We planned to take a train from Budapest to Vienna. I went down to the lobby a bit early, hoping for tea and maybe a pastry. When I sat down, the hotel manager asked if he could get me anything. I asked for tea and a pastry. He indicated the breakfast buffet in the bar and I said I didn’t want to buy a whole breakfast, thanks. He said he would see what he could do. A pot of tea and a basket of pastries arrived shortly, on the house.
The hotel arranged the train journey and called a cab, which was inadequate for the luggage of six people. The hotel manager took our overflow luggage to the train station in a separate cab, which he paid for himself because he said he should have ordered a larger cab. The service at the Clark Hotel is beyond amazing, and it was inexpensive, compared to a similar hotel in the US. Highly recommend.
The train ride was about 2.5 hours. We checked in to the Daniel Hotel in Vienna. The Daniel is a bit eccentric in a charming, hip and happening way. I could have done without the hammock in the room, which hit my head every time I walked by it, but I wound it up out of the way and only bumped into it occasionally after that. The roof of the hotel features a strange sculpture of a warping sailboat. They keep bees on the roof and sell the honey, which they also use in their unexpectedly delicious cafe food. There is an airstream trailer parked in the front garden, near the grape vines and rose garden.
We walked down to the Belvedere Palace, not far from the hotel. Apparently, a prince was given it for defeating Napoleon in a battle. It’s huge, with gardens and fountains and furbelows, and now houses an excellent art museum. We were on a mission to find an outdoor cafe, which we didn’t find for a while because we were not in the outdoor cafe section of town.
By the time we found an outdoor cafe, I was at the end of my rope. I didn’t realize it, but I had been experiencing lingering effects of Covid even though I was technically over it. We got a table and I nearly put my head down and cried before going to sleep, but managed to order smoked salmon instead. I felt marginally improved after eating, but took a taxi back to the hotel to take a nap while the others walked to the town center.
I found out later that I wasn’t the only one who had been feeling the after-effects of the disease. I guess I thought that once we passed the five-day mark, it would all be over, just like a cold—which is what it felt like. Not so, and I continued to feel ill for another day. So ill that I took a Covid test, convinced I was still sick with it, but it was negative. I guess I was pretty naive to think I could just bounce back, especially at my age. Thinking back, I had experienced a lot of pain and muscle weakness in Budapest that I passed off as caused by the extreme heat and my general lack of fitness.
The next day was pretty much a zero for me. The others visited the Schönbrunn Palace outside Vienna. I elected not to go, which turned out to be a good call, as I felt very ill. (This is when I tested myself.) By evening, I was somewhat recovered.
We walked to a brewery restaurant for dinner known for its local specialties and beer. I knew I had never had good wiener schnitzel before—unless it is supposed to taste like extra-crispy shoe leather—so I ordered that, plus a beer which I knew nothing about. The beer was tasty. The wiener schnitzel arrived in two golden slabs, piping hot. I can now say I have had probably the best possible wiener schnitzel, and I intend never to order it again. It’s not bad, just kind of boring.
So hopefully, I have recovered from the lingering effects of Covid and can go enjoy Vienna!
The next day was as scorching as the day before. Linda, Tom, and I started with the Great Market Hall, with its soaring girders and colorful exterior. The building is absolutely enormous and we never even made it to the second or third floors. If we had been able to read Hungarian, we would have known that all the gifty-type stuff was on the second floor, while the third floor was restaurants. The first floor is food—piles of sausages and meats, mounds of fresh fruits and vegetables, bins full of paprikas and other spices. It was a feast for the senses, and reminded me of the open-air market on Las Ramblas in Barcelona.
To tell the truth, I was reluctant to tackle the stairs. My knees have tendonitis, and it has worsened considerably on this trip. The extreme heat hasn’t helped. We shopped on the first floor, then wandered down the shopping street we noticed the day before, running into Susan and David at an outdoor cafe—at least Tom did. Linda and I went into a linen store and disappeared for a while.
We walked to the Great Mosque. The tour guide was very knowledgeable. She explained that when the synagogue was built, in the mid-1800s, the Neolog Jewish community wanted to assimilate with Hungarian society. The interior is very church-like and unlike any other synagogue I have seen. It even has an organ, when musical instruments are usually forbidden in temple. The Neolog community, she explained, was neither Orthodox nor Reform, but rather a movement to modernize without sacrificing many of the traditional elements of Judaism.
The building combines Moorish and Christian architectural and decorative elements while retaining Jewish symbolism. The Ark of the Covenant is vast, containing, if I remember correctly, 60 Torah scrolls, which is a lot. They are enormous scrolls, always hand-written, and very expensive.
The synagogue was abandoned and damaged during WWII. I am ashamed that I didn’t know more about the eager willingness of the Hungarian Nazis to exterminate the Jews, causing staff at Auschwitz to complain they were sending too many Jews too quickly to the camp. There is a graveyard on the premises (also very different for a synagogue), and most of the dates were 1944 and 1945. There is a smaller temple dedicated to the heroes of WWI, and a very touching memorial to the dead of WWII; a silvery metal weeping willow with leaves inscribed with the names of those who perished. I will never understand this, and I am appalled and frightened by the ugly resurgence of Nazism in my own country—our ancestors fought and died to make sure Nazism was defeated. It weighs very heavily on my spirit.
Susan, David, Tom, and I went to the New York Cafe for lunch, which was delicious, but it could hardly compete with the decor, which was as much over the top as any palace. It’s also the size of a small palace. There was also live music, an excellent violinist and pianist playing classical music. A lovely experience.
I returned to the hotel after that, exhausted from the heat. Later, we went to a charming restaurant called Déryné Bisztró. It was very close to the hotel, but walking involved going through a massive tunnel through the cliff behind the hotel, and we opted for a cab. The restaurant had a nice patio seating area, the food was delightful, and the service excellent. However, it was probably the noisiest restaurant I have ever eaten at. It is right on the street, and trams went by regularly, as did sirens. Just as a lovely jazz ensemble started up, the church across the street started ringing its very loud bells at 8 ‘o clock. It didn’t stop for at least 10 minutes. We braced ourselves when the next hour rolled around, it it just bonged softly a few times and quit. I asked our server why it rang forever at eight, but hardly at all at nine. He looked puzzled, so I guess he has stopped noticing. We did enjoy the jazz ensemble during the quieter moments.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today was not a good day from the standpoint of feeling healthy. As Tom grew steadily better, my cough worsened and I became more congested. My side aches from coughing.
Every time they bring us food, little salt and pepper shakers are included. I stole a couple of these to make a salt water rinse. Necessity is the mother of invention.
We are sailing on the Danube now, and I must report that it is not blue. More sort of muddy green, not that I’m complaining. We are passing by little villages nestled into green countryside, with thickly forested hills beyond. Once, we passed a speedboat stuck and abandoned in the river, with water flowing over it.
Alex the Magic Butler tells us that after they announced 6 new cases of Covid, masking went to100%. As he told me this, the guy who never masked ambled down the hall—wearing a mask.
There have been several places where people were swimming and fishing, so the water quality must be good.
The Uniworld staff continues to be solicitous and kind. They are taking care of us six sickies in addition to their normal duties, but are endlessly patient. We just have to remember to request EXACTLY what we want because if we just ask for salad, we get lettuce with dressing, and nothing else. I’m not complaining at all, it’s just the way it is. They aren’t mind readers.
We went through a lot of locks today as we approached the continental divide. They grew ever larger, though we were not in the best position to see them from our stateroom.
I began to cough and sniffle and asked the staff for cough medicine and throat lozenges. Someone got off in Passau, the last stop before entering Austria and the Danube, to buy me meds. They made an excellent selection, and it has helped.
I checked with our friends in the morning, and they were doing well. Tom and I spent the day watching the banks of the Danube, eating, reading, etc. We watched two of the movies available on board. “Wild Mountain Thyme” with Christopher Walken, John Hamm, and Emma Stone seemed promising, but it was my least favorite kind of plot; the people involved made everything complicated because they wouldn’t tell each other the truth. Ugh.
“The Courier,” with Benedict Cumberbatch and Rachel Brosnahan (Mrs.Maisel), is a very good film. It’s based on a true story of spy intrigue during the Cold War, and I highly recommend it.
Not too much else to report. We are passing through some very pretty countryside.
We knew we were risking Covid when we embarked. But all six of us were fully vaccinated and boosted, and we were careful about masking. Unfortunately, not all of our fellow travelers were as careful.
Early in the trip, a gentleman from Australia was taken off the ship sick with Covid and sent to the hospital. We heard later he had been seriously ill. He was discharged from the hospital and went directly home. He had isolated in his room for the first few days, so none of us had been anywhere near him. We weren’t overly concerned.
As the days went by, we noticed more and more people hacking and coughing, and mask wearing was only about 40%. One guy NEVER wore a mask.
Then, the evening we set sail for Regensburg, Clod tested positive for Covid. We all did the quick results test. I was the only one not feeling symptoms, and my test was negative. Tom’s was positive.
We all disembarked in Regensburg and took a taxi to a little booth to take a PCR test. Results were reported in two hours. By this time, I was feeling a faint tickle in my chest.
We stopped at an apothecary for some meds and walked back to the ship, a stroll of about 10 minutes. We got to the quay where River Duchess was moored. There was a long bench close to the ship.
We all sat down and stared glumly at the ship. Once we got back on board, we knew we would be confined to our staterooms and would not be allowed to socialize with each other. We talked for a few minutes and then one of the officers appeared and herded us gently back on to the ship.
We were all positive. The protocol was to stay in quarantine for five days, which meant that on the last day, when we were due to disembark in Budapest, we would be released from quarantine. Everyone assured us that all we had to do was ask for something (other than leaving our staterooms), and it would be brought to us. The phone rang constantly with people checking on us and asking if we needed anything. Our rooms would not be cleaned, but we could get fresh sheets and towels any time, and they would do our laundry.
They have been as good as their word. In addition to taking our meal orders, Alex brings everyone a snack in the afternoon, and anything we have asked for has been quickly fulfilled. Alex has been taking care of all of us.
I have taken a few photos, but much of the time, there isn’t much to see from our stateroom. We haven’t been bored, but Tom greatly misses his daily walk. My ankles were very swollen from all the walking in the heat, and are back to their normal size.
None of us are seriously ill, though I, being the last to get it, am experiencing a worsening of symptoms as the others are recovering. It feels like a cold, no worse.
Every day, we get a paper agenda informing us of all the activities we will not be participating in that day. But we did enjoy the 2/3 of the trip that we did get to experience outside of our staterooms
The choice today was between the WWII historical tour, which involved a lot of Nazi stuff, a walk down from the castle involving steep stuff and cobblestones—or free time at the city center. Three guesses which I chose. I have had enough of Nazis at home, where they appear to be taking over.
The tour guide on our bus was highly amusing. She was from Scotland. She came here as a young woman to improve her German. Apparently someone once called from the back of the bus, “Shouldn’t you have improved your English first?” She had a lot of funny little stories like that. She pointed out various points of historical interest before dropping the walking groups off at the castle.
Linda, Susan, and I walked around the central square. Nuremberg is a bit like Disneyland in that most of it has been replicated. It was thoroughly flattened in WWII. The stained glass was taken out of the old churches at the start of the war and was thus preserved. Except for the church of St. Sebaldus, the church where Johann Pachelbel and his son served as organists. (Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major is my absolute favorite piece of classical music.) The church was badly damaged but restored, though many of the stained glass windows have clear glass inserts where the stained glass was broken and not restored.
We didn’t go into the main cathedral, but on the hour, glockenspiel figures move around and trumpeters try to trumpet. (The mechanism appeared to not quite be working.) Really, the only structures left standing were a couple of houses, one of them the house of artist Albrecht Dürer. It all looks authentic and I am rather in awe of the time, effort, and expense required to do this.
We poked into a number of shops and walked a short way along the Pegnitz River. We saw a huge school of rather large fish just hanging lazily in the water, testifying to its purity. I am extremely impressed with the cleanliness on the waterways we have traveled on. We in the US have a long way to go.
We stopped at a specialty bakery to pick up some gifts, and we each chose a large cookie and a drink. I disliked my choice even though it has a lot of chocolate on it. It was very sweet, rich, dense, and again, very sweet. Sort of the cookie version of fruitcake. I left most of it there, thinking longingly of the delicious snowball in Rothenburg.
Market stalls in the center of the town square were offering the most gorgeous fruits and vegetables convey to me that they were some sort of cookie, not a fungus. Oh, well.
We met Thomas at an unmistakable landmark, known as the Beautiful Fountain. It is enameled in green, gold, and red. There are two rings caught in the ironwork surrounding the Beautiful Fountain, a small one of iron and a large one of brass. They can be turned, and the legend is that if you turn one of the rings around three times, your wishes will come true—just one of several stories about the fountain. I turned the ring, but forgot to make a wish.
Back at the ship, a historian who is an expert on the Main-Danube Canal came to speak to us. Europe has a continental divide, just as North America does, running from Spain deep into Russia. Above the divide, rivers run northerly, below, southerly. As early as 796 CE, Charlemagne attempted to cross the divide by building the Fossa Karolingen connecting two rivers to allow travel in a north-south direction, This still exists as a sort of ditch. King Ludwig I of Bavaria tried again with a longer canal, but it was never economically viable due to the introduction of railroad travel, the fact that the canal boats were powered by mules pulling them from the land, and difficulty in keeping the water level deep enough. The current canal connects the Main and the Danube, and construction on it ended in 1992.
The canal has 16 locks, growing ever larger as we approach the divide. The locks are 40 feet wide and the ship is 37 feet wide, so you do the math. Last night we were in a lock. I opened our window and measured the distance between the railing and the concrete wall with my hand. It was about six inches. These river cruise captains are amazing.
When I was pondering which excursions to take before we left on our trip, the Franconian farm and village visit with tractor ride did not appeal. But we changed our minds after listening to the cruise director, Thomas, talk about it.
For one thing, I didn’t realize that doing a walking tour through every city and village would become tiring. I’m not talking about the exercise, though it has been a bit hard for this couch potato to get used to. It was the routine. Tom and I (maybe mostly me) thought a visit to a farm in the country and a tiny village would be a nice break. It was! The alternative was a walking tour of Bamburg, which was fine, but we wanted a change of pace. Tour director Thomas warned about the smell of pig manure on the farm, but this was no deterrent. Pigs, after all, smell, and farms tend to have pigs around here. Another consideration was the heat—it was predicted in the high 80s. Walking through a city in the heat did not seem like the most fun.
We traveled by bus for about an hour through lovely pastoral Bavaria, passing through several villages on the way. Our destination was the village of Wohnau, population 97. Apparently, the population has been growing because people who were raised here go off to school, perhaps getting jobs elsewhere, but when they start having children, some return because they have lovely memories of their own childhoods in this town.
Wohnau is a Catholic town. Most towns and cities in Bavaria are a mix of Lutheran and Catholic, but not Wohnau. Apparently, Bavaria tends to be more religious than other German states. Wohnau has crucifixes everywhere.
We first stopped for what our guide, Kristina, called “a techno bio break,”—a bathroom stop—at the Smitte’n Hof—the farm we were to visit. Then we walked through the town, which took no time all, to the small cemetery. I love cemeteries, and this was a miniature beauty. The gravestones are fronted with miniature gardens, each with a tiny well for holy water and a lantern. The story is that Wohnau had no cemetery and the town’s residents were buried in a neighboring village. A man from Wohnau wanted to be buried in the village in which he had lived his entire life, so he started a project to build a cemetery in Wohnau, which got underway. Tragically, before the cemetery was finished, the man died, and was buried in the neighboring village. Some bold youths went under cover of that very night, dug him up, amid reburied him in Wohnau—I am not sure where, as, you will remember, the cemetary had not been finished.
Kristina told us that in Germany, you rent the gravesites for 25 years, then you have to renew the lease. In the old days, if no one renewed the rent, the body would be exhumed and sent to the bone house for storage. They don’t have bone houses anymore, so I asked what happens to the bodies now? She said she had never thought about it and didn’t know. Hmmm.
We turned back and walked to the center of town—a few paces from the cemetery at the edge of town. A tall, dead birch tree was stranding in a metal sheath there, its branches festooned with faded ribbons. The tree is decorated and erected in April for some sort of spring festival, but it is looking a bit sad now.
We visited the Catholic Church, which was tiny but exquisite, decorated in the Baroque style. The priest only comes once every three weeks or so to perform the Mass. The families take turns decorating and cleaning the church for this event.
Back to the farm, where we were escorted to a cool stone cellar for sausage, bread, and soft cheese. Our host, Herr Schmitt, an elderly patriarch, talked at length in German, and sometimes Kristina translated, some times a pretty frauliein neighbor, who looked the very picture of a German girl. She spoke excellent English.
Then it was time for the tractor ride! Herr Schmitt is the only “full time” farmer in the village. Others have to have a spouse working elsewhere as there is no employment in the village. Herr Schmitt has cannily parlayed his farm into a tourist attraction. He entertains tours with local snacks and wine tastings, tractor rides, etc. He also offers camping, has a store with farm-made products like noodles, makes and sells wine, of course, and no doubt has other enterprises. Very clever man.
We piled into a wooden wagon pulled by a tiny blue tractor. It set off into the woods nearby, emitting diesel fumes, but they weren’t too obnoxious. Our driver—who turned out to be from Connecticut—kept well behind the other diesel-belching tiny red tractor. The woods were quite dense, composed mostly of beech and oak trees, mostly slender, but growing closely
together. We went by the neighboring village where the residents of Wohnau were once buried, past wheat fields, and up into vineyards. The vineyards had a multitude of small structures for each family’s tools. (Different parts of the vineyard belonged to different families.) Some of these structures looked like tool sheds; others looked like miniature chalets, with tiny front porches, tiled roofs, and stovepipes. We glimpsed a minute domed chapel among the vines as well.
Then we plunged into the forest again and so back to the farm. Kristina was talking about the farm dog, which she adored, but had died of old age. Apparently in Germany, you can’t have a farm dog unless you can prove the dog is acceptable to the people who come to the farm. I don’t know how they accomplish that.
We went down to the cellar again, blessing the cool temperature, where they served us small, delicious cherries, brown sourdough bread, and two local wines, one white, one red. I recall that the red varietal was called Domina. Both were made on the farm. They were quite good, though they probably wouldn’t be my main tipple. Herr Schmitt wanted to know how crocodile tasted. I was able, through Kristina, to inform him that we don’t eat crocodiles in America, but alligator tastes just like chicken.
As we departed Smitte’n Hof, we were each gifted with a round green bottle of 2016 Bacchus Franken, a white wine made on the farm. Given Herr Schmidt’s excellent commercial instincts, I was surprised we weren’t shown the farm store.
The bus ride back used the super highway and didn’t take quite as long. It was a hot day, and felt so good to take a shower! The water in our shower pours from the ceiling without a trace of pressure regulator.
By the way, there was nary a pig to be seen—or smelled—on the farm. And it was just the break I was hoping for—confirmed by the others in our group who had opted for the Bamburg walking tour. We rejoined them and went into town to find rauchbier, a smoked beer that is the local speciality. We found it, along with a cheerful waiter who spoke perfect English. It is so far the only beer I have tasted in Germany that I really liked. It has a slight bacon-y nose that only enhanced the flavor, in my opinion. Then we trotted through the 89 degree heat back to the bus, and the River Duchess departed for Nuremberg. I did I get this hasty shot of a house right on the river. It looks like an enormous piece of Wedgewood porcelain.
We docked at Würzburg, where there is a royal palace that rivals Versailles. I was feeling a bit worn down, not having slept well the night before. I also realized I was getting a bit snappish, which is a sign I am tired, and it isn’t very nice for other people. So I stayed on board, blogging and reading a trashy novel.
Tom contacted me from the town when they returned from admiring what sounds like a truly amazing palace, complete with Tiepolo frescoed ceilings and amazing three-dimensional plaster work. I did not regret my choice. All palaces are different—and they are all weirdly alike, the obscene excrescences of a previous generation’s multi-billionaires who spent their money indulging their lust for self-aggrandizement and power instead of, say, feeding people. Their only redeeming value is their patronage of the arts, and I am glad these monstrous monuments to ego are now available for the commoners to enjoy.
So I walked as instructed to a large bridge, met Tom, and met up with our friends. Würzburg is a modern city with many older buildings and an huge cathedral. For how I feel about huge cathedrals, please see my remarks on palaces. However, this cathedral was rather interesting. The bones of the building are Romanesque, with Roman arches built in alternating red and white stones, giving it that distinctive look. Inside, the bones are clean, but the apse has been elaborate statues of popes and saints facing the austere columns. Many of the windows must have been shattered during WWII, and have been replaced with clear glass in modern designs. Two altars to either side of the sanctuary feature overwrought and gilded altar displays in the baroque style. Interspersed between the more Renaissance and Baroque works are several modern statues. The sanctuary light is housed in an abstract, towering sculpture.
Smaller chapels to either side feature gothic arches and what looks like original stained glass. And at the foot of the main aisle stands a monumental menorah. It is an altogether unique cathedral that reflects the ages it has endured.
And that is all I really remember of Würzburg—except for a delicious tomato and cheese sandwich in a perfectly delicious roll baked with many different seeds and saffron. The bread in Europe is not just something to hold your sandwich together, it adds to the pleasure of the meal.
So I will share some photos I think are interesting that I haven’t shared before. Enjoy.