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20 July 2012

I've been meaning to mention how this has been a bad luck cruise for some.  Walt was the first I knew of, with that vomiting episode he had in Prague.  Someone on the ship was taken off to the hospital with a suspected appendicitis (but turned out to be a small kidney stone).  A man and his wife left the cruise because the wife had been sick before they started and was getting worse, so they left after 3 days.  And a small, very thin older women got hit by a gust of wind while standing on shore next to the ship and fell over the side.  Fortunately there was no way for her to fall into the water, but she was quite shaken up by the experience. We have several more days to go.  I wonder what else will go wrong?

Last night was the first night I had trouble sleeping, but it allowed me to see another lock around 4 a.m..  I was up on deck by 5:30 as we entered the Wachau Valley.  This was one of the sites that I was looking forward to, as it is the most scenic area on the cruise, with many old castles, now in ruins, on many of the hilltops.

Sailing through the valley area was so beautiful and we were all on deck.  Char settled into one of the deck chairs with her iPad, her almost constant companion.

Mike tried his hand on the ship's putting green (later I hear that Char whipped his arse in shuffleboard--those deck games were not available on either our Russia or China trips).

At lunch the ship hosted something called a "Taste of Austria," with typical Austrian foods (lots of tubed meat), beer, a strolling accordion player playing lots of things, but we tuned in to "Merry Widow" tunes.  She didn't just add to the festive nature of the party, she created it.

A great time was had by all.

In the afternoon there was an excursion to nearby Melk Abbey, which I had been told was a not to be missed experience.  Char decided to stay home and rest her ankles.  This is an active Benedictine abbey, an international school, and one of the most famous abbeys in the world, it says in the literature.

There is no denying that the abbey is a beautiful place.  It gives new definition to the word "opulence" so while I could appreciate the beauty, at the same time it made me sad...and angry.

In the Treasury Room, for example, is a cloak that the abbot wears.  It is imbedded with jewels including 300 pearls.  The guide said it is so heavy that the abbot is relieved to be able to take it off.  I look at that cloak and wonder how many water wells it could build in Africa if it were to be sold.  Just that one cloak.

The chapel is a study in gold.

All I could think of is that Jesus would be appalled at all of this show of wealth in a world where so many of his children are in pain and dying because they have not enough money or goods with which to survive.

But then, if Jesus showed up at the door of this palace, I'm sure they would not recognize him and turn him away.

I had to rush to catch the bus back at the ship.  There was a mix-up.  Walt had gone looking for me and one of the Viking people had told them I had passed by and was on my way back walking.  I, at the same time, was frantically searching everywhere for him and a different Viking person told me that they hadn't seen him.  In the end our program director called the bus and told it to wait for me and I had to make it up 65 steps, which is NOT easy for me, but I did it.  As soon as I boarded the bus, it took off and on the path down the hill to the boat, we passed Walt, grinning and waving happily.

After the ship got underway again, there was a demonstration on how to make apple strudel, by Melanie, the ship's pastry maker, complete with samples afterwards.

I took my second nap of the day while Walt and Mike sat in the bar.  I was awakened by the announcement that dinner was being served in the dining room.  We ate with Kitch and Joyce, who are becoming such delightful dinner companions.  Char and I ended up confessing all of our motherly escapades (the pumpkin pies, the Christmas trees, the elephant stampede) to Joyce, who seemed to enjoy each story of the two of us making fools of ourselves.

As for dinner....

The amuse bouche was some sort of delicious cream spread on toast rounds, followed by a shrimp cocktail.  The main course, zweibelrostbraten with crisp onions, mashed potatoes and red wine sauce caused problems because while we all ordered it, Walt does not like onions and I assumed I would get his.  Char, on the other hand, demanded that she get them.  A good-natured fight broke out and I claimed marital privilege because I'd been married to him for nearly 50 years. She claims she has known him longer than I have--which is true--and therefore she deserved them. I won.

Dessert was Mohr im Hemd, a hot Austrian souffle with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.

The weather was all over the place today, chilly but clear in the morning, 84 degrees by the time we left for the Abbey, 87 degrees by the time we came home (about the time I was hobbling up those 65 stairs!), and during dinner we had a tremendous thunder storm, but it was clear again by the time we'd finished.  Walt says it is predicted to be in the high 60s tomorrow and maybe some showers.  The one thing I did not bring on this trip was any kind of sweater or jacket and I'm actually cold some of the time.

As the day ends, we are leaving Melk and sailing to Passau.  We will pass out of Austria and into Germany by the time we wake.  Walt and I have added 4 new countries to our list of those visited:  Hungary, The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria.  Tomorrow we will add Germany to the list.




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