Weisenkirchen on Danube River Cruise

Danube River Cruise

The Danube River

The Danube River originates in Germany and flows southeast 1,770 miles through ten countries and into the Black Sea.  With the help of a lock system, 1,500 of those miles are navigable, thus it is an attractive river cruise destination.

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View of Old Town Regensburg from Stone Bridge

Top Places to Visit in Regensburg

Cruising the Danube

Our seventh stop on the Danube was in Regensburg, the fourth largest city in Bavaria, Germany with a population of 150,000.  Due to the challenging parking, many residents bike, thus we dodged several cyclists as we walked Regensburg’s Old Town.

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Passau

Top Things to Do in Passau

Passau

Our ship sailed all night and through the morning until we reached our next destination, Passau.  We docked aside another ship and walked across it (a common occurrence on the Danube) to begin our walking tour of Old Town located on the peninsula between the Danube and Inn Rivers.

Passau, a German city of 52,000 people sits on the border of Austria in the Bavaria region at the confluence of three rivers.  The third being the Ilz.  As such, Passau, a bishopric since 739, profited from important salt trade routes and remained independent until it was incorporated into Bavaria during the Napoleonic times of 1803.

Today, attractions in Passau can be found on both sides of the river.

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Durnstein

From Dürnstein to Melk

Since we’ve been on the Danube, three days, all of our cruising has taken place at night.  Today, however, we enjoyed the river’s beautiful scenery in the Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

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Christmas market in Vienna

A Day in Vienna

The History of Vienna

Vienna, originally a Celtic settlement, was subject to attacks and Barbarian invasion that reduced the town to ruins by the early 5th Century.  By the 10th century, the German Babenberg Dynasty acquired Vienna and in the 13th century Vienna fell under control of the Habsburg.

Today, Austria’s capital is home to 1.9 million people.  Despite Vienna’s large size, its city center, located inside the Ringstrasse, is easily walkable. 

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Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava

An Afternoon in Bratislava

History of Bratislava

Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, was founded by the Celts in the 2nd century BC.  Being close to the Austria Hungarian border, Bratislava was subject to many power struggles.  Bratislava served as capital of Hungary from 1574-1784 during the Ottoman rule before the Austro-Hungary Monarchy reigned.

In the early 1900’s the Czechs and Slovaks declared the creation of Czechoslovakia and Bratislava became a part of this country.  After World War II, Czechoslovakia fell under communist rule.  The new country Slovakia was created in 1993.

Bratislava, with a population of 450,00, is Slovakia’s largest city.  It occupies both banks of the Danube River.  The city’s lovely Old Town, that is easily walkable, is on the north side of the river.

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Blue Whales in the Arctic

We had one last night on the ship and were told we were in a good place for whale watching. A wake up call came over the loud speaker around 2 am; “I’m sorry to disturb, but there are three large whales on the starboard side of the ship.”

I thought to myself, I wish they announced what type of whale as I didn’t want to get up for a humpback to view in the distance when I have snorkeled with them.

A little while later, we heard over the loud speaker, “We believe these are blue whales.” Continue reading “Blue Whales in the Arctic”

Harbor Seal Circled Our Kayaks

What a great final paddle for our trip! After having the kayaks shuttled to the coastline, we loaded up and headed into the fjord. David and I took singles for the last outing. After being in a double, I found the single to be a little less stable and more rocky.

The landscape around the area was absolutely spectacular. To our left, an old fishing cabin was perched on the point while kittiwakes peppered the pebble beach until we neared. The sea was still until we reached a receding glacier. The wind coming off the icy slope blew us toward the middle of the rippling bay. I found myself snapping a photo and then paddling on the right side to bring myself closer to shore. Continue reading “Harbor Seal Circled Our Kayaks”

Historical Relics in Southwestern Spitsbergen

Morning Hike in the Bellsund Area of Southwest Spitsbergen

Today we explored the Bellsund Area in Southwest Spitsbergen. A landing was offered to us this morning. It was the first time we didn’t have to separate into specific hiking groups as the guides stood watch for polar bears while we were allowed to wander along the perimeter of the peninsula freely. It was a welcome change to be able to explore on our own. Continue reading “Historical Relics in Southwestern Spitsbergen”

Little Auks and Incredible Iceberg Activity

Today was the summer solstice. Due to leap year, the summer solstice actually falls a day earlier. This morning we signed up for the hike in Isbjørnhamna as it was the only chance we would have to see nesting little auks. We chose to be in the group of “fast” walkers along with at least 20 other people. It would be our first chance to cover some ground while we were in the Arctic.

We started along the beach and soon followed a single track trail. I think this was the first time we even walked on a trail. There are two points of view about trails in the Arctic. One is to mess up one small portion of the land by creating a trail and a trace. As such the rest of the terrain is protected. The other is to spread out and walk so that a trail is never created and no trace is left, but a larger area of tundra is trampled. I don’t really know what is best, but I preferred the trail. Continue reading “Little Auks and Incredible Iceberg Activity”