Wednesday June 12, 2013

You wouldn’t know if I didn’t tell you, but I’m writing this from a cramped seat on an air-conditioned bus in Austria. Our river cruise (you’ll remember) turned into a coach-tour not long after it started, and instead of gliding oh-so-gracefully along Europe’s famous waterways, we’ve been wrong-side-of-the-road-ing along Central European highways. We left Vienna a couple of hours ago, and crossed the border into Hungary some 50 kms back. Next stop? Budapest!

However, before we get there, with my laptop perched on my knee (and my wife complaining that my left elbow is poking in her ribs), I need to two-finger-type you an update – because several things have happened since we last spoke.

On Monday, for example, after unloading bodies and bags onto yet another parked cruise-ship (the Amadeus Dertour) tied up in the flooded township of Pöchlarn, we visited Another Big Church. And this is probably a good place to pause and issue a health warning: Don’t bother coming to this part of the world if cathedrals make you depressed, if castles give you the creeps, and if medieval old towns bring you out in a rash. Because that’s mostly what you get to see when you travel through these regions in Germany and Austria.

It was actually no hardship seeing Another Big Church on Monday, because this one (just like the others we’ve seen) was a take-your-breath-away beaut – the magnificent Benedictine abbey of Melk, one of Europe’s largest baroque monasteries. (If you don’t know what ‘baroque’ means, look it up. Come on – I’m not gonna do everything for you!)

We spent a couple of hours wandering the ornate halls, hearing the ornate history, inspecting the ornate library (a vast collection going back to when they first wrote books), and copping an eyeful inside the ornate, gold-encrusted chapel (I’ll let our photos speak for themselves).

Melk Abbey, I willingly admit, is one of my favourites. It’s located smack in the middle of the Wachau Valley – Austria’s world-famous wine-growing region. But down in the surrounding riverside town, just two days ago, things didn’t look so good: as we drove through we saw stark evidence of flood-damage, caused by the nine-metre-deep deluge that swept through here last week, drowning roads, cars, basements and crops. A sobering sight, I tell you.

Then on Tuesday (yesterday) we ‘did’ Vienna – Austria’s gorgeous, musical, elegant, historical capital! We drove through heavy rain along the majestic Ringstrasse, through the Schwarzenbergplatz, past Charles Church (Karlskirche) and the stunning Opera House … strolled through heavy rain along Kärtnerstrasse, window-shopping in the high-end stores … and escaped more heavy rain inside the awe-inspiring St Stephens Cathedral. (Yes, I know – Another Big Church – ABC!)

Then, last night, we scrubbed up, donned our best (albeit creased) bib-&-tucker, and headed to the posh Kursalon Concert Hall for a ‘Sound of Vienna’ dinner and show. I don’t know if they knew we Kiwis were coming, but those world-class musicians, opera singers and ballet dancers gave us a charming, unforgettable evening of classical Viennese waltzes, polkas, arias and operettas by Johann Strauss and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Was it fantastic? Was it EVER! You should have seen (and heard) us doing the standing ovation!

Anyway, my laptop-efforts have conveniently filled in a couple of hours – and it now appears we’re on the outskirts of Budapest. So I’m gonna sign-off and get ready for lunch. Bye …

THIS AFTERNOON: We’re exploring the beautiful (flooded) capital of Hungary … twin cities, actually, Buda and Pest, spread over both banks of the Danube. So stay tuned …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on the little speech bubble at the top of this page, and add your ‘COMMENTS’! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and keep it brief.

This entry was posted in 2013 Danube & Rhine by John Cooney. Bookmark the permalink.

About John Cooney

John Cooney and his wife Robyn have enjoyed more than their fair share of travel. They hesitate to call themselves ‘experts’ – but they’ve grabbed every chance that’s come their way to explore new countries, cultures and customs. They’ve had the privilege (both on their own and as the leaders of numerous successful group-tours) to sample many stunning destinations: Europe, the UK, Singapore, Vanuatu, the USA, Israel, Egypt, Africa, Dubai, China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. And their recent (and most pleasant) memories are of the places ancient-and-modern that border the Mediterranean. John and Robyn are at-home in airports, hotels, cruise ships, and the like … and they know how to make the most of a unique travel opportunity. Travel, they reckon, is an all-five-senses experience – a chance to see, feel, smell, hear and taste the world. And they’ve done it often enough to know for sure: sightseeing with a group of laid-back Kiwis is DOUBLE the fun – lots of laughs, great company, and memories that last forever!


  1. HI Mum (Helen McKenzie),

    How exciting, I’ve never been to Budapest and always wanted to. Looking forward to hearing all your stories very soon and again lovely seeing your photo on the blog. We have all been fighting off winter lurgies – colds, coughs and froggy throats. Mia is a week away from her ballet exam and looking beautiful and radiant – the performer in her coming out. Love Julie xxxx

  2. Hi Coons.
    Wow “rain rain go away … come again another day.” I bet you sing this to each
    other as you nod off to sleep. Ha ha.
    Love the pix and the news. Good to know
    that despite the constant wet and change of
    plans you clearly are having many of those
    aahhaa moments. Glad you are both fit n healthy too. Massive hugZ The Kerks xxxx

  3. Hi u 2 Coons,
    Nice to follow your progress but a buggar about the high tides!!! Karens friend left today to do a river trip so hope the tide goes out.
    Kwaheri Rafiki

  4. Hi John & Robyn i’ve been following your blogs with interest!!!!! Plans are only made to last if nothing else turns up??? Ie the floods. Sounds as if you’re having a fabulous trip. Pam & I Cruised from Amseterdam to Bucharest a few yeardd ago- had to wait one day while rivers subsided obviously nothing like you’re experiencing. The only wet day was in Salzburg. Have fun and enjoy the rest of your tour Did i see derek & Rosalie are with you? PAm is in France just now. Best wishes Mary Schmack

  5. Hi Elaine and John Nagle – pleased to see you are all safe and sound. Our happy week in Rotorua has ended, back to work today. Visited Phil and Kylie – returned the books, which she can now read!! All well there and the city looks great, fabulous autum/winter colours on the trees, warm and sunny. Take care, Love Kathy and Gary

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