Photos to come later. Internet is being a pain.
After so many mornings of getting up at 7 or earlier, today was our morning to sleep in – and that I did. What finally awakened me was the shuttering of the ship as we departed from Vienna at 9 am. I somehow could not get myself awake. It seems to me that it happens when you get too much sleep. I wandered down for a late breakfast and before I knew it we were approaching the one lock that was left that we would pass through during daylight hours. The first thing I noticed when going up to the sun deck is that the temperature had dropped about 20 degrees from yesterday. It wasn’t too bad in the sun for the 15 minutes or so that I was outside, but I knew I would have to dress warmly for the walking tour. I think I can safely say that once you’ve been through a lock, you’ve pretty much seen it. I am fascinated how they work, but it’s a bit like watching paint dry. We cruised along the Danube for several hours and passed some pretty towns and castles. We had lunch about noon time. I have to say, one of today’s desserts, an apricot dumpling with vanilla sauce was the absolute best dessert of the trip, and I think Rena agreed. I would love to have that recipe – or maybe not! We had just finished our tea when they called us to the buses to depart for the town of Bratislava. I feel like I have been living European history for the past week. I was not familiar with this city, so I’ll just give a quick background. Slovakia is Europe’s youngest country achieving independence in 1993 from the Czech Republic. It joined the EU in 2004 and only adopted the Euro as the official currency earlier this year. It used to be a part of Hungry about 1000 years ago and has a very complex history. Bratislava is the capital. We spent the first hour taking the bus up a “hill” through very narrow streets to visit the WWII monument that overlooks the city. It is a very impressive view, though we did have some haze today. In the distance you could see the Bratislava Castle which was our next stop. I forget the year it was initially constructed, but as with many castles it was left in ruins, and then all of the wooden parts were destroyed by fire about 150 ago. Recently, it has been restored and turned into a museum. There were certain elements that were found in the debris that were incorporated into the new design. From here one also has sweeping views of the Danube and the valley below. We took the buses back down and started our walking tour. It is really a beautiful city with many different types of architecture. We did see a house that is extremely run down and according to our guide most buildings looked like that until about 15 years ago. We passed by St. Michaels Tower and went into the Old Town Square. A funny side note – back after Napoleon had shot cannon balls into the city, the government decided to give money to any homes that were affected by the cannon balls. Here you will find buildings who took the cannon balls and incorporated them into the building so that they could get this money from the government. Unfortunately we did not have a great deal of time in the city for free time. Rena and I went up to the pedestrian shopping area to look around for a bit and I decided to see if I could find wifi. One strange thing about the city is that there are not any benches in the shopping district – they only have them in one particular area by the tram tracks, but there were a ton there. Anyway, this meant that I had to stand with my computer, leaning up against a building. Turned out there was an excellent signal so I was able to upload some Vienna photos and a video. I decided to try Skype since cell phone is way too expensive here. I called mom and dad and we were all able to talk, Rena included. I am sure the passersby were wondering what the heck I was doing there with my computer talking to it with Rena. I didn’t let it bother me! We headed back to the ship as it was already 5 pm and very dark and cold. I made it back just in time for the reception for past Uniworld travelers. It was very nice, they had champagne and hors d’oeuvres for us. I think we had only 9 of us onboard. At 6 pm they had a local duo come on board and entertain us with classical music with a “fun” twist. I wish I would have had my video camera for the performance. It was most enjoyable. Dinner was next and I sat with a couple from England, actually the only people from the UK on board, a couple from Texas and another from California. We had a very nice dinner and managed to chat until 9:30. I tried internet tonight, but we were already in another lock, so I know that means no internet. This is the largest drop that we experience on the trip, so I went up top in the cold and mist to check it out. The ship did drop very quickly, but again, it was just another lock. I gave it up once the gates opened and we are on our way again. It is time for me to call it a day – only one day left and it’s Budapest! Where has this week gone??