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  • Writer's pictureJason Leppert

Live Cruise Review: Viking Embla, Grand European Tour 2013 – River Flooding Subsides

It’s remarkable to know that just a little over a month ago many of the European cities the Viking Embla and we are visiting were severely flooded, causing Viking River Cruises and other river traffic to temporarily suspend passage along our very itinerary. In fact, our longship was stuck in Budapest for a period of 10 days because she could not clearly sail under the local bridges during that time. Thankfully, all is back to normal, and we can enjoy these great cities as intended.

Historic Flood Levels

In many cases, signs remain of the high water levels. Above is a magnified detail from this post’s header image taken in Melk, Austria with markings indicating significant flood levels over the years, and the small silver sign on the left indicates the level for 2013. It’s staggering to imagine the volume of rainwater required to raise a river to this height.

Viking Embla in Passau, Germany

Take a look at the position of our riverboat in the photo above on the Danube in Passau, Germany compared to the height of the lower arches in the building across the roadway. The stones of that structure are still showing water damage up to the tops of said arches (as seen below). At that level, the Viking Embla would be and a good portion of the town was entirely submerged. All things considered, it’s great to see how quickly the area has rebounded.

Flood Stains

Riverbank Gems

As I said in the previous post, a tradition of ours has been to enjoy the outdoor Aquavit Terrace at the bow of our longship. Here the views are most stunning, and the forward four rocking chairs, in particular, make for a European-styled river bayou porch experience with an ever changing view. You can’t beat the gentle cool breeze and refreshment of a Coca-Cola under the summer sun. (The next post will be brought to you by Sprite. Just kidding.)

Rocking Chairs at the Aquavit Terrace

Viking Vienna Leads the Way

As great as our city stops are, there are so many additional gems in between our port calls as well. The other day we enjoyed following behind the Viking Vienna as we snaked our way through a mountainous region with quaint towns dotting the river banks. Model train lovers can appreciate how similar the scenery is to small scale landscapes and architecture. All that was missing was a steam train itself, but watching another of Viking’s riverboats in front of us was plenty entertaining.

Just Like a Model Train Display

One of Many Quaint Towns Along the Riverbank

Off the Beaten Path – Melk, Austria

My mom and I get a kick out of returning to these first few cities for a second time to explore a bit on our own. The included tours are great and highly recommended, but once you get the lay of the land the first time, it’s sometimes fun to dig a bit deeper on a second visit. We’ve enjoyed Melk, Austria; Passau, Germany and Regnesburg, Germany in this very manner.

Melk Abbey Restoration

A Hidden Crucifix

We retrieved our ticket to enter Melk Abbey and retraced the path through the establishment on our own. Apparently, the structures here have been repeatedly restored over the centuries, and the process continues to this day as the climate allows. We discovered a number of interesting nooks and crannies that were new to us including the fresco laden garden pavilion.

Spiral Stairs

Garden Pavilion

Off the Beaten Path – Passau, Germany

In Passau, we strolled along beautiful floral arrangements and gazed up at striking architecture before heading over to St. Stephen’s Cathedral for a half-hour organ concert. The last time we were in front of the church, we perused another great Christmas Market. During the summer, however, a number of roadworks projects are under way here, and the courtyard is used as a parking lot.

Flower Garden

Soaring Architecture

Inside the cathedral, the design is nearly monochromatic with white pillars and statuary framing massive oval paintings along the ceiling. For the most part, the organ is acoustically breathtaking with only a few notes rendered too dim to balance with the more forceful tones. The set included a complex piece by Bach and a surprisingly dissonant finale. I couldn’t help but want to hear some epic Hans Zimmer film scores – especially his kraken theme from Pirates of the Caribbean – played on the grand instrument.

No Christmas Market Here (For Now)

Inside St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Off the Beaten Path – Regensburg, Germany

Today, we returned to Regensburg with the primary goal of stuffing ourselves at the heavenly Wurstkuchl sausage house (as seen more below), but we also managed to roll ourselves over to St. Peter’s Cathedral afterwards too. (Okay, we really didn’t eat that much, but we surely wanted to.) This church is in many ways the polar opposite of St. Stephen’s in Passau. It’s extraordinarily dark but is also clad in some of the finest and most detailed stained-glass windows ever.

Jetting by St. Peter’s Cathedral

The Dark Interior

Strolling along outside the church we discovered a sort of boneyard of former architectural elements from the church. It would seem these are remnants of past restoration projects, and the scale was quite interesting when you realized just how high up these heavy ornaments once stood.

Cathedral Ornaments

Off-board Eats

As you’ve no doubt already ascertained, we’ve enjoyed several culinary treats onboard and off. We enjoyed the gingerbread wonders of Cafe Simon in Passau during our Christmas Markets cruise and so decided to return to see what they might offer outside of winter. We were not disappointed, and a wonderful chocolate cake topped with raspberries effectively became a part, or rather the entirety, of our complete breakfast. It was by no means a small slice.

Cafe Simon

Raspberry-Topped Chocolate Cake

Wurstkuchl, the oldest sausage house in Germany, was where we last discovered the best mustard ever in Regensburg. We since found out that the mustard can be ordered from (affiliate link – see disclosure policy in footer for more info) and are delighted by this means to procure the coveted condiment while in the States. Of course, the sausage is also fantastic and once again made for, let’s just say, a hearty brunch this fine morning.

Wurstkuchl Sausage House

Sausages and Sauerkraut

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