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16 July 2012

I am stuffed.  In fact, I'm so full, I may have to take a nap before finishing this entry!  We are here in Budapest, after a very long day.  It was overcast when we arrived, then started raining, then there was lightning and a huge boom of thunder, and within 5 minutes the skies were blue and the sun was shining.  Who knows WHAT we will find tomorrow!

But let's go back to Prague for a moment.  Walt was so incredibly tickled.  We had a message from Jeri asking if we had seen a theater called Divadlo Archa.  Many, many years ago when she worked tech for the Margaret Jenkins ballet company in San Francisco, they did a tour of Eastern European countries and she schlepped road boxes across the cobblestones to that theater.  Walt looked it up on a map and it turns out we had been right across the street from it on our first night in Prague. He grabbed his cell phone and went off to take a picture to send her.

The Viking bus for Budapest left right on time at 9 a.m.  Viking said there would be a bathroom on board, and indeed there was, but a new law makes it illegal to USE the bathroom while the bus is moving, so in order to relieve yourself, you have to ask the bus driver to pull over and stop so you can do your business, mindful that everyone is mentally chanting "we know where you're going!".  Needless to say, nobody did and, with four stops en route to Budapest, that seemed to be OK.

After our Folklore last night, I was in the mood for some gypsy/czardas music and remembered I had the cast recording of Countess Maritza, about which I have such fond memories of when the Lamplighters did it.  It was fun rolling along the Czech, Slovak, and Hungarian roadways listening to gypsy music.

Everywhere we went there were tons of trucks parked, picnic tables and barbeques set up, and it looked like party time, trucker style.  We found out that truckers are not allowed to drive on the roads on Sunday, so they all have to stop for 24 hours before taking off again.  Nice for Sunday drivers of other kinds of vehicles.

Our third stop of the day was another rest-stop/gas station on the outskirts of Bratislava, which looked rather mundane from the outside, but was a quite nice restaurant inside and I had my first "tubed meat" (as Anthony Bourdain calls it) of the trip here. I suspect it will not be my last.  (The tomato salad with onions was to die for.  I suspect it was because it tasted like the way I remember tomatoes tasting!)

Finally we rolled into Budapest around 4, got checked into the front desk of the Viking Freya, and got shown to our stateroom.  This is a brand new ship.  We are only the 4th tour to be on it.  It is just gorgeous. 

Here are the two sides of our bedroom.  Notice the nice deck we have outside the window (notice also that there is no place to sit at a DESK to write these journal entries!)

The ship is moored directly across the Danube from the Palace, but our room is located on the other side, so I had to go out onto the shared deck to take this photo:

Mike found the internet station right away

 I was disappointed to see there were only 2 computers (we had 8 in China).  Fortunately, I brought my own and after some difficulty, with help from the crew, I was able to log on.

After an orientation and talks about optional tours coming up (I'm very excited about tomorrow!), we went in for dinner.  I definitely was not disappointed.

Starting at the top left there is an "amuse bouche," a tasty little tidbit with thin ham and a cheese dollop on a slice of French bread.  The soup may not look like much, but oh man was it fabulous!  Roasted eggplant and garlic soup with sauteed cherry tomatoes and sweet garlic chips.  The main course was Grilled Pork Medallion, Lamb and Cevapcici (a casing-less sausage), croquette potatoes, letscho, barbeque sauce, and herbed butter.  Fabulous (the meats were buttery soft and almost didn't need a knife).

The dessert was called a Hungarian dessert medley and consisted of (from left to right), Tokajer Wine Mousse with Caramelized walnuts, Melon Sorbet with Port Wine marinated  melon, and crepes filled with nuts, raisins, chocolate sauce.

I was disappointed that the waiters, unlike our previous two Viking trips, didn't seem to be able to answer simple questions about the food (like "what's that" when looking at the dessert!) But the Maitre d' was great and gave me a copy of the menu so I could use it in writing this journal.

Walt took a walk after dinner, but still came home and collapsed.

I'm about to do the same thing, though (hopefully) in the bed.  Last night was "one of those nights" and I only had 2 hours of sleep (but a very nice dream, as I recall).  I thought I would sleep on the bus, but no luck with that either, so I am hoping to pick up a few zzzs tonight and get me ready for the adventures the morning will bring!

...but first, I realized that tomorrow night we will be leaving Budapest before it gets dark, so I took a trip to the other end of the ship to get some pictures of the palace and the Chain Bridge.

It was definitely worth it, even if I did get locked outside and had to knock on windows to get someone on the staff to let me in again!!!


What could be better?  Sitting in our beautiful new ship, under the famous chain bridge in
Budapest, toasting to the start of our cruise adventure.


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