Get Away With Fran

September 16, 2009

Locks and Bratislava’s wild and crazy guys – on Viking river cruise

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Bet you’re heard of Bratislava, even if you don’t remember hearing it. The Slovakian captial of 500,000 is where SNL’s original “wild and crazy guys” come from, as in “We’re two wild and crazy guys from Bratislava.”

I knew this, but didn’t expect to encounter such a type even before I got off the boat. Yet as I opened the sliding glass window of my cabin for a better view as we got near the city, there he was onshore, a John Belushi-esque construction worker, mooning and patting his butt as we passed by. Sorry, I did not react fast enough to get a photo.

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Touring the city on the free tour provided by Viking River Cruises¬†(I am a passenger this week on the new Viking Legend), our guide was a less-wild Med student and we saw the Old Town including beautiful St. Martin’s Cathedral, where Hungarian kings were once crowned (way back when Bratislava was capital of Hungary) and the impressive 15th century Michael’s Gate. Slovakia has only been a country since 1993, when it split from what’s now the Czech¬†Republic. the Old Town had been pretty much left to decay by the communists, but has recently been rejuvinated. And there were plenty of people out enjoying the outdoor cafes.

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Earlier, pre-mooning incident, the thrill of the day was going through the first and largest of a series of 11 locks on the Danube. The fact a helicopter squad was for some reason practicing manuevers over the lock, swooping and diving between the several other river boats that joined us in the chamber, made the whole thing even more exciting.

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Once the boats enter the lock chamber, it’s flooded and your boat rises with the water to another level to continue passage (the Viking Legend Captain does the steering, above). I know from previous experience on rivers, the first or two of the locks is always fascinating. On this cruise, which goes all the way to Amsterdam on the Danube, Main and Rhine rivers, there are nearly two-dozen locks, so the experience may eventually seem about as exciting as watching paint dry.

But no worries, there are plenty of other delights to be had on the itinerary. Today I am heading off to explore Vienna.

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