| Europe Trip and Cruise by Mi Ki Kan
The cruise along River Danube from Budapest to Prague was one of the highlights in life for Susan and me, especially because
we were accompanied by Nancy and James Tang. We cruised through Hungary, Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic and
visited Budapest, Vienna, Melk, Passau, Regensburg, Nuremberg, Deggendorf and Prague. Each city has its unique charm and
Despite the gloomy weather in April we were able to admire the city of Budapest at a distance from the Fisherman’s Bastion.
Then the tour bus took us close to the ornate House of the Parliament and the beautiful St. Matthias Church.
After two days in Budapest, the cruise ship “River Princess” arrived at the elegant Vienna, the “City of Music”. Most historical
sites were inside the Ringstrasse, but our memorable experience was the famous Sacher Cake and our once-in-a- lifetime
dancing of a Viennese waltz in Kursalon accompanied by a 14-member Strauss orchestra. It was a dream come true.
My wife Susan and I are adventurers and dare devils at times and we had the most exciting experience in Vienna. Before our
retirement 10 years ago, we practiced ballroom dancing. On this cruise, we mentioned to the cruise director that it would be our
dream to do a Viennese waltz somewhere in Vienna, even if it meant to dance in a square or in a park. The cruise director told
us that the traditional Vienna Ball had been closed after February and there was no place or time for us to do it.
We stopped at Vienna for only one day. During that day we had a city tour and in the evening we went for a concert in the
Kursalon, where Johann Strauss and his orchestra used to play music. During the intermission, the cruise director surprised us
by saying that the concertmaster would allow us to dance in front of an audience of 400 odd people only if we agreed. It was an
opportunity of our lifetime so we said, “Yes!” At the conclusion of the concert, the concertmaster asked the orchestra to play one
more Viennese waltz and invited Susan and me to dance on the stage. And WE DID! When we finished, the entire orchestra
stood up and the audience applauded. They must be applauding us for our courage.
(You may view the video clip for the dance here!)
Leaving Vienna the ship sailed along the beautiful Wachau Valley, which was dotted with castles, vineyards and picturesque
villages. Before reaching Melk the ship passed through narrow waterways between cloud-clapped hills. They were not as
spectacular as the Three Gorges in China but still impressive.
We were astonished by the splendor and serenity of the Benedictine Abbey in Melk. We were at awe when we looked up at the
intricately ornamented ceiling in the reception hall and library of the Abbey. Very surprisingly to us though was the display of
some “modern” artwork inside the Abbey.
Crossing the German border to Eastern Bavaria we arrived at the city of Passau located at the confluence of three rivers – the
Danube, Inn and Ilz. It was a city in Renaissance style. The St. Stephan’s Cathedral was so cleanly kept that it appeared to have
its opening the day before. It houses the largest church pipe organ in the world. We also had a side trip to Shaerding. What a
colorful town it was! Every building was painted in solid pastel colors. We were literally walking in a “candy” town created by Tim
Regensburg is one of Germany’s best-preserved medieval cities. We passed by the Old Stone Bridge of the 12th century, went
under the archway of the clock tower and walked on the cobblestone streets so narrow that one almost had to stand aside to let
others pass by. There was an open-air concert and plenty of beer gardens. We also managed to try its century-old “historical
sausage” by the riverside.
We did not enjoy Nuremberg that much. It was because of the dark history of the Nazis. We came across a demonstration and
saw riot police at the city hall. I was totally shocked at the cost of some chocolates I bought for my wife – 14 Euros for 12 pieces!
Each was shaped like a little beetle with almonds as wings.
We did not complete our cruise to Prague because the water level was too high and the bridges downstream were too low. So
we stayed overnight at Deggendorf before taking a four-hour bus trip to Prague.
In Prague, we stayed at a 5-star Renaissance Hotel for 3 nights. Each night cost 230 Euros. Luckily for us, our stay was included
in the tour package. Prague was beautiful. No wonder it is known as the “Golden City” of Eastern Europe. We had two days to
roam through many sites of the city – for Susan, her jewellery stores and for me, snap-shooting with my camera at various scenic
locations. Our highlight was attending a live concert at the Municipal House, but our bad experience was that we were “cheated”
by a currency-exchange agent at the airport.
The 14-day cruise provided us with extraordinary sights and sound. There were many precious moments, including our munching
of waffles in an untidy manner in the streets, our loyal visits to the same hot-dog stand and our desperate search for roasted
almonds on Celetna Street in Prague.
For more information, please email Mi Ki Kan at email@example.com