England and Europe in 27 days – Energy and Excitement Plus
Joan in London
For years my favourite quote was: ‘Nothing happens unless first a dream’. (Carl Sandberg)
My dream, a European Holiday, happened in May-June this year, and I am still shaking my head as I can hardly believe it is true.
A 50 Year Dream Come True
After 50 years of wishin’ and hopin’ and dreamin’ as Dusty Springfield sings in her song … I travelled to England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Bavaria/Frankonia, and Czech Republic – all in just 27 days.
What a whirlwind. (Visit my Gallery for some of the 6000 pictures I took).
Emerald Sky – Our Cruise Ship
People ask me, ‘What was the highlight?’
Peter Pan Statue Kensington Gardens
How can I possibly answer this? But on pondering I can only say the ‘experience of being there’ was the highlight.
Also, the amazing tour guides and tour co-ordinators, like Simona on board ship, and Sabine for our 3 days in Prague, who looked after all her ‘Aussie Merinos’ – yes, we felt like sheep sometimes too, tagging after our guides. Also, the wonderful friendly people on our ship – ‘The Emerald Sky’.
Door at Tower of London
I loved the ornate doors everywhere we went, the cobble-stoned streets with beautiful/ pretty/ historic buildings – so much history everywhere. The quirky things and the funny – the merry-go-round ride at the base of the Eiffel Tower, and the buskers in the streets. The weather was mostly glorious, and the ship was luxurious – lovely people and staff on board. So much to remember and re-experience with pleasure.
Despite catching a nasty ‘bug’ and my ankle and feet hurting, I was still energized every day, and amazingly the time went slowly. Coral and I paced ourselves, and just enjoyed being in the ‘Now’. And what a wonderful now it was.
Shipboard friends, Gwen, Gloria, Jeanette, and Bernie with Coral and Me at the Celebration of the highest lock.
I apologise for raving on, but there was so much crammed in that I can re-visit in my mind at any time the joys of these countries, so different from Oz.
I was amazed that we needed no passports after leaving England, and the only currency was the Euro until we arrived in Prague. Most people spoke English, and in France and Germany they laughed when I attempted to speak their language, and then replied in English. (It was great being able to read the signs, though, and Coral thought I was clever!)
The world is getting smaller.
This is my ‘brief’ summary of what we saw and did on our Energizing Journey.
In England I especially loved Kensington Gardens with the statue of Peter Pan (I had seen the replica in Queen’s Park in Perth, Western Australia); the Tower of London; Windsor Castle – the opulence and watching the changing of the guard, not to mention the exquisite gardens; Stonehenge – to walk around these ancient incredible huge and significant stones.
Inside the Eiffel Tower, Paris
In Paris: Notre Dame Cathedral – the outside sculptures and arches as much as the inside; and being inside the Eiffel Tower – we walked back down hundreds of steps; Montmartre with the artists and cute shops and restaurants – the amazing view of Paris and Sacré Cœur Cathedral.
Brussels – the lace, and the delicious waffles with cream and strawberries.
Amsterdam – Canals and glorious flowers (a few old windmills too)
In Amsterdam – Canals
The Amazing rivers – the Rhein and Danube – the most beautiful watercourse – passing green and lush forests, historic houses, cathedrals and wineries and castles on every hilltop
Cologne (Koln) with its perfume and the didgeridoo buskers in the street
Linz with its pretty half-timbered houses on the Market Square, and the old city hall (Rathaus)
The Mechanical Music Museum at Rudesheim – all working huge ‘music boxes’ some playing whole orchestras of music
Miltenberg and Wertheim – twin cities – wandering through the attractive half-timbered streets and drinking delicious hot chocolate at a street cafe while we watched the world go by
Rothenburg with its plethora of mediaeval, Renaissance and Baroque buildings.
Bamberg – a lovely UNESCO World Heritage city in Franconia (Bavaria) on the River Regnitz where I bought a beautiful blue blouse in a shop that was playing John Farnham’s ‘Age of Reason’! (I wonder if they play Aussie music especially for Aussie ships coming in, and switch to US music when the US ships arrive??!!)
At Nuremberg Castle
At Nuremberg, on the Main-Danube Canal, we visited the Documentation Centre with history of Hitler’s rule – also saw some of the remnants of his megalomania and the war in the town. Then to the Nuremberg Castle which as just amazing with its tunnels, ramparts, incredible stonework – all beautifully restored, and view of the city.
Kelheim Liberation Hall
Kelheim on the Danube was a small mediaeval town ladi out on a grid pattern. The Liberation Hall (1842-63) on Michaelsberg Hill, which could be seen for miles around, was built by Ludwig I of Bavaria to commemorate Bavarians who fell in the Napoleonic Wars
We were taken on a small boat cruise down the Danube where the river flows through a dramatic gorge characterized by chalk cliffs. We tasted the beer, and disembarked to walk to the Weltenburg Abbey – the oldest monestary in Bavaria.
Regensburg, in Germany, is the northernmost city on the Danube and contains 1300 listed buildings – many of which are Italian style
At Passau – The Old Residence
Passau‘s highlight was the ‘Old Residence’ – such a plain name for a magnificent building where the sculptures and paintings from floor to ceiling made me gasp. Then there were the magnificent gardens. Unfortunately it rained, making the garden visit a quick trip.
Linz – the Capital of Upper Austria, led us to
Salzburg in Austria – another dream come true – to visit the site of my favourite musical, ‘The Sound of Music’, and also the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Here we saw Baron Von Trapp’s house, the avenue where Maria and the children danced singing ‘Doh, Ray, Me’ and the fountain in the gardens of the Residenzplatz, not to mention the actual gazebo where Kurt sang ‘You are Sixteen’. (Our tour guides had words and music so we could sing along!)
At Salzburg – Doh Ray Me stairs
We wandered through the square where Maria and the Von Trapp family escaped from the Germans, walked through the cemetery where they hid – a beautifully kept cemetery with gardens, and took the funicular to the Salzburg Castle – another amazing view.
The Benedictine Abbey at Melk was even more opulent – Italian Baroque-style architecture on a grand scale, and the abbey church with gold-plated statues
In Vienna we took a bus tour, a guided walking tour and then wandered back to the ship – found a wonderful coffee shop with delectable Viennese specialty cake. In the evening we were taken to a concert of Strauss and Mozart with ballet. As always, not enough time here.
With Miro our guide in Bratislava
Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia and my favourite city because of our wonderful tour guide – a young man called Miro, and the chance to shake the hand of my favourite story-teller – Hans Christian Anderson. Although Danish, he had visited Bratislava and so fallen in love with the city that he wrote some of his best stories thereafter.
Budapest – made up of the two cities, Pest and Buda, which were joined to make Hungary’s capital in 1873 – is another beautiful city. Our bus tour took us to both sides of the river, and to the high point at Buda’s Castle Hill, dominated by the Church of St. Matthias. Here I observed repairs to the cobbled streets.
At the Heroes Square in Budapest
The Heroes Square in Pest was the ultimate of amazing huge statues in one place. Overwhelming.
We left the ship in Budapest and travelled by road to Prague, capital of Czech Republic, where we stayed in the luxurious K & K Hotel near the city square. Highlights were the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge and the Astronomical Clock. I purchased a beautiful garnet ring and earrings, as Prague is known for its garnets.
At Prague Castle
Back Home on the Gold Coast after my ‘Maiden Voyage”
I flew home from Prague via Frankfurt and Singapore (leaving Coral there to return to Darwin). The jet lag and the 3 weeks it took me to recover from the ‘Dreaded Lurgy’ didn’t detract in any way from the outstanding experience and ‘better than anticipated’ flit through Europe. It was worth waiting 50 years for. I can now say that I have taken my ‘Maiden Voyage’ – one of many to come I am sure – but can also happily say – it’s great to be home and I still love the Gold Coast and appreciate Australia’s many wonders.
Sabine, our wonderful tour coordinator from Prague
Sunset on the Danube
Budapest by night
Castle on a Bridge – Danube River
With our lovely Tour Coordinator, Simona