Tuesday August 16: Kalocsa Hungary
I had another fairly miserable night, although after struggling for a few hours, I managed to fall asleep and doze for the rest of the night. As a result, after breakfast, I lay down again and dozed for about an hour.
Then we had the face-check with Hungarian authorities. We were called up by deck, they handed us our passport, the official glanced at the photo and at our face, and that was that. It went pretty quickly. I'm not sure I see the point, as if we were trying to smuggle someone in, we just wouldn’t parade them past the official.
After that I (and a bunch of other people) got a tour of the wheelhouse. We got there at the perfect time because we had just left the dock where we met the officials. We didn't go very far, however, and while we were watching, the captain did a U-turn and proceeded to dock us for the day.
It looks like they have a chart display with the ships location and auto-pilot path presumably based on GPS. There was also the radar display, so you could check one against the other.
The ship's propulsion is diesel-electric; i.e. diesel engines drive generators, which power electric motors.
There are two "main drive" units in the back, and one in the front. Then can pivot, both for steering, but also, for example, so that we can move totally sideways as in when docking. Each unit has two propellers, fore and aft, although it wasn't clear whether we had two units in the back, or two sets of two units (for a total of 4) in back.
A number of times previously, we "docked" against a boat that was already docked, so to leave we would go from out boat, through the other boat, and then onto the dock. Today, for the first time on this trip, a boat docked outside of us.
We have about 45 minutes to relax before lunch, and then in the afternoon there is some sort of horse show. Tonight we pack up, and leave our luggage outside our rooms. After breakfast, we'll board a bus to take us to Budapest, where we'll get a "panoramic tour" before being dropped off at our hotel. Then on Thursday, we get the day to explore on our own, get one last shore activity (Budapest at Night), and then next morning I leave for the airport. Amy will transfer to a different (cheaper) hotel, spend another day or two, and then start making her way to Switzerland.
The main draw for Amy for this cruise was that she wanted to see Budapest. That is one reason why she is spending another day or two there before leaving. But if you felt this way and were going on the Amsterdam, you were basically screwed. The stretch of river near Budapest is closed, so when we take the bus to the hotel, they will also be taking a bus. They have two choices: they can go straight to the other boat, and skip Budapest completely, or they can swing by Budapest and have four hours to explore by themselves, before continuing on to the other boat. If we were in that situation, Amy would be very unhappy.
<Later on, I had the impression that Wed is the transfer day, and we get the panoramic tour, but then on Thu, the people continuing on will be bussed back to Budapest for their panoramic tour. So perhaps it wouldn't be as bad as I thought.>
I'm definitely going to miss the boat. It is much nicer than staying in a hotel. When we were picking out a cabin, Amy chose one really close to reception/dining/lounge. I was concerned that there would be a lot of noise of people passing our room, but that was a non-issue. Her motivation was having less distance to walk to get to breakfast/lunch/dinner, and I pooh-poohed it, as we didn't do that very often. But it turns out that it was very convenient for running back to the room. For example, last night I walked into the dining room for dinner, and I saw that there was a nice sunset going on. So I quickly went back to the room, grabbed my camera, went to dinner, took some pictures, and then had dinner. Doing this sort of thing is very convenient when you are that close to the front of the ship.
In aviation, the world-wide language is English. From what I could gather from the captain (who didn't speak the best English), the official language on the Danube is French, but in practice it is either German or Russian.
This is our last night on the ship. We are packing our stuff up for an early departure tomorrow.
After lunch, we took the traditional bus to the Bakodpuszta Equestrian Center. They gave us a snack and beverage, and then we sat in some "bleachers" and watched the horse show. Their use of whips was amazing. For one demo, the guy was cracking his whip right next to a woman "victim". I was thinking that if it was this loud 30 feet away, but must have been deafening for her.
They had about five guys on horses, and one guy on a donkey. This last guy was the comic relief. Amy was amazed that the saddles weren't attached to the horses, they just sat on their backs. There was no girth strap. The climax of the day was watching a guy standing on the backs of the last two horses of a group of 10 as he rode around the ring at high speed.
The horses seemed pretty well trained. After the show we wandered into the stables. A guy then led a string of horses in. He led the first horse into a stall, but the other horses just peeled off the central corridor themselves and into presumably "their" stall. That is, except for the last horse that went into the same stall as a previous horse.
After that, we visited a folk art museum. This featured embroidery and egg painting. The bulk of the embroidery was done by hand, but the lacy stuff around the outside was done with a "machine", This machine ended up being an old Singer treadle sewing machine, very similar to the one that I used growing up. The guide explained that the treadle powered one apparently worked much better for this task than the modern electric ones.
After that, we came back to the boat, I took a quick shower, we attended the final nightly briefing, had dinner, and did some more packing. I'm writing this up now. Momentarily, I'll shut the laptop down and hit the sack.