In September, we chose to combine a vacation with our fall shopping in Europe. We chose an Avalon River Cruise on their Panorama ship, which began in Budapest, Hungary and ended in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The cruise was 15 days long and the ship traveled on the Danube River, the Main-Danube Canal, the Main River and the Rhine River. We visited six countries, numerous towns and villages and four European capitals. The river cruise was tightly scheduled due to the many (68!) locks the ship had to travel through. We were up early every morning, taking advantage of the included ship tours and then, we used our free time in each port to do our favorite thing….hunt for antiques! By the end of the cruise, we were known as the Antiquing Americans and other cruisers would gather round us in the ship’s lobby to review our daily purchases.
Preparation is important in antiquing, whether you are hunting in your own neighborhood or halfway around the world. We did early internet research so that we could determine if the day would be a tourist day or a full on antique hunt. We hit the jackpot in several towns, but in others, we came up empty. The internet hunt was essential because of the short amount of free time allotted each day and the language barriers. So, we started each day with a list of possible targets and a map.
Another essential was a collage of photos similar to what we carry in the store. When words failed us, we were able to show our paper to help with locating our kind of stuff. Each day, our strategy was to find an open store, show the staff our paper and hopefully, they would have some carved wood antiques. Then, came the attempt negotiate a good price for the valuables. Money talks in any language and most stores accepted Euros, even if they had their own country’s currency. If we came up empty-handed, then we hoped that they would give us a new lead to send us onto the next location.
What we did not expect was the irregular hours kept by the antique stores throughout the trip. The chances of a store being open when we walked up were slim at best. These stores are not opened 9-5, six days a week. More likely, they were open two or three days a week and for only a couple of hours. Occasionally, we got lucky, which meant the storekeeper spoke some English and in their back-room, they had exactly what we were looking for.
Our first shopping experience occurred in Budapest, Hungary. We arrived a day early, so we would have enough time in this Eastern European city. We hunted on both sides of Danube. The Buda side, hilly side, was interesting, but antiques were few. The Pest side is where we got lucky.
A couple of days passed and our next antiquing success came on an optional trip to Cesky Krumlov, in the Czech Republic (Day 6). The small town of Cesky Krumlow, located in the Bohemian woods, has been restored and is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was definitely a highlight of the trip. It’s a compact town, with easy walking down cobbled alleys, and full of interesting shops in a fairy-like setting.
Regensburg, in Bavarian Germany, was the first of six “Burgs” that we would visit o (Day 7). It is a wonderfully restored medieval city and we spent a couple of hours shopping in the St. Peter square area, along Tändlergasse and Kramgasse.
In the restored city of Nuremberg, Germany (Day 8), we spent most our time antiquing north and northwest of the Hauptmarkt on Bergstr. and A-Durer Str.
The optional bus tour to Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, Germany (Day 10) was a good choice. Picture a “European Christmas Town” and you have Rothenburg. This was another highlight of our trip.
We visited Miltenberg, Germany (Day 11). It was easy to walk down the village’s main road, Hauptstrabe, and visit the shops along the way. And we had to sample a beer at the oldest pub in Germany. By this time, we knew we would need another suitcase, so we purchased one at a local shop and then proceeded to finish our sightseeing and carried the empty suitcase up the rocky hillside path to the castle above the town for a view of the Main River and our ship.
Our last day, following our guided canal boat tour, we headed off to shop in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Unfortunately, most were closed on Tuesday. We ended up on the Nieuwe Spiegelstr. Antique stores lined both sides of the street.
We enjoyed our cruise through the heart of Europe and the many stops along the way. In the next blog entry, we’ll show you some of our purchases!