Friday, 3 November 2017

Monday, 2 October 2017

EdNa delivers the Cargo


A holiday on the Aranui 5 is a different type of cruise.

We bought our holiday as a package (from Ultimate Travel, Ultimo, NSW) which included a pickup from home to the airport, flight to Papeete via Auckland, 3 nights accommodation in the Manava Resort, Papeete, then transfer to the ship. A thirteen night cruise, in a Superior Deluxe stateroom, transfer from the ship back to the Manava Resort, transfer to the airport, flight home and pickup from Sydney airport to home again. Buying a complete package took all the work, stress and worry out of the  planning process and we were very happy with the service we received from Beverley at Ultimate Travel.

The flight from Sydney (via Air New Zealand) was slightly delayed departing and when we arrived at Auckland and looked at the Flight Information board we saw we had vey little time to spare before our connection to Papeete. As it turned out, we sat in the departure lounge for a long time before boarding.

Service on Air New Zealand was fine but a very short distance between the seats so not enough leg room.

We flew Air Tahiti Nui from Auckland to Papeete and again the service was fine but not enough leg room. Also, the entertainment system was very old and only a small number of movies - so take a good book or your own movies on your tablet. Also no footrest on either plane so if you have short legs, take your own blow up foot cushion!

The Manava Resort is very nice, we had a Garden View room which was quite large, included a kitchenette and plenty of space. An Ocean View room would be nice, depending on the extra cost. The resort has an infinity pool where the water temperature was just right to cool off in. The only problem here is that construction work is being carried out near the pool, so if you want to relax there you have to put up with the noise and also the large crane spoiling the view.

Also there are roosters around that start crowing about 4 in the morning. It turned out that there are lots of roosters in the islands. Apparently they provide the colourful feathers for the traditional costumes.

A cold buffet breakfast was included but the price of meals for lunch and dinner was expensive by our standards (about $A40 - $A50 for a main course).

100 French Pacific Francs (XPF) ~ $A1.42 (at Sep 2017)

Around Papeete there are sites where "food trucks" can be found. There is a site a few minutes walk from the Resort. One night we ordered a steak with green beans and fish with chips. The amount of beans and the chips would have been enough to feed  about six people! Not exactly a cheap meal but a lot less than at the Resort. The next night we ordered pizza but it wasn't exactly wonderful.

The Resort runs a shuttle bus into the town and back a couple of times a day (700XPF per person each way). I would have to say there is not a lot to see in downtown Papeete. it gives the impression of "faded glory". What we saw in the shops was what we would consider as expensive by Australian standards. There was a gun shop in town selling the sort of guns we would normally only see in action movies. Goodness knows what anyone would do with them in Tahiti. 

Papeete also suffers from traffic congestion, especially at peak hours. Our return trip from the resort to the airport was along a slow moving car park. 

We took an afternoon tour around the island (5500XPF each) but again there wasn't that much to see other than the coastal scenery. There is a nice botanic garden but at least having done the tour we don't feel that we missed something.

The French government pours €1.7 billion into French Polynesia each year with most of it going to Tahiti but it still looks like it needs more.  A lot of it apparently goes into social services such as providing housing for low income people, and paying families to send their children to school. Unemployment is very high and the tourist industry is not what it was a few years ago. Many resorts have closed.

The daytime air temperature was in the mid to high twenties with a bit of cloud around.


The original Aranui (built 1984) was a cargo ship designed to carry cargo between Papeete and villages in the Marquesas Islands while carrying just a few passengers. Subsequent Aranuis were slightly larger each build and the Aranui 5 was designed to carry 295 passengers plus cargo and her maiden voyage was in December 2015.

The fact that the ship is still very much a cargo ship servicing the islands is what makes it different from other cruises. Watching the cargo going onto and off the ship is part of the experience for passengers. The main cargo being exported from the islands is copra.


Bags of copra waiting to be loaded onto the ship.




The itinerary for each cruise can vary subject to cargo requirements and then even when the cruise is underway, the schedule is subject to the weather and sea conditions.


We sailed from Papeete on Tue 12 Sep 2017 and the journey was Papeete - Rotoava on Fakarava island, Taiohae on Nuku Hiva (with visits to Haiheu and Taipival villages), Hakahau on Ua Pou, Puamau on Hiva Oa, Vaitahu on Tahuata, Atuona on Hiva Oa, Omoa then Hanavave on Fatu Iva, Vaipaee on Ua Huka (with visits to Hokatu and Hane villages), then back to Taiohae on Nuku Hiva and Hakahau on Ua Pou, Tiputa on Rangiroa, Motu Tapu on Bora Bora and then back to Papeete.


We had a Deluxe Superior Stateroom (on deck 9) which had a balcony. It was a little "cosy" but comfortable and well equiped.


There were 204 passengers on board,  94 French,  67 English speaking ( a mix of Australians, New Zealanders, Americans, Canadians, British and various other countries who didn't necessarily speak French and included a couple from Iceland, and a Chilean), plus 43 Germans. The numbers varied slightly between ports with passengers disembarking and others embarking. Announcements on board were in French and English, so I don't know how the Germans got on, maybe they have enough French or English. The vast majority of the passengers were middle aged and older. I think the oldest was 87 years.


Breakfast was a buffet, hot and cold with fruit in season. From the look of the mangoes on the trees we saw on the islands, October would be the time to come if you are partial to mangoes.


Lunch and dinner were usually three courses but no choice of dishes, although if you didn’t want a dish an alternative would be offered. The serves were a modest size but with three courses certainly enough to eat (I don’t think anyone went hungry). Lots of fish, including raw fish, on the menu so if one doesn’t eat/like fish it could be a problem. I don’t know how a vegetarian or vegan would cope but I think that those with special dietary needs were catered for.


Wine was served at lunch and dinner, rationed at one (free) bottle per four persons but more could be purchased.


Some lunches were had ashore in a village we were visiting, usually a buffet style with dishes of raw fish, roasted pork, a goat dish, chicken, breadfruit and taro plus fruit.


Dinner on board was sometimes a buffet served on the outdoor decks.


There was a “Happy Hour” most days when a limited range of Cocktails were available at half price (500 - 650 XPF).


Internet is available on the ship, 3500XPF for 150mb, or 5000XPF for 300mb. This service is much faster than that which is available on the islands, which are cheaper, but are v e r y   s l o w and liable to drop out. So if you want internet access - pay for it.


Our first port of call was Rotoava, on Fakarava. This is a long, narrow, flat atoll with lots of coconut trees, surrounding a very wide lagoon. Going ashore involves getting off the ship onto a barge which takes passengers to a pier onshore.



We went snorkelling there but the coral was dead and the fish were not all that spectacular. There is no snorkelling in the Marquesas and only one place, Hakahau on Ua Pau where one can swim.


We docked at a wharf at Taiohae on the southern side of Nuku Hiva island and were taken by vehicle to the village for a look around before rejoining the vehicle for a journey over the hills to Haitheu on the northern side of the island. There was a stop at an archaeological site for an explanation of the remains there and a dance performance under a huge banyan tree - a very spectacular show.


Lunch was at a local restaurant and included pig baked in a pit (Umu). Then back over the hills for a guided tour of the Cathedral at Taiohae. Quite a spectacular journey over the hills but someone needs to teach these drivers what a gear box is for - I kept sitting there wanting to say “try second gear!”

Day 5 was Hakahau on Ua Pou, another dock landing. We went for a hike up a rather steep and at times rocky path up a hill for a view over the bay - not far but under the conditions quite tiring and sweaty. 




We then had a dance performance which was the best we saw on the cruise. Lunch ashore again.


BBQ on deck for dinner.


Puamau on Hiva Oa was another barge landing with the option of attending Mass at the local church. We visited an archaeological site at Te I’Ipona for a talk on the ancient culture. 


After lunch it was off to Vaitahu on Tahuata - a barge from the ship to the pier for a guided tour of the catholic church.


Atuona on Hiva Oa is where both Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel are both buried in the local cemetery. There is a museum dedicated to Gauguin which houses copies of his paintings and information on his life. One of the ship’s guides, who lives on Ua Pau, gave a very informative talk on Gauguin. Another museum houses a restored Beechcraft plane which belonged to Jaques Brel (no CD’s of his music on sale though!).


Day 8 provided an opportunity for the more physically inclined (capable) passengers (not us!) at Omoa on Fatu Hiva. A barge landing and the hikers set off on a 10 mile hike to the ship’s next port of call, around the coast at Hanavave. The hike started with a 5 mile climb up at about 20 degrees and then a 5 mile descent at even steeper grades at the end. Those who managed it reported it as quite a challenge. The rest of us just wandered around the village till it was time to sail. 


The consensus amongst the passengers we spoke to was that Omoa was the “nicest” place we visited. Very small population. It just had a good look and feel to it.


A barge landing at Hanavave for a quick look around the village.


Day 9 we were up early to watch the ship’s entry and manoeuver in Vaipaee bay on Ua Huka. The bay is short and very narrow so the ship enters bow first, drops the anchor and swings, with only just enough room, 180 degrees and ties up from the stern to both sides of the bay. Because of its exposure, a barge landing here in rough weather would be a challenge - fortunately we had relatively smooth seas. 





From the pier we were taken by 4WD vehicles (see my previous comments about gears) to the Botanical Garden, trees, not flowers, where our guides gave an informative talk on the garden’s history and the various trees and fruits. The only ripe ones at this time were star fruit and a type of mandarin. We did see a Soursop growing though, a fruit we had heard about but never seen.

Then we drove on to a museum which had been created by reproducing, from photographs, items which are held in the British Museum, about the local culture. There was a slight rain shower just as we were leaving for Hokatu village where there is a handicraft centre and a Petroglyph museum. Then we were driven to Hane village, another handicraft centre and a small Sea Museum. Lunch was at the Celine Fournier restaurant in Hane, then driven back to the ship. 

Ua Huka is different from the other islands in the Marquesa group. It is the most northern and drier that the others. It presents a very different aspect, less trees and more open areas but still very hilly with a spectacular coastline.

The next day we were back in Taiohae for a short time before sailing back to Hakahau. Then a Polynesian buffet on the pool deck for dinner when unfortunately we had a couple of heavy rain showers toward the end of the meal. Not enough to dampen (if you’ll pardon the pun) anyone’s spirit. Fortunately we were sitting under cover. The crew just carried on presenting the food and the show.

The Marqueasas Islands, part of French Polynesia, lie about 1370km NE of Tahiti. They are of volcanic origin and rise sharply and spectacularly from the sea. The little bit of beach they have is black sand. They are quite different from the low lying coral atolls, covered by coconut palms and surrounded by turquoise seas. 

There was usually quite a bit of cloud around the peaks of the islands in the morning which tended to clear as the day went on.

The Islanders still keep horses as a form of transport and there are wild pigs and goats in the interior of the islands which are sought by game hunters.

Hiva Oa

Fatu Hiva




Day 11 was our second “sea day” (day 3 was our first). Enough going on on board to stop anyone getting bored and also a nice chance to have a rest from our busy schedule so far.


Rangiroa is a chain of atolls surrounding the second largest lagoon in the world. The ship enters the lagoon through a very narrow channel.


The landing at Rangiroa is directly from the barge onto the beach, the only landing of this type on the cruise. There is no pier. There were no waves to speak of so we able go ashore without getting our feet wet.




Rangiroa is home to a black pearl farm and we went on a short bus ride from where we landed to the pearl farm for a very interesting and informative talk on how pearls are cultured and grown. The ride also gave us an opportunity to see a bit more of the island.


We had time for a refreshing swim but didn’t bother snorkelling as we expected to get better conditions on Bora Bora.


All the places we have visited on this cruise have been very clean, tidy and well kept. We have often seen people (the equivalent of council workers?) picking up leaves (there doesn’t seem to be any rubbish lying around), cutting grass and keeping the place tidy. The people are wearing clean clothes and seem happy. Much nicer than Papeete which has a dilapidated look and feel to it. There are stalls selling handicrafts and fruit at all the places but no one is trying to attract attention, they just sit there and wait for you to come to them and there is no selling pressure - you either want to buy or you don’t. We haven’t seen anyone begging, which is more than be said for continental places. 


We have heard quite a bit of talk about how island people are now trying to rediscover and revive their ancient culture which had been virtually wiped out by western missionaries in the late 19th century. The ship’s crew provide entertainment in the form of traditional song and dance and appear very proud of their culture and history.


We sailed into the lagoon at Bora Bora and anchored offshore for a barge transfer to the pier at Vaitape. Bora Bora is an island in a lagoon surrounded by a chain of atolls. 






Sunday morning so the only things open were one supermarket, a pharmacy, one gift shop and the churches. Lots of people in their Sunday best, also a lot of traffic with people coming to church. It didn’t look like there was much to see anyway unless you were interested in buying pearls.


We transferred to a small island for a buffet bbq provided by the ship’s kitchen. 


After lunch we went on a motorized canoe cruise around the island. We only booked this tour (the only optional tour we took - all the other tour mentioned are included in the cruise fare) at the last minute because we were told it was our best opportunity to go snorkelling, having been disappointed at Fakarava and Rangirora. And having carted our goggles and snorkels all this way we wanted to get some use out of them.


The first stop was an opportunity (not taken by us) to swim with sting rays (remember Steve Irwin) and black tip sharks (about 1 - 1.2m long). It was interesting watching the guide in the water handling and feeding the rays.


Our next stop was over some coral outcrops, where we did go into the water. Not  a lot of colour in the coral but there was an abundance of small to medium sized, colourful fish. It was absolutely amazing swimming among them, so close we could have touched them if we were quick enough. At times we were right in the middle of a school. Even better than swimming in Fiji.


The third stop was over a sandy sea bottom that was a very fine sand, almost like mud and reminded us of the sediment in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland.


The tour enabled us to see the resorts that have accommodation out over the lagoon, all looking similar but apparently range greatly in price. The guide said that one of them costs $US10,500 per night.


It was then back to Papeete to disembark.

All in all the cruise was wonderful. The whole ship's crew were fantastic - friendly, helpful and good company. They are very practiced at getting passengers from the ship into the barges and we always felt we were in safe hands. Passengers need to have both hands free for the transfers so you need to carry what you want for the time ashore in a back pack. The food was excellent. The only minor complaint I have is that the bar staff were slow, especially when there was only one person behind the bar during Cocktail Hour.


There was a guest lecturer on board giving talks on various matters about Polynesia and there was a daily briefing about the next day's activities. The ship's band performed on a few of the nights. 


We were very fortunate with the weather and seas during our cruise. In theory, September, October should be the best time of the year to visit. We were told that the previous two cruises struck rough seas and a lot of passengers were seasick. 


We had smooth to slight seas, little wind and maximum day temperatures around 28 deg C. Night time temps were a little cooler, especially at sea, but not cold. The temperature in the interior of the ship was around 22 deg C. We went through a couple of light rain showers but generally there was little cloud other than that around the higher peaks on the islands.


Mosquitoes and Nonos (a type of biting sand fly) were not a problem (despite us having bought very powerful repellant in Papeete) but would be in the warmer, wetter months.


We had two nights back at the Manava Resort and just spent the time relaxing and recovering from the cruise. It had been a busy schedule with early starts nearly every morning (breakfast commenced at 6.30am most days).


We ate at the food trucks again and discovered a different pizza truck from our previous visit which served very good pizzas. And another food truck where we shared one huge plate of food, which made it much cheaper than our first time in Papeete.


The resort opened the breakfast bar at 5.30am to enable the guests departing on the flight to Auckland to have breakfast before leaving. 


The Air Tahiti Nui aircraft for our return flight to Auckland was much newer than our incoming flight with a bit more leg room, a newer entertainment system but still only a small number of movies from which to choose. Brunch was served shortly after take off. We had about two hours between flights at Auckland for our final leg home.

As the sun sings slowly in the west  . . . . . . .






Saturday, 10 September 2016

Going Home

Sat 10 Sep 16

We are on our way home, taking a train from Salzburg to Munich airport for a flight to Singapore where we have an overnight stay to give us a break form flying, then home on Monday.
Singapore Airlines doesn't fly out of Vienna, the closest departure point being Munich. As we weren't particularly interested in staying in Munich, we chose Salzburg instead and were very happy with that choice. 

We have crossed a lot of agricultural land but have not seen one person working in them. Interesting.

It has been a  l o n g  trip, longer than we are used to, but enjoyable, except for the bells in Melk, but then that just added to the experience.
We have slept in 10 different beds, travelled on 9 trains, not including airport transfers, a sea cruise and 3 river cruises. The temperatures have ranged from freezing to hot. We have been very lucky with the weather in general, especially in the far north and with regard to the state of the seas. Only a little rain when we were in Vienna, but not enough to be a problem.

The European rail system is amazing. But the trains don't always run on time. How much co-ordination it requires between the various countries with cross border trains running is unimaginable.

I would like to thank the person who came up with the idea of putting wheels on suitcases. How would we be without them?

The most useful app on the iPad for travelling I have found is Citymaps2go by Ulman Pro. Just download the required maps then you don't need an internet connection to use them. They work off the GPS system. I don't remember what it cost, not much but certainly worth it.

Still don't have a selfie stick, in fact unlike in Italy last year where they were on sale by street hawkers everywhere, we haven't seen anyone selling them. 


Anyway, that's about it from me for this trip. Or as Fred Dagg used to say, "I have to go, here comes my bus".
Thanks for reading my blog and a special thanks to those who commented on it.

TschuĆ¼ss,
Geof N

Salzburg

Salzburg
Wed 7 Sep 16

The main train line from Vienna to Salzburg goes via St Polten but my rail map of Europe shows the line south from Vienna to Leoben then to Salzburg as being longer and slower but more scenic. The route goes over the Semmering Pass (we visited Semmering four years ago) and this section of the track is World Heritage listed. We weren't disappointed by the scenery. It is postcard Austria, minus the snow. Especially the section from Leoben to Salzburg. The line goes along mountain valleys with the mountains often rising up beside the train line. The most spectacular scenery we have seen in Europe this visit. The skies had turned hazy again but not enough to detract from the views.

We had been told by various people that we would love Salzburg but we arrived here without any idea of what to expect. Our train arrived in the late afternoon so we had time to wander around both before and after dinner. We are both quite taken by the city, especially the old town. Lots of narrow streets and laneways which have a rather different aspect to them that I can't quite put my finger on that makes them different from say Koblenz or Regensburg.  Perhaps it's something to do with the setting being at the base of the cliffs or the signs hanging in front of every shop. 


Thu 8 Sep 16

Up early this morning to wander around before too many people were about. We went into the Dom, a rather spectacular Baroque church and while we were inside a tour group of Chinese came in. They wouldn't have been in there for two minutes - they had a quick look, lots of selfies then out again. 



We went into a small graveyard behind the Dom and saw something we have never seen before - wrought iron grave markers instead of headstones.




An Australian in Austria.
We then took the funicular up to the old fort to have a view over the city. The carriage was crowded and an American women standing next to me said to her husband that there was room in the next section. I said, no, there wasn't, there was a pram in there (taking up the space). She looked at me as if she didn't understand me so I said " a stroller". She then made a "pushing" motion to indicate that she knew what I was saying. I said "my English is not very good, I am Australian" (as a joke). She said "and my German is zilch".

Hazy again especially when looking toward the sun but bright light with the sun behind.

Lots of people around by late morning, many tour groups and quite a few groups of young people on tours also.

Weather station in Salzburg

Fri 9 Sep 16

Caught a suburban bus out to visit Hellbrunn Palace with its trick fountains. Built for an Archbishop's pleasure, who used to get his guests drunk and play tricks on them with hidden water sprays. You can only see the fountains on a guided tour and unfortunately, the one we were put on was conducted in Spanish and English. The problem was, there was a large group of Spaniards on the tour so about ninety percent of the commentary was in Spanish and the little bit of English was spoken with a heavy Spanish accent. Not sure that we missed much anyway and besides, we lucky that we visited on a reduced price day, €4 instead of €12 each. 


It's interesting how inconsiderate people can be. They want to take a photo so they stand in front of everyone and don't think that anyone else might also want a photo.   Or the tall ones stand in front of short people.
The bus ride gave us a chance to see a bit of the suburbs.

Visited a very old wine bar and had in interesting conversation with the owner. She said that Salzburg was now dependant on tourism and that half the apartments in the city are actually empty. She also said that the vines in Austria were diseased years ago (she wasn't sure about when) and had been replaced with roots from America.

It has been hot in Salzburg and we were told we were lucky with the weather as it usually rains here.

We must have walked along nearly every street and passage way in the old town and most of those in the old part of the new town. Even walked past the "Maison d'Plaisir" (with its red light) on what was originally the main street in town centuries ago.


A view overlooking the city.




Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Vienna

Vienna
Tue 6 Sep

The fine weather returned with temps up in the high 20s for our first two days here but then on Sunday night a front went through with rain and cooled things down. There were showers and storms behind the front. Monday was showery but rainy on Tuesday. Fortunately the weather is forecast to return to fine and warm for our next leg to Salzburg on Wednesday.

We have been wandering around, revisiting some of the places we enjoyed last time we were here and discovering new ones. The advantage of staying in a different part of the city on a second visit is that it causes you to see places you may not have been before. Previously, we stayed in the Paulanergasse area, now Schottenring area.

One thing I did last time was go on a guided tour of sites associated with the movie "The Third Man". 
Fans may recognise the doorway.
Very interesting but having done it once I didn't feel the need to do it again, but  I missed out on the ferris wheel last time as we didn't get to that part of the city. This time we did and I couldn't resist taking a ride on it.



There is a museum dedicated to the movie which is only open on Saturday afternoons which I couldn't visit previously. Even if you aren't particularly interested in the movie but are interested in post WW2 Vienna, it is a must visit. The movie was set in post war Vienna and this museum has a fabulous collection of material relating to Vienna in that period. 
Seeing pictures of how Vienna suffered from bomb damage during the war and seeing how it looks today is amazing. The fact that nearly all of the inner city was reconstructed in the same style that it would have been before the war gives it a special charm I think. 


Vienna has a similar look to it as Paris, whereas say, London and Berlin, who both also suffered a lot of damage, have a very different look to them now.

One place unique to Vienna is the Hundertwasser House.



We seem to have mastered the Vienna underground system but have no idea of how the trams run, despite having what appears to be a current map of the system. The trams going past have a number which doesn't correspond to the map and/or go in the opposite direction to the sign on the tram, so we just get on one and hope it takes us to where we want to go, if not, get off and walk. Vienna is a very "walkable" city, mostly flat and not very far from one side of the main areas to the other and we walked a lot of it.

The distinctive sound of inner Vienna is the sound of horses hooves on the pavement (with the associated smell). They must drive the local car drivers crazy as it not possible to overtake them in the narrow streets.



 Another sound is the squeak of parquetry floors in the old museums.

One thing we have noticed in Europe is the many people smoking. Australians seem to have mostly given up the habit but not people here. Cigars are common also and it makes it difficult for us non smokers to find somewhere to sit in restaurants to avoid the smell of smoke.

Odd things happen to you when on holidays. We had noticed that nearly all the music we heard whenever a radio was playing, was in English. (Probably explains why most of the performances  on Eurovision are in English.)
Anyway, we were sitting in a cafe one afternoon and blaring out from the speakers in the Naschmarkt across the road, was Olivia Newton-John and when we were having dinner that night, Air Supply were on the restaurant's speakers.

There is a much greater mix of people, nationalities and ages, in Vienna than we have seen in the places we visited in Germany. On Sundays, nearly all the shops (apart from souvenir shops) and a lot of the restaurants are closed. The areas away from the main tourist areas are very quiet. There are very few beggars and people sleeping on the streets from what we have seen.


We went into a wine bar, down a flight of stairs off one of the narrow streets for a drink, then when we were finished, came out via a different stairway, right into a magnificent food emporium - Julius Meinl, Graben 19. Recommended.
I was looking forward to revisiting the Rosenberger restaurant which is near the Opera House as I remember it as having a fabulous range of food, cafeteria style, at good prices. However, I was disappointed. The range was limited and more expensive than I remember.
Speaking of food, there must be a factory (or three?) in Austria turning out Weiner Schnitzels by the ton. They are on the menu of just about every restaurant and I can't image that there is someone in the kitchen, cutting, pounding and breading them to order, except maybe in the very upmarket places.

We have been into a few museums and lots of churches of different denominations (where you are allowed to take photos, not like in Melk).


The MAK museum was more interesting than I expected and the Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury) is fascinating. The craftsmanship in the objects on display is amazing.
The Albertina had a wonderful exhibition "Monet bis Picasso".
Here is my version of Impressionism:

 
Yours truly enjoying his birthday cake at the Cafe Central, one of Vienna's Grand Cafes. The wines came later in the day.


Friday, 2 September 2016

The Journey Continues

Danube Part 2

Wed 31 Aug 16

We were in luck with the weather again for our cruise from Passau to Linz. A beautiful fine day with mild temperatures. 



The river valley down river from Passau is very different from that between Regensburg and Passau . Up river, the valley is wide with agricultural land on the banks whereas downriver the valley is very narrow with hills rising up from the river banks most of the way. There are some small towns by the riverside, where the boat stops, and also a few houses which seem to quite isolated.
The river downstream from Passau is even more green as a result of it mixing with the waters of the Inn River which originates in the mountains of Switzerland.


There are fewer people on this ship than on the one from Regensburg, probably because it is a week day.

Most of the people we have taken for tourists are "not young", I guess because the main holiday season is over and people have gone back to school or work. Also, we have seen hardly any Asians on our way across Germany. Possibly because we are slightly off the main tourist track and they stick to the major centres. And we have seen only one or two selfie sticks! (Which are mainly used by younger people and Chinese anyway.)

I think that babies' prams must have very good tyres and/or suspension in these towns paved with cobblestones, otherwise there would be the possibility of "shaken baby syndrome". Pity people in wheelchairs.

European doonas are a problem. They are not designed for hot nights - they are far too warm, and try explaining to the housemaid that you want a light blanket instead - good luck. Besides, they are rather short, how do tall people like the Dutch cope?

I am amazed, if you will pardon the pun, at the amount of maize, or is it corn, that is growing along the fields by the river. What happens to it all? 

It is a bit too far to drag suitcases over cobblestones from the boat wharf at Linz to the train station so we caught a taxi. Train to Melk with one change. Perhaps we are making it harder for ourselves with all these changes of transport but it means we get to see different aspects of the countryside.

I visited Melk in 2012 but Susan hasn't been here before. Melk Abbey is part of UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage. It is built on a cliff overlooking the town.


Thu 1 Sep 16
Melk

Didn't Quasimodo, in the Hunchback of Notre Dame, say "the bells, Master! The bells!"?

Well we had bells on and off all night! They rang at all sort of intervals for various periods with a long period at 6am. Unfortunately one of the churches was very close to where we were staying. The hotel was not air conditioned so it was necessary to have the windows open to let fresh air (and noise) in. Also, what appears to be the only pub in the old town is just below the hotel so noise from that didn't help. Besides all that, the bed was very soft and squeaky.

Melk Abbey is worth a visit. We took a guided tour through the museum which was very  informative. The tour ends with an entrance into the church. When I was here last it was possible to take photos in the church, which is claimed to be one of the most beautiful Baroque churches in the world. The tour guide said that about four kilograms of gold was used in decorating the church. Now, there are signs everywhere saying "NO PHOTOS". Why? Yes, I know it's a church all that that implies, but I can't think of any other major church I have been in where one couldn't take photos, except The Sistine Chapel. The Abbey is dependant on tourists but if the selfie generation (and the Chinese) can't photograph themselves there, will they come?


Spent the rest of the day looking around the old town - very pleasant.

Fri 2 Sep 16
The Danube Part 3

Enough is enough! After two nights of hardly any sleep due to the bells, the noise from the pub and a very soft, squeaky bed, we are out of here to whereever! It meant we had to pay for the three nights we had booked for but it is worth it in the hope of getting a good night's sleep.

So we are changing our travel plans .
We sent an email off very early in the morning to the owner of the flat we have booked for our stay in Vienna to see if we could come in a day earlier. In the meantime we looked at the possibility of staying a night at Krems but that didn't look promising and the thought of finding somewhere suitable (price and location) in Vienna was daunting.

Luckily, the flat in Vienna was available, so we took the river cruise that we had booked for the next day, today, to Krems and then a train to Vienna.
This means we will have one extra day in Vienna and won't have to rush to see everything.

My suggestion for visiting Melk would be to make it a day trip from Vienna, which is what I did last time. Catch an early train, tour the Abbey and spend the afternoon looking around the old town. Maybe even have dinner there. We had two very good evening meals there. In fact, we have been very happy with the food at all the places we have eaten across Germany. The servings are very big though, so unless you are hungry, for two people, order one main and a salad and share - it will be sufficient. 

The river cruise is only about two hours but it passes through the Wachau Valley, one of the major wine producing areas in Austria. 
How is it that European wine makers are able to produce good tasting red wine with an alcohol content of 12% whereas in Australia you are lucky to get one at 13.5% and most of them are above 14% and even 15% or more? 


Another very pleasant river cruise. We might have to consider doing a long one one day. A bit cloudy and rather hazy with signs of the possibility of storms later.

It was about a 30 min slow (dragging suitcases) walk from the wharf to the station. Time for a quick look at some of Krems before taking the train to Vienna.

Some rain along the way with signs of there having been heavy rain earlier. Fortunately, it stopped before we reached Vienna.

Some confusion about the exact location of the entrance to the flat and we were told off in no uncertain terms by the owner about not following her instructions properly. We just didn't understand the European way of writing an address. Anyway, no real problem and we are now looking forward to having an extra day in Vienna, staying in a very lovely and modern apartment (with a washing machine!). 
We were in Vienna four years ago and both really enjoyed the place and wanted to come back, so here we are.





sculpture by the sea 2017

EdNa travelled to Sculpture by the Sea recently and here are my impressions.