Rhine and Rhone Cruise Part Four

Day 14 (Thursday)  – The Ardache

The next morning found our boat moored in the town of Tournon-sur-Rhone.  We began the day by hiking up the side of a mountain to see some ruins before our first excursion.

Ruins of a tower overlooking Tournon-sur-Rhone that we saw during our morning hike. Note the statue of Mary on top.

The Ardache, in which Turnon-sur-Rhone is located in a traditionally impoverished part of France.  The cruise director downplayed the area during the previous evening’s port talk, but I found the town nice and quite picturesque.  When we got into the country during our excursion, the region had a bit of an Appalachian feel.

Tournon-sur-Rhone from up the side of the mountain.
The statue of Marc Seguin in town commemorates the inventor of the suspension bridge and advances in steam locomotive design.

Our morning excursion featured a steam locomotive ride through rural Ardache.    Duncan, Betty, Candy, and I went on this excursion while JJ and Karen went on a hike through a vineyard.

Betty and Duncan on the open-sided carriages of the train.
Supposedly the oldest bridge in the area (or France?) (or the Universe?) (I don’t remember.)
The structure to the right of this image is an aqueduct. It collects the rainwater washing down the flint and slate mountains, and directs it through the valley to the hydroelectric dam.
A view of the train as we rounded a bend.

The afternoon was spent sailing down the Rhone until we reached the small town of Viviers.  Viviers was founded in the 5th century.  It was a former Roman settlement that became a Bishop’s seat—centuries of conflict required the town to be fortified.  The Renaissance was a more stable period and wealth—many buildings in town date back to Middle Ages.  The commanding feature of the town is St. Vincent Cathedral.

The motley crew at lunch on the Viking Hermod.  (Duncan, Candy, JJ, Karen, Robert Redford, and Betty.)

During the morning excursion on the train, our guide was Frances.  I thought her British accent made her sound like Haley Mills.  She was outstanding.  When we got to Viviers, Viking organized a late evening walk through Viviers.  Frances told us that she lived in Viviers.  Our cruise director told us we could just pick any of the three guides for the walk.  We glommed onto her since we already knew that Frances was good and lived in town.  She had some interesting anecdotes about the town and its people that made the walk fun.

A view of Viviers during our evening walking tour (JJ on the left and Frances on the right).
A view down a narrow road in town.
A very non-picturesque walk to the old town.
The statue of Mary in town.
Frances begins our tour.
Some of the buildings in town had an Italian Renaissance look to them.
Note the mural at the bottom of this picture.
While the street looks deserted, it is also quaint and picturesque.
As the sun began to set, this was a town view.
Another view of Mary.
Another view of the town at night.
Again parts of the town appear to be Rennaissance inspired.
The door to the cathedral.

   After the evening walk through town, we said goodbye to Frances, and the Hermod set sail down the Rhone again.

Day 15 (Friday) – Arles

In the last days of the Roman empire (back when Candy was in high school), the city of Arles was the capital of Roman Gaul.  Arles has a Roman arena that seats 20,000 and still hosts bullfights and plays today.  Farmers from Provence come to town for the market.  Van Gogh lived in Arles and painted some famous artwork there.

Chappelle Saint-Anne near the center of town.
Our mob in the hospital where Van Gogh was admitted due to his mental illness.
There were a number of these posters around Arles showing a Van Gogh painting and the real building or scene depicted in the image.
Another poster of a Van Gogh painting.
The remains of the Roman theater that is still used for concerts today.
A panoramic view of the amphitheater still used for bullfights and concerts.
The remains of the Medieval bridge over the Rhone.
The Medieval bridge is flanked on both ends by these lions.
We saw a building in a small square in town during our walking tour.
A portion of the interior of the amphitheater.
Another plaza in Arles.
The exterior of the amphitheater.
The interior of the amphitheater.

The amphitheater was built in the first century and seats 21,000 people.  It has large tunnels containing wild beasts and gladiators.  Spectators could also watch chariot races.

After our walking tour of Arles, we took an optional excursion to the Medieval town of Baux and the Carriers de Lumieres.  Baux is a Medieval town (imagine that!) atop a mountain.  We spent about 40 minutes exploring on foot.

A view of the area a Baux.
The mineral bauxite used in aluminum production was mined here, named after the town of Baux.
Part of Baux.
A view of Baux from below.
A church in Baux.
This part of France is rocky and doesn’t look like any other part of France we saw.
Carrieres de Lumbers is an old quarry that is now an art exposition. The quarry is darkened, and artwork is projected on the walls. The painting moves, and it is accompanied by music. We stayed for an hour, which was the week’s highlight.
Another view of moving artwork.
A moving portion of Starry Night.

Evening entertainment on the boat was the group The Gipsy Kings.  I have some of their albums.  While the entertainment on the Viking ships is quite good, this was the first time I had heard of the group coming on board.

Day 16 (Saturday) – Avignon

Candy and I began our day in Avignon with a short canoe trip on the Rhone.  This was an optional excursion.  None of the others in our group were interested.  In fact, of 180 people onboard, only four of us chose this excursion.  It was a relaxing and quiet experience rather than another walk through a Medieval town.

Looking this good should be against the law.
Avignon from the water.

Avignon was the home to seven Popes between 1309 and 1377.  Avignon remains encircled by Medieval ramparts and fortifications.

A structure and houseboat along the Rhone
Our guides, Phillipe and Jerome.
Candy, John Wayne, and our two buddies for the canoe trip
A reasonably close view of the Medieval bridge. I asked the guide if the bridge had been bombed in WWII like other bridges we saw. This one was poorly constructed, and parts of it washed away due to occasional flooding.
We approach the bridge.

While we were canoeing, Duncan, JJ, Betty, and Karen took the included walking tour of Avignon and the Pope’s palace.  Candy and I had planned to walk around Avignon by ourselves in the afternoon.  It was a scorching day.  During the morning excursions, one of the people on our boat was pickpocketed.  Those returning from the walking tour spoke well of the Pope’s palace but described Avignon as a hot, dirty, crowded den of thieves.  At the last minute, Candy and I decided to take the optional excursion to see the Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct.

There was an excellent and impressive museum about Roman engineering at the aqueduct site. One of the exhibits within the museum was this example of how a wooden form was used to ensure the various arches were the same size.
A diorama depicting a stone quarry 600m from the aqueduct.

A map of the site.
The aqueduct brought water for Uzes to Nimes. Nimes was a major textile town. During the California gold rush, the city of Nimes sold high-quality cloth in California. This fabric became known as de Nimes (from Nimes) or denim.
The aqueduct arches were three arches pressed against each other for stability.
Who are these people? They keep photo-bombing me!

Our last supper aboard the Hermod (Duncan, Scott, Candy, Kim, Karen, Betty, some movie star, and JJ).  After dinner, we had drinks on the top deck of the ship.  See Scott and Kim in this picture.  We started getting eight-person tables even though we only had six people so that we could get to meet some other folks.

Rhine and Rhone Cruise Part Three

Day Eleven (Monday) – Lyon and Perouges


Our visit to Lyon began with a walking tour through the city.  The included excursion was a bus tour with occasional stops; however, we spent five hours in a bus the previous day, so JJ, Karen, Candy, and I elected the optional “trek” tour.  We did not regret our choice.

A view of Lyon from where we began our city walking tour.

Lyon is located at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers.  The Saone ends here, and the Rhone continues.  Lyon was originally built in 43 BC by Julius Caesar and was called Lugdunum.  It later became the starting point of a Roman road and, for a time, was the capital of Gaul.  During the time of Louis XI (1461-1483), annual fairs were held here that drew merchants from great distances.

These towers are meant to resemble Olympic torches. An Olympic-sized pool at the base of them was constructed when Lyon was bidding for the Olympics in the 1960s or 1970s.
Lyon is situated at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers. After passing over a bridge over the Rhone, we walked across the old portion of town on what is called the peninsula and then another bridge over the Saone. We then took the funicular railroad up Fourviere Hill to the Basilica.
A view of the Basilica atop Fourviere Hill
A different view.
A view of the interior.
A view of Lyon from atop Fourviere Hill near the Basilica
This map shows the UNESCO-listed portions of Lyon (in red). The tip of the peninsula is off to the right of the map.
Near the Basilica was the excavation of two Roman amphitheaters. They are both used for performances today. The closer one was for plays. The farther, smaller one was for musical performances. The modern structure to facilitate performances spoils the view of the site, but it is nice that, like the forum in Verona, it is still in use.
We continued our tour by walking down Fourviere Hill through the Rosary Garden. Unfortunately, when we were most of the way down, the guide realized that the foundation hadn’t yet unlocked the gates that morning, so we walked back up the hill and came another way. The guide, Clemence, is on red on the right. The girl in the white shirt is Anica, a Polish girl working on the boat who joined our tour on her day off.
A Cathedral sits at the base of Fourviere Hill. This is actually the third church at this site, and you can see some of the remains of a previous one here.
I found this sign incongruous. The image doesn’t seem to align with being next to a cathedral.
Karen is hamming it up.
We stopped for a short rest to have a drink near the cathedral, which you can see on the left of this image.
The front of the cathedral.
Clemence talking about the traboules.

The Croix-Rousse district of Lyon was the heart of the 19th-Century silk trade.  Silk merchants used covered and enclosed passageways between buildings for safe passage to the markets.

You can see that these traboules were quite ornate, this one designed in the Italian Renaissance style. There are 600 or so remaining in Lyon that are still in use.
From this view, you can see how the traboules wound between rows of buildings. It appears that these were the “empty space” between buildings later formalized as passageways.

During WWII, approximately 4000 citizens of Lyon were killed, and another 7500 deported to concentration camps by Klaus Barbie, the “butcher of Lyon.”  Barbie was sentenced to death for war crimes in 1952 and 1954 but wasn’t extradited from Bolivia to face life in prison until 1987.  Lyon is reputed to be the heart of the French resistance movement that sprang up when the Germans invaded Vichy after the Allied landings during Operation Torch in North Africa.  I asked one of our guides if the Resistance movement conducted active military engagements or focused on intelligence gathering that later aided the Allies, but the answer was unclear.

A view of a Jacquard loom in the workroom used by Jacquard’s descendants.

The highlight of the walking tour, and something not in the included bus tour, was a stop at a silk shop.  The guide said that one of the French kings wanted to create silk production in France and permitted Lyon to start the business.  Italy had been previously the European producer of silk in the West.  These are the only silk looms in Lyon that are open to the public.  The look used punch cards to control the weaving.  The looms still work.  The owner, a descendent of the inventor of the Jacquard loom, said it takes a skilled worker all day to wave 4cm of silk.  The process of drawing an image on graph paper, creating the punch cards, and using the cards to weave intricate images was fascinating.

This image of Jacquard was WOVEN in slik.
The owner (on the left) demonstrated the use of the Jacquard loom and answered many questions (through our guide as an interpreter).

This concluded the walking tour.  We returned to the boat for lunch and then departed on our bus journey to Peroughes, a medieval walled village about an hour outside Lyon.


We took a bus ride to the medieval town of Peruges in the afternoon, about an hour outside Lyon.  The guide walked us around the village and gave us a little time to explore on our own.

We were walking along one of the picturesque roads. Perouges is essentially built as a circle with shops around both sides of the road and a square in the center.
Candy and Karen are mugging for the camera.
Our guide passes on information.
The tower is near the center of town.
Inspired by the Liberty Tree of the American Revolution, the people of Perouges planted this Linden Tree in the center of town. When the monarchy was restored, these liberty trees were uprooted nationwide. This one survived because Perouges was below the radar. It is interesting how logs support the massive limbs.
The view from Perouges to the countryside below.
Karen acted quickly to hold up an arch that was going to fall.
We sampled a French dessert called galette, a sugar-and-butter pizza.
A restaurant in the center of town. Reportedly, Bill Clinton gave a speech from here when he was president.

There is an old church in the center of town.  Our guide said that some famous opera singer really likes the acoustics in the church and has recorded two albums there.  Our guide then proceeded to sing a medieval tune that was masterful.

A sundial on a building in the center of town.

Day Twelve (Tuesday) – Beaujolais Wine Country

We boarded buses to head to a nearby vineyard to learn about the product of Beaujolais wine, the prevalent wine in this part of France.

The next morning we again boarded buses to head to a vineyard.  Along the way, we stopped in the town of Beaujeu for a rest and an “opportunity” to shop in a gift store.  In town was a very nice little church that was surprisingly ornate inside.

The chuch in Beaujeu.
A view of the interior of the church.
The altar of the church.
The town square of Beaujeu.  The town is on this year’s Tour de France, so they had begun to decorate.
500-gallon oak casks for aging wine.
The chateau of the winemakers.
The primary grape in the region is the gamay. Not being a wine person, I had never heard of them, but the French in this area are quite proud of them and the Beaujolais wine they create.
We tasted four different Beaujolais wines, each drier than the previous one. I was not too fond of the wine, but others bought cases of it to have shipped back home.  They were so dry that I felt like I had walked ten miles through the desert after just one sip.
After returning to the ship, we set sail. This picture shows us approaching one of the 12 locks on this portion of our trip.
Candy enjoys the cool breeze.

That night, Phillippe and Caroline provided the on-board entertainment covering Edith Piaf’s songs.  About a year ago, I discovered Edith Piaf on Pandora on the French Cooking Music channel.  Caroline sounded just like her.

Caroline and Phillippe were so good that I purchased their CD.

Day 13 (Wednesday) – Vienne, France

We arrived in Vienne, France, after dark.  I took these pictures from the top of the ship.

Gauls originally inhabited Vienne. This particular group of Gauls aligned with Rome and became citizens. Over time, the city transformed into a Roman-style city. When Rome occupied the area, there were 30,000 inhabitants — about the same number as today.
There was a light display on the front of the Church of Saint Maurice, who was a Roman soldier who converted to Christianity (before it was legal) and was martyred. The lights kept changing their pattern.
Another view of the church a few moments later.
We had Clemence, our guide, in Lyon for our walking tour of Vienne. Our first stop was at a portion of the Roman wall surrounding Vienne.

In 47 BC, Julius Caesar transformed Vienne from a Celtic city to a Roman colony.  Vienne sits at the confluence of the Rhone and Gere Rivers and was an important trading outpost for Rome.  Many of its Roman monuments remain, including the Temple of Augustus, two amphitheaters, and some portions of the Roman circus.

The Cathedral of St. Maurice has occupied the center of town since the 4th Century. Construction of the current church began in 1130 and took almost 500 years to complete. Protestants damaged the church during the Wars of Religion (1562-1589 and the French Revolution. The Council of Vienne was convened here by Pope Clement V, leading to the abolishment of the Knights Templar and King Philip V of France confiscating the Templars’ wealth.

During the Wars of Religion and the French Revolution, many church statues were decapitated. This depicts the three wise men’s interview with King Herrod.
This is a view of the Temple of Augustus in the center of Vienne. The exterior is original. The wooden roof supports and the central building have been restored. This still exists, while most Roman buildings do not, because it had been converted into a Catholic church at one time, with the central building being torn down and walls constructed between the pillars.
Another view of the temple more clearly shows the restored central building.
This piece of Roman mosaic tile was uncovered in the city and made into a wall ornament.
When Thomas Jefferson was our first Ambassador to France, he visited Vienne and is said to have modeled several of the buildings in DC on the Temple of Agustus.

JJ, Karen, Candy, and I walked up to the top of Mont Pipet above Vienne.  It was a bit of a climb, but not too bad.  From there, we had excellent views of Vienne and the Roman amphitheater.

A view of the Roman amphitheater from Mont Pipet.
A view of Vienne amphitheater from Mont Pipet.
Chapel de Pipet atop Mont Pipet

The Church of St. Pierre that JJ and I passed while Candy and Karen were shopping for clothes. It is now a museum.
When we set sail, the sun awnings on the upper deck collapsed so we could pass under low bridges.

Rhine and Rhone Cruise Continued

Day Seven (Thursday) – Speyer

This is a view of our boat, the Viking Kara, docking in Speyer.

Our next stop on the Rhine and Rhone cruise was in Speyer.  Like many of our stops along the Rhine, Speyer is a medieval town with a large church in the center.

A view of the spires of Speyer from our boat.

Speyer’s Imperial Cathedral, a Romanesque-style church, was built between 1030 and 1061 by Emperors Kongrad II, Henry III, and Henry IV.   It was restored in the 1950s.

Another view of the church.

Other than the church, Speyer is famous for giving the Protestant Reformation its name.  The name comes from a letter of protestation signed by six princes and fourteen representatives of Free Imperial Cities during the Diet of Speyer in 1529.  In 1521 the Diet of Worms condemned Martin Luther as a heretic, banned his teachings, and criminalized actions supporting Luther or his beliefs.  This proved difficult to enforce, but in 1529, Charles tried to reassert the Edict of Worms without the benefit of a general council. Still, the six princes and fourteen representatives protested, demanding religious (and political) self-determination.

This statue near the church depicts the betrayal of Christ after the last supper.
Another view of this statue.
Statues at the entrance of the church.
The remnants of one of the city gates in Speyer.
Beginning in medieval times, German towns used these poles to tell visitors what services and crafts were available in town. You can see from some of the more modern symbols on the pole that Speyer has continued this tradition.
We had some time to walk around Speyer and do some shopping. This is a view of the shopping area entrance from the church’s front.
We stopped to take some pictures on the way back to the boat.  This is Karen and JJ.

Day Eight (Friday) – Strasbourg

The covered bridge leads over the Ill River into the Petite France portion of Strasbourg.

When Strasbourg was a free city of the Holy Roman Empire, the Grand Magistrate isolated the sick in the tanner’s district on this island.   French soldiers were sent to the hospital there to be treated for syphilis, which they had contracted in Italy.  The locals referred to syphilis as the French Disease and called the hospital area Petit France.

Another view of Petit France
JJ, me, and Duncan.
One of the canals running through Petit France.
We saw one of the small canal bridges swing open to make room for this sightseeing boat.

The walking tour of Strasbourg included visiting the Cathedral Nortre-Dame de Strasbourg.  This church was built between 1015 and 1439.  It is the world’s sixth tallest church and the highest existing building constructed entirely during the middle ages.  Until 1874 it was the tallest building in the world.

Here is a view of the church’s exterior, clearly showing the flying buttresses. In the days before metal construction, the weight of the stone pushed outward on the walls of the buildings, and flying buttresses were used to provide inward support so that the building wouldn’t collapse under its own weight.
This is one of the many stained glass windows within the cathedral.
This is a close-up view of the details above the main entrance. The entire church is covered with a similar level of ornamentation. It is no wonder it took so long to build the church.
This is a slightly wider view of the cathedral entrance.
We all stopped for lunch to try an Alsatian specialty, flammenkuchen. While a Frenchman would likely take offense, this is the French version of a pizza. The crust is thin, almost like a water cracker. A variety of toppings can be applied.
Guttenberg is said to have invented the printing press here; although, the first Bibles he printed using that method were produced in another town.
Here is a longer shot of the cathedral to get a sense of scale.
Candy in the traditional Alsatian outfit.
Karen, Duncan, and Betty

After the walking tour, we had time to walk around the old town area a bit and do some souvenir shopping.

That evening, we returned to the boat for the Bavarian feast onboard.

Day Nine (Saturday) – Colmar and The Black Forest

This was a busy day.  It began with the guys taking a tour of the fighting in the Comar Pocket while the girls took a tour of the historic parts of Colmar city.  This was probably my favorite day of the cruise.

This is the entrance gate to the old part of the village where the WWII museum is located. It was a short walk from this gate to the museum.
The museum is not particularly well-marked, just this brass plaque on the door.

The fighting around Colmar is not well known, partially because it doesn’t give British historians a chance to criticize Americans and partly because the Battle of the Bulge gets all the press.

The museum only has two rooms, but they are packed with artifacts found on the battlefield. Farmers are still turning up items from time to time. The museum has several dioramas depicting US, French, and German forces during the battle. This one shows a US crew of a .30 caliber machine gun.
This diorama shows that the fighting in the area occurred in the dead of winter. Eisenhower wanted Colmar captured before the ground in the area thawed, preventing armored vehicles from supporting the infantry.

While I did this tour three years ago, I had forgotten that Himmler personally directed the German operations in the area since many of the German units were part of the SS.  I didn’t realize that Himmler ever got this close to the fighting.

JJ and Duncan inspect various mines and booby traps.
Me in front of a 105mm howitzer in the museum courtyard.

After visiting the museum, we took the bus to the US war memorial on the hill where the Allied attack on the Colmar pocket began.

A plaque on the memorial
The base of the US flag.
In the distance, you can see a French flag in the middle of a French war cemetery. There were several French divisions involved in the fighting.
This is a wide view of the open area the US Third Infantry Division had to cross against determined German opposition by SS units. The commander decided to try to skirt around the Germans through the slightly better terrain on the left to get to Colmar.
Duncan, me, and JJ in front of the war memorial featuring the shoulder patches of the units involved in the fighting.

From there, we took the bus down to the memorial for Audie Murphy at the site where he earned his medal of honor.  On the way, we stopped for a quick rest in a village with another war memorial.

This wall shows the remains of a building after the fighting in the area. Note the stork nest on top. Storks are the symbol of this portion of France.
This plaque is mounted to the ruins.
The guide did an excellent job describing Audie Murphy’s one-man stand at this point in the Colmar pocket. They know this is the exact spot where the fighting took place because they found the tactical telephone wire he used to call artillery on the advancing Germans. The guide’s presentation was stirring and emotional.
The memorial to Audie Murphy depicts him firing a .50 caliber machine gun from the back of an M10 tank destroyer.
This is Audie Murphy’s view of the advancing Germans. The houses constructed after the war have cut the distance from the town to Murphy’s position in half of what it was during the battle.
A view of the memorial area without tourists.
This plaque briefly describes the action in this area.

The guide provided excellent historical details throughout the tour that made this trip worth the extra cost.

We returned to the boat for lunch and then took a bus tour into the Black Forest.  We did this tour last time we were on this cruise, so Candy and I elected to skip the cuckoo clock and Black Forest cake demonstrations and instead take a hike through the Black Forest.

This is a reconstructed toll house and a portion of the original road through the Black Forest.
This is a view of the cascades in the Black Forest along the walking path.
The oldest chapel in the Black Forest.
You can see the viaduct through this portion of the Black Forest. The Allies tried to bomb it several times during WWII, but the Germans reportedly employed barrage balloons to make that harder. Ultimately, the Germans blew it up during their retreat to deny it to the Allies.

The Allies tried to destroy this viaduct through the Black Forest several times, but the Germans protected it with barrage balloons. Ultimately, the Germans demolished it to deny its use to the Allies.

Day Ten (Sunday) – Transfer Day

Our cruise was two cruises, one along the Rhine and a second along the Rhone.  On Sunday, we transferred from Basel, Switzerland, to Lyon, France, by bus.  Five hours in a bus, even with a short stop for lunch in the scenic town of Beaune in wine country, was not a fun day.  Even though we had just gotten off one Viking ship, we had to go through the capsize drill, safety briefing, and obligatory welcome briefing a second time.

A view of Beaune
Another view
A statue of the vineyard workers in a town in French wine country.

Our new home for a week.
Other passengers arriving.

European River Cruise: The Adventure Begins

A view of Amsterdam from our hotel room.

Days One and Two — Amsterdam

After over a year of planning (and paying), we embarked on our two-river cruise with Viking. This cruise began in Amsterdam.  We are traveling down the Rhine River to Basel, Switzerland.  We will transfer to another boat to travel down the Rhone through France.

No air travel is complete without drama.  Our flight left Orlando two hours late because of thunderstorms near the airport.  I am consistently disappointed in how the airlines seem unprepared for Florida’s rain.  Imagine that!  We had a 90-minute layover in New York, JFK, so we didn’t think we would make our flight.  The Viking people, however, booked us on a flight leaving JFK two hours later.  When we arrived at JFK, we were booked on our original and later flights.  Since the original flight was also delayed an hour, we kept the earlier reservation—a big mistake.  The later flight left on time, but the “earlier” flight was delayed four hours.  At one point, we were stuck on the tarmac in a pot-hole that required them to round up a “super tug” to get us unstuck. Instead of six hours in an uncomfortable seat, we could enjoy ten hours.  Thanks, Delta/KLM.

On Viking River cruises they generally offer what I call a “pre-show” and an “after party.”  The pre-show is helpful in getting acclimated to the time zone before the cruise begins.  We decided to take the pre-show in Amsterdam.

A fancy water bottle refilling station in Amsterdam.

Having arrived later than we expected, after checking into our room, we walked around the downtown area of Amsterdam to do some sightseeing.  We also stopped in a place called FEBO, which featured hot Dutch food in vending machines.

It was tight, but Candy could put on these wooden shoes.

The six of us finally linked up around dinner time.  The various restaurants the Viking people recommended required reservations we didn’t have, so we eventually found a German restaurant for some delicious schnitzel at the train station.  Our hotel, the Moevenpick, was a short walk from the train station.  After dinner, we decided to get some sleep and be ready for the next day.

Our group on the bridge leading to the train station from our room.
A view of the city during the walking tour.  There are more bicycles than people in Amsterdam, and they always have the right of way.  This makes life interesting for pedestrians.
The so-called Wailing Tower, where supposedly women waited while the Duch sailors went to sea for months. The guide was unclear on whether those were tears of joy or sorrow.

Our first full day in Amsterdam began with a guided walking tour arranged by the Viking people.

In the afternoon, we sought out the Rijks Museum.  Amsterdam is the home of many of the Dutch Masters.  While I am not big on art museums, we wanted to see some famous artwork, including a few Van Gohs and Vermeers.

Karen, JJ, Duncan, Candy, and Betty. I was there too — at least, that’s the story I’m sticking to. You need a reservation to get into the art museum, so while we waited for our time slot, we enjoyed sampling some traditional Dutch snacks, including bitterballen. These seem like mushroom soup and some chopped meat rolled into a ball and deep fried. The reviews were mixed, but I liked them. (The best ones we had were on the Viking ship the next day.)
The front of the Rijks museum. We successfully figured out the trolly system in Amsterdam and made our way to the museum. It was very interesting that a ticket seller (a human in a booth) was on every trolley.
Candy and Karen are critiquing artwork in the Rijks Museum. They gave this four stars, a thumbs up, two smiley faces, and a “hooah.”

That evening we were scheduled to take a boat tour along the canals of Amsterdam.  After a bit of a death march through the city, we purchased sandwiches and drinks to take on the boat (at the recommendation of the boat people).  There are several boat tour companies.  We used the “Dam Boat Tour” outfit.  The tour was excellent, and our guide was very informative.

There are no railings along the canals. The Dutch have a fascinating, laissez-faire attitude and feel like people should be responsible for their bad choices. Imagine that! Note that the left tires of the white van overlap the canal bank.
The Dutch have planted some foliage to help protect the banks of some of the canals.
Most of Amsterdam is at least a meter below sea level, so the entire city has been built on pilings. The earliest buildings were built on wooden pilings that last a very long unless exposed to the air. That is why most buildings in the area are only five stories high; that is all the weight the wooden pilings can hold.  The Dutch devote a lot of effort to managing the water levels in the city, but over time, as the tops of the pilings have been exposed to air from time to time, the buildings begin to lean.  Note in this picture how the buildings are leaning in several different directions.
Another view of the Amsterdam canals. The houseboats are permanent residences, complete with city water and sewer.

Day Three – Arnhem

On day three, Sunday, the girls walked around the city to do some souvenir shopping and visit the famous Red Light District, but we guys got on the train to Arnhem to see the museum commemorating the fighting around the Arnhem bridge during Operation Market Garden in WWII.  Figuring out the train was relatively easy, but then figuring out the bus to the museum in Hartenstein (Ooosterbeek, near Arnhem) proved tricky, so we just took Uber.

A monument in front of the museum.  I found this sentiment quite refreshing in a world where blamestorming and finger-pointing are commonplace.

The museum was small but well done.  A multi-projector moving map presentation did a nice job laying out the fighting for the bridge step-by-step.  The highlight, however, was the “Airborne Experience” presentation on floor -3.  The presentation began by sitting in a room watching a video of glider troops preparing for battle.  Then a door opened, and upon entering, we found ourselves in a mockup of a Horsa glider.  We were sitting in the seats of the glider, feeling the bumps, and looking through the front window as the glider detached its tow cable and landed (with more bumps).  After leaving the glider, we were treated to a scene of paratroopers landing and animated vignettes depicting the fighting.    It was good enough we all did it a second time.

Duncan inspected an airborne bulldozer near the winger of the glider we had just landed.
British paratroopers landed after the gliders.
The moving map presentation of the battle.
See! I was there.
We are not sure there would have been any British 17-lb guns at Arnhem, but two flanked the museum.
The museum had a small food truck where we got a light lunch and then took a longer-than-expected walk to the military cemetery to see the graves of British, Dutch, and Polish soldiers who fought during the battle.

Included in the admission to the museum was a much smaller museum with a short film presentation near the Arnhem Bridge.

The bridge over the Rhine was the objective of the operation. The British were unable to capture the bridge. The Allies later destroyed it from the air to prevent the Germans from using it. When it was rebuilt, it was built to match the original bridge.

After a short walk to the train station, we traveled back to Amsterdam to link up with the girls and board our boat in time for dinner and departure.

Day Four (Monday) — Kinderdijk

The boat traveled through the night, arriving at Kinderdijk the next morning.  Kinderdijk is the most extensive collection of Dutch windmills in any single location.  There are eighteen of them there.  We took the included walking tour of the site.  JJ and Karen took the optional excursion to a factory where they make Gouda cheese since Kinderdijk is in the Gooda region.  Candy and I had done the cheese tour on our previous Viking Rhine cruise.

A view of some of the windmills at Kinderdijk. These windmills were used to pump water from one canal up a meter to another. The Netherlands’ soil is fertile but soft, peat, so the land and canals continue to sink. Most of the country is between one and six meters below sea level. Water is constantly pumped into and out of reservoirs, rivers, and canals to stay above water.
A more detailed view of a windmill. All of the windmills in the area still work. They are used from time to time to maintain them.
Our guide explained how the windmills and the water management system work.

This was a better tour than the last time we visited Kinderdijk.  More was open to see this time.

After the walking tour, we returned to the Kara to resume our journey and have lunch. We had a half day sitting on the deck, reading, and enjoying the ship.

Day Five (Tuesday) – Cologne

German humor. We found this plaque on the ground in Cologne. In cities that go back to Roman times, this is probably true.
Cologne existed before Roman occupation, but there are many remains of Roman times throughout the city. We were told that there is a McDonalds in the city where you can eat your Big Mac in Roman ruins. This is the remainder of a bed of a Roman road. When the Romans built it, the bed would have been covered with gravel and sand.
This was our guide for the walking tour of Cologne.
To get to the famous cathedral from our boat, we had to cross this bridge full of love locks. Unlike bridges in other cities, this is a train bridge, so they don’t have issues with the locks being too heavy.
The famous cathedral in Cologne took 600 years to build. It was one of the few parts of the city that weren’t destroyed during WWII. The Allies used the cathedral as a landmark during bombing missions.
This is a view of the cathedral from our boat on the other side of the river.
This is a statue of one of the Prussian emperors that flank the Hohenzollern Bridge.
There are several of these three-panel displays in the cathedral.
It is difficult to capture the entire cathedral at one time in a photograph.
We ate at a beer hall for lunch. In Cologne, they during Kolsch beer. Unlike the large mugs of beer found in Bavaria, Kolsch is served ice cold in small glasses. The waiters will keep filling your beer and recording how many glasses you drink by marking on a coaster until you put your coaster on top of your glass.

After lunch, we shopped for a few souvenirs and then went to the chocolate museum.

Where’s Buck?
The chocolate museum was fascinating. First, we had to get through a bunch of climate change and fair trade propaganda, but then we got to see how chocolate is made. Since chocolate goes back to Meso-America, I found the large display about Aztecs and chocolate particularly interesting.
Unlike the tour in Hershey, these were machines that were making chocolate. In Costa Rica, we saw how the Aztecs made chocolate, but this tour was more about how chocolate is mass-produced today.

Day Six (Wednesday) – Marksburg Castle and the Middle Rhine

The day began with a walking tour of Marskburg Castle, one of the few castles not destroyed at some point in history.

Our guide in the castle provides some historical context.
Examples of armor are housed in the castle.
JJ prepares to storm the castle. Note how the original entrance, made to accommodate knights on horseback, was later made smaller to make it easier to defend.
A motley crew, indeed! JJ, Karen, Candy, Robert Redford, Betty, and Duncan
Duncan poses next to an adult-sized bed for multiple people.
A view of Marksburg from the boat.
The cannons in this emplacement were sited to control this section of the Rhine.
This is a rare breach-loading cannon. Sadly, none of the guides could tell us anything about it.
Hello, down there!
The kitchen in the castle with a walk-in fireplace.
Another view of Marksburg from the level of the Rhine.

In the 1980s, a Japanese businessman tried to buy Marksburg to move it to Japan.  The German government, of course, denied the request, but they permitted him to measure it.  Today there is a replica of Marksburg in Okinawa.

After the castle tour, we walked around a rose garden near where our boat was moored. We found this German war memorial for the Franco-Prussian War and WWI. You can see Marksburg in the distance.
A close of the inscriptions.
Candy poses among the flowers.
A view from the river.

After Marksburg, we reboarded and contiCenturywn the Middle Rhine, looking at castles and countryside along the way.  While doing so, we also got in a game of “Tens,” a card game.

Castle Liebenstein and KM 566 on the Rhine. Built in the 13th Century, Liebenstein is the highest castle on the Middle Rhone. The tower now contains a restaurant and hotel.
Sterrenberg Castle shared a defensive wall with Liegenstein and is still known as one of the two “hostile brothers,” a legacy from a 13th Century feud.
A picturesque building along the river.
The owners of the larger Centurystle named Maus Castle (pictured) at KM 558 along the Rhine.
Rheinfels Castle (KM 556) was initially built in the 13th Century. Today it is a hotel and restaurant.
Katz Castle, KM 555, was built in the 14th Century and was heavily damaged by Napoleon’s forces in 1806. It was rebuilt during the Victorian era.
This is a train tunnel entranced disguised as a castle in an attempt to fool the Allies during WWII.
Shoeneburg Castle (KM 549) was built in 966. It was burned by the French in 1689. The castle was reconstructed to include three medieval fortresses and towers.
Gutenfels (KM 546). This castle, along with Pfaltzgrafenstein, was built as a toll station to control the river and extort merchants.  Reportedly the guns from this castle could stop any merchants who attempted to slip past.  There were also narrow channels and thick chains to help control the river traffic.
In this picture, you can see Gutenfels in the distance and Pfaltzgrafenstein in the foreground.
Pfalzgrafenstein (KM 545) sits like a battleship in the middle of the river.
The “back side” of Gutenfels, shows that we are indeed in Reisling wine country. Note how the vineyards are planted vertically up the slopes of the hills and mountains.
A view of picturesque scenery along the river..
Another view along the river. There is something about the architecture and colors of German buildings and towns that I find really appealing.
Stahleck Castle (KM 543) was originally built in the 12th Century. It was attacked several times and eventually captured by the French in the 17th Century. It contains a youth hostel today.
Nolig Castle (KM 539) dates back to 1300. These ruins were never part of a castle, per se, but were part of the fortifications around the town of Lorch am Rhein.
Sooneck Castle’s romantic style dates to 1834, when the crown prince of Prussia built it.
Reichenstein Castler (KM 534) is also called Falkenburg. This castle is an example of neo-Gothic construction. Today it holds a collection of porcelain, furniture, and weapons that span five centuries.
A church along the river.
Rheinstein Castle (KM 533) was built in the 14th Century and features a still-working drawbridge.
The Mouse Tower (KM 530) sits on an island in the middle of the river.  It gets its name because supposedly an archbishop imprisoned there was eaten by mice.
Erenfels (KM 530) was built in the 13th Century amid vineyards.
A view of Ehrenfels and its vineyards.
A picturesque church overlooking the Rhine.

In the evening we docked in Ruedesheim.  Four of us went on the Dine in Ruedesheim excursion.  I have to say that this was the first time I have been really disappointed in Viking.  We went to a restaurant in town.  The food was okay, but not nearly as good as the food on the boat.  The music was so loud, that even with earplugs (which I always carry due to tinnitus), that is was physically painful and my ears are still ringing (more loudly than normal) 12 hours later.  The music selection was also disappointing.  We were hoping to learn some German drinking songs, some polka, or something traditional.  There was some German music, but there was no effort to teach any German songs.  The playlist was from the ’80s, featuring those famous German songs: Sweet Caroline and YMCA.  And then a bunch of the other passengers on our boat became loud drunks who thought they were hilarious.  It was a real let-down after a nice day on the river.  At least it was expensive, so we have that going for us.

Wars of Eagles and Empires

I haven’t posted in quite some time.  Work has been pretty busy, and my limited social media time has been focused on supporting the various Facebook pages that Sally 4th has established for Wars of Ozz and Wars of Orcs and Dwarves.

The setup for last weekend’s playtest scenario, based on Barry Hilton’s article in Miniature Wargames of the Battle of Walcourt 1689. Many of the scenarios I am creating for Wars of Eagles and Empires are generic versions of actual battles.

When Old Glory and I set out on the Wars of Ozz journey, Russ sought a massed battle, black powder, fantasy game to support his wonderful line of figures.  I used the Seven Years’ War as general inspiration as I designed the rules.  While not an expert on the Seven Years’ War specifically, I have read about tactics and grand tactics of the period.  My initial goal was to eventually grow Wars of Ozz into a Napoleonic set of rules.

The game begins. Mark controled the French, and Wayne controlled the Russians. The scenario was set up for six players, but only two were able to participate. While the game moved along fine, it was a little slower than other playtests due to the huge span of control.

After releasing Wars of Ozz, Sally 4th convinced me to create Wars of Orcs and Dwarves (WOOD).  Those rules were meant to be a come-as-you-are set of mass battle fantasy rules.  When I started on the rules, I didn’t even have any fantasy figures for playtests.  Much of the development happened during the mass hysteria of the pandemic, so play tests were done over Zoom with friends worldwide.  During the WOOD development, I still wanted to eventually turn the Wars of Ozz engine into a set of rules for Napoleonic games.  In addition, I had it in mind that the rules would be supported by a series of supplements for other black powder periods, such as the Seven Years’ War, the Thirty Years’ War, the Jacobite Rebellion, and the American Revolution.

Mark impetuously charged his French columns against the most forward Russian battalions. The French objective was to capture the hill on the right of the picture.

In the past year, even while WOOD was being formatted for publishing, I began developing Wars of Eagles and Empires.  Development is coming along nicely, I think. The rules seem to be working. Napoleonics are, of necessity, more complicated than Ozz, but I have worked hard to keep it as simple as possible without losing the Napoleonic feeling.

The French advance. After the game, I suggested that Mark might have spent a turn advancing before launching a bunch of charges. This would have allowed him to charge the enemy more in mass. Instead, his attacks came piecemeal, which helped the outnumbered Russians maintain their lines.

In parallel with rules development, I am also developing a set of scenarios.  These are meant for Eagles and Empires but could be used for other lesser systems as well.  Eagles and Empires are designed from division-level engagements.  I recognize that the trend in the hobby is to recreate Leipzig on a card table with nine figures in 15 minutes, but I prefer those smaller engagements with up to three players on a side.  I recognize that this will (once again) limit the commercial viability of the rules, but I am designing them for myself.  If others enjoy them too, that’s a bonus.

This is a scene early in the scenario. In the foreground, you can see the remnants of a French cavalry charge by chasseurs against some Russian infantry.

This development has also allowed me to get my old Minifigs on the table again.  I love the new 28mm figures from Old Glory and other manufacturers, but I cut my teeth on Airfix, and Minifigs were my first metal figures.  Ozz, WOOD, and Eagles and Empries are designed to provide an old-school feel but with modern, streamlined mechanics.  So, there is something satisfying about using older figures, where every figure in a battalion is in the same pose.

Mid-game, several battalions of French throw themselves at Russian grenadiers. At this point, I thought the French were about to punch a hole in the Russian line but note the Russian grenadiers and cuirassiers prepared to plug a hole.

Last weekend my buddy Mark was in Orlando for golf camp.  He was able to take time from chasing a little white ball around a field to come over and play a wargame.   After every playtest game, I tweak the charts a bit.  I am pretty close to done with development and will begin writing soon.  It has been about a year of development time.  I suspect I will have them ready for public consumption in another year to eighteen months.

French chasseurs battle with Russian dragoons.
On the French left flank, French hussars battled with Russian cavalry. By the end of the third turn, the French had swept the French cavalry and threatened to turn the Russian right flank.
French and Bavarian infantry advanced toward the Russian center. Note that one French battalion (on the right of the image) is retreating from the Russian fire. Wayne effectively used his single artillery battery to blunt the French attacks.  You have to love the look of those huge battalions on the table!
A Bavarian battalion almost punched through the Russian line.
Again on the French left flank, you can see French cuirassiers fighting Russian dragoons.  I had just finished painting four regiments of French hussars for this scenario.  Mark violated “Buck’s Law,” which states that the first time you put a new unit on the table, they get wiped out.
Here is one final look at the table showing the French trying to punch through the Russian line. I love the look of large battalions!

I hope you have enjoyed the pictures sprinkled throughout this post.

Pass in Review!

I have been working on the figures in the new Yule faction for Wars of Ozz.  My goal was to have everything painted in time for Historicon, but I think I will be two elf regiments short.

Today I completed a unit of Teddy Bear infantry.

Note that the Teddy Bears have blue neckerchiefs and trim on their hats.
Note the flag designs. This is the third regiment in the Yule army, so their flag has three Christmas ornaments.
The Teddy Bear regiment ready for action.

I have previously posted here and on Facebook the other regiments as I completed them.  There are enough different units in the Yule faction for probably two or three players to have 25-point brigades.

Teddy bear regiment
First regiment. This is the first regiment, the toy soldier cadets, painted to resemble West Point cadets.
The second regiment of Yule
First Grenadier regiment.
Toy soldier cavalry
Babo Natale and La Bifania.
The artillery

I have created a Reaction Test chart, army list, and sheet of flags for this faction that will be available along with the figures.


Our final destination on the cruise was Budapest.  Viking scheduled our arrival at night so that we could see Budapest along the Danube all lit up.  Despite years of communist rule, the palatial buildings (some dating back to the Hapsburg empire) are quite impressive when lit up.

One of the many bridges across the Danube that links the historic cities of Buda and Pest.
The parliament building all lit up. Interestingly, this building was created for the greater Austro-Hungarian empire. Hungary doesn’t need such a large parliament by itself, so half of the building is the parliament, and half is rented out to businesses for offices. One can imagine that if you are trying to get money from the government that having an office in the parliament building might be an advantage.
This is where we eventually docked.
A slightly closer view of the parliament building.

This picture gives you an idea of how dark it was on the “sun deck” as I was taking these pictures. My Pentax digital SLR did a nice job of getting the various lit buildings captured with crisp detail at night.

Looking up at Fisherman’s Bastion in the castle district of Budapest.

The green bridge

A view of the “sun deck”

The next morning, despite some drizzle, we took a panoramic bus tour of Budapest.  One of the stops was Hero Square, including the Hungarian tomb of the unknown soldier.

The Hungarian tomb of the unknown soldier.

We didn’t stop here, so the picture is pretty bad. This is an area with bronze shoes along the Danube. The Nazis lined up Jews here during WWII, made them take off their shoes, machine gunned them, and pushed them into the river.
St. Stephan’s church
The church is dedicated to Mary.
A view of Roman ruins under the church.
The tour continued on foot through part of the downtown shopping district.

Most of the downtown buildings had amazing decorations if you looked up.
Even the manhole covers were ornate.
Another decorated building.
The “Statue of Liberty.” This was originally built by the Russians to commemorate their “liberation” of Hungary from the Nazis. After the communists were ousted, the people wanted to keep the statue but re-dedicated it to liberation from the Russians.
Nicole and Greg on board.

After the walking tour, Nicole, Greg, Karen, JJ, Candy, and I walked a short distance to the huge indoor market near where our boat docked and not far from the downtown shopping area.  We were hungry for lunch, so we stopped at a Hungarian cafeteria style restaurant for traditional Hungarian food while being serenaded by a violinist.

Our cafeteria lunches. The restaurant had a Hungarian sampler that included goulash, “layered potatoes,” and other tasty items. You can see it between Greg (who was really happy — really, no kidding, he was) and Nicole. It was a LOT of food, so Candy and I split one, and we were still full.
A view of the shopping market, which is three stories high. The top floor had a lot of souvenirs, the ground floor was mostly food (where we picked up some paprika), and the basement contained an Aldi grocery store.
The violinist who serenaded us with traditional Hungarian tunes as well as some Sinatra.

That afternoon Dave and I took a biking tour of Budapest.  There were just two from our boat (Dave and me) and two from another Viking boat.  It was a great tour.  Our guide took us to places we couldn’t see from the bus tour, and we covered a lot of ground that we couldn’t have covered on foot.  We even rode out to Margaret Island, where vehicles are not allowed.

Out guide giving us a talk during one of our stops of the bike tour. Riding a bike through Hungarian traffic was sometimes high adventure.
This statue and fountain is somewhat controversial. It depicts the atrocities committed by the Nazis, including rounding up and sending to extermination camps 600,000 Jews in four months after the Germans occupied Budapest. It is controversial, because it depicts the Hungarian government as victims, but as our guide pointed out, the government had to have collaborated willingly to round up that many Jews in so short a time. On a happier note, the fountain occasionally opened a path into the center where people would walk. It was pretty neat.

We had four birthdays on this trip:  Nicole our first night aboard, Candy a few days later, and Dave and Brenda the same day, our last night aboard.  The Viking staff brought a passion fruit cheesecake to both our tables and sang to Dave and Brenda.

A passion fruit cheesecake provided by the Viking staff.
Dave is officially old.
Our last night on board, the Viking folks brought on board three singers from the Hungarian national opera to entertain us, including their own violinist and pianist. They were really quite good, and I am not fan of opera.

The next day we transferred off the boat to our hotel in the castle district for the remainder of our stay.  Before even checking into the hotel, we were whisked away on one of our tours.

The next day, Eric, Vickey, Candy, and I took a van trip to Skanzen near the town of Szentendre.  Skanzen (pronounced like the back half of Wisconsin), is like the Dutch outdoor museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.  In this case over 240 buildings were moved with painstaking care from around Hungary to build several authentic villages depicting live in Hungary in different regions at different periods of history.

One of the many “peasant homes” from the great planes area of Hungary. The family house and barn were all one building.
These peasant homes were all constructed in a similar fashion, regardless of social status. Some were a little bigger, and some had nicer furniture, but they were very similar. As you walked into the door, you were in the kitchen with a fireplace that nearly filled the room. To the right is the “clean room” where you would entrain guests. To the left is the family room where you would spend most of your time. In the winter, the door still needed to remain open for proper draught of the fireplace, so the fireplace had smaller fireplaces leading to both the clean room and family room.
A family room in one of the houses. You can see the smaller fireplace and stove to the right of this picture.
A view of the fireplace in the kitchen with the smaller fireplace leading to the family room.
Some sort of smithy.

Our guide showing us a line of “row houses” where multiple families had connected houses.
Eric, Vickey, and me preparing goulash.
Goulash we are helping to create simmers over an open fire. I don’t think peasant Hungarians in the 1600’s used propane. 😉

We only had time to visit 20 or 30 buildings of the 250 on display at Skanzen.  Afterwards our guide took us to Szentendre, a real town filled with interesting shops.  There were some of the tourist souvenir shops, but there were also a number of legitimate local craft shops too.

Candy walking through a “street” of Szentendre. This one led to a church on the hill and a nice view of Szentendre and the Danube beyond.
We visited the small Retro Design Center museum. It was small, but it had some interesting items among its eclectic collection.

The next day, Eric, JJ, Dave, and I walked a quarter mile to the Hungarian military museum.  While not nearly as ornate or extensive as the one in Vienna, there were some interesting items on display.

Another double-barreled submachine gun. This must have been something that the Austro-Hungarians were really interested in during WWI, since several were on display in both Vienna and Budapest.
Our last night together, ten of us went to dinner: Eric, Karen, JJ, Greg, Nicole, Vickey, and Candy with Fisherman’s Bastion in the background.
Fisherman’s bastion and St. Mathias our last night.
Candy from Fisherman’s Bastion with parliament lit up behind her.

We all had different flights the next day, so we didn’t see each other.  Travel home was high adventure for most of us with cancelled flights, delayed flights, delayed takeoffs, and lost baggage.


The next morning we found ourselves in Bratislava, the capitol of Slovakia.  We took the panoramic bus tour around town and up to the castle.  This portion of the trip seemed rushed.  We took the quick bus tour, walked around downtown for a few minutes, and then got back on the boat.  Another two hours would have been a perfect amount of time to explore downtown a little more.

Our first view of Bratislava. This was right across from where our boat was moored.
The rather modern “UFO” bridge from our boat. The UFO is actually a rotating restaurant.
Departing the boat for our panoramic tour.
Bratislava castle in the distance.
The interior grounds of Bratislava castle.
The gardens behind Bratislava castle.
A church downtown.
The main square in downtown Bratislava.
Bratislava is known for its whimsical statues, like this Napoleonic soldier.
Legend says that if a young woman touches this figures hat, she’ll get pregnant, and if an old woman touches his hat, she’ll get money. The story behind this is that during communist times, people got paid for doing nothing, and nothing got done.
The Danube with the setting sun.


We began our time in Vienna with a walking tour of the downtown area and the Hapbsburg palace with its many courtyards.  After the walking tour, there was some scheduled free time for shopping.  Instead of shopping, Greg, JJ, and I met Duncan at the Vienna military museum.

Preparing to take out tour. This is a view of the “foyer” of the boat.
Wow! This was taken from the bus window while moving to the start of our tour.
Part of the Hapsburg winter palace
Downtown Vienna
St. Stephan’s church in the center of Vienna’s old town area. I really like the colored shingles/tiles on this roof.

Duncan had found this gem while looking for things to do in Vienna many months ago.  Duncan skipped the walking tour entirely to make sure he had time to see everything.  JJ, Greg, and I spent over four hours there.   It was well worth the time.  The architecture in the museum and the artwork, but might have been “over the top” in an art museum.  It is unprecedented in a military museum.


We passed through a park on the way to the museum. Greg and JJ made a new friend.
This is a small part of the entrance hall of the military museum.
In the WWI and WWII sections, most of the signs were in both German and English.

There were several of these maps in the WWI section. The displays were organized by year of the war. As a result, the displays did a great job of showing the evolution of technology throughout the war.
A unique, double-barreled automatic pistol. I found the thumb, leaf trigger (like on the US .50 cal. machine-gun) interesting.
Duncan really WAS happy to be there.
This drum magazine was interesting.
Another double-barreled submachine gun. This one appears to have been mounted on an airplane.

I took over 350 photos in this museum.  These are just a small sample.

Frescoes high above the first floor (second floor to Americans) galleries.

The famous Austerlitz surrender painting.
Throughout the Napoleonic area, there were many of these excellent figurines to show different uniforms of the period.
A Storch aircraft in the WWII section.
An interesting automatic rifle with a side-mounted box magazine that was on display as a weapon of paratroopers.
A fallshirmjaeger.
This is an interesting glass landmine. It is unclear if the glass was because raw materials were becoming scarce toward the end of the war or whether this was to avoid mine detection. My theory is the latter.
A Goliath. I hadn’t seen one with the top off before. This was used to drive explosives under enemy tanks.

After seeing everything in the museum itself, we walked around the corner to the panzerahalle (Tank Hall).  This included an excellent display of Russian and Cold War equipment that you rarely see.

A 1:1 scale model of an Austrian tank design in 1911. This was way ahead of its time, but no prototypes were ever produced for testing.
A view of a portion of the panzerhalle.
After the museum we took the underground back to the center of town.
Before returning to the boat, we stopped in a Viennese coffee house for coffee and desserts: JJ, Greg, Duncan.

Gottweg Abbey, Krems

The day of the Wachau Valley cruise, we also stopped at Krems to visit the Gottweg Abbey.  They abbey was impressive.  The tour ended in the gift shop for some wine tasting, as the abbey seems to be famous for its wines, and it is in the Wachau Valley, which is wine country.

There are less than 50 monks in the abbey. Many of them also perform as priests in the many local parishes. This is a view over the wall of the abbey at a nearby local church.
The entrance to the abbey grounds
The group milling about.
Interior of the Abbey grounds
One of the ceiling frescoes within the abbey.
The fresco ceiling and one of the walls.
The front of the church within the abbey
The church altar. There was a crypt below the altar with some relics.


We had a little time after returning from the abbey, so then Dave and I hike into the hills around Krems for an hour.