Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Hello, Germany!

Today, we said goodbye to the Viking Njord and her crew (we loved them!) and headed by bus from Linz, where we docked, to Passau, Germany. The low water situation on the Danube meant we had to do a "boat swap" with another Viking ship doing the same cruise in reverse. So we packed our bags and left them at our door after breakfast and boarded a bus.
(Our bags magically appeared in our identical rooms - same room number and everything - on the Viking Freya!)

The really nice part about this was the opportunity to travel by bus in the Austrian and German countryside. We saw immaculate farms, beautiful villages and many lovely churches on the way to Passau, then on the way from Passau to Regensburg, where we boarded the Freya. 

Lots of corn! And pretty villages...

In Passau, the Young girls opted for the "leisurely" walking tour of the town. Dorothy is quite the trooper, but this tour included steep, cobblestone streets for an hour and a half so, honestly, we all looked forward to the slower pace. Eastern Europe is also in the midst of a crushing heat wave, so the walking tours are strenuous! 

(Selfie stick!)

Refugees welcome! Ha!

(Artist Alley)

(Luna -- a neighborhood doggy!)

Our guide, Lucas, was hilarious -- a teacher and philosopher who guides tours in the summer. He had a great flair for relatable history -- and a knack for finding shady spots for little breaks.

Pretty corner in an outdoor cafe...

Old doors...

We walked through an artists' alley, and narrow, charming streets en route to St. Stephen's Church. So far there's been a St. Stephen's in every city. In Hungary, Stephen was their evangelizer and first king. This St. Stephen's in Passau  is named for the New Testament disciple Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian faith. 

Mama D was fascinated by the elaborate pulpits...

St. Stephen's in Passau is home to the largest pipe organ in Europe -- second largest in the world. We gathered in the gorgeous church for an organ concert. The organ has 17,974 pipes and 233 stops. (The picture below is just part of the organ!)

Dorothy has been looking forward to this the entire trip! (She said she still prefers the playing by *our* organist and pianist, Marc and Loretta!) 

Following the concert we walked to one of our favorite spots so far. Since we couldn't return to the ship for lunch due to the swap, Viking made arrangements for us to eat in one of Passau's best restaurants - Heilog-Geist-Stifschenke. With all the heat, I really didn't want to eat outdoors...until we got to this place! We were led to tables in an outdoor maze of a courtyard canopied with grape vines. It was like eating in a vineyard! The food wasn't as good as Chef Marcus' creations, but the service was excellent, especially considering we descended on them with about 200 diners! 

Following lunch, we had some free time for exploring and shopping and June finally got the cake she'd been wanting -- a sacher torte -- layers of chocolate cake and raspberry filling, iced with a chocolate ganache and served with a large dollop of whipped cream! (June said Rick Steves said it was a must! And, as usual, Rick knew what he was talking about!)

We got back on our buses (Mercedes buses, by the way--very nice!) and headed for Regensburg! We got into a bit of a traffic jam, but enjoyed visiting with several of our shipmates! It's so nice traveling on a ship with about 200 passengers - you have a chance to really visit with folks. I haven't learned very many names, but I can always remember where they're from, so the greetings go something like this:

Hey, New York! How'd you like that concert?

Florida! How has your day been? (And welcome to the blog, Florida!)

Kansas City! Did you have a good night?

Michigan! Love your outfit! 

New Jersey! What's up?

Anyway, it's been fun meeting and talking with some interesting folks so far this week!

Ok - funny story: we have cabins with balconies (very nice!). Earlier in the cruise, June was on her balcony and heard someone calling for help. It seems he had locked himself out of his room and onto his balcony. June went to look for help, and found someone in uniform sitting at the bar. She explained the situation to him and he said, "No problem. I'll take care of it tomorrow." 
Um, no. She tried to explain again and he kept saying, "Yes, tomorrow" and she finally realized his English? She is not so good. 
So this evening we were getting settled into our new rooms on the Freya and I heard June's unmistakable laughter on her balcony, next to ours. I walked out and she and Peggy were stuck on their balcony. 
"No problem," I said. "I'll get someone to help you...tomorrow!" 

(They're fine! I found someone as soon as I walked into the hall!)

Tomorrow, we tour Regensburg in the morning then we have an excursion to the Danube narrows and Weltenburg Abbey! 

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