Boat Trip, Day Eight


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[The Croatians are coming, the Croatians are coming!!  On board to check everybody’s passport – apparently my passport photo still looked enough like the current me to pass muster.  Fortunately, their records did not show my past history of addiction to Tootsie Roll Pops.]

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[We’re moving into serious recent history here.  This is driving through our port city of Vukovar, the biggest Croatia river port at 28,000.  The city was 90 percent destroyed in the war with Serbia that ended in 1992, only a generation ago.]

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[An ancient archaeological find, the peace dove has been adopted as a Croatian symbol.]

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[Our bus guide passed around the dove and the map.  It’s always nice to know where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going.]

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[More Great Hungarian Plain.]

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[Meet Adela Sabo. Just your typical Croatian single mom, with a 16-year old son and a dog who has a doll, who works 186 hours a month as a nurse and runs a bed and breakfast. She lives in a small village just outside Osijek. The Serbs did not capture Osijek during the war (whereas the previously mentioned Vukovar was 90% destroyed), but it was under fire for a long time. She lived in the basement during that time and is still frightened of fireworks. As part of the Viking cruise package now, small groups go to spend an hour or so with a local. This was a typical residential neighborhood.  It’s been very popular – fun and interesting.]

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[So, Osijek, population 108,000 (4th largest in Croatia) and about 25 miles NW of Vukovar, was next on the visit list.  These walls are from a 17th century fortress built by the Hapsburg Empire.]

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[The main city square, Ante Starcevica, featuring St. Michael’s church (immediately above).]

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[Leaving the main square area, I guess it’s OK to store your heating fuel on the sidewalk?]

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[This is a TOP SECRET church . . . because I don’t recall its name and can’t find it anywhere in Osijek searches?]

4-28-15-25 - Copy[Maybe because nobody could ever report on it?]

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[But it’s apparently a regular tour group stop where students from a local area music school come and perform for tourists.  Sometimes its classical, may be groups, but on this day it was a young lady name Mija (I’m told the Croatian spelling for MY-ah).  She sang several familiar rock and folks songs in English, such as Hallelujah, and reminded a bit of our own Josie Nelson.  I tried to track a Croatian Mija on YouTube lest she had posted anything – unfortunately, not.   ]

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[And one would think this would be useful in tracking the church.  Statuary made from the spoils of war?  But, no?]

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[The bus tour over, we lunched back on the Jarl then ventured out into the environs of war torn Vukovar.  The big building (top) in Franjo Tudman Square (our mooring area) may be left as a reminder as it’s still riddled with the marks warfare.]

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[We walked along the river to a restored museum, a/k/a, Castle Eltz.  We entered to find a large contingent of school children overseen by a young man who on that day apparently was in charge of the place.  If it had been the 50’s, he would have been considered a beatnik, and he was full of exuberance and in broken English was delighted to have we Americans tour ‘his’ museum.  He didn’t even want us to pay an admission fee, but of course we left a donation upon departure.  :-)   ]

4-28-15-40 - Copy4-28-15-41 - Copy4-28-15-42 - Copy[The Castle after the war and now during restoration.  It’s not done yet.  The war torn tree on the river side remains . . . probably for as long as it remains.]

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[The peace dove]

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[There’s never enough mustard . . . ]

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[‘Unknown” painters are finding a place here.  :-)   ]

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[We happened to meet Dale from Chicago along the way, so he joined us . . . ]

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[The peasants are revolting . . . ]

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[Gotta love it . . . a museum with a “selfie” mirror!]

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[Homage to at long last, a free press?]

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[A cursory phrenological examination of the subjects determined the bust on the left to likely not be of Hungarian or Magyar lineage.  More likely to be from an evolutionary branch that dead-ended millenia ago.]

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[I’m surprised the Super didn’t make an offer to buy some clothing?]

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[Again, the aftermath of war.]

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[I believe this was shot through a window on an upper floor toward “town.”]

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[We walked back on a main commercial street.  Building on the right has been restored; the building on the left remains battled scarred.]

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[Pock mocked by war.]

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[A commercial square and . . . a shoe.  Was waiting for a photo op for The Biddies but we recognized the current user group from the boat so just used her.  ;-)  ]

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[Heading back to the boat through Franjo Tudman Square.     ]

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[It must have been happy hour on the Jarl, with The Biddies enjoying an aquavit shooter?]

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[The Vukovar water tower (upper right) after the war; and as we boated away (below) . . .]

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[Come out with your camera! There’s a lightning storm in the distance!  And so out I rushed, shooting all of the above hoping to catch a bolt.  They’re worth it just for the lighting though.]

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[And whom amongst doesn’t like champagne hand delivered?  Kathy and Bert in the background are looking very formal (was there another opera on tap)?]

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[The Super really took a shine to these guys.  My guess would be a coif admiration.  They were from Philadelphia and were experienced world travelers.  Still the question remains, where was Jay Sieling?]

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[Bon apetit!]

Women dress alike all over the world:  they dress to be annoying to other women.  ~  Elsa Schiaparelli

Contrary to popular belief, English women do not wear tweed nightgowns.  ~  Hermione Gingold

Up next:  Depends what happens over the holiday weekend.

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The Great American 3-fer!

Today’s softball sections began with . . .

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[The Super preparing the field?]

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[I arrived late . . . yes, it was a previously scheduled eating event.  The game was in the bottom of the 4th and our Cards were losing to the Sauk Rapids-Rice Storm, 3 – 0.  I had not been to a game yet this year, so it was my first time at the new high school field.  It was very nice, but it was completely surrounded by chain link fencing, the number one bane of the photographer.  I got my bearings, then shot Kaila Dewanz, senior infielder/pitcher (and hockey player).]

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[Nope, don’t like that one.]

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[Card dugout excited at the prospect of runs . . . ]

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[And here comes Kaila with one.]

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[Coach Albers addresses senior outfielder Carly Dropik (and basketball), suggesting she hit one where outfielders fear to tread.]

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[The Storm discuss how to prevent that.]

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[Ms. Dropik, a known power hitter, hit a shot but right at the rightfielder.]

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[Ellie Ronning, sophomore infielder, hit a nice line single to center here scoring Emma Ziegler, sophomore shortstop (and basketball), from 3rd.  The Cards rallied with 2-run innings in the 4th, 5th, and 6th, that potentially could have been much more.]

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[Anna Lee, senior outfielder (and soccer and backetball)?  Guessing ‘cuz I can’t see her number.]

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[Yay for us!  I didn’t get much coverage due to my late arrival.  Then a Storm dad dropped by to chat for a few innings – he had a daughter on the team, an 8th-grader, who was also the starting point guard on their basketball team.  I think I remember her.]

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[Jana Roste, senior outfielder, gives it a go.  I’ve noticed in previous game reports she’s been doing very well.]

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[We win!  And an nice comeback at that.]

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[Sophomore catcher McKenzie Revering (Little Rev from hockey) leads the handshake parade.]

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[I hope I’m available for the next game . . . ]

A woman will buy anything she thinks the store is losing money on.  ~  Kin Hubbard

Up next:  Time for Croatia?

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The Other Great American Pastime


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[MOTU @ SAWA, last Friday.  Dave Strom, keyboards, and Bill Engebretson, drums, of local Components fame; and Wally Warhol, steel drums and trumpet, of local Finestra fame.]

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Salty Dogs

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[Salty Dogs @ Carlos Creek Winery, last Saturday.]

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[Photography by Berg.]

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[Annie & Greg (not blocked by other customers as were the vocalists).]

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[The proprietors, a/k/a, “Fred and Ginger.”]

The Cheese Bots


[Another gratuitous shot at the merry, merry month of May.  Almost had to pay a visit to the SAWA basement again last Saturday – tornado warnings in the area. We were there for the Cheese Bots and almost relived our previous trip downstairs there from July 2010 (about one month after the Wadena tornado). We got another inch and a half of rain Friday bringing our weekly total to 5 inches. Enough already!]

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[SAWA basement, 2010]

Central Lakes Symphony Orchestra

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[Central Lakes Symphony Orchestra last performance of the season at Alexandria Area High School, last Sunday. That makes four live music events for the Super and me since Friday night (yeah, it’s getting me way behind on the blog). Anyway, from the previous events I was surprised how many people still are not aware we have a symphony! C’mon folks, come out and support these musicians! They only do four concerts a year . . . we should pack the place. They are really quite terrific – it’s something most towns our size do not have. Oh, and the AGC folks would be interested in knowing the viola soloist was Ryan Jensen, Ken’s son, Alex class of 2009.]

Of the two lots, the woman’s lot of perpetual motherhood, and the man’s of perpetual babyhood, I prefer the man’s.  ~  George Bernard Shaw

Up next:  Back to Europe . . . or softball?

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The Great American Pastime

May’s weather can best be characterized as gawd awful . . . and then came yesterday!

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[A beautiful day for a ballgame!  I hadn’t been to a Cardinal baseball or softball game all spring . . . we were either traveling or, well, that weather issue.  Here senior Danny Kuhn delivers the first pitch of the game to the Rocori Spartan leadoff hitter.  Danny struck out the side in the first – sometimes a bad omen.  The conference rivals came into game with almost identical records – 11 – 6 for the Cards, 11 – 5 for the Spartans.]

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[I will feature Mr. Kuhn a lot, along with his senior leftfielder, Spencer Lucas, because their moms, Beth and Pam, have been longtime fellow gym attendees with the Fat Boys Walking Club.  Danny has missed part of the season with a bad back, and Beth said he’s pitching with a herniated disc.  Oy!]

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[Danny is greeted by his teammates after his perfect 1st inning.  After the Rocori pitcher struck out the side in the bottom of the 1st, it appeared we would not be having a slugfest.]

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[Pam (3rd from left) is the team’s photographer and was set up down the rightfield line so as to not have to shoot through a chainlink fence.]

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[Unfortunately, the Spartan pitcher matched Danny’s effort in the 1st, here getting Brayden Amundson, junior centerfielder (also football and basketball).]

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[Noah Hittle, junior first baseman (and hockey player), lead off the Card’s 2nd with a line single to left.]

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[A good cut by Parker Revering, senior shortstop (also a hockey player).]

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[Grant Toivonen, senior 2nd baseman (and basketball player), on first.  The Spartan leftie had the Card hitters off balance most of the game.  Surprisingly, Grant, our only leftie hitter, had the best swings all game – he hit the ball hard every time up.]

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[The aforementioned Mr. Lucas, senior leftfielder.  And what a nice game he had –  a couple nice hits including a bunt single (he can move his puppies) and a couple of nice running catches in the outfield.]

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[The Spartan leftie was tough.  We didn’t even have threat until the 6th.]

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[And Mr. Hittle.  Though he mostly played JV hockey this winter, I really liked his game.  Great shot and always seemed mellow . . . not mellow disinterested, but mellow “everything’s cool.”  Had the big hit in the game to get us back into it.]

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[Spencer’s on 2nd – must be our big inning.]

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[I believe this is Kris Setterstrom, senior rightfielder (and basketball).]

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[And Noah on 2nd after a double.]

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[Jack Steffl, junior outfielder (and hockey player), laid down a perfect bunt.]

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[Chris Leary, senior pitcher (and hockey player), came in in relief.  Danny pitched well, but the Spartans scored twice in the 2nd and twice in the 6th, mostly on Card miscues. The Card comeback began in the bottom of the 6th.  We finally got the bats going and scored 4 runs to tie the game.]

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[Things looked great in the bottom of the 7th as Lucas attempted to sacrifice the winning run into scoring position.  This was the only time my mentor, Jim Pohl, and I agreed it appropriate to sacrifice an out – to advance the winning run a base.  Spencer subsequently bunted for a hit.]

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[Setterstrom sacrificed the runners to 2nd and 3rd.  The next hitter was intentionally walked to load the bases, with one out . . . ]

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[Our 3rd and 4th hitters, Travis Krueger, senior 3rd baseman (and basketball player) and Hittle could not get the winning run in.  I stayed for one more inning but then I knew the Super had din-din waiting.  I knew that missed opportunity would bite us – the Spartans won 10 – 5 in the 12th inning.  But the Cards came back to win the nightcap, 8 – 4.]

I must be in the front row.  ~  Bob Uecker

Up next:  Another pastime?

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Boat Trip, Day Seven

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[Our first river trip was to Kalosca.  It is one of the oldest towns in Hungary, noted for its paprika.  It’s population is only 18,000 . . . so think Alex plus La Grand township.  Our first stop was at St. Joseph’s church where one of our tour guides introduced an organ recital by a local priest . . . ]

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[And here he is!  Blew our socks off with Bach!!]

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[Reetz ponders the meaning of life . . . as well as the state of IU basketball!]

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[If you guessed “in the church,” you win a cookie.]

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[Should you ever deign to visit Kalosca, here’s a handy-dandy map for you.]

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[The city may be small but is of some import.  This is St. Mary Cathedral in Holy Trinity Square . . . ]

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[And this is the Archbishop Palace.  Yup, they housed an archbishop.]

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[Various statuary in the Square, accented by The Biddies.]

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[Leaving the city (and the Cathedral), we passed Franz Liszt, the great Hungarian composer who visited Kalosca many times.]

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[On the road again, through the Great Hungarian Plain.  Karen also ponders the state of IU basketball as we pass by another rapeseed field.]

Do you like horses?

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[We were busing inland from Kalosca to see a performance of traditional Puszta horsemanship.  Now, I’m not a horse guy, but this was a terrific show with skilled riders and well-trained horses.]

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[This guy entertained our arrival with traditional Hungarian flute.]

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[The Super checks things out . . . ]

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[Popcorn, peanuts, Cracker Jack!]

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[The family Gross settled into the first row.  I’m glad we didn’t . . . ]

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[First, the beasts of burden (I know how you feel guys – I’ve been on shopping trips with the Supervisor!).]

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[The guy with the cute “little ass” was a crowd favorite.]

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[There was a mud puddle in front of where we were sitting (intentionally, we believe), so whenever they flew by at a high rate of speed we got splattered a bit.  Kind of like being at a Gallagher concert.  And the guy riding the 10 horses at once is like one more horse away from setting a world record!]

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[I wanna pet the baby!]

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[Wagon ride!]

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[Who has more fun than The Biddies?  (Or did I ask that already?)]

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[Cornelia and Reetz reminisce about the good ole days.  Remember the night we got into the slivovitz? Oy!!]

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[Never, ever turn your back on a 70-year old woman with a whip in her hand!  Well, it was time to shop at the horse place.]

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[Take my picture with this flowery bush.]

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[Then it was back to the boat for “in case the boat sinks” practice.]

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[We’re No. 1!]

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[Destined to be a family Gross holiday card photo for years to come.]

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[This is Jarl.  Our boat was named after him.  He was a grandson of Odin.  Quite the dude.]

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[Our final quick stop in Hungary.  Mohacs is a customs check point.  The countries along our route are in various stages of application to the European Union.  Until then, you have to play the passport game.]

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[From Mohacs we round the bend heading for Croatia.]

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[And here’s their customs boat lest they have to run us down.]

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[Once again, your job is to match the food to the menu . . . ]


[Say good night, Gracie.]

If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.  ~  Katherine Hepburn

Up next:  A surprise?

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Boat Trip, Day Six (Part II)


It only took a week, but we’re finally there . . .

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[Since my “whoop-dee-doo for my Subaru” cub reporting on river cruising has elicited inquiries regarding such, the following is offered as a public service. This was our room on the good boat, Jarl. We opted for lower lever, porthole windows, because most of the cruising was at night, and it saved us $1,500. If you’re going to be doing day cruising, you may want upper deck for bigger windows. The quarters are always going to be small, but you only use the room for sleeping.]

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[Our window “view” and the boat ramp with Chain Bridge in the background.]


[Once we’d settled in our rooms, it was time for our first shipboard nosh.  The Biddies seem quite happy about that!]

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[After lunch it was time to hit the city again.  We wouldn’t departing until later in the evening.  And lest you were wondering where the rest of our party was during the morning bus tour, Anne reports:  Yes, it is when Bert and Kathy went to the opera, Bill and I went to the synagogue and some other places and then met B&K at the Parliament in the afternoon.]

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[A ginormous bookstore.]

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[The Dohany Street Synagogue is the largest in Europe and the 2nd largest in the world. We decided it was a must see, not only for its size but for its uniqueness.  It’s very churchlike.  Built in the 1850’s, it was restored in the 1990’s to fix damage from WWII.]

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[A guide seemed very young (well, to us, that’s anybody under 50) but her unaccented English was better than mine.]


[A kippah was a requirement for entry.  Quite dashing, n’est pas?]

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[Over 2,000 people are buried in mass graves here.  They died from cold and hunger in the winter of 1944-45.  There is also this memorial to the 400,000 Hungarian Jews killed in WWII, and a memorial to those who tried to save them.]

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[And then it was back to the boat for dinner . . . ]

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[“Cornelia!!”  That’s what The Biddies shouted when she first appeared on our bus to welcome us to the cruise.  She’s the Program Director, meaning she’s in charge of everything to keep the customers happy.  And the coincidence is she was also our Program Director on our not without incidents Portraits of Southern France cruise last summer!  We thought she did a great job of trying to track Reetz’s forever lost luggage, and of guiding us through the days of boat immobility and the nationwide train strike.  Needless to say, we were happy to see her again.  She’s a lanky Austrian who is, of course, multi-multi lingual.]

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[Your job, should you accept it, is to match the shown dinner courses with the menu!]

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[A little evening stroll topside to walk off dinner, then back down for the evening’s entertainment . . . ]

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[Cornelia introduces, for our dining and dancing pleasure, Hungarian folk music and dance!]

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[In Hungarian folklore, if you can balance a bottle of Grand Marnier on your head for three consecutive dances, you will eventually have brunch with Kim Kardashian.]

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[The Super practicing cinematography.]

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[What fun!  And no cover charge!]

In the fine tradition of Budapest river cruising, you hoist anchor at 9:00 PM, boat under Chain Bridge, do a U-turn, and head down river where all the landmarks you have now all grown to know and love – the Parliament, Buda Castle, Matthias Church, et al – glow in an incandescent wonderland that alone is worth the price of admission.  Enjoy (reminder, you can double click each photo to see them full size) . . .

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[As we head off into the night under Elisabeth Bridge, Cornelia (far right) leads the assembled masses in a rousing chorus Edelweiss (OK, I made that up.)]

Fifty percent of the world are women, yet they always seem a novelty.  ~  Christopher Morley

Up next:   Next port.

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Boat Trip, Day Six (Part I)


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[St. Gellert on the Buda side of Elisabeth Bridge.  Not surprisingly, he’s on Gellert Hill. We’re in a bus now for a guided tour of the city on Sunday morning.  This brought some consternation to the cruisers who wondered why this didn’t come until our final day in the city?  It was originally scheduled for Saturday, which made sense so we would then know where to go when we were on our own, but Viking worried about a big city bike race on Saturday (we never noticed it?).  Well, I’m sure there was nothing nefarious involved – we truly enjoyed our time in Budapest.]

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[We have arrived at Castle Hill on the “other side” of the river, a/k/a Buda.  Rain was threatening and we did get spritzed on a bit.  The white building is Sandor Palace, the Budapest equivalent of the White House – it’s where the president lives.  Not even a fence around it?  These remaining foundations in the foreground are from the 14th century castle keep and are being preserved as such.]

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[Tourist groups have to coordinate not running into each other.  We were 1B!]

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[Our guide, Anglicized to Steve (as I recall), called this the ugly building as we were walking to Matthias Church.  Because the ground floor was original construction, and the top two floors were what the Communists built on top of it.]

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[Matthias Church, hard by the ugly building.]

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[Where we were . . . ]

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[Where the “where we were” signs were in relation to Matthias Church.]

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[St. Stephen (our guide’s namesake?) on his horse at Fisherman’s Bastion, which provides the scenic overlooks of the city.]

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[Even to the locals, the guy in the middle is known as “Woody Harrelson.”  ;-)  ]

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[The first of several visages that I have to say I appreciate for the foreground/background symbiotic relationships I somehow managed to luck into.  Loved these views . . . a sunny day would have been nice.]

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[The Super documented the plying of my craft!  Either that or she just took some pictures.  Reetz’s expression seems to say, “Oh, for Pete’s sake!”]

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[The Parliament on the Pest side of the river.]

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[All were clamoring for a photo of these lovely ladies.]

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[So much to see, so little time . . . ]

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[Matthias Church, which surprisingly wasn’t open on a Sunday morning?]

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[Must be something special to be double-teamed by The Biddies!]


[And here it is!  ;-)  ]

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[The Welcome Wagon greeter?  He was at the road divide between Sandor Palace and Matthias Church.  I can’t remember who he was, but I showed him my passport out of respect (or fear).]

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[The changing of the guard at Sandor Palace.  All very civil.  I don’t know if the President was there.]

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[Who has more fun than The Biddies?]

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[Looks like another overlook . . . ]

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[Looking down on Chain Bridge, at our hotel, and at the Parliament where that might be our boat on the far right side.]

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[We thought about walking to the far end of the castle . . . then opted not to.]

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[First Shakespeare, now Beethoven?]

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[I seriously do not remember this (another black out moment?), but it appears we’re getting ready to cross Chain Bridge.]

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[Street shots back on the Pest side . . . Reetz is checking out the Opera House.]

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[Our first view of Heroes’ Square.]

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[We circle while looking for bus parking.]

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[In the City of Spas, this is the biggie!  Szechenyi Thermal Bath in City Park is the one the Super really wanted to partake of . . . well, on another day?]

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[Back to Heroes’ Square, this is a “nice building by the Square.”  I can’t remember what it was and web photo research only came up with “nice building by the Square”?  Oh, and it’s where we parked the bus.  (Editor’s note:  This just in!  Checked on the archer statue out front – the building is the City Park Ice Rink!  Now I remember!)]

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[The Palace of Art with BigBus Budapest across the street from the Square.]

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[Steve telling us all about Heroes’s Square.  The Museum of Fine Arts is on the opposite side of the Square from the The Palace of Art.]

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[Millenium Monument, the column on the middle of the Square, surrounded by, among others, the leaders of the seven Magyar tribes who founded Hungary.]

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[In modern times, these guys would be linebackers.]

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[The Biddies and me with BUDAPEST!]

In Part II, we will FINALLY board our boat and go out for a final visit of Budapest.

Being a woman is of special interest only to aspiring male transsexuals.  To actual women it is merely a good excuse not to play football.  ~  Fran Lebowitz

Up next:  Boat!

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