Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Riverboats in Europe

Ruins of Kuernringer Castle, Durnstein, Austria
Oil on Canvas, 20" X 16"

In Late November-early December we took a two week trip to Europe. We had set up a riverboat cruise on the Danube from Nuremburg to Budapest. We had done riverboats years before--a trip on the Moselle from Koblenz to Trier, Germany. It was short but we enjoyed it. But our mode of travel changed over the years, so we did things other than riverboats. But friends told us that this way of travelling in Europe had evolved and had become very popular--not to mention relatively inexpensive (and I mean relatively).
My wife found some good off season rates on the internet through a company known as Vantage, out of Boston. The boat we were on was about 400' long with about 150 passengers. I had never been to some of these cities before, especially Vienna, nor had she, so we went for it despite the season.
We flew from Boston to Frankfurt to Munich from which we were bussed to Nuremburg. It was a wonderful trip and the weather held up pretty well and the land tours were well organized. There was a lot of free time to wander these great places, too. The on-board food was fine, but trying out the local restaurants was the real gustatory treat.
En route to Budapest from Nuremburg, we visted among other places, Passau, Linz, Vienna, Bratislava. Each has its own character and story. I absolutely fell in love with Vienna and will go back for a longer stay. Budapest is very beautiful--quite a surprise. I'll spare you the details here as the above is the only painting that has emerged from this trip so far.
The little town of Durnstein is west of Vienna in the Wachau Valley, a famous wine growing area. The vineyards are owned by individual families and the wine is made via a co-op of these growers and it is exquisite. Above the town with its ancient buildings and narrow streets is this area of rock promontories, among them and hardly distinguishable from them is the ruin of this 1000 year old castle, alledged to be the place where Richard the Lionheart was held hostage for a year while he was returning to the crusades. I almost missed it as I was looking for the next wine bar, but my wife spotted it in the setting sun. It was such a natural scene and I was struck by the 1000-year old castle ruins, almost gone to dust, while the millions of year old promontories were still standing tall. There is a bit of darkness that crept into this painting, too. A couple of days before we visited the crumbling monuments of the Nazis in Nuremburg. I was greatly affected by them, and frightened too. I'm sure some of those feelings were still with me when I painted this several weeks later.


Frank Gardner said...

Sounds like a great way to travel Jack. That's a good one that you almost missed this vista because you were looking for the next wine bar.
Nice strong light in this painting.

Jack Riddle said...

Frank--the wine is really that good. I hated to leave the place for fear of not having any more. It was a beautiful spot.

Jennifer Bellinger said...

Hi Jack,
Your handling of the light in this landscape really sets the mood you described of the history of the place, especially the foreground.

Jack Riddle said...

Thanks Jennifer. There were a number of scenes like this--castles on hills--but the light is what did it for me. Glad you like it.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

My husband and I have been eyeing those European River cruises. I would presumably do some painting and we both like the tours.
Those German death camps must have a cloud of misery hanging over them still. The painting says it.