I've finally done it!
Today we woke up moored in the Austrian capital. We went on a tour of the city, seeing statues of Mozart, Johann Strauss, and Goethe as well as the Austrian Parliament (surrounded with scaffolding) and the amazing, enormous Vienna town hall. We saw the horses of the Spanish Riding School and the beautiful buildings of the Museum Quarter. We were led through the city on foot to the St Stephen's Cathedral, which, predictably, had more scaffolding!
This morning we were moored at Melk in order that we could visit Melk Abbey. For some reason I had it in my mind that Melk Abbey would be a modest affair, but in fact it is huge, and the abbey owns a large amount of the surrounding land. It was gifted to the Benedictine Order by the Emperor Leopold II, having been a fortress originally. There are now only 30 monks there, but it also functions as a school with 900 pupils.
Today we are back in Germany: in Passau at the confluence of the rivers Danube, Inn and Ilz. This morning we went on a walking tour of the town with a pleasant young woman who comes from here.
Today we were supposed to be in Regensburg, Germany, but instead we are on the Danube River in Austria. Viking offered a bus excursion to Regensburg, but it is a long way from here and I don't think anybody actually went there. They also offered a shorter excursion to Linz, but we decided to go for a walk in Shlögen, which is actually a lovely place.
This morning the Viking Baldur was moored in Nuremberg. Many of the passengers had decided to go on the included walking tour of Nuremberg, but we elected to go on an optional tour that focused on the role of Nuremberg in the Nazi era.
Today we had a lie in and it rained. We had mixed feelings about this: on the one hand it threatened to make our excursion to Bamberg less enjoyable, but on the other hand it made it more likely that, having changed ships, we will be able to sail all the way to Budapest.
Today the ship was moored at Würzburg. There is quite a lot to see here, but we decided to book the optional excursion to Rothenburg (full name Rothenburg ob der Tauber). Our guide for the day was Monica, who seemed to me a little eccentric. She was a PhD student who spoke 5.5 languages (the 0.5 being Welsh). She is an Austrian who normally lives in France, but she comes to Würzburg for the Summer. As well as lots of details about the things we visited she gave us almost too much information about her life, including her medical history and the fact that she once had a major rat infestation at her house! She seemed young, but I suspect was much older than she looked. She was amused that somebody thought she was in her thirties, but wouldn't tell us her actual age.
Today we had a leisurely morning. The ship docked at Freudenberg. We had a brief look round this little town before getting a bus to Miltenberg at 14.45. Miltenberg is a really well preserved medieval town with numerous half timbered buildings. The bottom levels are all made of sandstone in view of the town's history of severe flooding. We had a guided tour of Miltenberg, which was very interesting. We took lots of pictures of the various buildings, including the Hotel Zum Reisen, one of the oldest hotels in World.
Today we went on a bus journey to Marksburg Castle. This is a 700 year old castle which was never conquered or destroyed.
It has an amazing location with majestic views of the River Rhine. We were again struck by how low the water levels were. The guide Deiter was very knowledgeable and amusing.
Today we set off in a bus to make the long journey to Cologne in Germany. We left Rotterdam at 08.30 and got to Cologne at midday. By the time we had got off the buses and got our listening devices working it was probably around 13.00. Our guide was very amusing and slightly camp: he reminded me a bit of Eddie Izzard, the cross-dressing, politically active comedian. He made lots of jokes about how laid back people from Cologne were, and how unlike Prussians and Bavarians.