KICKIN’ AROUND KELHEIM

One of the advantages of booking a tour with Vantage Deluxe World Travel is that when they say their river cruises are “all-inclusive,” they mean it.  Most tours are included in the price, whereas with other river cruising companies, more of the tours are optional.  Once our cruise and air were booked through Vantage, the only thing Bruce and I had to budget for was tipping, because even beer and wine were included with our dinners and a few cocktail parties.  Vantage also made it convenient for us by registering our credit card for the tips to be billed automatically at the end of our cruise.  We could make adjustments to the amount or allow them to charge their suggested rate to our bill.

Although we chose to book one of the optional tours (it was fabulous!), we decided to pass on an optional tour to a monastery when we arrived in Kelheim.  Having some time to kick around independently and at our own pace was a nice alternative for the day, and we thoroughly enjoyed it (even though it rained at times).

The River Voyager was tied up on the riverbanks just a fifteen-minute walk from the town center, so we enjoyed the casual walk through the neat and tidy residential neighborhood, admiring the gardens along the way.

P1060525

P1060564

In town, we were delighted by the colorful buildings and enjoyed just poking around.  It was also the perfect opportunity to stock up on Milka chocolate on sale at Edeka.  As an extra bonus, we scored an awesome money-saving coupon somebody had left behind on the shelf.  She scores!!!

P1060539

P1060561.JPG

P1060557

Once again, Bruce was my willing “Sherpa” to carry the haul back to our cabin.  In the end, between Milka (Germany), Boci (Hungary), Figaro (Czech Republic), Clever (Czech Republic), and a bunch of other miscellaneous bars I purchased along the way, he counted an embarrassingly abundant load of 66 bars (many of them HUGE) that I loaded up in my roll-aboard, along with my laptop and other essentials, for the flight home.  Lifting the hefty suitcase into the overhead compartment was not Bruce’s idea of fun, as I surmised by the look on his face…

…But, I digress.

Kelheim!  (Chocolate has a way of getting me off topic.)  This cute little Bavarian town is small— just under 16,000 residents.  It is situated at the confluence of the Danube and Altmuhl rivers, and we found it to be quite charming and attractive.

Here are some scenes from our (at-times) rainy walk around town:

P1060556

P1060529

P1060526

P1060527

P1060534

P1060552

P1060540

P1060537

P1060532

P1060536

P1060566

P1060531

P1060570

P1060555

P1060562.JPG

P1060545

P1060546

P1060548

P1060530

P1060551

P1060549

Next up:  Nuremberg

 

BREATHTAKING BUDAPEST

P1050674

The evening of our first night on board was absolutely magical.  After dinner, Captain Ziggy took us on a cruise up and down the Danube, so we could enjoy the beautiful lights of the city.  Hilly Budha lined one side of the river and looked quite dramatic with the monument high up on the hill lit up in changing multi-colors.  The flat Pest side featured the Parliament Building brightly lit in gold.  In between, gorgeous bridges were dramatically lit as well.  Breathtaking!  This was sure to be one of highlights of our European river cruise.

P1050680

P1050686P1050692

P1050683

After we docked, I grabbed my little pocket-sized tripod for a walk with Bruce to shoot photos from the bridge crossing the river in front of our boat.  When we passed under the bridge during our cruise, a young crowd of revelers yelled greetings from up above.  It was quite a scene, and it looked like one big happy party.  We wanted to see what all the fun was about.

P1050721

The previous day, Hungary had won their soccer match to advance to the next bracket of the European Soccer Championships (ultimately won by Portugal), and Europeans take their soccer very seriously.  This was huge, and the party from the day before just kept on going.  The city had shut down the bridge to traffic, and groups of revelers congregated with plenty of food and drink (mostly drink) to celebrate.

The crowd was boisterous, but well-behaved—except for the blatant disregard for the sign that warned, “PLEASE DO NOT CLIMB ON THE BRIDGE!”

P1050728

P1050718

At one point, a guy started singing Hungary’s national anthem or team’s anthem (I’m not sure which), and everybody on the bridge joined in.  What a scene!

Between the cruise, party on the bridge, and photographing the city around me; it was an uplifting and enjoyable way to begin our journey on the Danube.

P1050708

P1050710

P1050711

The following day, we were treated to a panoramic city bus tour of Pest, and a walking tour of the town of Budha high up on the hill.  We had a panoramic view of the Danube and Pest down below, and we learned a lot of interesting history and facts about Hungary throughout the tour.

P1050650-1

P1050738

A country of 9.8 million people, Budapest is home to 1.7 million of their people.  (Perhaps the percentage of foreigners isn’t higher, because the Hungarian language is extremely difficult to learn.  There are more exceptions than rules making it very confusing.)

Exporting machinery and car parts is a large part of Hungary’s economy, in addition to assembling Audis and other automobiles.  They also produce chemicals and pharmaceuticals for export.

Although Hungary still uses the Forint (HUF) as their currency, they are a member of the European Union.

Education in Hungary is very good, and students are required to take exercise classes as well as learn a second language.  Most choose to learn English, and the younger people speak the language quite well, because they must pass a test in English to graduate.

Attending university is free for students who earn good grades in high school, but students must sign an agreement that they will stay and work in Hungary for the same amount of time they spent getting their education.

In addition, we learned much about the history of Hungary.  I don’t fill my head with dates I will never remember, but there was one fact that stood out as being quite sad:  Hungary lost every war it had ever been in.  Every single one.

P1050751

P1050773

Matthias Church, located on the Buda side of the river on Castle Hill.

P1050762

P1050776

P1050781

The view from Fishermen’s Bastion

P1050783

P1050792

P1050774

Across the river from Buda is Pest, and the Parliament Building of Budapest.

P1050805

The streets of Castle Hill, on the Buda side of the river.

P1050823

Following our tour, we walked up to Great Market Hall to buy Boci chocolate bars (for me!), and smoked paprika (for Bruce!)

P1050829

P1050734

P1050731

P1050828

P1050833.JPG

Renata, River Voyager’s concierge is a fellow chocoholic and Boci chocolate lover, so we picked up a bar for her at the market.  Little did we know, she was afraid we wouldn’t have time after our tour to shop for chocolate, so she ran up to the market and bought us THREE bars!  (More about Renata in Vienna…)

P1050835

Our boat was tied up near “The Whale”

P1050840

We had a beautiful departure from Budapest, including passages under (very) low bridges.  Two days prior to our arrival, the river levels were too high for riverboats to pass under these same bridges.

P1050844

P1050858

The Parliament Building (shown above as viewed from Buda)

Next up:  LOTS OF LOCKS!

Note:  If you were having trouble getting photos to load up in previous posts, it wasn’t you (or your computer); it was me!  Photos can now be viewed for recent posts, and I am working to correct the problem in old posts.