Tuesday, June 18, 2013

6. Beyond the River Cruise: Greece

Greece was interesting but Athens, like most European cities, was heavily marred by graffiti and uncollected rubbish.

My personal opinion is that a lot of Europeans, particularly in the countries that are going backwards economically, have lost respect for their homelands. Possibly this is due to Government mismanagement of the economy, political corruption, and illegal immigration overwhelming Govt resources.

Does this sound familiar?

I hope I was not looking at Australia's future.

7th June 2013:

Madeleine and Val flew out to Paris with Aegean Airlines.

Edward and Peta flew out with Emirates via Dubai to Perth.

We flew out with Qatar via Doha to Perth.

The transit lounge in Doha was sumptuous. Emirates is just as good in Dubai.

Footnote (no pun intended): Make sure you do those recommended exercises to avoid Deep Vein Thrombosis when flying. Forty-eight hours after we got home I was having a venous ultrasound on my left leg after I experienced some disturbing pain in the mornings.

Fortunately it was all clear, to my considerable relief.

The flight from Doha to Perth was 11 hours long and for the first time ever I was able to get a lengthy sleep. Next time I think I'll stay up and walk around the cabin a bit.

Many thanks to Motive Travel in Perth for helping with revised air travel bookings. A very professional company.  http://motivetravel.com.au/

Monday, June 17, 2013

5. Beyond the River Cruise: Greece

4th to 6th May 2013:

The six of us flew down to Athens with Aegean Airlines and got a maxi-cab to the Fresh Hotel in the centre of town.


Our first priority after we unpacked was to have a taste of some Greek cuisine for dinner. So down the road we went this little restaurant.

We ordered a Taster Plate and this came out. Wowser !!
Back at our hotel, we could see the Acropolis from the restaurant and bar on the top floor so we decided to explore it tomorrow. Athens also has a very good Hop On/Hop Off bus system which would get us there.
It's fascinating walking around something so well built, that is so old.

Here it is, illuminated at night, taken from the roof of our hotel.
And tonight, late, sleeping peacefully we were woken up by an earthquake !! The hotel shook quite a bit.
I have come to the conclusion that we are disaster magnets...

Today, more Hop On/Hop Off bus. We went to a marina for lunch

Some pretty expensive boats out there.
On our last full day in Athens we took a fast ferry to one of the islands. 

We hired two quad bikes and took Robyn & Peta to Perdika for lunch. We raced back to pick Val & Madeleine and brought them back to the restaurant too.

Lunch was very pleasant. A whopping great big bbq'd fish. Madeleine and Val took a cab back to the ferry terminal and we four followed on our quads.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

4. European River Cruise - Interrupted

1st June 2013:

We are in Vienna.

A beautiful city somewhat marred by the ever present graffiti that seems to be overwhelming cities in Europe.

Yesterday our Cruise Director, in his daily pre-dinner address, talked about the immense amount of rain that was swelling the river and that it was likely we may have to proceed overland by coach and join a sister ship on the Rhine.

Today it was obvious that things were getting bad with flooding reports upstream. Passau, one of our next stops, was being sand bagged. Not a good sign.

So, in the morning we headed off to explore Schonbrunn Palace while the Captain and crew worked out our options. It was a very interesting tour, full of history.


There had been a concert here the night before with the Vienna Philharmonic. It was a wet night unfortunately.

Coincidentally, I just watched that concert on the tellie at home today (15th June). It was pretty good.

But when we were there, 2 weeks ago, it was a cold, wet, windy day and the best thing to do was head to the café and have coffee and cake.

Outside there was a very good traditional band playing.

Later that evening we went out to a concert which was also very enjoyable.

2nd June 2013:
Today the Captain announced that it was simply impossible to proceed any further because of the swollen flooded river. The locks would not be operating and the now the river was so high that we could not pass under the bridges up or down river. The Panorama  was docked in Vienna and here it would stay for the duration. This was the situation for all river cruise companies. They were docking three abreast and had to keep their engines running to stop the fast flowing river from dragging them off the wharves.


The Danube was not the only river affected and it would now be impossible to join our sistership on the Rhine. They were in the same predicament. The option for the passengers was to go overland in coaches for 10 days to Amsterdam staying in hotels.

We had a quick meeting and decided that for the six of us, it would be better to jump ship here in Vienna and fly down to Athens for a few days. So we got on the internet and booked flights and hotels.

That evening, our last on board the Panorama, these beautiful musicians entertained us.
3rd June 2013:
We flew from Vienna to Athens. The adventure continues.
I have to say that the Captain and crew, particularly the Cruise Director Niko, were very professional in what was an unprecedented situation. The worst European floods in over 500 years.
Here are two photos of the water levels in Budapest, which flooded about four days after we left the boat in Vienna.
This is a picture I took of the Hungarian Parliament when we were there a few days earlier. Note the river levels well below the canal walls. Our Hop On/Hop Off bus drove along that road in front of the building.

Now have a look at this one (from a news website), just a few days after the cruise was abandoned. The road is under about 2 metres of water, half way up the stairs. The water level must have risen at least 5 metres to get to this point.

Friday, June 14, 2013

3. European River Cruise - Interrupted...

30th May to 1st June 2013:

On our first evening on the Panorama, it happened to be Val's birthday. The crew brought a cake to our table. It was such a nice thing to do.

We stayed in port at Budapest on our first night and would depart late tomorrow, proceeding up the Danube River.
It was a relatively balmy evening and we went up onto the top deck for a little while.

This is Matthias Church and the Hilton hotel.
I came prepared with my Vegemite in a tube. Last overseas trip I forgot to take one and suffered severe withdrawal. I love my Vegemite toast. However, I should have known that a cruise company with a strong Australian influence would have had a jar on the breakfast counter, and they did.

Underway, up the Danube, we passed through one of the many locks.

This was our first castle, and, as it turned out, our last.

You may notice the water level. It was rising, and flowing very fast. It reminded us of the Brisbane River during those terrible Queensland floods 2 years ago.

There was also a lot of debris floating downstream. Some very big trees, much more substantial than the bush in this photo. Trees don't break loose and get swept away unless they are being undermined by a river that is faster and higher than normal.


These hydrofoil, high speed ferries zoomed up and down the river.

We had a shore excursion in Bratislava but it was very wet. Raining all day.

It had been raining much, much harder upriver in the Bavarian Alps. All the water falling in the Alps was heading for the Danube, the Rhine and the Elbe rivers. And there was a lot of rain falling.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

2. European River Cruise - Interrupted...

27th, 28th, 29th May 2013:

We had a couple of days to explore Budapest before getting on the Avalon Panorama.

The city has a very good Hop On/Hop Off tourist bus and boat system. Buy a ticket and you can get on and off the buses or boats as often as you like for 48 hours. The buses have plug in headphones with a commentary in a language of your choice. It was pretty good.

The Hilton Hotel in Budapest has a "castle" out the back, overlooking the Danube and Budapest. http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/hungary/hilton-budapest-hotel-BUDHITW/index.html

The parapet wall has an open air restaurant and on this day had a string orchestra playing.

Adjacent to the Hilton is a church. The Matthias Church (see info here: http://visitbudapest.travel/guide/budapest-attractions/matthias-church/ ) was undergoing some renovations.

It had the most beautiful tiled roof. Just look at the detail. Beautiful.

The view over the city from the castle parapets and towers behind the hotel were excellent.

Take note of the water level in the river. Things were going to change.....
This was the view in the evening, looking down the funicular railway to the Danube.


On the Hop On/Hop Off boat we passed our Avalon boat, the Panorama, tied up next to a sister ship, waiting for us.

Back on the bus, Edward rang and said they were at the New York Café having Pina Coladas and beer. That was good enough for me. Robyn and I hopped off and joined them.

What a place! http://budapest.boscolohotels.com/restaurant-and-bar/

Later that evening we went over the road from the Hilton and had a pizza at a small restaurant. It was very nice washed down by a couple of beers. 

Edward discovered this Hospital in a Rock which is now a museum. It was a very interesting tour. http://visitbudapest.travel/arts-entertainment/budapest-museums/hospital-in-the-rock-museum/

In the afternoon of Wednesday 29th May we joined all the other passengers at another hotel and then were bussed to the Panorama. This was the start of our European River Cruise.