Viking River Cruise - - Day Six, Weds 10/14/15
I woke up at 4, and it was one of those days where you know you're done sleeping. I got up at 4:30, grabbed my laptop, went up to the lounge, and sat at the bar and wrote. No one was around for almost two hours, it was fabulous. I sat at the bar, my only time sitting at the bar.
I went back to the room at 6 and showered and shaved in the dark - - it was the first time in my life I shaved in the dark, that was kinda neat. I woke Mom up at 6:30 (as per her instructions) and let her sleep until 7:00 (as per her request).
I had breakfast alone: scrambled eggs, bacon, mushrooms. I had a bit more breakfast with Mom when she got up, a scrumptious little pecan sweet roll. I said goodbye to Jacky, Darwin, and Ryan. I got a hug from Ryan, so sweet.
Here I am with Jacky:
And with Ryan and Darwin - - and Ryan and Darwin:
We finished packing, left our bags outside our door, and got on the bus to Passau. Our guide was a sweet older lady named Helga. She gave us lots of background on the towns we drove through. Mom and I both napped a little. Mom didn't feel up for the walking tour, so we spent the hour in a coffee shop, like real locals.
We went to an organ concert at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Passau. They have the largest pipe organ in Europe: 17,974 pipes and 223 stops. I wasn't surprised to see the Bach "Toccata and Fugue" or two movements from the Widor Organ Symphony on the program, those are two of a handful of the most famous pieces for organ ever. I was flabbergasted to see Messaien on the program. I am crazy for Messaien, and he was a master at writing for the organ, but I would have thought his music would be too out there for this kind of tourist-driven concert. Knock me ovah with a feathah.
The organist was Ludwig Ruckdeschel. I thought his playing of the Bach "Toccata and Fugue" was a little brusque. But the piece showed off the organ very well, which is the whole point. He mapped the piece out so it used the directionality of the pipes: you'd hear something from over there, then something else from over there, that's always exciting. He followed that up with a Bach chorale prelude, "Schmuecke rich, a liebe Seele". It was lovely and warm, the perfect thing to come after the previous piece.
The Messaien was "Apparition of the Eternal Church" and it was dazzling. It had his typical mixture of weirdo atonal music alternating with totally straightforward ordinary chords. And he wrote for organ in such an idiomatic way. I don't know if I'll be able to explain this, but one of the things an organ does best is play chords. You play a set of notes on the organ at the same time, and because of the way the instrument is built, they will all have exactly the same volume and, in a sense, character. Messaien exploits this, there are probably moments where you have 8 or 10 notes in a chord and it has a sturdy yet strange quality because it's being played on an organ.
He finished with the final two movements of the Widor Organ Symphony, the adagio and the toccata. Flashy and satisfying. The concert on the whole was very strong, and thoughtfully put together.
We walked about ten minutes to lunch, where our huge group completely took over a restaurant. We looked for the two couples when we got there, didn't see them, and Mom acted decisively and grabbed a table for two. It turns out the two couples had grabbed a table for six in another room and were on the lookout for us. Aw.
Everyone had the same thing: a dumpling soup (I thought it might have been matzo ball, but Mom thought not) - - pork tenderloin with spaetzle, broccoli, and a divine pork gravy - - and vanilla ice cream with warm berries, and VERY strong coffee.
We were on our own for the next hour and a half - - we found a pharmacy and bought Mom some Ny-Quil and more cough drops. Our last stop in Passau was the Glass Museum. We bought our tickets and were told to take the elevator up to the fourth floor and then walk our way through the museum, down the stairs to each level. We got up to four and walked into a room of glass cases full of ornamental vases, cordial glasses, serving platters, cologne bottles, etc from the 19th century, in many different colors of glass, some frosted, some painted with quaint little pastoral scenes, some etched with exquisite details, some with extra other little bits of glass stuck onto them. We left that room and were in another room with more of the same stuff. We walked our way around the fourth floor, turned a corner to see a room we hadn't seen, which led to another room we hadn't seen, which led to a third. All full of 19th century glassware of every possible kind. It was the 23rd Circle of Hell: Antiques Roadshow.
It was all beautiful and impressive, but it all starts to look the same. After three floors of this, I said to Mom, "They have a buttload of glassware in this joint." We were on what we both hoped was the final level. I turned the corner and said, "Oh - - were we in this room yet?" Mom walked past it, directly to the exit. I do love that woman.
One last pic before we leave the Glass Museum:
We walked back to the bus and had some time before we left, so we sat on a bench by the Danube, looking at our fellow passengers as they walked by.
MOM: This one, he thinks he's God's gift to women.
ME: He may have been hot stuff forty years ago. Or maybe he was wrong then, too.
Back on the bus for a 90-minute drive to Regensburg. Helga talked us through the things we saw on the drive: solar panels, fields of spelt, parts of the Bavarian forest that have white lynx with black spots. I fell asleep and awoke to find a big glob of drool on my sport coat. Why did I share that. Most interesting, she gave us a heads up on the driest patch of the Danube, the reason why we switched ships: she told us we would have a brief glimpse of it through the trees as we went past it on the Autobahn. She described it as a sandbar, but really, it was like a beach with a little water on it. It was astonishing how little water was there. But then we turned a corner not even two minutes later, the Danube also turned a corner, and it was completely full of water. Very strange.
And then we got to our new ship, the Viking Freya. It is EXACTLY like our other ship, it's a little eerie. The biggest difference is we have all new staff - - the only people who moved over from the Njord were Lee, the program director, and Janna, the concierge. We were greeted by a sweet Bulgarian woman named Valya who would be taking care of our room. I met her at her cart after we got a little settled and asked if we could have another box of Kleenex. She said, "Certainly, of course. You know, if you see my Ferrari parked in the hallway and I'm not here, feel free to take whatever you like. It's self-service!" She opened a drawer and showed me a treasure trove of L'Occitane soap and the like. I told my mother about this and she gave me a mischievous smile. I might even say a lascivious smile.
We met the two couples up in the lounge for a drink before dinner. We all agreed that this group is too damn loud - - we're there in the lounge listening to Lee give an overview of what will happen the next day, and this set of bozos in the corner are laughing and shouting at each other. You can give them a dirty look, but it doesn't do any good.
Dinner - - Mom: a spring roll, vegetable quiche in a puff pastry, and Linzer torte. The torte was quite dry and not what I would call luscious. It would be a perfect coffee cake, maybe with a big dollop of yogurt or whipped cream on the side, but it didn't really ring any bells as a dessert. I had the Greek salad (I would have appreciated more feta and olives and fewer big chunks of white onion), the pan-seared char, and the warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce. Of course I got a glass of milk to go with that. Heaven.
The number one interest at dinner, and actually this whole first day on the ship, was getting to know our new staff. I asked Darwin back on the Njord if there's anyone on the Freya who we should look out for, and he told me to seek out his friend Moises. Our server at dinner was a tall nice-looking guy named Silviu, from Transylvania. I asked him to point out Moises to me, and he said he would send him over to our table. He came over when we got our dessert. We said we were friends of Darwin and he laughed and laughed. That Darwin, he is a Viking legend!
The Ny-Quil did the trick - - Mom slept much better that night.