Medieval Sayings

It looks like our trip is coming to an end.  We hope you had a fabulous time traveling along with us on the Viking River Cruises Grand European Tour.  We saw many amazing places, learned a lot of history, and always have a greater appreciation for the planet that God made, and the grand variety of people and places on it.  

What a great place to end our trip in the beautiful city from the medieval times.  I leave you with this beautiful  shot of the Old Town Square of Prague, where the buildings are hundreds of years old. 

 Along the way, our tour guide shared some funny little anecdotes about some popular sayings we have in English, which apparently come from these medieval times.

–  Water was thought to spread germs and diseases which is why Europeans did not bathe very often. They took a bath once a year, which usually occurred in May.  June brides came from the fact that many weddings occurred in June, while everybody was fairly fresh from their annual May bath. The tradition of brides carrying flowers was a way to hide any unpleasant body odors as it got later in the year. 

–  Roofs were often covered with straw, and the animals would sleep on top of them because it was warm.  When it rained, the roof became very slippery and they would slide off.  That is the source of “it’s raining cats and dogs.”

–  When the annual bath time came around, water was brought into the house, heated, and the tub was filled.  The same water was used first by the man of the house (The Lorde), the other men, the lady of the house, the other women, the children, and then the babies. By the time it got to the babies, the water was so dirty and black, you could hardly find the babies in the water, the source of “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. ”

–  There was a short period of time where they reused coffins. Upon opening them, they discovered that they accidently buried people who were still alive, evidenced by scratch marks on the interior of the lids.  They decided to tie a string on the departed, which was attached to a bell for a few days before burial.  If the person was indeed still alive, the bell would ring when he awoke, thus the saying “saved by the bell,” and if the bell never rung, he would be a “dead ringer.”

The booze in those days must have been very powerful because often, people would fall down and collapse in the streets.  Others did not know if they were dead or not.  They would put the unconscious on a wagon, carry them into the center of town, and lay them on a platform to see if they would wake.  Hopefully, they would awaken. From this we get the sayings “falling off the wagon”, and the tradition of observing the dearly departed in a wake before a funeral.  

–  The aristocrats were among those who really did not want to bathe, fearing death from diseases.  Their saying was, ” I take a bath once a year, whether I need it or not.”  When they came to visit at each other’s castles, there was a vent into the guest bedrooms where the servants would put bottles of perfume which would fill the air with a pleasant scent to cover the odor of the guests, which is where we get the saying “filthy rich” or “stinking rich.”

Who knows whether these are true or not, but they are certainly humorous.  

We hope to see you again soon when we take our next journey!!  

  

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Prague

The history of Prague goes back 1,100 years.  Like many of these cities we have visited,  this capital city was the seat of two Holy Roman Emperors and was an important city to the Hapsburgs of Austria. In the 1800s, Prague was primarily German speaking, but by the 1900s, an influx of Czechs from neighboring areas caused a switch to the Czech language.  Hitler invaded during WWII, attempting to reclaim this former German area. Two days before Germany surrendered, the Soviets came in and liberated the city, and controlled them until 1989.  

The Czech Republic was dominated by Christianity in the first half of the 20 century, but now, 10% are Roman Catholic, 10% are other religions, and the other 80% are no religion. A lot of this has to do with being under Soviet rule for more than forty years where religion was outlawed.  Regardless of this fact, the Old Town has over 60 churches.   

Its rich history makes it a popular tourist destination, and the city receives more than 4.4 million international visitors annually.   Prague ranked fifth in the world list of best destinations.  Prague is the fifth most visited European city after London, Paris, Istanbul and Rome, and after seeing this city, I can certainly understand why.   The historical old town because a UNESCO World heritage site in 1992.  This is one of the most well maintained medieval towns in the world.  Everywhere you turn, is a photo opportunity!  

This is the powder tower where gunpowder was stored.  Now it stands as the entrance to the Old Town.   

The Powder Tower
  
Old Town Square
 
Shopping & Dining in Old Town

The Prague astronomical clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working.  Every hour, the clock becomes animated for thirty seconds. 

Astronomical Clock
St. Charles Bridge and Prague from the water

Budapest

We cruised along the Danube into the city of Budapest at 10pm.   We didn’t know what to expect, but our tour guide told us it was a must to get up to the sun deck to see the city as we approached at night.  Off in the distance, the golden glow of the lit buildings began to shine in the darkness, glowing brighter with each passing minute. 
Except for the gentle hum of the boat engine, all you could hear was a quiet, audible gasp from each person, awestruck by the beauty of this magnificent city as we sailed under the ten bridges…the only sound was the clicking of camera shutters from every direction.  The sound of the tour guide’s voice slowly came back into focus in the background of our minds as we realized our focus had been elsewhere.  No camera can catch the splendor  of our entrance into this stunning city.  No photo can relay the gigantic scale of these buildings as we floated by.  It was as if every building had been dipped in liquid gold….Breathtakingly beautiful!  

The House of Parliment took 1000 workers 19 years to build.  It was completed in nineteen years, finished in 1904. 

House of Parliment
Buda Castle is the historical palace complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest, and was first completed in 1265.  

Buda Castle
Built in 1849, the Chain Bridge was the first permanent bridge linking Buda and Pest together.   That’s Matthias Church in the background. 
Chain Bridge
  

Budapest is really two cities,  Buda is the hilly side is intersected by the Danube with Pest,  on the flat side.  The city has a has a long history, going back 2000 years.  20% of the Hungarians live in this Capitol city, with a population of almost two million.  

Budapest has a tumultuous past of changing hands by several countries that have conquered its borders, losing as much as one third of their land and population to other countries. They were occupied by Nazi Germany during WWII, losing all of their bridges and causing large spread damage to their buildings during the war. Soviets occupied after the war, with a resulting Hungarian revolt in 1956 to finally allow them to be out from under the Communist leadership.  The city also had a very large Jewish population, with the third largest synagogue in the world located here. 

Matthias Church was built for the first King of Hungary. It had been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times.  It is one of the oldest medieval churches in Buda, having been the coronation location for many Hungarian Kings. With its diamond patterned roof, and interior painted walls, it was highly controversial for its time.  

Matthias Church
  
Interior, Matthias Church

 You can’t leave Budapest without picking up some Hungarian paprika, a spice that they are well known for, and here, there are several kinds. I bought smoked, sweet, and hot and can’t wait to make some Hungarian goulash with it.  

Hungarian Paprika
The architecture here is so  unique and beautiful, I would just want to put dozens of photos of buildings with intricate trimming and moldings.  It’s one of those places that you just have to put on your list of cities to visit.  We wish we had a few more days here.  There is so much more to see.  By the way, if you come, check the weather.  It’s 90 degrees here today. Whew!!   

  

Details, National Museum of Art
 
 
Beautiful Buildings in Budapest
  

 Vienna

Vienna is the Capitol city of Austria, the seventh largest city in Europe, with a population of 1.7 million.  How exciting to be in a big city after all these little towns and villages!   

Appointed by the Holy Roman Emperor, the first Hapsburg rose to power in 1276. they ruled over Austria for over 700 years.  The last Hapsburg to rule was the only female, Maria Theresia, who had 16 children, the last of the, being Marie Antoinette, who eventually married the King of France. 

The Hofburg Palace was first built in 1279 and has been expanded over the centuries. It took so many years to complete, that the various sections of the palace are in completely different architectural designs. Formerly to house the most important monarchs of Austria, part of the palace is the official residence and workplace for the current Austrian President, while various residences for the Royal all over the city have now been converted to various museums, chapels, and libraries.   

Hofburg Palace, the newest part
  
The National Gallery of Fine Art
 

Inside the palace walls are still the horse stables of breeding and training grounds for the Royal Lipizzans. Founded in the 16th century for the exclusive use of the Hapsburg Royal family of Austria, the Royal Lipizzans are unquestionably the rarest, most aristocratic breed of horses in the world. The pride of the Hapsburg Empire, the Lipizzan breed tradition still lives on today with shows around the world.  

The central of town was a beehive of activity, and central among all was St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese and the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna.  It is the  most important religious building in the city.  With its multi-coloured tile roof,  and Gothic spirals that reach high into the sky, it is one of the city’s most recognizable symbols.  

 

St. Stephen’s Church
  

Interior, St. Stephen’s Church
 The Belevedere Musuem was the former official art  gallery for the Monarchs, but now It is for the public and holds the largest collection of Austrian Gustav Klimt’s paintings in the world. During the Nazi occupation of Austria, many of Klimt’s paintings were stolen, hidden, or vanished during the war.  Some of his paintings were destroyed because they thought they were too sexually suggestive and obscene. Thank goodness there are still photos of those amazing paintings.  This is my first viewing of Klimt originals and they are indeed beautiful. 

The Belevedere Museum

Gustav Klimt Paintings
 
Notably missing from the Belevedere Museum is the “Portrait of Adele” (above, lower right).  If you haven’t seen the movie yet, go see “The Woman in Gold,” the true story of what happened to this painting that used to hang  in the Belvedere Museum, that sold for $130 million dollars.  

 Just as Paris was the center for Impressionish painting, Vienna is the city of music, mostly because of the patronage of the Hapsburgs.  with many famous musical prodigies coming from this part of the world…Johann Strauss, Beethoven, Mozart, Franz Liszt, Hadyn, and Brahms to name a few, mostly Also from Vienna was Signumd Freud, the neurologist who became known as the father of psychoanalysis. 

For our night in Vienna, we went to the Hapsburg Palace to listen to the Vienna Hofburg Orchestra play Mozart and Strauss music in one of the ballrooms.  As the music filled the air, and the singers voices radiated out, I could picture all of the people from the paintings I had seen earlier in the week floating down the hallways of this grand palace…women dressed in elaborate, gold embroidered lace corsets with flowing yards of fabric dresses, and men in ruffled shirts, buttoned cuffs, and jackets embellished with metallic ribbons.  It all seemed to fit together.  

We just scratched the surface of Vienna.  This is indeed a beautiful city with so much to see and do.  It’s difficult to photograph because everything is gigantic in scale.  It takes a minimum of four days to see the basics here…definitely worthy of a longer, return visit to this amazing city.  

Melk 

Melk is a little village with an old town that’s only about two blocks long.  It’s main business is tourism with the jewel in their crown being the Melk Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery,  at the top of the mountain.  This magnificent palace was built in 1702, in an elaborate Baroque style with marble sculptures and frescoes walls adorning the interior.  

Melk Abbey
 

With its symmetrical look,  there are over 500 rooms and over 1800 windows.  Renovations of the windows is an ongoing process…it takes 28 years to get to all of the windows, and then it’s time to start all over again.    

Entrance to the Courtyard
  

Faux painted spiral staircase

 The Abbey became a monastic school, one of the most important institutions of higher learning from the early ages until the 12th century.  Benedictine monks were not allowed worldly possessions, so preservation and collection of sacred texts in their libraries became extremely important. They became renowned for their extensive manuscript collection. The monastery’s scriptorium was also a major site for the production of manuscripts.  There are twelve libraries in the monastery and over 100,000 volumes of hand calligraphied manuscripts.  

The sacred library

Walking into the library was like walking into an Indiana Jones movie set.  You could see the shine reflect off the gold-guilded edges of the book bindings.  It was almost blinding as it shined from every direction of the room.  You could smell the old, musty aroma of 600 years of manuscripts in the room, and you could sense an eerie, cool, quietness of the spirits of the past filling the dimly lit room.  It was definitely other worldly.  The manuscripts were also all written in perfect colored pen and ink calligraphy as if printed by computer, each a beautiful piece of art in their own right.   

The most sacred place in the monastery, of course, is the chapel.  

The altar of the chapel

Although the Benedictine monks numbered in the thousands, today there are only 30 living in this Abbey today. There are openings if any of you are interested…

Passau

Passau is known as the City of Three Rivers because of its location on the Danube as it intersects with the Inn and IIz Rivers.  The Holy Roman Empire was not centered in Rome, but actually in the Kingdom Of Germany, with many districts under the supervision of a bishop, with Prince Bishops becoming the ultimate ruler of each diocese.   

In 1219, Ulrich II, the first prince-bishop of Passau, built a fortress at the top of the hill to express the military strength of the bishop, his status as an elector of the Holy Roman Empire, and to protect against both external and internal enemies.  Over time, the fortress was renovated and extended.  The inscription on the side of the building refers to the year of one of those renovations.  In those days, the figure that looks like a Christian fish symbol, or half of an 8, represented exactly that, which would make that date 1499.  The fortress is now a museum and restaurant with an excellent view of Passau from above.  

Fortress of the prince-bishop

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a beautiful baroque church, who’s building began in 1688.  It was the seat of the Catholic Bishop of Passau and the main church of his area.  It’s always amazing to see the simplicity of the exterior and the grandeur of what is inside.  

                                     

  St. Stephen’s has the largest cathedral organ in the world. The organ has 17,774 pipes and 233 registers, all of which can be played with the five-manual general console in the gallery. We were going to hear an organ concert in the church this afternoon, but due to a thunderstorm, our ship was delayed by two hours, and we ran out of time. Darn it! Can you imagine what that would have sounded like resonating thru the acoustics of this gorgeous church?    

Largest organ in the world
Old Town Hall

  The old town hall near the river is charming and beautiful with its exterior paintings, and clock belltower, but unfortunately, it is located in a precarious location. Due to the the joining of three rivers, Passau has been flooded many times, and there were markings on the town hall wall showing water levels during past floods, the last one as recent as 2013! We heard today that some elderly people refused to leave their houses during the floods, and the local firemen would row down the alleyways in boats to pass food to the dwellers to sustain them until the flood receded. I am oh so happy not to live in this town where the entire lower section was under More than 20 feet of water!!   

Check out the water level in 2013!
 
This is our last stop in Germany so we had lunch at on one last pub to get a few things that Germany has been famous for… some great bratwurst and beer, sauerkraut, and roast pork and dumplings.  The one thing that we kept seeing people eating,  but hadn’t tried was the pig’s knuckle. This being our last chance, we ordered it, and wow – was it ever good!!!!!   
Donna, having pig’s knuckle!
 

Pauline Father’s Monastery 

Regensburg

Regensburg is one of the towns that was spared during WWII and received very little damage, with its medieval town nearly intact. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the city’s status as a cultural center of the Middle Ages.   It was a city of many churches and people who fluctuated between the Catholic and Protestant faith with many churches to reflect that.  It was a bit of a tough day for our two and a half hour walking tour because it was 92 degrees today!! Whew!!  

Regensburg
 

St. Emmeram’s is a beautiful monastery built in 739. 

Beautiful church interior in Baroque style
Stone crypt markers in the church courtyard

Regensburg Cathedral
 
Original architecture still stands

Regensburg on the Danube River
  

Nuremberg

The name of this city probably conjures up all kinds of images of goose-stepping Nazis, fanatical party rallies, and the beginning of the expulsion of the Jews from businesses, and you would be absolutely right.  Nuremberg is the second largest city in Bavaria, and because of its central location in the state, its proximity to the Holy Roman Empire, and the major support from the city council which gave the Nazis a large amount of land, it became the center for the Nazis to hold their propaganda rallies.  After Hitler came to power in 1933, he held week long rallies from 1933-1938 to promote his military extravaganzas.  This brought hundreds of thousands of people to Nürmberg, “the most German of German cities.”   

Nuremberg market plaza, during a rally
  
The same street today
 
The English RAF first bombed Nuremberg, followed later with the addition of the U.S. Army Air Force, leveling 90 % of the medieval town to the ground in less than one hour during WWII.  Despite this intense degree of destruction, the city was rebuilt after the war and was to some extent, restored to its pre-war appearance including the reconstruction of some of its medieval buildings.  However, the biggest part of the historic structural condition of the old city was lost forever, replaced by less ornate and simplified construction.  War is such a shame for so many reasons…Nuremberg was so charming and delightful before the bombs…

Nuremberg, before WWII
  
Simple rebuilding after the war
 

The Kongresshalle was built, modeled after the Roman Coliseum and was designed to seat 50,000 during the Nazi rallies.  It was never completed before the war broke out.   It’s one of the few buildings that remains from the Third Reich. It is now a museum.  The rally grounds are used for outdoor events, like today’s rock concert, where they expect 70,000 people to attend.  

Kongresshalle

The reason that the Nuremberg trials were held in Nuremberg was because there was a prison directly behind the courthouse that were all still standing after the war.  With such top military prisoners on trial, they did not want to risk any problems with transporting them.  Twenty-three were on trial, with no jury, and only judges from England, France, and the U.S.       

On a lighter note, there are some truly beautiful sights in Nuremberg.  St. Sebald is a beautiful medieval church, completed in 1275.  It was damaged greatly during the war, but many of the amazing  pieces of art were saved by taking them into the basement during the war.  

 

St. Sebald Church
 

St. Sebald, after WWII
Nuremberg also has a beautiful town square, with an open air fruits and vegetables market that operates daily beneath a gloskenspiel clocktower. Every day at noon, the figures at the top all become animated and put on a show, and for those four minutes, all activity in the plaza stops to watch and listen to the church bells chime while the figures dance to the music.    

Bamberg

Bamberg is one of the few German towns that was not destroyed during WWII.  In 1993, the Old Town was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, primarily because of its authentic medieval appearance. There are over 2000 buildings are in the Baroque and Romanesque styles, and by law, must be architecturally maintained in their original design.  It’s another adorably cute town of charming shops, great eateries, and local pubs.

Old Town, Bamberg

 

The City Hall is beautiful, flanked on both sides by bridges, crossing over the river.

City Hall

 

Little Venice – houses on the river

 

The Bamberg Cathedral was completed in the 13th century. The cathedral is under the administration of the Roman Catholic Church and is the seat of the Archbishop of Bamberg.  In 1007, Emperor Henreich II made Bamberg the center of the Holy Roman Empire and capital of his reign. He wanted Bamberg to become the second Rome.  As the Catholics moved towards the Protestant religion, thus failing to pay taxes to the Catholic government, the Pope made a declaration that non-Catholics would be excommunicated from Bamberg.  Many then converted back to the Catholic faith.  Today it is 60/40 Catholics/Protestants, for the most part.

Bamberg Cathedral

 

Home of the Archbishop

Bamberg is known for their famous raunchbier, which means “smoke beer.”  The grain was smoked over open fires, picking up a smoky flavor, smelling and tasting of a BBQ.  Our tour guide said you would eithe love it or hate it, but when in Bamberg, you have to try it.  The verdict…?  One yay…one nay…

Würzburg

Our ship docked this morning directly opposite this spectacular castle on the hill.   Long ago, the Catholic church gathered many bishops together, and they would vote for one who would become the prince-bishop who would rule over this part of Germany.  This medieval castle was the residence of the prince-bishops for hundreds of years.    

In 1720, the prince bishop decided to build another residence, which took 24 years to compete.  If this last castle was anything like the others we saw, I certainly can see why they wanted one a little more updated with some modern conveniences.   Here is the new residences and palace.  

 The walls were just amazing in that they were stucco painted to look like marble. Actual marble would have been less expensive, but the workmanship on the ceilings, and walls were so exquisitely done that the entire castle was  a marvel to behold, each room more unique and beautiful than the next.  Today it is a museum, and used in part by the local university. 

 The only puzzle was, can you believe, out of 64 rooms, not a single bathroom in the entire place!?  After all, the aristocrats of the time only took a bath once a year, whether they needed it or not.  

It’s difficult to escape the discussion of WWII and the effects it had on these towns we are visiting, since many of them suffered major damage at that time.  Würzburg was 90% destroyed towards the end of the war, so it’s architecture is a mix of old and new.  Luckily, much of the contents of the palace was hidden in the basement during the war, and much of it was salvaged.  

 

Würzburg, after WWII
 Today, the city is charming and quaint with a beautiful clock tower, town church, and central marketplace filled with wonderful places to eat and drink.  Our favorite food was the roast pork with gravy and potato pancakes.  Yum!  

On the Würzburg Bridge

The farmers markets were filled with another local favorite…white asparagus!  It looked so fantastic and fresh, that Chuck wondered if the chef would make it special for us, if we brought some back to the boat. 

White asparagus…a local favorite!

There is absolutely nothing better than white asparagus with boiled potatoes, and hollandaise sauce.  Get it now…after June 22, it will all be gone until next year.  

Chuck with his yummy asparagus!