Viking River Cruise-Apr./May 2013 (20)

Friday, May 10, 2013-Day 21

Keukenhof Gardens, Netherlands

Keukenhof Gardens, Netherlands (Photo credit: the bridge)

Today was the last day of our trip. Scheduled for us was a two part trip. We boarded the bus bound to see the Keukenhof Gardens and the windmills at Kinderdijk.

English: Windmills of Kinderdijk Nederlands: M...

English: Windmills of Kinderdijk Nederlands: Molens van Kinderdijk Polski: Wiatraki z Kinderdijk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Spots of rain had been falling when we boarded the bus, so I had taken a rain preventer from the stand on the ship. Our Viking umbrella did the trick, for as we approached the gardens, the skies cleared and the sun came out.

Tulip Fields From The Bus

Tulip Fields From The Bus

The gardens were glorious.  The colours were magnificent. We learned that Keukenhof usually opens for just a couple of months. This time, because of a colder than usual spring, the gardens had opened late.

Getting Closer To Keukenhof Gardens

Getting Closer To Keukenhof Gardens

However, the closing date would remain the same. We wandered and absorbed the colour, the planning and enjoyed seeing the smiles that seemed to be on the faces of everyone. I think gorgeous flowers and blazing colours do that to people…don’t you?

The First Bed Of Tulips I Saw At The Gardens

The First Bed Of Tulips I Saw At The Gardens

Two hours of wandering, sitting and eating lunch at the gardens brought us to departure time. The buses rolled on to windswept Kinderdijk and the visit to working windmills which are now a UNESCO world heritage spot. At one time, there were 10 000 mills in the Netherlands but now there are around 900. The sky had greyed and the wind howled along the dyke as we made our way into the mill. My Viking rain preventer was still working. Cynthia and Lynore slipped into the coffee shop as neither of them fancied climbing flights of very narrow, steep stairs which were in the mill. Don and I took a look and were impressed by the way the mills are being preserved. All of them still work…all of them still pump water to higher elevations and out of the polders, though now they are the third line of defence against flooding.

At the end of the visit we saw a pump station, with electric pumps, the second line of defence. Finally we were able to see the massive Archimedes screws which are driven by diesel generators and are the first line of defence.

Modern Archimedes screws which have replaced s...

Modern Archimedes screws which have replaced some of the windmills used to drain the polders at Kinderdijk in the Netherlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To round off the visit, we were taken to the carpenter’s shop, still a working one, where we were told about the history of windmills (the concept originally came from Persia) and how they were now maintained.

The Carpenter's Repair Shop At Kinderdijk

The Carpenter’s Repair Shop At Kinderdijk

Many facts were given, but one stands out in my mind…though the windmills were mostly constructed of wood, only one type of wood used in the construction came from the Netherlands, all the rest were imported.

Eventually we got back to the ship around 5.30 pm and Cynthia began packing. We later joined the Harringtons in the bar for a farewell drink together.

Final Drink Together On The Ship

Final Drink Together On The Ship

They were leaving earlier than us the next morning. It had been a great trip, and we will always be grateful to Don and Lynore for inviting us to join them on this European Sojourn.

Late update…Saturday May 11th now as I finish this post to you…the exit from the ship to Schipol airport went smooth as silk. Our flight to Calgary was 8 hours and 20 minutes and seemed to whiz by. I’m writing this post in Calgary as we have a three hour lay-over. 6.30 pm we leave for Comox and we will see Ben or Tim at Comox, all being well, around 7pm local time. (There is a one hour flight time Calgary to Comox and a one hour time change)

Final thought…look  what we had waiting for us when we got in the house…can’t beat that!

Look What We Had Waiting For Us

Look What We Had Waiting For Us

Goodbye for now and God bless.

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Viking River Cruise-Apr./May 2013 (10)

Tuesday, April 30-Day 11

I felt a nudge at 6 am this morning. No, it wasn’t Cynthia moving me over to my own side of the bed. Rather, it was the Idun docking at the Viking wharf in Vienna. As I stretched out a hand and partly peeled back the curtain, I could see the impressive skyline of modern Vienna across the river from our boat.

We had a light breakfast and at 9 am we boarded the bus for the tour of the city. Soon, even though we were in the morning rush, we reached the ring road which circles the city centre and contains most of the important and historic buildings of the city. The building below now houses the central library but adjacent to it is the home of the Lipizzaner stallions. As we wandered through the area, several crossed our path, being led from their training area back to the stables. I managed to catch a glimpse of one in the stable area and got this pic and a tiny video clip.

Lipizzan Stallion In Stable

Lipizzan Stallion In Stable

Huge Central Library Vienna

Huge Central Library Vienna

The region’s most influential dynasty, the Habsburgs, came into power in 1273, and for 600 years they expanded their empire by marriage and force. Their influence can be see everywhere in this city, through their massive summer homes and palaces.

Our guide Petra took us on a gentle walking tour though the centre of the old part of the city. Once again narrow streets with pastel coloured buildings contrasted with broad, tree lined avenues flanked by massive houses and palaces. This city looks so opulent and it pulses with energy.

Stephansdom (St Stephen Cathedral), Vienna

Stephansdom (St Stephen Cathedral), Vienna (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once in the city centre we arrived at the massive cathedral of St Stephen, named after the first Christian martyr, Stephen, who was stoned to death because of his belief. We were given a half an hour of free time to explore this beautiful pedestrian area, so we peeked in the cathedral, then Cynthia wanted to buy some specialty items, so we headed out and eventually found what we were looking for. A huge cleaning of the cathedral’s exterior was underway but as the scaffold is covered by massive pictures of that section of the cathedral, a passer-by might not even notice what was going on. At any rate, the cleaned parts were so good to look at in contrast to the parts blackened by years of traffic and weather.

St. Stephen's Cathedral-Note Cloth Covering Scaffolding Looks Like Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral-Note Cloth Covering Scaffolding Looks Like Cathedral

Eventually it was time to make our way to the meeting point with Petra and on back to the bus. We arrived back at the ship in time for lunch. That was followed by a relaxation time for the fab four so that we would be ready for dinner! It’s a tough life, but OK  if you don’t weaken. Seriously though, our dinner is early tonight (6pm) so that we can make it in time for the Mozart/ Strauss concert tonight. More to come on that.

Vienna Stock Exchange Conference Room (now concert hall)

Vienna Stock Exchange Conference Room (now concert hall)

After dinner we were treated to a wonderful concert. The bus took us into the centre to the concert hall which was formerly the stock exchange of the city. However, with the advent of computers and modern technology, such a large building was no longer needed. The building now houses concerts put on by the Vienna Residents’ Orchestra. About ten musicians were in the ensemble, made up almost equally of men and women. They played compositions by Mozart and Strauss. A mezzo soprano and a baritone sang for us, while appearances were made by a ballerina and her partner ,who danced to some of the music. All in all, it was a wonderful evening for some 400+ (our estimate) of us from (we think) five river ships docked in Vienna.

Goodbye for now and God bless.

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