Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #18

This will be my first post from our most recent Viking River Cruise, “Rhine Getaway”. I can’t begin to tell you how awesome this trip was. We were treated like royalty, encountered wonderful architecture. learned a vast amount of history and almost couldn’t digest all the fantastic attributes of this recent journey abroad to Europe. Thankfully Viking was able to soothe our wounded frustrations after a beleaguered start. Our flight from DFW was delayed by mechanical issues and we arrived three hours late. It is wonderful to have a warm, damp washcloth handed to you as soon as you enter the Longship Eir and the wash away all your tiredness and dirt from traveling. Viking knows how to soothe life’s irritations.

 

Kinderdijk Windmill on a Cloudy Day

 

On our first day sailing after leaving Amsterdam we arrived in a small community of Kinderdijk, the Netherlands. Everyone knows the Netherlands is associated with windmills, but I had no idea of the complexity of their operations or that individuals still resided in some of them. It’s an unusual sight to see the inside of the windmills and how close quartered they are. One thing is for sure people who operate and live in the windmills have to be very dedicated. They are constantly on call for any and all wind! There were 19 windmills in this Unesco granted area, so designated in 1997. All were originally built in 1740. Imagine the weather and abuse these mills have undertaken and are still standing.

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #17

As we strolled around Castle Hill in Budapest Hungary on our tour with Viking River Cruises, we walked upon a Medieval Knight outside of a cafe. I couldn’t help but take a photo. The knight was next to several retail embroidery shops and shops filled with authentic Hungarian craft goods.  I found out later that there is a restaurant in Budapest named Sir Lancelot after a famous knight of King Arthur’s round table. When you enter the restaurant, it is as if you are transported to the medieval times. There is wonderful decoration, delicious medieval dishes, but the best part is nightly show with swordsmen, a fakir, a belly dancer, and much more.

 

Budapest Bar Knight

 

With stellar dishes like “Sir Lancelot feast”, “Red Knight feast”, “King Arthur feast”, “Blue Knight feast”, “Lady Melany feast”, “Lancelot’s Challange feast”, and the “Huntsman’s feast”, of course all meals are made to sufficiently stuff one’s belly! In addition there are ” Lord’s dishes” that are intended for multiple individuals and feast parties! I definitely think you won’t leave hungry!

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #16

As we rambled through the Christmas Market on a tour of Budapest with Viking River Cruises, we smelled delicious aromas and one of the items was Chimney Cakes, a kind of twisted Cinnamon Roll or curled donut, with various flavors added. The Hungarian name is Kurtoskalacs. They are made from a sweet, yeast dough of which a strip is spun around a truncated coned-shaped baking spit.

 

The dough is rolled in sugar and roasted over a charcoal fire as illustrated in the photo. They are basted with melted butter while the spit is turned and cooked until the cakes turn a golden brown. During the cooking or roasting process the sugar turns to caramel and forms a shiny crust. The glaze is then topped with additional toppings like ground walnuts and cinnamon.

 

Chimney Cakes Budapest

 

The origin of the name Chimney Cake refers to a stovepipe, since the fresh, steaming cake in the shape of a truncated cone, resembles a hot chimney. The first recorded mention was in about 1450 and is found in a manuscript by Heidelberg. It was described as a strip wound in a helix shape around a baking spit and brushed with egg yolk before baking. In the 16th century there were three varieties of this pastry with minimal variances in components and shape.

 

The Hungarian and Czech pastry were approximately the same and were described in the original cake above. The second type is a pastry made from batter belonging to the Lithuanian, Polish, French German, Austrian and Swedish populations.The third and final style was a continuous dough strip placed on a spit. In 1876 Aunt Rezi’s Cookbook was the first recipe that applies sprinkling sugar on kürtőskalács before baking to achieve a caramelized sugar glaze.

 

The present day baked item emerged in the first half of the 20th century. This included the use of ground, chopped or candied walnuts applied as an additional topping. As far as we know Pal Kovi’s cookbook Erdélyi lakoma (Transylvanian Feast), came out in 1980 and appears to be the first mention of applying this type of topping. At the end of the century a far reaching range of flavoring, cinnamon, coconut, cocoa, vanilla, etc. were toppings applied in addition to the nuts. The cakes have remained fairly stable since this. I can tell you, it is critical you buy one if given the chance. They are delicious and worth every penny!

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #15

We chose the three day extension in Prague on our cruise with Viking River Cruises and I can’t say we were disappointed. I fell head over hills with this charming eastern European city. The architecture is outstanding and beyond magnificent. The food although probably not the healthiest is very traditional and so tasty, including sausages, plenty of ghoulash and great cuts of meat, including fabulous lamb.

 

A friend of mine is currently staying at the Corinthia Hotel with Viking River Cruises, as I write this post. It flooded my brain with memories. Thank you Marilyn Jones of Traveling with Marilyn for reminding me of our Danube Waltz cruise. It was definitely a trip of a lifetime. As you just told me on Facebook (sorry, I had to throw that in) we both love Viking so much! Of course with their consistent 5-star service they make it easy.

 

Prague Taxi 2

 

One of the things I recognized right away was these antique replica cars that serve as Taxis in Prague. Regardless of the temperature people were delighted to jump in and cruise the city. I was flabbergasted that in the biting cold people were actually standing in line to ride in these taxis. They are facsimiles of vintage vehicles.

 

 

Prague Taxi 3

 

You can also hire a vintage touring Praga car with driver from the Prague Tours by Vintage Cars company. These vehicles used to belong to the upper-middle class in the years 1928–35. The autos have been well maintained and you receive a history lesson during the ride.

  • Tours Start: You can decide the meeting point and the time
  • Length: 1 hour
  • Models:
    • Praga Alfa, 1929 (3–4 persons)
    • Praha SAM, 2013 – copy of Praga Alfa (3–4 persons)
    • Praga AN 10, 1928 (8 persons with possibility to add two more seats)

 

Prague Taxi 4

 

Sadly I have to mention that the some of the taxi drivers in Prague are notorious for overcharging tourists. Tactics sketchy drivers use include quoting overly high prices, take long, scenic routes, use faulty meters, and demand higher fares than agreed upon at the end of the ride. If you get scammed by a deceitful driver, it’s safest to pay the cost and choose a reputable taxi company for your next ride. Occasionally, scam taxi drivers have been known to assault passengers who won’t pay their prices. Try and ensure you have an established rate or if you really need a taxi to get somewhere in the city it’s better to call one of the reputable companies.

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

 

 

 

 

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #14

On our first day in Budapest with Viking River Cruises, we were able to break free and shop on our own for a few hours. We found several items of note. The first and foremost retail philosophy was that all shopkeepers in Hungary have to deal in authentic merchandise, actually made in Hungary, contrary to other countries. In a great deal of places just when you think it was made in the city or country you are in, you turn it over and there is that huge sticker indicating it was made in China, Pakistan or who knows where. I have to admit it was refreshing.

 

There is a strict motivation to only display and sell authentic merchandise. If the authorities discover you are trying to pass items as “Made in Hungary” and they are actually from somewhere else the shopkeeper could lose their license and have to close their shop. That’s quite an incentative to not misrepresent products. I questioned an embroidery blouse and Kim assured me it was handmade by the seams and stitching. She sews and has for a long time so I am sure she was correct. One of the shops had several snack items and this 4 foot display of Paprika.

 

Hungarian Paprika Budapest

 

Paprika is a ground spice made from red air-dried fruits of the larger and sweeter varieties of the plant Capsicum annuum, called bell pepper or sweet pepper, sometimes with the addition of more aromatic or fiery types, namely Chili and Cayenne peppers. Although paprika is often linked to Hungarian foods, it originated in central Mexico and was brought to Spain in the 16th century. It came to Hungary under the Ottoman rule, but didn’t become popular in Hungary until the 19th century. Paprika can range in flavor from extremely hot to almost bland in taste.

 

Sweet paprika, the more common spice has more than half the seeds removed and hot paprika has seeds, stalks, sheath and husks all ground together. The Hungarian plant was brought by the Turks to Buda, now half Budapest the Capitol of Hungary, in 1529. The Central European paprika was hot until the 1920’s when a German breeder discovered a sweet fruit which he grafted to the other plants and developed the current paprika.

Hungary is a primary source for of common paprika these days but comes in various grades:

 

  • Noble sweet paprika – slightly pungent, bright red color, most commonly exported paprika
  • Special quality paprika – the mildest, a very deep bright red color
  • Delicate paprika  – a mild paprika with a rich flavor, light red to dark red
  • Exquisite delicate paprika  – similar to “Delicate”, but more pungent
  • Pungent exquisite delicate paprika  – an even more pungent version of delicate
  • Rose paprika – with a strong aroma and mild pungency, pale red color
  • Half-sweet paprika – a blend of mild and pungent paprikas; medium pungency
  • Strong paprika – the hottest paprika, light brown color

 

Who knew their were so many types of paprika or that there was such a history and assortment of colors and flavors!

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #13

One of the most memorable places visited on our Viking River Cruise was the Melk Abbey in Melk Austria. It was a rainy and miserable day and wasn’t pleasant until we entered the abbey. As we toured the Cathedral shown below it became quite obvious that this was a special tour and one that I would remember forever. The frescoes and the Monastery’s Church with the pulpit shown in my photo, was gorgeous in my mind. You see a great deal of churches across Europe, but I would have to say that the Melk Abbey has some of the most captivating and interesting art that I have seen. In addition if you like to read and are interested in books, especially rare publications Melk has a treasure trove.

 

The library was established in the twelfth century and contains 1,888 manuscripts, 750 books printed before 1500 (called incunabula), 1700 works from the sixteenth century, 4500 from the seventeenth century, 18,000 from the eighteenth century, with a total of around 100,000 volumes with the newer books are included. About 16,000 books are located in the main library room, which has the fresco by Paul Troger (1731/32) on the ceiling.

 

Melk Abbey

 

Melk Abbey is a Benedictine abbey above the town of Melk, Austria overlooking the Danube river and next to the Wachau valley. Several remains were placed in the abbey including Saint Coloman of Stockerau and members of the House of Babenberg, Austria’s first ruling dynasty. The abbey was founded in 1089, that means it’s over one thousand years old! The frescoes in the church were done by Johann Michael Rottmayr. I could have spent days and days viewing the original manuscripts housed in this aged repository. As it was rainy and freezing outside the regulated temperatures inside the abbey felt ideal.

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #12

During our Viking River Cruise we stopped in Bratislava, Slovakia. In the center of the city, near the Christmas Markets was this amazing building with wonderful architecture and ornate trim. It was the Slovakia National Theater and is the oldest professional theater in Slovakia, built in 1885-1886 during the time of Austria-Hungary. It was a Neo-Renaissance building based on a design by Viennese architects Fellner & Helmer, who designed theater buildings in 10 European countries. Its first performance was the opera “Bank ban” by Ferenc Erkel and is one of the most important Hungarian operas.

 

It is one of the most influential institutions in Slovakia and handles Opera, Drama and Ballet all in various productions. The historic building is located on Hviezdoslavovo Square. At the beginning of the new century the Brno Opera presented a wide cross-section through the Czech classical opera and, for the first time in Bratislava, Tchaikovski’s ’Eugen Onegin’ and ’The Queen of Spades’. In 1919 Bratislava became a part of the Czechoslovak Republic. In 1920 the professional Slovak National Theatre starts to work in the building of the City Theater. It has theater and opera companies. It starts its activities with the premiere of Smetana’s ’The Kiss’ on March 1, 1920.

 

Slovak National Theater in Bratislava

 

In the late 1800’s Bruno Walter gained experience here as a teacher. Born in Berlin he left Berlin in 1933 settling in the United States in 1939 and he became one of the great conductors of the 20th century with experience and holding major positions in the New York Philharmonic, Salzburg Festival, Vienna State Opera, Bavarian State Opera and the Deutsche Opera Berlin.

 

On 1 May 1979 a countrywide public anonymous competition was announced. On 25 February 1980 the 1st prize was given to the design by architects Peter Bauer, Martin Kusý and Pavol Paňák. Construction work started in 1986, although it ran into a multitude of delays owing to Government financial problems. An idea for the government to sell the building was overturned and the building was finally finished in 2008. The interior architects were Eduard Sutek and Alexandra Kusa. The structure holds 1700 seats on three different levels. Bratislava native sculptor Viktor Oskar Tilgner crafted the famous Ganymede’s Fountain in 1888, now located immediately in front of the theater, shown partially in my photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #11

We had an early start from the ship and after a fairly long bus ride, we arrived in Salzburg and started our walking tour through this fabulous historic city. Along the way we encountered the Bristol Hotel. There are approximately 200 hotels around the world with the name Bristol. Some are extravagantly decorated and some are average. The hotel first associated with Bristol name was the Place Vendome in Paris. It closed and a Hotel Le Bristol Paris opened in close proximity to the original. It’s currently located near Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore’ and is one of Paris’ 5-star hotels.

 

The Hotel Bristol in Salzburg was constructed originally in 1619 with Archbishop Paris Lodron planting the first block of it’s foundation. After it was completed it served as the residence of many noble families. Over the centuries it was redone by several individuals until it attained it’s present design in the 19th century. In the 1890’s the hotel was taken over by the city of Salzburg and was supplied with electricity. The hotel became known as the “Electric Hotel” and helped supply electricity to a portion of Old Quarter.

 

 

Bristol Hotel, Salzburg Austria

 

Over the years many movie stars, government officials and illustrious men and women have stayed at this hotel. Approximately 74 years ago the Hubner family assumed custody of the hotel and it is run by their third generation today. One of a very few privately held hotels in Salzburg under their exclusive management.

 

Most people are reminded of the movie “The Sound of Music”, a story about the Von Trapp Austrian family when they hear Salzburg. It was filmed in distinct locations around the city including the Mirabell Palace and Gardens and St. Peters Monastery, Cementary and Catacombs, along with the Leopoldskron Palace. The cast and ensemble all stayed at the Bristol Hotel during the filming in 1965, in Mozart’s home town!

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #10

Our last day on the Danube was in Passau Germany. It was a cool day and I was the only individual interested in this view. I went up to the top deck to explore and to see the various perspectives of Passau. It’s a quaint, beautiful little German city with beautiful architecture and is known as the three rivers city. The Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers all converge on this town located on the Austrian border.  It’s overlooked by the Veste Oberhaus, a 13th-century hilltop fortress housing a city museum and observation tower. It is also the home of St. Stephens Cathedral featuring onion-domed towers and an organ with 17,974 pipes. It’s a must see if you visit Passau.

 

Viking Longship Modi

 

All longships in the Viking River fleet have this wonderful deck on top of their ships. When the weather is nice one can sit on this deck and catch the sun rays. Viking also grows spices and other edible flowers, etcetera, if the weather allows, that they use in their meals. It is set up where one can walk around or jog if it’s not crowded to get a little exercise. I chose to use it to view the different locks we went through at times, even though most were after dark. The pilot cabin is constructed on a lift and can be lowered at certain bridges that require a lower passage. I would urge you to venture up to this deck as it can’t be more than 3 floors above your cabin. I love Viking River Cruises and you owe it to yourself to venture out on one of their river cruises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #9

The first day in Budapest we had a tour that covered both sides of the Danube River with Buda being the hilly side. It has “Old Town” with Fisherman’s Bastion, Halászbástya, a terrace above the Danube constructed in a neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style. It is located near Matthias Church which is a gorgeous 14th century cathedral, named after King Matthias. The portals of the Bastion offer stunning views of Pest, including the Hungarian Parliament building. I would definitely advise taking a bus up the hill as it proves very challenging on foot.

 

 

In the middle of Fisherman’s Bastion is a large statue of Saint Istvan, who was the first King of Hungary from December 25, 1000 and was crowned with a crown sent by Pope Sylvester II. In his later years he staved off considerable attempts to gain his throne. Near the end of this period he conquered the armies of Conrad II, who was a Holy Roman Emperor in 1030. He preserved his kingdom during his reign that he established until 1038 when he passed away. His death caused civil wars that went on for many years, several decades in length. He was the first member of his family to become a devout Christian and sadly outlived all his children. I love Budapest and it is now one of my favorite cities in the world.

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #8

Our three day extension in Prague after our Viking River Cruise on the Danube River was terrific and we saw a beautiful municipality, which is now one of my favorite cities in the world. On our way to the John Lennon wall one day we came upon this magnificent architectural phenomenon. It really captured my sense of bygone days. There were all sorts of crafts, jewelry and art being sold along the bridge. The statues and sculptures were fantastic located all along the bridge. On our way back we ran into a music group playing some kind of music that made me grab Kim and start dancing to the glee of everyone on the bridge and the group of musicians. It seemed like the thing to do. I seriously think the crowd loved it and we received great applause. Well maybe it was only one or two that clapped.

 

The Charles Bridge is a historic structure that crosses the Vitava river in Prague, Czech Republic. Actual work began in 1357 during the reign of King Charles IV and was completed in the early 1600’s. Initially it was called the Stone Bridge or just the Prague Bridge. In the late 1800’s it became known as the Charles Bridge, I’m guessing after King Charles who was in power when the construction began. Until 1841 it was the only passage across the Vitava river and was the exclusive connection between Prague Castle and Old Town Prague. It significantly increased land transit between eastern and western Europe.

 

 

Old Town Bridge Tower

 

The bridge is 2037 feet long and 33 feet wide. It was defined as a Bow Bridge, as the architecture resembled a bow. In addition it was a mirror of the Stone Bridge in Regensburg Germany. There are three towers, one on the Old Town side entrance and two on the Prague Castle side. There are 30 statues which were built close to 1700 in a Baroque style. They are all replicas now and have all been replaced with fabrications of the originals. This tower is considered by many to be one of the most astounding samples of Gothic style construction in the world.

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #7

 

I haven’t kept up with my Photo of the Day series lately and have had a few medical issues, a first grandson born, with a trip to Japan to see the little guy and I thought it was time to get back in the saddle so to say and start producing again. I love Viking River Cruises and can’t talk enough about this great company. Their service, staff, tour guides, on-board staff and food is without reproach IMHO! So without any further adieu here we go with another Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day.

 

Szechenyi Chain Bridge

 

The Szechenyi Chain Bridge is a suspension bridge that spans the Danube river in Budapest Hungary. It separates the the two cities of Budapest with Buda on the west side and Pest on the east side. It is one of the most photographed bridges to my knowledge in Europe and perhaps the world. It is located on the Buda side near Gresham Palace and on the Pest side near the Castle Hill Funicular that leads to Buda Castle.

 

It is constructed of cast wrought iron and stone. At a length of 1,230 feet, a width of 49 feet it remained in place until World War II. When the Germans retreated they blew it up on January 18, 1945. Only the towers remained. The bridge was rebuilt and reopened in 1949, one hundred years from it’s original opening.

 

The bridge is was designed by William Tierney Clark in 1839. It was a replica of sorts of Tierney’s earlier Marlow Bridge that spanned the River Thames in Marlow England. It was the first permanent bridge in the Hungarian Capital when it opened in 1849, directly following the Hungarian Revolution.

 

A few cool facts in regard to the bridge’s popularity. A Hungarian stunt pilot actually flew upside down under the bridge in 2001. The stunt has become a habit in the Red Bull Air Races of today. It is featured in the following movies, I Spy, Au Pair, Walking with the Enemy, and several other generic Spy movies. Katy Perry uses it in her music video “Firework”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #6

We left Bratislava and sailed over night to Vienna with Viking River Cruises. Not knowing how much of a full day we had in front of us we hopped the tour bus early dockside and began our tour of the wonderful tour of the city. We drove by many an architectural wonder and it was difficult at best to take photos through the bus windows. It seemed I was always on the wrong side. Our first stop was the Hofburg Palace, the former imperial palace, in the center of the city. Built in the 13th century it now is the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria.

 

Hofburg Palace Trim in Vienna

Hofburg Palace Trim in Vienna

 

After we entered the main gates we came upon a central portion of the palace adorned with magnificent statues and artwork. I took the liberty of showing a broader perspective in the top photo and a close up of a particular area of the roof. It was a very dramatic statement and I took hundreds of photos of just the various trim and  artwork adorning the palace walls. This one stood out with it’s ornate characters and the gold seal. The palace housed some of the most powerful people in Austrian history, including monarchs of the Habsburg dynasty and rulers of the Astro-Hunagarian Empire.

 

 

Close Up of Hofburg Palace Trim in Vienna

Close Up of Hofburg Palace Trim in Vienna

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #5

On our cruise with Viking River Cruises in December we extended our 8 day trip on the Danube and added the three day extension to Prague. Everyone raved and raved about this fabulous city and I will tell you they were correct. I now have another “favorite city” in the world. One of the attractions is the Prague Castle, which is a huge complex. As you enter there are Castle Guards on both sides of the main entrance. The Guard is composed of a brigade of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic who serve the President of the Czech Republic, as a security force and provide honor guards and take part in ceremonial functions. The guards are changed every hour from 7:00 AM daily. If you plan it you can see the “Changing the Guard” ceremony daily. The current Guard Commander is Radim Studeny.

 

 

Prague Castle Guard #1

Prague Castle Guard #1

 

Prague Castle is a huge complex and is the largest ancient castle in the world. It occupies almost 70,000 square meters. It is about 570 meters long and 130 meters wide. It dates from the 9th century and is the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic, who currently is Milos Zeman. The castle was opened in 870 AD and has a blend of Renaissance architecture, Baroque, Mannerist style, Mannerism, Gothic architecture combined in the Castle complex. A fun fact, Prague Castle is the location in the second level of “Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb” video game.

 

 

Prague Castle Guard #2

Prague Castle Guard #2

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #4

While on our first morning tour with Viking River Cruises in Budapest, we stumbled upon this statue of one of Hungary’s military heroes. They have many, as they have been in a great deal of battles over the centuries and have lost a good amount of soldiers. This statue is of the Count Hadik Andras de Futak, a field marshall of the Habsburg army. In addition, as a result of his heroics during battle he served as the Governor of Galicia and Lodomeria from January 1774 until June of 1776. He was a brilliant tactician and was known for his “Small War Tactics”, relying on the excellent training of his light cavalry hussars. His most famous action was swinging around the Prussians and taking their capital Berlin during the Seven Years War (1756-1763). The “Slovak National Academy of Defense” bears his name currently.

 

Count Hadik Andras de Futak Nobleman

Count Hadik Andras de Futak Nobleman

 

As we approached the statue my wife told me the grass you can see on either side was fake as it was so green in the middle of winter. I told her that was a good assessment, as there was no way it was real with the continual freezing weather. Earlier in the morning I thought we saw Lily Tomlin in a coffee shop and I was mistaken. It was just someone who took after her. In this case we were just as wrong. It was real grass. I can only guess they have a crew that covers the grass every cold spell and removes the cover as the temperatures rise. We were just a little taken back to say the least! The grass was as natural as the flowers surrounding the statue!

 

 

Count Hadik Andras de Futak Nobleman

Count Hadik Andras de Futak Nobleman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #3

Bratislava is the Capitol of the young country of Slovakia formed in 1993 after 41 years of Russian rule. Prior to this it was part of Communist Czechoslovakia from 1948 until 1989 when the country split into two separate governing bodies and countries. Slovakia became a member of the European Union in March of 2004 and in January of 2009 adopted the Euro as its currency. It was our second stop on our Danube Waltz Cruise with Viking River Cruises.

 

Memorial for the Red Army Liberators. There Were 6,845 Slavin Men Who Died Fighting the Nazis.

Memorial for the Red Army Liberators. There Were 6,845 Soviet Men Who Died Fighting the Nazis.

 

The fortitude and resolve this country has displayed over the years is amazing and thousands and thousands of people have been displaced throughout the ages by the various regimes. During World War II between 75,000 and 105,000 Slovakian Jews were murdered. Thankfully the German rule was brief and the Soviet and Romanian armies conquered the Nazis. This led to the deportation of 80,000 Hungarians and 32,000 Germans. This country is very challenged economically, but has started making headway, by producing Czech automobiles in an agreement with the Czech Republic, the other portion of the original Czechoslovakia. They have a great outlook and I predict they will rise above their current situation.

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #2

One of the primary reasons we chose the Danube Waltz River Cruise from Viking, was the plethora of Christmas Markets, which is a “street market associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of advent. The history of the markets goes back to the Late Middle Ages in the German-speaking part of Europe. The Vienna “December Market” was a kind of forerunner of the Christmas Market and dates back to 1294.”** We couldn’t get enough and hit every market we could!

 

Some cities had several markets and the majority of the markets were a collection of booths with massive quantities of regional food specialties, including Bratwurst, Chimney cakes, a rolled light dough cooked over open fire with assorted toppings, cookies (Macarons were my favorite) and candy. Beverages flowed, particularly(“Gluhwein-a hot mulled wine”) coffee, tea and beer. Additionally assorted crafts, soaps, ceramics, ornaments and decorations for one’s Christmas tree were available, jewelry, pomanders and potpourri. One could spend an entire day shopping and deciding what trinket or quality creation they would take home. We told ourselves we would display self control before we left, but wound up having to purchase an additional suitcase for all the items purchased.

 

 

This photo is of the beautiful St. Stephens Basilica in Budapest and was taken the first night we were there. It gives you a taste of how crowded the markets were and notice the coats and mufflers worn by all. If the wind was blowing directly after sunset, it was very and felt like at times the wind was slicing through your coat. Enjoy!

 

 

 

St. Stephen's Basilica

St. Stephen’s Basilica

 

 

** Description from Christmas market -Wikipedia

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #1

 

As I barrel towards the sunset, my body reminds me daily of the aging process I am facing head on. There are days I spring out of bed (just kidding, I don’t think that has actually transpired in decades!) and hit the ground running (LOL, not in twenty years have I run, except my cardiac stress test every three years). Other days it is hard to find the floor as I roll out of the bed.

 

 

The older I get, the more I treasure the little things in life, like two days ago when our youngest son Chris was in town and decided to stop by to ask me to go to lunch. Of course I had already eaten (just my luck) and had an appointment I couldn’t miss, so we only got to see each other for a few minutes and he left. That made my day and put me on cloud nine (translation from Texan, “very happy”). The good news is he was able to eat with his Mother and see her briefly before going back to Dallas.

 

Viking Longship Modi

Viking Longship Modi

 

My first photo is a picture of the Longship Modi, the wonderful accommodation on our first cruise with Viking. This photo shows a portion of the famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge in Budapest, Hungary, directly behind the longship. The Modi was built recently and we thought it was grand 5-star lodging. Our stateroom was very comfortable and actually larger than I expected, with a nice balcony to drink morning coffee on. We would take another cruise in a heart beat.

 

There is a saying “Some days you eat the bear and some days the bear eats you”! I love this for some odd reason and it’s my perspective on life. The other day, with seeing my son, I definitely “ate the bear”! After Chris left I started thinking of ways to write more, as some of you may or may  not know, writing doesn’t always pour out of your brain. There are days it flows smoothly, days it’s like a raging river pouring out by the gallon and days where no matter how hard you put forth the effort, nothing comes out and it’s like you have two blocks of concrete tied to your feet and being pushed overboard. Basically no matter how hard you try or what amount of effort you put forth, nothing comes out!

 

 

The third scenario has been commonplace recently. Then I thought about a series I had earlier in my career, called “Photo of the Day #???” This series motivated me to write more often and put forth effort with writing, centered around the photo I chose for the day. I checked back and I was at Photo of the Day #79. Then I thought about the hundreds, maybe thousands of photos I took on our Viking River Cruise in December. Why not do a feature series of the various photos I took in Europe? So I am starting a new series as of today with hopefully a photo daily, maybe more than one and if I get tied up with the concrete blocks I may miss a day or two.

 

 

Most days the verbiage will be less than today, but the photos will be original. I realize how fortunate Kim and I were and there are some readers that will never get the opportunity to take a trip with Viking River Cruises. Hopefully by sharing photos it will give you a minute taste of river cruises. Consequently, I am sharing photos with you from our experience and I sincerely hope you enjoy! Thank you and be kind to each other!

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Photo of The Day #79, Boar’s Head Chipolte Gouda Cheese

I absolutely love cheese of all kinds. One of my favorite cheeses is Gouda, a mild solid cheese full of flavor. Being from Texas I always use whole peppers of all kinds including dried Chipolte peppers when I cook. I add them and dried adobe peppers to enchiladas and other Mexican foods I cook at home.

 

Recently I have started purchasing several items from the fresh deli at our local HEB grocery store, a chain based in San Antonio with excellent prices and products. HEB carries store brand and Boar’s Head products both. The Boar’s Head items stand out far and above the HEB items in flavor and taste. The HEB items have the best prices.

 

Boar's Head Chipolte Gouda Cheese

Boar’s Head Chipolte Gouda Cheese

 

About four months ago I noticed that the deli was carrying a new cheese and they always allow you to sample the products, before you buy them. It was Chipolte Gouda Cheese and you could see the chopped up Chipolte peppers throughout the cheese. I knew I had to try it. OMG it was good and now I am addicted to it.

 

 

I always buy a pound or two when I go shopping. It is good with the Buffalo Spicy Chicken, Ham, Roast Beef or just about any kind of meat available. If this is an option at your local deli, I highly recommend you buy a little and try it! I promise you will like it, if you favor spicy foods!

 

 

Photo of The Day #78, My Special Pedicure at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

I am very fond of pedicures and having my feet massaged. When given the Spa menu at the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat I opted for a pedicure, as opposed to a massage. Over the prior week I had received two wonderful Thai massages. One massage was in Bangkok and the other one in Phuket, so I decided I would go for a change of pace. I made my reservation and went to spa a few minutes prior to my pedicure. The waiting room was filled with deep cushioned chairs and lounges and I thought, given a few minutes I might just doze off.

 

Entrance to The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

Entrance to The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

 

The attendants let me know that I would have a session in their Antioxidant room prior to the pedicure. When I inquired what that meant, they led me in and had me lay prone on a mat and relax. Almost immediately the room was filled with a very warm blast of air and I felt like I was in a sauna. The attendant informed me that my session, which would basically eliminate toxins from my entire body, was to last fifteen minutes. After what seemed an eternity, and an inability to breathe I got up and decided I had to leave the room and grab a few whiffs of oxygen. Once I was outside I discovered I had only been in the room for right at five minutes. I cannot understand how anyone could last the full fifteen minutes.

 

Antioxidant Room at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

Antioxidant Room at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

 

I was then lead into the pedicure room by the attendant scheduled to perform my pedicure and she began the process. I interviewed the young lady, as she began the procedure and I discovered that she was from India, a graduate of business school and was at the Banjaran to learn how to run a spa. Her dream was to return to India and open her own spa, after absorbing everything she could at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat. I inquired how they interviewed her and she stated by a Google Hangout. I thought that was very cool, given we conduct a Google+ Hangout almost weekly with our son in Japan. I love the process. Obviously they thought she was what they needed, as she was hired and given two weeks to move to Ipoh Malaysia, where the spa is located.

 

 

The Pedicure Room for the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

The Pedicure Room for the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

 

My pedicure was to last one hour, but it turned out I was in the room for 90 minutes, as we talked about her dream and my travel blogger business. I was amazed to learn that she was fluent in four languages. She was a very intelligent, extroverted young lady and I could tell she would achieve her dream and have that spa one day. I believe this with all my heart. She was well versed in customer service attributes and was learning the details of all the spa processes. I wish her the best of luck and need to thank her publicly, for what turned out to be the best pedicure I have ever had. If she continues down this path, learning all the other spa treatments, her spa in India will be very successful and profitable.

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

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