Friday, June 2, 2017

Had a Great Time, Wish You Were There

Miss me? Wondered where I'd gone? Or perhaps you never noticed The Quivering Pen was off the airwaves for the better part of two months (hey, I have no illusions this blog is smaller than a pimple on a gnat's cheek when it comes to the Important Things in Life).

My apologies for the unexplained disappearance of The Quivering Pen whose content dried up in the middle of April. A variety of factors managed to put the blog in a coma:
1.  I got very busy at The Day Job.
2.  My laptop computer died.
3.  I took a trip to Europe.
I couldn't do much about #1, I recently resolved #2 (kisses and hugs to the new MacBook Air), and I'd already sort of planned to be off the grid during #3. But yeah, I could have left a note saying I'd just stepped out and would be back soon.

Content will soon be flowing once again at the Pen, but in the meantime, I thought I'd share some photos I took during the joyous, unplugged two weeks of #3.

Late last week, my wife Jean and I returned from a long float down the Danube, Main, and Rhine Rivers aboard the Viking River Cruises' longship Mimir, traveling from Budapest to Amsterdam. This was only my second visit to Europe. The last time was in 1976 when I took a high-school trip to London, Paris, Rome and Switzerland. I'd never been anywhere near Hungary, Austria, Germany or The Netherlands (a brief layover in a German airport en route to Iraq in 2005 doesn't count). This was going to be the trip of a lifetime--one which I'd promised Jean on our wedding day 33 years ago--and I vowed to soak in as much of the scenery and culture as I could. I hope these photos give you some idea of just how much soaking I did during the 15 days we were abroad.

Since this is a book blog, I'll mention my primary reading material: A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor, first published in 1977 and re-released by New York Review Books in 2005. After doing a hasty, pre-trip Google search for books about the Danube, I discovered this literary gem which had been hiding in plain sight all along. A Time of Gifts is Fermor's travelogue-memoir about his walk from "the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube" in 1933. The eighteen-year-old Fermor left his native England to "set out across Europe like a tramp." Double-check that date and you'll see that his long-walk odyssey came at a particularly volatile time in European history. Some of the most dramatic scenes in the book involve local Germans and their intolerance of the brown-shirts of the Nazi Party who were then on the rise.

I used Fermor's narrative as a sort of antique guidebook in my own journey up the Danube. I should note, however, that Fermor's west-to-east course was the opposite of mine. Plus, he started his walk in the dead of winter. I, on the other hand, had to endure Easy-Bake-Oven temperatures in the high 70s (which sounded great to nearly everyone else aboard the Mimir except this Rocky Mountain Boy). I'll sprinkle some quotes from A Time of Gifts throughout the slide show below.

Bon Voyage!

Budapest at night

Viennese coffeehouse

We headed for a coffee house in the Karntnerstrasse called Fenstergucker. Settling at a corner table by the window near a hanging grove of newspapers on wooden rods, we ordered Eier Im Glass, then hot Brotchen and butter, and delicious coffee smothered in whipped cream.

Somewhere in the Wachau Valley

The footpath along the southern bank was leading me into the heart of the Wachau....Castles beyond counting had been looming along the river. They were perched on dizzier spurs here, more dramatic in decay and more mysteriously cobwebbed with fable.

Pug life in Regensburg



Not high-heel-friendly

Sherwin-Williams should have a paint color called Bamberg Blue

Ivy league

Jean and I both agree Wurzburg was the best burg!

Marksburg Castle

Still Life with Fowl, Marksburg Castle

"Tis but a scratch...I've had worse."
My Monty Python moment



A point like a flat-iron jutted into the river and a plinth on its tip lifted a colossal bronze statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I many yards into the air among the sparrows and gulls.


The Happy Sausage

Fake Wedding: model behavior outside Cologne Cathedral

After a first faraway glimpse, the two famous steeples grew taller and taller as the miles that separated us fell away. At last they commanded the cloudy plain as the spires of a cathedral should, vanishing when the outskirts of the city interposed themselves, and then, as I gazed at the crowding saints of the three Gothic doorways, sailing up into the evening again at close range. Beyond them indoors, although it was already too dark to see the colours of the glass, I knew I was inside the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe.

Cologne Cathedral

#NoFilter: Stained glass inside Cologne Cathedral

On our last day, we visited a cheese farm near Giessenburg, Holland

Blessed are the cheesemakers....

Don Quixote Fever: one of 19 windmills at Kinderdjik, Holland
There were the polders and the dykes and the long willow-bordered canals, the heath and arable and pasture dotted with stationary and expectant cattle, windmills and farms and answering belfries, bare rookeries with their wheeling specks just within earshot and a castle or two, half-concealed among a ruffle of woods.

Not to scale
My spirits, already high, steadily rose as I walked. I could scarcely believe that I was really there; alone, that is, on the move, advancing into Europe, surrounded by all this emptiness and change, with a thousand wonders waiting.

Kinderdjik, Holland: looking ahead at one of the thousand wonders of Europe


  1. What a wonderful trip! I did notice that you were gone...Glad to see you back.

    PS: Those shoes weren't made for walking...

  2. My laptop died during that time period but I didn't go an exciting trip like you did. I am still trying to go to the beach. Maybe I should aim higher?