Near and Along River Danube __ Daniel Ho (67)

Some Thoughts about and Timbits of History Learned during European Trip

Europe is the favorite tourism destination for my wife and me.  In Europe, the sceneries are beautiful or charming, the cultures and tastes are long-established, and the architecture of ancient buildings is civilized and exquisite.  During our latest trip to Europe, we visited the Czech Republic and took a river cruise on the River Danube.  What we saw during the trip is eye-opening.  I also picked up a few timbits of European history (at least legends if not bona fide history) from the local tour guides.

The St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Passau, Germany, housed a huge organ.  This is now the second largest organ in the world.  It used to be largest organ in the world until the organ maker later accepted an offer to build an even larger organ in the United States.  In Prague, Czech Republic, we were fascinated to see the Astronomical Clock.  The story there is that the aristocrat in power in Prague, who ordered an engineering-minded or scientific-minded handy man to build this Astronomical Clock, was a jealous man.  He did not want any other person in Prague or elsewhere to be able to build a similar clock.  The ruler was also a very cruel person and so he ordered the handy man to be maimed and rendered blind.  This would ensure his clock in Prague would for ever be the only game in town.

We stopped over a small Austrian town of Drunstein along the River Danube.  We noticed that there is a castle ruin on the top of the hill.  It has been passed down that the ruined castle was once where the English king Richard the Lion Heart was imprisoned during his return journey from the Holy Land.  The captors, who captured him, kept him there while waiting for the delivery of the king’s ransom.

In the large central square, called the Hero’s Square, in the city of Budapest, Hungary, there were statues of Mongol warriors on horses.  Apparently, in the middle ages, the Mongols from north of China, reached as far west as Budapest in their sweeping conquest.  Here, they liked the land.  So they stopped further conquest and settled down in the land which today is known as Hungary.  The Chinese translation of Hungary contains the word 匈.  After all, 匈奴 was the older name for the ancestors of the Mongols.

In the past, there had been at least several major floods in places along some large rivers in Europe, such the River Danube and the Vltava River.  People marked on walls to indicate the highest water level reached with the year of the flood.  A view of such walls is quite educational.

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