Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Hatches, matches, and dispatches...

Yesterday we were in Dürnstein and yesterday was my birthday.

One of the many picturesque doorways/streets/houses/etc in Durnstein

And picturesque gates, too.

The ferry to the other side of the Danube

Greg & Kathy in the courtyard of a small inn.

The local cemetery and Randy (red shirt) with Paul and Jim, husbands of Patsy and Susan, about whom there will be more later.

Yolanda at the gate into the cemetery

These are the bones (yuck!) of people who died in town but couldn't be buried in the picturesque graves.

Randy and a view of Durnstein and it's ruined castle on the hill. Richard the Lionhearted was held here for ransom oh so many years ago.

Our boat and one other, the Amalyra plus another docked nearby made about 500 tourists in town.

I don’t know which of those was better. Well, yes, actually I do—it was my birthday!

The best part was dinner! I got the obligatory cake (deliciously decadent, so I’m told, I didn’t have any) from the ship but what was absolutely wonderful is that Susan, a professional opera singer, sang Happy Birthday to me! What a gorgeous voice she has! And Patsy, Susan's and my friend, composed the following little poem for me:
Happy Birthday to Pam, what a pet!
She’ll become a new friend, this I’ll bet.
She’s as nice as can be,
Shares her drinks with me free,
And she owns a brand new red Corvette!
On your birthday just let me be frank
And I hope I’m not turning your crank;
I think you’re just swell,
Family, husband as well,
You’re really a great gal for a Yank!
Last night you shared the last of your brandy,
And for that I think you’re just dandy.
Trading room cards was fun,
We had each other on the run
But next time make sure I get Randy!
For your birthday, advice is my best,
Just be happy and here is the rest.
Drink wine when you thirst,
Laugh and love till you burst
And your whole life will truly be blessed!

Patsy and Susan are Canadians who seem to accept Americans as almost equals and they, but especially Patsy, are a real kick!

All in all, a wonderful day, perhaps the best birthday ever.
All of us in our "It's a Ryan thing; You wouldn't understand" shirts. I think everybody on the ship knows us. Certainly after the serenade and the poem last night they do!

L-R, Patsy reading her poem to me, Jim (Patsy's husband), me, Paul, and the wonderful singer, Susan.
My cake. As if you couldn't tell!

The weather has changed to rain so that’s not good but yesterday was (mostly) beautiful sailing up the Danube toward Germany. The captain warned us to expect a small bump as we transited from Austria to Germany. I’ve lost track of the locks as we go through some in the middle of the night but I think we still have about 58 to go until Amsterdam.

Just one picturesque sight after another.

And one ruined castle after another.

Have I mentioned picturesque villages before?

Impossible to see on the photo, but this ferry has no power. It is attached to a guy wire across the river and the power of the current pulls it across and back without an engine or motor of any kind.

What a tough life. We are having to wait for Ferris to bring us our drinks. The drink of the day is a Seabreeze.

You've heard of dancing around a Maypole, well, here's the Maypole.

Yet another---ABC

One of our friends deliberately running in front of the photo I was trying to take.

This is what I was trying to take a photo of, Kathy & Ken

Last year's flood was well above the top line on this marker on the white house.

You want me to build a castle WHERE? That will be extra!

Up THERE? Seriously?

Kathy and Ken doing selfies in the Piano Bar.
Tamas (the Cruise Director, from Hungary) told us that yesterday was just a taste of what was to come in the way of castles. Soon we’ll be seeing two to four castles per mile. ABC: Another Bloody Castle/Church/Cathedral is becoming our mantra.

There are rabbits on the roof of this church for no discernible reason.
Seven rabbits. Nobody has any idea why.
 Today, however, is miserable. We’re in Passau, it is cold (13C/54F), rainy, and the river is rising (although we are still able to get under the bridges, thank goodness). Everybody in my family except me is out and about in the rain. I’d like to go but am not feeling really great and figured that getting cold and wet is probably not the wisest thing to be doing!

Tomorrow will be better. I hope. Maybe.

Oh, yes, Hatches, matches, and dispatches: those are the only times our Australian friend, Derek, wears a suit. Therefore, no suits for him on this cruise!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Patchy rain, or maybe sunny, or might have thunderstorms, or perhaps cloudy…

I’m going to miss Vienna! We’ve been here long enough to understand the U-Bahn (subway) and even sort of know our way around. Kathy, Ken, Greg, and Yolanda (children and spouses) arrived yesterday (May 25) and we were even able to tell them all how to get to the ship by the U-Bahn!

I’m catching up now that I have some free time in Vienna (the rest of my family is on a tour of the city). We’re here for four days and just having a wonderful time. First day we took the obligatory City Tour and were treated like eight year olds by the tour guide but still managed to salvage our dignity and see the beautiful National Library and a few of the world globes they are famous for; the creator of one globe had no idea that Australia existed and that amused our Australian friends. Vienna also has some beautiful gardens that right now are ablaze with glorious roses of every hue and aroma you could imagine. Some are so large they look like small trees.

They are digitizing the ENTIRE library. These men are replacing the books on the shelves after digitizing.

One of the globes on loan from the Globe Museum.

Such a beautiful place!
 While we’ve been in Vienna the weather has continued to mostly cooperate. We got back one afternoon with 30 minutes to spare before the heavens opened. The weather forecast for May 25 was sunny (, or sunny with thunderstorms in the afternoon (, or thunderstorms ( so who knows what actually will happen. We’ll be indoors at the Spanish Riding School morning (show) and afternoon (stable tour) so we probably won’t care.

I’m really getting behind in my blog—because we have so much to do! I skipped over Bratislava, which was (is!) a beautiful little town that we wandered about and had a lovely meal in (uh, in which we had a lovely meal? Oh, hell, we ate well!).

The other night we went to a concert put on especially for the River Princess cruisers in a beautiful (but hot!) room in the Schonburg Palace with a very small group of musicians (2 violins, flute, clarinet, bass, cello, and piano) and singers who played/sang music by Mozart and Strauss that told the story of Sissi, the Empress of Austria. Absolutely fabulous! These tours are some of the reasons we are loving Uniworld and this cruise. An adjunct story is that one of the passengers is a conductor and when the musicians entered the room, the second violinist used to be his concertmaster and they hadn’t seen each other for many years. A very nice, unexpected reunion!

The city tours are a very nice way for us to be introduced to a city and they are complemented by the Vox Boxes with earpieces that we each carry to enable us to listen to the guide whispering in our ear. So much better than the guide yelling in church or on the street!
Have to have my flower picture!

Even babies enjoyed the flowers!

Roses were everywhere.

Carriage rides are available.

Entrance to the Spanish Riding School.

Busy, busy, busy streets!

So nice!

A confirmation at St. Stephens cathedral.
 On Saturday (May 24) Randy and I walked to the Weiner Prater, a big amusement park fairly close to where the boat ship is docked. A delightful, if a bit seedy, park.
One of the rides we didn't go on, but it does look like fun. For somebody else!

Later, Randy will go on the tall tower ride. Not me!

An old Ferris wheel from the 1800s, still working. We rode this one.

Our lunch place

The train that takes you around the park.

The view from the top of the Ferris wheel.

Who knew? The Sonoran Desert in Vienna!

Randy, about to enter the ride of death---uh, the World's Largest Swing Carousel.

With his partner and fellow death-wisher.

Randy is up there somewhere.

They cheated death.

Sunday (May 25) was the day the family arrived and the day we got to go see the Spanish Riding School performance and the Horse Castle (stables).
The arena just before the performance. Not allowed to take photos during the performance.

Kathy and Ken at the end of the performance.

German for Spanish Riding School

The arena in its normal lighting, before our tour of the Horse Castle (stables)

Kathy and Ken in the tack room of the SRS
And then we went to the Globe Museum

And now I think I'm caught up to today, Monday, May 26th. Tonight we leave Vienna headed further upriver on the Danube to someplace that includes lots of locks. I have absolutely NO idea what our next stop is! But we have about 13 more days on some river and then 5 days in Amsterdam in the Prins et Brouwer houseboat, one of the nicest places there is to stay in Amsterdam (we've stayed in this houseboat before). But I'm getting WAY ahead of myself!