Grand Eastern European River Cruise

River cruise from Bonn to the Black Sea on the Rhine, the Main, and the Danube–June 11 to July 7, 2015

Small Town Serbia 7/2/15

The women of tiny Donji Milanovac were ready for us with an impressive line-up of stands selling mostly lace work.  I pulled a pretty green sweater on over my blouse to see if it fit and looked around for a cruise-mate to tell me if it worked.  The lady selling the sweater had it handled and pulled out a mirror then showed me where to stand for the best light.   Having been relocated in 1970 due to a new dam this town of 1,500 has only a couple historic monuments and buildings to attract tourist trade, so the residents have to hustle.  Smiling boys sold honey beside out gang plank.  A kitten greeted us, yowling to be petted as we […]

Bombs Over Belgrade 7/1/15

After yesterday’s Croatian atrocity stories, I was curious to hear Serbia’s side.  Our Belgrade guide blamed politicians for stirring up tensions between different peoples in order to break off a little piece of their own to rule.  (Pretty much sums up human history doesn’t it?)  Slobodan Milosevic, she said, orchestrated the attacks on Croatia.  The Serbs finally got so fed up with him that a million gathered in protest.  When the military refused Milosevic’s order to fire teargas on them, he decided not to “contest” his lost election after all. We Americans were the attackers in Serbia, and Belgrade is a shining […]

Croatia: Beauty amidst the horrors 6/30/15

Our director warned us that the Croatians were depressing, and mass slaughter is hard to present with any gaiety.  Atrocity blow-by-blows drain the thrills out of bombed-out, bullet-riddled buildings in short order.  Until the bombing, Vukovar boasted the finest historic buildings in Croatia.  Now the city is struggling to restore them to their original glory in hopes of boosting a shattered economy.  Of course, magnificence doesn’t grow on trees, so the rebuild drags on in desolation. A church that survived the bombing was a definite change of pace for us.  The guitar concert there was a nice way to boost our interest in […]

Impressive Pecs 6/29/15

Pecs (“C”s are pronounced “ch”) Hungary was founded by the Romans in the 4th century.  We toured an excavation of their burial crypts.  The burials included valuables which attracted numerous ransackings over the centuries.  Desperate people sometimes lived in the crypts too, but a millennium and a half later, many of those walls still stand.  One supports a ceiling still adorned with Christian frescos.  That’s staying power. The newer historical buildings are impressive too.  Exquisite cathedrals lost their wow-power a couple weeks into this cruise, but this one is exquisite and exotic.  Those Ottoman Turks knew how to do beauty.  Even the […]

Kalocsa, Hungary 6/28/15

One day I will remember in time that the more lush and inviting the scene, the more ravenous mosquitos it’s likely to harbor.   Fortunately the blood suckers left us alone as long as Steve and I didn’t stray from this country lane I’ve been yearning for.  A lot of the houses were small, and they all seemed old.  One building had what looked like a straw roof.  Young storks peered down from huge nests on rooftops or electrical poles.  Flowers grew in most yards, along with a variety of fruit:  raspberries grapes, apples, pears, plums, peaches, and some sort of plum-shaped fruit that seemed too big to be a plum.  There […]

Last Grab at Budapest 6/27/15

Before our trip, a woman just back from Budapest told me not to miss the baths there.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Was I going to take an actual bath with soap and maybe a vigorous scrubbing by a hefty washer woman?  Well, sort of.  The baths were beautiful swimming pools–some indoor with marble and mosaics, some outdoors surrounded by gardens, some steaming, some cooler to cold.  Any number of spa treatments were offered as well.  My masseuse wasn’t hefty, but she certainly had the attitude.  “Take it off,” she said of my swimsuit–no towel, no drape, no options.  She gave my muscles what-for, […]

Holloko Hoedown 6/26/15

On our side trip to an olden town in the hill country, I climbed down into a wooded gorge lush with oaks, bird cherries, and flowering vines.  Just outside the gorge, heavy equipment clattered and roared, but the gorge was blissfully quiet–nothing but bird song and buzzing flies.  Clearly I’m seriously nature-deprived when even fly-buzz soothes my soul. The village is called Holloko, which means Raven Stone.  Other than a requisite castle ruin on the hill the building are all modest homes.   We were welcomed with cheesecake that looked more like strudel with cottage cheese on top.  Then a group of dancers in traditional costumes chanted to accompany time worn footwork. The home-hosted lunch included do-it-yourself […]

Budapest–Who Knew? 6/25/15

We are venturing into unfamiliar territory. With all the changes these poor Iron Curtain countries have gone through, they are probably unfamiliar even to the locals. Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, we saw as we sailed by yesterday, so it’s still unfamiliar. We did notice that the condition of the barges we pass on the river has gone from ship-shape to rust-bucket. A “vintage” Slovakian dredge squalled for grease so desperately we heard it a mile upriver. Budapest is another story. Cruisers are so anxious to get in that our ship is triple-parked. We walk through the two other ships’ […]

Farewell Vienna 6/24/15

For our final morning in Venice, we visited a park.  Several guides had mentioned that a third of Venice is devoted to parks when we passed a lovely gardened parks headquarters and replica of the original Ferris Wheel–invented for the Chicago World’s Fair.  Stadpark was nearest our tour bus stop and touted as an easy trolley ride–except that Steve was leery of getting misdirected and ending up in a nether region which might cause us to miss the boat. By the time we reached the park on foot, our morning caffeine was lobbying for a pit stop.  The route to a restroom took us past a group of preschoolers playing on tot-height tree branches worn smooth by a multitude of apes-in-training.  We […]

Vienna Victory 6/23/15

Vienna, what can I say?  It’s so stuffed with ostentation, it’s too much to take in.  To be important back when was to have the biggest edifice closest to the royals.  So the approach to the Imperial Palace is lined for kilometers with elbow-to-elbow palaces.  Inside the Imperial Palace, the Imperial Treasury flaunts priceless crowns, relics, robes–every sort of royal paraphernalia.  I had to keep reminding myself that these were not reproductions.  Kings wore them.  Kings who ruled empires that changed the course of civilization. At the palace entrance I wondered about several sculptures of violent scenes.  They depicted the tasks of Hercules.  Really?  Those statues were […]