Sixty Eight locks allow our cruise ship the Scenic Opal to transit the south flowing Danube River over the continental divide to the north flowing Rhine River via the Main River Canal on its voyage from Budapest to Amsterdam. And while these rivers, canals and locks are popular with travelers they are major transportation routes for barges carrying everything from new cars, bulk commodities and fuel.
We are at the half way point in the cruise section of our trip, all so far on the Danube River. Weather has become a concern for our cruise director. A lack of rain in the upper reaches of the river has resulted in low water levels. Our ship and others are stopped in the small town of Vilshofen in Germany waiting for a weather system to drop some much needed rain. It seems that the river cruises in Europe can be susceptible to the mercies of high or low water levels. And so we wait.
In the meantime, our cruise director has utilized the fleet of 4 luxury busses that Scenic owns to transport us to a variety of beautiful little towns and villages. Christmas markets are extremely popular not only with tourists but with local citizens. Central squares and side streets are clogged with tiny booths that are decorated for Christmas and exhibit a wide range of traditional and popular ornaments and souvenirs.
Our favorites though are the markets where local artisans display their own creations. There is something very special about an original piece created locally by a talented craftsman.
Also very popular at all Christmas markets is traditional food such as bratwurst, pretzels and strudels. One cannot forget the popularity of gluhwein (mulled wine) of which there seem to be many different varieties each served in a mug representative of the local area.
The images I’ve included here were made in and around Vienna, Durnstein, Melk and Salzburg in Austria and Regensburg, Germany. To my eye the beauty of the street scapes and architecture is breathtaking. The crowds in Vienna in the central square around St. Stephen’s Cathedral and in the various Christmas markets that we were able to visit were astounding.
Early last Sunday morning I enjoyed the quiet solitude of Durnstein’s cobble stone streets. It was a great opportunity for me to get a feel for the history and layout of this old Austrian village and capture a few scenes of interest.