28th December,2007-4th Nativity January, 2008

Here are RACHEL DOUGLAS' impressions

1. Budapest, where I really felt at home. The river helped me to get orientated. I had a short walk pre-breakfast on the first day, then a tour of Pest, fpllowed by Buda, both excellent. By the afternoon I felt quite confident. I left the group, who all went to Godollo, and walked myself to the Gellert baths, a real experience. Then Suzanne and I walked over the bridge to Pest, where we attended the Downtown Parish Church. It was a beautiful service conducted in Hungarian. A very small congregation, mainly older females like ourselves. For the sermon, we had as good as Fergus -------lasted over an hour!

2. New Year concert in Vienna A wonderful concert but it was also an occasion. Transported there; the orchestra so beautifully dressed; it was just for us; shared the venue with Mozart; memorable.

3. Fireworks and general togetherness at New Year in Vienna, then a Scottish Hogmanay an hour later with Auld Lang Syne and Scottish dancing.

Danhof, Vienna
4. Melk Abbey Baroque------not for me!-----but seeing how it developed from the single Benedictine establishment removed my prejudices. Over the years the Benedictines were adding to the offerings of their church and to God, hence the elaborate décor of the church. Then came the Reformation! I can see myself as part of that, but there my religious education stopped. Then there was the Counter-Reformation, which we Presbyterians do not take account of. An amazing abbey. A day to be remembered with Durnstein, Weissenkirchen and a sail along the Danube.

Durstein5. A very special coffee stop on our last day in Vienna for Sachertorte in the Sacher Hotel. Good company and inexpensive. The loo was memorable.

6. An introduction to Klimt and the alternative lead-up to World War Two. Both to be followed up.

ANY DOWNSIDES?
1. Not enough time to feel at home in Esztergom and Bratislava.
2. Crowds spoiling special places like Vienna and Salzburg…..although others loved the buzz of these cities.

NOBLE CALEDONIA
Care of clients is down to a fine art. Three outstanding occasions : the first lunch in Budapest, the concert in Vienna and the lunch in Salzburg….all top quality. Cabins wonderful. Guides all good, some a delight. Excellent meals : food was light and attractive Staff at all levels were wonderful.

ADDED BONUS
The people in our party : lovely to get to know them more. Our leader : just let her take the strain. A lot of planning etc was undertaken in the lead-up to this wonderful holiday. Thanks.

WHAT HAVE I LEARNED?

History and Geography of that part of Europe. I should get to grips with it while the holiday is fresh in my mind.

PERTINENT LESSON : Always make sure your health insurance is adequate. Sheila's broken wrist proved that and Noble Caledonia bore the brunt of the three hospital visits.

COME WITH US NEXT TIME!