TRAVEL THERE: SOME PLACES SEEM FURTHER AWAY THAN THEY ACTUALLY ARE
“Go” is an important word in my vocabulary. Whatever the destination, I want to go. I want to go to Tucumcari and Timbuktu. I want to go on safari and I want to go shopping. I want to go on a boat and in a plane. However, I confess, given the option, I’ll go for the exotic every time. Maybe not the inconvenient and uncomfortable, but exotic? I’m all over it.
That’s how I ended up on a cruise visiting Budapest, Bratislava and Cesky Krumlov. These aren’t cities the majority of American travelers visit, so they were ever so much more interesting to me. I was particularly interested in Cesky Krumlov.
I Remember Czechoslovakia
Though there is nothing new under the sun, this old world has changed a lot since I was a kid. I grew up thinking of gray-suited Soviet bureaucrats, each with a finger on the nuclear red button, as the bad guys. Nowadays the bad guys wear turbans and are more likely to have dirty bombs than an ICBM. I also grew up with a country named Czechoslovakia being mentioned on the nightly news. That’s back when a guy in Poland, named Lech Wałęsa, was causing a lot of headaches for those guys with the red button.
In my twenties I was a regular visitor to West TX on Labor Day. This charming little town, which is actually in Central TX, has a festival that celebrates all things Czech – especially kolaches and polka music. I crushed on one of the local folk dancers, lived from year to year with dreams of potato pancakes with brats and thought Brave Combo was one of the coolest bands ever. (I’m over my crush, but I still love Brave Combo. I still love the kolaches, too, but rarely allow myself the indulgence.)
When I first read Viking’s Danube Waltz itinerary, the inclusion of the Czech Republic gave me pause. The last time I checked, the Danube didn’t visit
Czechoslovakia the Czech Republic. Closer inspection revealed Cesky Krumlov would be reached by a bus trip from the dock in Linz. That made more sense.
Perhaps exotic is not your thing. If so, Viking has you covered. If bus trips don’t do it for you, then cruisers are welcome to enjoy a walking tour in Linz. I must warn you however, if you take the walking tour, someone could get a picture of you on this obnoxious yellow tram. I think it’s important for you to realize this. The memory stick of photos we purchased on the cruise included a series of these tram pictures, some of them with close-ups. Tourists beware!
If bus trips aren’t your problem, but you’ve never wandered around Austria, then there’s a shore excursion touring the countryside around Linz and I would heartily recommend it. Austria is gorgeous, especially when you get away from the big cities and wander the verdant farmlands dotted with small towns and onion-domed churches. Having had the opportunity to do that, I knew I had to hit Cesky Krumlov. On the other hand, having wandered the verdant farmlands dotted with small towns and onion-domed churches, it was very tempting to enjoy it again.
Let me tell you about the third option which was enjoyed by a number of my fellow cruisers. I think they are crazy, but perhaps you’ll like their option. We were on the boat with people who never never disembarked between the embarkation in Budapest and the final destination. One of them was a delightful lady in a wheelchair and I got her. She had no desire to maneuver her very cool motorized wheelchair through the streets of Europe, but she was so happy for her husband to have the opportunity. She was petted and cooed over by the staff, and it was apparent she was thoroughly enjoying herself.
But she wasn’t alone with the crew on the boat during the day and the rest of her tribe wasn’t wheelchair-bound. They just didn’t like all that shore excursion stuff. They were having the time of their lives. They’d gaily wave adios to their disembarking traveling companions in the morning and I have no idea how they occupied themselves while we were gone, but come lunch time they had the best seats in the dining room all filled up. If there were afternoon shore excursions, they’d repeat the fond farewell of the morning and when we came back in the evening, they staked out the Aquivit Terrace as their own. Fat chance having a drink on the bow if you didn’t have friends among the these shore excursion dropouts.
So, let me urge you, if your significant other is just dying to go on a cruise and the thought of enduring days and days of shore excursions makes you a little crazy, so ahead and go on a cruise. You can go on a cruise, never leave the boat, and still have a great time. Your cruise-loving companion will love you for it.
Well, we didn’t quite get to Cesky Krumlov, so I guess you’ll just have to come back next week. See you then!