Friday August 12: Vidin Bulgaria
Today is our first "real" excursion from the boat. I had my typical breakfast of fruit, yogurt, and omelet. We sat with a couple from Scotland who were on their third or fourth cruise.
Our room is nicely laid out, although understandably somewhat cramped. The main area is almost filled with the bed, with just enough room on three sides to walk by. The rest of the space is taken up by a small, but functional bathroom. The water is hot almost immediately, so you don't need to waste a lot warming it up.
It is sort of strange--I'm walking around here, taking a shower, having a nice dinner, listening to a talk, etc. all the while we are moving along the Danube. There is almost no sensation of movement, so it is just like being in a nice hotel--except that the hotel is moving up the river.
The morning excursion was to the Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress. This is a large rock outcrop, where there were three Roman gates. I was picturing a fortress, but it is literally just three walls with gates, and a pathway that goes to the top of the outcrop. The main draw is the view around.
Amy hadn't been planning to go because it was "moderate", but they said that you could go as high as you wanted to, and you didn't have to go any higher. I figured that Amy would stay between the first and second gates, while I took off for the top. After spending some time at the top, I started down. To my surprise, I found that Amy had made it up to the third gate, and was busy taking pictures (and getting too close to the edge, making me very nervous). She decided that this was high enough, though, so she didn't continue up the many steps to the top.
In many places there were ancient steps cut in the rock, although in some places these had been replaced by modern steps.
On the way back, the guide took us through a detour around town, where she spent an eon telling us about the local stores, and how to navigate. It seemed to take forever, which made me very antsy, because I had an afternoon excursion, and she was using up a lot of my lunch time.
We eventually got back to the boat, and I scarfed down some quick lunch. The excursion ticket said 2:00, and I assume that this was the time that the bus left, but then I found that this was when they made the announcement, and the bus didn't leave until 2:15. So I had enough time to rejoin Amy and get a quick dessert, and then head over to the bus.
We visited a nearby fortress (the Baba Vida Fortress). We had the same tour guide as we had in the morning, and I was very unimpressed. In time, her voice sounded to me like fingernails on a chalk board.
When we got to the fortress, she seemed to talk a little about the fortress, but more about her family. When we finally got inside, she described a cannon carriage as a battering ram. Finally, she gave us about 15 minutes to explore on our own. I would have been much happier if she had talked less and we had a half hour to explore on our own.
Afterwards, we went to a winery wine tasting, which I really had little interested in, but it was part of the fortress tour. We had four wines: a white, a rose, and two reds. The last red was a very special one, which we actually sampled from the barrel, rather than from a bottle.
I hate to say it, but while I found the first three not bad, I really didn't care for the last one. Overall, I drank more wine than I usually do when I have some for dinner, although in this case, I was eating almost nothing with the wine.
When we got back to the boat, they offered each of us a glass of champagne, which I declined.
I met up with Amy, chilled for a while, and then we listened to a talk/slideshow about Viking River cruises. When that was over, I hurried back to our room, took a quick shower, changed for dinner, signed up for the optional hike tomorrow, and then hurried over to dinner.
After dinner, we listened to a talk from the captain. Now I'm writing this up, and pretty soon I'll crash. I was almost falling asleep during the talk.