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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I took over 350 photos in this museum. These are just a small sample.
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.
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.
We had a little time after returning from the abbey, so then Dave and I hike into the hills around Krems for an hour.
After our day at Linz, the next morning we set sail along the Danube toward Bratislava. This was meant to be a relaxing day absent a bunch of excursions. The morning was foggy, but along the way, I was able to capture some pictures of some castles and the countryside. Violeta, our program director, was providing a narration during this porting of the trip, but for some reason, it was difficult to hear and understand her on the top (sun) deck. As a result, I don’t have a lot of details about these various sights, other than they are picturesque.
As is typical on Viking cruises it seems, much of the staff is from Central Europe. Violeta was from Romania. She recognized my name immediately as we came on board as being Romanian. In Romanian “Surdu” means the deaf. One evening, Violeta gave a presentation about what life was like under the communist regime in Romania that all Americans need to hear. It was long and suffered from a little meandering, but the content was good.
The next day was in Linz. We elected to take the excursion to Český Krumlov, a quaint mediaeval village back in the Czech Republic. This town was largely untouched by WWII, so the castle and town are like they have been for hundreds of years. After a walking tour of the town and castle grounds, we all sat down for a traditional Czech meal and then had some free time to spend money on stuff we didn’t need. We also climbed the tower of the castle and looked at the museum inside the castle tower during our free time. Despite the hour and fifteen minute drive in each direction, we arrived back in Linz in time to walk around the town a bit and get some Linzer tortes.
After a little shopping we boarded the bus and headed back to Linz. I don’t fee like we missed anything in Linz by spending the day in Český Krumlov. It is a largish German city with a handful of churches to see. We had a couple of hours to walk downtown and shop for Linzer tortes to bring home. The shopping area in Linz was just a city street and was not really unique or quaint.
After our time in Prague, we boarded a bus for along ride to Passau, Germany, where we boarded out boat. Arriving a little before dinner, we received out orientation and unpacked in our rooms. We stayed in Passau at the dock the first night. The next morning, Duncan, Dave, and I took the “Hiking the Hills of Passau” walking tour, while everyone else took the normal walking tour of town. Our tour covered the same downtown (Old Town) area of Passau, but we also saw a monastery / church overlooking Passau from one side of town and the castle on the other side of the river. The tour was billed as “strenuous,” but it really wasn’t too bad except for the climb up the hill to the castle.
Overnight we docked in Linz for our tours the next day.
Well, it finally happened. After our Viking river cruise of the Rhine in 2019, we scheduled a cruise along the Danube in 2020, which was postponed to 2021, and then 2022. Along the way, we encouraged several other couples to participate: Greg and Nicole with whom we took the Rhine cruise, Duncan and Betty, Dave and Brenda, Eric and Vickey, and JJ and Karen. Our journeys began seven days ago with our flights into Prague for the “pre show,” three days in Prague.
Our first night in Prague Greg had identified a pretty neat restaurant called “the skewer.” All of the food had a skewer stuck in it. Some had two skewers. The food was self-serve, and at the end you paid for the number of skewers you had eaten.
After a stroll around downtown Prague (Praha), we all returned to the hotel to try to get some sleep despite the jet lag.
The next morning, we all took the included “Panoramic Prague” walking tour through the city. The guide, Radick, did a nice job of showing us the highlights of downtown Prague, despite some heavy rain.
The tour continued by taking us up to the castles, which includes a church and the President’s offices.
That night Duncan, Betty, Dave, Brenda, Candy, and I attended a traditional folk dinner in a rural area outside of Prague. This included dancers performing traditional folk dances and a three-piece band playing traditional music. The food included some kind of cheese spread on bread, soup, meat, cabbage, and potatoes. It was a fun evening.
The next morning, on our own, we went to find the History of Communism. I don’t know how anyone can support Communism, Marxism, and Socialism after visiting this museum. The Czechs know first hand the evils of these philosophies, and they are not afraid to oppose them.
Our last morning we had to drop off our bags by 1000, but the bus wasn’t scheduled to depart of Passau until 1300. So, Karen, Candy, JJ, and I walked across the river and along it to the Charles Bridge. We stopped at a couple of shops to look at stuff we didn’t need, then we crossed the bridge and made one last trek through Old Town Square back to our hotel.
We arrived at the boat in time to unpack our rooms and have dinner.
I recently completed these three battalions of French Napoleonic infantry and mounted them for the under-development Wars of Eagles and Empires. Eagles and Empires is an adaptation of Wars of Ozz for purely historical games. The initial version will be Napoleonic, but there will be supplements for other historical periods, such as the American War of Independence (AWI), Jacobite Rebellion, Crimea, and others.
These figures are very early Old Glory figures. These were sold with separate heads, and you could get them with bicorns or shakos. At the time, I was building Davout’s III Corps for 1805-1807. Almost half of his regiments were still furnished Royal white uniforms instead of Napoleonic blue uniforms.
I don’t know if these were Old Glory’s first 25/28mm figures, but they were very early ones. I think I purchased these at Old Glory’s first Historicon.
I have recently be remounting all of my Napoleonic infantry for Wars of Eagles and Empires from Empire. I had painted three battalions of these figures. In Empire a battalion of French was typically twelve figures. In Wars of Eagles and Empires, French regiments are generally six bases; although, there is no prescribed number of figures per base. The figures from Nick Cirocco that I converted from Column, Line, and Square were mounted six figures to a base, because that’s how Minifigs Napoleonics were packaged.
During my rebasing, I found a bunch more of these figures that I had filed and primed. There were enough figures, when combined with the 36 I had already painted, to make three full battalions of them for Wars of Eagles and Empires.
I block painted the new figures to match closely the ones I had painted 35 years ago. The result is passable. I just love the look of big battalions! May that is because of my dad’s collection of 54mm Britains that surrounded me as a kid.
I will be holding another Napoleonic play test this week, and these figures will be on the table. “Buck’s Law” states that the first time you put new figures on the table, they usually get spanked. We’ll see what happens…