The Obama Doctrine becomes clearer and clearer every day:
1) Hate the Rich;
2) Hate those who build aircraft (commercial, military, or private) in the United States (and, by the way, if you are not a dues-paying union member, you are not a Real American);
3) Hate peas, those who grow them, and those who eat them;
4) Hate the simple laws of economics and finance;
5) Use “compromise” as an exact synonym for “agree with me in every detail and aspect”;
6) Act as if it is in the national interest of the United States to give guns to Mexican drug gangs on the border (which of course is to be blamed on American citizens who keep and bear arms);
7) Assert that it is in the national interest of the United States to build high speed rail (presumably to speed the delivery of guns to Mexican drug gangs on the border);
8) Fearmonger and demonize political opponents as regularly as a metronome beats;
9) When in doubt, ruthlessly demagogue, exaggerate, and lie, using Obama’s daughters as political weapons when necessary.
10) “There are those who object to my setting up of ludicrous straw-man arguments to advance my mindless, thoughless, misguided feel-good disastrous agenda of nanny-state (inter)national socialism. Let me be clear to those transparent straw-men: I Won!”
I remember why I quit doing these. They take a while to assemble.
Libertarianism & Power [*1] — A fundamental tenet of classical liberalism is that concentrations of power are generally unwise. The most unwise and dangerous of which are concentrations of governmental power, and concentrations of outlaws, brigands, thugs, thieves, and the like–for the identical reason: because throughout history, the remedies for such concentrations usually involve killing people–or at least, the aggressive use of overwhelming force. Remedies for concentrations of power in other spheres of human activity generally require less drastic remedies.
Contributed by: filbert Wednesday, July 06 2011 @ 10:45 AM CST
If you are not familiar with the term “Gunwalker,” you will be.
It is entirely possible that it will enter the American and world political lexicon in the same category as “Watergate.” Except, of course, that people actually died as a result of “Operation Fast and Furious.”
Contributed by: filbert Wednesday, July 06 2011 @ 08:43 AM CST
The Whip makes a surprise appearance, on a whim.
(The post title is of course a play on Benjamin Franklin’s comment to a passing woman in Philadelphia in 1789 who inquired of the elderly statesman “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin replied “A Republic, if you can keep it.”)
The term “republic” is not synonymous with “democracy.” In fact, the American Founders were deeply distrustful of a pure democracy–nearly as distrustful of that form of government as they were of monarchy. They were concerned with the tyranny of the majority as they were concerned with the tyranny of a single man, or any group. This was the uniquely American innovation: a form of government so divided that no single institution was entrusted with the power to become tyrannical (the term “tyranny” meaning government by a person or group which is unconstrained by any law–in essence, the modern word for a tyranny is “totalitarian.”)
The beneficence or cruelty of a totalitarian government is not the identifying feature of a tyranny–it is simply the disregard for the rule of law which marks a government as being tyrannical.
The problem with kindly tyrannies is that they can turn cruel upon–literally–a whim.
What kind of whim, you ask?
A SWAT team can break down a harmless elderly couple’s front door and terrorize them for hours, simply upon the say-so of some shady underworld informant who gave the police the wrong address–and the SWAT team not only is not constrained to obtain a search warrant, the members of the SWAT team and the officials overseeing the team and ordering the lawless attack are never punished or disciplined effectively for the error.
It is hard to understand politics if you are hung up on reality. Politicians leave reality to others. What matters in politics is what you can get the voters to believe, whether it bears any resemblance to reality or not.
Not only among politicians, but also among much of the media, and even among some of the public, the quest is not for truth about reality but for talking points that fit a vision or advance an agenda. Some seem to see it as a personal contest about who is best at fencing with words.
Pursuing Liberty — from author Sarah Hoyt. I haven’t read one of her books yet, but she just won an award for her latest. She blogs at Classical Values among other places. I may have to give her fiction work a look.
The French – and most other revolutionaries – fought for ideals of an abstract and high nature “Liberte, fraternite, egalite.” It doesn’t seem to have occurred to any of them – Lafayette included – that by mandating fraternite and egalite they were denying the liberte. And the fraternity and equality one being a lofty feeling, and the other an absolute measurement always prone to more and finer adjustment, both could be used as levers for the new upper classes to get more and more tyrannical power, until you could be executed as an “aristo” because you knew how to read or you wore glasses. Or you had one plate more than your destitute neighbor.
Americans, on the other hand, based their revolution on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You are free to pursue happiness. You have equality under the law on your right to pursue it.
No one guarantees you will catch it or that you’ll be happy when you do it. Well, at least we didn’t use to. In the twentieth century the statist excesses have infected even the US, and we’ve regulated more and more how equal you have to be and how much happiness you can attain and how much is “good for you.” This is a wrong path.
The riddle of the missing US ambassador as London toasts Ronald Reagan centenary[*5] — When all you see is politics, then everything becomes fair game. No behavior is outré, if it conforms to the appropriate political narrative. You can snub, shout down, or beat down your political opponents with wild abandon. Because they’re ignorant, wrong and stupid. And you’re intelligent, right, and care more than they do. Because “good guys” are never tyrants–at least in their own minds. They always have good and adequate reasons for the horrible things that they do.
If you don’t like the Casey Anthony verdict look in the mirror[*6] — This will be the only mention of this case which will ever appear here at Medary. Because it simply isn’t that important in the greater scheme of things. This case was, more than anything else, fodder to feed the insatiable 24/7 cable news channels’ ratings. Outside its immediate locale, and outside the family involved, it has no value other than lurid, prurient, semi-pornographic emotional stimulation.
Obama really might have made it worse[*7] — $278,000 per job created by the “Stimulus?” Yeah, I could have done better. Nearly anyone could have done better. But then, Obama has never spent a day working for a private company, has he?
Contributed by: filbert Tuesday, July 05 2011 @ 08:11 AM CST
The Legendary Danube, May 26-June 8, 2011, AMA Waterways Amadolce
Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert
June 5 (Sunday, Day 11, Budapest, Hungary, 182 forint to the dollar) –
Hungarian Parliament Building. Very spikey.
We cruised into Budapest in the morning and everyone went to the skydeck to see Budapest’s beautiful architecture. Budapest, population 2 million, used to be two cities, Buda (the hilly side) and Pest (the flat side), separated by the Danube. So, it really is ON the Danube and seeing it from a ship is quite a neat experience. We docked literally across the Danube from the Budapest Intercontinental which would be our hotel for our final two nights in Budapest.
More after the jump . . . It was a hot, sunny and humid day and we had a 3-hour bus and walking tour. We drove up the hill to Buda Castle where we were able to have great views of the twin cities spread over both banks of the Danube. We also climbed the stairs to Fisherman’s Bastion.
Inside Buda Castle
Cathedral within Buda Castle
Old car. In castle. With headlight wipers.
Then we got back on the bus and drove by the Royal Palace, Parliament and St. Stephen’s Basilica. During the last 15 minutes of the bus tour, it started pouring rain. The tour guide said that was normal and that it would quickly stop and no one would even give it a second thought. Sure enough, locals used umbrellas or stood under awnings and after the “monsoon” passed, continued their walking. Everyone got back to the ship just in time for the 1:30 lunch. Lunch was a Hungarian lunch and Snookums really enjoyed the cabbage soup and pork goulash. The food on this cruise has not been very special or creative and this themed lunch was much appreciated.
Old cars. Painted in a black and white checkerboard pattern and welded together. In a lake.
Most passengers, including us, stayed on the ship the rest of the day since the heat zapped everyone’s energy. We spent time on our PCs and watched the French Open Men’s Final “live” which was nice. We finally decided to pack our luggage. That was easy since most of our clothes were dirty. (The ship didn’t have any self-serve laundry facilities and charged by the piece [$5.10 for a pair of pants]).
Snookums spent $70 in the gift shop since we had that much shipboard credit remaining and unlike ocean cruises, AMA Waterways will not give cash back at the end of the cruise. She bought an incredibly overpriced rayon pashmina-type shawl, a Murano glass cocktail ring, a tea towel with the map of Germany on it, a German wooden musical Christmas tree and three postcards to use up all of the credit. (The wooden Christmas tree on display was broken and didn’t play any music so Snookums is not too hopeful about this decoration.) Snookums tried to get Filbert to choose something, but just like on ocean cruise ships, the Amadolce’s gift shop really didn’t have anything of interest for men.
After the stressful shopping trip, we continued to relax until Roland, the cruise director, annoyed us with yet another announcement. This time it was, “Sooooooooooooo, make sure to pick up your passport at Reception.” That was followed by another announcement 30 minutes later with him saying, “Sooooooooooooo, the gates to paradise are open”, which meant it was time for dinner. Obviously the clocks in the cabins were not sufficient for people to know when it was 7 PM.
Speaking about the announcements, Roland told all the cruisers at the beginning of the cruise that to hear the announcements in the cabin, turn the TV to channel 1. Otherwise, they wouldn’t broadcast in the cabin. The problem with this was that the cabin doors were paper thin and EVERYTHING that happened in the hallway within 20 yards of the cabin door, we easily heard. This included the hallway speakers that seemed to be everywhere. Not only did he make announcements regarding the start of lunches and dinners (which were always printed in the daily program) but he also would do at least two announcements per tour to make sure people knew how many minutes were left until the tour left. His announcements always started with “Sooooooooooooo” and that was really, really, really annoying. Filbert really wanted to go up to him and say “Sooooooooouuuuuuuuullllllll Train”[*1] , but he never did.
Besides having paper-thin walls and doors with a cruise director that made constant announcements, there was another thing that bothered us about AMA Waterways. The dining room service was inconsistent. The dining room seemed short staffed since the wait staff was constantly hustling. Given that this cruise was 50% more expensive than our ocean cruises, we expected good service (and good food). Lunches were a variety of cold salads and a hot dish on the buffet as well as a menu that had two soups and two entrees listed that the waiter would deliver. On three different days, we were never given menus for lunch. This wasn’t that big of a deal since we could easily consume enough calories from the salads, but the menus should have been presented to us. A waiter didn’t even show up during these three days. Our water glasses were filled when we were at the buffet and other than that, we never had a waiter stop at our table. Dinners were somewhat similar in that we would get menus and get our food delivered, but after the entrees were delivered we noticed that the wait staff would walk around and offer the steamed vegetables. However, there were three nights when the vegetables were not offered to us. And, if one of the three steamed vegetables ran out before the pan was offered to you, it was not refilled. Snookums had brussels sprouts one night and since Filbert was the last person at the table to have the vegetables offered to him, he didn’t get any since they were all gone. We didn’t even realize this until a few days later when we were talking about brussels sprouts and he commented that he never saw them at any dinner. There definitely needed to be more waiters.
Dinner was a Hungarian dinner and Filbert thought it was the best meal of the cruise. Snookums still thought this afternoon’s lunch was better. The appetizer was a pancake stuffed with minced meat that had a paprika gravy on it and a dollop of sour cream. It was kind of like a Hungarian burrito covered in salsa. The soup was a fish soup that looked like a thin cream of tomato with some fish stock flavor. The entrée was pork loin on a sauce made from red and yellow peppers, onions, paprika and tomatoes served with mashed potatoes. Dessert was mousse mixed with pieces of cake and the red wine was from Hungary.
During this dinner, the table next to us had four people at it. We were talking and realized that they are two other couples that signed up for this cruise with our friend, Carl. One of the couples has cruised with Carl several times before and said that if Carl had been on the ship, he would have made sure that all of the couples would have had at least one dinner together and some happy hours. We all traded “Carl stories”.
Although the ship was overnighting in Budapest, the captain gave us a 45-minute cruise of Budapest at 9 PM when it was dark. The beautiful buildings are lit up at night so this gave us another nice memory. Filbert went to sleep during this evening sightseeing cruise, but Snookums enjoyed the sights.
Hungarian Royal Palace at night
June 6 (Monday, Day 12, Budapest, Hungary) –
After breakfast the cab that was ordered for us came. Although our hotel was directly across the river, the cruise director said that we should take the pre-arranged $21.65 cab to the hotel rather than flagging one down and haggling over a price since we would definitely get ripped off. It seems ludicrous that we couldn’t have negotiated a better fare for the 5-minute drive, but whatever. At that point all we really cared about was getting away from AMA Waterways.
We got to the Budapest Intercontinental around 9:45 AM and our upgraded room wasn’t ready yet. After a short 25-minute wait, it was. During the wait Snookums looked on the Priority Club website using the hotel’s iPad to find the rules about getting Lounge access for having Platinum status. She thought that Lounge access was a Platinum perk, but the front desk clerk said that only the room upgrade was. The iPad flustered her and she couldn’t find what she was looking for and settled for just the room upgrade.
We loved our 8th floor room. The huge picture windows had the best view imaginable of the Palace and Chain Bridge. We unpacked and stopped at the Concierge before leaving the hotel for a lunch recommendation. We made that restaurant our goal and headed out of the hotel, umbrella in hand. It started to rain quite heavily right then so we stood under the hotel’s awning and watched all of the police motorcades. We later found out that the many, many motorcades with lots of police cars with flashing lights was because Hungary is the president of the EU and a conference was being held at various locations around the city, including the Budapest Intercontinental. The motorcades were going the wrong way down streets and one of the motorcades was probably going around 75 MPH on the rain-slicked road behind the hotel. That was actually scary to see. The hotel was also hosting some kind of NATO meeting for doctors and we were in the elevator with some doctors (colonels) from Bulgaria in uniform.
The rain let up and we continued our walk to the restaurant while stopping at several little convenience stores along the way. Downtown Budapest has a bunch of super markets and even more 24-hour stores that are smaller, but still sell all of the essentials. Normal sized cans of vegetables were around $1.25 at all of the stores which is much more expensive than in the US. We also noticed a ton of liquor stores.
We found the restaurant that is family owned and specializes in Hungarian food and sat outside under the umbrellas. We decided to order an appetizer of the pancake stuffed with minced meat that we had on the ship last night to compare. We ordered chicken paprikash and cabbage rolls for our entrees and split them. The chicken paprikash was not very flavorful but the cabbage rolls were very tasty. However, the $80 bill made us realize that we should never ask a hotel Concierge for recommendations. (We knew this, but obviously lost our mind momentarily when we asked for restaurant recommendations!) We would have been happier eating at one of the dumpy little places we passed.
We decided to walk to the train station since we needed a destination. Along the way we saw St. Stephan’s Cathedral. We stopped at a super market and Filbert bought a Coke Zero and Snookums bought a puff pastry danish (it looked like a burrito) filled with a heavy, curdly cream cheese-like filling that was topped with wonderful cherry preserves. It was delicious.
After reaching the train station, we headed back for the hotel. We stopped in a super market to buy paprika. Snookums asked a man for advice and he explained the different types and suggested the correct brand to buy. We bought two packages of spicy paprika and Filbert bought some beer.
We continued our walk and then it started raining a lot. We decided to go into an office building and wait in the lobby on the nice leather couches. There were even copies of a weekly English-language Budapest business newspaper for us to read! We read for about 30 minutes while it rained. When it stopped, we continued back to the hotel and came upon a large protest march. A man told us it was one of the police unions protesting since the Prime Minister recently suggested that the retirement age be increased as well as the pension decreased. It was a large and loud (and orderly march) and made the front page of the paper the next day.
We got back to the hotel at 5 PM and Snookums talked to the front desk clerk about using points to get lounge access. He had the manager deal with her. The manager said that we could buy lounge access at the reduced rate of $30 per person per night (from $60 per person per night) due to Snookums’s Platinum status and Snookums had her hopes on the Lounge so she agreed! (For those of you who know Snookums, she is the cheapest/thriftiest person around and this was totally out of character for her.) Therefore, we went to the 1st floor Lounge and enjoyed the free Internet (which would have cost $20/day/person). With her PC, Snookums searched for the wording that gave free lounge access to Platinum level people. She found it in the Member’s Guide. It stated that Platinum guests would be upgraded to THE best room type. She accessed the hotel’s website and pretended to book a room that included lounge access so she was confident in her assertion that Platinum members should get lounge access for free. She spoke to the lounge receptionist and a meeting with the hotel manager was scheduled for the next morning to discuss getting complimentary access.
While in the lounge Filbert enjoyed the red wine during happy hour. We ate dinner there, too, of pork meatballs, mozzarella sticks, fried zucchini, vegetable soup, raw vegetables, potato salad, little sandwiches, and small pieces of various cakes. The floor to ceiling windows offered great views and we stayed until 9 PM, just relaxing after our 6-hour walk (and lunch) around Pest.
When we got back to our room, we were pleasantly surprised to find a bottle of Hungaria brand sparkling wine and a small bottle of merlot. We’re not sure why they were delivered, but we didn’t complain. We sat in the window seat and gazed out at the lights on the palace, the castle and Chain Bridge. We walked a ton and looked forward to the king bed after having the queen bed on the ship.
June 7 (Tuesday, Day 13, Budapest, Hungary) –
We woke up and made sure that we were in the lounge for the meeting with the manager. We also ate a large breakfast there. The manager explained that lounge access is not considered a room type so that is why a Platinum member doesn’t get free lounge access. Snookums decided not to pay for another night in the lounge.
Budapest Great Market Hall
After breakfast, we walked to the Great Market Hall which is the biggest indoor market in Budapest. Most of the people buying things were locals. There were stalls selling sausages, produce, fresh meat, caviar, liquor, fish, cheese and then tourist items like tablecloths, tshirts, and pictures. We bought a handpainted print of the palace for our travel wall at home. Around 11 AM, Filbert enjoyed a Freher Bak (a dark Hungarian beer) and he wasn’t alone. There were five groups of Hungarian men drinking that early, too!!
Inside the Great Market Hall
We left the market and wandered around Budapest for another four hours. At 3 we returned to the hotel and went to the lounge. The manager said we had access until 4 PM so we figured we needed to get our money’s worth. We drank a lot of Coke Light and ate the various little nibbles that were out. We were hoping to be able to stay for happy hour/dinner at 6, but at 6 the receptionist asked us if we had changed our mind and wanted to pay for another day. We left!
We were hungry and tired and decided to walk until we found a restaurant that looked good. We ate at one of the many outdoor restaurants at Vörösmarti ter, a large and lively square near our hotel. Snookums ordered beef paprikash with noodles and egg (it seemed like a beaten egg was stirred onto the homemade cooked noodles [kind of like spaetzle]) and Filbert had bacon wrapped turkey which came with five small scoops of mashed potatoes. We were happy with our orders (and the bill!). On the way back to the hotel, Snookums wanted to see the desserts at Cafe Garbeaud which has been around since 1870 and is famous for its plum pie. Fortunately (or unfortunately) nothing jumped out at her.
Old car. Green. Without headlight wipers.
June 8 (Wednesday, Day 14, Trying to get home) –
We bought the hotel’s buffet breakfast at the reduced rate of $17 per person due to our Accenture room rate. It was a very bountiful spread and even had miso soup and congee for Asian appetites.
Our airport shuttle arrived promptly at 10 AM and we got to our gate with plenty of time for our 1 PM flight to Munich. There was a lounge right next to the gate that we were entitled to use from having a certain credit card. It had every liquor imaginable plus all sorts of individually wrapped candy bars and cookies and had free wifi and three different English language papers. We happily settled in for our wait.
We went to the gate only to be told that there were mechanical problems and an update would be given in 30 minutes. That led to a 2-hour delay. The lounge receptionist was used to seeing us come and go. We finally decided to stand in line for new tickets and were given business class tickets to Frankfurt. We were told that we wouldn’t be able to get a flight to the U.S. from Frankfurt today, but to get new tickets to the U.S. after landing in Frankfurt. We were just happy to leave the Budapest airport.
It was now 3:45 PM and although we had candy bars and junk in the lounge, we hadn’t eaten any lunch since there was no time between all of the delay updates. Snookums was really looking forward to the business class food. It ended up being smoked tuna (raw), two pieces of Brie cheese and a tiny fruit cup. It was definitely a pricey lunch, but Snookums hates raw tuna and Brie cheese. The flight attendant came by with various rolls and Snookums took two. She ate some of the candy bars that she took from the lounge, too.
We landed in Frankfurt at 5 PM and found the right place to go for Lufthansa re-ticketing. We were given a hotel and dinner voucher as well as new flights on Thursday through Washington, DC. We tried to sweet-talk our way into business class tickets, but could only get exit row seating in economy. We walked to another part of the huge Frankfurt airport for our toiletry kits. (When you get stuck overnight, you are not allowed to get your checked baggage. So, we needed toothbrushes and toothpaste and stuff from Lufthansa.) Filbert realized he needed distilled water for his CPAP so then we went to the full-size grocery store in the basement of the Frankfurt airport. He also bought beer there. Our toiletry kits contained white t-shirts in them so we had clean shirts for tomorrow but Filbert also wanted clean underwear. We went to several stores looking for men’s underwear and finally found them in the Levi’s store. One pair of Levi’s underwear cost $31.70. Our cruise insurance will come in handy…
We exited the airport at 8 PM and waited for the shuttle bus to the hotel. We had just spent three hours in the airport walking all over it and were very tired and hungry. We got to the hotel and dumped our stuff in the room and went to dinner. Snookums was hoping to order some German food, but it ended up being a buffet. It was a good buffet, but the only German thing on it was the potato salad. Oh well. We enjoyed dinner and returned to our room. Snookums called the front desk to ask how to use the air conditioning and was informed that a room with air conditioning would cost an extra $30. We decided to stay where we were and opened the window instead.
It had been a long day and we went to sleep in the hot room.
June 9 (Thursday, Day 15, Flying home) –
Neither of us slept well due to the stuffy room, but we survived. We showered and put on our thin white t-shirts, compliments of Lufthansa, and went to the breakfast buffet. To access the dining area you had to swipe your room key in the turnstile reader and then go through the turnstile. This system was not used for dinner, but the hotel must have a problem with people coming in for the breakfast buffet so they installed the turnstile. It was strange, but it worked. We caught the shuttle to the airport and got to the gate about an hour before the flight left.
We boarded the plane and enjoyed our exit row seats that literally had no seats in front of them. We had plenty of leg room. Snookums watched four films on the 8-hour flight and Filbert watched several Discovery nature shows. The two meals were okay, too. We landed at Washington and only two of our three pieces of luggage were there. Oh well. We went through Customs and went through security again and Snookums found one Chinese yuan ($0.15). We looked at the Departures board and saw that our flight to KC was delayed two hours. United lounge, here we come! Filbert enjoyed a beer and got the snacks of cheese, crackers, cookies, yogurt covered raisins, trail mix and fresh vegetables while Snookums called Mom. We had free wifi, too. Life was good and then Snookums noticed that our flight was no longer delayed two hours and was getting ready to board.
We went to the gate and boarded the flight to KC. It was a regional jet with a total of three seats across and we were in the very last row and the lavatory was behind us. A little boy had a difficult time getting out so the flight attendant came and got him out. We learned that on every airplane, the lavatory doors have a little silver plaque above the area that says “Occupied” or “Vacant”. If you lift up this little plaque, you can unlock the door from the outside! After flying all these years, that was new information for Snookums. Later on in the flight, the flight attendant locked the door (while the lavatory was empty) and we couldn’t figure out why until the pilot walked down the aisle to use it. On such a small plane, no one gets up to use the lavatory until it is vacant so if it says “Occupied” then the pilot can use it without any wait. That makes a lot of sense.
Our flight ultimately landed a little more than a hour late and our third piece of luggage wasn’t there so we had to file a delayed baggage report. We got home around 6 PM, unpacked, showered and went to bed around 10 PM. We left the Budapest Intercontinental 39 hours before finally making it home!
Note: Our third piece of luggage was delivered on Saturday afternoon after Janet was told to replace required items. United reimbursed her $125.45 for the required items that she bought Saturday morning.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
The Legendary Danube, May 26-June 8, 2011, AMA Waterways Amadolce
Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert
June 4 (Saturday, Day 10, Vienna, Austria) –
Krems, in passing
Before we jump into Vienna, one picture of a town along the way from Melk to Vienna–Krems.
More after the jump . . . Welcome to Vienna!
Vienna strikes up the band for us
The guided tour started with a bus ride around Ringstrasse (Ring Road) which is a grand boulevard constructed along the old city walls. We saw many beautiful buildings including the Rathaus [City Hall], the Austrian Parliament, the Hofburg Palace, the Natural History Museum, the Museum of Art History (Kunsthistorisches Museum), and the Vienna Opera House. Vienna is a stunningly beautiful city and has a population of around 1.7 million.
The bus let everyone off at St. Stephen’s Cathedral and after listening to our monotone tour guide for about 10 minutes, we decided to just walk around ourselves. We did learn that St. Stephen’s Cathedral is covered with 230,000 colorful glazed tiles.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral roof tiles
Flower clock, Stadtpark
After that, we quit listening. We knew what tram to take to get back to the ship and had all day so we weren’t concerned about getting lost. We enjoyed a stationary marching band that was made up of men and women that appeared to be in their 40s and 50s that for some reason was playing in front of St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
We walked to the famous wiener schnitzel restaurant, Figlmüller, and each ordered a huge wiener schnitzel and a potato salad with field greens. Filbert also had a stein (yep, a mug) of some kind of wine that the waiter recommended would go well with the wiener schnitzel.
It was the best $57.16 we could have spent. We sat on the outside of the restaurant, but luckily for us, there was a wooden wall about chest high that prevented the numerous passersby from reaching over and grabbing our great food while still allowing us to people watch. It was funny, though, to watch people’s reactions as they saw the bigger than plate-sized wiener schnitzel. For the record, the other 8 people eating in our section also ordered individual wiener schnitzels and side salads so we weren’t the only pigs!
After lunch we continued our walk to nowhere and ended up at the Vienna Opera House. Hotel Sacher was just across the street and that is the hotel that created Sacher Torte. Of course we had to have a piece. So, we shared a piece of Sacher Torte and Filbert ordered a glass of apple spritzer (non-alcoholic, kind of like sparkling apple cider – it seemed to be THE non-alcoholic beverage of choice in Germany and Austria). Snookums tried to order a glass of tap water since she noticed that many people had little juice glasses of water in front of them but the waitress quickly informed her that those glasses of water only come with an order of coffee. Gee, you would think that they could have provided a little juice glass of water, but nope! And, Snookums will not spend money on water in Europe since it is often very minerally or else carbonated. Snookums just wants plain old tap water… The Sacher Torte was okay and that bill at the outdoor café was $12.25 – ouch!!
Sacher Torte–the original
We continued our walk and saw Hofburg Palace and a brass band was playing in front of it, too. We also stumbled upon a country music festival that was just about to start in front of the Rathaus. The definition of country music probably meant traditional since many, many people were wearing lederhosen (men) or dirndls (women). By now it was very hot and Filbert was happy to buy a beer from the beer stand set up just for the festival.
We kept walking around and decided it was time to head back to the ship. We found the nearest D Tram stop only to read that it was closed for two hours due to the “country” music festival in the middle of the city! So that’s why we kept seeing bands playing in various places. We finally figured out what metro to take to one of the open D Tram stations and made it back to the ship around 4 PM. We were hot and tired, but had a great day.
The ship left the dock and after about 30 minutes had to dock again at a different location since our passports needed to be checked. The World Economic Forum was being held in Vienna and that meant that the borders were closed. Normally you can travel from Austria to Hungary without any passport check, but the World Economic Forum nixed that. It didn’t interfere with our trip, but was an interesting development.
The Legendary Danube, May 26-June 8, 2011, AMA Waterways Amadolce
Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert
(June 1 (Wednesday, Day 7, Regensburg, Germany) –
We woke up to rain and drizzle and mid-50 temps. We went on the 90-minute walking tour (tours are included in the cruise price). Pope Benedict XVI is from Regensburg and we saw the house that Oscar Schindler lived in for four years after World War II. We saw a bunch of other old stuff, too, including lots of towers since this town wasn’t hurt by World War II and a lot of it dates back to the 1100s.
More after the jump . . . We woke up to rain and drizzle and mid-50 temps. We went on the 90-minute walking tour (tours are included in the cruise price). Pope Benedict XVI is from Regensburg and we saw the house that Oscar Schindler lived in for four years after World War II. We saw a bunch of other old stuff, too, including lots of towers since this town wasn’t hurt by World War II and a lot of it dates back to the 1100s.
After the tour we ate lunch at the historic sausage kitchen (Historische Wurstkuchl). This restaurant claims to be the oldest sausage restaurant in the world (just like Nuremberg’s) and it dates from 1135. That is older than Nuremberg’s. Per our Regensburg guide, there was a legal battle between the two restaurants but Snookums doesn’t know the outcome. Regensburg’s sausage kitchen is next to the Stone Bridge which was built by the Romans in 1135 and this kitchen supposedly catered for the Romans workers. The Regensburg sausages look like the Nuremberg ones (short and skinny), but they taste different. The Nuremberg sausages are made up of a coarser grind and don’t have as much spices. The rolls in Nuremberg are softer and don’t have caraway seeds in them. The mustard in Nuremberg is just a tad spicy whereas Regensburg is famous for its sweet mustard and it is definitely sweet. (Too sweet for our tastes.) The sauerkraut in Nuremberg is a bit sweeter and that probably makes sense since the Regensburg sauerkraut is probably so sour to compensate for the very sweet mustard. The Regensburg German potato salad had slices of cucumber in it which gave a nice flavor. In Nuremberg, sausages on a roll purchased at a kiosk consisted of three sausages on a roll and a pump container full of mustard to help yourself. In Regensburg, you got two sausages and a choice of sauerkraut or not and a choice of mustard or not. Snookums liked the Nuremberg rolls, sausages and mustard better. Filbert liked the Regensburg rolls better but they were way too hard and crunchy for Snookums’s mouth and they had caraway seeds in them and Snookums doesn’t like caraway seeds.
We got back to the ship and Snookums tried to warm up. She went to the Bavarian lunch on the ship and tried the German potato salad. It was just okay. Filbert stayed in the cabin and worked on his book.
Soon it was time for dinner. Well, not quite. Before dinner every night the cruise director, Roland, spends 15 minutes explaining the next day’s itinerary. Although we get a daily program delivered to our room every night for the next day, we make a point of going to Roland’s speech. When he is done, dinner is served. We didn’t feel social and sat at a table for two. Filbert ordered both the red fish and the German wheat dumpling with mushroom ragout and Snookums ordered the German wheat dumpling with mushroom ragout. The dumpling, which was the size of a cue ball, was not very tasty. However, the mushroom ragout was very good and made a nice gravy for the steamed brussels sprouts and broccoli. Dinners haven’t been that impressive and the additional vegetables that they bring around each night have always included steamed turnips and steamed carrots with either steamed celery or steamed brussels sprouts. The vegetables are not very imaginative.
A famous Franconian singer was the post-dinner entertainment, but we didn’t attend her performance in the lounge. A lot of people said that she really was very good and sang popular songs. We went back to the cabin and since no tv channels were coming in, we watched one of the movies. The movie choices left a lot to be desired so we chose one of the classic movies, “A Bridge Too Far”. Unfortunately we didn’t realize it was a 3-hour movie and we were pooped after two hours. (I suppose you could say it was “A Movie Too Far.” — Filbert)
June 2 (Thursday, Day 8, Passau & Linz, Austria) –
We woke up and joined the walking tour of Passau. Passau has 50,000 inhabitants and its only industry is tourism. The Danube, Inn and Ilz Rivers form a junction in Passau and cause a lot of flooding. In addition to horrible floods, old town Passau has seen the Romans, Charlemagne’s troops, the crusaders, the Turks, and Napoleon’s legions. For 600 years, Passau was the largest sovereign bishopric, and the Bishops of Passau were very wealthy, powerful, and independent of the emperor.
Since it was Ascension Thursday, nothing was open. All of the churches’ bells seemed to ring at the same time and at one point as we were standing in the square in front of St. Stephan’s Cathedral, which has Europe’s largest church organ with 17,774 pipes and 233 registers, it was almost overwhelmingly loud.
Flowers in Passau
St. Stephan’s Cathedral
The opposite bank of the river from Passau
While we were eating lunch the ship left for Linz, Austria. We passed through several locks and there was a religious statue on the Danube’s banks after one of the locks and it is superstition to throw a coin at the statue and if you hit it, you make a wish. Filbert and Snookums stood in their cabin and the French balcony and threw their coins, one person at a time, but neither hit the statue.
We left our cabin since the cruise director was talking about seeing castles from the left side of the ship and since it was cold and overcast outside, we went to the Aft Lounge. We consider it our private lounge since our cheap balcony cabin is the second one from the back so the Aft Lounge is very close to us. People that we had talked to while we were crossing the Continental Divide were in there so I talked to them while Filbert wrote his book. We all enjoyed the scenery.
An ice cream social was during tea time so we all left the Aft Lounge for our ice cream. Six flavors of hard ice cream and 10 toppings made Snookums very happy!
Filbert doled out his next seven days worth of pills and realized that he left his prescription meds at home. He sent an email to Snookums’s sisters and Jean quickly got the prescriptions emailed to the ship. Roland, the cruise director, said he would try to fill them in Melk tomorrow. Filbert had enough through Saturday so if they don’t get filled, he’ll only be without his prescriptions for four days. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that an emailed prescription from the US will work in Austria!
The ship docked in Linz, Austria during dinner. After dinner a trio came on the ship to play Mozart and other music but we opted to get off the ship and explore Linz, Austria. It was 8:30 PM or so and all the stores were closed. Linz is the third largest city in Austria and it seemed to have a mixture of old buildings and new buildings with no rhyme or reason. There were a lot of people just walking around window shopping. McDonald’s and some restaurants/sidewalk cafes were open. We went in the McDonald’s since we realized we never went in one in Nuremberg (and there were at least three of them in the Old Town). Since we were in Austria, the McCafe sold all sorts of coffee drinks as well as fancy pastries. The restrooms had a turnstile on the outside that required a €0.50 coin to even enter them! We didn’t need to use them, but this is the first time we’ve seen a pay toilet in a McDonald’s in any of our world travels.
We made it back to the ship just as it started to rain. We’ve had a lot of drizzle/rain and cold, cloudy weather on the trip so far.
June 3 (Friday, Day 9, Melk & Vienna, Austria) –
Our tour started at 8:30 AM so we had to get up early. The bus took us to the beautiful, huge 18th-century Melk Abbey on top of the hill. It currently has 30 monks and priests as well as a day school for 900 elementary students. The various buildings and grounds were as impressive as a palace and the actual church was beautiful, too. After the guided walking tour through the abbey, we walked back to the ship. The morning turned sunny and warm and no one needed the jackets that they started off wearing.
The Prelate’s Courtyard of Melk Abbey
The four virtues depicted in the frescoes in the Melk Abbey Courtyard (don’t quote me on which legend actually goes with each picture–I didn’t take notes, OK?):
Melk seemed to consist of one main street about three blocks long with two streets branching off of it for its population of 5,000. We walked it all. Snookums wanted to find a bakery and two of them were out of business. We never saw a bakery or a grocery store but we did pass a meat market and went in and Filbert bought two cold beers.
Melk, from the Abbey
The Adventurers at the Abbey
Unlike in Germany where there is an €0.08 deposit on every glass bottle and a €0.25 deposit on every plastic bottle and can, Austria doesn’t have any deposits. (We never managed to figure out how to get our deposits back in Germany and left our empty cans and bottles next to the hotel’s trash can. Hopefully the maid turned them in and made some extra money!)
The ship departed Melk during lunch and after lunch everyone seemed to be on the skydeck enjoying the sunny, warm afternoon. (Filbert stayed in the room writing his book until he finally had to see the scenery and went outside for a few minutes of picture taking.) The ship passed vineyards, castles and ruins and we were on the 20-mile stretch of river along Austria’s Wachau Valley. It is regarded as the most attractive part of the Danube.
Snookums read her paperback outside, under the canopy, for the entire afternoon. Every time the ship passed under a bridge the canopy had to be lowered so she had to move into the sun. The canopy isn’t that tall, but the captain never knows the height of the river’s water and to be on the safe side, everything is lowered and people are told to sit down. At some point in the afternoon, Kaiser Spritzers (elderberry juice and champagne) were passed around and Snookums took one to Filbert in the cabin. Around 4:30 it got very dark and cloudy and Snookums went inside. Then it started pouring rain!
We ate dinner with Claire and Andre from Montreal, Quebec and during dinner the head waiter made an announcement that it is standard practice on AMA Waterways to clean produce with a mixture containing 25ppm chlorine in order to kill any e coli. This announcement probably should have been made at the beginning of the cruise since the German cucumber/bean sprout/whatever contamination happened prior to us boarding the ship. Better yet, it could have been printed in the daily program every day.
During dinner the ship docked in Vienna but since the city center was a long tram ride away, we decided to just go to bed and be well rested for our tour in the morning.