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.

Lewis N. Clark Travel Gear #3

I’m guessing that readers are probably growing weary of me commenting on items sent for trial by Lewis N. Clark. So this time I asked my family to choose items they thought they would use and send me their thoughts after trying out the products. I wanted to see if they arrived at the same conclusions I did with these travel items.

 

The first item tried out was this Secura RFID-Blocking Anti-Theft Convertipak (Burgandy) for my wife Kim. We recently traveled to Japan and all I can say is she wore this Convertipak every day and in various ways. I thought it was magnetized to her, literally! I have shown two different methods of wearing the Convertipak and will share her words in between photos.

 

Secura RFID-Blocking Anti-Theft Convertipak (Burgandy)

 

My wife’s thoughts: “The trendy burgundy color of my convertipack makes it perfect for daily use as well as traveling. For everyday use I am able to fit the entire contents of my purse, wallet, glass case and all into the anti theft bag. With everything secure inside zippered compartments I don’t worry about items falling out of my bag if it gets knocked over. When traveling I don’t carry a wallet and find the 4 card pockets perfect for my needs. My IPad fits great in large pocket. I love how quickly it can change from a backpack to a shoulder bag. I usually carry crossbody bags when traveling but with locking zippers and slash resistant straps/fabric I don’t not worry about using this bag as a backpack.”

 

 

My middle son Sean put his  “Cooling Gel Memory Foam Neck Pillow, Black” on his roommate and hoodwinked into a photograph. Sean has used it on several flights, including going to Vieques, an island off of Puerto Rico and his trip to Vegas this past weekend. He absolutely loves it. His thoughts: “Great product for flights or travel in general.  The first 30 minutes it was around my neck it did exactly what the name suggests, it felt cool to the skin.  After a good bit of time the cooling feature seemed to diminish but the pillow is one of the most comfortable neck pillows I’ve had the pleasure of using.” Thanks Josh Borchardt for posing!

 

Cooling Gel Memory Foam Neck Pillow, Black

 

Our youngest son Chris has a boat and chose waterproof items or something that works well around water. His first item is a Waterseals Waterproof Hard Case, Large in the color Blue. His thoughts after taking the hard case out is between the two photos:

 

Waterseals Waterproof Hard Case, Large, Blue

 

“This product does everything that it is supposed to. I was able to keep my phone and my wallet inside the case without any water getting into it and the closing latch is very easy to work. I used this product on a jet ski where there was quite a bit of water getting everywhere. The case also proved to be durable enough to withstand the beating it took while jumping waves and turning sharply. One of my favorite features of this case is the removable rubber padding that comes with it that allows for the internal valuables to be a bit more protected from the hard plastic.”

 

Waterseals Waterproof Hard Case, Large, Blue

 

WaterSeals Magnetic Waterproof Tablet Pouch- I was a little hesitant to place my belongings under water in this case when I first received it because there is not a “clasp” of any type on the product. As soon as got a chance to have the product in my hands my mind was immediately changed. The magnets work great! I spent more time than I would like to admit trying to figure out how something like this was so functional. The magnets work so well that you basically don’t have to do anything to seal the case. Just drop your valuables in the bag, let go of the magnets and this pouch will immediately seal itself. Another positive attribute of this pouch is that you can actually use your phone/tablet through the case so you do not need to open it with wet/dirty hands. I use this product on a jet ski so it is always risky business to be taking anything out of a bag while in the middle of a body of water. This has become a permanent addition to my trips the the lake!

 

Waterseals Magnetic Waterproof Mini Tablet Pouch, Yellow

 

So as you can tell my family’s opinion fairly well coincides with mine. Lewis N. Clark makes dependable, well thought out travel accessories and I recommend you take a look at their products. They are useful and provide security with their RFID function and secure agendas.

 

 

***All products were sponsored by Lewis N. Clark for testing and review. All opinions are as always, those of my family and my own.

Mardi Gras at the Beach!

 

If you aren’t aware we have a great Mardis Gras in Galveston Texas. I was lucky enough to participate in the first ever revived Mardis Gras parade in 1985! Believe me it was one wild night. My wife and I were on one of the first floats, trying to toss beads. Needless to say there was plenty of fun for everyone! This is the “Press Release” from my friends at the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau:

 

Galveston Logo

 

GALVESTON ISLAND, TEXAS

3rd Largest Mardi Gras Celebration in U.S. Offers Beachfront Revelry on the Texas Coast

 

GALVESTON ISLAND, TEXAS (December 1, 2016) – If you’re looking for a unique Mardi Gras experience in 2017, grab some beads and hit the beach.

 

Mardi Gras! Galveston, the third largest Mardi Gras celebration in the United States, offers the unique chance to experience sand between your toes and gorgeous beach sunsets while taking in the revelry and lavish parades known to dominate Galveston Island during carnival season.

 

The island’s 106th Mardi Gras celebration, to be held February 17-28, 2017, is expected to draw more than 350,000 attendees for 30+ concerts, 24 parades, 20 balcony parties and several elegant balls. And, this island-style Mardi Gras has plenty of personality. Find your Mardi Gras style with these highlights:

 

The island’s 106th Mardi Gras celebration, to be held February 17-28, 2017, is expected to draw more than 350,000 attendees for 30+ concerts, 24 parades, 20 balcony parties and several elegant balls. And, this island-style Mardi Gras has plenty of personality. Find your Mardi Gras style with these highlights:

 

  • Classic Revelry – Galveston’s historic downtown entertainment district will put you in the center of classic Mardi Gras revelry complete with big crowds and plenty of beads. Nearly all parades go through downtown, where you can enjoy the view from the street or from above at a balcony party. Main concert stages are also located downtown, where the event’s headline performances will take place. The festival’s largest parades also run along the beachfront on Seawall Boulevard. New in 2017, Mardi Gras! Galveston will host the Krewe of Olympus Parade Feb. 17 supporting the LGBT community. On Sunday, Feb. 19, the event will include “A Salute to Tejano Music,” featuring live Tejano entertainment, two parades and other festivities.

 

  • Upscale Mardi Gras – If you’re looking to catch any of the colorful beads to be thrown from parade floats and downtown balconies, you don’t have to stand in the streets to do it. Mardi Gras! Galveston’s elegant side will feature several masked balls where black-tie attire, lavish buffets, live performers, dancing and parade viewing invoke the evening festivities. Popular events include the San Luis Salute hosted by Tilman and Paige Fertitta and The Tremont House’s A&M Mardi Gras Parade Viewing Party.

 

  • Family Gras – Sunday, Feb. 26 is Family Gras at Mardi Gras! Galveston, featuring live family entertainment, kids parades, a kids coloring contest and more. Donations will be taken at the gate to benefit The Sunshine Kids and Shriners Hospitals for Children. Highlights for the day include the Krewe of Barkus & Meoux pet parade and Mardi Gras Children’s Parade on among other events.

 

  • Electric Mardi Gras – Electric Mardi Gras will return in 2017 with a special concert area at 21st and Mechanic streets in downtown Galveston. This area will provide one big party for lovers of electronic dance music, with continuous concerts, beat-thumping DJs and laser light shows on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the celebration. Headliners in 2017 will include Bright Lights and Tropkillaz.

 

Tickets to Mardi Gras! Galveston are now on sale. For details, visit www.mardigrasgalveston.com.

 

About Mardi Gras! Galveston

 

Mardi Gras, the traditional festival of feasting and merrymaking that precedes the season of Lent, was first publicly observed on Galveston Island in 1867. Following a sabbatical imposed in 1941 by war and challenging times, Mardi Gras! Galveston was revived in 1985 by Galveston-born preservationist and developer George P. Mitchell. The largest celebration of its kind in Texas and the third largest in the nation, Mardi Gras! Galveston brings the island’s streets to life with parade viewers shouting for beads, lively tunes played by the colorful marching bands, and the infectious merriment that dominates the island for two full weeks.

Lewis N. Clark Travel Gear #2

I am lucky enough again to be testing several travel products from Lewis N Clark. I am very happy that they have decided to work with me and allow me to test products they produce primarily for traveling and the outdoors. As in my last post on their products, I will be open and forthright in regards to my impressions.

 

My first item is a pair of flight compression socks to keep my legs from swelling on long International flights. They are intended to help prevent deep vein thrombosis. I received a size medium, as I wear a size 9 men’s shoe and it says men’s 6-9 shoe. This was actually a little too tight for my extra large calves and I should have asked for a large. On the positive side my wife loves them and wears them constantly. So if you order these just make sure you take your calf size into consideration.

 

 

Flight Socks

Flight Socks

 

 

The next item shipped was a three pack of compression packers which are ideal for travel and storage of bulky items, like sweaters. The compression works best when you roll the air out, rather than folding the bags. They are great if you have additional items you are packing for and extended trip or if your trip requires several dress options. The sizes in the 3-pack set includes one of each of the following: Small: 20in x 14in, Medium: 23in x 16in, Large: 28in x 18in.

 

To unseal the bags just pull open the zipper from the middle. Additionally they work well for wet clothing that you do not want soiling the other clothes. They are completely reusable and protect against dust, bugs and weather. Definitely a thumbs up for the compression packers.

 

 

20160811_104854-blog

 

 

My next item is another hanging toiletry kit, with a different type of layout and material. Features water-resistant TPU and mesh compartments to accommodate a variety of toiletries. This brushed twill hanging toiletry kit fits anything from contact lenses and hand wipes to lotion and lip balm. It contains many zippered compartments on the interior and exterior both. It has elastic straps to hold items and has a metal hanger that fits most towel bars and knobs.

 

 

Hanging Toiletry Kit

Hanging Toiletry Kit

 

It zips completely closed and if truth be known, I use it daily to go to the gym as a man purse to hold my wallet, keys, smartphone and everything else I would ordinarily carry in my pants pockets. I love it and trust me it travels well when you use it for a toiletry kit. It’s very compact. It only weighs 6 ounces prior to placing items in the kit. The exterior is a brushed twill.

 

 

Closed Hanging Toiletry Kit

Closed Hanging Toiletry Kit

 

The last item is one that I use daily and is such a convenience. Most of the adapter plugs I have bought and used were a bulky, hard to carry unit and barely fit in my backpack pocket. This adapter kit is small and has every type of plug used around the world. It’s so fantastic and even I can align the various plugs so that they fit into the carrying case, which is only 2in x 3.5in x 2.5in. It weighs 6 ounces and is light as a feather in my opinion. I love this item.

 

Adapter Plug Kit with Dual USB Charger

Adapter Plug Kit with Dual USB Charger

 

The photo above displays all the various plugs which will work in more than 175 countries, including most parts of Africa, Asia, Europe (both standard and recessed outlets), the Middle East, New Zealand, North America, and Russia. Here’s my favorite factor about the kit. It has two USB ports for charging everything from your laptop to your phone to your MP3 player. This sold it for me. I am constantly using this feature at home and while traveling.

 

 

Adapter Plug Kit with Dual USB Charger with 2 USB Ports

Adapter Plug Kit with Dual USB Charger with 2 USB Ports

 

 

 

***All products were sponsored by Lewis N. Clark for testing and review. All opinions are as always, 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.

Liberty Hall, Tyler Texas, Part Two

On December 3, 2015 I wrote my first blog post on Liberty Hall in Tyler Texas, an intimate music hall in East Texas, that is now a live music gem after the city refurbished The Liberty Theater. It has been renovated in an art-deco style for a considerable sum of money and is now a hub of downtown Tyler, which resonates with music and the arts. It is also the home of the East Texas Symphony Orchestra, who performs its “Noon Notes” events and smaller chamber performances at the venue.

 

Liberty Hall Exterior

Liberty Hall Exterior

 

After visiting and writing about several Texas Towns, I have adopted several. One of my favorites is Tyler, the “Rose Capitol of the United States”! The “Vision” of this fine city is “To be the standard for performance excellence in local government”. The “Vision” of Liberty Hall is “To support the City of Tyler’s efforts to revitalize downtown by creating an arts and entertainment culture, thereby attracting residents and visitors to the downtown district. This post shares a few of my favorite Texas musicians and I wish I had the time in my schedule to see all three upcoming artists.

 

Liberty Hall Interior

Liberty Hall Interior

 

I apologize for the brief window of the first act, but I guess its better than overlooking the upcoming acts. First up, this Friday night March 4, 2016 is Austin Texas based musician and former leader of the “Ugly Americans” Bob Schneider, raised in El Paso Texas and Munich Germany. After a two year stint with “The Scabs” Bob went solo in 1999. His career has genuinely blossomed ever since. This is Bob’s fourth time to perform at Liberty Hall. If you reside in the Dallas Ft. Worth area or east Texas, the brief drive will definitely be worth it to hear this virtuoso play.

 

Austin's Own Bob Schneider

Austin’s Own Bob Schneider

 

Schneider has an eclectic and diverse musical style and writes unconventional off-the-wall songs, with diversified genres of funk, country, rock, and folk compositions, lyrics and melodies. After recording or participating on over thirty albums, his latest release, The King Kong Suite, was released in three 5-track EPs over the course of 2015: King Kong Volume 1 in February, King Kong Volume 2 in June, and King Kong Volume 3 in October. Bob continues to display a stunning and talented array of music. His sensitive lyrics about estrangement, drug addiction, and lost love has enabled Bob to gain a international fan base and he continues to blossom in the industry. Bob Schneider is not only a gifted singer-songwriter, he is also an accomplished visual artist–his sculptures, paintings, prints and, most recently, collages rivaling the creative genius of his musical compositions.  We are quite proud Bob calls Austin home!

 

Bob Schneider, "The King Kong Suite" volumes 1-3 in 2015

Bob Schneider, “The King Kong Suite” volumes 1-3 in 2015

 

My next performer Junior Brown, is one I share a personal connection with and I have followed the man for over forty years. I guess that makes us both a little bit “on in our years”. It was in the 70’s at The Silver Dollar in Austin and I had heard his music on FM KBLJ and loved it. I was also starting to try and learn how to two step, even though I was more of a classic rock n roll guy. His music blew me away and I have been a fan ever since! Junior had stint with Asleep at the Wheel as a steel guitar player and other major recording artists like Hank Thompson, George Jones, The Beach Boys and Stone Temple Pilots, before branching out on his own. He and wife, Tanya Rae the rhythm guitar player, have settled in Austin. He honed his craft at the fabulous Continental Club on South Congress in Austin.

 

Jr. Brown and his Guit-Steel

Jr. Brown and his Guit-Steel

 

Junior has played both an electric and pedal steel guitar throughout his career and combined with his unique voice and unique song writing ability has led him to a Country Music Association Award (CMA) and three Grammy nominations. In 1985 Junior invented a double necked guitar that is now called a “Guit-Steel” guitar. A fascinating invention for the music industry. Basically a compound of an electric guitar and a lap steel guitar. Junior plays mostly honky tonk and western swing with a little blues and TexMex usually at the finish, as well as surf rock. Junior with his one of a kind music is playing at Liberty Hall on April 9, 2016. The following two quotes represent the broad spectrum that Junior holds and demonstrates in his music.

 

“You don’t find stylists today like you did in the Ernest Tubb era. That’s what sets Junior aside from a lot of other artists. He’s got his own style. And his rapport with his fans, he draws a vast audience, from young college kids up to the older, traditional country music fans.”
–David McCormick, owner, Ernest Tubb Record Shop, Nashville

 

“Junior told me once that he was very impressed by Jimi Hendrix, by the way he was very wild, and yet he was very controlled. He knew where everything was going in a solo, and he (Junior), I think tries for the same effect, and I think he hits it virtually every time.”
–Mitch Mitchell, drummer, The Jimi Hendrix Experience

 

Jr. Brown "An American Original"

Jr. Brown “An American Original”

 

My final performer is John Fullbright who will perform at the Liberty Hall on May 13, 2016. In his brief career, his debut album “From the Ground Up” was released just two years ago and this young man from Oklahoma has gathered substantial acclaim. NPR hailed him as one of the 10 Artists You Should Have Known in 2012, saying “it’s not every day a new artist…earns comparisons to great songwriters like Townes Van Zandt and Randy Newman, but Fullbright’s music makes sense in such lofty company.”

 

John Fullbright "From the Ground Up"

John Fullbright “From the Ground Up”

 

The Wall Street Journal crowned him as giving one of the year ’s 10 best live performances. If there was any doubt that his debut announced the arrival of a songwriting force to be reckoned with, it was put to rest when ‘From The Ground Up’ was nominated for Best Americana Album at the GRAMMY Awards, which placed Fullbright alongside some of the genre’s most iconic figures, including Bonnie Raitt.

 

John Fullbright "ASCAP Foundation’ s Harold Adamson Lyric Award"

John Fullbright “ASCAP Foundation’ s Harold Adamson Lyric Award”

 

“What’s so bad about happy?” John Fullbright sings on the opening track of his new album, ‘Songs.’ It’s a play on the writer’s curse, the notion that new material can only come through heartbreak or depression, that great art is only born from suffering.

 

“A normal person, if they find themselves in a position of turmoil or grief, they’ll say, ‘I need to get out of this as fast as I can,’” says Fullbright. “A writer will say, ‘How long can I stay in this until I get something good?’ And that’s a BS way to look at life,” he laughs.

 

 

If you can attend any of these great performances, I would highly recommend you take advantage of the great acoustics and fantastic atmosphere associated with the Liberty Hall in Tyler Texas. Better yet, if you are resident of Dallas Ft. Worth, then by all means go see all three artists. I am positive you will have a wonderful experience and Tyler is an incredible weekend get away!

Dreams of A Baby Boomer; Learning of European River Cruises

Why is a luxury river cruise appealing to Baby Boomers and why would a living breathing Boomer like me, switch gears at the ripe old age of 66 and halt my normal regime of world travel to ports of call around the world via air or train? I have opposed any type of cruise on one of the behemoth ocean liners for decades. Until recently I thought I knew what I wanted with life, as I edge toward the horizon.

 

 

I fancy a good meal and have taken cooking classes around the world. I love to cook and used to dream of sitting on a tropical balcony, sipping a good cup of coffee as I am not able to consume alcohol of any kind anymore since my heart attack. I miss fine wines terribly, but we always have a designated driver! My new dream is sitting on a ship’s veranda sipping coffee on a delightful river cruise. I am more enchanted with river cruises than beach habitats now.

 

 

Tam from Amita Thai Cooking Class in Bangkok Thailand

Tam from Amita Thai Cooking Class in Bangkok Thailand

 

I recently found a particularly new avenue to explore online and via the television. European river cruises with all their scenic advertisements began to appeal to me either sub-conscientiously or directly, I am not sure which. To add to the excitement I discovered that many of the cruise lines offer discounted cruises and travel deals. This is alluring to a Baby Boomer like me, especially if one has a limited income. In addition, there are two for one deals and special offers that one can look for, when you decide which cruise to take.

 

Danube River in Austria

Danube River in Austria

 

Why do I find river cruises appealing you might ask? In addition to the rather inexpensive pricing, as compared with the overall agenda, an extraordinary group of tours within the city destinations are offered, as well as scenic views like above. I have found that all tours are led by educated individuals with terrific presentation skills, humorous dialog and are informational to a history buff like me.

 

 

Besides, all the planning is handled by the cruise lines and you are always comfortable in knowing your vacation is being handled by individuals that have done this many times before. You also have the freedom to skip a tour and set off exploring on your own, if you feel adventurous. There are times I feel better about just setting out and exploring without a schedule. The river cruises give you the ability to determine your own path so to speak.

 

Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Budapest Hungary

Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Budapest Hungary

 

One of the more appealing aspects of river cruising is the fact that you only have to pack and unpack once. When I was younger, I had no issues tossing my clothes in a suitcase and traveled from city to city without any reservation or issues. I could get by with hardly any sleep and stay up until the wee hours of the morning. As the years continue to roll by, much faster that I desire, I find this issue becoming more and more unsettling.

 

 

The advantage of a river cruise is you unpack once and are still able to see a plethora of cities and experience various cultures, without packing and unpacking again. I have found a new passion. As I approach the final chapters in my life, I find the little aspects of living are the true treasures. River cruises have become a passion and as several octogenarians continue to cruise, I feel confident I have years left to enjoy my new interest. When will you take the leap and join the millions that cruise each year and when will you enjoy another river cruise? I would recommend a river cruise to anyone, of any age. Go for it!

Lewis N. Clark Travel Gear Review

Several months ago Lewis N. Clark, a travel accessory company, asked me to try out and review four products. Since I rarely do reviews I decided to really put these items to use and give them a good workout to determine their quality and value. They have accompanied me to Asia, Europe and two of the items I use daily. I am satisfied they have all been put through a sufficient testing period.

 

Lewis N. Clark Featherlight Packing Cubes

Lewis N. Clark Featherlight Packing Cubes

 

The first item is the Featherlight Packing Cubes. Every trip I have made abroad I have stuffed these three cubes with my socks (small cube), my underwear (medium cube) and my undershirts (large cube). This meant, as you can see above, they were loaded with as many items or changes, as I could pack. I am not one who likes to pay exorbitant prices to have my laundry done. I also dislike washing my undies in the sink, unless there is no other choice. I like that the cube can be transferred from your luggage to the dresser, with hardly any effort.

 

 

In the past year I traveled to the Yokohama and Tokyo area of Japan; Barcelona, Costa Brava, Girona and Seville in Spain; Istanbul Turkey; Rimini, Sicily, the Aeolian Islands and Milan in Italy; London England; Budapest Hungary; Bratislava Slovakia; Vienna, Durnstein, Linz, Melk and Salzburg Austria, Passau Germany and Prague in the Czech Republic. This is over 20 cities around the world and not once did the cubes present any issues. The zippers are all in very good working order. The mesh is still in one piece on all three cubes and holding my underwear in. One can use the cubes for anything you need to stay organized while traveling. I highly recommend the Packing Cubes and they have helped me stay efficient with packing, on all my travels.

 

Lewis N. Clark 2-in-1 Neck/Lumbar Pillow

Lewis N. Clark 2-in-1 Neck/Lumbar Pillow

 

The second item is a 2-in1 Neck/Lumbar Pillow. Pardon my face in the photo above, but I think I was tired and falling asleep. This product works very well and I have used it on every plane trip I have taken since acquiring the items to test. It is very comfortable and meshes well around your neck to any position you need. The pillow has many uses. In addition to the obvious neck rest, it can be unzipped, turned inside out and rolled into a lumbar support, which works very well. This comes from an individual with five back surgeries. The last option is to turn it inside out and it turns into a pillow. So if you are in need of any three options I recommend the Neck/Lumbar pillow. It is still in top notch condition after at least eighteen flights.

 

Lewis N. Clark Hanging Toiletry Kit

Lewis N. Clark Hanging Toiletry Kit

 

If any of the items have been over tested, it is surely my hanging toiletry kit. I have used this everyday since I received it and everything is still in great working order. I also have maxed out the supplies in my toiletry kit and it holds up to stretching, heavy weight and sharp items. I carry everything I could use in this kit and the ability to hang it on a towel rod is fantastic. No counter space needed. I carry my aerosol shaving cream, my after shave, bath soap and all sorts of grooming needs, plus my toothbrush and toothpaste. Everything I need can fit in the kit including my mouthwash, shampoo and conditioner. All the clasps, zippers and casings are in good working order and I use it daily. It is a very durable item.

 

Lewis N. Clark RFID Tri-Fold Wallet

Lewis N. Clark RFID Tri-Fold Wallet

 

My last item is the RFID Tri-Fold Wallet. Some men like a dual fold, but for some reason I have always carried a tri-fold. It holds all the credit cards, ID’s and information a person needs. Trust me I carry a large amount of domestic and International cards and I have two medical alert cards inside the cash area, just in case. As you can see above it has 6 credit/business card slots, 2 full-sized bill sections and and ID window, perfect for my business card. It is made from Lambskin and blocks unauthorized scanning of RFID chips, which we use more and more these days! Very helpful in protecting the theft of your identification, from the despicable individuals that thrive on stealing other people’s identities!

 

Overall I was more than satisfied with all four items and would recommend them to anyone in the market for these items. Lewis N. Clark is obviously a very quality company and stands behind its products. I would like to thank Mary Chong, of The Calculated Traveller, for sending Lewis N. Clark in my direction. I am now going  to look into more of their products as the need arises and I recommend you do also.

 

 

 

 

 

 

***All products were sponsored by Lewis N. Clark for testing and review. All opinions are as always, those of my own.

Viking River Cruises, Vienna

As a young man growing up, I learned to love music at an early age. My father was a journalist and reviewed musical acts that came to our small town of Arlington Texas. My first concert was at the age of eleven, when we saw Louis Armstrong. My father favored Jazz and when he was sent an autographed photo of Lionel Hampton and me (I got the opportunity when I met him at The Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center), my father was in heaven.

 

Home of the Vienna Boys Choir, This plaque and Ribbons Designates a National Historical Marker

Home of the Vienna Boys Choir, This plaque and Ribbons Designates a National Historical Marker in Austria. It was located inside the Hofburg Palace.

 

In my early teens I heard classical music emanate from my father’s record player and I was hooked immediately. I listened to Bach, Brahms, Vivaldi, Wagner, Chopin, Strauss, Beethoven and Mozart from an early age. Through the years I learned how much classical music was composed or finalized in Vienna, Austria and I vowed, if ever given the chance, I would visit Vienna. When I noticed that the Danube Waltz Cruise from Viking River Cruises passed through Vienna, there was no doubt which cruise we would take.

 

Vienna Residence Orchestra, Viennese Palace

Vienna Residence Orchestra,  Palais Auersperg, Viennese Palace

 

While in Budapest, we mentioned we were interested in attending the Classical concert in the Viennese Palace the evening we arrived in Vienna. Thank goodness, as the available tickets were limited and some of our new “Viking” friends warned us not to wait and to purchase our tickets quickly . I would advise you purchase your tickets as soon as you are settled in for your cruise. Otherwise you take the chance of not witnessing an enchanting and memorable evening performance. It was an “Optional Excursion”, but well worth the nominal cost.

 

Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station, former station of the Viennese Stadtbahn, Designed by Otto Wagner

Karlsplatz Station, formerly of the Viennese Stadtbahn, Designed by Otto Wagner

 

We arrived in the port of Vienna around 6:00 AM. Given we had a full day ahead of us, we ate breakfast early and prepared for our Shore Excursion: “Vienna City Tour”. We started by touring the Ringstrasse by bus. This is a large circular boulevard, which replaced the city walls built in the 13th century around the city for protection. Sometime in 1857 a decision was made to convert the wall into a boulevard intended to showcase the the grandeur and glory of the Habsburg Empire. The idea originated with Napolean III in Paris. As a consequence, all the nobility and plutocracy hurried and built garish and ornate structures along the boulevard, each trying to outdo the other. This resulted in a plethora of outstanding and opulent properties that remain gorgeous to this day.

 

Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna, Museum of Natural History

Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna, Museum of Natural History

 

Austrian Parliament Building

Austrian Parliament Building

 

I personally love architecture and the examples scattered along the Ringstrasse throughout the city, at times took my breath away. Some of the essence of this period’s architecture can be seen in the Vienna State Opera, Academy of Fine Arts, Palace of Justice and the Austrian Parliament Building. We concluded the bus tour and were dropped at the Habsburg Palace, a huge complex used primarily as the residence and office of the President of Austria. It is one of the most gorgeous complexes I have ever seen. It also houses the world famous beautiful Lipazzan horses. If you are fortunate, you might visit during a training session. They were resting during our visit.

 

Heldenplatz in front of the Hofburg Palace, most notably Adolf Hitler's ceremonial announcement of the Austrian Anschluss to Nazi Germany on 15 March 1938.

Heldenplatz in front of the Hofburg Palace, most notably remembered for Adolf Hitler’s ceremonial announcement of the Austrian Anschluss, to Nazi Germany on 15 March 1938. It was held on these steps.

 

As we began the walking tour we entered the massive, historical and decorative complex of the Hofburg Palace. I couldn’t take enough photos fast enough. One could spend an entire day enjoying the art, the various buildings and courtyards. The construction began in the thirteenth century  and the palace has housed some of the most powerful people in European and Austrian history.

 

A gate from the 19th wing of the Hofburg Palace, to the complex center.

A gate from the 19th wing of the Hofburg Palace, to the complex center.

 

The complex was started in the 13th century when the Swiss Wing was constructed. Through the centuries each potentate of the Austrian-Hungarian empire attempted to outdo the prior monarch with larger and more ornate buildings and trim. Included are statues dedicated to themselves in many cases and again each new statue reflected a larger persona. In the 19th and 20th centuries the Festsaal – Festival Hall Wing, St. Michael’s Wing, Neue Burg Wing, Corps de Logis and the Palm House or Butterfly House were added, making it the second largest former palace complex behind only the Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest Romania and slightly larger than the Louvre Palace in Paris.

 

A Vienna taxi for hire.

A Vienna taxi for hire.

 

As we exited the Hofburg Palace and continued our walking tour we strolled down a street with shops like Gucci, Cartier, Versace, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, etc. I thought we were back on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Thank goodness there wasn’t time to shop! We continued through the Historic Center of Vienna and were given time to grab a cup of Viennese coffee and a strudel. We chose a location near to us and turned out to be a wonderful break. Aida’s is a chain in Vienna and I personally highly recommend you give it a try, if you visit Vienna.

 

Aida is a coffee house chain in Vienna with wonderful Viennese coffees and pastries. Try the Strudel, we did!

Aida is a coffee house chain in Vienna with wonderful Viennese coffees and pastries. Try the Strudel, we did!

 

After the quick coffee, we had time to either explore St. Stephens Cathedral or take a quick walk through the small Christmas Market next to the Cathedral. We obviously opted for the Christmas Markets, but I did catch a glimpse of the Cathedral and took a photo for posterity. The roof tiles are gorgeous and the exterior is amazing. On my next visit to Vienna I will definitely enter and photograph the Cathedral. I love design and architecture of European Cathedrals. One of my favorite objects to photograph.

 

St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna

 

The last portion of the tour was basically to let us know where the Christmas Markets were. We spent a few minutes scanning the booths and registering our coordinates in the city. After the morning tour we returned to the ship for lunch. The afternoon gave us options to come back to the Christmas Markets, tour the Farmers’ Market with Chef de Cuisine Martin, or participate in an Optional Excursion: Schonbrunn Palace. Guess which one we chose? I would venture to say that most of you would say the Farmers’ Market or the Schonbrunn Palace. You would be incorrect. There were more and different wooden laser spoons waiting and we needed to add to Kim’s collection, so we came back to the Christmas Market. After all Vienna is one of the best Christmas Markets in Europe and had more booths than we could see.

 

 

 

Our new friends from the Boston area, Gail and Richard Douglas opted for the Schonbrunn Palace and once again Gail came through with a wonderful photograph for my blog. Thank you kindly young lady for your continual contributions.

 

Schonbrunn Palace, Photographed by Gail Douglas

Schonbrunn Palace, Photographed by Gail Douglas

 

Additionally we had the Optional Excursion: Classical Concert that night and it gave us more flexibility. Interpretation: we could get back to the ship, eat our early seating dinner and have sufficient time to dress for the concert and be mesmerized by one of the world’s best chamber orchestras, Wiener Residenzorchester. I was super excited to actually hear Mozart and Strauss in a venue, in Vienna with all the history associated with this city. The sculptures in the Palais Auersperg were extraordinary, as witnessed below.  Highlights of the concert for me were the Ouverture “Le Nozze di Figaro” (Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro” by W.A. Mozart and The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss.

 

A Sculpture in the Palais Auersperg

A Sculpture in the Palais Auersperg

 

We left the concert after a long day fully energized by the Concertos and Arias of Mozart and Strauss. What I didn’t realize ahead of time was that we would have brief ballet and opera experiences at the concert. If you remember the photo at the beginning of the stage, you wouldn’t really think any ballet act could perform. Not only did were we entertained with excellent ballet, but a Pas de deux occurred with leaps, etc. I feared for the dancers safety at times, but they performed with nary an incident. We went back to the ship and turned in headed to our next ports in Austria, satisfied that we had tasted Vienna and would have exquisite memories of this grand city, until we returned again.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Viking River Cruises, Bratislava

We sailed from Budapest on our Viking River Cruise around 9:00 PM on December 6th. Passengers were invited to view the nightlights of Budapest as we sailed to Bratislava, but we were worn out and frankly it was a little too cold for two Texans to stand on the sun deck of the Viking Longship Modi. So we decided rest was the order of the day and went to sleep in our home for the next week, our stateroom. I sometimes wake in the middle of the night, but this particular night I slept like a baby and never got up, if memory serves me right. I am sure many will tell you that might be debatable.

 

 

 

The next morning we arose early rested and watching the Slovakian countryside roll by. My how that simple venue can be calming and relaxing. As we weren’t to arrive until 2:00 PM in Bratislava, we took our time with breakfast. Afterwards the staff had several options available. One was mandatory, the safety drill at 10:00 AM. Believe me when I tell you they ensure you attend. I was amazed that we could all assemble in such a rapid manner, but it went off as intended and all passengers were accounted for. It was kind of nice to have the cabin steward lay our life-vests out on our beds prior to the safety drill.

 

The staff also offered a tour of the Wheelhouse, a Cooking Demonstration with fantastic cookies and finished the morning with a presentation on coffee, as we were headed to Vienna right after Bratislava. The pastry chef and head chef Martin Carter, gave a wonderful lesson on preparing the cookies, handed out recipes and of course a huge sampling of each of the four cookies. Then we had lunch. Program Director Barry Summers then gave the presentation on coffee, that shared the history of this precious beverage since the beginning of time. It was very educational for this avid coffee drinker.

 

Ruins of War

 

Slovakia has only been a country for twenty three years, after Czechoslavakia dissolved. It has a population of just a little over five million people and Bratislava is the largest city and the capitol. Slovakia then joined the European Union in 2004 and the Eurozone January of 2009. Slovakia is also a member of NATO, the United Nations and is in the Schengen area of Europe. As it is not really a wealthy nation, buildings like this remain and are scattered across the country still, leftover from World War II.

 

Viking Guide for the Shore Excursion

       Viking Guide for the Shore Excursion.  Photography by Nomadic Texan

 

The “Shore Excursion” was scheduled for 2:00 PM and included a bus tour of certain areas along with a walking tour of downtown, the Opera House and the Christmas Markets. Our daily briefing wasn’t until 6:45 PM, so we had plenty of time to see Bratislava on foot and of course the Christmas Markets were a priority!  The photo above clearly illustrates the way all the Viking Tour Guides dress in winter, with the infamous “lollipop” logo of Viking, held high for all to see. Each passenger is given their own headset and you follow at your own pace. Just don’t lose sight of your group’s lollipop!

 

Tunnel Example That Closes at Night. Photography by Nomadic Texan

Tunnel Example That Closes at Night.
Photography by Nomadic Texan

 

This photo was taken downtown and the buildings are all constructed in an adjoining manner. Foot traffic during the day traverses back and forth through these tunnels, but as there is a small crime issue late at night, they shut the rod iron gates visible at the entrance to ward off criminal elements.  Old Town in which most of the walking tour transpired was refurbished and had excellent architecture in my humble opinion. I was very surprised at the detail and trim.

 

 

Street Art Example.  Photography by Gail Douglas

Street Art Example.
Photography by Gail Douglas

 

One of the new symbols of Bratislava is this fella Cumil, he gives you an insight into the Slovak humor. This photo was taken and supplied by Gail Douglas, as stated. Thank you kindly young lady! She and her great husband Richard, in the yellow jacket above, became friends of ours and we ate many meals with them. We bonded immediately. Great sense of humor and we now exchange emails. Hope to cruise with them again soon!

 

Hanging Citrus Scent Ornaments. Photography by Nomadic Texan

Hanging Citrus Scent Ornaments.
Photography by Nomadic Texan

 

Bratislava had many booths filled with hanging potpourri items. These were particularly favorable to me, with the various citrus scents, especially lime. It reminded me of a cologne I used to wear back in the 70’s and it is still produced today I discovered. It’s name is Royall Lyme, produced and manufactured in the USA by Brooks Brothers, with permission from Royall Lyme (Bermuda), Hamilton Bermuda. I always loved the lime scent!

 

Blown Glass Booth. Photography by Nomadic Texan

Blown Glass Booth.
Photography by Nomadic Texan

 

This lady’s booth was  filled with glass products made in Slovakia. Kim lost her red heart necklace when we went through security in London, so I purchased her another red heart from this lady. She was very pleasant and helpful, although I doubt she understood my story exactly.

 

Kim's Spoon Collection. Photography by Nomadic Texan

Kim’s Spoon Collection.
Photography by Nomadic Texan

 

If  you followed our escapades, you know how the wooden spoons were popular with Kim and at most of the Christmas Markets we visited. If you didn’t, then take a good look at these examples where winter objects were laser burned into the spoons. Even I had to acknowledge how cute they were.

 

 

We were looking at a chocolate booth in the Bratislava Christmas Markets and out of nowhere I noticed a lady looking over my shoulder and right next to me. It was scary. I yelled at her to back away from me. She casually smiled and walked away. I wouldn’t have been this aware normally and without Viking’s persistent warnings. From that moment on I started carrying all my valuables inside my coat in zippered pockets. I have to truly thank Viking for saving me from losing my wallet, passport and money clip. Without their consistent emphasis, I am positive they would all be in this lady’s possession now. Be aware, it is not fiction, it really happens.

 

Wood Nativity Scene. Photography by Nomadic Texan

Wood Nativity Scene.
Photography by Nomadic Texan

 

As we walked the length of the Bratislava Christmas Markets, we came upon this nativity scene. It was beautifully carved from wood and grabbed my attention. I was taken back by the features and detail involved, with all the figures. It really was a beautiful sight.

 

Neon Running Man. Photography by Nomadic Texan

Neon Running Man.
Photography by Nomadic Texan

 

We turned around from the nativity scene and ice rink to see this neon running man series of lights. Whoever made it has a great mind and really has creative instincts. Each man would light up separately and timed to set aglow in consecutive order. It truly looked like the neon man was running every time they set him in motion. After several minutes, they turned all the neon men on a the same time and it was brilliant.

 

 

Coca Cola Has Names All Over the World. Photography by Nomadic Texan

Coca Cola Has Names All Over the World.
Photography by Nomadic Texan

 

 

On our way back to the ship, Kim and I decided to enter a local grocery store and see the differences. Slovakia has a genuine taste for fish. At the butcher area half the case was fish. It was fun trying to figure out what some of  the products were. It was also very evident, that some things are the same the world over. We were at the back of the store and came across the soda area. It was a little strange for us to see Slovakian names on Coca-Cola bottles, but really no surprise. Unfortunately my favorite, the “Selfie Queen” bottle, wasn’t in this photograph.

 

A Well Known Embassy. Photography by Nomadic Texan

A Well Known Embassy.
Photography by Nomadic Texan

 

Before we arrived at the river we ran across this sign at their embassy and I just had take a photo of this crest. I thought it was appropriate, given how famous this microstate on France’s Mediterranean coastline is. Its major district is Monte Carlo and it’s very well known for its Gran Prix motor race, casinos and its fabulous nightlife. We boarded our ship, ate a wonderful dinner and listened to the Bratislava Men’s choir sing Christmas Carols in Slovakian and English both. An excellent end to a wonderful day. We went to our room and knew we would wake up in Vienna, a city I had yearned to see since I first began traveling!

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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Amateur Traveler Episode 471 - Travel to Austin, Texas



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