Europe by boat – Vienna

I think it’s opera. Don’t quote me on that.

This story is part of a series.

Link to part 1

We were able to visit the ship’s wheelhouse on the way to Vienna. It reminded me of the “glass cockpit” of my 767. There were three large screens in front of the guy steering the boat. One looked like a very detailed GPS and the other looked like a ground mapping radar.

I forget what the third one was, but maybe it was a depth sounder. I was told the river was not very deep and there was only a few feet of water under the boat. I know that in the US Navy running aground is a career-ending exercise and I would expect it to be the same in this industry.

I was also told the ship had an autopilot, but all it could do was hold the course.

The entire wheelhouse sits on a lifting mechanism and can be retracted flush with the deck to pass under low decks. Similarly, everything else up top can be lowered flush with the deck.


We had a live vest drill that day, which just involved gathering on deck for about ten minutes while they did a count.

Prepare for the life jacket exercise.

I don’t know what this building is but it was impressive. Looked like it was being renovated (those things need constant maintenance).

Much easier than USAF water survival.

Passage through another lock. I have no idea how they do that. I reach out and touch the wall with one hand here.


I usually got up early because of time zones and such. Plus, years of flying at night destroyed any circadian rhythm I might have once had. Luckily they had a cappuccino maker and pastries for us early risers.

Sunrise on a chilly morning just outside of Vienna.

Moored outside Vienna. Like many European cities, they built modern skyscrapers on the outskirts.

Looking across the Danube. The main part of Vienna is behind us.

Prior to this trip, I had only stopped at Vienna airport and had never seen the city. I found it very impressive. Beautiful, clean, efficient, artistic, historic – all of the above. I probably can’t do it justice here. Go there if you ever get the chance.

It looks like something from the Middle Ages, but it was actually built in the 19th century.
It was as close as we got to the giant ferris wheel.
Forgive me if I don’t remember what most of these buildings are.
It may actually be the Parliament building. Don’t quote me on that.
Pretty typical Viennese street.
ABC – Another Bloody Cathedral. I love the tiled roof.
These monuments are common in Europe and were built to commemorate the plague, which killed around a third of the population.
Expensive shopping area in Vienna. You could spend a lot of money here.
Austria is of course known for baking and it did not disappoint.
I am about a meter away from one of the famous Lipizzaner stallions of the Spanish Riding School. I have a healthy respect for any animal that weighs 1,000 pounds and could trample me in Jello if it wanted to.
Part of the wall that once defended the city.
Vienna is full of green spaces.

I think we had two full days in Vienna which was nice. I could have spent more time there.

Night on the water.
Once again I am up at sunrise.
I don’t know why anyone would go to Starbucks in Vienna, but they are everywhere.

I have to tell the story of the olives. We were at the huge outdoor market and decided it would be nice to have some olives to take back to the boat for a snack later.

Or as I like to call it “Big Moments in Bad Ideas”.

The olive seller looked and sounded like he was from Turkey or the Middle East somewhere. This should have warned me of my stay in Turkey. Nice people, but they are the most aggressive and persuasive sales people in the world. This is how I ended up with some very nice Turkish rugs (and priced accordingly) in my home.

Long story short, we ended up with a really big bag of olives that probably cost 50 euros. The seller assured me it was vacuum sealed and would make the trip back to the US. The vacuum seal lasted maybe a day, at which time I gave them to the ship’s crew.

Basically I’m an idiot. If you buy olives in Vienna, watch the guy’s hands carefully. What he actually shows you is perhaps a third of what he cleverly conceals in the bag. Warning Emptor.

At the market, which went on for several blocks.
If I had a kitchen, I could do amazing things with this stuff.

If you are in Vienna you must stop at a cafe. I had the obligatory Sacher Torte and Mrs. Kong had what she said was the best apple strudel ever.

Vienna is known for its cafes. They serve it with a glass of water on the side.

On the second day in Vienna, we visited Schönbrunn Palace, which is Vienna’s answer to Versailles.

The palace was built during the reign of Maria Theresa, the only Empress of the Habsburgs.

We could spend days talking about the Habsburgs, but let’s just say they were very important at the time.

Maria Theresa sounds like a mixed bag. She opposed the abolition of torture, imposed censorship and had government spies arrest people who “violated social norms”. Note that this meant anything from homosexuals to sex with someone of a different religion.

Wait, am I writing about Austria in the 1700s or the United States around 2030 or so?

She did, however, promote public health and promoted smallpox inoculation. So there is this.

The last Habsburg emperor found himself on the losing side of World War I, so that was pretty much the end of them as a political power. Their remnants however opposed the Nazis and later the Communists, so kind of a mixed bag if you ask me.

(I’m sure someone here has done their PhD on the Habsburgs and will correct any bullshit I probably said.)


I don’t have any photos inside the palace because I don’t think we were allowed to take any. It reminded me a lot of Versailles. “It’s good to be the empress”.

Part of the palace grounds, which covered a lot of real estate.

Our ship was the “Atla”, named after an obscure Norse deity. I don’t know what they will do when they run out of Norse gods to name their ships.


Back on the river. Direction Krems and the Austrian wine region.


Link to part 3

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