Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cruising the Danube: Geriatric Style!

What a whirlwind the past month has been!  Back in May, Tom and I decided to go on a river cruise up the Danube from Budapest, Hungary to Nuremberg, Germany, stopping at Christmas Markets along the way.  Having never experienced Europe before moving here, I wasn't ready for the level of dedication that the Bavaria has for Christmas.  The cities along the Danube filled their squares with stalls selling hand crafted decorations, candles, and all sorts of nick-nacks that you didn't realize you couldn't live without.  But then they also sold sweet heavenly food!!  The sausages in Nuremberg were probably the most delicious, the gluhwein (hot spiced wine) of Regensburg the most appreciated in the 4" of snow, and the laughter of children in Passau, the most heartwarming!

Once aboard our Viking River Cruise, the Freya was our ship, we started to thaw.  Amid the sea of blue/white hair, we stood out.  Being neither an AARP member nor collecting Social Security, we brought the median age down from around 72 to probably 65.  Thankfully, we also brought the median income down significantly!  We cruised each night, going through cute little river towns, waterfront castles of old, and the idyllic life of Germany and Austria.  Passau, Germany was my favorite of all of our stops.  Where time seemed to fade away and the decor of each corner seemed more darling and thoughtful than the last.

But what made the whole trip worth while, what made the countless stories about other people's children ("I have a daughter about your age.  [Insert 30 minute story about said daughter as Tom and I smile and nod, drinking quietly but heavily]") and their really amazing travel experiences ("How do we live in Europe and are way less traveled than these people??  For shame!"), we met our new besties.  Rex and Verne, two amazing gents from LA, had enough Kardashian stories to satiate even my celebrity gossip palate!  And, interestingly enough, news that the Kardashians are avid Costco customers.  Who knew???  They were incredibly kind, incredibly open, and above all, hilarious!  And then there was Libby and Jesse, fellow ex-pats living in Japan, traveled 27 grueling hours to putz around Europe.  They were the most darling couple, full of smiles and giggles, equally embarrassing stories about being a stranger in a strange land.  Libby and I had so much in common, so many similar ridiculous quirks, that there was never a shortage of "Tell them about that time that you...." which inevitably left us all close to tears.

When we all parted ways, I heaved a heavy sigh of disappointment.  Back to our cold Italian apartment, leaving behind the mini-America of life on board this cruise ship, where people brought me wine day and night, made me delicious meals, and my biggest concern was making sure that I didn't get left behind in some tiny town along the Danube!  After 11 days of traveling, it's back to work and the grindstone but I'll carry those snowy days and laughter-filled nights with me for so very many years to come. 

Ciao for now!