Three Things Thursday

It’s time once again for Three Things Thursday, the purpose of which is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.”

Trip Summary

We arrived back home from our European Viking River Cruise on Monday and are recuperating from the cold we both brought back and the jet lag.

Here are three memorable icons from the trip.

1. Ice Cream

The preferred form of ice cream on our travels was Italian gelato. We saw these sidewalk enticements everywhere we went.

ice cream

2. Towel Art

We found this in our stateroom one afternoon near the end of the voyage.

towel art

3. Getting Off the Plane

This is what we felt like after the 10-hour flight home.

armor

Three Things Thursday

It’s time again for Three Things Thursday, the purpose of which is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.”

Psychology of Baroque Art and Architecture

I never took an art appreciation course in college. Over the years I picked up on the fact that Baroque art and architecture are heavily ornate and complex, but on this trip through the heart of Europe I learned why.

The lovely Baroque churches of Europe were created to demonstrate visually for a mostly illiterate populace the grandeur of God and His heaven.

(Click on images to see a larger version.)

1. Ceiling of Benedictine Abbey Church, Melk, Austria

Our tour guide at Melk’s Benedictine Abbey explained that the church was built as an audience for God. The ceiling presents a portrait of the beauty of God’s Heaven.

Ceiling, Benedictine Abbey, Melk, Austria
Ceiling, Benedictine Abbey, Melk, Austria

2. The Pillars in St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Passau, Germany

The bottoms of the church’s pillars are ordinary, unadorned, to demonstrate the plainness of everyday existence on earth.

St. Stephan's Cathedral, Passau, Germany
St. Stephan’s Cathedral, Passau, Germany

3. Top of Pillars and Ceiling, St. Stephen’s Cathedral

The bottoms of the pillars suggest the drabness of human existence on earth, but as congregants look upward, they see the beauty and grandeur of Heaven in the gilt and ornamentation higher up. This use of decoration served to remind people that Heaven is better than earth and that they should follow the church’s teachings if they wanted to end up in Heaven.

Ceiling, St. Stephan's Cathedral, Passau, Germany
Ceiling, St. Stephan’s Cathedral, Passau, Germany

Three Things Thursday

Another week, another entry for Three Things Thursday, the purpose of which is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.”

Three Approaches to Travel

My husband and I have just begun a two-week Viking River Cruise through Europe. Since coming on board we have encountered people who exhibit three different approaches to travel.

1. Travel as Conspicuous Consumption

We met one woman, B., who said this is their fourth cruise this year. And when we disembark in Amsterdam, she and her husband will be staying there for four days before flying to some other city to pick up their next cruise. (I wonder how, where, and when she does laundry.)

When I asked if she had any advice for us less experienced travelers, she answered without any hesitation, “Get a suite.”

2. Travel as Opportunity for Self-Aggrandizement

There’s at least one couple like this in every crowd. The second night at dinner a woman came over to me at the dinner table, leaned down and put her face right next to mine, stuck out her hand, and said, “Hi, I’m S.” She then pointed out her husband, B. They both immediately began talking quite loudly about what they do and where they’re from. They overwhelmed everyone else at the table. These are the people who always have to have the last word: the best story, the funniest joke.

And of course they know everything about everything. After we had toured a Benedictine Abbey in Melk, Austria, that was built in the 16th century, B. sat across the aisle from me on the return bus ride. Here’s what he said to the person sitting next to him:

That was really something. Five-hundred years ago, when they were building this abbey, American Indians were still digging arrowheads out of the dirt. And in Africa they didn’t even have language yet. But look at what these Europeans were doing.

I swear I am not making this up.

3. Travel as Learning Opportunity

Fortunately we met many more of this variety of traveler than of the previous two. There was D., whose mother was an immigrant to the United States. He talked about how traveling in Europe was giving him insight into how his mother thought and why she was such a staunch supporter of the U.S. There was B. and another B., who both talked of how the 60 pairs of iron shoes along the riverwalk in Budapest, a tribute to the 60 Jews who were shot into the Danube River near the end of World War II, had moved them to tears.

The boat’s dining room was open seating, and these were the people we sought out during meals. I learned a lot on this trip, not only by seeing things for myself but also by talking with other people who were eager to discuss what they were learning as well.

Viking River Cruise: Grand European Tour

If you’ve watched Downton Abbey or any other Masterpiece! presentation, you’ve seen the commercials showing Viking’s longships cruising the world’s rivers.

My husband F. and I are setting out on the Viking River Cruises Grand European Tour. We had a 10-hour direct Delta flight from Sea-Tac (Seattle-Tacoma) International Airport to Amsterdam. After a layover of just under two hours in Amsterdam, we caught a one hour and 40 minute flight to Budapest, where we were met by representatives from Viking and taken to our ship, Vidar. We left Sea-Tac in the early afternoon of May 31 and arrived in Europe in the early afternoon of June 1.

Map of Viking River Cruises: Grand European Tour
Viking River Cruises: Grand European Tour

Neither F. nor I was able to sleep at all on the plane, so we were pretty exhausted by the time we arrived on board. Fortunately, our stateroom was ready as soon as we arrived. The ship’s personnel urged us to use our free time until dinner to walk around Budapest on our own, but we opted to take a nap instead. At dinner we discovered that just about everyone we talked to had done the same. We had no trouble falling right back to sleep after dinner.

This morning we had a tour of Budapest. We had a local Hungarian guide, who told us that the Hungarian pronunciation is Budapesht. The city comprises two formerly separate cities, Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube River. Buda is the older city, high on a hill, while the newer Pest is on lower ground across the river.

Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest
Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest
Ceramic tile roof on Matthias Church, Budapest
Ceramic tile roof on Matthias Church, Budapest
Portion of Heroes' Square, Budapest
Portion of Heroes’ Square, Budapest

Hungary is famous for its paprika. The capsicum pepper plant used to make this popular seasoning was introduced to Hungary by the Turks in the 16th century. The spice’s pungency ranges from sweet to very hot. The brighter red the paprika, the hotter the spice. We made sure that the tins we bought to bring home were labeled “mild.”

Peppers used to make paprika
Peppers used to make paprika