Luigi and Manly's 2001 trip From Budapest to Amsterdam

Wednesday, October 17. Business class in United Air Lines 2:45 PM flight to Frankfurt was sparsely occupied. Dinner was served shortly after takeoff; and breakfast came 3 or 4 hours afterward, following a short period of darkness over the Atlantic.

Thursday, October 18. We reached Frankfurt at 5:45 AM and transferred to Lufthanza's 7:40 flight to Budapest. This flight was mostly full. I had prepared for arrival in this city by checking out the Internet site of the Budapest airport, and determining the location of an ATM machine so that we would not have to buy local currency from a cambio. After immigration and customs we found, first the information booth, and then the ATM where I used my credit card to buy 25,000 Hungarian Forints (about $90 worth).

Then we were able to pay 5,200 plus an 800 Forint tip for a wild cab ride on a modestly used two-lane road into the City of Budapest and to the Budapest Marriott Hotel on the east bank of the Danube. Budapest comprises two former cities, Buda on the west bank and Pest on the east. Remember: Buda is farther from the land of Buddha and Pest is not west. We had a splendid corner room with an excellent view of Danube in both directions. After naps we walked north (upstream) along a promenade with trolley tracks on the left between us and the river, to the Chain Bridge, where we crossed the trolley tracks and proceeded back along the paved river bank toward the Freedom Bridge. We located several almost hidden places where one could descend stairs next to tracks and reach the bank by walking under tracks; we had not noticed any of them on our walk along the promenade.

An exceptionally good dinner was served us at Csarda Restaurant in the hotel: stuffed cabbage with home made sausage and pork filet. It was called "Kolozsvzri tolto Kaposzta stuffed cabbage Kolosvar Style - a ceremonial dish for the Princess of Transylvania Country style." Kishegyi Merlot 1998 red Merlot (Marriott's private label house wine) Hungarian wine went well with dinner.

Friday, October 19. We had a good continental breakfast in the executive room on the top (tenth) floor, with excellent bread, cheese, sausage, fruit, yogurt, etc. After checking out we went to the concierge desk for help in determining where we might find the River Navigator, which we were to board later in the day. It was there that we first encountered Nico, a Program Director of this ship. He advised us to join a group of people who had booked their flights as part of a package tour on the River Navigator in the Csarda Restaurant where we would get a sandwich and salad lunch and wait for the 2:00 motorcoach to take us to the ship We walked about a pedestrian mall lined with booths to snare tourists. Sort of a cross between the Stroget in Copenhagen and the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. In addition to the usual handicrafts, crystal, leather, pottery, etc there were many animal hides. including boar, cow and deer (or perhaps small Brown Swiss Cow). The weather was cloudy and cool both days. The fancy manhole covers and some building details impressed us even more than the heroic statuary.

Saturday, October 20. A morning tour by bus took us and about 36 others first to the Parliament building: Gothic in form but completed in the early 20th Century. We observed the changing of Guard and the raising of the flag while waiting to enter through security. After viewing several rooms, including the main chamber, in this impressive building we went to Gellert Hill, a monument on a hillside in Buda that would have given a splendid view, across the Danube, of Pest if the weather were clear; then we were taken to the Square of Heroes with statues of men in armor, on horseback, or holding swords, and with huge mustaches.

After lunch on board, Luigi and I walked to the large covered market near where our ship, the River Navigator, was tied up with the River Explorer, another ship of Vantage Travel agency, tied alongside. In this market many small shops carried stuff that the natives buy, mostly pork and sausages, but some fruit and vegetables. Here Luigi bought small packets of paprika as gifts. We returned to the ship before she moved to a different dock about 5:00; later she left for Vienna.

Sunday, October 21. We reached Vienna before dinner. Afterwards we and most of rest of 130 +/- passengers were taken by bus to an unremarkable building in a remote neighborhood called Grinzing, where we climbed a staircase to a restaurant/bar. There we were seated on chairs and benches arranged throughout a large double room and participated in tasting the new (2000) white wine. We got small steins, perhaps 1/4 liter, with pleasant, light, refreshing white wine. A carafe of this wine was later placed on our table of 8 so that those who finished the first helping could have more. The carafe was still half full when we left. Two men, one with an accordion and the other with a 12-string guitar (two necks, one having five strings and other seven) furnished music that was mostly of the German drinking-song type. Occasionally a woman who had operatic training sang very well with them.

Monday, October 22. A bus took us to St. Stephen's Cathedral (side and corner views and an arched support detail) in the center of Vienna. This is a splendid old gothic cathedral with appropriate gargoyles that had suffered during WWII when Russians drove out the Nazis, and is now mostly restored. Then on to the Palace of the Habsburgs: several large buildings elaborately decorated and furnished, with an elaborate gateway to (or from) Josefs Platz. After lunch I stayed in our stateroom and took a nap while Luigi took tour of Schonbrunn Palace. There she saw the Pavilion, the garden in front, and the entrance, as well as part of the interior and some reconstruction scaffolding. After my nap, I took a walk in the neighborhood where our ship was tied up. There were one church and many small shops and apartment buildings.

Tuesday, October 23. A 9:00 bus took us to St. Stephen's Square in the middle of the city. I changed my remaining Hungarian Forints for Austrian Schillings, and did not worry about what the exchange rate should have been. Hungary is not part of the European Union, which is converting all its national currencies to Euros. The purser's office on the ship cheerfully exchanged various EU currencies for each other and for dollars, but did not want Forints. While others went to the Spanish Riding School or other attractions, Luigi and I wandered up and down several streets looking in store windows and observing a booth where chestnuts were roasting atop a stove that looked like an oil drum. As in my walk the day before, we saw a surprisingly large proportion of the windows displaying watches, mostly very expensive.. I didn't see the word, "quartz" anywhere and wondered if all were spring fed. An ice cream store window displayed its wares sculptured as ocean waves; we each enjoyed a cone of non-diet ice cream. Further walking took us past a store (where we bought a toy owl for our granddaughter Aurora) and around the magnificent opera house. Lunch was at Fuhrich Restaurant near the opera: a Trumer Pils (.51 liter) each and bratwurst with sauerkraut for me and pasta with little pieces of ham for Luigi. Both were very good. Then, after spending several minutes watching others and pondering the German operating instructions for the farecard system, we put coins in a machine and bought subway tickets to Vorgardenstrasse, a modest walk from our ship. Once there we took naps and Luigi went for a walk.

Wednesday, October 24. The ship reached Durnstein, Austria. Luigi and I, as well as most of the other passengers, went on a walking tour (1, 2) of this walled hill town (1, 2) It is the sort of Alpine village through which might pass a youth who bears, mid snow and ice, a banner with a strange device: Excelsior. The top of the hill bears the ruins of a castle where Leopold V held Richard the Lion-hearted, captured in 1192, until ransomed. The castle was ruined by the Swedes in 1645, but the town is in very good repair; its main industry is tourism. The Hotel Schloss Durnstein, (member Schlosshotels, Castle Hotels and Mansions in Austria and South Tyrol) which looks impressive from the outside and through the sometimes-opened gate, was host to Princess Diana shortly before her death. More suited to our budgets was wine sampling in the vaulted basement of a local tavern: the first was light, dry, like viognier; second was a medium 2000 Reisling; and the third was Tegernseerhof, von den Terrassen, Dunestriner Reisling, 1999, 13% alcohol, 3 grams/liter free sugar, Trocken. All were good, especially the last.

In the afternoon we reached Melk and went on a guided tour of the Abbey. Still holding monks in one wing, it resembles a castle. One series of rooms contains a library, some of the books in which were copied rather than printed. And some of the printed volumes dated from the 15th century. Originally this was the castle-residence of the Babenberg rulers of Austria from 976 to 1101 until Leopold III turned it over to the Benedictines for a monastery. Much of the wealth of the abbey was given by various Habsburgs who entertained guests here.

Thursday, October 25. This day was spent en route to Passau in Germany. Locks are frequent, and long enough to accommodate this 360 foot long ship and another 37 foot broad ship like it, side by side, and several meters high.

We were given a walking tour of Passau, which used to be rich from the salt trade but is now poor. It is at the Confluence of three rivers: the Danube, the Inn and the Ilz. The great baroque cathedral holds the world's largest church organ, we were told. We listened to a concert there for half an hour, and enjoyed its excellent tone and long reverberations. At the first peal a small girl nearby covered her ears. After the concert, Luigi went back to the ship, observing a detail of the door to the dom on the way. I wandered west and north along the commercial Gr Messergasse street to Gassthaus zum Hoffragner restaurant for lunch. I was its only customer. There were five tables in the main dining room; two other rooms I did not see fully. The waitress read a newspaper at next table while the manager cooked. Peschl-Brau beer and duck chunks and mushrooms in cream sauce with white rice were very good and cost 19 marks ($9) plus tip.

In the afternoon, while I napped, Luigi went to the famous glass museum that held all the Bavarian glass she cared to look at and then some. She also observed supplies being loaded onto our ship

Friday, October 26. Dawn came during breakfast, revealing lots of scum along the riverbank. Then we passed an industrial complex and the scum vanished. Later the ship stopped at Regensburg and tied up to facility along the bank in residential - commercial area.

An hour and a half bus ride took us to Nuremberg. This City was much destroyed in WWII and is now rebuilt to look authentically medieval but with subterranean sewers. First we stopped near Zeppelin Field, where Hitler held many of his rallies. Then we went on a walking tour of the old city, where we noticed a fine bank of dormer windows. Lunch was at Bratwurst Roslein, purportedly the biggest bratwurst restaurant in the world. The sausages were finger size -- a fashion reputedly started by a merchant who wanted to sell sausages to those outside of the city after the gates were locked each night; he made sausages small enough to fit through the keyhole. Tucher draft beer ( was good with the meal. On our own for two hours after lunch, we walked through a local farmers' market. I bought package of lebkuchen, for which Nuremberg is noted. Walking about town we noticed a dentist's shingle advertising his DDS from the University of Iowa.

After dinner Luigi and I went for walk of part of Regensburg near where ship was tied up. Many young people in outlandish garb may or may not have been headed to Halloween parties. We had not anticipated the enthusiasm with which Halloween is celebrated in Europe with pumpkins carved as jack o'lanterns, witches' costumes, and all.

Saturday, October 27. After a group walking tour of Regensberg, Luigi and I walked over the old stone bridge that crosses the Danube, and ascertained that the stores on the far side of river catered more to locals than to tourists. Lunch with the rest of the passengers was at Salzstadel Restaurant, next to Historiche Wurstkuch'l and included beer, pea soup with caraway and spices, finger sausages and kraut with sweet mustard, and strudel. All were very good; Luigi was particularly pleased by the combination of the sweet mustard and sauerkraut. A bus then took us to Kelheim where we rendevoused with the ship on the Main - Danube Canal about 1:40 PM. We entered a lock a few minutes later. Although the Danube had many groups of ducks, this canal has even more per mile. Most were mallards, but there were some cormorants on the Danube. After dinner there was a talk about Main -- Danube Canal by a local expert. Great attention was paid to preserving or enhancing environment in its recent completion. Such a canal, linking the Rhine and Danube Rivers, was first proposed and started by Charlemagne in the 8th century, and then by Napoleon in the early 19th century, and again, with modest success, by King Ludwig of Bavaria in 1839, but it was not finished for modern use until 1992.

Ulla, the woman in charge of passenger affairs, announced that the ship had a problem depressing the pilot house, and this precluded the ship's passing under bridges. When this was fixed, we had missed our appointment at the next lock and had to wait until 5:00 next morning for lock to open.

Sunday, October 28. Until now all the locks have lifted the ship to a higher level. Now the down locks started, some over 60 feet deep. At 10:15 a glass blower gave slick exposition of his trade, producing various items of more beauty than utility. He brought aboard many boxes of art glass merchandise. Luigi bought a clear hollow glass doughnut like those used in the ship's dining room to keep zinnia flowers floating at the top of a vase.

After lunch the ship stopped at the outskirts of Nuremberg to enable those who chose to go on bus/walking tour of Bamberg. Luigi went while I stayed aboard and took a nap. While there she saw some people in kayaks on the local river. In mid-afternoon the ship tied up across the canal from a power plant, next to several gravel elevators (part of a facility devoted to paving materials) instead of proceeding to Hassfurt where the busses full of passengers were to meet us. About 3:30 came the announcement that an accident in the lock ahead had damaged the door, so the lock was no longer operating. The driver of the bus bringing Luigi and the others back to the ship had to try several times to locate us. Later we were advised that another lock we were going to pass through was undergoing maintenance that would not be finished when we would need to pass in order to reach Amsterdan on time. Vantage Travel Service arranged to take us to Munich instead of Heidelberg, made appropriate hotel arrangements for us, chartered a boat to take us down the scenic part of the Rhine, and got us to Amsterdam on time.

Monday, October 29. A bus took us first to Wurzburg where we saw the Residence of the Prince-Bishop. It was largely destroyed in WWII but now is lavishly restored. It is a very grand palace indeed, and would seem even more so if I didn't keep comparing it to the Hermitage. We saw no more of Wurzburg, and were taken to Rothenburg, a well-restored medieval city. Lunch was at Glocke Restaurant, and included tomato soup and crisp fried rooster parts, (legs) as well as pleasant local dry white wine from the restaurant's own vineyard. Those of us who chose were taken on a walking tour of the town for most of an hour and then we were on our own. We stayed in the main square until 3:00 when the clock struck and windows opened in either side to reveal figures of a man in a top hat on the left and a man apparently drinking a large quantity of wine on the right. This celebrates the legend of the mayor who saved this Protestant town from annihilation by a Catholic army that captured it. After giving the commanding general a liberal dose of the local wine, the Mayor persuaded the general to agree not to destroy the town and its inhabitants if the mayor consumed three and a half liters of wine in one draught. The mayor succeeded, and the town survived, which is more than the legend says about the mayor. Afterward we wandered about the winding cobblestone streets, finding an open air market and a carnival in which the ponies etc of the carousel were replaced by a fire engine, racing car, and other modern vehicles. The remainder of the daylight was spent passing through autumnal Germany on our bus, pausing at a rest stop that catered to dogs as well as people.

Tuesday, October 30. Instead of the originally intended voyage by ship, we were taken by bus to Munich where we were first given a tour of Nymphenburg Palace that served as the summer residence of the Wittelsbach family who comprised the dynasty of dukes, princes, electors, and kings who ruled Bavaria from 1180 until 1918. The palace was originally given by Ludwig I to his wife when, after several years of marriage, she finally presented him with a boy. After a bus tour of the area near the center of the city (Marienplatz) lunch was at Bayerische Donisl Marienplatz, Munich. Pork in gravy with crisp fat and dumplings and Hacker-Pshorr beer were followed by cake in custard sauce.

Afterward we wandered about the center of town on our own, seeing the Church of St. Michael with a splendid statue of St Michael, and a nice bronze statue of a boar with a young woman leaning against it talking on a cell phone, oblivious to being photographed. The group re-assembled at the foot of the column bearing the gilded statue of the Virgin Mary. From there one can see five different clocks in towers, one tower containing two. The drive (about 100 miles) back to the ship took over two hours because of heavy traffic.

A couple of days earlier than expected, we had the Captain's farewell cocktail party and dinner. The latter included unlimited wine and baked Alaska.

Wednesday, October 31. A bus took us to Rudesheim where we were to board a cruise boat. It was well that this was not the height of the tourist season, as there seemed more tourists here than space to put them. We had lunch at Rudesheimer Schloss Restaurant. It included Mittlewin - partially fermented white grape juice, a light, dry beverage from a large, unlabelled, brown bottle. Good "Grape-pickers" vegetable soup, with some meat and ice cream cake completed the meal. Music was furnished by a jovial man on an electronic keyboard who played a splendid version of St. Louis Blues. We boarded the cruise vessel St Nicolaus at 2:15 and reached Koblenz at dark after sailing down the castle-strewn banks of the Rhine (1, 2, 3, 4, and 5).

We were put up at the Dorint Hotel Rhein-Lahn, Lahnstein near Koblenz, where we had a nice view of the lower Rhine. The hotel is a fancy fifteen story health spa hotel with excellent food, especially the bread, but badly under-elevatored for groups. We happened to be sitting at the same table with a couple from Florida named Dufek, and Luigi got to talking with them. It turned out that they originally came from Marathon County, Wisconsin, and owned Dufek Sand and Gravel Company. This company was the predecessor in title of the people from whom we bought our land at Hogarty. The Dufeks had been well acquainted with our neighbors, the Wedens.

A good men's choir from Cologne sang sea chantries after dinner, having rehearsed for singing on our ship.

Thursday, November 1. Our shipload were bussed from Lahnstein to Cologne where we saw the Romisch Germanisches museum next to the Cathedral. The museum is established to hold and display items unearthed in or near the city that were left from the time of Roman occupation. These included various artifacts, sculptures, tile floors etc. and demonstrated that some of the Romans in Cologne lived pretty lavishly. When our stay at this museum ended we were given free time until lunch. This was about enough time to look at the outside of the Cathedral (1, 2, 3), which is one of the largest in Europe. Lunch was in a gigantic restaurant with long unvarnished wooden tables, and included Colner Hofbrau Fruh beer (.51L) and excellent sauerbraten and mashed potatoes. Then came several hours on a bus along Rhine to the Netherlands, through very slow dense traffic to the Dorint Hotel at Amsterdam-Schipiol Airport.

Friday, November 2. Luigi and I bade farewell to our travelling companions and took a taxi to the Park Hotel in Amsterdam for 75 Guilders ($30) including tip. Lunch at Brasserie van Gogh near this hotel included Heineken's draft (1/2 liter) for each, a tuna sandwich for Luigi, and fish and chips for me. -- 68 guilders with tip. The establishment seemed like a good restaurant for rich students. Luigi went to Rijksmuseum while I took nap and did laundry. Dinner was in the hotel restaurant and included Santorcal Vino della Tierra de Castilla y Leon 1999 Spanish red wine. Luigi had wolf fish, I had guinea fowl.

Saturday, November 3. Buffet breakfast in the hotel included the usual fruits and juices, scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, breadstuffs, cheeses and also both smoked and pickled herring, the latter wrapped around pickled onions. Also currant buns so large that we shared one. Then we walked to the Van Gogh museum and took the elevator to third floor, which holds some van Goghs and many works by his contemporary artists. One item that attracted my attention was a sculptured head (only) of Charles I of England. There were more van Goghs on the second floor but the crowds were so dense that they diminished our enjoyment.

We were not very impressed by a current show (in the museum's new wing) of photographs of the United States from 1860 to 1940 or thereabouts. Lunch in the museum cafeteria included Belgian Trappist beer for me and Heineken for Luigi plus a ham sandwich for her and a herring and onion sandwich for me.

Following our naps we walked about the art and antiques district of Amsterdam, and were surprised at how many antique stores there were. We also walked along another street on which the principal products displayed were garments of fashion of one sort or another.

Dinner was at Sama Sebo Indonesian Restaurant, which we remembered favorably from four years ago. It is at P.C. Hoofdstraat 27, 1071 BL Amsterdam (020 6628146). We had Reijstoffel, the dish for which the restaurant is best known. In addition to the usual dinnerware, our table was set with four trivets each holding 2 candles. Small oval serving dishes were placed on these; some were stacked on the rims of the two below; there were over a dozen items to be ladled or scooped onto the rice that came in a huge bowl. The meal seemed to be an Indonesian version of a fancy Indian Curry.

Sunday, November 4. We checked out of the hotel, took a taxi to the airport and caught a United Airlines flight to Dulles and another to O'Hare. This time the business class on the trans-Atlantic flight was nearly full.