VIBRANT VIENNA

Vienna was our next stop after a wonderfully relaxing full day of cruising on the Danube.  At 94 degrees, the temperature was about 15 degrees above the normal average, and it felt very hot!

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I could have used a dip in this interesting floating pool!

The highlight of our walking tour was visiting the library of the palace that dated back to 1774.  It was stunning!

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St.Stephen’s Cathedral was photogenic as well; especially the 250,000 colorful enamel tiles that covered the roof, and the enormous stain glass windows.  Like most of the cathedrals we have seen, though, there was scaffolding in place where workers were cleaning the façade that had been damaged by pigeon droppings.  Many cathedrals and historic buildings throughout Europe now have screen covering surfaces to prevent pigeons from taking up residence and damaging the stone with excrement.

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There are 250,000 of these enamel tiles!

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Look closely at what is hanging from the ceiling of the cathedral.  These are all hand-crocheted lace doilies that have been stitched together.  I believe the words projected on each of these translated to love and peace.  (I forgot to write it in my notes.)

During our free time after the tour, Bruce and I wandered the streets I had strolled back in 2007 when I had visited with my mom.  There were a lot of changes—many more modern chain stores had replaced the small local businesses and patisseries.  Still, the smaller cobblestone alleys had picturesque cafes and boutiques that were pleasant to explore.

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By the time we had returned to the boat, the previous days of walking miles over cobblestones, climbing a lot of stairs, and trekking up the hill in Prague to see the view below from the castle, my hip rebelled.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t the hip that had been operated on in December, 2014; it was my “good” hip.

Knowing I couldn’t let my hip go untreated, I sought medical care the following day.  We would be in Vienna until 3:45 AM, so I asked the concierge, Renata, where I could go to get checked by a physician.  Being a Sunday, my only option was the hospital emergency room.  There was another gal on board, Betsy, who was having a problem with a leg injury, so Renata insisted on taking us by taxi to the hospital and assisting us.

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Betsy, Renata, and Me

Thankfully, Betsy and I both had taken out Vantage’s travel insurance, because all expenses were covered with no hassle, including the 60-euro round-trip taxi ride clear across the city to get to hospital and back.  Unfortunately, the first hospital we went to wouldn’t treat us, because there was nobody there to x-ray my hip or administer an injection.  On Sundays, you’re out of luck.  Unless you are an admitted patient, there is only one place to get medical care—the other hospital also located on the outskirts of town.  Renata called another taxi, and off we went to Krankenhausseelsorge, the other hospital with a very long name.

While Betsy received treatment for her leg, I was sent off for an exam, x-ray, and injections.  What was thought to be bursitis was calcific tendinitis, and the x-rays showed plenty of evidence.  The doctors who claimed to speak “little” English ended up being a breeze to communicate with, and they were wonderful.  I received an injection of short and long-term anesthetic in my hip, and I was sent away with a cd of my x-rays and a stronger anti-inflammatory than the Meloxicam I had brought on board, just in case.

What could have been a miserable experience turned out to be no big deal, and the three of us made the best of it.  We got to know each other during the long taxi rides, had a lot of laughs, and we bonded.  In the hospital, while Renata went to check on Betsy, she made a detour to the cafeteria and surprised me with a couple of cutely packaged Lindt chocolate bars to cheer me up.  (She knew how much I loved chocolate after I asked her the first night of the cruise where the closest grocery store was located in Budapest, so I could purchase chocolate the following day.  It turns out she loved chocolate, too, and she shared some of her private Croatian chocolate stash with me.  We were instant soul sisters!  The following day, she was afraid we wouldn’t get a chance to make it to the store, so she even purchased a few of the bars I was looking for when she went shopping for herself and gave them to me as a gift.  We laughed, because we had bought chocolate to Renata as a gift!  We ended up giving each other the exact same chocolate!)

By the evening time, the short-term injection alleviated the pain enough to be able to join the other passengers for a trip to the beautiful Kursalon Wien music hall for a private concert just for our group.  After being served a glass of champagne on the terrace, we were treated to a fabulous one-hour performance by a nine-piece orchestra, two opera singers, and two ballet dancers.  The repertoire included several recognizable favorites, and the variety of classical music, opera, and ballet was a perfect cultural mix.  All of us agreed it would prove to be one of the highlights of our trip!

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Kursalon Wien

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Enjoying champagne on the terrace with Bruce.  This concert was a casual event exclusively for Vantage, so it we were told to “Come as you are!”

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LOTS OF LOCKS!

Cruising the rivers of Europe as I have done four times now, I have noticed one thing in common with the passengers on each of those cruises.  When the ship enters that first lock, everybody flocks to the outer decks, balconies, or lounge windows to watch.  Shutter bugs jockey for the best vantage spot on deck and click photo after photo.  Conversation between passengers is a lively affair, and everybody is amazed and enthralled by the process.  Smiles all around!

As the cruise continues (and the ship has entered lock after lock), less and less passengers casually meander out to the decks to have a look.  Several photographers still bring their cameras (just in case), but less of them actually use them.  There is some passing interest, but not quite the enthusiasm exhibited during that first lock experience.

By the final lock (in our case on this cruise, lock number 71! on the Main River), nobody budges.  For passengers who happened to be out on deck already, they may watch, but with little interest.  Card players continue with their games in the lounge, readers don’t bother looking up from their books, and conversation between passengers is about everything except the lock.

Photographers?  Pfffft.  Why bother?  It’s just another lock.

On this cruise, we passed through a LOT of locks!  Locks 1 thru 16 were on the Danube, locks 17 thru 37 on the Main-Danube Canal, and locks 38 thru 71 were passed through on the Main.  By the time we arrived at Kostheim Lock, the 167 passengers on board were lock-ed out!

Just how do those locks work anyway, and why did we have to pass through 71 of those darn things?  I will plagiarize from www.someinterestingfacts.net and quote:  “Locks were invented to let boats travel up and down gradients on water. They work like an ‘aqua lift’; the boat is enclosed in a chamber, which is either filled with or emptied of water. This commonly carries the boat up or down a height change of several metres.

Where there is a steep gradient to climb, there are numerous locks spaced across the gradient. These can either be individual locks separated by a lock-free waterway, or a ‘staircase’ – these are faster as the ‘upper’ gate of one lock is the ‘lower’ gate of another.”

The largest height difference (81.92 feet!) we experienced in locks was on the Main-Danube Canal at the Hipoltstein, Eckersmuehlen, and Leerstetten locks.  It was an amazing feeling to see those huge concrete walls surrounding us!

During our cruise on the Danube, the River Voyager climbed to the top of the Continental Divide, 1,331 feet above sea level—the highest point in the world a boat can climb!  Over the course of our 106 miles, we passed through 16 locks climbing 220 feet up, and 574 feet down.

Here are some scenes during our cruise to Vienna:

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There were many cute little fishing cottages along the river.

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I took a quick break from my yoga session for this shot!  I had the entire deck all to myself this morning- nice!

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We will be entering the lock behind the boat on the right.

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Look how close we were to the lock on the starboard side!

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One of the passengers, Dave Henry, snapped this shot of me measuring the distance from the boat to the wall of the lock.