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Old World Prague & the Blue Danube

Grand World Travel

April 8 - 22, 2011

This travel adventure started with a drive to Washington from Owego.  United and Grand

Circle Travel changed flights and tour plans, so we were not able to change

departure dates for our Frequent Flier tickets.  So, off to Washington we went

in a rental car.  A six hour trip instead of a one hour flight.  I was very pleased

to have my dear friend and traveling companion, Carol Pierson with me for

this visit to Prague and sail on the Danube River.   Carol has contributed some

photos to this travelogue.

Our tour started with a bus ride from the airport through Prague to the

Don Giovanni Hotel.  It was a very nice hotel but its location was a

long Metro subway ride from Old Town Prague.

We were greeted by the maestro himself in the lobby. 

After settling in to our room, we had a group walk around the hotel area. Above

is a picture of the very large Jewish cemetery across the street from our hotel.  

Our pre-trip extension group was 45 travelers strong.  The main group of our tour

will arrive in 4 days.  When we were all together we are a tour group of 146 persons.

One key stop of our tour of the hotel area was a visit to the nearby Metro station. 

We learned about buy tickets to ride downtown and back.  The small group in

this photo represents those of us who arrived early in Prague.

The next morning we had our first full group activity, a Metro ride to the Old

Town area.  Most of the group members needed to obtain Czech Crown or Koruna

currency.  Above is a changing station and across the street was an ATM machine.


One of our first stops was the Jewish cemetery next to the Synagogue in the 

Old Town section of the city.  The cemetery was closed but there was a hole in the gate

where you could peek in. 

Looking through the hole in the cemetery gate.

 Our next stop was up the street at the famous Charles Bridge. 

This the bridge tower on the Old Town side.  It is one of the

best examples of a Gothic gate.

The Prague Cathedral and Castle seem from the Charles Bridge.

It is Sunday morning, and the bridge is already busy with people strolling across.

One of the several religious statues found on the bridge.

The bridge was the ideal place to watch the river boats sailing on the Vltava River. 

There were several boats offering rides on the river that

passed under the Charles Bridge.

This Barrel Organ vendor is holding up a card to block the tourist face when

someone is taking her picture.  Clearly the person did not tip the organ player. 

The American Embassy as can be seen from the Charles Bridge.

This bronze Baroque statue is of John of Nepomuk, a saint of the Czech.  

It is located on the Little Quarter end of the bridge.

After crossing the river on the bridge we walked to the Wallenstein

Palace where we toured its beautiful gardens.

While the spring flowers were not yet blooming, the gardens with their

many statues was a very nice place to walk about.

A Russian Statue left over from earlier unpleasant days in Prague. 

St Nicholas Church.  The church is not longer holding services.

We attended a concert of the Prague String Orchestra there one evening. 

The concert included music by Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart Dvorak and Miller. 

The Miller piece, the Moonlight Serenade was the encore number of the

evening.  It was a great concert!

The Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Hall.  The clock was

not working when we were there.  A sign indicated that the

clock would be working by April 22nd. 

The day we will fly to the USA.

As we walked around the Old Town section of Prague there were

buildings that are excellent example of the decoration found on

many of the building in the city.

The Easter Market consumes Old Town Square during Easter

time in Prague.  All sorts of food and drink are offered for

sale. Handicraft and native items are also offered for sale. 

It is a festive time in the Square with

various local bands playing.

Carriage rides were available on the square. 

After a long morning and early afternoon of touring

downtown Prague, we called it a day and

returned to our hotel. 

This is the typical escalator we traveled up when

exiting the Metro.   Steep and Fast!

Prague is a beautiful city and there are photo opportunities at every turn. 

You could take hundreds of photos of this city.  I have been to Prague two

other times and I still find photo vistas I had missed before.

On day 4 of out pre-extension, we traveled to Terezin, the site of a World

War II concentration camp.  During WWII, the Gestapo used Terezín, better

known by the German name Theresienstadt, as a ghetto, concentrating Jews

from Czechoslovakia, as well as many from Germany, Austria, the Netherlands,

and Denmark. More than 150,000 Jews were sent there, and although it was

not an extermination camp about 33,000 died in the ghetto itself, mostly

because of the appalling conditions arising out of extreme population density.

About 88,000 inhabitants were deported to Auschwitz and

other extermination camps.  At the end of the war there

were 17,247 survivors.  (Source Wikipedia )

Upon leaving our Tour bus, we were greeted by a large cemetery in

front of the fortress that made up the camp.  The people who are interned

here died during their stay at Terezin.

Some markers had names and dates while others had much less information.

A view of Terezin's front gate.

Over the gate is the inscription that reads in English; "Work Brings Freedom".

That sign could be found in German World War II prison camps.

A cell that held up to 60 prisoners.

A wash room that was built for a Red Cross inspection that focused on

prisoner treatment,  The water pipes were never hooked up to these sinks.

A memorial Statue to the prisoners kept at Terezin.

A memorial to all of the World War II concentration camps.  The camp names

were listed on the standing stone piece in the rear of the  photo.

A cell that held up to 600 prisoners.  Living conditions like these contributed

to high mortality rates at Terezin.

Watch tower that monitored prisoners.

After our Terezin concentration camp stop, we went into the Village of

Terezin where we stopped at the Ghetto Museum which was opened in

1991 in the building of the former Terezín School. The exhibitions have

been arranged with the assistance of former prisoners of the Terezín Ghetto.

One of the many exhibits found in the Terezin Ghetto Museum.

The Crematorium at the Jewish Cemetery just outside of the village. 

While no prisoners were put to death at the concentration

camp many died because of the harsh treatment they received. 

This crematorium served as a way of handling the many

bodies of persons who died while in the prison.

One of the crematorium furnaces.

The cemetery locate next to the crematorium.

This optional tour was very sobering when one thinks of the needless

bad treatment that was inflicted on innocent people during World War II.

On day 3 of the regular tour, our full group was divided into 4 groups of

about 35 travelers.  Each group had a Program Manager and their own bus. 

 We were color coded, my group was red color.  In this photo we are headed

for our included of the Castle District.  It is a very cold, windy morning to be

walking around the Castle and Cathedral.

The gateway leading into the castle. .

Buildings that are part of the Castle.

The front entrance to the Cathedral.  We had a walking

tour of the cathedral.

Looking at the Cathedral altar.

A view of the Cathedral.  It was very windy and the cold temps were very low.

Army Guards on duty at the ceremonial Castle gate.

Changing of the guard!

Here comes the troops.  The ceremonies were special this

morning because Czech President Václav Klaus was welcoming

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for a state visit to Prague.

The Band was next in line.

This evening we had an optional visit to Sychrov Castle.  Our group

again braved the windy, rainy weather for this event.  This photo show

our group entering the castle.

A rear view of the castle.

The altar in the Castle Chapel.  We listened to a very nice organ recital before dinner.

One of the hallways at the Castle.  The Castle and grounds are owned

by the government of the Czech Republic.  

On April 14th, We had a day of activities at our own pace.  We elected to

take the Metro downtown to do some last minute shopping in Prague. 

We shopped for marionettes for our grandchildren.  This was one of several

shops we visited before make any purchases.

We discovered this large Easter egg near St Nicholas Church.

A carriage driver and his horses posed for a picture.

This gentleman was playing his sax with gloves.  Great jazz sound! 

It was fun just poking around downtown Prague before we

left for our river cruise.

On our way to Linz, we had a Home-Hosted lunch at this house. 

The meal was good and we got to learn about their way of life

is in the rural parts of the Czech Republic.

Early in the afternoon we had a stop at Cesky Krumlow.  The first view of

Cesky Krumlow is the Clad Bridge.  The bridge connects the Castle and the Chateau.

Český Krumlov is an important cultural center, hosting a number of festivals

and other events each year. The best known is the Five-Petalled Rose

Festival (the name is derived from the Rožmberk crest of a 5 petal red rose),

which is celebrated on the weekend of summer solstice in June. The downtown

area is recreated as a medieval town with craftsmen, artists, musicians, and local

people dressed in costumes from the Middle Ages. Various activities such as

jousting, fencing, historical dance performances, and folk theatre take

place at the castle, local park, and the river bank, among other places.

The festival is concluded by a fireworks show above

the castle.  Source: Wikipedia)

The Little Castle with the Chafeau Tower.

The Vltava River runs through Cesky Krumlov. 

A view of a street in Cesky Krumlov.

About 4:00 pm we arrived in Linz and boarded our M/S River Adagio.  

One of the largest ships in Grand Circle's own deluxe fleet, the M/S River Adagio

was built specifically for cruising the widest part of the Danube and the

deeper waters leading to the Black Sea. Enjoy personalized attention from

the ship staff, and up to four experienced Grand Circle Program

Directors. And with no more than 164 fellow Grand Circle

travelers aboard when sailing.

Its April 16, and we are on an optional journey to Salzburg the birthplace

of Mozart.  Above is a rest stop on our way to Salzburg.

We had our first glimpse of the Austrian Alps from the parking lot of

the rest area.  Everyone was out taking photos of

the snow capped mountains.

One of the biggest attractions in Salzburg is Mirabell's baroque garden in their

New Town.  The spring flowers were beautiful.

A fountain in Mirabell's Gardens.

A sign of the times, note the direction of WIFI availability.

A busy downtown Salzburg street.  It was Saturday and many

people were enjoying sunshine while visiting to Salzburg.   Can you find the

hanging sign with the McDonald's M on display?

Flower markets were in full bloom!

This young lady was not a nurse but rather she was collecting

donations of help senior citizens.

A view of the Hohensalzburg Fortress dominates the skyline of Salzburg.

Salzburg's Cathedral.

Cathedral Square is the Cathedral's courtyard. Archbishop Guidobald

Thun had Giovanni Antonio Dario build the Cathedral arches in 1660.

The beautiful Immaculate Column sculpted was by Wolfgang and Johann

Baptist Hagenauer for Archbishop Sigismund Graf Schrattenbach is

located in the center of the square.

St. Peter's Abbey. It is the oldest surviving Benedictine cloister

of the German speaking regions.

Mozart's birthplace on he Getreidegasse.

Salzburg is like all the cities of Europe, unlimited photo

opportunities abound!  It is difficult to tell the about the

sights of Salzburg in just a few photos.

After our day in Salzburg we bussed back to Linz.  Just before dinner,

we took the opportunity to visit Linz's main square to take a few photos.

Linz is the third-largest city of Austria and capital of the state of

upper Austria (German: Oberösterreich). It is located in the north

centre of Austria, approximately 30 km south of the Czech border, on

both sides of the river Danube. The population of the city is 189,284 (2009),

and that of the Greater Linz conurbation is 271,000.  (Source: Wikipedia)

In the middle of the Linz's main square the high "Pestsäule" ("plague column"),

also known as "Dreifaltigkeitssäule" (Dreifaltigkeit means Holy Trinity)) was

built to remember the people who died in the plague epidemics.

Church of Saints Michael and Ursula, Linz.

A view of Linz large main square.

A view of M/S Adagio's lounge.  The cruiser was bigger that the other river

cruisers I had sailed on.  It was a very comfortable ship.  The food was

excellent as was the cruiser's waiter service.

Our Red Group Program Manager, Andrea Nagy, she was a terrific Program

Manager who lead our red group with travel expertise.

As we sailed down the Danube River, we began to encounter river

locks to lower the cruiser down to the next water level.  It was very

interesting to experience the workings of these locks. 

It was foggy this morning as we sailed along to our next port of call.

Sailing south on the Danube River.

Old Castle stand guard as we travel by!

Another River Cruiser heading North.

We have traversed through four locks to reach Durnstein. 

Above is a photo of Durnstein and its Monastery.

Castle-Ruin Durnstein is situated in a dominating position on the

rocky slope above the town and Danube River.  In 1663 the Castle was

given to Starhembergs.  When they inhabited a new palace in the village

the Castle slowly decayed.

the Monastery Church "Assumption of the Blessed Virgin". 

The Monastery was consecrated on the 9th of July, 1723.

The altar of the Durnstein Monastery.

Our second port of call for the day was at Melk, Austria. 

Above is the courtyard of Melk Abbey, a truly magnificent structure. 

 We are scheduled for a full tour of the Abbey including their

80,000 volume library and the Church of the Abbey.

One of the entrances into the Abbey.

Melk Abbey or Stift Melk is an Austrian Benedictine abbey, and one of the

world's most famous monastic sites. It is located above the town of Melk

on a rocky outcrop overlooking the river Danube in Lower Austria,

adjoining the Wachau valley.

The doorway out of the Abbey Library.

The town of Melk.

The Abbey sits on a hill above the Town of Melk.  It is a beautiful

site to photograph.  An interesting side note, is that I was on my first 

Danube river cruise to Melk on 9/11. 

We have gone through 2 more locks and have docked at Vienna.  It is

April 18th and we start the day with the traditional motor coach tour

around Vienna.  Above is our first stop the Upper Belvedere Palace. 

Our second stop as at St. Stephen's Cathedral and Square.  Sitting in the

heart of Old Vienna, Sr. Stephen's Cathedral is the moist emblematic

building of the Austrian capital.

While we walking around downtown Vienna, we passed the first

hotdog stand in the world according to our guide.  This is clearly not

the first hotdog stand today.

Column of the Plague, a monument in tribute to the Holy Trinity as a sign

of gratitude for the end of the plague epidemic.

The Imperial Palace, the Chancellery Wing.

The Cafe Central, the former stock exchange in Vienna is now a

restaurant where we had a morning coffee break.  Delicious

hot chocolate was served.

Mexican Cathedral.  This church is nicknamed the "Mexican" cathedral to

celebrate Austria's close ties with Mexico. It was just a block from where the

Adagio was docked on the Danube River.

After our morning long tour of Vienna, we had free time to

explore Vienna further. 

This evening we attended an optional excursion to Vienna's beautiful

Kursalon palace for a classical music performance including works by

Strauss and Mozart.  It was a most enjoyable event.

On April 19th, we had a tour of the Vienna State Opera.  Pictured above

is one of the Opera's fountains.  It is spring and the water to the fountain

has not been turned on yet.

A photo of the stage of the Vienna Opera.  The crew was setting up the

set for the next performance of the opera.  We learned about the Opera

and its history during our tour.  It is a very large building with extensive

decorations throughout.   Note the seating boxes on the sides of this photo.

The Secession Building with its unique roof design.  The Secession

building was built in 1897 by Joseph Maria Olbrich for exhibitions

of the secession group.

Vienna's Fish Market.  A neat place to shop.  They sell everything not just fish. 

It was a very colorful place to tour.

On our way back to the river cruiser we had a last stop at Vienna's

Hundertwasser House. The Hundertwasser-Haus is an apartment house

in Vienna, Austria, built after the idea and concept of Austrian artist

Friedensreich Hundertwasser with architect Joseph Krawina as a

co-author. This expressionist landmark of Vienna is located in the

Landstraße district on the corner of Kegelgasse and

Löwengasse. (Source: Wikipedia)

An interesting Museum sign, we did not have time for a visit to this museum.

After lunch on board our cruiser, we headed back to downtown

Vienna for some more sightseeing.


Our first stop was at Albertina Art Gallery.   The gallery has one of the

World′s most extensive collections of graphic art is presented in one of

the weirdest buildings of Vienna: The Albertina is housed in what used

to be the foundation of a Augustinian monastery, later a palace and a

bastion that helped to secure the Hofburg Palace, to which it is connected.

To make it even stranger, a massive horse-and-rider monument of Archduke

Albrecht was added in the 19th century.

We also saw the Mel Ramos art display which was one of the

featured exhibits in the gallery.

There was a good view of the Vienna Opera House from Albertina.

Near the Albertina Museum is the Monuments Against War and Fascism.

The park consists of four thought-provoking statues.


After our visit to Albertina, we ventured to the near by

Hotel Sacher for a taste of one of Vienna favorite

chocolate treats, the Sacher Torte.  

It was very good!

After our stay in Vienna, we sailed down river to Bratislava the

capital of Slovakia.  We are docked near the

downtown area of the city. 

Once the river cruiser was docked, we embarked on a


walking tour of the Capital.  Above is the Slovak National Theatre.



St. Michael's gate.



The Old Town Hall



After our stop in Bratislava we sailed on to Budapest,


our last stop of the Danube River tour.  Above is the famous Chain


Bridge crossing the Danube River, in the background is


Buda Castle.  We are docked just down stream from the bridge. 



After breakfast we set out to tour the city by bus.  Our first stop


was at Saint Stephen's Basilica.  We were able to visit the Basilica


just before their daily mass.



One of the colonnades behind the Pillar monument in the Millenary 


Monument in Heroes' Square.



The Pillar that dominates the Millenary


Monument in Heroes' Square.



After our stop at Heroes' Square, we crossed the


Danube River to the Buda side of the city. 


Above is Matthias Church (the Church of Our Lady).



The Fishermen's Bastion. The statue of St. Stephen can be


seen in the middle of this photo.



The view of Hungary's Parliament building from the Fisherman's Bastion.




The Japanese Cherry Blossom trees were in full bloom in


the area near the Buda Castle.



A photo of the famous Buda castle.  Unfortunately time did not allow for


our  to visit the castle.


Thus ends a terrific two week tour of Prague and the cities of Linz, Melk,

Durnstein, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest along the Danube River. 

I should note that I took over 1300 photos and the ones shown

here were chosen because of their interesting subjects. 

It trip was first class in every way.  The dining on the river cruiser was

excellent!  Service on the ship was exceptionally good.  I

would recommend this trip to anyone who wants to experience a

visit to Prague and the uniqueness of Danube River cruising.