helps his spirits any.
The Prince Bishop's Alley - This stand of trees adjoins the garden of the Prince Bishop of Wurzburg. Back in the day, bishops were also given the title of prince, thus extending their power. This surfeit of authority gave them the ability to tax the beejeebers out of their subjects and then double their penance when they confessed to dodging their taxes.
Three Steeples - We were walking through Wurzburg and came around a corner only to be greeted by this image. I'm not even going to try to be humorous about it. It's just cool...
 
So that's it, that's all I'm posting from this trip. Thank you for looking. I'd love to hear what you think and which are your favorites.