Castles, and Locks and Gates oh my!

Europe » Serbia
April 20th 2015
Published: April 23rd 2015
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So the one night we don't have insomnia is the one night we cruise by the super cool Golubac Castle; around 4:30am unfortunately; but honestly if I had remembered we were doing that I would have set an alarm as it's quite impressive!

Morning excursion to the archeological Mesolithic (I don't know what's more fun, googling it or saying it - Me-so-lithic LOL) of Lepinski Vir. ( Let's face it, Wiki will explain it far better than I will, but suffice to say the highlight was seeing 3 complete skeletons that were in 3 different positions; one laying flat out, one in a sitting position and one who had fallen asleep beside a fire (they guess). SUPER cool! We had a nice walk down a hill, and as the group were meandering to the site I discovered a dog house that turned into a puppy clown house as first one puppy came out and then they just kept comping. 3-4 weeks old was my guess, turned out there were 5 yellow and 4 black - definitely lab in them (we saw the mom) and as for the rest, who knows! I squealed, watched them all come out, petted, introduce them to Mr. Pickles and of course picked one up and snuggled him/her. OMG SO cute! Then a few other people discovered what I was up to and soon there were swarms of women cooing over baby puppies, ignoring our local guide!

Made it to the site eventually, had an archeologist talk to us about it, then show us a wicked film from the ’60’s when it was discovered. All the crew who discovered this site were heavy smokers, flirting with each other, and the best part was the local farmer who owned the land; and the videographer had captured him walking looking warily off to the side, adding some dramatic music. Classic film - hard to describe but Hippie and I were trying not to laugh on several occasions. Still very educational, but entertaining!

Saw the 40 meter high face carved into the rock of King Decebal; and it was the spitting image of him! (HAHAHAHA) Then we sailed by the he rock that was dedicated to a Roman who had built a bridge across the danube (no small feat especially in those times) however it no longer exists. And no I can't remember his name, and the rock is in cyrillic so if you would like accurate historical info, this is not the blog :-)

It was neat being on the Danube, with Bulgaria on one side of us and Serbia on the other. It was super windy so a lot of people were leery of staying on the deck to watch it but I was so curious we did stay up, just dressed up and had fun. Just sailing along was interesting enough; it was beautiful, so lush. And it's interesting that one side was green and lush with more Canadian looking floral and the other side was more Mediterranean looking - multiple colours of green, and different trees. But I was super impressed with the scenery, far more than I had anticipated it would be, and even the rocks had different formations/colours built into them, including some caves.

The lock was really cool; this was my first time experiencing it. We had to wait an hour to get into the lock as we were ahead of schedule, but once we motored into it, this wall came up behind us and we watched the water drain out rather quickly. It slowed down more as the water level got lower (due to less pressure) but it was fascinating to see the difference. I think he said we had gone down 15 meters or something like that (I took a photo of the water line - creepy almost.) What was cool was the captain’s cabin wheelhouse actually is on hydraulics so they lowered it as well as we were going underneath the door to the lock. Once we were low enough the forward wall split open horizontally and went down (see photo) and we motored through into the next lock. We were to be lowered again, same concept to join the river. Was super cool to see the first time, but takes time so we didn’t stick around for the second one.

This was my afternoon to blog and catch up - amazing how that didn't happen. Oh, the joys of being on vacation; never enough time to 'relax' snicker.

That night after dinner the crew put on a talent show; and it was awesome! We had 2 of the guys doing a drunk waiter, professional customer trying to order, fairly entertaining. Then there is a Indonesian gal who did a traditional dance in the local clothes - just beautiful. We had one sing us a song, another play an instrument that I can’t even begin to explain/describe but it looked like a sideways xylophone. Then there was a group of crew doing the Gangam Style dance, which made me laugh as so many people in the audience have no clue what they were looking at and I even heard one person remark that this 'was for young people'! Oh I had to laugh - reminded me of my dance off at the AMA Christmas party where I eventually won and took home Bernie - the 5 foot giant St. Bernard that still sits on my bed.

Being as this is not too long a blog; I'm adding in some information on river cruising, the ship/food/staff/excursions etc so this is a warning that it might become a bit dry; but for those of you who have never experienced a river cruise and are interested, please read on:

There are 120 guests on board plus staff and crew (25ish). The dress is far more casual than I thought it would be, and few people dress up for dinner other than the welcome and farewell ones. I brought more dresses than necessary and the weather has been a bit cooler than I anticipated so they come home clean. There is laundry services on the ship; which I’ve not needed, but nice to know it’s there.

This ship has 3 cabin categories, the ‘basement’ (as one client called it), 2nd floor of standard cabins with floor to ceiling windows and the suits on the third floor, more spacious, with a sitting area and an even bigger window. Interesting to talk to people on board and how some people love the porthole cabins (why would I spend more money as I won’t spend time in it). Others like myself, wanted the one level upgrade to have the big windows for the view and experience it that way (and I’m so glad I did). Then there are the third style of travellers that can’t imagine not being in the suites with the extra space, sitting area and even larger window space with the bed facing the outside. (ours is 90 degrees). One of the many reasons Avalon is a great company; they recognize there are different needs/wants of travelers and accommodate many.

Being as this is my first river cruise it’s been an interesting journey, and a big learning curve for me. It is very relaxing experience, the staff and crew are exceptional, the food has been great, and even with our being vegan they are doing their best. Admittedly I wish we had more protein options; but honestly I experience that everywhere I go, hence the trail mix and bars I travel with. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables which has been great, wine with dinner every night and there is a coffee/tea station that is open 24 hours so I am happily getting my fix of caffeine.

The cabin is spectacular, the beds have a memory foam on top of the mattress so it’s a little bit like sleeping on heaven. Shower has a wonderful shower head and plenty of hot water, and pressure. L’occatine bath products, morning and night visits from the housekeeping with chocolate goodies in the evening :-) Deliciously soft duvets with thread count sheets to die for. Bottled water complimentary, a TV with a zillion options including multiple styles of music, a log burning station (YAY!) and a live feed of a camera at the front of the ship. Point being is we are not hurting for comfort!!! And our hotel in Budapest, the Intercontinental was spectacular with a perfect location right in the heart of the tourism area and I’m looking forward to seeing the Hilton in Bucharest; we’ve been told it’s magnificent.

Breakfast is full buffet (hot and cold) with fresh omelets/eggs made to order, lunch is buffet with a large salad bar and then multiple hot items as well; and dinner is sit down a la’ carte with an average of 4, sometimes 5 dishes. Crazy amount of food. Oh and coffee/cake at 5pm daily, 24 hour coffee bar (worth mentioning twice) that has snacks also, and happy hour with nibbles on the tables. Hungry we are not, fat and happy we are!

Hendrik is wonderful at letting us know each evening what is happening the next day; and doing a ship wide announcement reminding us what is about to happen, what to bring and review of what we are up to for the day. I will admit I would like to be more physically active; the ship does have a fitness room with a treadmill, a bike and a reclining bike as well; and lots of space to walk up top, so really I have no excuse. The excursions are always on coaches that are pre-arranged with local guides, and we don’t do a lot of walking on them, or if we do, it’s short distances. Hippie and I are both craving more movement, so once we get to Bucharest we will hit the city exploring when we have some free time. But for those with limited mobility or bad knees/hips this is really nice. And if the walk is goign to be a bit more challenging, then Hendrix and/or our local guide will tell us ahead of time so you can decide if you wish to join or stay on the coach/ship etc.

OK - I've filled your head enough I"m sure; on to the next day! I love vacations and traveling!

Additional photos below
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Our 'honeymoon' cottageOur 'honeymoon' cottage
Our 'honeymoon' cottage

One guest insisted on taking our honeymoon photo, we didn't have the heart to tell her otherwise!

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