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Published: December 22nd 2007
This small town was one of the first we saw
Monday 17th December
This morning was taken up with a demonstration of how to cook apple strudel! This was done in a most entertaining way by the the head chef.
The captain and the other officers were then introduced with a toast made on a good trip with a complimentary glass of champagne.
Meanwhile the ship continued its way up-river passing lovely little towns in the Wachau Valley covered lightly in snow. This is a wine growing district and the rows of vines could be seen on the mountainsides. Most picturesque and many photos were taken.
After a hurried lunch with our new found American & Queensland friends we were off to see the Benedictine Abbey, also known as the Stift Melk in the town of Melk where the ship had moored. An interesting tour was led by a local lady who spoke English in the German way we sometimes make fun of at times viz. “You will now ......” There are 32 monks there at present with most of the building now housing a private secondary school.
Rather than return to the ship by bus we opted to firstly walk through the little town, stopping
Just finished a snack with David & Tim. Tim on leave from Iraq and about about to study Iraqi to help interrogations.
to pick up a few essentials in the supermarket there, and then continue through a forest of trees where traditionally newly-wed couples plant a tree to celebrate their union. The guide made a dry comment that they didn't seem to return and remove the tree when they got divorced.
Back in our cabins we soon warmed ourselves back to a comfortable temperature, we being able to set the heat we want.
On our way again at 1715 with a safety drill at 1730. No-one seemed to rush about much but the captain seemed pleased that we all got to the top-deck within 6 or so minutes - if the boat was really sinking it would have been much faster!
The ship went through the first lock we have come across, the water level rising over 10m. As it was cold outside and dark we didn't venture outside to observe this time.
Tuesday 18th December
We awoke this morning in Linz. After breakfast we had half an hour before the ship departed so we went for a brisk (in more ways than one) walk around the museum area and riverside promenade near where we were docked.
Most of the passengers disembarked at this time to be taken by bus to Salzburg but we'd elected to stay on board for a day of cruising as we'd spent time in Salzburg in 2002.
The morning was spent in the lounge area watching the world sail by and chatting to fellow Australians Helen and David. We saw the sun for the first time since the Czech Republic and enjoyed taking some photos.
After a lunch that consisted of salad, cucumber soup, pork roast and chocolate pancakes we retired to our room for a nanny nap. After this we watched the end of a Jack Nicholson movie before showering and readying ourselves for a walk in the early evening in Passau. We arrived her about 4.30 and set out with Helen and David who had a map.
We explored the town and eventually found the Xmas Markets. There was an amazing atmosphere here and rather than the crowd of tourists we have seen in other places, we felt that this was a more genuine local experience. The markets were wonderful and Judy and Helen both bought a glass candle holder.
We arrived back at the ship
The sun came up at about 8am
in time to change out of our many layers into clothes for the warm ship before dinner.
We ate dinner with some of our new friends, Margie and Charlie and Helen and David.
Wednesday 19th December
We relaxed in the lounge this morning and watched the world sail by. There was a frost and everything was coated with white. We took the laptop with us into the lounge and got everything up to date so we could be ready to upload in Regensburg.
After another stunning 4 course lunch we raced below to don our warm clothes before setting out to explore Regensburg. Regensburg is a beautiful city located in the heart of Bavaria. It remained unscathed from World war 11 and was awarded World Cultural Heritage status by UNESCO only in 2006. We were placed in a small group with a local guide, Barbara. After hearing a general overview our first stop was the old stone bridge. At over 850 year old it is the oldest stone bridge in Germany and was very significant historically as it was the only bridge that crossed the Danube for many miles until last century so Regensburg was an
This was just one of the many we passed through
important centre for trade until quite recently.
Our guide told us many folkloric tales of the region and was quite entertaining. After an hour and a half walking tour she left us in the square right across from the Boston Coffee Shop where we had been told that we could access the Internet wirelessly. We were able to download all our mail and upload Vienna but it was going to take too long to get our blog completely up to date and we would have missed the Palace Xmas Markets which we had been told were some of the best.
The Romantic Christmas Market at the St Emmeram Castle which is the residence of the aristocraic “Thurn and Taxis” family. The castle itself is larger than Buckingham Palace and its magnificent park, imposing architecture and picturesque courtyard hosts this famous handcraft market. It is the only one that we have been to that charges an entrance fee but we were assured it was worth it. The castle had a wonderful atmosphere being gently lit by torches, lanterns and candles. There were a wide variety of handcrafts including blacksmithing, glassblowing, turning, candlemakers and basket weaving. We wandered around exploring
One of the sight
and making a small purchase but always conscious of the time as we had a fair walk back to the bus. This spoilt it in some ways as we couldn't relax and neither did we wish to eat from the many interesting food stalls as we knew we had a 4 course meal awaiting us at the ship.
We left in plenty of time to look at the more local markets in the city centre. By the time we got there many locals were enjoying their after work drink at the many stalls selling hot wine etc. This had a great atmosphere so we had a quick look and then hightailed it back to where the buses were waiting.
Dinner as usual was fantastic and we were glad we'd not spoilt our appetites! The after dinner entertainment was a one man band by the name of HansO. He was a real hoot and dragged audience up to the stage to help him including both of us as we had stupidly sat near the front.
Thursday 20th December
We awoke at 0300 to loud tearing sounds and on checking outside we could see we were
passing through sheets of ice 2-3cms thick. With thoughts of Titanic going through our heads we had a restless sleep until getting up for breakfast at about 0800. There was ice everywhere around us and the trees and grass on the shoreline was covered in hoar frost. Very spectacular and we couldn't take our eyes off it.
A talk was given by one of the tour leaders on what the canal system is made up of and some of the history behind it. It basically is the joining of the Danube and the Main Rivers from the Black Sea to the North Sea. Last night we went through the highest point of the canal, the European Watershed, which is 1331 feet above sea level. The water is able to reach this height through a series of many locks and as we were about to pass through a lock at Eibach, which dropped down 81.9 feet,we all trooped up to the sundeck (nicknamed snowdeck today because of the hoar frost on it). Sipping a hot Gluhwein we watched as the water level dropped, taking us down to the new river level.
The afternoon found us moored in the harbour,
20 minutes from Nuremberg. Buses took us for a tour, taking us to some of the constructions Hitler started building to expand his Nazi party. There was a huge auditorium, an arena, plus stone seating all around. None of these were completed but were used for some of his propaganda rallies. They were left fairly untouched by Allied bombers as they were not producing anything to assist in the war effort, unlike the rest of Nuremberg which was almost flattened.
We continued on, saw some of the remaining old city walls and the High Court where the war trials were held. Eventually we came to the centre of town where the biggest, and we found the best, Christmas Markets were. We had 2 hours of looking and buying here and they were so original and colourful that even Rags thoroughly enjoyed them.
By 1700 it was getting cold so we were all pleased to get back on the warm buses back to the boat. A Captains Farewell drink followed by the Captains Farewell Dinner is in store this evening. The food has been superb so far and it will be hard for them to better it at this
This was the stuff that awoke us!
We can hardly believe that the cruise is already over - it seems like just yesterday it began and yet we have done so much and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it with all our new friends, Helen and David from Queensland, Margie and Charlie from Texas and George and Joyce from near San Diego. Dinner tonight has 6 courses!
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