River Cruise on the Danube

We have just returned from our very first river cruise; until now we have enjoyed exploring countries – like our recent trip to Myanmar (Burma that was) but that necessitated moving from city to city, beautiful location to fabulous temple – all packing, unpacking and different beds almost every night!

On a river cruise such as this one we saw five countries, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary all from the comfort of one comfortable cabin, in the space of seven days.  Just for the record we travelled up the Danube, going from Bucharest (close to the mouth of the river into the Black Sea) and up though Belgrade to Budapest.  Also allowed quite some relaxed stitching time!

 Crafts have always been popular in Eastern Europe, possibly as they have long cold winters and with their centuries of troubles including the very recent past, staying quiet at home was practical.   Furthermore some of the area have lent towards the Christian church in Italy and others to the Orthodox Church. On my return (not very good at doing pre-travel research) I have found an extremely good explanation of the complicated history and, as a result, the needlework in ‘Needlework, an Illustrated History’ edited by Harriet Bridgeman and Elizabeth Drury in the Central and Southeastern Europe section.

Particularly exciting were the heavily (and beautifully) embroidered national costumes which we were able to examine in museums and on people!    But inspiration also came from colour, form and techniques; marvellous frescos in the Orthodox Churches, paintings covering the walls, pillars and ceilings; colours still amazingly fresh and often with repeating borders connecting the likenesses of the biblical figures that set my mind racing. 

In Arbanassi a historical town, perched high with wonderful views and streets of traditional houses I found the most attractive hand decorated pottery which though not the easiest to cart home I had to have!!  After all some of the decoration would be great needlepoint and anyway we love home-made soups in the winter!   In fact coming back to a damp London we christened them with vegetable soup on our first day home.

One day we were sailing up through the Iron Gates, no off boat trips but great stitching time – it is interesting how many people introduce themselves and talk about the needlework they enjoy back home – everyone who makes something with their hands seems so nice and love seeing what others are doing.

Cautionary tale, a good student has just returned from an exciting trip to Oman which they loved however three days before the end of the holiday she finished all her stitching, all the books she had taken and asked her husband if they could return early!   Not that they did but it does show how important it is to take plenty to do even if it doesn’t get done!

Our final stop before Budapest in Hungary was a Craft Museum in Kalocsa where we saw examples of embroidery for sale.   Hungarians it would seem love colour, much of their furniture is gaily painted with flowers, birds and fruit; some of the rooms were painted, again brightly, from floor to ceiling and, not to be out done their embroidery would brighten up the dullest day.   My favourites were the white on white which reminded me of some of the techniques of explained in Carolyn Ambuter’s book ‘The Open Canvas’.  So now that book is on my work table along with countless other ideas.
Two examples of modern designs purchases and kindly photographed by a fellow passenger

So, what was it I took to stitch?  In the past I have recommended nothing too large or nothing without some plan of action and threads you hope will work.  This time I wanted to do a second colour scheme of a small version of ‘Cathedral Tiles’ – checking instructions and quantities before launching a design is also wise so that is what I did.   Not quite finished but I will share the ‘work in progress’

Home now with preparations for a Swopping Party towards the end of the month.  It seems a popular theme ‘swopping’ things be it books, clothes or anything one doesn’t want anymore (or never did) for things that appeal.  Recently my grandchildren got an invite to a Book Swopping Fancy dress party, dressed as their favourite character the entrance fee was two of their own books they had finished with.
Just for the record we travelled with Emerald Waterways and the trip was called Enchantment of Eastern Europe and we really enjoyed it.

Ps Have just been to ‘Savage Beauty’ at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London;  a truly amazing exhibition of Alexander McQueen’s fabulous clothes.  It was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York before coming here so I do hope that as many as possible have seen it or at least booked a date.  It is a big exhibition, I took almost 2 hours and I wasn’t with a companion to chat! 

The sheer expert cutting and details of many was breath taking, other pieces were purely ‘cat walk’ items such as a dress made entirely from razor clam shells and another made out of flowers.  There were accessories, film and models galore and to finish one of the best selection of art books I have seen


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