Day 18: Freedom, Freedom!!!

Everyone tested negative this morning. Except for me, of course, as I predicted. It has been 5 days since the first symptoms, but CDC says after five days you are no longer infectious. The staff was unimpressed with this information, so Tom and I ate breakfast in our stateroom.

One of the many ornate bridges across the Danube in Budapest.

Our suitcases were sprayed with disinfectant before moving them out, wrapped in large pink plastic bags to indicate infection I guess. They did the same with all our used dishes, linens, etc.). The six of us were allowed to go up to the sun deck, our first venture out in six days. Members of the staff walking by greeted us and said it was nice to see us again. We sat there, happy to be reunited and no doubt pleased to see someone other than our respective SOs for once. Romika, who is in charge of the stateroom staff, stopped by to ask how everything was going. He had called each of us every day to check in and had been quite solicitous. But we did express our opinion that no good deed goes unpunished; we were not sick when we boarded, we masked consistently, we tested when we got symptoms, and we reported the results. All the people who were sick, coughing, and not masking went merrily on their way. We felt they should have been reminded to mask and asked to test when ill. Not that it mattered now.

We were moored right next to another river cruise ship. This is looking straight down between the vessels—notice that you can’t see the water. There was a lot of bumping and grinding. Window cleaners were working out there in the very narrow gap between the ships.

Covid brain is real. I left my hat and my prescription meds in the room. I retrieved the hat myself, but just as we were piling into a taxi in Budapest, one of the staff rushed up with my meds in a plastic bag. I wish I had tipped her, but I was so surprised, I just stammered my thanks. I am normally quite careful about packing, but not this time. I felt clear-headed, but Tom says I was a bit fuzzy.

We took the taxi to the Clark Hotel, which turned out to be extremely cool, esthetically pleasing, and had wonderful, wonderful service for about the price of a Motel 6 in a large city. Our rooms were in the same position on different floors, with fantastic views of the river and the Buda Palace above us on the hill.

The view from our hotel room.

We got on the Hop On Hop Off bus to get an overview of the city. Our hotel was on the Buda side, but all the action seemed to be on the Pest side of the Danube. First, we had to go to the bus office to get paper tickets, which turned out to include a boat ride. I pointed out later that I didn’t really need to get on a boat in the river, and I guess the others agreed, because we didn’t. The man who was selling tickets turned out to be from Mauritius, very friendly and sweet, and we had a brief conversation in French.

One of the most interesting things we saw from the bus was the Great Synagogue of Budapest. It is a beautiful building, and the second-largest synagogue on the world. Susan expressed a desire to return the next day,and we all eagerly agreed.

Exterior of the Great Synagogue of Budapest.

Susan wanted to eat in the New York Cafe, which is justly famous for being the most splendid cafe in the galaxy. But Linda wanted to eat outside, which is still the wisest choice. I hope our immune systems are now more capable of dealing with Covid, but we all know we could get it again. We ended up in a cafe just down the street serving panini sandwiches. Maybe not the ideal choice for a blistering hot day, and the sandwiches were VERY hot, but quite tasty.

Then we peeked into the New York Cafe. I have seen palaces that were less magnificent. I suggested to Susan that we try another day.

The others took off walking in the heat to see the Grand Market Hall. I took the bus to a drop-off point just the other side of the Danube from the hall and walked across on a bridge. I arrived shortly after they did, but the hall was closed (it was Sunday). It is a gigantic building of many floors. The exterior is beautiful, with colored tile roofs. Linda and Clod had gone back to the hotel because of the heat. We went across the street to an outdoor cafe that had misters—what a great idea!—and got cold drinks. Then we walked down a street that had lots of cute shops and outdoor eateries, and was blocked to traffic. I knew Linda would enjoy it if we came back.

I loved the bright colored tiles on the Great Market Hall. The building is much larger than it appears here.

We picked up the bus at the end of the shopping street. The buses were sort of air-conditioned, or you could go up top and get a breeze. The upstairs seating had been covered with tarps that were fastened to steel bars located approximately at my forehead height. David commented that I may have missed one or two bars while taking my seat.

We ate at the Clark Hotel rooftop restaurant, Leo, that night. The view was the same as from our rooms, but closer to the Buda Palace, with panoramic views of the city and river. The food was absolutely amazing. I had been craving French fries ever since we left Amsterdam, so I ordered them as a side to my beef tournedoes. The fries arrived in an enormous bowl, and despite urging them on everyone, we couldn’t finish.

And thus ended our first day of freedom. I think we were all enormously grateful to be out of our staterooms. No exercise combined with huge quantities of food does not bode well for getting on the scales back home, especially since eating was one of the few forms of entertainment available.

Day 16: Beautiful Vienna, Which We Did Not See

We spent a lot of ti e staring out of our stateroom window at the scenery. This is some of it.

We docked at Vienna, so the view from our stateroom changed. We were facing across the river from the old city, which meant a view of very modern buildings, including a tall skyscraper with a weird wavy design, and a spire that looked like it might be a control tower.

Cute little Austrian town on theDanube. Don’t ask me which one.
This is all we saw of Vienna. I assume there’s a lot more to see.

Not moving around is tiring, if you can believe it. I still feel like I have a bad cold, but the inactivity is getting to me. It is so much worse for Tom, who normally averages six miles of walking a day.

I spent my time working on a little graphic novel for our middle granddaughter about her favorite stuffed animal. Bunny is no longer as important to Jessamyn as she once was, but I promised, so I will deliver. I am refreshing my skills on Procreate—I let myself get rusty.

I finished an audiobook called “The House in the Cerulean Sea,” by TJ Klune. It is a gently humorous fantasy about the healing properties of love and the moral courage required to buck a bad system. I absolutely loved it. I had intended to buy it as a Kindle book, but I. Screwed up. However, the narrator, Daniel Henning, was very good, and added to the humor with the different voices for a very diverse cast of characters.

By late afternoon, I was beginning to feel better. If the experience of my travel companions is anything to go by, recovery is rapid. Just about everyone but me is back to normal except for the occasional cough. Glory to the house of science, which brought us the vaccine.

We left Vienna this evening. The six of us had already planned to go back to Vienna for a few days, so I am not upset about not seeing it on the tour. I am a little worried about the weight I must be gaining, sitting here and eating three squares plus an afternoon snack and getting no exercise. But seriously, the meals are by way of entertainment. We watched another stupid movie called “Blythe Spirit,” based on a play by Noel Coward and featuring Judi Dench. It sounded promising, but wasn’t.

Stormy evening on the Danube.