Sunday, November 1, 2009

Amsterdam - Arrival Day

Here we go again on another adventure.  This time to Europe on a Viking River Cruise. The dates of this trip are:  Sept 11 - Sept 27. We are traveling from Amsterdam to Budapest. Our 1st stop, Amsterdam. What am interesting city. We're in the heart of town with tons of people and bikes. Soooooo Many Bikes !!!  They have a floating bike parking lot with thousands of bikes parked near the Central Station. And yes, coffee shops everywhere. Cannibis open for smoke and sale all over. Just walk and sniff. Also erotica shops displaying all their wares in the windows! For ALL to see. And the Red Light District??? Not even going there.... Well it was a short day because we were really tired from the flight so we retired early to the room to sleep. I think we were dead to the world by 8 pm. Tomorrow is a long day. Night!!

Amsterdam - Day 2

Ah finally refreshed from a great nights sleep. Now out to the tour company for our all day tour. First northern Netherlands in the morning then we head south. We boarded a large double decker luxury bus. Dibs on the Front Seat !!!  Our first stop was an open air museum consisting of real grain grinding windmills from the 17th & 18th century. Not many of these are left throughout the country. Also here was a wooden shoe maker. He gave us a demonstration on how the shoes were made originally, then how they make them now. They use duplicating machines like making keys. It cuts an exact copy of the shoe onto the block of wood. They use Poplar trees for the wood. Then hand paint them.
The land here is 6 ft below sea level throughout the country. So there are canals everywhere. We drove then to one of the last home made cheese factorys to see how it's made and tastings, of course. Lot's of interesting flavors. Aside from cheese, smoked eel is the specialty of the region. We walked around a very small fishing village, had a drink, snack and some shopping.  We then boarded the Maarkam Express (Ferry) from Volendam to Maarkam over the Eiselmere fresh water lake.  Back onto the bus to head to Delft to visit a Delft porcelain factory.  Here we were given a personalized tour of the factory.  At this factory it is still done all by hand. 
Amazing how the paint changes from black to blue when glazed and fired. Also..... Very expensive! We toured around Haag where the Queen lives and Parliment resides. Lastly we spent some time walking around Madurodam, the miniature city. All the buildings are exact replicas of building in Holland only 25 times smaller. Including the airport, ships, etc. What a long, but very interesting day.  We now head back to Amsterdam for a quick dinner and early to bed again. Weather is cool and nippy. Around 63F. Jacket weather. Busy day again tomorrow!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Amsterdam - Day 3

Hi! Welcome to day 3 of our Amsterdam visit. This morning we got up a little later because it was Sunday. We had picked up pastries last night for breakfast for a morning snack. We were going to head to the Anne Frank house but I expect it won't open till 9.  I was right. We packed up a few things to be ready to check out upon our return. The walk to the Anne Frank Monument was quiet and different. No bikes, no people, no cars, very weird. But enjoyable to see the city this peaceful. We arrived at the Anne Frank House upon opening at 9am. Although there is no furniture left in the rooms, the videos and pictorals really help to give you a sense of what the family went through. When we walked through the secret passage behind the bookcase and then you realize it was a different world. You must read the book to understand everything they went through. We headed back toward the hotel and decided on coffee & a croissant in a small cafe. They had a big fat, furry cat that kept us company. Now people are starting to come back into reality. We headed back & checked out of the Hotel. A short taxi ride to the port of Amsterdam to our Viking River Cruise ship. 
Well our room is on the lowest deck - below water and is about 125 Sqft. Tiny. But we'll live. Also no one is under the age of 65. Except me and my cousin. What fun! We are docked here overnight so I took her back to see the Anne Frank House and the Floating Flower Market till the rains came. Yes you can buy tulip bulbs & Cannibis seeds at the same place. Hummm. I'll pass for now. Back to the ship for dinner, a presentation on our days on the river, and early sleep. C u 2mro!

Amsterdam - Day 4

Well these beds aren't the greatest but it was a good nights sleep aboard the Viking River Spirit. Breakfast was a delish buffet or made to order and we were provided with a nice tour around Amsterdam. Starting at 8:30am we toured parts of Amsterdam by bus, then onto a canal bus to see the sights from the water perspective. It wasn't bad but picts weren't easy to get. Later we had a tour via bus all over the city. By 10:30 we visited the Gauguin Museum. It's ok if your passion is art. After a short hour we hit the bus back to the ship. At 1:00 the ship took off down the Rhine river toward Germany. I sat mostly on the top deck in the sun or what little sun we had. The winds were chilly and you had to wrap up in a towel or jacket. This was the start of our journey down the Rhine River to many locks. UNO, Scrabble & cards keeps us busy along the way, love the food, games, and the other folks. Everyone jokes around even though we don't know each other very well yet. We will enter Germany sometime in the middle of the night. I need to hit the hay now. Too much wine and my head is bobbing. Gnight- till tomorrow in Cologne....

Cologne, Germany - Day 5

Well we cruised the river from 1 pm yesterday to 1pm today. The weather changes rapidly. One minute it's nice and your sitting on the deck reading or sleeping the next minute it's misting rain and the temp dropped 20 degrees. I'll probably have pneumonia when I get back. At 6:30am we rolled past Dusseldorf. A beautiful German city but we are not stopping here just passing through. Finally, we dock at Koln or Cologne as the yanks say. Since most of the excursions are included in the price of the cruise, we prepared to disembark in Cologne. We endured a 2.5 hour walking tour of the city and one of the the largest churches in Europe. It really wan't that bad.  After that we hit the Lindt Chocolate factory on our own. Yum-Yum...  Free Chocolate!!!  Chocolate is our religion and much more important than any church! Delish! We visited several stores and back to the ship for a local German band show coming on board. They were really good! Just couldn't understand a word they were saying as the sang. Don't get me wrong.... They were good just all in German. Time for bed as we push away from the dock for our evening travel to Koblenz & Rudisheim
for tomorrow. Till then... nite!

Koblenz & Rudesheim, Germany - Day 6

Welcome to day 6 - we docked early in Koblenz today and started the day right off with a bus tour up to the Marksburg Castle. A small, but quaint little castle for a small family with servants and yes, it did have a torture chamber. But it was a little treacherous walking. The ground was very uneven and rocky. Many of the senior citizens had a difficult time, but they endured taking it very slowly. Directly after we returned to the ship to continue our cruise down the Rhine River. We are now at the point of the Middlerhine Gorge. Here you start seeing a difference in the landscape. We went from completely flatlands to hills along the river, to now mountains along side the river with castles every mile or 2 and cute Bavarian style houses lining the waterway. The railway lines both sides of the river too with passenger trains and cargo trains. As they go by and you watch them go behind us down the river it almost looks like a toy train scenery. We finally met up with the area of the river where the Rhine meets the Mosel River. As we continue southward our next stop will be Rudesheim. During the day on the cruise ship, besides watching scenery, and walking the top deck, going around and around and around....... the cruise company treated us to a presentation of the making of Rudesheimer Coffee. Basically coffee with sugar, liquor, vanilla, whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. Not too bad. We finally arrived in Rudesheim late in the evening after 8:00 pm. Some people took the optional excursion to the Mechanical Musical Instrument museum. It was OK, but it is dark as the black of night has descended. You can't see to walk much less try to walk to the city. For some reason where we docked there were no street lights.  Those that didn't go out, stayed and played Bingo. Yes, they do that here too. Gotta keep the Indians busy, you know. As of this writing, most have gone to bed and I will be going too. People are starting to get sick.... great... just what we need...

Mainz, Germany - Day 7

Day 7.  We left Rudesheim at 5 am to head down the river again. At 8 am we arrived in Mainz, just north of Frankfort. In Mainz we did a walking tour of the city. Mainz is the birthplace of Johann Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press. We visited 2 churches, one with stained glass windows designed by the famous artist Marc Chagall. We saw the Gutenberg press and the original printed bible. We ran around town looking in shops and bought some pastries and candies local to this region. We had to be back on board by 12:15 to sail at 12:30. The rest of the afternoon was spent aboard ship watching scenery. We left the Rhine river and are now on the Main river. Now till tomorrow we will cruise through a series of 34 locks till we arrive at our destination in the morning of Wertheim. For now they are playing a Liars game on the lounge. For me, read a book and go to bed. Not used to cold, rainy, windy weather. Till tomorrow. Night