Tuesday, June 26, 2012


We are home. The flights were good but there were 3 of them. When all was said and done, we were up 27 hours! I don't care how much sugar coating you can put on that statement -- it's a long time and today we are paying for it. Needless to say we awoke early but we did not start anything for about an hour. Then we started on the laundry. I sorted stuff by color and there were 7 loads, so I combined loads ending up with 4. The laundry is done now. We are unpacked. Now we need to tackle jet-lag and the day to day process of living on our own. No one is cooking gourmet meals for us nor is there anyone making up our room or cleaning the shower. It's time to get back to reality.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Castle Church

The huge church at the castle in Prague was built over a period of centuries, like many of these great old churches. This church is an example of classic gothic and French design, so you see hints of Notre Dame in Paris. The details are wonderful with ferocious gargoyles, colorful glass, and shiny mosaics. Churches like these are never going to built again. I happen to love these grand edifices so I take lots of pictures of them.


In Germany you use the Euro (€) but in the Czech Republic you use the Koruna or Crown. There are about 19 Crown in a US dollar. Czech paper money is pretty. We only saw 100, 200 and 500 notes as we were here a short time. The coins were strange but alas I spent every last one of them getting on the tram so no pictures.


Czech is an impossible language. Some words have no vowels while others have vowels in the wrong places. Given that, we used the public tram system today and we got it to work. We had to read the signs, get the ticket kiosk to work, and board the tram at the right locations. We needed help and the friendly folks were willing to help two vacationers out. Grand Circle calls this a "Learning and Discovery" moment...and that explains it well. Now that I've done it I can do it again.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dresden at Night

We sailed into Dresden about 10 PM. The old city was ablaze with light. We could not make out the individual structures or the exact detail, but we did see the wedding cake outlines if old Baroque-type buildings. The night was dark, the water was relatively calm and the reflections upon it were wonderful.


I was under the impression that Dresden was completely destroyed in World War II. I was wrong! A lot of Dresden was destroyed, but quite a bit survived.

We had a tour of the city and saw the old Opera House, as well as many museums and churches standing with the scars of the war proudly showing.

We learned of the "rubble women" who had the job of sorting out the broken stones into piles so they could be reused. We also learned a bit of what life was like during the Soviet era of the DDR.

I'm unclear as to when the rebuilding took place, but it did happen. Dresden is filled with treasures of the past, such as a Meissin tile wall that depicts the Saxon Princes who ruled the area from 1200 to 1876. You can also see an over the top museum/music complex and an old Lutheran Church that clearly shows the results of the firestorm that swept thru the city in 1945.

BTW, a semi-final soccer game was played last night. Soccer is huge in Europe, but when your team is in the semi-final, soccer is "huger." Germany beat Greece 4 to 2 last night! What excitement. People were watching the game in a huge outdoor stadium as well as in local pubs and cafes. When Germany scored the whole city screamed with joy--when Greece scored there were an equal number of boos. When the game ended there was one heck of a party!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


We went to the Meissin Factory where the fabulous porcelain is made. What a place! We saw a potter at his wheel as well as 2 types of artists then we were lucky enough to spend some time in their shop. We just spent time as no one had money for these works of art. Since everything is hand made, it's possible to spend several hundred € on a plate or cup. It was still fun to see everything.

From there we walked to the Square, looked at store fronts and window shopped.

A trip to the Dom (aka, big old church) was necessary. The Dom is built on the top of the hill and the view into the city was fantastic.

A good day.


Neon signs are not a big deal on 17th century restaurants and pubs. Instead you see intricate metal signs that depict the business inside oneway or another. Here is a small collection of such signs.


We have seen a lot of towers along the river. I've posted a few below.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Torgau--Miscellaneous Musings

The beginning of the end of World War II happened in Torgau when the Russian and American troops rolled into town. It's a tiny town on the Elbe. The bridges that crossed the river were wired with bombs awaiting the bad guys. On April 26, 1945 the good guys came.

However Torgau has seen a lot of history the past 600+ years. The old Schloss was remodeled in 1534. Peter the Great visited the schloss and determined it had one of the best towers he had ever seen. Martin Luther's widow, Caterina, is buried in St. Mary's church. For the last 2 days I've been hearing a lot about this remarkable woman who might have been as revolutionary as her more famous husband.

The town square is huge and is anchored by a beautiful Rathaus. While we were walking in the square a group of school children arrived. We were expecting noise and instead we received a surprise. The group went into a gelato shop, bought one scoop cones and very orderly walked out to the fountain in the square and ate them. We kept waiting for "typical kid behavior" to emerge and finally, after 10 minutes they started to climb all over the fountain and run and scream. Kids are kids!


One of the joys of cruising is the food. Included in the food category is dessert and we are getting two desserts a day, not counting ice cream when we visit a town.

For lunch today we had our choice of Bab-ah-rhum or Ice Creme Romanoff -- both were wonderful.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Wittenburg, Part 2

Aside from the religious history of the city, there's a secular history too. The town is old. It has some well preserved homes, a beautiful city square and Rathaus (city hall) and a good ice creamery. We sat outside at the ice cream place and watched locals shop on Markt Strasse. Later we went back to the River Allegro (our home on the Elbe River) and started sailing toward Torgau.

Wittenburg and Luther

We visited Wittenburg today. This is the place where Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door at the church and the Reformation began. This is the place where a Professor of Theology, not even 5 1/2 feet tall, stood up to the Catholic Church and brought about a major change in religion.

Today we viewed that very door where it all began. We saw the pulpit where he preached. We saw his tomb. All Martin Luther wanted to do was bring attention to the selling of indulgences. He wanted the Church to make a few changes...but instead of the Church making changes, it decided Herr Professor Luther was wrong...but by then the 95 Theses had been published and their notoriety was spreading quickly. What could have been "small" became huge! You have to wonder how many times a "mistake" like that has been made during the course of human history?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Various Pictures

Tangermünde is a village of towers. One of the towers was the prison. If a person was convicted of a crime he or she was made to stand in the stocks in front of the prison for 24-48 hours of public humiliation. Then the poor miscreant was sent to stay in the prison for the rest of his or her punishment. Can you imagine how it felt to be imprisoned after being stoned or hit or "tomato-ed" for 2 days?

The next picture is of a mail box. I thought it was so elegant. Definitely worth a picture.

The next picture shows the official plaque that is put on a home after it has been restored to near original condition.The last picture shows a couple of restored home. BTW, we saw a real estate office listing local homes and the prices were incredible--€250,000 and higher. These homes are not your basic €200000 "fixer-upper."

Restoration in Tangermünde

To keep a medieval village alive it needs to be lovingly cared for. This is not a small undertaking. As I was walking thru the village I discovered a row of old homes waiting to be repaired.

As I looked at the facade I thought this is not too horrible. Then I looked more deeply. The homes were just shells. From the outside they looked like they needed a lot of paint. From the inside they needed floors, walls, roofs...just about everything. Take a peek!


Today we visited the Medieval city of Tangermünde, where the Tanger River meets the Elbe River. It's a well preserved walled village. The church has one of the 10 best organs in Germany. The gently curving narrow streets are lined with beautifully restored half timber houses. Words olike "quaint" and "cute" come to mind, but somehow they do not do justice for this delightful village that is still alive.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


I've always pronounced this city name Ber-Lin...but Berliners call their city Bear-Lin. And there are cute teddy bears everywhere telling you you are in Bearlin!

We had a tour of the city catching the main points--the Brandenburg gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the Reichstag, and more. We did not see much that dates back to Hitler's Germany as most of that was destroyed during or right after World War II.

We visited the DDR Museum, a modern hands-on interactive museum where we got a good idea what life was like during the days of the "wall." we walked thru a Soviet era apartment--tiny comes to mind but if I could think of another word that means small, bleak, and dingy that would work too. We saw an "interrogation room" with one way glass, a very hard chair and an interviewer reading the same question time and again until it was answered right!

Most telling however was a map of Berlin. West Berlin was a tiny island of democracy and prosperity in a sea of East Berlin and East Germany. We heard about the isolation of West Berlin from the rest of Germany but until I saw the map, it was not clear!

East Berlin

Our river cruise is starting one day late as the river does not have enough water in it to float our boat. Bummer comes to mind -- but that's the way things go. Seems like The Czech Republic and Germany had a mild winter this year. We did too!

So instead of floating our way to Berlin we drove here. We got to see some pretty German countryside planted with potatoes, corn, wheat, wind farms and solar fields. A different set of crops. Along the way we found out that the locals call their PM Angie-babe. (I guess all leaders face similar problems!) 300+ kilometers later we were in the "old" East Berlin bunked in at a Holiday Inn that was a Soviet-era hotel. It's a block-house that is far from fancy. The hallways are narrow but have been lined with marble tile to make them feel more elegant. Our room is basic with twin beds, dresser, old medium-sized color TV, closet and ensuite bath (we are happy the bath is included). The hotel was reserved at the last minute as the captain determined only 2 days ago that the river was not deep enough. I guess our guides were happy to get this place as most rooms are booked as there is World Cup Soccer-mania happening right now.

We are seeing a part of Germany we would never get to see if the Elbe was navigable right now. Today we have a tour if Berlin then later on today we will board the MS Allegro. Travel is almost never predictable but it's always interesting.

Hamburg Harbor and General Impressions

Yesterday we had a harbor tour of Hamburg. It's quite a facility. It's the second largest port in Germany getting container cargo from all over the world. It's fu to look at ships from Valetta or Shanghai or Lagos.

I was surprised by the number of bridges in Hamburg too. More than Venice in fact--maybe 4 times the number of bridges than Venice making Hamburg the number one city in the world bridge-wise. Now that's a fact everyone needs to know.

We left Hamburg with very positive feelings. It's a nice place. A mixture of old and new architecture. People from all walks of life and many nations. Relatively clean streets -- a very good underground system -- and a feeling of safety. We liked it a lot. For folks who want to live in a neighborhood and bike or walk to work, Hamburg would be a good place to live.

Friday, June 15, 2012

iPhone Friends

Tonight I met two delightful young women at Bloomen und Planten. One was a kindergarten teacher and the other was a shop clerk. Since I do not speak German, we conversed in English and iPhone. When we could not think of the word we needed we pulled out our iPhones and found the word. iPhones are good at many things.

As an aside there are a lot of iPhones in Hamburg. I wonder if that will be the case in other cities?

Miniature wonderland

Today we visited one of the best toy train exhibits anywhere. We walked around acres of tiny trains circling mountains, rolling in train yards, pulling passengers and freight across displays that depicted cities in Europe and places in the US. This place is a must-see should you get a chance to visit Hamburg.