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.
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.
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. 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
If you travel to Ecuador, there are a vast array of Hostals located in and around Cuenca’s old town. This one is one of the more attractive and clean ones in the city. It also has a Cathedral down the street if you are so inclined. Right at six blocks from the center or Parque Calderon on Calle Simon Bolivar. Saludos.
One of the true pleasures of Cuenca, is walking the streets of Old Town. I never get tired of performing this activity and it is a great form of exercise for individuals. Each time I go out I have no plans and just start walking in one direction or another with no agenda. Its amazing that over time I still keep finding architectural treasures that I have never seen. In addition, I run into people of all walks of life and tourists. The tourists are not hard to spot as shown in these photos.
Male Gringo Tourists
Female Gringa Tourists
There must be several Catholic Nun orders, as I have seen a plethora of various dress. As Catholicism is such a large portion of the population, I find that I see Nuns all over, shopping and taking care of their needs. It is quite different than where I live in Texas.
Although a great deal of the population uses cars it is never odd to see bicycles being used to transport items needed for everyday use. A large portion of the condos and apartments are fueled by propane tanks and this gentleman is pedaling his wares! Sorry I couldn’t help myself!
Bicycle Mode of Transportation
A favorite sweet item is this kind of marshmallow substance that the vendors place in ice cream cones and since it is very economical the vast majority of the population eats these cones. You will always see them eaten in any type of weather cold or hot. The Ecuadorians love this treat!
Soft Serve Cones
Another common sight is the scooter parking areas where as many as ten or more can be seen together. Scooters are a great way of navigating through the increasing traffic and getting to places cars cannot. This time the amount of scooters has tripled since the last time I was here. I think maybe the gas prospective cost increase may have something to do with it also.
This Mom and daughter are sharing a great moment talking with a vendor. School just recently started back up and as you can see each school has its own uniform. I see all kinds of school dress as I walk and the various color schemes are very snazzy.
Mother Loving Her Daughter
The lady in the black outfit gave me a fairly intense stare down, as I prepared to take this photo. She finally went in the building. Perhaps it was her store. Anyway I thought the sign was comical as it states the hair used is 100% human hair from the head of a human. Where else would it be from?
Authentic Hair Extensions
My last photo is also comical to me. I find the uses of words and how they translate hilarious at times. This states one would think The Palace of Joys. In actuality the translation is The Palace of Jewels. Had to think about the name, especially given the pictures.
Palace of Joys
I love Cuenca. One of these days I hope to come back again. Until then, if you visit, please do a little Street-walking and see the sight! Saludos!
One never finds a shortage of desserts in Cuenca and it amazes me that more of the Ecuadorians are not obese, like we find in the US. I guess its a result of all the walking. Every day when I go out and roam the streets of Old Town, I run into (sometimes literally) so many people, its staggering.
I have no idea where they are going and in most cases they are walking at a rather fast gait. I guess this helps shed the sugar and the bread calories. Heladeria’s, Panesa’s and eating establishments abound. Its very tempting and you can eat until you can’t breathe, but you also can always walk it off the next day. I love it!
I am not totally sure why I am so drawn to old doors, but I may be obsessed when it comes to capturing the multitude of door images that abound in the world. Primarily my “Collection” is from Cuenca Ecuador and the El Centro or Old Town part of the city.
There are examples all over the world of fantastic carpentry and artwork. At least that is my interpretation. You can go to my Facebook page and see a multitude of examples from past trips. I hope that you enjoy the various photos and think they represent a segment of art as I do. Saludos!
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