(In a Viennese shop window . . . A crown of sugar and egg white)
It has come to this. A day somewhere out there, inevitable maybe, but hitherto not to be considered seriously, is upon me.
In this August of the year 2016 I find us joining a river cruise. Two weeks on a river ship, ambling from stateroom to upper deck rail, to bar, to dining room, to deck chair. Spending shore excursions wearing coloured lanyards in gaggle groups following garrulous guides.
I have always thought river cruises were for travellers tired of the world; voyeurs in a hermetically sealed bubble separated from local people and culture. Perhaps that's a bit unkind. Sue and I are used to doing our own thing where travel is concerned, independent, and proud of it. Up till now we looked down on cruises as not being 'real' travel.
If I feel this way why did I sign up, you might wonder? Well, I'm not entirely sure the decision was all that rational and objective. Still, in a moment of weakness, two seasoned travellers, used to making their own way in the world, decided to give the cruise experience a try. And here we are.
Last evening saw us join over a hundred people for a welcome cruise briefing at our hotel in Vienna. We met two other couples at the function. Delightful people. So far so good. I couldn't help noticing though that we were in the youngest age quartile. Lots of white and thinning hair. Nothing wrong with that of course, but it did confirmed my prejudice that the cruise would be planned around people who weren't all that energetic or mobile.
Then again, doesn't my back hurt and don't my feet ache after a morning walking over concrete and cobble stones? Am I not myself the owner of a shiny scalp? Maybe it's my own reality that I prefer not to acknowledge honestly. Last time I looked in the mirror I saw a face that had a lot of lived experiences etched unflatteringly into flaking and blemished skin. I looked away, wondering how that sagging, lived-in face could be mine.
Could it be there are others joining this cruise who look at their own faces and bodies in the mirror and wonder how it has come to this? Do you think they might also sit and look around them at the cruise briefing, wondering if they've made the right choice?
Hmmm . .
So, with my wife's encouragement, not to mention prodding, I will approach this river cruise experience positively. I will smile and talk to people. I will not become impatient when something doesn't go the way I would prefer and I will approach the whole thing as an opportunity.
I will watch the river bank glide past and realise that life is to be lived and celebrated.
Sounds like a good plan?
Tomorrow we embark and set sail downriver from Bratislava, on our way to the Danube delta and Black Sea. Who knows? It will be interesting, maybe even fun.
If Agatha Christie can deal with Death on the Nile, I guess I can manage denial on the Danube.
(Kunst Historisches Museum in Vienna . . . a place to rejuvenate the soul)