Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Day 6: Budapest is Going to be Expensive

Dwayne filmed over a minute today of porn.  You might think we were at nude beaches, or at the very least, a very interesting public bath.  Instead, we were actually at Fisherman’s Bastion.  And it was buildings. 



And if you don’t think Dwayne rubbed his goat and said, “I can build that”, well, you haven’t met my husband.



This is the building that will come to the estate next, if Dwayne can convince his wife, his steward, his yard service, and financial advisor (in other words, me) of the wisdom of this:






Budapest already has these amazing lions, so we felt right at home.


Here’s a few more long-term trip expenses in Budapest.  I’m guessing Dwayne’s statue choice may be more…feminine.


Arches and stairs?!? 



Considering how well this is camouflaged against the rock, it really caught my eye!


And an ancient wall (Roman?) in the middle all the other greatness?  Cherries on top, people.  Perhaps Dwayne will be inspired to build his time machine just so he can go back 2000 years, build this first wall, travel back and build new walls around these ruins.



The true landmark of Budapest is the Parliament Building. Tour guides only use superlatives to describe it, but “currently unavailable for tour” should also be included. The cruise timed itself so that we’d float into Budapest in the morning hours so that the city could unfold before our eyes, culminating in it’s most famous structure.




But nothing is as spectacular as Budapest at night.  In fact, Viking River Cruise’s money shot shows Parliament in all it’s electric glory.  Here’s my shots from the top deck, just hours before we packed and left at, and I quote, “stupid o’clock”.



So long, Hungary! 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Day 5: Vienna

Vienna is big.  Vienna has buildings of such great historical and architectural significance crammed so closely to one another that one’s eyes and brain begin to glaze over while the jaw is still dropped open.  We had a small taste last night when we skipped dinner on board and went out to a recommended local restaurant, first exploring a small corner of this great city.  There was a park I wished I could have wandered around much longer. 

DSCN0686 Mozart is a fairly frequent statue around here.









Parks in Vienna seem to think it perfectly natural to have buildings like this lying around.



It was the evening of our anniversary when we went out with Karen and Sam to Plachutta.

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The famous dinner was…boiled meat and bones, using the marrow to spread like butter on bread.  And it was all delicious!DSCN0698


I skipped this morning’s city tour to sleep, and Dwayne put away the camera quickly when he realized he wouldn’t be able to keep up with all that Vienna had to boast of.  But we were both tickled by this beautiful city building that is used as a barn for the famous Spanish stallions.  Can you see the head peeking out of the window?



I wouldn’t show you any other pictures of Vienna except Dwayne and I did the optional tour of Schönbrunn Palace, the summer palace for Maria Theresa, the Habsburg empress, powerful and famous on her own, but also known at the mother of Maria Antoinette—and 15 other children.

Built in the late 1600s, it is a very impressive building which only pales in comparison to the grounds.DSCN0734


The palace itself has 1441 rooms, though only a few were on the tour. I can’t imagine every room looking this opulent, but until they allow me to roam unfettered, I can’t be sure.


Outside was even more fun.  It was one of those tours that, after being guided through a fraction of the interior, we got kicked outside and told be to be back on the bus in 30 minutes.  The entire grounds cover over 400 acres, so we ignored the world’s oldest (and supposedly one of the best) zoos, Roman follies, labyrinths, side gardens, and cafes to hoof it up to the Gloriette.


It would have been delightful to have a chocolate croissant at the cafe up there (the same place Maria Theresa like to have her breakfast every morning, although she had a coach bring her up!), but we only had time to take a few pictures of the remarkable view and be the last ones to return to the bus.  Stupid schedules.


Any chance Dwayne won’t want to build that?  Good thing we didn’t have time to see the follies!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Day 4: The Afternoon

DSCN0611In the middle of the afternoon, I asked Dwayne what could make life better right now, as I couldn’t come up with anything.  Dwayne suggested having Wesley curled up sound asleep on my lap might do it.  If he was truly sound asleep, I would agree; otherwise, he gropes and kicks and squirms. 





So I had to settle for a 99.8% perfect afternoon, eating lunch on the sun deck as we sailed through the Wachau area of the Danube, finally getting all the lounge chair views of castles, churches, villages, ruins, and vineyards to sate even a Yankee.



I’ll let the pictures communicate the rest. And yes, children, I do want to take you all next time. 




Piper, this one is for you.  On the roof line, can you spot the 7 rabbits?  There doesn’t seem to be any known legend behind them, but they are fascinating.

  rabbits zoom out

Upon a closer examination, they look less like bunnies. Now I am further intrigued….


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The town of Durnstein is considered the Pearl of Wachau and is now on my ever-growing list of places to visit later.


And one last glimpse of a distant abbey before we reach another set of locks and a storm cloud.


Day 4: Melk—We’re in Austria now!


Oh, Melk!  I should have packed adult diapers, so pleased was I to get disembark in Melk, if only for a few hours.  We just had the morning to tour Melk Abbey, and, to use this week’s motto, it only whet our appetite (translated from the Latin, Ium Steehl Drulung et Nonsated).

More than 1100 years old (though only the past 900 have been an operational monastery), the abbey has gone through few full remodels.  The current baroque rebuild happened only 300 years ago—I was completely disappointed in how new the abbey was until I gave myself a firm pinch and reminded myself I live in northwest corner of the USA. 


Our first impression of the abbey was this stair set.  Having spent the last 11 years building/cursing stone stairs, we were already impressed. In the words of Piper, we said, “This is going to be good!”






My dapper husband is very tolerant of his shutterbug wife.





We had be the best guide yet of our tours.  While still a working abbey and public school, it also uses tourism to fund it projects, and we were happy to comply with a trip through the well-designed museum.


But first, more staircases.  I blame Dwayne for my over-appreciation of beautiful and completed stairs.


This is the unexplored half of one corridor of one floor of one wing.  It’s enough to give me both goose bumps and wanderlust.



The Melk Abbey is known for many things: its age, it’s 1880+ windows, the world’s finest and largest medieval library (be still my beating heart and pass the diapers), and this Melk Cross:


Made with more gold and gems than a cross has a right to, it’s actual value comes from the sliver of wood worked into its back that is said to be from The Cross.  So, kids, this is very interesting and there are many relics that include these sort of bone or wood remnants, and I would like them to be true for sheer interest value.  But there are a few points to consider.  One, it is very unlikely that at the point of Jesus’ death, anyone thought to tear apart the cross for future keepsakes.  Remember, the only few people who may have actually believed he was the Christ were too busy mourning him, and thinking he wasn’t actually the King.  By the time Sunday morning arrived, would anyone been able to find that one particular cross, even if they had suddenly thought to themselves, “Hey, Jesus is alive!  I bet a piece of wood from his cross will be worth a fortune!” Chances of fraudulent claims several hundred years after the event are more likely. Secondly, even if that particular cross had been cut up and divided among the pious, the number of supposed Splinters-From-The-Cross gathered from around the world would be enough to make several new crosses.  Fascinating though, huh?

I’m not sure what I was most interested in, but the books and scrolls drew me in.  This is a minute prayer book for abbey monks. (Kyla and Piper, “minute” means “very small”.)



Here’s a replica of medieval scroll.  It certainly does have words (and even if it were written in English, which it certainly isn’t, the script is too fancy for me to make out much), but the hallmark of pre-printed books were the illustrations.



DSCN0574Kyla, I thought you might appreciate the gold and jewel-encrusted chalice (or goblet).  I don’t think I will be able to bring you back a similar one as a souvenir.










After so much wealth and subsequent spending, one of the monarchs introduced a set of financial reforms.  He actually did many smart things, but my favorite was this reusable coffin.  It has hinges on the bottom, so after the grave has been dug and all the mourners gone, one can release the bottom, keep the body in the grave, and pull the coffin up again for the next burial.



This is for my book group, or anyone else who has read Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth and The Ends of the Earth.  Do you remember the chest of documents the abbess used to keep the important treaties and scrolls, not sharing the key with the corrupt abbot?  This chest was used for the same secure storage.  It has a decoy keyhole the front, but the real key (which is a heavy iron one bigger than your hand) goes into the back where with enough strength, you can unlock 14 locks that guard it’s treasure.  It was nearly impossible to break into any other way.  Look at the locking mechanism in the lid!



Here is a model replica of the Abbey, too large to capture in one shot.



All this was interesting enough to make me temporarily forget about the library.  There’s really no point in showing a picture, as nothing can do those rooms justice.  All the books in the library were printed, so nothing on display was older than 1600 or so, and the bindings were newer than that.  And honestly, there was probably very little of interest (or in English), but the nooks!  The window seats! The wood paneling and upper balconies!  One could probably gain IQ points by reading even Dick and Jane, as long as you read it in here.  Oh, sigh.


The church was everything and more than you can expect in an exquisitely baroque (read: extra, extra-fancy), but come on, I just saw an amazing library, and amazing cathedrals are getting plentiful.



And a touching photographic moment on the way back to the ship.  If I thought my kids would wear them, I would consider bringing them back each some lederhosen.