Well, I meant to post this months ago, but life gets in the way! This is Part 2 of our European visit in September. Read Part 1 about Budapest, Prague, and Berlin.
We found the ship to be pretty much as we expected, a smaller version of our ocean cruise in May. Here’s a look at our room:
We also explored the Sun Deck, complete with an herb garden, mini golf, and our favorite, shuffleboard!
We attended our first briefing, and met a few fellow passengers. We had a few people ask if we were on our honeymoon, as most of the passengers were above 50, and many were above retirement age. We did meet one other couple our age, traveling with their parents.
After dark the ship took a brief scenic cruise, with the program director narrating. We had an excellent dinner, and then walked across a bridge and up to the castle for some night photography. It was a great way to see the city from a different vantage point, and we had the castle pretty much to ourselves.
One bonus of Viking is that while on board, you get included walking or bus tours of the cities you visit. They had a nifty little system, where the guide speaks into a microphone, and you can hear clearly in a provided earpiece. This way you don’t have to stand right next to the guide to hear, and can wander off to take pictures without losing your group. We took a bus tour around the city, but we’d already seen most of those spots.
Our favorite stop on the walking tour was St. Matthias Church. I’ve never seen a cathedral this color, as most cathedrals in Europe are black with age. We also enjoyed exploring the castle-like walls, with panoramic views of the river, bridges, and Parliament.
Unfortunately, Vienna was very rainy. We took our walking tour, got some bratwurst, and then hunkered down for some drinks. We had visited Vienna before on our Eurotrip two years ago, so thankfully we had some better memories of the city.
The following day we stopped in Krems, Austria. We were picked up by a bus and driven up to Gottweig Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery founded in 1094. We sampled their sparkling apricot wine (a little too early for drinking, but it was delicious!), watched a short video introducing the monks and their way of life, and then we toured the public areas of the complex.
The last section of the abbey that we visited was built after a large fire in 1718, for visiting royalty who never actually visited. The imperial staircase is the most impressive section, with Baroque-style architecture, and masterpieces of sculpture and painting. Charles VI appears in the form of Apollo, riding in his chariot.
After leaving the abbey, we cruised along the UNESCO World Heritage landscape of Wachau Valley. The weather wasn’t the best, but we got a glimpse of vineyards, cathedrals, and old ruins perched on top of the hills.
And then we woke up in Germany!
In Passau, a large portion of our cruise mates took a full-day excursion to Salzburg. We’d already visited (on the sing-a-long Sound of Music tour, of course!), so we opted for an excursion to a local farm, touted as a festive Bavarian party. It was a great experience, full of traditional German music, pretzels, and locally brewed beer.
On our way back to the bus, we drove up to get a view of the confluence of the Inn, Ilz, and Danube Rivers.
Regensburg is one of Europe’s medieval cities, better preserved than most due to minimal damage during WWII. This was the location of a Roman fort in 179, and at one time served as the capital of Bavaria.
We had lunch at Germany’s oldest restaurant, the Alte Würstküche. They sold tiny sausages and, of course, beer and pretzels.
We explored a small museum in the clock tower below. It was fascinating to learn about this town’s long history, and all of the changes to its bridge, which is currently under renovation. We spent the afternoon wandering paths around the river.
There wasn’t much to do here, but it was a very picturesque little city.
In Nuremberg, we hopped on a bus for a quick tour of the city. We drove past the former Nazi Parade Grounds, the site of the Nuremberg Trials, and then to Nuremberg Castle. Our guide walked us through the highlights, pointing out the oldest parts of the castle, and how it was strategically built to withstand attack. Below you can see the natural rock formation that this castle is built on top of.
We walked down the street to the Hauptmarkt, where we were surprised to find a large festival. Nuremberg is known for Nürnberger Bratwurst, which is shorter and thinner than other bratwurst sausages. Another Nuremberg speciality is Nürnberger Lebkuchen, a kind of gingerbread eaten mainly around Christmas time. Of course we had to sample both!
The next day, our Viking cruise was officially over. We had a great time with the friends we’d made! We said our goodbyes, took a cab to our hotel, and headed out to explore the city. We met up with Jake’s friend Gustav, who we hadn’t seen since our hike in Switzerland during our Eurotrip in 2015. He was kind enough to travel to Nuremberg and catch up with us. Since he has family in the area, he also acted as our tour guide.
We met at the Kongresshalle, which was inspired by the Roman Coliseum. It was supposed to hold 50,000 seats and have a roof, but was begun in 1935 and never finished.
The Congress Hall was built on the water so that it would look doubly impressive. We walked around a long trail to the Great Road (intended as a parade route) and then the Nazi Parade Grounds, also known as the Zeppelinfeld.
It was chilling to stand somewhere we’ve all seen in old videos, especially to stand where Hitler once stood.
After a few sobering hours, we set out to explore the happier spots in Nuremberg.
We discovered what seemed to be another festival around the corner from the Hauptmarkt. I guess September is a good time to visit Germany!
Here they were serving traditional beer and brats. I love the old-fashioned grill they were using to cook the sausages over an open fire.
We walked to the Handwerkhof, a small area right next to the original city walls. You can get a drink or buy souvenirs here, and imagine you’re living in medieval times.
We stumbled across Ehekarussell, a statue that Jake had read about. It depicts the stages of dating and marriage, but don’t visit if you’d like to be optimistic about your chances at happiness with a partner! It’s pretty dark. And very weird…
We visited Nuremberg Castle again, because there was just so much to see! The gardens are beautiful, and the museum is definitely worth a walk-through.
After climbing Sinwell Tower (included in your museum ticket), we had a fantastic 360 degree view of the city below. The tower survived WWII with minimal damage, but some enterprising soul climbed up and photographed the damage to the city below. It was entirely devastated.
They decided to rebuild the city to look like the original, which is why Nuremberg looks like it could still be part of centuries past.
After grabbing a street sausage, we walked the streets ’til dusk. With fall colors just beginning to appear, this city was by far the loveliest we visited on this trip.
We were so happy to be shown around by Gustav, and glad to know that we always have a friend in Germany. Thanks so much, Gustav! Hope we get to see you in America one of these days!
The next morning we waved goodbye to Nuremburg, and hopped a bus to Prague! Read more on the Budapest & Prague post.