Monthly Archives: March 2017

Danube Trip: Passau, Germany

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

Due to the low water levels, Regensburg was as far as we’d be able to travel on the Njord.  Fortunately, this type of circumstance is something Viking knows exactly how to handle. To reach our next stop they brought in motorcoaches for the two-hour drive to Passau, the last major German city on the Danube before reaching Austria.

Passau is known as the City of the Three Rivers because the Danube, Inn and Ilz Rivers all come together around the city’s peninsula.  In medieval times Passau was known for the salt trade.  The salt was so valuable in these pre-refrigeration times that it was known as “white gold”.

Fire ravaged the city in the 17th century and it was rebuilt in the baroque style of the day.  That style is what is still seen in the city today.

St. Stephan’s Cathedral is located on the highest point in Old Town.  Since 730, there have been many churches on this site.  The current version dates to the mid-17th century and the interior underwent a major renovation between 1972 and 1980.

pas-st-stephans-exterior

St. Stephan’s Cathedral

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Categories: Cruises, Europe, Germany, River Cruise, Viking | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

After the tour of Weltenburg Abbey, we returned to our longship for lunch.  Then we boarded the motorcoaches once again, this time for the short drive into Regensburg, where we met our guide, Hubert.  He was quite memorable as his name was on his hat and, as he was part of a men’s choir, every now and then he’d sing a little song for us. He led our tour of the medieval city center, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We began our tour along the river by the Stone Bridge.  While Charlemagne had built a wooden bridge near this location, by the 12th century a bridge that could handle more traffic was needed.  This one was built circa 1135-1146 and was used by the knights of the Second and Third Crusades to cross the river. Indeed it was the only bridge in the area across the Danube for 800 years.  It served as a model for other European bridges including London Bridge and the predecessor of the Charles Bridge in Prague.

The Stone Bridge of Regensburg

The Stone Bridge of Regensburg

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Categories: Europe, Germany, River Cruise, Viking | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on #LeggingsGate

By now you’ve probably heard that two teenage girls were prevented from boarding a United flight on Sunday morning because they were wearing leggings.  As facts unfolded it came out that they were flying on an employee’s “buddy pass” which allows them to fly for free on a space-available basis.  When a person flies on a pass, they are subject to extra rules, including a dress code that is stricter than for the general public.  It doesn’t matter whether or not the person agrees with the rules, if they want to fly free (or very cheaply) they must follow the rules and these girls did not.

Some commenters think this is entirely sexist as the male adult traveling with them, also on a pass (presumably one of the girls’ father) was wearing shorts and he would have been allowed to board.  But shorts (for either gender – but not short shorts) are expressly permitted so that was not an issue.  The girls changed clothes and were permitted aboard a later flight.

Matthew Klint of Live and Let’s Fly has a great summation of the events.
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Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

Monday morning our longship docked in the town of Regensburg, Germany.  I found it interesting that native German speakers pronounced “burg” like “bourg”, making the name sound almost French.  No matter, we docked there and some folks took the city tour in the morning.  We’d take that tour in the afternoon, after our optional excursion down the Danube Narrows to Weltenburg Abbey.

We boarded motorcoaches that took us through the countryside, past the retirement home of Pope Benedict XVI, to a dock where we set sail on the day cruiser that would take us through the scenic Danube Narrows.  As it was still morning and somewhat cool, the first part of the trip was spent inside, with many folks sampling some of the different kinds of beer brewed at our destination, Kloster Weltenburg.  As I don’t drink alcohol I enjoyed a non-alcoholic beverage and the pretzel that came with it.

In some places either side of the river was flat for a bit before hills rose behind it.  In other places, I guess the true “narrows” portion was where the rock walls rose high on either side of us.  The landscapes where the morning sunshine shone seemed especially cheery.

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Categories: Cruises, Europe, Germany, River Cruise, Uncategorized, Viking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

Our first port of call was Nuremberg, Germany.  It seems a little odd to refer to it that way since we’d had to take a train out of Nuremberg to Erlangen, just so the boat could float back to Nuremberg overnight.  The cruise has a number of tours that are included with the price of the trip.  In this case a city tour was included.  While my friend and I would have enjoyed that, we decided to pay for the World War II tour.  We had no trouble following our guide as he was a 7′ 6″ former basketball player at Davidson College.

Our first stop was the Nazi party rally grounds. Six party rallies were held here between 1933 and 1938. The grounds encompass 11 square kilometers and include a number of buildings. We exited the bus at the Zeppelinfeld, a deployment area that still had the grandstand or Reichsparteitag where speakers – including Hitler himself – would rally the troops.  During its prime a massive Nazi swastika was mounted above the central part of the stands but after the war explosives were used to remove it.

The Reichsparteitag as used by the Nazis By Kurt Wittig (Privataufnahme) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Reichsparteitag as used by the Nazis
By Kurt Wittig (Privataufnahme) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Reichsparteitag as it is today

The Reichsparteitag as it is today

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Categories: Cruises, Europe, Germany, River Cruise, Viking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

At the time we booked our river cruise, the trip was supposed to be on the Viking Freya.  A few weeks before we were due to set sail, the Freya was involved in a horrific accident that killed two crew members.  We were informed our trip would be on the Viking Bestla instead.

Shortly before our trip we were notified that due to low water levels, we’d have to start our journey on the Viking Njord and then change ships mid-trip to the Bestla.  Sailing on the Bestla would feel like coming home as several of us had been on its maiden voyage in April 2014 while sailing the Rhine.  So we’d get to experience two different boats on one cruise.

Practically speaking, the ships were identical.  But there were a few differences too.

njord

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Categories: Austria, Belgium, Cruises, Czech Republic, Europe, Germany, Hungary, River Cruise, Viking | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

As my friend and I weren’t on Viking’s “official” pre-trip extension we were not permitted to ride their motor coach between Prague and Erlangen, where we would board our boat.  I don’t fully understand the logic in this.  We’d have been happy to pay for the trip but it was not allowed.

Moving between European cities is usually pretty easy.  Most are connected by good rail service or short flights.  But that’s not the case between Prague and Nuremberg, which is the city closest to Erlangen.  Instead we purchased Deutsche Bahn tickets for a journey by bus. Continue reading

Categories: Czech Republic, Europe, Germany, Ground Transportation | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

Our first two nights in Prague were at the Marriott Courtyard courtesy of the free night we each earned by holding the Chase Marriott credit card.  For our last night we decided to splurge on the Boscolo Prague, which is part of Marriott’s Autograph collection.

I fully admit that we initially selected this hotel because it’s beautiful.  As  it turned out it was more convenient to Old Town and was practically across the street from the train station.

autograph-collection-boscolo-exterior

(Photo courtesy Marriott.com)

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Categories: Hotel, Lodging Review, Marriott | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Register for Q2 Bonus Categories

Today is the 15th of the third month of the quarter and that means it’s time to register your Discover Card and Chase Freedom card for the next quarter’s bonus categories.  You can earn 5% back (Discover) or 5x points (Freedom) on purchases of up to $1500 on each card.  And if you haven’t already registered for your US Bank Cash+ card, here’s a reminder to do that now.

Discover Cards

Discover’s bonus categories this quarter are Home Improvement stores and Wholesale Clubs.  Home improvement stores often sell retail gift cards and perhaps in your area they sell Visa or MasterCard gift cards as well.  While you can’t use Discover at Costco, I know it’s accepted at Sam’s Club and they often sell Visa/MC gift cards too.  That would make it very easy to max out this quarter’s promo.  To register, click on the link in the email you receive – it is tied to your account which makes it super easy – or go to the registration page and log into your account.

Note: You must register for this promo BEFORE any purchases will receive the bonus.  So register now, before the quarter even starts.

 

Chase Freedom

For the Freedom card, this is one of my favorite quarters.  It’s so easy to max out this promo at grocery stores and drug stores as they both sell Visa gift cards as well as other useful items. (Hey, ya gotta eat!)  You must register for this promo by June 14th.

 

US Bank Cash+

US Bank opens up their registration much earlier that Discover or Freedom.  Selection for Q2 bonus categories has been available since mid-February.  As I mentioned in this post in February, the Charity category has gone away which was a great disappointment to me.  These are the US Bank Cash+ categories for Q2:

To register just click on this link and log into your US Bank account and make your selections.

Categories: Cash Plus, Chase, Credit Card Promos, Credit Cards, Discover, Freedom, US Bank | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

Viking offered an “official” pre-trip extension to Prague but when we looked at the price and at what was included, we decided we could do it ourselves a lot cheaper.  Did we miss out on a few things?  Probably.  But we were OK with that.

Our first adventure was getting from our hotel, the Marriott Courtyard Prague, to the Old Town.  We thought we should be able to do that via the tram, so we exchanged money at the currency exchange that’s in the mall across the street from the hotel, then followed the tram tracks to the nearest stop.  I waved some money at the driver and he just waved his hand in what I took to be a “never mind” expression so we hopped on board.  Only later did we realize that we were supposed to have bought tickets elsewhere and validated them in the on-board machine.  Once we became aware of that, we hopped off pretty quickly to avoid any fines.  Fortunately we were just a few blocks from where we thought we needed to be.

prg-municipal-house

Municipal House

prg-republic-square

Republic Square

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