Europe

Day 14: Passau, Germany

11118846_10155565276965324_300454260990358740_n

Today we actually disembarked from the Viking Baldur and now at the hotel in Budapest, which made for the easiest time to update the end of the blog for the river cruise. Meant to do this sooner but the last few days have been a bit busy at times or poor Internet connection. Four days ago we were in the river cruise port of Passau, Germany. This was actually our last German port of the river cruise before heading to Austria.

In Passau, the Viking Baldur was docked right in town near the main little shopping area. Passau is known as the City of Three Rivers, where both the Inn and the Ilz join the Danube. We were actually docked next to an AMA boat at one point during the morning and later on we were next to an Avalon boat. Today there was a walking tour offered by Viking, though we decided to skip this. The tour basically just walked around the city and saw the main sites from the outside. At noon there was a free organ concert as St. Stephan’s Cathedral through Viking. To go you had to sign up for tickets the night before and since we did not know our timing for the next day, we did pass on the concert.

10460198_10155565278135324_3522284960610702855_n

Passau is very easy to walk around on your own to see the sites. We headed off the riverboat right after breakfast and walked past the Church and stopped inside for a bit. We luckily avoided running into any tour groups during the day. St. Stephan’s Cathedral actually contains the largest pipe organ in all of Europe. From here we headed towards the location of the town hall of Passau, which is from the 14th century.

11111040_10155565276605324_7589058122497558135_n

After walking around for a bit we did a little shopping in Passau since there are a few unique shops here besides the couple junky tourist shops by the river. One thing to note in Passau is many of the shops did not take credit cards at all. This actually was our first place coming across this the entire cruise, so definitely have cash on hand if you plan on doing any shopping in Passau.

One of the first places we stopped at was a spice store called Gewurz Depot. The store actually was recommend by Viking but was interesting to walk through. There were a lot of unique spices, which I can’t find in Miami. I did buy a bruschetta and African spice mixes. These probably weren’t the typical things to buy in Germany but something I will use at home. Next we headed to the other recommended shop right next door, which was a marmalade and jam shop. Here there were a few samples to try of some locally made and imported jams and marmalades. I did end up buying a kirsch amaretto jam to take home that was absolutely delicious.

After looking at a couple shops we headed back to the boat to drop off our purchases but on the way stopped for lunch at a nearby restaurant since the riverboat was redocking after the AMA ship left. We lucked out on our timing at the restaurant since it wasn’t busy and it started to rain. We were able to eat outside since some of the restaurant had a covered glass patio. I ordered their hefeweizen, which I believe was made on site while my Mom had a glass of Gruner Veltliner wine. We both ordered the same meal of the wiener rostbraten, which is basically a Vienna steak with braised onions. The meal came with a salad and pommes frites. The lunch was good but I will say the meal was rich due to the sauce and was a bit salty.

10420001_10155564999495324_8797557707028298919_n

11377322_10155564999580324_7837458798343166948_n

11020214_10155564999835324_3315505076978705755_n

Once we dropped off our purchases we did head out again to walk around. We found a couple wine shops near one of the bridges and bought two bottles of Gruner Veltliner (currently one of our favorite white wines right now). This style of wine is primarily from Austria, but is actually starting to come out of the Unite States as well right now. To me it is a drier white that can sometimes have flavors of apple to grapefruit, depending on the vineyard.

After buying a couple bottles of wine I found a really unique liquor store where you could get bottles filled of liquors and spirits from around the globe. Of course being the typical pattern of the trip, I did end of buying a small bottle of cherry flavored vodka to take home. This actually was relatively inexpensive for about €7. From here we headed back to the riverboat and called it a day.

10947284_10155565274075324_2575361766414881756_n

Day 13: Regensburg, Germany

Sailing on the Danube

Sailing on the Danube

Yesterday we were in Regensburg and had planned on skipping the tour and walking around the city. Well best plans did not happen due to a delay in transiting locks. The Viking Baldur was not able to make it to Regensburg in the morning since there was a delay in transiting a few locks due to a high amount of traffic on the Main River.

Since there was a delay, Viking arranged for busses to meet up where the Viking Baldur would temporarily dock to allow for tours to go ahead to Regensburg. Well we really did not feel like taking another bus ride so we decided to stay on the boat, which actually turned out to be the best option. First off yesterday was a national holiday in Germany, secondly the transit of the Main and Danube was gorgeous, and third it absolutely poured in the late evening and everyone was then soaked who went on the tour!

11351136_10155561389425324_1814428777022506668_n 11329840_10155561390020324_9140236639841772502_n

One of the low bridges!

One of the low bridges!

10996526_10155561730590324_8627883172462617138_n

It was nice to have the Viking Baldur to basically ourselves for the day. At one point in the afternoon we decided to have a couple glasses of wine and sit out on the open deck during the transit. This was a nice relaxing way to spend the afternoon away from people. Even though we really didn’t see Regensburg we really needed a break from touring.

We are really enjoying Gruner Veltliner. It is a fantastic white wine.

We are really enjoying Gruner Veltliner. It is a fantastic white wine.

About 5 hours, the Viking Baldur arrived in Regensburg. Now this was rather interesting since it started to pour and everyone who went on tour had to walk back to the boat. Since it was pouring everyone was soaked from head to toe. Now it did become entertaining to watch people trying to get on the boat since there were a lot of men trying to cut the line and get on the boat before others. This was rather comical way to spend the evening. Also the piano player made it more entertaining by playing Stormy Weather, Singing in the Rain, and Rain Drops Keep Falling on my Head.

Heading into Regensburg before the rain started

Heading into Regensburg before the rain started

Even though we missed Regensburg, it was nice spending time on the riverboat and having time to relax.

So one additional thing I wanted to note was about the television in the cabin. On the television you can access both the bow cam and lounge cam. The lounge cam is interesting since any talks in the lounge are then transmitted live into the cabin. Also it is more interesting since the camera is always on and people on this boat seem to forget it is live. Well this is a good way to people watch, especially sometimes in the evening. Last night was probably one of the most entertaining evenings on the cruise since it felt like an episode of the Love Boat, though I don’t recall a 30-year age difference on the Love Boat. Definitely some handsy moments and smooching were caught on the cam last night!

Day 12: Nuremberg, Germany

Two days ago we were in Nuremberg and decided to go with the optional tour offered by Viking called the World War II tour. I decided to go with the tour since the included tour did not actually stop at the Nazi Party rally grounds or at the Palace of Justice. The included tour was €39 and stopped at the Nazi Party rally grounds, the Nuremberg documentation center, and the Palace of Justice.

On this day the boat actually was able to make it to Nuremberg with no delays, which was a bit of a miracle on this cruise. There seems to have been a combination of delays from oil spills or river traffic. The tour bus actually picked up outside of the Viking Baldur and the guide was the best we’ve had so far. He provided a lot of personal stories on the tour about his family and World War II.

The first stop was at the Nazi Party rally grounds, which is now a popular site for some rock concerts like AC/DC and drag racing. It was interesting to see the grounds to see how dilapidated they have become over the years and to see where Hitler once stood for speeches. Some of the structure still exists but some parts have been torn down due to poor building construction from the Nazis.

Where Hitler stood for speeches at the party rally grounds

Where Hitler stood for speeches at the party rally grounds

Nazi Party rally grounds and former Zeppelin fields

Nazi Party rally grounds and former Zeppelin fields

This section had been partially torn down due to safety concerns

This section had been partially torn down due to safety concerns

One of the former bathrooms built by the Nazis

One of the former bathrooms built by the Nazis

From the rally grounds we headed to the documentation center, which was originally supposed to be a Nazi Congress Hall. This building was made to look like a Roman coliseum but never was actually completed by the Nazi Party due to World War II. The building was supposed to be double the height than what was completed at the time.

Never completed Congress Hall for the Nazis, which was supposed to be double the height

Never completed Congress Hall for the Nazis, which was supposed to be double the height

11219066_10155556916665324_8032986949344406466_n 10408705_10155556917355324_8717743703879848322_n

The museum focused more on the overall history of the Nazis and how they started. I will say I found the documentation center in Cologne to be more interesting since it had more personalized stories instead of overall history. There were a lot of interesting photos and some Nazi paraphernalia in the museum though.

What the Congress Hall should have looked like if it had been completed

What the Congress Hall should have looked like if it had been completed

11206004_10155556874675324_8069073347423133954_n 11110976_10155556876035324_3610505676385883406_n 10686662_10155556877815324_504585481595070050_n 10428480_10155556875090324_4255463680376255599_n

After the documentation center there was a brief drive throughout the city and then we headed to the Palace of Justice, which is the Nuremberg courthouse. We were able to see courtroom 600 where the famous trials of Nazis took place after World War II. It was fascinating to see where the trial took place and to see the spots where members of the Nazi Party were tried. We did not spend a ton of time here, but it was an interesting part of history to see.

11377264_10155556919785324_504896497896313974_n 1908216_10155556936800324_2927503648452194426_n

11059965_10155557001740324_1131894341973554283_n

The tour basically ended unless anyone wanted to see one of the fountains of Nuremberg. We passed at this point since we were surrounded by some of the oddball of the boat who would ask they same question over and over. Our particular favorite is one woman from Alaska who puts on a fake Scottish accent that seems to come and go a lot. One ironic part about the fountain is many people thought it was beautiful, but none of them realized it is currently undergoing restoration and was covered in tarps. People are certainly entertaining!

Day 11: Bamberg, Germany

11231142_10155551262410324_7758357384451705773_n

Our Bamberg day started out interesting due to a delay in one of the locks. That morning we woke up a little later and there was an announcement into the cabins about a slight change in the tour schedule for the day. Originally we were supposed to board busses to Bamberg from Hassfurt that morning, but due to an oil spill in one of the locks we weren’t able to make it to Hassfurt until the afternoon sometime. Viking then arranged for the busses to meet us out our location along the Main River. The walk to the bus was actually aided by local police and firemen who were helping with the oil spill cleanup. Also a local kindergarten had donated a bus for the afternoon to take those who had difficulty walking to the bus pickup location for Viking.

Local volunteer firemen helping at the spill site

Local volunteer firemen helping at the spill site

Some of the oil in the contamination zone

Some of the oil in the contamination zone

The oil spill was mainly contained in the lock but the Viking Baldur was part of the containment zone and could not transfer the lock until it was cleaned up. Thankfully our boat did make it through the lock later in the day. Any boats behind us were delayed as well but most likely longer since they were outside the zone. We were told the boat was delayed a good 5 ½ hours at the lock. It did sound like there may be some future delays at this lock due to oil. Supposedly yesterday a group of German divers would go into the lock to find the exact location of the leak since it actually wasn’t coming from a boat. The lock may be closed for some periods of time in the coming days.

Oil in the lock

Oil in the lock

Overall Viking provided a lot of communication for the day and kept us informed of what was going on. Both my Mom and I were very impressed by this, especially because of the bad reputation Viking receives on some of the cruise message boards.

Now on to the rest of the day! No matter what, we were stuck doing a tour to Bamberg because of the oil spill problems and due to the bussing. Once we got to the busses our tour guides arrived and we started to head towards Bamberg. We were on the regular tour but added on the new optional part of a beer tasting in Bamberg for €5.50. I will admit right off, Bamberg was my least favorite day of the cruise so far and the tour guide we had was somewhat poor. The guide was in my age group and a university student, but he just did not have the right personality for being a tour guide. The guy was very nice and tried, it just as a really boring tour day.

The bus drive took about 45 minutes to Bamberg and once we got there we started the walking tour. Our tour was really abbreviated because the guide was not able to switch the beer tasting time. I felt like we walked and saw really nothing. We did visit an area where a lot of vendors were selling fresh produce. Right now the strawberries smell amazing and you could smell them clear across the market. From here we headed to one of the local cathedrals, which ironically we couldn’t go inside because we were in a group. At this point the guide pulled out a book with photos to show us inside the cathedral.

Local market

Local market

11231142_10155551262410324_7758357384451705773_n 1471963_10155551263395324_3406863183852591370_n

11329780_10155551262055324_7514549970496212173_n

The main cathedral

The main cathedral

10923288_10155551264330324_3767369272818932589_n

Next the tour guide made a huge deal about taking us to the rose garden before our beer tasting. Now after walking a short distance we get to the rose garden and literally only one rose was in bloom. This was a bit disappointing and a slight waste of time that day.

The rose garden with no roses in bloom

The rose garden with no roses in bloom

After the rose garden we finally headed to the brewery. For €5.50 we received three different beers to try and a pretzel. This was actually a great deal and a good way to taste the famous smoked beer from Bamberg. The first beer we tried had more of a hops characteristic and was bitter. I have no clue the type of beer we had since we were never told. The second beer was a Weizen, which was a wheat beer. This was my Mom’s favorite beer since it did not have the hops characteristic to it. Last we had the smoked beer, which I loved but no one else on the tour liked. There was a lot of smoky characteristic to the beer, almost like a barbecue. Halfway through the tasting we were brought a freshly baked pretzel. This was the best part of the tour and my favorite part of the day.

11263156_10155551058735324_7772830005529440217_n

Wheat beer

Wheat beer

Smoked beer

Smoked beer

11203090_10155551059715324_5300048921716188067_n

After the tour we had about an hour and a half of free time. We grabbed a cone of ice cream from one of the local recommended shops. Two scoops came out to €2.40, though the scoops were definitely not the typical Americanized scoop of ice cream. I had a scoop of almond-rum and a scoop of rhubarb. Now the almond-rum was very good, but the rhubarb was delicious and had small pieces of rhubarb in it as well. If rhubarb is in season when you are in Germany, I recommend finding some of the local ice cream to try it. There also was an asparagus ice cream to try, but I passed on that for now. After this we walked around and met up with the Viking representatives. We then had to take a bus to Hassfurt since the Viking Baldur had just transferred the lock about an hour before and was not going to make it to Bamberg in time to pick everyone up.