EUROPEAN RIVER CRUISE BUDAPEST TO AMSTERDAM - 2018
Mon July 30
We had planned to drive the one hour to Ft. Madison, Ia to catch the SW Chief to Chicago because if the train were on time we would not have to leave Quincy until 9:30AM, rather than catching 6:12AM Illinois Zephyr that left directly from Quincy. Checking Amtrak's train status the day before I discovered that the SW Chief had left Albuquerque the day before 6 hours late, which would put us in Chicago around 9:00PM with no further delays. So we changed our tickets to depart from Quincy (and return there 3 weeks later) . It was a good call because the SW Chiefs actually arrived in Chicago at 9:28PM.
We arrived in Chicago at 10:30AM and hung around the First Class lounge, where I had privileges due to my exalted status with Amtrak's loyalty program, before taking the Milwaukee West Metra to Franklin Park and then Lyft to the Candlewood Suites. The Candlewood was a reasonable as any of the hotels in the area and was quit nice. The choice of restaurant in this area with lots of airport hotels is very slim. We walked about one half mile to Al and Joe's, a Chicago deli institution.
Tuesday July 31.
We took the hotel's shuttle to the airport in plenty of time for KLM's 4:00 flight to Amsterdam, only to find that the flight had been canceled (no explanation, of course) and we had been put on the same flight the next day. So we called for the shuttle and returned to Candlewood for another night.
Wednesday Aug 1
Our flight was scheduled to arrive in Amsterdam at 6:45AM. At some point I got the bright idea that we might as well use our prepaid Ramada Inn room from whenever we arrived until checkout at noon to get some sleep. I emailed Janelle to tell the desk clerk when she arrived we would be very late, but don't cancel our room. Luckily, she had not yet entered the no communication zone.
Check-in and TSA not too bad; and the flight was uneventful, arriving on time. The only disappointment was having the extra leg room seats I had payed for stolen from us. I asked the agent to upgrade us to the next level refused, but she refused saying we had only paid for extra leg room. Duh! So far no indication of any compensation.
We got almost four hours of sleep before heading back to the airport via Ramada's shuttle to catch the train to Vienna. We didn't see much of the Ramada, but our room was nice.
Thursday Aug 2
Today and the next 6 or 7 days were in the mid 90's.
I had booked a short ride to Utrecht via a Dutch Railway intercity, a German ICE to Dusseldorf, and the overnight Austrian Railway Night Jet to Vienna Meidling, one of Vienna's districts. We got to the station early and grabbed the first train to Utrecht, where we planned to have lunch/dinner. From 1994 I had remembered Utrecht's station being full of small places to get baguettes and other interesting looking food. But the station had been rebuilt and only had chain type places. So we decided to go walking, first through a shopping mall then along a canal before settling on the Döner Company in the plaza next to the station.
Square and mall next to Utrecht station.
I had my first and last Döner kebab at the Döner Company next to the station.
Relaxing at the Döner Company.
I had had the sense to book seat reservations on the ICE to Dusseldorf; but our bad luck continued. Our car had been blocked off with tape because of a klimananlage (air condition) defeck. I went through the whole train looking for seats until I got to the first car, 1st class which was almost empty. We sat down and when the conductor took our tickets, he did the right thing (unlike KLM) and let us stay.
We had just enough time between trains in Dusseldorf for a beer at a side walk cafe near the station.
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I had booked deluxe sleeping accommodations, i.e., a regular room plus toilet facilities. During the night I woke up to a lot of noise coming from the direction of the sleeping car attendant's room where several people were congregating. I walked down there and complained that this was a schlafwagen (sleeping car), not a party car. When everyone, including the attendant, looked at me like I had two heads, I asked to speak to the train manager. A few minutes later he knocked on my door and explained that the train also carried sitzwagens (what Amtrak would call coach class) which of course I already knew, and that the sleeping car attendant's room functioned as what Amtrak would call a cafe car (see menu). He shrugged it off by saying that if people didn't know how to act in public (my definition of a red neck), there wasn't anything he could do. My opinion of the Austrians dropped considerably.
Friday Aug 3
We arrive about 8:30AM and walked the 0.9 miles to the Marriott Renaissance Hotel Wien. They said we could not get into our room until 3:00PM,: so we hung out in a nice library type room and did some exploring of the neighborhood. The Renaissance Wien was one of the most elegant hotels we have ever stayed at and cost only 60 Euros. The most amazing thing was it had an ice machine, which came in handy because the first eight days from Amsterdam to Passau were in the 90's. As you all know, Europeans consider ice with drinks immoral.
Now came the only real disaster of the trip. I had signed up for and studied thoroughly Vienna's rent-a-bike scheme. It was ridiculously cheap and simple, at least in theory: free for the first hour, 1 euro for the second, 2 for the third, etc. They had stations all over the city two near our hotel so you could turn the bikes in at any time and start over.
The procedure called for you to enter you credit card, user name, and password the first time. After the first rental, only the user name and password. i.e. no cell phone required. But the machine at both stations could not read either my or Jeanine's card. I called the hot line and the rep advised me to hold the card in the slot for 3 seconds. Now it could read it, but then claimed it could not read it completely. Once it did get as far as asking me for my user name and password, but still could not read the result completely. So we had to content ourselves with walking.
For supper we checked out Meidling's pedestrian zone; but could not find any Austrian restaurants, so we settled for a Persian
one, which was OK.
Saturday Aug 4.
Not much to report what without having bikes. On the advice of the front desk, we did find an Austrian restaurant with beer garden completely surrounded by buildings. I had Wiener schnitzel for the first and last time. The ships may have served it; but with so many choices I missed it.