Departing Budapest at night, we were cruising toward Bratislava, Slovakia. Bratislava is the capital and largest city in Slovakia.
On Friday, October 14, our morning routine had a slower pace to it, as we were not scheduled to dock in Bratislava until 2 p.m.
But, as we approached the city, we were going to be carefully moving through a series of locks all designed to help us navigate the river in an efficient and effective manner.
I’m sorry to disappoint you, but my brain doesn’t have the bandwidth to explain how all this works. Somehow the crew, and the operators of the locks, precisely move the ship in a straight-line as the water levels go up and down as needed.
Trust me, this is an impressive engineering fete, and one that we would encounter several more times on the journey. And while I marvel at the construction and the ingenuity to master the river, my interior voice is nagging me: “we can build this, but we continue to be unable to solve basic human needs all over the world, why?”
At 10:30, we had the opportunity to visit the wheelhouse with Captain Stanislav. Again, lots of technology and engineering, and amazingly all this wizardry works— including the ability to raise and lower the wheelhouse based upon the cruising height needed for approaching bridges.
Next, we had the privilege of attending two presentations. The first one was about Mozart and the Viennese coffeehouses. This was followed by a firsthand account of growing up in Eastern Europe including the experiences of our Program Director talking about living under Communist rule.
Back in 1989, Communist rule came to an end in Czechoslovakia, and four years later, 1993, Slovakia became an independent state.
Hearing the accounts of living under Communist rule, made me as an American think— I should never take my independence and freedom for granted.
After lunch, we connected with our tour guides and loaded on to our designated bus.
On the ride to Bratislava Castle, we saw and learned a lot about the city.
The four corners of the castle are perched on a beautiful hill that overlooks the city. From here the views will catch the eyes of all visitors.
History is all over the building, its statues, and grounds. A part of the grounds showcases a beautiful garden area.
Throughout our cruise and shore excursions our guides remind us about two constants—the Romans and Napoleon. Yes, a long time ago each had an impact in Slovakia.
As we depart the castle, we are driven into another section of the city—Old Town. We spend the remainder of the afternoon walking and exploring here. Shops, statues, fountains, alleys, and the pleasing aesthetics of the older buildings catch our attention.
And just before we walk back to the ship, we stop for drinks at an outdoor cafe.
That evening before dinner, we received a port talk from the Program Director about what to expect when we arrive in Vienna.
And after dinner, we were treated to an evening of Slovakian and Hungarian melodies. This was a mixture of operetta, folklore, and gypsy music.
The performances and the performers were good, and if a person wanted more musical entertainment, our onboard musician, Blondie, was singing and playing piano in the Lounge.
His stage name, Blondie, didn’t make sense. As Blondie was a big man, and no strands of blonde were upon his head.