Wednesday, May 4, 2016

May 4th - Travel Blog

Hi, it’s Christina –

Greetings from Vienna, Austria. We actually pulled into port a little before seven this morning. It’s cold, raining, and my back is bothering me, so I don’t know how wonderful today will be.

The sunrise over the Danube yesterday was lovely. I’m not sure if you can make it out in the photos, but the rays of sun poking through the clouds looked like strands of rainbows. It was so pretty and so peaceful.

As I was finishing up yesterday’s blog post, I had to stop because I looked up when the light changed and noticed these huge concrete walls on either side of the ship. I grabbed my camera and went topside. We were going through our first lock, which I believe was the Gabcikovo Lock. What an interesting process. Although we were the only ship in the lock at the time, I was told the lock could actually hold four long ships.

So if you have never experienced a lock before, what happens is you pull in, a steel door closes behind you, and when everything is sealed, water is pumped in (or drained out if you are going down stream) until the water level reaches the level of the water in front of you. When that happens, you sail out. The most surprising part was how quickly the process happens. I would say it didn’t even take fifteen minutes for the water to fill, and considering it take approximately the same time to fill my bathtub, you can imagine how much pressure is being used to pump thousands and thousands of gallons in the same amount of time.

After our lock adventure, I retreated to the library to finish my blog, and before I knew it, it was time for the strudel demonstration, which, of course, I volunteered for – I never miss an opportunity to bake! The one thing I was a little disappointed with was they used frozen puffed pastry. Although my puffed pastry is good, it could always be better, so I was hoping to get a new, good, puffed pastry recipe. No such luck. We had a grand time though. My partner in crime was Trevor, half of Trevor and Janet, a lovely couple I met on the ship. They hail from England, but are now living in the eastern Spain. I am truly enjoying the time I am spending with them, they are an absolute delight.

We finally arrived in Bratislava around two, and our tour departed at 2:30. Our first stop was Bratislava Castle, but on our way we passed near the war memorial, the homes of several diplomates – the US diplomate home is the one that looks like a mini White House, and several “mansions”. Although these homes are average by US standards, the views they have are worth millions.

The Castle itself was a non-event because it is currently going through a massive renovation, so there really isn’t much to see. However, the view from the grounds is quite impressive. The panoramic across the top is actually four photos spliced together. From that one vantage point you can clearly see three distinct countries. Amazing, no?

Bratislava itself is charming. Like Prague, the streets are cobblestone, but they did a much better job because they were not a chore to walk upon. After or official tour with Katerina – she was a stitch, very tongue-in-cheek and even irreverent at times – I broke off in search of the hall of records or the archives. No luck, but I did manage to bump into the Magistrate as she was leaving her office. Between her broken English and my broken Slovak, I was able to convey my quest, we exchanged email addresses, and she promised to find my grandfather’s birth certificate and any other pertinent paperwork, plus she has access to some type of search (here’s where my Slovak got a little sketchy), but the gist of it was she would be able to see if I had any relations still in the area, and if I did, she would give them my email address so we could connect. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. I’m so thrilled.

Although not as impressive as Budapest at night, Bratislava Castle was lit up as were the three bridges near the ship. I guess I’m getting a little better with night time photography because it only took me thirty or so shots to get you the five I’ve provided. Seems the sniper breathing works. LOL

On the agenda for today is a walking tour of Vienna – should be fun in the wind and rain, and then in the afternoon I am going on a gnashing trip with the chef. In case you don’t know what gnashing is, it’s tasting little bites of things. This is the only optional tour I have signed up for on the trip, and it is costing me a whole 4,40 € - less than $6, and that’s for our metro card to get us to and from the market.

I’ll let you know how I make out. Until then, have a WONDERFUL day & happy writing.