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Austria and Germany: 7 Days Cruise along the Danube and Canal


100+ Posts
Sydney to Vienna and Vienna
Dec 13, 2018

To be entirely accurate, Cheryl and I are on a 7 week holiday in Europe (If the UK still constitutes being part of Europe). I will be breaking up my report into sections. This report will cover three days in Vienna followed by the cruise from Vienna to Nuremberg. Later reports will be posted covering London, Cornwall, Devon and Southampton.

What you get when you travel from east to west is a day that's around 36 hours long. That can provide justification for all sorts of odd behavior.

The flight from Sydney to Doha was the longest leg of any journey we have ever made …. 15 hours. As we departed the aircraft in Doha, I suggested to Ches that I expected to get an excellent cup of coffee, being that the middle east is the origin of coffee. Barely into the terminal and I came across Starbucks, and then near our next departure lounge, Jamocca. Actually the Jamocca wasn't bad but what possessed them to allow a Starbucks.

At 7.30 am we took off again for Vienna. Ches had donuts and Baileys Irish Cream for breakfast. She argued that it was really 5.30 pm. I considered the Cognac but couldn't even justify that if it was 5.30.
We arrived in Vienna at 11.30 am local time to an overcast day and -1c. I'd chosen the Novotel beside the main railway station in Vienna, because there is a train that runs from the airport to the city. At -1c and after 24 hours in transit, we opted for a taxi instead. Probably not the best option as the traffic entering the city choked on 10,000 Glaswegian Rangers fans arriving for a game against Vienna.

By the time Ches had had a shower and changed, it was 2.00 pm and given that the sun sets at 4.00ish, we decided we wouldn't venture to the center of town. We definitely needed a walk however. Who'd of though it, leave the hotel, take a left turn, another left turn a right turn and another left turn and what do we find? The Belvedere Palace. Vast gardens and the upper and lower palaces were quite a surprise and even more so, a "Christmas market".

I couldn't help but reflect on the fact that both the Belvedere Palaces and Blenheim Palace in England were built by their military chiefs at around the same time and designed to celebrate great victories. Prince Eugene had several major victories against the Ottoman Empire and the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill) defeated the French and Bararians and thwarted their attempt to control the old Spanish posessions in Northern Europe. Both Palaces aimed to match Versailes and were built in the early 1700's.

By the time we walked through the gardens to the upper palace, our hands were frozen … even with gloves on. The Christmas Markets are set up along the front of the Upper Palace. Even though our river cruise is to take in the Christmas markets along the Danube and Main-Danube Canal, I didn't know what to expect. Yes, there are stalls selling Christmas decorations and clothing but also lots of stalls selling food and crafts, just like markets everywhere in the world. It's just with a Christmas theme.

We did a circuit of the market to get the lay of the land. As almost all stands only took cash, we then had to find an auto teller and withdraw euros. By this stage, I'd removed my gloves to take some 50 photos with my phone. I'd left my camera at the hotel in the belief that there wasn't going to be any photo ops. My fingers were freezing, so I bought a Teufelsgriller Hot Dog. A spicy sausage inserted into a hollowed out bread roll with tomato and mustard sauces. Ches went to another stand and bought a hot alcoholic apple drink and an Orange/Rum drink for me. All the stalls selling hot drinks serve them in mini steins. We paid a 4euro deposit each of the steins which was refunded when we finished our drinks. We also shared a massive shortbread (much more cakey than Ches's shortbread). Finally we bought some pastries to have for dinner and a cone of fried shaved potato. Like crisps, the potatoes are shaved with a fine peeler and fried in long strips, that curl up into clumps.

With frost bight imminent, we headed for home as the gloom descended. This is our first experience of all the lights on at 3.00 pm and the light fading. On the way home, we were passed by a woman on a motorized scooter with a small headlight on the handle bar. We noticed these e-scooters on footpaths all the way home. They were introduced in Vienna in September. Instead of racks of e-bikes like we have trialed in Australia, they have these scooters.


I'm writing this blog as we attempt to stay awake till around 8.00 pm, when we expect to sleep through the night.
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100+ Posts
Horses and Schnitzel
Wien, Austria
Dec 14, 2018

We couldn't stay awake past 7.30 pm on Thursday evening. Struggled but collapsed in a heap. While we woke numerous times during the night, we managed to stay in bed until 4.00 am, so 8 or so hours of a kinda sleep. It was worth waking up early as we came in on the end of WhatsApp threads announcing that Malia (our grandaughter) had been guaranteed a place at UNSW in the B Science Data Analytics and Decisions degree. Wonderful news and a just reward for all her dedication.

We decided that breakfast would be a left over apricot filled "bun" and that I would go down stairs for coffee and tea. I struggled back in the lift with two trays. Café late consists of a tall glass filled with frothed milk and an espresso cup of coffee poured over the top. "Over the top" did I say … $AUD7.12. At this point I fess up to having had a cup of Nestle instant coffee at 4.00 am. Out of the darkness I heard Ches say "You've gotta be desperate"

The "Apricot filled bun" turns out to be Krapfen. "The recipe for Krapfen was published in a 1485 German cookbook that was printed on the Gutenberg press. Though these delicious sugary treats have been around for a while, they only achieved widespread popularity in Vienna during the 19th century, when the cost of sugar became significantly less expensive.

Today's Krapfen resemble the old recipe but modern Vienna has created a set of standards that must be met to be deemed worthy of the name. They must contain apricot jam - in fact at least 15% of the doughnut must be filling. And bakers must use six fresh egg yolks for every kilogram of flour used.

The penalty for not adhering to the regulations: a visit and a fine from the MA 59 Inspectorate. This group of magistrates is responsible for ensuring the quality of food and food safety standards in the city, and this means the Krapfen as well."
35 g (1.2oz) fresh yeast
85 ml (6 tbsp) room temperature milk
100 g (3.5 oz) flour for pre-dough (all purpose or gluten free)
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
45 g (1.6oz) white sugar
2 tbsp dark rum or whiskey
1 vanilla bean, scraped (sub for 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1 lemon, zested
290 g (10.2oz) flour for Krapfen dough (all purpose or gluten free)
80 g (2.8oz) room temperature butter
8 g (1.5 tsp) salt
canola oil for frying
apricot jam, passed through sieve, flavored with rum
confectioner sugar (with scraped vanilla)
For the pre-dough, mix yeast, milk and all purpose flour together, wrap with plastic
Proof for about 1-2 hours at room temperature
Cream yolks, eggs, sugar, rum, vanilla bean, and lemon zest
Mix pre dough with egg mixture and the remaining flour
Start mixing at medium speed with hook attachment
Half way through the mixing process, add butter and salt, mix to a smooth dough for 4-5 minutes
Measure to 50 g (1.8 oz) pieces, shape into balls, press flat, place on with flour dusted towel and proof
Cover with flour dusted towels and proof for about 1-2 hours. They should almost double the size
Fry in hot canola oil for 3 minutes in a covered pan, flip them and fry for 3 more minutes
Once golden brown, cool them down on a rack, squeeze apricot jam inside, and dust with confectioner sugar

Rapid Vienna defeated Glasgow Rangers 1 nil. Could be 10,000 unhappy Glaswegans in town for the weekend.

We decided that after such a long flight, we needed a long walk. As to where to and to what purpose, not so sure, so the information office probably the best bet. The hotel map we had was good enough to identify that the Belvedere Palace stretched down the hill toward the edge of the city center and from there I thought I could find the i.

With the assistance of a chap who we thought had a South African accent, but turned out to be a local who worked as a translator, we weaved through the labyrinth that is at the core of Vienna and found a warm refuge. It was around zero, and taking gloves off to read the map meant that my memory improved significantly.

We had looked at an online guide book before leaving the hotel, so did in fact have an idea about our options and something indoors was looking appealing. I guess we didn't spend any more than 2 min in the information center. Just long enough to pick up another map (which included 2 walking tours of Vienna) and loose directions to the Spanish Riding School.

The queues at the Winter Riding School arena were chaotic. No supervision, just figure it out for yourself. We figured that the queue out the door and 50m back up the portico was for people who already had tickets. Ours was the shorter, slower moving one to the left. Inside, the pre-purchaced ticket holders had occupied all the seats on both levels of the arena. We decided on the top level and lucked it to two standing positions and eventually two seats (after about an hour).

Most people only stayed for two of the four 30 minute training sessions. We stayed for 3 and a half.
The Lipizzaner stallions are bred around 3 hours south of Vienna. They are born black or dark grey and only turn white after around 15 years. Kind of like me. Obviously we had greater expectations in the white horses, being older. Again, much like me.

Magnificent horses and riders and amazing relationships established between them. Perhaps the highlight were two horses who took all their weight on their back legs and just lifted their forelegs off the ground with their bodies still parallel with the ground. Not raised up on their hind legs with their center of gravity shifted back, but just forelegs lifted. The older of the two could even achieve it while mounted, while the younger with the rider standing beside him.

Back out in the freezing cold, Ches took over the navigating and after we spent 30 minutes, lost, returned to the riding school and retraced our steps to the information center, from where I guided us across town to Purstner at Riemergasse 10. 2,859 reviewers on TripAdvisor give it a 4.5 ranking.

I was on a mission. Before visiting Vienna some years ago, I researched Schnitzel extensively and left disappointed. This time, I was determined to find a schnitzel that I could sit on without any oil staining my pants. Apparently the secret of the best schnitzel is that they be fried in oil with little oil remaining on the crumb.

Purstner may not serve the best schnitzel in Vienna, and I don't have time to try all the contenders, but it was excellent. My serviette didn't come away greasy after patting the schnitzel. I only have three pairs of jeans and wasn't going to risk them. We also ordered Pork Ribs.

We made it through the schnitzel but only half the ribs. Our host, in Lederhosen and checked short sleeved shirt (It's mid-winter … really) wrapped our ribs in foil. They sufficed for dinner. We barely ate any of the potato however couldn't resist the sauerkraut. No room for desert but just enough for 2 500ml glasses of Pils. One dark the other light.

We needed another long walk. We therefore headed down to the State Park before heading across to the Summer Palace and back up the hill to our hotel. At some point I made the observation that I was warming to Vienna. It was 1 degree. Ches and my father would have ganged up on me at that point, so in defense I argued that us right brain people just come out with lines like that. We are the creative people. Vienna had left me cold in mid-summer those many years ago. Sorry, couldn't help it.

Back in the hotel, by 3.00, with the light fading, we decided on a 60 min nap. My timer didn't work and we woke up 2.5 hours later.

Now it's 11.00 and time to try for a full nights sleep.


100+ Posts
Klimt and Torts
Vienna, Austria

Friday night Ches struggled to stay awake again but finally surrendered at 10.00pm and slept till 5.00am. I made it from midnight till 5.00 am. Adding on the 2.5 hour nap from yesterday afternoon, I figured we would do OK. I pottered till around 6.00 when I became desperate for a coffee.

Peering out into the gloom, I realized it was snowing. I checked on line for a coffee shop open near by and discovered it was at the central railway station a couple of hundred meters down the street. I rugged up and ventured out into the snow, returning 15 minutes later with coffee and breakfast filled bread rolls.

We repacked our cases and dressed for a day out in the snow. I ended up wearing four layers of tops, a beanie that Dave & Sue gave me, two scarves and two pairs of gloves (inner ones fingerless). Ann knitted me a tube scarf some years ago. It fitted beneath the third layer of clothing. Because three of the layers were Icebreaker merino, it wasn't at all bulky. Just time consuming putting on and taking off every time we entered a building.

The plan was to put our bags in storage at the hotel, spend the morning at the Upper Belvedere Palace, walk into town to Café Sacher for lunch and then return to hotel and then taxi to the SS Beatrice moored on the Danube by 3.00pm. The plan was executed with military precision.

The Upper Summer Palace is certainly grand with its marble staircase and marble hall (where the documents were signed to return Austria to nation status in 1955) however it is largely an art gallery. The highlights are the extensive collection of Klimt paintings and that's where we spent most of our time. They were wonderful.

By mid-day, the place was packed with northern and eastern Europeans. Talk about anarchy. We had already experienced the German's reluctance to queue when in Italy, however we didn't realize the entire geopolitical region was largely anarchic. Just one experience was when a lift arrived and we stood back to let the passengers off, those behind us just pushed through and we were left to climb the stairs. Then there was the chap who when I opened the door to leave the bathroom, just pushed inside, brushing me aside.

Outside we decided to walk down through the gardens to the Lower Palace. Families were playing in the snow; forming snow angels and there I discovered how to make snowballs. One young girl ran at quite a pace, bent over and rolling a handful of snow ahead of her. After about 15 meters it had grown in size and she scooped it up and flung it at her father.

It was snowing quite heavily as we made our way through one of the Christmas markets and up into town where Café Sacher is opposite the Opera House. There we queued in the snow for around 20 minutes for a table.

Once inside, we discovered that the majority were just having Sacher Torte and Coffee or Chocolate. We had decided to have lunch, so to distinguish us from the hoi polloi, our table was reset with a table cloth and a smaller serving table placed beside our table. Ches had Goulash Soup and I the sausages (Wieners) with horseradish and mustard. The Goulash was sensational and my sausages best eaten alone as the horseradish cleared my sinuses through to the back of my skull and my eyes ran instantly. Shaved fresh horseradish is much like wasabi, and I had eaten about a table spoon of it. My sinuses just shuddered thinking about it.

We then had a Sacher Torte which was so much better than our previous experience in Vienna and therefore confirms that Café Sacher can rightfully claim to be the upholder of the tradition. To accompany the torte, Ches had hot chocolate with Sacher Liqueur while I had espresso with orange liqueur and brandy topped with whipped cream. Oh my!!!!

Being serious clients, there was no giving us the bums rush. In fact, after trying to get the account for around 10 minutes, we re-dressed (it takes some time when you're wearing so many layers) and went to the front desk to pay.

Outside it was snowing quite heavily and I estimated that it was around 4cm for the day. We decided to walk down to, and through, the State Park on our way back to the hotel. This took us past the University Music and Concert building. It also took us past the theatre we had attended for a concert some years ago. It had been packed with people in sweltering heat and the performance was period over the top Strauss. I prefer my Strauss heard but not seen. I only mention this because tomorrow night we will be attending another concert at a different venue.

Back at the hotel, we retrieved our luggage and had them call us a taxi. We rolled our luggage to the front door and it opened to reveal the taxi driver. He had been parked out front. It was an uneventful 15 min drive to the ship. It was an eventful arrival. We had forgotten about Uniworld customer service. The wouldn't let us touch a bag as they unloaded and took them straight to our room while we checked in.

I should however make a mention of the satnav in the taxi. The screen was twice as wide as any I have seen before. As we didn't actually have an address for the ship, the driver simply used his fingers to spread the map, scrolled to the river and tapped on a point on the river where he thought it might be docked. The satnav locked in in the destination and plotted the route. Brilliant.

We unpacked and stowed everything in the amazingly well designed storage spaces in our cabin then it was up to the bar for a G&T, cruise briefing, meet other travelers and then dinner and more drinks.

We were joined for dinner by Robyn and Alan, a couple from Perth. Both retired, he was a lawyer, ex Airforce and after early retirement at 55, went off to work for Ok Tedi, the bigest of PNG miners in the highlands. Now in late 60's he still surfs, rides bikes etc. Also into genealogy, we discovered his family had been on the Kalgoorlie/Bolder fields at the same time as my family from the late 1800's. Still to find out more about Robyn.

On our last cruise, I had adopted the practice of taking a Cognac back to the room to finish the evening. Ches decided to join me. She argues that she asked me to get a double Baileys because she was basing the portion on the thimble sized one she had on our flight over. She'd forgotten that Uniworld's singles are anyone else's doubles. She said she would finish it off for breakfast. It's becoming a habit. Actually, she guiltily poured the remainder out.

Beef Goulash Soup
½ pound salt pork or uncured bacon, diced small
2 pounds chuck, cut into ½ inch pieces
4 cups onion, large dice
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika (regular paprika if this is not available)
½ bottle dark beer such as Guinness (3/4 cup)
1 ½ cups pureed tomatoes (Cento canned kitchen ready is what we used)
6 cups beef stock
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 teaspoons marjoram
2 teaspoons dry thyme
8 parsley stems
4 medium peeled garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
2 pounds yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Sour cream, for serving
Chopped scallion greens, for garnish
Russian rye or pumpernickel bread, for serving
In a 5 ½ quart Dutch oven over medium high heat, cook salt pork until crisp then remove to a large bowl, leaving fat in the pot.
Sear the beef in three batches for about 3-4 minutes per batch. Remove each batch to the same bowl as the salt pork.
Add the onions, lower the heat to medium and stir to combine. Then add the beef and salt pork over the top of the onions. After about five minutes stir and cook for another three minutes.
Add the vinegar and cook to evaporate, about two minutes.
Add the flour and paprika and cook for three minutes, using a wooden spoon to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom.
Add the beer and mix to combine, scraping any brown bits from the pan bottom.
Add the tomatoes and the stock and raise the heat to bring the mixture to a boil.
While the pot heats, place caraway, marjoram, thyme, parsley stems, garlic and bay leaves in a piece of cheese cloth and secure with twine and add to the pot.
Once heated, reduce to a simmer and cook 45 minutes being careful not to let it stick to the bottom. For the last 15 minutes, we put a heat diffuser under the pot.
After the beef cooks for 45 minutes, add the potatoes and cook 20-25 minutes longer or until the potatoes are cooked through. Make sure to use the heat diffuser and stir to keep it from sticking. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Remove and discard spice bag.
Serve with sour cream and scallions on top, and Russian rye or pumpernickel bread on the side.


100+ Posts
Walking, Falling and Soothing
Vienna, Austria
Dec 16, 2018

Taste of Christmas Walking Tour (am) , Schonbrunn Palace(pm) and Klosterneuburg Abbey Concert (evening)

Today was going to be a massive day. We had decided to go on a morning walk (3 hours) of the center of Vienna and take in some 4 of the Christmas markets with samples of food and gluvein at three of them. Back to the boat for a quick 1 hour lunch before a coach to Schonbrunn Palace then back for a light dinner and 1.5 hour break before another coach to the concert than back by 10.30 for supper. That's from 8.45 till 10.30. That meant I was going to have to wait till Monday to complete my Saturday's blog and find the time for this one as well: It's now 5.00 am Monday and we are about to dock in Durnstein.

As we travelled into town yesterday, the guide explained that the they have a strange concept of law or regulations in Austria. For example, we passed "Grow Shop". It's a retailer of marijuana plants. The entire street front windows were unshuttered and on display was around 30 meters of plants under heat lamps. The laws regarding the entire operation are in her words "a little bit yes, a little bit no". You can buy plants, but not let them flower. In the privacy of your home, you can use them. The staff can sell them to you, but not advise on how to grow and use them to get high. The staff can however sell you books that do tell you!

Other interesting information. Austria has a population of 8.5 million, 1.8 of whom live in Vienna. They have the second highest GDP in Europe, provide several hundred thousand public housing apartments, provide public transport for 365 Euro per annum (Yup, a euro a day for use of train, tram and bus) and have a very clean city with little evidence of homelessness.

Uniworld guides always seem to give you information you don't get from guide books. In the course of the morning, she was regularly pointing out buildings and apartments in which Mozart had lived or written a certain piece of music. It was all contributing to the final conclusion that Mozart was always broke and moved repeatedly. It wasn't that he was poorly paid, it was because he had extravagant taste in clothing (a dandy like me???) and he was an inveterate gambler. Even his eventual demise wasn't a result of a major disease and through the neglect of the Viennese, it was because blood letting was the common treatment for fevers and he succumbed to his infection in his weakened state.

The highlight of the markets was the "Fruit Cake". Well, the culinary highlight. We were amazed at the cost of the decorations on sale. Wonderful glass baubles to hang on your tree for 20 euro plus. Seriously, you'd want to attach very carefully out of the way of wagging dogs tails and kids hands, and it would cost close to $1,000 to decorate a tree.

Footsore, we returned to the boat for lunch and a quick turnaround to Schonbrunn Palace. 1,200 rooms in the palace, however we visited only the Imperial rooms. A dozen or so rooms, some public others private. Marquetry flooring like no other flooring I've ever seen. Not timber in geographic patterns but artwork in timber.

Rooms with walls made of lacquered artwork. A bed the size of a double king size with elaborate embroidered canopies and covers that was only used to introduce mother and child to the nobles for one night. That's a ceremonial bed, that among others, Maria Theresia used on 16 occasions over 20 years to introduce her newborn children. We lost track of the Hapsburgs inbred lineage, but apparently another of the women gave birth to 23 children.

Despite the fact that the Austro-Hungarian empire was created through the marriage of Hapsburgs to princes and princesses, kings and queens all over Europe, they inter bred to maintain the familial loyalty to such a degree that eventually the male line died out.

While inside the palace wasn't as crowded as most we have visited over the years, at 59 euros a head, we weren't surprised. Outside however it was heaving. Possibly the largest of the Christmas Markets occupied half the courtyard which is possibly 100 m x 100 m. Ches decided she'd rather have a chocolate and apple strudel at the café while I ventured around to the back of the palace to photograph the gardens.

As I worked my way through the crowds returning from the gardens, there was more and more snow and ice among the gravel paths. I identified a spot in the gardens which would give me the best vantage point to photograph the palace and gardens, and headed in that direction. The next minute I hit the ground as if poleaxed. I went down face forward, ripped a hole in my sleeve and my right arm through three layers of clothing, jarred my right shoulder and bruised my hip. I struggled to crawl to more firm ground before someone ran across to help me back on my feet. I still took some photos before returning to the café, only to find that Ches couldn't be bothered queueing to get in.

Outside on the street, we looked down the lines of buses and the 40 or so palace apartments that are now rented as housing (nice if you can get it). No sign of the bus, so we waited patiently for the others to join us for the trip back to the boat.

A hasty light dinner and then back on the bus for a trip out of town to a monastery where we would get to see the most ancient of enameled alter pieces (kinda like a triptych ). In the original dining room, we also had a private concert. 7 musicians and two singers from the Vienna Opera company provided a concert of works by all the famous composers of Vienna. So much better than the many concerts being performed for tourists throughout Vienna, these were fine musicians and they were worth standing ovations.

After a 20 minute run back to the ship, they had a supper set up for us. As the guide explained, a famous sausage was invented in the region, however the butchers name was unknown, so they called it a "Frankfurter". In Frankfurt they faced the same problem, so called it a "Weiner" (Vienna is called Wein in Austria). The Americans just called it a "Hot Dog"
At 10.30 we retired to our room, me with a snifter of Grand Marnier.


100+ Posts
Dürnstein, Austria
Dec 17, 2018

Ah! Durnstein. A return to the site of my cycling misadventure. This time, no bike, and when Alan suggested a hike up to the castle, I made the proviso that there be people to accompany me prepared to carry me back down the mountain. As far as I know, it was only a Californian couple who made the climb.

My decision not to climb had something to do with alcohol. All will become clear.

It was another -2c day with snow on the ground but non imminent and in fact we did see patches of blue during the day.

Durnstein is in the Wachau Valley and wine and tourism are the main sources of income that supports just a couple of hundred. It probably means they are quite wealthy because by my reckoning, they produce a lot of fantastic wine and they have boatloads of tourists almost every day, summer and winter.

The Gruner Vetliner wine is fantastic. Most of the vines are grown on steep slopes that retain little soil, so the wine is very minerally. They say that they are wines that can be aged for many years, and in blind tastings have beaten the worlds best Chardonays. I'll never know because what I drank here was young and fresh and I'm unlikely to find any to buy back in Aus. I'm going to have to drink a bucket over the next day or so. The vines on the flat land near the gates to the town are all tended by the primary school children. They have their photograph posted on a pole at the end of the row.

Durnstein is also famous for it's Apricot Liqueur and in time will become renowned for its Saffron products.

Durnstein's first claim to fame is that Richard the Lionheart was returning to England from Jerusalem after the 3rd crusade in 1192, when he was captured by Leopold V, Duke of Austria. They had had a dispute in Jerusalem, so Leopold held him for ransom. Legend has it that his minstrel Blondel went from castle to castle singing a song that only Richard would known and when he heard him singing it back, he knew where he was imprisoned. The castle was destroyed by the Swiss in 1645, and the ruins are more of a vantage point for looking out on the Wachau Valley than a feature in itself.

Anyway, the Durnsteiners make the most of it, so there are references to Richard and Blondel throughout the town. Also capitalizing on the many Australian tourists who travel on the river cruises, a number of shops sell road signs with Kangaroos on them and "There are no Kangaroos in Austria". If nothing else, they also educate American tourists.

We stopped at the same shop as last time and once again sampled a little too much Apricot Liqueur. We then walked the town which is particularly attractive running along the hillside with the ruined castle hovering overhead and the river below.

We then attended an organ recital in the local church which was o.t.t. and would have kept the peasants in poverty for hundreds of years. We then went to the railway station, which while still in use during summer months is now owned by Bernhard Kaar. Bernard speaks with an accent that sounds very English. When questioned, he said that he deliberately spoke with an Austrian accent because he never wanted to be mistaken for a German.

Bernard had searched the library at Melk Abbey nearby, some nine years ago, and found numerous references to the growing of Crocus and production of Saffron from around 1200. He then purchase land and began growing Crocus and producing saffron honey, vinegar, chocolate and a rum, orange juice and saffron hot punch. We sampled liberally … again.
Ches and I then had the town to ourselves as most people had returned to the ship for lunch. We went in search of Christmas tree decorations etc. and discovered amazing rhodium and copper plated wire balls. Every Christmas market and town we visit seems to have something different. Not the same old same old tourist trinkets everywhere.

We enjoyed lunch looking out on the river and small villages as we cruised into the twilight, had a nap, returned to the lounge for pre-dinner drinks, had dinner and ………..

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100+ Posts
Linz, Austria
Dec 18, 2018

Over breakfast, I speculated about Linz. If I remembered correctly, there was a large town square surrounded by many architecturally different buildings from the middle ages and a main street with a tram running down the middle and lined with modern buildings largely retail fashion and the remains of a Roman wall.

I didn't remember correctly, we've never been here before. It's only now appearing on the tourist list as a town worth visiting.

Then again, this could be an accurate description of Linz. The reason for the speculation was that we had options. We could take a long town walk or short town walk and visit a cider farm on the outskirts of town.

Based on my poor memory, I opted for the second option and Ches the first. I'm kicking myself I didn't talk Ches into joining me.

Linz is the home of the Linzer Tort. Isn't every Austrian and German town famous for a pastry or sausage? Apparently the Linzer gets better with age. We've bought one to share with Drew and Keith on Drew's birthday at the end of January.

So, the biggest cathedral in Austria is in the third biggest city with a population on just around 200,000 people. It doesn't have the tallest steeple and will allow Vienna the claim to that, but they insist, theirs is the biggest. It looks hundreds of years old but was only built in the early 1900's. A new bishop was disappointed in the small church that didn't befit his status, so insisted on a cathedral which could house the entire population of 23,000 people at that time.

Short of granting naming rights, he sold local businesses and gentry on footing the bill with the local bank being the largest contributor. That entitled them to a stained glass window depicting the bank building. Actually. They have amazing stained glass with many depicting famous identities from Linz such as composers and astronomers. Also many that are more like modern art with colours not seen anywhere else.

Since 2009 when the city was named as the European city of culture, the city has flourished as a tourist destination. They've spent the money well and established a new university, the Bruckner University (music and performing arts).

One of the "gimmicks" they came up with for 2009 was to offer weekly tenancy of a single person "cell" at the top of the cathedral spire. Called the Tower Hermit: 395 Steps to Solitude. They were fully booked for the year and continued it on to the present and there is a waiting list. For 600E you spend a week in the cell, are brought meals and there is a toilet, however you have to walk down to the ground level and back up once a day for the exercise. You can take a book, but no digital devices. You are expected to keep a diary of your reflection and articulation and pass it on to the next hermit. Oh! And the church bells a rung every 15 minutes, so they provide ear plugs.

The old medieval center of town was derelict up till 2009. It was where all the young people (including our guide) used to hang out. In the run up to 2009, the owners didn't want to have the ugliest house in the street and renovated in a competition not to be outdone by neighbors. The result is now that it's the most expensive street in town.

When Martin Luther's teachings reached Linz and the monks were given the option of marrying, they abandoned the monastery and it became the town hall and the moat around it filled in. As part of the beautification programme in 2009, they discovered that the original bridge across the moat had just been buried, so they excavated it and its now a feature of the entrance to the town hall.

So, lots to see and interesting history, however now it was time to visit the Cider farm.

This could prove to be the most inspirational story of our trip. Around 20 years ago, Klauss and his wife were nurses. They decided that they wanted to be farmers, however the cost of farms was so prohibitive that they wouldn't be able to buy one. It was in the lead up to the referendum on joining the EU, and of the 40% of Austrians that voted "no", the majority were farmers. Farming in Austria is small scale and they feared they would be at an economic disadvantage to the larger German farms. Many decided to re-model their farms, converting farm buildings into residences and renting or selling them off.

Klauss and his wife went In search of an elderly couple with no children and therefore no one in line to inherit their farm. They found a couple and proposed that they immediately join them on their farm and pay them a weekly pension, and in return that they would inherit the farm when they died.
They immediately decided on a new business model. They opened a restaurant that only operated on Thursday and Friday evenings and all day Saturday. They began producing all their own meat. Beef, pork, lamb, chickens and geese. They also taught themselves how to make pear and apple cider.

Klauss tells that the old farmers had always feared that farming would fail and were delighted that Klauss and his wife had actually turned it into a profitable one. In describing his farm, he talked about all of his stock in terms of Kilos and meal portions. Totally self sufficient, he knows exactly how many breading pairs of geese he needs each year to produce enough geese to fill his annual orders in November. November 11 is the saints day in Austria and goose is the meal to celebrate. The equivalent of turkey on thanksgiving day in the States. Austrians however eat goose right through November. He already has a full order book for next November and knows exactly how many breading pairs he need to produce the required quantity.

It was always about life style as well, so they take a family holiday every 8 weeks and have staff to look after the stock on those occasions. They have three sons, the eldest 21, and expect them to make their own careers. If any of them find a partner who is also committed to the lifestyle and they decide to return to the farm, he insists that they have to develop their own plan for the farm and not necessarily follow his.

We began in the courtyard of the farmhouse. Three of the sides are residential and the fourth is for stables. He has other stock buildings, including a cedar clad house for his pigs. A roost for his flock of Brest chickens (eggs and meat). Brest chickens have a red cockscomb, white body and blue legs. Trust the French, tricolor chickens.

We were served a mulled cider and fruit bread while he told us about the farm. He then went into the barn and brought out a 1 hour old lamb. That's right 1 hour. You've never seen a more bewildered look on any creatures face.

We then went into the restaurant where they served snacks and different ciders. More like apple and pear wines that were more flinty than sweet. Outside the mist lifted and the views across the snowy countryside was stunning. Small farms surrounded by snow with the mist from the Danube River rising behind. I almost wore out my camera. The major disappointment was that Ches had decided that she wouldn't come and had missed out on a great experience.

It was then back to the boat for lunch and our departure up river for Passau. After all the cider and a beer with lunch, a nap was in order. Late afternoon there was a Waltz class. A trio played waltzes while two dancers instructed around 4 couples in how to do a Strauss Walz.

We had a cocktail while watching. I decided on "Satan's Whiskers" I had to give the bar instructions. Equal parts Gin, Grand Marnier, Sweet Vermouth, Dry Vermouth and orange Juice and a dash of Orange Bitters. The way she always mixes cocktails, I had about half a snifter and was ready for the captain's Heritage Members Cocktail Party. This is only for those who have cruised with Uniworld previously. At the cocktail party a B&B, Equal parts Cognac and Benedictine. Again, half a snifter, so I sipped steadily and returned half to our stateroom to have as a bedtime tipple.



100+ Posts
Passau, Germany
Dec 19, 2018

Passau has pretty well brought my relationship with my hiking boots to an end. Despite wearing two pairs of socks and rolling one of them down into the top of my right boot, the chafing and bruising on my shin bone is intense. Only be walking and placing my right heel on the ground first gives any relief.

So what do you do when you have set your mind on climbing the cliff behind Passau to photograph the town from above … you grit your teeth.

We visited Passau 5 years ago in summer. Then it was just a week after the highest floods on record and we were told that the 12,000 university students and military had been brought in to clean up the town and that's why it was fully functioning just a week later. This time we were given a slightly different story by our guide who is a student. She said that prior to the 2013 flood, the relationship between students and residents had been difficult. Students rented the coldest bleakest apartments and landlords were indifferent to making repairs etc. When the floods hit, the students themselves mobilized to help clean up the town, and as a result, the residents developed a greater appreciation.

She also explained that the safest way to prepare for an imminent flood is to flood your house with fresh water. This stops the river water entering the house and depositing mud. It also avoids the risk of the water pressure from the flood waters bursting the doors, windows and even stone work.

As with our last visit, we walked the outer path around the peninsular end of town. My photographs of the monastery and brewery across the Inn river will make quite a contrast to my summer photographs. It was misty and subsequently, my photographs are quite pastel rather than vivid in colour and the edges blurred rather than sharp. Quite atmospheric.

As for the Blue Danube. It's not blue at any point along its length. Here at Passau, it merges with the Inn and Ilz rivers. The others are definitely greenish but when they merge several hundred meters downstream, the Danube is still, well …. Brown.

I'd climbed the cliff above the Danube on our previous trip, and suggested to a number of people that it was worth the effort. It's only from the cliff paths beside the castle on the top of the cliff that you can see Passau as a complete town. All the streets are so narrow that when walking around town, you can't see any major building complete, just glimpse of parts to them. From above, the three major churches thrust up out of the surrounding buildings and you are at the same height as the monastery two rivers across. You have the Danube below, then the town of Passau on its peninsular, then the Inn river and the monastery on the hill top on the other side.

After my fall in Vienna Ches wasn't too keen on my climbing the cliff. She was also fearful that I'd loose track of time and not be back in time for the bus's departure. I'd expected others to have taken my advice and that I come across others climbing the stairs and paths. Not so.

I decided that I would give myself half an hour to walk as far up the cliff paths as possible and then to return to the ship. I started with the staircase that takes you three quarters of the way up the cliff to the castle. I'd forgotten that it is a gradient of around 50 degrees. At the top of the steps, my lungs were tight, I was breathing steam and my ankle was …….

I walked along the highest path for around 400 meters and took photographs of the town from the same spots as I did in the summer of 2013. These are quite different with the bare trees framing many photographs and the mist softening the colours and lines of the town.

True to my word, I descended after 30 climbing, taking more photos as I went. As it eventuated, I was the only one to venture up the cliff and consequently, I have the photos that everyone else envies.

I was back on board in plenty of time. There was time for a quick lunch before we boarded buses for a 30 minute drive to the Bavarian countryside where we were to visit a glass blowing factory and take a ride in a horse drawn covered wagon through the snowy countryside .... but more of that in a part 2 blog to follow.

I should however catch you up on cocktails. Then there is cocktail time. It comes around relentlessly every evening. Too relentlessly because here I am writing this three days later and I can't remember what I drank on which night. Now I'd had Grand Marnier and Cognac one night, and I mentioned Satan's Whickers which I repeatedly miss name as Santa's Whickers. It consists of 1oz each of Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Dry Vermouth and orange juice, ½ oz Grand Marnier and 2 dashes of orange bitters. If Ann Marie (the Bar Manager) is mixing it, multiply by three. She also introduced me to B&B (Benedictine and Brandy or Cognac in my case).

Meals on board Uniworld are always amazing. Breakfast and Lunch are always buffet with the option of asking for special omelets or poached eggs with avocado etc. be prepared. Always a very high standard. Dinner is a choice of three entrees, 2 soups, three mains and three deserts with the chef's special being a combination of the four also offered individually. Always accompanied by white and red wine either from the region where you are cruising or nearby. Never had a bad Hungarian, Austrian or German wine.



100+ Posts
Passau, Germany
Dec 19, 2018

Bavarian Forest
Following the morning walking tour of Passau, there was a quick lunch and by 1.00pm we were in coaches heading 30 minutes into the Bavarian countryside. We had made this trip in 2013, however decided that a ride in a covered wagon through a snowy countryside could be extra special.

Our guide was Eva, the same guide as in 2013. We knew who it was from her first utterance. She can't help herself, she laughs as delivering corny punchlines and every second sentence, and to some she is irritating and to others just good exuberant fun. Unfortunately, she could be the cause of a major dispute. She told us at the end of the excursion when returning to the ship at around 11.30, that this was to be the last time Uniworld will include the excursion in their schedule. Later we were advised by some of the Uniworld people, that it or a similar excursion would be provided by a different "vendor". It therefore could be that there were complaints about Eva and they have found someone else to do the excursions.

It would be a shame to remove the excursion because the glass museum and glass blowing demonstration at the Theresienthal crystal glass factory at Zwiesel in the middle of the Bavarian Forest and the wagon ride and fresh bread in the village were rated by many on this cruise as a highlight.

Some years ago, the owners of the glass factory decided that it was no longer profitable and decided to close it down, putting several hundred people out of work. A small core of workers just couldn't let it go. The furnaces if switched off (Russian natural gas) would have been destroyed. They needed to have the heat slowly reduced over weeks, so they continued to work for a while and then generated publicity as they cooled them down. BMW were impressed by the workers staying on, so they investigated and discovered that the manufacturing would have been profitable but for poor management. They were looking to finance the business when one of the senior managers, Max Freiherr von Schnurbein decided to purchase 90% of the shares and left BMW to run the business and rebuild its marketing etc. Today it only employs around 30 or so, and they have 3 year apprenticeships and are quite profitable. Looking at the prices in their factory shop …. OMG!.

With the light fading we then went on to a nearby farming community. As I described the case in Austria, the local farms are small in Bavaria as well. Most of them now rent out apartments to the city people and bake sourdough bread for them as well. The only other income is tourism such as the farm where we take a 30 minute ride in a covered wagon drawn by two short stocky draft horses, return to the farm for mulled wine, freshly baked sourdough (left overs from bread baking, she smothers flat bread dough with sour cream and cheese and bakes in an outdoor stone oven. They also serve small pastries and Bavarian Gebirgsenzian or mountain gentian spirit. It's a clear schnapps with 40 vol. % alcohol content, produced from the roots of the Alpine gentian plant. For those game enough, we uncapped our bottles of schnapps, followed her in saying a salutation and tossed it down. As good as the last time … tastes a little like celery, warming but not burning like some Eastern European schnapps.

As for the wagon ride, we were all given sheets of lyrics for Christmas carols and sang our hearts out driving through the snow. Across the fields and down through streams, the horses were occasionally put into a gallop. Unfortunately someone in the first cart dropped their phone over the side and when the driver pulled his team up, we in the third cart came within a half meter of our horses hopping into the back of the cart in front. It was that close that the people in the back of the cart could pat the horses on the nose.

All back on the buses for a 30 minute drive back to the ship which had moved up river. We had an hour to get ready to depart by bus again for another 30 min drive to have dinner in a barn in the Bavarian countryside. This was to be the 1st time Uniworld had included this excursion as part of any tour. The story goes that a chef was lured back to his father's farm on the proviso that he could explore his culinary arts without interference. It had been billed as a Bavarian feast in a barn.

The reality was that the barn was beautifully decorated … for a wedding. We'd been bumped.
We arrived to be welcomed outside the door by a Bavarian brass band. O.K. then the owner felt it the right thing to try to gee us up with an over the top welcome. It was 0 degrees and we were still outside being offered Gluehvein. We wanted beer as we had had enough of sweet hot mulled wine. We were then relegated to a rambling building with numerous rooms that ensured that we couldn't sit with friends or acquaintances. The food was set out in bain-maries and wasn't very interesting. They ran out of pork, they served one barrel (small) of beer, the waitresses didn't know what was being served or even where the bathroom was. Very ordinary wines. Very ordinary night and on a midnight run back to the ship, most were amazed that Uniworld would consider removing the afternoon excursion and undertaking this new one.

I remembered attending a conference function at the Gundaroo Pub over 25 years ago. On the bus we were entertained by singers etc. At the pub we were welcomed inside with drinks and steaks straight off the BBQ, entertainment strolling from room to room. Great "Australian" atmosphere. Here we had a lame attempt at "Bavarian" atmosphere.
Many unhappy campers back on board at 12.30 am and questioning why we had put up with such a long day with a poor ending.



100+ Posts
Regesnsberg, Germany
Dec 20, 2018

Regensberg is another town that we visited in the summer of 2013 and my memories of it were closer to the mark. This time we docked closer to the old town center and it was only a 500m. walk to the old roman walls and gates that now form part of the foundations, where our real walk began. This was where the Romans became serious about occupying the regions and keeping the barbarians (you know? Huns, Visigoths and Goths) back from the Europe they had civilized.

The site of Regensberg was a major crossroad for numerous trade routes and therefore needed defending (like the South China Sea???). They started out with a small force but increased to thousands as they built a walled town with stones that weigh as much as a small car. They built towns like these right across the continent, largely with the main rivers at their back, so Trier at the headwaters of the Mozell River in the west and Regensberg here on the Danube in the East.

For 400 years the Romans occupied the town and region and created a lot of stone blocks to build walls and residences. With the fall of the empire, the barbarians took over the town and called themselves Bavarians. Get it Barbarians/Bavarians or Terrorist/Tourists. They in turn dismantled the buildings and re-purposed the stone, building a town with largely stone buildings. The German and Austrian expression for wealthy people is to say they are "stone rich". Rich enough to build stone houses. Others not so well of who could only live in timber houses are "stony broke".

Anyway, the connection with Italy stuck, as centuries later, still thriving as a trade center, the influence of San Gimignano became evident. San Gimignano is famous for its stone towers. They served no real defensive purposes, but were built to show off. The wealthier you were, the higher the tower you could build. The Italians introduced the same competition to Regensberg. Here the towers can only be occupied to around the first three floors in line with the surrounding buildings. Everything above is empty space, all for show. We came across one that had a blunted top and was several stories lower than the others. Here a merchant had fallen on hard times, and he was told by his former peers that he should reduce the height of his tower in keeping with his reduced stature as a merchant.

Fortunately for Regensberg, by the time of the two world wars, it had no significant industry or strategic importance. Consequently it wasn't bombed and it retains a magnificent bridge that crosses the three branches of the Danube, an equally magnificent entrance gate at the end of the bridge and a town filled with grand stone houses and towers and a private family palace like few others.

Regensberg also boasts the oldest takeaway food stall in the world. It's a small freestanding stone building on the banks of the Danube, beside the bridge and gate. Reputedly set up to feed the workers who built the bridge, serving BBQ sausages, it still participates in the river long competition and claim to serve the best sausages in Germany. We ate here in 2013 and decided they were good enough to eat again. Nine sausages, each the size of your index finger for 9E means you are paying for the experience. They are good sausages. As to the best, the same sausages in Nuremberg are pretty good as well and a lot cheaper.

We also visited the best strudel house in town and purchased one to share as we had given up on ever having any strudel on this trip. This was all before returning to the ship for lunch. More a mid morning snack.

Later in the afternoon, we went to the Christmas Markets set in the grounds of the palace. Now that we have experience Christmas Markets at night, we are sorry not to have seen these ones at night as they were certainly the most stylish of all the markets. In fact, after the event I have read that they are voted as being the best in Germany; the Romantic Markets.

There is a board game called Thurn and Taxis. The board is a map of southern Germany and nearby parts of other countries; it is marked into nine provinces, most of which are grouped into five regions. The map shows 22 cities and a network of roads connecting them. The players move around the board building postal routes. Yup, it's based on the Princely House of Thurn and Taxis, a family who for four hundred years from the 1500's to 1800's were major players in the postal service of Europe. Not just major players but for large areas of Germany, a monopoly. They diversified into brewing and building castles and today are still one of the wealthiest families in Europe.

St Emmeram Castle in Regensberg is still the family home, ruled over by Mariae Gloria Ferdinanda Joachima Josephine Wilhelmine Huberta Gräfin von Schönburg-Glauchau, or as she was known in the 80's, "Princess TNT". Some thirty years younger than her husband and something of a marriage of convenience, she wore brightly coloured hair and avante-garde clothing. Today at 58 y.o. she's quite conservative. The castle is the site for the Christmas markets, both on the outside of two of the castle/palace wings and the vast courtyard inside. The stands are substantial ones, not the cheap timber board ones seen at other markets. Some are cottages. They had surprised looking Llamas, street accordion player and a vintage postal van.

We spent a good hour and a half at these markets, without actually buying anything. The crowds were starting to build, but we missed out on the level of excitement that would have come in the evening.

Our evening was to be the farewell dinner back on board, and I provided the excitement. More of that in the next posting.

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100+ Posts
Much ado about .....!

Regensburg, Germany

Dec 20, 2018

For the heritage club cocktail party (previous Uniworld cruisers) and the farewell dinner, I wore my new bright paisley jacket. Now I honestly hadn't expected to draw attention to myself. I just love bright clothing and felt good wearing it. What did happen was that almost everyone in the lounge bar followed my progress and the bar manager came and asked me if it was "bespoke". When I said "no", wanted to know where she could buy it for her husband.

Among the 113 people on our cruise, were a woman, five young men and a young woman. Tiffany Twivey Nonggorr is the principal of Twivel Legal and has been practicing in PNG for 22 years.
Tiffany has practiced widely in law in both PNG and Australia and was formerly a Partner in the commercial litigation section of Gadens Lawyers in Port Moresby, until her move to open her own firm in 2008. Tiffany's expertise lies in Commercial Litigation, Constitutional Law, Mining, Oil and Gas and Environmental Law both at the National and Supreme Court levels. In Port Moresby, Tiffany has provided long term legal advice to the Prime Minister's Office, the Department of Attorney General and the Department of Finance, many indigenous Landowners of PNG, Nasfund (Superannuation), Bank of South Pacific, Oil Search, Interoil and other many other governmental institutions and private companies.

Tiffany's sister died several years ago, and her three sons live in various parts of the U.S. For the last two years she has organized and paid for her son and cousins to holiday together. This year there was her son and his girlfriend and best friend and the three cousins on the cruise. All were aged between 19 and 31. These 7 people were the center of attention the entire cruise.
Every day there was a theme, and she had t-shirts, braces, Tyrolean hats etc. for all of them. They also came with dinner suits etc. The had snow fights … all attacking Tiffany, and she organized activities for the periods we were cruising during the day. They were always having fun and it was infectious.

Our bigoted meal mates began on the first day by declaring that they were Islamist and dodgy. By the end of the cruise, they declared that they were lovely people.

The freaky thing is that I had a tenuous connection to them both. In the case of Robbin from W.A. she grew up living at Rose Bay and Dover Heights. She is three years younger than I, learned to swim at the Watsons Bay Baths with Alf Vockler, the same as me. She went to Kambala, possibly in the same year as Mary Wright (my Godmothers daughter) and basically moved in similar circles to me in the early 60's.

When I introduced myself to Tiffany, I asked if she knew what Moi Avei was up to these days. Sir Moi Avei was president of the Pangu Party and personal assistant to Sir Michael Somare, the first Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea at Independence. As a schoolboy, Moi along with around 30 other PNG schoolboys attended Ipswich and Toowoomba Grammar schools in the early 1960's. They were the sons of tribal chiefs, selected to receive university educations and provide the leadership of an independent PNG.

Moi went on the gain degrees from the University of Queensland and London School of Economics, married a Brisbane girl, returned to PNG as mentioned above and I visited him twice in Port Moresby. Once was just months before independence and the other was fifteen years later, and while he served in many governments over the last 45 years, on that last occasion he was disillusioned with the corruption of many of his former school mates. He had returned to his village to try to keep the young people away from Port Moresby and the "Raskol" gangs.

Tiffany told me that Moi is now Chairman of the Ok Tedi mining company and advisor to many PNG companies and government agencies. Tiffany lives in the same residential complex as Moi and will pass on my best wishes and memories of the days in my youth when uninvited he wrote an entry in my autograph album, "silence is golden". He knew me so well as a 17 year old.

So, following the farewell dinner, with me resplendent in my jacket, and leaving the lounge, someone saw the five cousins all dressed in Tuxedos and remarked, "there's the rock stars". One of them turned and responded, "no, here's the rock star" and he came and put his hand on my shoulder.

For the next two days I had people coming up to me saying how they loved my jacket, and how good I looked in it.IMG_5951.JPGIMG_5983.JPGIMG_6017.JPGIMG_6018.JPGIMG_6027.JPGIMG_6041.JPGIMG_6067.JPGIMG_6103.JPGIMG_6109.JPG
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100+ Posts
Nuremberg, Germany
Dec 22, 2018

I'm writing this almost a week after we arrived in Nuremberg. We did so on the Friday morning and Ches and I elected to repeat the city walking tour rather than the WW2 tour. This begins with the drive in from the river and then a circuit of around 2/3rds of the walls. I don't know how much of these walls survived WW2 bombing and how much are modern reconstructions. Either way, the walls are among the most impressive town walls anywhere. Towers linked by roofed parapets abound. Which prompted Ches to exclaim some days later, when walking the path around half the wall (a couple of kilometers), "Why do you have to photography every tower and wall, they are all the same." This prompted Jenny to look down from above and also exclaim "Bloody hell Gavin, it's Burgundy all over again, you have to be taking a photograph every 30 seconds".

So, Nuremberg. That first day, we revisited the castle and with rain and driving wind, it wasn't as scenically beautiful as last time. We were the only ones to take our Uniword umbrella to town and were grateful as it kept showering on and off all morning. Once the guide had led us to the Hauptmarkt (the main square), where the main part of the Christmas Markets are set up, we were left to our own devices.

At around 11.57 am, we found ourselves in the center of the Hauptmarkt with the Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful fountain) behind us and Frauenkirche (The Church of our Lady) in front. All around us, children had phones out waving them around. What was this all about? At noon, the clock on the church began to chime and then for 5 minutes or more, figures around the clock blew trumpets, rang bells and marched around. As this is the city where the pocket watch was invented and clockmaking was a major industry, it was only fitting that there be a grand performance at noon every day.

We revisited the shop that sells beautiful tins of ginger biscuits, that don't have any ginger in them.
While searching for a recipe that best replicates the authentic Nürnberger Elisenlebkuchen (German Lebkuchen), I came across a site with a video of it being made and accompanied by Pachelbel's Canon in D, and that reminded me of something our guide had mentioned. He said that he believed that Pachelbel (A Nuremberg composer) had been dumped by a Cellist and that in revenge, he had composed the Canon.
"Ah, Pachelbel's Canon in D. It's a staple at weddings. It's almost always found on "relaxing classical music" playlists. It can even be heard during the holidays both in its original form and as incorporated into Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas Canon.
It is perhaps one of the most famous baroque pieces that almost anyone - classical music fan or not - can hum without help. And yet, it is also one of the most hated by musicians themselves, particularly cellists. But why?
Pachelbel's Canon, as it is commonly known, is one part of his Canon and Gigue for 3 violins and basso continuo. In simple terms, a canon is similar to a round - like Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Typically, one instrument or voice starts the melody and other parts then join in. Unlike a round, however, the parts in a canon don't have to be exactly identical.
Pachelbel uses the techniques of the canon with 3 voices engaged in the "round". He adds a basso continuo (bass line) which is independent - making the piece more of a chaconne than a canon. This bass line is the cello part. The same 8 notes that repeat throughout the entire piece with no variation. This is why cellists cannot stand playing this piece. As everyone else in the room enjoys the lovely sounds of the canon, the variations of the melody that travel through the violins and viola, the cello is stuck playing the same two-bar line - one that is so simple it can be played by beginning students. Musically speaking, this is definitely not challenging or fun for cellists."

Authentic Nürnberger Elisenlebkuchen (German Lebkuchen) Prep Time20 mins Cook Time25 mins Total Time45 mins Servings: 35 lebkuchen Ingredients
· 5 large eggs
· 1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
· 1/4 cup honey
· 1 teaspoon quality pure vanilla extract
· 2 cups almond meal
· 2 cups hazelnut meal
· 1/4 teaspoon salt
· 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
· 3 teaspoons Homemade Lebkuchengewürz
2.5 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon ground cloves
0.5 teaspoon ground allspice
0.5 teaspoon ground coriander
0.5 teaspoon ground green cardamom
0.5 teaspoon ground ginger
0.5 teaspoon ground star anise
0.25 teaspoon ground mace
0.25 teaspoon ground nutmeg
· 4 ounces candied lemon peel
· 4 ounces candied orange peel or Homemade Lemon and Orange Peel
· Backoblaten either 70mm or 90mm
· Blanched whole almonds cut in half lengthwise
· For the Chocolate Glaze:
· 3 ounces quality dark or milk chocolate
· 1 tablespoon coconut oil or oil of choice - do not use butter
· Directions: Place chocolate and oil in a small bowl and microwave stirring occasionally, until melted. Use immediately. If glaze becomes firm, reheat in the microwave.
· For the Sugar Glaze:
· 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
· 3 tablespoons water
· Directions: Place sugar and water in a small bowl and stir until smooth.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Toss the candied lemon and orange peel with about 1/4 of all-purpose flour to keep it from sticking together and then pulse in a food processor until finely minced. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Add the sugar, honey and vanilla extract and beat until combined.
Add the ground almonds and hazelnuts, salt, baking powder, Lebkuchengewürz, and candied lemon and orange peels and stir vigorously until thoroughly combined. (You can use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat for about 2 minutes). The mixture will be wet but if it is too thin to scoop onto the oblaten add some more almond or hazelnut meal.
Scoop the mixture onto the Backoblaten, smoothing down the top and leaving just a slight space around the edges. Set them on a lined cookie sheet.
Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25-28 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet and allow to cool completely.
Once cooled, place a wire rack over a cookie sheet (to catch the drippings). Dip half the Lebkuchen in the chocolate glaze and half in the sugar glaze, letting the excess drip back into the bowl and then place the Lebkuchen on the wire rack. Arrange 3 almonds on each Lebkuchen while the glaze is still wet. Let the Lebkuchen dry completely until the glaze is hardened.
Keep stored in an airtight container. Will keep for several weeks and the flavor improves with time.
Makes about 35 if using 70mm Backoblaten and about 25 if using 90mm Backoblaten.

So, notwithstanding your efforts to get past this lengthy diversion about Pachelbel and Lebkuchen, an hour and a half at the markets was long enough to buy some tins of Lebkuchen and eat some local sausages, meat loaf and flat local donuts. All in drizzling rain and hands encased in fingerless gloves, which left said gloves and beard reeking of BBQ.

We returned to the ship for an afternoon nap and the final dinner. As we were staying in Nuremberg the following day (Saturday), we knew we had time for exploring the town in more detail, so less guilty about not spending more time that day. Most others revisited the Christmas Markets that afternoon and evening.

As it eventuated, we were able to book into our Hotel in Nuremberg by 10.00am, and that gave us most of the day for exploring the town in better weather. We walked the outside of the walls as described above, and on entering through the gates beside the river which runs under the walls below the castle, I noticed some interesting building in a narrow side street. While there were only three or four small groups of people walking this street, some were stopping to take 30 or more selfies and photographs of each other. Ches didn't appreciate it when I asked what's the difference between me taking 30 photos of the walls in a 2km stretch and tourists taking 30 photos of each other in a 20m stretch.

Every house in the street was stunning. Why didn't our guide take us here and why weren't there more people here with us now? Maybe the locals want to keep it a secret. I researched later and found that it is Weissgerbergasse "The largest ensemble of old artisan houses in Nuremberg, predominantly half-timbered, historic town houses, often with their own wells and a garden, testify to the affluence that could be attributed to the art of leather making."
I took maybe 20 or so photos.

How appropriate was it that without any knowledge of the leather making history of Nuremberg, Ches bought a new handbag at the Christmas Market. Initially looking at a cow leather bag a similar colour to her current bag which she bought in Rome 11 years ago, she then saw a darker brown bag (buffalo) that had been tooled with a floral design.

Here's and idea, all those feral buffalo in the Northern Territory to produce leather goods with indigenous patterns.

It had turned into a relatively fine day with glimpses of blue sky as the day progressed. Despite being fine outside, the long walk had lead to Ches needing to sit for a while. We entered a modern Italian café/bar on the main square and had hot chocolate and pastries.

As we had decided that we just had to attend the market at night, we took time out at the hotel for a nap and returned at 6.00. WOW! The city center was heaving. All the way from the gates near the central railway station, down to the central market square was packed with people mashed in between the stands.

What were we there for? "to eat", when do we want to eat ? "now" and "now" and "now". What else do you do at a German Christmas Market when you have bought all the Christmas Tree decorations etc. that you need. First up were roasted chestnuts. We had them once before in Dijon and weren't exactly taken by them. This time, stunning and helped by the atmosphere, as we stood against the stone wall of the bridge, looking down the river to medieval buildings decorated with Christmas lights.

A choir were gathered in the middle of the street entertaining.

Into the main square where we returned to our favourite BBQ stand. Ches had the meatloaf (Pork and Beef mince patty) and I a grilled Pork steak cooked with onion and gravy. Both in crisp small bread rolls. STUNNING! That was dinner.

Nuremberg, loved it and would be happy to visit again.

While on a roll, how about if I also cover our day in transit from Nuremberg to Southampton? Naaaa! Enoughs enough.20181222_022659.jpg20181223_044143.jpg20181223_044631.jpg20181223_045159.jpg20181223_051805.jpgIMG_6131.JPGIMG_6158.JPGIMG_6164.JPGIMG_6184.JPGIMG_6205.JPGIMG_6259.JPGIMG_6287.JPGIMG_6299.JPGIMG_6304.JPGIMG_6312.JPG
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100+ Posts
Nurnberg to Southampton, via Bournemouth
Southampton, UK
Dec 23, 2018

If you are planning a trip to Germany and you're a coffee drinker, then wean yourself off it because you won't find a decent cup if your life depended on it. If you are happy with Starbucks, you don't really drink coffee, so you'll be OK. I only ever drank Starbucks once and that was in Frankfurt after three days when I was desperate.

Here I began the day a little after 6.00 with a cup of instant coffee. By comparison with the brewed coffee, it's preferable. I then had a gym workout and then headed to the railway station around 300 meters away. I bought filled bread rolls for breakfast and while considering ordering a cappuccino, made the mistake of ordering a Latte. It was only when I was served a long, long black that I looked at the board and didn't see anything resembling a Latte. I added as much milk as would fit in the cup and returned to the hotel. Here I tried several mouthfuls and eventually after adding two sugars it was drinkable. It's the first time I've had sugar in coffee in thirty years or more.

An uneventful trip to the airport, which is about the size of the Gold Coast airport. Still kicking myself. At the airport duty free, there were bottles of Asbach (German Brandy). On our cruise in 2015, they had served it, and I became addicted. It's the "Brandy" served in the British officers mess. As we only had 5 minutes to spare before boarding, I reasoned that I'd be able to buy it at Amsterdam airport where we had a 3 hour layover.

Amsterdam airport: "No sir, we don't sell German spirits" he said. OK, how about Gin instead. Well, Bols isn't really Gin, its Genever. Both Genever and Gin use juniper berry as a flavoring agent, but Gin's base is a neutral grain spirit mixed with botanicals, whereas Genever is made with a mash of malted barley, rye, and corn. More like a white whiskey. Then again, I bought the Corenwijn, which translates as "grain wine', which appears to be, well, I really don't know but I like it. Whatever ….. as I made my way to the checkout, two staff reminded me …. "Make sure you put it in the freezer". So, it's kinda like a whiskey/gin/vodka wine and some say best drunk as a sip followed by a sip of beer (it accentuates the flavor of the beer). I'll let you know later.

Bols in hand I returned to Ches and discovered that there was a clock above us that appeared to have a cleaner inside. Watched for a while. Not a cleaner but someone painting in the minute hand, then wiping it off and painting again. Turns out it is a video clock with image of a painter changing the minute hand every minute. NOW, to return to the present (Sunday in London), we will be going to the Tate Modern this morning.
Christian Marclay's acclaimed installation The Clock 2010 has captivated audiences across the world from New York to Moscow.
24-hours long, the installation is a montage of thousands of film and television images of clocks, edited together so they show the actual time. It is a thrilling journey through cinematic history as well as a functioning timepiece.
Following several years of rigorous and painstaking research and production, Marclay collected together excerpts from well-known and lesser-known films including thrillers, westerns and science fiction. He then edited these so that they flow in real time. When watching The Clock you experience a vast range of narratives, settings and moods within the space of a few minutes.

Clocks seem to be featuring in this holiday as we saw numerous sun clocks throughout Germany and Austria.

Back to the journey from Nuremberg to Southampton.
We flew from Copenhagen to Southampton in a small commuter jet operated by KLM. They have a fleet of these 80 seater jets that fly from Copenhagen to many smaller UK airports. The flight was uneventful but the welcome wonderful. With Drew's foot in a boot, I took on the driving as we ventured in the dark down to Bournemouth for the Christmas Carols concert that we have already reported, and then back to Southampton.

That was the day that was: Nurnberg to Copenhagen to Southampton to Bournemouth to Southampton. If I was a piece of fruit, you'd complain about my mileage.


Forums Admin
Gavin, how the heck did you get those photos to display as thumbs and link to that photo gallery? I’ve never seen that before. Is this the forum software?

Now, back to reading. ...


100+ Posts
Gavin, how the heck did you get those photos to display as thumbs and link to that photo gallery? I’ve never seen that before. Is this the forum software?

Now, back to reading. ...
Don't think I can claim any credit. As far as I know, I've just loaded them as thumbs and when you click on one, it opens in a gallery.

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