Monday, May 22, 2023

21st of May 2023 - Farewell to the SS Maria Theresa


This morning we disembarked from the SS Maria Theresa and were transferred to Munich Airport for our various flights home.  My holiday has been wonderful meeting new people, having some excellent cultural experiences and travelling through four countries.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

20th of May 2023 - Passau

Passau is a city in Lower Bavaria, Germany, near the border with Austria which is also known as the "City of Three Rivers" as the river Danube is joined by the Inn from the south and the Ilz from the north.  We were taken to a number of viewpoints of the three rivers.

The pilgrimage church Mariahilf in Passau with its baroque monastery rises on a hill above the city. The 17th century monastery was of great significance as a place of pilgrimage to Saint Mary.

We then went on a walking tour of the attractive little lanes and squares of Passau's Old Town.

The walking tour ended at the Baroque St. Stephen's Cathedral which contains the largest cathedral organ in the world.  Unfortunately there wasn't the opportunity to go inside as an orgab recital was in progress.

Friday, May 19, 2023

19th of May 2023 - Linz and Cider Farm Visit

Linz is the third largest city in Austria after Vienna and Graz.  After the end of the Second World War (1945), Linz had a reputation as a dusty steel city, which it owed to its largest employer, the steelworks of today's Voestalpine AG. However, through improved environmental protection and numerous initiatives in the cultural sector the city gradually gained a new image.  Linz is now considered as a city of culture, although some of the structures of the old industrial city are still visible.  The city is also one of the greenest cities in Austria.

Miraculously the sun appeared for the first time since Budapest and we could dispense with our coats.  Our first visit was to the Roman Catholic New Cathedral in Linz, also known as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which is the largest, though not the tallest church in Austria.  The tallest church by a very small margin is St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna.

After visiting the cathedral we went to a coffee house to try some Linzer Torte.  The recipe for Linzer Torte is considered the oldest known cake recipe in the world.  Personally, I found this cake rather dry and was glad of the coffee and water served with it.  We then spent the rest of the morning walking around the Old Town of Linz.

We then left the city to visit a family owned cider farm where we were given a substantial lunch of organic cold cuts and bread produced on the farm.  This was washed down with the farm's own apple juice, cider and perry.  Finally we tasted two of the farm's schnapps varieties before returning to Linz.

18th of May 2023 - Wachau Valley with wine tasting and Melk

The day started with a tour of the Nikolaihof Winery in Dürnstein which is the oldest winery in Austria.   With almost 2,000 years of history, Nikolaihof is one of the first in the world to have begun working by biodynamic principles according to the regulations of the Demeter Association.  No herbicides, fertilisers, pesticides, or synthetic sprays are used in the vineyards.

The grapes are harvested by hand, fermented without artificial yeast .  Some of the wines are stored in big, old Austrian oak casks for up to 20 years.  The winery also uses stainless steel tanks.

We were shown the old wine press which is not used any more.

After our tour we had the chance to sample some of the produce.

After lunch we had a scenic treat cruising down the Wachau Valley situated along the banks of the Danube River.   The Wachau Valley is Austria’s most famous wine region and also a UNESCO World Heritage site.  I started off the afternoon on the sun deck but it was so cold I retreated to the lounge.

The small vineyard plots in the steep terraces along the Danube river are cultivated by vintner families through intensive manual work.

Melk Abbey is a Benedictine abbey above the town of Melk on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Danube river, adjoining the Wachau valley.  I decided to walk into Melk and photo Melk Abbey from the old part of the town where I did a little shopping.


After dinner we had a Seventies party in the lounge which was great fun.  Some people had made a real effort to dress up which put my floral headband and peace pendant to shame.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

17th of May 2023 - Vienna

Our first stop in Vienna was the Vienna Art History Museum.  Sadly this visit was very short so we only had a chance to see paintings from the Netherlands.  The following two paintings are by Breughel and Vermeer.

After we left the Vienna Art History Museum we walked through the grounds of the Hofburg Palace which is the former principal imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty.  The Hofburg Palace is located in the centre of Vienna and served as the imperial winter residence.  Schönbrunn Palace was the imperial summer residence.  The Hofburg Palace was built in the 13th century and expanded several times afterwards so has a variety of architectural styles.  Since 1946, it is the official residence and workplace of the president of Austria.

We then moved from the Hofburg Palace grounds into the centre of Vienna itself.  Again, the weather was not kind as it was raining heavily.

Our guided walk end at St Stephen's Cathedral.  This cathedral is the most important religious building in Vienna and was consecrated in 1147.  With its multi-coloured tile roof, St Stephen's Cathedral has become one of the city's most recognizable symbols.

I went into the cathedral after the guided walk to light a candle in memory of loved ones.

I decided to get out of the rain and have a coffee in one of the many cafés.  This café appealed because of its beautiful decor however I had to leave before ordering otherwise I would have missed the coach back to the ship.

After dinner we listened to some delightful music from the Pressburger Duo. Their repertoire comprises masterpieces of classical music, operetta, jazz, and Slovak folk music performed on a variety of instruments including piano, accordion, violin and numerous pipes.  The pipes included a Fujara, a special kind of pipe that exists only in Slovakia.