Viking River Cruise - - Day Five, Tues 10/13/15
I was up before Mom, and since she wears earplugs, I was able to shower and dress in the dark without waking her. I was one of the first people in the dining room, so this was the day for an omelet: no waiting. They're made to order, and mine was with bacon, onions, tomatoes, and cheddar cheese. Need I say it was delicious?
I moved to the lounge and worked on my blog and Mom was up before too long. I went back to the dining room with her and had breakfast, round two - - just a piece of toast with jam, to feel sociable. We moved into the lounge and had a wonderful conversation with Bob and Lei Nani, a sweet couple from Hawaii.
We got the official word that we were switching ships. There had been talk about this early on, and it had been confirmed the day we were in Vienna. The water is dangerously low in one section of the Danube, so rather than go with our usual program and pull into Passau for a few hours and then back to the ship to continue up the river, we'll be in Passau longer than planned and bused to a safe spot further upriver, where we'll board the Viking Freya. A good omen with the name, because I have a wonderful friend with that name. And the passengers from the Freya will make the reverse journey, moving onto our ship, the Viking Njord.
It's a bit of a drag to have to pack our bags in the middle of the trip - - one of the advantages of a cruise is that you go to all these wonderful places without ever having to pack and unpack your bag, except at the beginning and end of the trip. But the really sad bit is that we have to say goodbye to some of the ship's staff who we've grown to love. Our favorites are all Filipino servers in the dining room: Jacky, Darwin, and Ryan. I've mentioned Jacky before, she's the adorable woman who brought me that tiny jar of ketchup. Darwin seems to make a specialty of lingering at the table after a meal, asking what we had done that day and about our plans for the next day, and bringing up hilarious topics of his own. Mom and I only met Ryan on Tuesday, and of course we had to talk about his name. It was a real John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt situation: his name is my name, too! We had a longer, more personal conversation with Darwin later that day and figured out, reading between the lines, and he and Ryan are a couple, and have worked together on cruise lines for almost 15 years. How cute is that. And they are HILARIOUS together. Darwin would be talking with us, Ryan would walk by, and Darwin would say, "Oh excuse me, Aurora!", and Ryan would give him a big smile or sing a high note or similar. He also answers to Samantha. This is echt old school gay man's shtick, and it's touching to know that it's still being done.
We had a quickish lunch: I had a salmon and cucumber open-face sandwich and a small bowl of bow tie pasta and mussels in a dreamy cream sauce, Mom had a bowl of potato soup and a fascinating dessert: a ball of cottage cheese rolled in ground hazelnuts, served on a bed of berries.
Our excursion for the day was to the abbey at Melk, built sometime in the 900s (my apologies, I don't feel like looking it up on Google) - - a huge place redone in the high Baroque style during the actual Baroque era.
The Abbey Our Program Director, Lee
Our guide was a prettyish young woman named Leonora, a great hit with the gentlemen of our group. She was shoveling in the cute in such big steaming heaps, it would have been faster for her to use a front-loader. Mom and I traded looks about every five minutes, we have a low tolerance for this kind of thing.
The Abbey itself had a similar problem. The architecture is impressive, and the larger rooms are splendid, but the other rooms are filled with tacky modern sculptures, Baroque-a-brac, and twee colored lighting. What the hell. One room was lined in mirrors and filled with gold crap, bedazzled chandeliers, and gewgaws. I thought I had taken a left turn and ended up in the Liberace Museum. But then I remembered, with a tear, that the Liberace Museum closed in 2010.
We had two options for the return to the ship: we could either take the bus or walk through the town and back to the ship, about a 20-minute walk. Mom is fighting a cold, so I told her to go back on the bus and I would go into town and find a pharmacy to buy her some cold meds. There was a street fair going on with all the same junk you see at every street fair. I found a pharmacy, and more importantly, a young woman who spoke some English. She set me up with some Alka Seltzer Cold-esque dissolving tablets and some lemon cough drops. It felt really good to get out of the crush of humanity at the street fair and stretch my legs on the walk back to the ship. There's been a fair amount of walking on this trip, but none of it at my preferred fast pace.
I delivered the meds to Mom (with her most sincere thanks) and left her to nap. I went upstairs and ran into the two couples. The five of us sat together for an hour or so and just shot the breeze. Mom came up just in time for a longish presentation by Lee about other Viking cruises. I wasn't so into it, but I had the good manners not to talk over him. I'm a little amazed at the rudeness of some of our fellow passengers - - they're loud, and talk even louder to be heard over the loud people next to them. Where's a tranquilizer gun when you need one?
The six of us had dinner. Teri and Bob had sent a bottle of Champagne to Dianna and Tom's room when we boarded the ship, since this trip is to celebrate their 50th anniversary. They hadn't opened the bottle yet, and with us changing ships, it seemed like the night for it. Mom and I were touched to be included in the festivities.
Here's what we had for dinner: Mom had the butternut squash soup, served with a single ravioli at the bottom of the bowl - - the pan-seared John Dory, served with sun-dried tomatoes and other tasty bits - - and the apple crumble with a dollop of whiskey ice cream. I had the same thing, but instead of the John Dory I had the BBQ beef brisket, served on cooked spinach with a small empanada on the side. Of course everything was fantastic.
The six of us wandered into a rather intense and meaningful conversation over dessert, about death and faith and the like. They are special people, we feel so lucky to have met them.