QESOSA Ontario
                     Europe Trip and Cruise 2009                                by Mi Ki Kan (57FA)

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 special attractions.

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

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!  --- note: you have to download and then open the file)

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 Burton.

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 kanart2002@yahoo.ca