Saturday, May 14, 2011

After Sam

This has been a traumatic week here in Naruna.  Sam the Beagle, the full-time goodwill ambassador for Naruna, and also the unofficial greeter at Naruna Baptist Church whenever the doors were open, unexpectedly passed away this week from unknown causes.  He spent his days making his rounds, then sprawling either on the porch or under a tree and waiting for someone to come and visit. 
The Flying Beagle
It mattered not to Sam whether he was the intended focus of your visit, only that you stopped by.  Anyone who pulled in at the little church or cemetery across the road from his house soon found they had an escort on their errand.  Sam was a good dog and ever attentive companion who only wanted to make everyone feel welcomed and loved. 
Sam & Santa BoBo

Baby Sam
 Life continues even in the face of grief and loss.  It is not easy to accept and adjust to the loss of any friend, but we have to move on. This has been hardest on my Lovely Bride who picked Sam out from amongst his litter mates, brought him home, and raised and nurtured him for the 5 years he was with us.  But also affected are the other 4-legged residents of Naruna. 

Sam & Ruby Jean

Ruby Jean was only a puppy when she came to live with us and Sam was the big brother who looked out for her & taught her the ropes, including tips on herding uncooperative cows. 

Rosie the Lab had lost her own puppy in an accident when Sam came into her life, ably filling that void. 

Sam & Rosie

 Tizzie the grey tabby quickly let the young beagle know what his boundaries were, and then settled into a, more or less, peaceful coexistence. 
Sam & Tizzie
Fred the kitten only arrived a week or so before Sam’s demise, but still acts as though he knows something is not right. 
Ruby Jean - Freddie - Sam

 We are all very tentative moving through the days, moping about and sneaking sideways glances as if in hopes Sam will somehow appear.

We’ll miss you, Sam.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ending a Christmas April!

Salzburg Market
Spending too much time on social networking sites can be an impediment to actual communication.  I realized this when I looked over my blog and was startled to find I left our Christmas trip down the Danube dangling unfinished more than four months after finishing the trip itself.  Too much Facebook time!  Back to work.    
One of the Salzburg markets

Salzburg castle
Our "Christmas Markets Along the Danube" river cruise was our first cruise as well as our first organized tour of any sort.  Grand Circle Tours was the tour company, and we had heard good things about them from family and friends who had taken their cruises and land excursions in many different parts of the world.  Our itinerary was Nurnberg to Vienna on the MS River Concerto in early December 2010, and we added a 4 day pre-trip in Munich so we could see more of Germany and allow a little time to deal with jet-lag.  It also gave us the chance to become acquainted with our program director, Jutta, and several of our fellow travelers.   
The Abbey at Melk
Weather presented us with some challenges, even before we arrived in Germany.  Flights were delayed or rescheduled and we were beginning to wonder about the wisdom of trying to travel to Europe in the winter.  Once we arrived in Munich and Jutta took charge, we put our worries behind us.  The Munich part of our trip went perfectly, and the optional trip to Neuschwanstein was everything we had hoped for.  My wife and I have since agreed the brief time we spent that day in Oberammergau, walking the quiet streets and the rustic Christkindlmarkt, was the high point of the entire trip for us. 
Linz Christmas Market
As we came closer to joining the ship for the actual cruise, it became clear that our trip was not progressing according to the original plan.  The early rains and lots of snow continued to cause the river to rise, making it impossible for the Concerto to reach Nurnberg.  Jutta was in constant contact with the ship, and even though there were many changes in our itinerary to cope with weather related problems, we didn't miss anything which had been planned.  More time was spent on buses than we liked, but we also found we were seeing more of the German towns and countryside than if we had simply sailed down the river. 

Metal ornaments - only in Linz.
Once aboard the Concerto, we quickly fell into a routine and the Captain and crew took extremely good care of us, welcoming us back from each shore excursion with warm cider and hot towels.  The Chef and kitchen staff outdid themselves and I wondered if I would ever be hungry again.  Our trip down the Danube through Austria went smoothly.  Linz and Melk slipped past much too quickly and we found ourselves wishing we had signed up for the Vienna post-trip extension.
Last stop - Vienna
Very little of our trip wasn't affected by the weather.  Many plans were changed, adjustments made, times altered.  All without sacrificing any part of the trip.  As we left the ship in the early morning hours to go to the Vienna Airport, we kept chuckling to ourselves as we remembered Jutta’s oft repeated words…”Anyone can take a Christmas trip, you get to have a Christmas Adventure!”  
Vienna market

The Wiener Rathaus
So now the question is raised, should we take another organized cruise/trip?  Or do as we did before and strike out on our own?  Mike and I discussed this as the cruise was winding down, and we both agreed it was very nice having someone else doing the planning and handling the logistics, especially when plans have to be altered because of weather, etc.  But it would be nice to have more flexibility to allow for more time when a really interesting town is discovered, or a special museum is missed because it isn't open until the next day.  Or just really not feeling like doing much of anything except rest for a day to recuperate.  No decisions yet, but I'm looking at a GCT tour of Tuscany and the Amalfi coast which sounds really interesting.  But then I've always wanted to spend a couple of weeks in the north of Spain wandering along the old pilgrims' path to Santiago.  Decisions...decisions.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Passau - A City of Three Rivers

Passau was to be our last German city before crossing into Austria.  It was also the first we were able to explore by walking from our docked ship, giving us a little more time for poking around instead of riding buses.

Passau is known as the City of Three Rivers, where the Danube is joined by the Inn river from the south and the Ilz from the north.  Our mooring site there was on the tip of the peninsula between the Danube and the Inn, with the mouth of the Ilz just across the river.  It is said this is where the Danube became known as the "Blue" Danube, because of the color of its water where it joins the "green" Inn and the "black" Ilz.  Riding along at water level, none of it looked particularly colorful - just varying shades of brown.

As we explored the Old Town, or Altstadt, the importance of the rivers became clear.  Just walking across the gangway to dry land gave us a glimpse of some of the local fishermen, including this one placing his catch into a fish trap. 

Continuing into town, my eye was caught by a street sign affixed above head height to a building announcing we were in Brewery Alley.  I then noticed above it a white stone marker which my wife translated to me as being a high water marker.  Living at the confluence of three rivers means having to head for higher ground occasionally!

Of course, our stated purpose in visiting Germany & Austria was to see Christmas Markets.  In Passau, the markets tended to be smaller and scattered throughout the old downtown area. 

Very low key compared to the more metropolitan venues found in Munich and Nurnberg. 

Nice place to slowly wander about while enjoying another warming beverage.

Having a little more free time meant we were also able to seek out an actual restaurant, rather than enjoying more market food.  In Passau, our choice was a well-recommended place named the Bayerischer Lowe.  Some delicious, upscale Bavarian cuisine gave us a welcome break from our regular diet of wurst and sweets.

 An advantage of meandering without a guide, is you get lost and find things you weren't looking for.  This was just the case when we stumbled upon a small shop on an extremely steep and icy street as we were headed back to the ship.  The shop was named "Dies und Das" or "This and That", and it lived up to its name by having an eclectic collection of wares which defied easy categorization.  The proprietor was glad to have someone make the effort to come into his out of the way place, and my Lovely Bride obligingly made more purchases there than anywhere else on the trip.

Next, back to the ship to prepare for our first daylight cruising on the Danube.

My Review of Teva Riva eVent Shoes - Men's

Originally submitted at REI

Featuring awesome eVent® waterproof protection, excellent support and fit, Teva Riva shoes take you from town to trailhead and beyond without missing a step.

Great Winter Shoes

By Dave from Naruna from Texas Hill Country on 2/4/2011


5out of 5

Sizing: Feels full size too small

Pros: Comfortable, Breathes Well, Waterproof, Lightweight

Best Uses: Cold Weather, Casual Wear, Travel

Describe Yourself: Comfort Driven

I bought these shoes for a trip to Germany just before Christmas. I didn't want a full on boot, but needed something lightweight, waterproof and with good traction. Record snowfalls and many forced changes in plans had us doing much more walking than expected, but these shoes were superb. Never any trouble with traction in snow and ice, and always dry. Be sure to try these on before buying, as I had to move up from my usual size 12 to a 13, but they were super comfortable.


Sunday, January 9, 2011


When we first discussed the idea of taking a trip through Germany and Austria for the purpose of visiting as many Christmas markets as possible, I couldn't help but wonder if I might not become tired of non-stop shopping opportunities. As we meandered from town to town, even though the markets displayed many similarities, we came to understand each had its own personality and "feel".  Regensberg presented us with a quiet and laid back market scene.  Like many of the towns we visited, there were actually several markets scattered in a variety of platz or squares, so we never knew what we would find just down the street or around the corner.

Temperatures remained in the -6C to -2C range for the entire time we were on our cruise, and we spent the trip layered and bundled in our efforts to stay warm.  That time we spent at home looking for the right combination of base layers, sweaters, vests, and jackets paid off when the snow and sleet followed us through every town and marketplace.  At first we worried we might appear strange in our bulky, insulated attire.  As we learned how to put ourselves together in the most effective way, we decided it was more important to be comfortable than fashionable.

As dusk arrived and we started back across the bridge which had taken us into old town Regensberg, we discovered yet another market nestled against the river.  Sadly, we didn't have time to explore, an experience we had time and again during our trip.  An in-depth exploration would have to wait for our next visit to Germany, an event Mike and I were already starting to discuss. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


One of the buildings where post-war trials of Nazis were held.
One of the places we had looked forward to visiting while on our trip was the city of Nurnberg.  Having one of the oldest and largest Christmas markets in Germany, and being awash in historical tidbits, this city was capable of keeping both my Lovely Bride and I entertained. Our travel plans continued to change unpredictably, so our time there was less than we wanted.  Riding buses from our remote moorings allowed us to see much more of the snow-covered countryside while minimizing shopping and touring time in the cities.  

Nazi Documentation Center. 
Patterned after Roman Coliseum.
Arriving in Nurnberg, we were given a tour of some of the historic areas.  The Zeppelinfeld - where the massive annual Nazi rallies were held as Hitler rose to power in post-Great War Germany and now a venue for concerts and races.  The Nazi Documentation Center was begun to serve as a great indoor hall designed to look like the coliseum in Rome, but trebled in size.  It was never finished, and is now a museum documenting all the Nazis did before and during the war, in addition to housing the Nurnberger Symphony.  As we drew closer to the historic center of the original walled city, we passed by the large complex of courthouses and prisons where judgment was passed on many of those on the losing side.

Nurnberg Christkindl Markt
Die Frauenkirche und ChristKindl Markt
After these sobering reminders of the not too distant past, we fortunately found ourselves in a much more festive setting.  We were dropped off near the Nurnberg Christkindlmarkt, and quickly set to exploring the large downtown square.  The long rows of stalls were covered with snow, with more coming down in occasional flurries, so staying warm was a priority.  The combination of local Nurnberger bratwursts and hot gluhwein did a great job of warming chilly tourists inside and out.  I kept wondering what all this hearty fare was doing to my waistline, but wasn't concerned enough to consider abstaining.

Die Nurnberg Christkindl
One thing the Nurnberg Christkindlmarkt is known for is the selection every two years of a new Christkindl, or Christ Child.  This young lady opens the market each year and spends most of her time visiting market stalls and spreading good cheer to all.  She goes throughout the market, offering blessings, as well as photo ops.  She is a goodwill ambassador, even after her tenure is completed.

The Gluhwein Glow!!
Too soon, it was time to rendezvous with our guide for the return to the MS River Concerto.  After settling into our seats on the bus, we were told of the next change in our plans...because the snow was continuing to fall and the river level was still rising, we were going to move downriver to the city of Passau.  A rather tense two hour ride back to the ship through even heavier snow, followed by another walk along the snow and ice covered path, made us all glad we would be moving early the next morning.