Danube River Trip

LAST UPDATED: 30 May 2005


Village Travel Blue Danube & Prague Cruisetour


Sat. April 30, 2005: Overnight flight USA to Budapest, Hungary.

Sun. May 1, 2005: Arrive in the Hungarian capital and transfer to the River Princess. Afternoon at leisure with a welcome-aboard dinner.

Mon. May 2, 2005: Guided sightseeing tour of Budapest, then on towards Vienna cruising on the Danube.

Tues. May 3, 2005: Arrive in Vienna for an afternoon tour of the "City of Music. "Optional evening concert of Mozart and Strauss waltzes.

Wed. May 4, 2005: Enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Wachau Valley, as the River Princess follows the Danube through Austria, stopping at Melk for a tour of the Benedictine abbey.

Thurs. May 5, 2005: Our cruise crosses into Germany's Eastern Bavaria region, stopping in Passau for a tour of St. Stephan's Cathedral.

Fri. May 6, 2005: Our day begins with a guided tour of the medieval city of Regensburg. Then it is back on the River Princess to the Main-Danube Canal.

Sat. May 7, 2005: In the morning we cruise the Altmuhl Valley. After lunch we tour the Old City of Nuremburg.

Sun. May 8, 2005: Our river cruise ends after breakfast. A fond farewell for those who are flying home today. The rest of us journey across lower Bohemia to the Renaissance Hotel, for our 3 night stay in Prague.

Mon. May 9, 2005: The day starts with a buffet breakfast followed by a tour of the highlights of the "Golden City". Afternoon is at leisure.

Tues. May 10, 2005: After breakfast you are free to explore on your own, shop or stroll along the Vltava River.

Wed. May 11, 2005: After breakfast (included), transfer to the airport for your flight home.

River Princess Onboard Amenities: All outside cabins - sitting area by the window - Generous closet/drawer space -in room safe - Hair dryer - vanity with makeup mirror - Satellite TV with VCR and onboard info - Telephone -Terry cloth robes - 220 v. - 65 cabins, max. 138 guests - maiden voyage 2001.

Renaissance Prague Hotel Amenities: Superior First Class hotel - 310 rooms - 9 floors - Built 1993.
Renovated 2003 - Air conditioned thoughout - Restaurant & Lounge
Swimming pool - Sauna - Health Club - Gift Shop - 24 hour front desk.
Walking distance to Venzelslav Square, Charles Bridge & Old Town Square.
All rooms have private baths - cable TV & VCR- Clock Radio/Alarm
Iron & Ironing board - Hairdryer - Telephone - Minibar - Safe.

Molly Kottke
Village Travel
80 Peterborough Street
Jaffrey, NH 03452
E-mail: travelwithmolly@aol.com

The Danubians were:
Bob & Sandy Barker. Hingham, MA.
Art & Joy Bliss. Gold Canyon, AZ.
Gordon & Marcella Starkey. New London, NH.
John Stephenson. Carpinteria, CA.
Rob Stephenson. Jaffrey, NH.

SOME PHOTOS FROM THE TRIP (Click on the photos to enlarge)

      Berlin - 26 through 30 April 2005

Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.

I flew from Boston to London, then a second flight arriving at Tegel in Berlin about 10am on the 26th. An interesting terminal building: polygonal in shape, you can walk around and around without backtracking. This I did as John's flight was later than mine. John's friend Stanzi Dutzi must have figured out I was John's brother and came up to me at the gate where John was due. Bubbly and cute. We waited over a cup of coffee. John arrived and we headed off with Stanzi into central Berlin and our hotel.

Our hotel--the Andechser Hof, Ackerstrasse 19--is Austrian-owned. Maria, a friend of Stanzi's, works there in the restaurant (Restaurant Kürbis: The Pumpkin. I had Wienerschnitzel one night). A nice modern room for 45 Euros for the two of us. It's located in what was East Berlin. Most of the ca. late 19th C buildings on the street had been spruced up. One exception was the building next door which you can see here. The second view is of the hotel's courtyard.

Wednesday night we headed off for dinner with Stanzi and her boyfriend Clemens Aufderklamm to the Gugelhof, a lively Alsatian restaurant in the Prenzlauer Berg district. I had Red Mullet. Finished off the meal with a schnapps.

On Friday night we went to Stanzi and Clemens' apartment on Wienerstrasse. A big courtyard building with a long climb up. We enjoyed Stanzi's famous Tunafish Pasta. Clemens set the timer on his camera to get us all on the couch.

On Thursday we met Stanzi near the Kottbusser Brücke to take a boat trip through Berlin, a good way to see the city.

From the boat we got to see a good sampling of some of Berlin's new architecture, some a bit over the top. Lots of glass. The fifth photo shows the Sony Center by Helmut Jahn. Pretty impressive stuff.

We cruised past the Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin with its eye-catching DC3. Berlin has many museums, and many of them seem to be in the process of restoration. Some, like the Berlin Museum, have even disappeared. We visited the Museum of Decorative Arts (nice), Mies van der Rohe's New National Gallery (lots of wasted space), the Hamburger Bahnhof (don't bother) and the German Historical Museum (the main collection hasn't returned yet because of renovation; there's an I.M. Pei addition in the rear).

A museum highpoint, however, was the Hoffmann Collection at 21 Sophienstrasse, which John had been told about. The photo shows the entrance. On Saturday morning John, Stanzi and I had a tour of the many spaces by a knowledgeable man. This is Erika Hoffmann's home so it is lived in--spectacular spaces though sparsely furnished. The "art" is the thing, which gets changed totally every six months or so.
Here's what The Economist has to say about it:

"High above Mitte's bustling gallery scene, in three floors of a 19th-century factory building, sprawls Erika Hoffmann's Berlin residence. Every Saturday, the widow of the late Rolf Hoffmann (who made his fortune in fashion) opens her home and its collection of contemporary art to small groups of visitors. A leisurely 90-minute tour of this apartment provides a quirky, refreshing primer on art since the 1960s, and is pleasantly off the tourist-beaten path. The Hoffmanns had impeccable--if eccentric--taste. Their maze of halls, rooms and offices houses paintings, sculptures, photographs and video installations."

A view of the Reichstag, from the boat. You can see a bit of Norman Foster's glass dome. We never got to climb the ramp in the dome; the lines waiting to do so stretched out the door.

We saw these mopeds everywhere in Berlin. They appear to be owned by the German railways (DB) and can be rented for any period of time. Not sure how the system works but why not here?

On Friday we went out to Potsdam on a bus tour. An interesting town with some interesting architecture and lots of history. One site we toured was Sans Souci, the Prussian Versailes and Frederick the Great's favorite retreat. He was reinterred here in 1991.

Some parting impressions of Berlin:

- The city is spread out.
- East and West have been and are being rewoven quickly.
- It seems that many of the older and more interesting buildings are in the East.
- The West has more in the way of new dramatic architecture.
- The city doesn't seem very crowded, either pedestrians or cars.
- There's an awful lot of graffiti around.
- Excellent, easy-to-use mass transit, though stations not always the most attractive.
- Lots of smokers.
- Lots of bicycles but helmets are pretty uncommon.

Budapest and up the Danube - 30 April through 8 May 2005

Stanzi was a sweetheart and drove us to the airport on Sunday morning. After a coffee, we bid her 'auf wiedersehen' and flew off to Budapest via Munich. Arrived in warm and muggy--compared to Berlin--Hungary. Orsi, young woman at the airport working for Uniworld, our boat tour operator, helped us get a taxi into the center (we would meet up again on Monday). Soon we were in the Pest side of Budapest (Pest=fire; Buda=water, so we were told). Most of our contingent was on board or soon would be. Nice boat, The MS River Princess.

The next day, Monday, we spent most of the day on a bus tour on both sides of the river. There were 3 buses and 3 guides; we spied Orsi and chose her bus. Good choice. Very enthusiastic, knowledgeable and perky. There she is on the left. On the right, a bit of the statuary behind her at the Place of Heroes: I like that bridle made of horns. You don't want to tangle with those guys. It was too bad that we didn't have more time to wander around Budapest on our own. A very impressive place.

There's the Buda side with the Chain Bridge and Matthias Church and the Castle District on the hilltop. John taking a picture of Pest across the Danube from the Fishermen's Bastion. As we left Budapest Monday afternoon we passed the Parliament Building, a vast neo-Gothic pile that when it was built (for the Millenium in 1896) was the world's largest parliament building.

During our tour of Vienna on 3 May, former NH State Rep Charlie Royce got an impromptu chance to comment to the press on the New Hampshire designed and built Segway at some sort of PR event. If we can't sell them at home, maybe they'll buy them in Austria. I enjoyed Vienna and would have liked to spend more time there. I was particularly impressed by parks and the street trees along the Ringstrasse.

Vienna may be the city of coffee, torte and the waltz but across the not-so-blue Danube, it's about like Omaha.

This is a typical view on the Danube; that is, when there are other boats or barges around, which isn't that often. A lot less busy than the Rhine, for instance. Seldom saw a pleasure boat. Almost no development along the river except for the occasional town. No condos, no timeshares.

There they are, the River Princesses: Molly and Missy. See how they're going late into the night with Enzo. And flashing the crowd from their cabin. Wild women, these. [Molly and Missy put the trip together; Molly from Jaffrey and a travel agent and Missy, her sister in Indianopolis.]

On the 4th of May we stopped at Melk, still in Austria. I think this was my favorite stop along the Danube. The weather was nice, the Abbey and its extensive gardens and buildings are marvelous and the small town is attractive and pleasant to walk in. The first view is of the 18th C Benedictine Abbey; the second, the interior of the baroque sanctuary. Talk about gold! This is a very sophisticated tourist site with well-presented exhibits, knowledgeable guides, fully-stocked souvenir shop. Everything is in pristine order. The third view is from one of the terraces looking out at the countryside. The next is the view as we continue on our way up the Danube with the abbey in the distance. The last is our group of eight, courtesy of the Starkeys: Art, Sandy, Bob, myself, Joy, Marcella, Gordon and John. What's with the stooping?

Next stop, Passau, on the 5th of May. We're now back in Germany again. Three rivers come together here: The Danube, the Ilz and the Inn. I think my second favorite stop. A nice pedestrian town. We had a guided walking tour. I gravitated towards Brigitte who had a great laugh and a smile to match. This was her first tour ever. Her husband was a diplomat and they had spent some years in Washington and San Francisco. There she is in the red coat beside the Inn River. Bingo tonight in the lounge.

On to Regensburg, arriving on the 6th. Rainy but not enough to keep us from going on a walking tour. A lot of terra cota and yellow buildings, some have quite tall towers; the richer you were, the taller the tower.

After lunch some of us took an optional tour to the Danube Gorge by boat from Kelheim, where the Main-Danube Canal goes off to the north from the Danube proper. The boat was crowded and noisy but the short cruise took us to Klosterschenke Weltenburg, the world's oldest monastery brewery (1050 AD or thereabouts). It seems that the main business of this Benedictine monastery is to turn out beer and cater to tourists. We got our mandatory beer from a barmaid you wouldn't want to argue with. In the abbey there is a silver St George and the Dragon over the altar as well as a painting of Columbus (one wonders why).

We walked a ways to our bus and returned to Kelheim to meet the boat again, but on the way we stopped at a remarkable structure, the Befreiungshalle or Liberation Hall, situated on a hilltop. It's a huge rotunda built between 1842 and 1863 to commemorate the liberation of Germany from Napoleonic rule. Those angels are larger-than-life and of beautifully pure marble.

A view of Kelheim from the Liberation Hall. This is where we left the Danube and headed up the Main-Danube Canal, only opened in 1996.

We continued up the canal (encountering some 80 foot plus locks) and was surprised how rural the surroundings are and how little traffic we encountered. On Saturday the 7th we reached the outskirts of :Nürnberg, the end of our cruise. It was cold and rainy when we set out on our bus and walking tour. We did see the site of the Nuremburg Trials and some other Nazi sites. Before going back to the boat we had some free time so John and I went to the Germanisches National Museum, a modern complex in the southern edge of the downtown and the largest collection of art and culture in the Germanic-speaking world. Didn't have much time so went to one section where a variety of treasures were well displayed: painting, sculpture, textiles, decorative arts. Fabulous stuff. Last night on board.

Here's our boat the MS River Princess (110m long by 11.4m wide. 138 maximum passengers. Have a look at http://www.uniworld.com/shiptour.asp?Ship_ID=14). Dutch officers and crew, a mixture of others. Our cabin (No 322): pretty comfortable. Chocolate every night on the pillow. Going through a lock. Here's our merry tribe--L to R: Art, John, Sandy, myself, Gordon, Joy, Bob and Marcella. This was the last night and we rushed in and made up this table. This was sent to me by Gordon and Marcella. Who took it, I wonder? The fifth shows the dining room at breakfast, probably. They had great crispy bacon. Buffet at breakfast and lunch; and dinner was served. That's John there on the left.

On to Prague - 8 - 11 May 2005

On leaving our boat, we boarded buses and drove through very nice countryside eastwards. Soon we were crossing the border into the Czech Republic. And not long afterwards we found ourselves in Prague.

Our hotel in Prague, the Renaissance Prague Hotel, about as American as you can get but very nice and centrally located.

The two best-known spots in Prague: Wenceslas Square and the Old Town Square. That's old king Wencleslas on his horse in the foreground. The square has been the scene of much history, the most recent event in November 1989, Havel's 'Velvet Revolution' when perhaps a million gathered here. The Old Town Square seems to be the center of things. Lots of people, cafes, shops, and all those people waiting for the Town Hall clock to strike on the hour. Not much happens when it does, but we all congregated to watch.

We're now on the other side of the Vltava River. That's Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral on the hilltop, and views back from there towards the other side of the river. The whole castle complex is extraordinary, and kept in beautiful condition.

This window in St Vitus Cathedral was done by the great art noveau artist, Alphonse Mucha, done in the last century. Construction of the Cathedral started in 1344, and was finally completed in 1929. Talk about falling behind schedule!

Prague is filled with great architecture. Unlike Berlin, most is from the early 20th C or earlier. There's baroque, neo-gothic, art noveau and super eclectic and downright fanciful. Here are a couple of examples.

London - 11 through 15 May 2005

On the morning of the 11th of May, John and I headed for the airport outside Prague. He flew out first, on his way to California. A couple of hours later I was airborne and London-bound. Now for a change of pace.

Arrived at Heathrow and took the tube to Victoria Station and went on to Julia's office nearby. Picked up a key and got a cab for Lavender Hill. That night we had a pizza in Gowrie Road. Thursday I went into central London, dropped by Sotherans--where some Antarctic crockery was awaiting me, thanks to Stuart Leggatt--had a leisurely lunch (skate and chips) at Manzi's, took in the Caravaggio show at the National Gallery, checked out 45 Cloth Fair (where 4 of us will be staying in November--another Landmark Trust property). That night Julia and I went down the road to Le Bouchon for dinner, not for the first time. On Friday I went north to Cambridge and walked to SPRI to do some things. Who should be there but Jonathan Shackleton and Joe O'Farrell. Had a very liquid lunch at Lawyers with Bob Headland and Joe and soon after were headed for London for the James Caird dinner.

Julia and Pansy. Certainly the last time I'll be visiting at Gowrie Road. They're both off to a new home in the country come July. (The first time I was at Gowrie Road--not forgetting Wandsworth Road and Holden Street, which came before--was 9-13 September 1986. From the Visitor's Book, I gleaned the following return visits: 21-23 Sept 1986; Oct 1995; 16-23 Jan 1998; 2-5 Feb 1998; 22-26 June 1998; 19-25 May 1999; 1-3 June 1999; 17 June 1999; 16-19 Sept 1999; 30 Oct-7 Nov 2000; 16-21 May 2001; 24 Sept - 1 Oct 2001; 29 Sept - 2 Oct 2002; and 16-17 Nov 2004. How's that for imposition!)

On the Thameslink from King's Cross to Hearne Hill, on our way to West Dulwich and the James Caird Society gathering. Bob knows the railroads like the back of his hand. There was a fox wandering on the opposite platform. L to R: Heather Lane (Librarian at SPRI), Bob Headland (Archivist and Keeper at SPRI; never seen him better dressed) and Jonathan Shackleton.

At Dulwich College on Friday the 13th (not unlucky for us) for the James Caird Society dinner. L to R: Joe O'Farrell talking (does he never not) with--it looks like--Lucy Martin from SPRI. Jonathan Shackleton and Joe O'Farrell in deep Irish discussion. Myself and bookseller John Bonham. That's Stuart Leggatt's head in the foreground.

Back to Boston - 15 May 2005

The Bonhams thankfully drove me back to Lavender Hill after the Caird dinner. The next day, Saturday, was lovely and relaxing. Julia and I drove into central London and checked a few things out. She left me at the V & A--where I hadn't been for awhile, and I spent 2 or 3 hours there. Everything is in very good shape now. Walked from there over to Chelsea and down--or up--the King's Road to Sloane Square, through the now-completed Peter Jones--it's taken years to renovate that store--and onto the 137 bus to Lavender Hill.

Next day, out to Heathrow and on the plane home.

To check out the next trip--in November to London--have a look at http://home.comcast.net/~rs41/clothfair.htm