Cruising the Danube

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travel with jodell haverfieldBy JoDell Haverfield, Have Travel Memories

I am writing this month’s editorial from Vienna, Austria, as I am co-hosting a chartered river cruise tour. When I first visited the beautiful city of Vienna, I felt as though I just walked into a movie set. Her exquisite beauty and perfection are only surpassed by the history that surrounds her. With 1,000 manicured parks, electric trains, horse drawn carriages, ancient buildings and blossom filled trees, I truly felt I had been transported to a very special place indeed. Instead of vagrancy, garbage and crime on the streets, I saw flower pots, trees, and charming sidewalk cafés and fresh markets.

We visited the famous Stephansplatz, a square at the geographical center of Vienna named after the Stephansdom, Vienna’s famed cathedral and one of the tallest churches in the world where people still attend church. On this beautiful spring Sunday, I sat on a bench and watched the locals stream out of the cathedral after church and stroll in their Sunday best through the open-air shopping square filled with exclusive designer shops. They bought gelato and visited with each other in small groups even though most of the stores were closed by law to observe the sabbath.

In this town square, a random tourist or local might suddenly sit down and start masterfully playing Mozart on a grand piano set in the cathedral square, where the old church clock chimed on the hour from the centuries-old tower. Tourists seamlessly blended with the romantic couples, groups of youngsters and families with little girls wearing their frilly Sunday dresses.

Our tour began with a day and a half in Budapest, where we mingled with the local nightlife and shopped at one of the largest markets in Europe. The evening before we sailed, we boarded a private tour boat for an illuminated view of the two cities divided by the river. We sailed past the famous Parliament Building, beautifully lit up as seen in most brochures. What we couldn’t see in the dark was an iron monument of 60 pairs of shoes anchored in the ground along the beach promenade that runs in front of the Parliament known as Shoes on the Danube, a haunting tribute to the 20,000 Jews gathered along the banks, men, women and children who were stripped of their valuable leather shoes before being shot into the Danube to be carried away. Unfortunately, this is only one of the stories through history that reflect the dark past of the Danube River during World War II.

Our Viking River Cruise took us alongside many beautiful places, such as picturesque Bratislava. We saw castles, historic Nurembourg, and so much more. We ended this once-in-a-lifetime trip in the little Bavarian village of Oberammergau, where we were privileged to mingle with the local villagers before viewing their performances in their world-famous Passion Play.

They have been performing the Oberammergau Passion Play for more than 400 years since the plague was raging through Europe. They pleaded with God that if he would spare their village, they would celebrate with a play honoring the Passion of Christ every 10 years. However, the covid pandemic caused a pause until 2022. Everyone who performs in the play, including the children, vocalists and orchestra, are local villagers.

Joining us on our exclusive chartered cruise tour were 150 guests. Some brought along old friends and we all met new friends as we explored the Danube River together. I will share much more detail about this tour on an upcoming podcast. Follow me on FB, Instagram and YouTube to see our upcoming tours and more.

While it’s wonderful to be out there traveling again, there’s no place like home. Despite our flaws and imperfections, we live in the best country on earth. As we celebrated July 4th, 2022, we gave thanks like the villagers of Oberammergau for dwindling covid and the many blessings we have. Let’s always remember our military, our local protectors and medical responders who serve us. Remember those who died for our freedom. Lay flowers at a serviceman’s grave, proudly fly our flags, fire up our grills, eat a lot of watermelon, light those fireworks and proudly celebrate the United States of America.

Hope you had a happy 4th of July America!

Thanks for Travelin’ with JoDell.