A Great Night of On-board Entertainment

Cruise buddy Deb hams it up with the talent

Cruise buddy, Deb, hams it up with the talent

TRAVEL THERE: RODGERS, HAMMERSTEIN AND MOZART

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did!

Back to Elegant Dining

I’d been disappointed by the over-hyped Taste of Austria dinner.  Visually, it had been lovely, but the culinary experience couldn’t beat what we’d already been enjoying.  Quality not quantity is my interest.

After my trot around Linz, we scurried back to the boat and I jumped into my evening attire.  This was the penultimate evening of the cruise and the captain was throwing a cocktail party.  That included a toast, which meant champagne would be served.  So I was janie-on-the spot in the lounge.  I didn’t want to miss any champagne.  The captain didn’t try to labor through another bout of English, thankfully.  Instead our cruise director translated for him.

After the toast, the lederhosen, dirndls and oom-pah-pah were gone from the dining room- much to our relief.  We waxed nostalgic about our service throughout the evening as if we’d been living on the boat for years, instead of a matter of days.  The Viking Daily had promised Mozart and the Sound of Music as our evenings entertainment and we wondered how that mixture would pan out.

A Salzburgian Romp

A troupe of singers appeared and offered a few tunes.  Their voices were wonderful and they wore authentic period costumes.  The evening started out very high-brow and then they began the audience participation part of the performance.  I was not surprised in the least that they chose Bill.  They always choose Bill.  I’m beginning to think he must be offering bribes.  Anyway,  here’s a few photos from his appearance.

That was fun, but the next part was even more wonderful.  They switched from classical to a classic, The Sound of Music.  I can’t say I was actually yearning for tunes from the Julie Andrews movie, but as soon as the first few bars of intro wafted through the lounge, I had tears in my eyes.  The singers merely zipped through the soundtrack, hitting the high points, which was lovely, but I secretly wanted more.  I wanted to be reminded of every frame of the movie and especially Edelweiss, which is on my personal top 10 (along with Leon Russell’s Stranger in a Strange Land, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and  Gordon Lightfoot’s Rainy Day People.)  I’ve never streamed a movie to my phone, but it did cross my mind that evening.

The performers were real characters.  They were hamming it up with all the guests, so Bill wasn’t the only one to garner their attention.  He’s just the only one who entered the spotlight.  After the performers left, the tempo got much faster and the girls hit the dance floor.   I have a few more photos to share below.

The boat didn’t head towards our next destination until 10:30 and I’d entertained thoughts of taking another stroll onshore, but it didn’t happen.  If you let them, Viking will fill every moment of your day and that’s what happened on this particular day, except for the visit to the Mariendom.

Next up is Passau, Germany.  Come back next week and visit this lovely little town at the confluence of rivers.

 

 

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A Little of Linz

Happy on the Hauptplatz

Happy on the Hauptplatz

TRAVEL THERE: HANGING ON THE HAUPTPLATZ

Once the bus returned us to the boat from our excursion to the Czech Republic, we only had about forty-five minutes before it was time to get ready for dinner.  Having had the chance to rest up on the bus ride, we were raring to visit Linz, so we dropped off our junk in our cabin and hit the gangplank again.

Lovely Afternoon in Linz

In Cesky Krumlov it had been a tad bit chilly, so I’d been all layered up to keep warm.  Linz was a whole different story.  There we regretted our long sleeves.

As with most of our stops, our boat was docked adjacent to exactly what we wanted to see.  We stepped off the boat and into the Hauptplatz, one of the largest main squares in Austria. You can see the plague column behind us in the photo above and the Old Rathaus is nearby.  In fact, I had a map showing this square is the center of sightseeing, but it was late and most things had closed – not to mention that we barely had time to walk down the street a bit and then get back to the boat. So we kept to the main thoroughfare.

received_1074321999293611The architecture along the venerable main street is gorgeous.  Churches butt up against chic boutiques and everything looks as if a modern day Hapsburg is coming for inspection.  The one thing I really wanted to see was the Mariendom. The “new” cathedral can accommodate 20,000 people.  I figured that would be worth seeing.

We didn’t get very far down the street until we ran into our cruise buddies.  They’d hit the streets directly from the bus and were already headed back to the boat.  We wanted to explore a little more.

3l-5Finding a cathedral to accommodate 20,000 isn’t all that hard if you’re anywhere near it, so soon we found a side street that took us right up to the big church.  We were only there for a few minutes, but I have to confess that I thoroughly enjoyed the respite from tourism.

All the other churches we’d been to were definite tourist destinations.  We’d gotten to Mariendom late enough for the tour buses and their occupants to be gone.  A few parishioners were spread among the sea of pews and were obviously praying.  This was a church that was really a church.  It felt like God was there, so I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for the wonderful trip we were enjoying.  Then I couldn’t resist getting the panoramic picture above!

Though we hadn’t really taken much time at all, we had to hurry back to the boat.  Bill still managed to grab a few shots along the way.  I’ll share those with you and then I hope you’ll be back next week, because it was a favorite night of entertainment.  Enjoy Linz!

 

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The Quaint Town of Cesky Krumlov

4ck-townTRAVEL THERE: A TOWN IN A TIME WARP

Cesky Krumlov was lucky.  While it suffered a season of Communism, the Communists never had enough money to modernize the place.  So when they were kicked out in 1989, all Cesky Krumlov needed was a little TLC.  Tourists discovered it in the early 1990’s and the rest is history.

Entering the Time Warp

As I mentioned before, our wonderful guide was a native Krumlovite.  He grew up there and had an abiding love for his lovely little town.  We had disembarked our bus up in the castle gardens and seen a couple of lovely vistas from the castle grounds, but this charming blue, onion-domed church was our first taste of Krumlov proper.

 

City, town or village?

City, town or village?

The pace of our tour slowed down as the guide shared the highlights of his town, including his favorite places to eat and stories about his friends.  I’ve toured with guides that turned this dialog into an “ain’t-I-great” soliloquy, but the charming citizen of Krumlov did not fall into that trap.  His stories were all about the wonders in his favorite town.

By the way, while it is tempting to call it a village, rather than a town, it got a city charter somewhere along the way.  They would probably be insulted because that I was calling it a town instead of a city, but I want you to get the feel of the place, even if my terminology is not technically correct.

On Our Own

We wandered along quaint little streets until we reached the town square, where our guide released us to our own reconnaissance.  Our little group of cruise buddies hotfooted it back to our guide’s favorite restaurant and enjoyed a delightful lunch with generous quaffs of Czech beer.

Then we headed out for shopping.  EEEK!  The prices were astronomical. I strolled into a handbag store and hurried out with my tail between my legs.  While I’m not great at currency conversion, I do know enough to figure out when I’ve wandered into a triple digit zone.  The cheapest handbag I could find was very comfortably in that triple digit zone and while my friends are certainly worth that much, I can’t afford it.

There were dozens of establishments featuring souvenirs – you know the kind, t-shirts and tea towels emblazoned with screen-printed images – but that wasn’t what I was looking for.  Finally, I found a store with darling little gingerbread Christmas ornaments.  I almost bought them out and was thrilled with my find, but unfortunately I lost them somewhere along the way.  I was broken-hearted because they were hand-made and seriously darling.

Had I anticipated the expenditure, I would have bought up some amber jewelry.  Every other store on the winding streets is an amber jeweler and I loved most of their wares.  My bestie loves amber and I desperately wanted to find something for her, but in a town where a small cloth clutch costs about $200, you can imagine what the amber cost.  Still, the prices were not unreasonable, so if you go, budget for the amber and shop until you drop!

Safely back in the pack

Safely back in the pack

Suddenly It Was Time to Go

For the final half hour or so, we abandoned our cruise buddies, because I was still desperately on the hunt for gifts.  All of sudden we looked at our watch and realized we had to leave – right then.  That’s when we figured out we were lost and Cesky Krumlov no longer felt like a quaint village, but more like the city they prided themselves on being.  Our panic only lasted a short while, but that was long enough.  They’d warned us they would leave us if we weren’t on time.

We strolled back through the town, up a path around the castle and there our buses were waiting for us.  The drive back to the boat seemed longer than the trip to the Czech town, because we were hoping enough time would be left to check out Linz before dinner.

We did make it back early enough and I’ll share that with you next week, but for now, enjoy all these pictures from Cesky Krumlov.

 

 

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A Quick Stroll through Cesky Krumlov Castle

Castle Courtyard

Castle Courtyard

TRAVEL THERE: TAKE MORE TIME HERE THAN WE DID

Cesky Krumlov Castle is a treasure trove of history, architecture and decorative arts.  Let’s start with the history.

The Medieval Lords of Krumlov

There’s not much left from the Middle Ages, but this has been a castle since the 13th century.  The one remaining tidbit is the castle tower, left over from the days when the castle’s first job was defense.  According to Rick Steves, if you go up its 162 steps you’ll get a find view of the Czech countryside, but I wouldn’t know.

Moving on to the Renaissance

4ck-castle-30While the tower is Medieval, it’s decoration is not.  That’s all Renaissance, so let’s move up a few years.  When the Krumlovs died out, their cousins, the Rozmberks, moved in.  (Rozmberk is often rendered as Rosenberg, but let’s be Czech about this.)

The Krumlovs had been your basic local gentry, but their cousins were a whole different animal.  The Rosmberks went on a serious building campaign, but don’t let the pictures fool you.  Those walls in the courtyard are just plaster.  All the fancy stonework is merely painted on.  They weren’t being cheap, it was just the style.  In fact, they probably could have gotten the stonework cheaper than the painting, but they were all about the show.

Everything had to look modern and up-to-date for the Rozmberks.  They turned that practical, defensive tower into a folly of astrological signs and symbols.  I’m not sure who came up with the idea of a pastel yellow and baby pink as an acceptable color combination, but I would like to complain about it.  Pink and beige were often used together throughout this region, too.  Both color themes make me a little nauseous, but they were all the rage apparently, based on the frequency of their use.

While I didn’t approve of their color schemes, I have to admit they did do a great job out in the gardens.  The glorious Renaissance gardens in the French style, with a magnificent central fountain, were something to see.  It was a little early in the season for floral displays.

They symbol of the Rosenberg family can be found all over the castle.

They symbol of the Rozmberk family can be found all over the castle.

Visions of Grandeur

It wasn’t enough for the Rozmberks to have the best castle around, they wanted to climb even higher on the social ladder. So they decided they wanted to be kin to the the Orsinis, who were ruling the roost over in Italy.

Now there are a number of stories about their claim to Orsinism.  Some say they just added a fake limb to their family tree and were powerful enough to pull it off with aplomb.  Others claim they actually did have a legitimate claim.  My favorite story is they expressed their desire to be Orsinis to that family and for X amount of money, the Orsini’s adopted them.  That sounds about right from what I know of the Orsinis.

The Crest of the Orsini-Rosenbergs

The Crest of the Orsini-Rozmberks

Whichever story is true, the Rozmberks celebrated their promotion in a couple of ways.  They altered their family crest and added a bear to their moat, because as we all know, Orsini comes from the Italian word for bear.

When I titled this post as “a quick stroll” I’m referring to the way I saw the castle – almost at a dead run!  We were in and out of the castle environs almost before I could get out the camera for a few photos.  (Confession, we did not take the bear picture.  It’s off the Viking memory stick we purchased.  The bear hid from us during our quick stroll.)

cesky-krumlov-58What’s more, the tour was only outside and we didn’t get so much as a peek inside.  Museum Girl was about to have a fit.  Here she had a well-furnished Czech palace to check out and we’re ripping through the courtyards at a fast pace.  One of the reasons the castle is well-furnished is because once a Hapsburg-related family gained control of the place it fell out of favor and became a sort of over-sized attic.

Another reason you can enjoy the castle in its former furnished glory is because Czech curators share better than Americans.  They actually try to get the various bits and pieces they find to the appropriate castles.  Because Cesky Krumlov Castle spent so many years as a warehouse of out-of-fashion and damaged furnishings, there are still huge areas of the castle that are still cleaned out and cataloged.  When they find a piece that seems to belong to another castle, they send it along with their regards and curators at other castles do the same.  American curators seem to share a penchant for hoarding.  The bowels of their institutions hold tons of items the public never gets to see, because the museums hold on to every bit they get for dear life.  I liked the Czechs even better for this little tid-bit.

4ck-castle-24Once we’d checked out the bear pits we had a choice to make.  We could either head to the ticket office and go on one of the interior castle tours or we could head out to the picturesque town. The town is charming and I had a wonderful time with our cruise buddies, but Museum Girl was about to go into melt-down.

I’ll share a treat with you.  While I didn’t go through the castle, someone on the Viking crew did and they got some marvelous pictures, which I’ll include at the end along with more of my pictures of the exterior, but there’s one more bit of history you need to know about Cesky Krumlov.

The Baroque Theater

I chose to get a degree in Performance instead of Literature and I’m glad, because to get the degree you have to have a smattering of all the arts, including the performance arts.  One of my classes was the history of theater and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  (The professor was somewhat of a kook, but welcome to the university!)

We studied all the old playwrights and reviewed the various venues.  I reveled in the Renaissance era when cathedrals used to fly children through the air on wires as cherubs.  (No child labor laws to contend with.)  However, the Baroque period was also something.  Every castle worth its appellation had its own theater and each theater proprietor tried to outdo the other on special effects – only there was no digital CGI.  They used actual flames and fireworks to get their effects.  And that’s exactly why there are only two of them left in the world.  Cesky Krumlov is one of them!

It killed me to forego the pleasure of touring the theater.  If I ever get back to the Czech Republic, wild horses won’t keep me away from taking every tour offered in Cesky Krumlov.  Now enjoy the pictures and come back next week for a tour of the town.

 

 

 

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Lakeside Baptist Church – My Other Family

Mom and I with Eddie Jo, one of Mom's dear Lakeside friends.

Mom and I with Eddie Jo, one of Mom’s dear Lakeside friends.

TRAVEL BUG TALES: KIN BY THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB

As I’ve chatted about beaches, I’ve also mentioned Mrs. Lide.  Mom and Mrs. Lide were besties.  I get that, because I have a bestie.  But having a bestie doesn’t short circuit the ability to have other very, very good friends.  My mom taught me that and I am grateful.  I feel sorry for people who are so wrapped up in one another there’s no room for the rest of the world – whether the other is a spouse, a best friend or a relative.  When we moved to Texas, Mom lost her close daily contact with Mrs. Lide, but it didn’t cripple her.  She just set about filling her life with other wonderful people.  No one ever replaced Mrs. Lide in her heart, but the fun she shared made for a great life. 

From the Archives!  The Caves had attended for 20 of these years and my sister is still there these 30 years later!

From the Archives! The Caves had attended for 20 of these years and my sister is still there 30 years later!

The Lakeside Connection

When we moved to Dallas, one of the first things Mom did was take us church shopping, but it was a short trip.  We visited the Baptist Church closest to us, but it didn’t pass the Ruth test.  Nothing wrong with it, beyond the fact that it wasn’t what Mom was looking for.  The next Sunday we ventured a little further down Garland Road to Lakeside Baptist Church.  Mom hitched her wagon to Lakeside and she was set for the rest of her life.

Back in those days, the Baptist Sunday Schools were divided up by age and marital status and there was no getting around it. Nowadays they call them Life Groups and the age/marital status rule is not so hard and fast.   Mom landed in a group of ladies called the Grace Class.  They did life together for decades.  They prayed for one another when there were problems and sickness.  A death brought out casseroles and potted plants. If one of my parents were in the hospital for an operation, the entire waiting room filled up with Lakesiders.  I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved those people or how much they loved me.

As a side note, my dad was a Sunday School Rebel.  The wives and the husbands of my parents’ classes would meet together for a general assembly each week, to sing a few hymns, make announcements and pray together.  Then they’d divide up into several smaller, sexually-segregated groups to study the lesson in their quarterly.  Dad’s biblical curiosity dug deeper than the quarterly, so when a Bible scholar started a survey class, open to both men and women, Dad defected.  Mom didn’t approve.  She called the Bible Survey Class members kooks and weirdos. To hear her tell it, you’d think Jesus Christ Himself had ordained the Baptist Adult Quarterly.

A peek at Mom's Sunday School Class

A peek at Mom’s Sunday School Class

The 42 Group

By some sort of natural selection,  several of the Lakeside couples started a group which played 42 together once a month.  This started as a simple game of dominoes with a few snacks, but it didn’t stay that way.  It quickly morphed into elaborate table decorations and a three-course meal before the dominoes came out.

My Dad, the Sunday School Rebel, didn’t approve of the ordeal which this simple monthly game of dominoes turned into.  Probably none of the men did, but the women were in their glory.  To them, the annual assignment of homes for the get-togethers was more important than the Paris Peace Talks.  Popular assignments were February and October, because Valentines and Autumn Leaves were easy party themes.  Ending up with December was a fate worse than death.  Being the December hostess meant you had to decide which restaurant would win the honor of hosting the Christmas gala and you had to be sure your Christmas decor bested the previous year’s display.

There were unspoken, elaborate rules attached to the monthly game and as my parents aged the rules evolved.  Choosing a replacement couple for someone who was unable to attend in a given month was a monumental task, carefully discussed during multiple phone conversations.  The ladies also discussed how put upon they were by the necessity of finding another couple.  Hadn’t they been having this game on the second Friday night of the month for a long time?  How could the missing couple dare to put everyone through this ordeal?

Then there was the first couple to quit for medical reasons.  I heard much discussion about whether that had been a decision of necessity or convenience.  Another milestone was the first death.  Should widows be allowed to continue and who would serve as partners?  Every season of life brought its own challenges to the 42 Group and finally an end.

Most comical to me was the ride sharing.  As these dear ones aged, some of them weren’t getting around so well.  To complicate matters, while the group had started out in a close knit geographical area, over the years some of the couples moved.  The result was a flurry of monthly phone calls about who was going to ride with whom – and more than a few discussions about why anyone would move out of East Dallas.

Memories of these dear ones bring me both laughter and tears.  It seems impossible, but I couldn’t find a single shot of the 42 Group among Mom’s photos.  There were plenty of her friends from that monthly domino game and I have so many memories, but no photos.  So, you’ll have to use your imagination.

Come back next week and we’ll go to Padre Island with one of the 42 couples.

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Other Beaches Mom Didn’t Love

Except from my scrapbook

Except from my scrapbook

TRAVEL BUG TALES: MORE TEXAS BEACHES THAT DIDN’T CUT IT

In our efforts to find a beach my mom could love in Texas, we visited other beaches along the coast over the years.  While the Caves managed to have their usual good times, nothing could replace Myrtle Beach in Mom’s heart.

Corpus Christi

On another trip we went to Corpus Christi.  In its defense it’s only a bay behind a barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico, so it starts out with a handicap.  Like Galveston, the beach is on one side of the street and the hotels are on another.  For kids who grew up playing in the dunes along Myrtle Beach and Edisto Island on the Atlantic – well, it’s just not the same.  When we visited Corpus Christi we made a ferry trip to some island and visited something called Searama, but I think underwhelmed would be a good description of our reactions.

I do remember seeing families riding around in bicycle surreys and I thought that looked like a good time.  I guess it was a little out of my parent’s budget, because we didn’t do it.  In those years Mom was all about saving to buy a house, so we were quite economical.  Decades later I visited with Bill and he wasn’t too keen on the surreys either.  I guess I’m going to have to drag my bestie down there, because she’s always game for whatever I cook up.

The highlight of the trip with my parents was dinner at an ocean-side restaurant.  While I distinctly remember the delicious meal and panoramic views of a harbor, I can’t remember the name of the place and in later years I couldn’t find anything comparable.

Padre Island

I love Texas and I rarely tolerate anyone saying anything derogatory about it, but the fact of the matter is that it’s not a great state for beaches.  The East Coast has all those long, wide sandy beaches with pristine sand dunes.  The West Coast has the drama of rocky cliffs and haystacks in the water.  Then there’s Florida, which is just a strip of land with two coasts of gorgeous beaches and the marvel of the keys.  Even the Gulf Coast States have some pretty beaches with amazing seafood restaurants and other attractions, like golf courses to entertain the beach-goer.

Texas just doesn’t.  Padre is the prettiest beach in Texas I’ve been to, but it’s also a national seashore and that has curbed development.  You do get a lot of beach and pristine dunes, but good luck finding anything else.  To me beach means an early morning walk looking for shells followed by a hearty breakfast.  Then you do a little shopping, see a local attraction or play a little putt putt.  Lunch is something quick, because you’ll be in the water all afternoon.  The evening meal is a big deal.  Then it’s time for bed.

Looking for shells on Padre is a waste of time.  There’s nothing to do out there except the beach, so you have to give up a whole day of beach, if you want to visit civilization.  The few restaurants out there are mediocre.  Is there a beautiful beach?  Well, yes, but the truth of the matter is that the adult me is not as crazy about water and sand as my younger version.  Slathering on suncreen and getting caked-over by blowing sand, while my force of nature (my head of hair) goes wild, is just not one of my favorite experiences.  I can take about half an hour of that and I’m done.  Sitting by the pool is more pleasant and with a good book I can last an hour.

With that being said, my family did manage to have a pretty good time in Padre during Mom’s search for a Myrtle Beach replacement, so I’ll tell you about that next week.

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Chasing Castle Intell

cesky-krumlov-69TRAVEL THERE:  RESEARCHING CESKY KRUMLOV CASTLE

Our day in Cesky Krumlov was one I will long cherish, but Museum Girl was mad at me.  My faithful followers know me and they know that as much as I love to eat, I’m willing to miss a meal in order to visit a good museum (or castle or palace or abbey etc.)  I live for museums.  I have this ever-growing collection of historical and artistic items in my head and one of my main goals in life is to expand it.  On this particular day, I abandoned my prime directive and I’m glad I did, but Museum Girl is still a little miffed.

An Absence of Good Intell

Last week I complimented Viking on their ground game, but I was a little challenged by them on the planning end of things.  Because they know what they’re doing, they don’t spell everything out.  They know things happen when you’re traveling and they don’t want to spend their days making apologies to disgruntled passengers.

This lack of information is probably a blessing to most passengers.  My husband was completely content with the absence of logistical information, but I was a crazy person.  I’m driven by that museum in my head and I carefully curate what I’m going to see.  On this trip, to a certain extent, I had to just let go and follow the guy with red Viking sign.

So in Budapest, I had no clue what spa I’d be visiting until I got on the bus with my fluffy towel.  I’m convinced I was stuck on the castle AND walking tour in Bratislava because the walking-only tour was full.  (Yes, I should have spoken up, but didn’t.)  As I planned for my day in Vienna, discovering where we would dock was like searching for the Holy Grail and even when I got someone to tell me where they usually docked, they were careful to warn me things could change.

Finding out what we’d see of the castle in Krumlov was pretty much the same sort of thing.  The UNESCO website was great, but how Viking plugged into that opportunity was like diving down a black hole.

Bravo Senor Frog!

Bravo Senor Frog!

Kudos to Norwegian

Since I pretty much hated everything about my cruise on Norwegian Epic (except going with my bestie and the day we spent with Sunny Liston, which is still one of my best days EVER) I’m loathe to admit it, but I loved their website.  Well I didn’t love everything about it, because I had some navigation issues, but they did have a section of the site devoted to passengers sharing travel tips.  (Yes, I read them all.)

Norwegian disclaims in large letters these are experiences of past cruisers and things change on every cruise, but I gained great comfort from knowing what usually happened.  I’m well aware things can change (did I hear someone say Josay?), but I like to be ready for what is probably going to happen.  The internet allowed me to research everything about a destination, but Viking kept the details, of exactly what they’re going to show you, pretty close to their vest.

Come back next week and we’ll stroll through the castle grounds.

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