I don't quite seem to have the hang of blogging... Brief , largely uninteresting, summary of where we've been:
Vienna was wonderful. Lovely apartment on the Danube, which my brother located on VRBO. Gorgeous city. St. Stephen's cathedral surprised me with its tile roof, which is patterned. And bells. SO MANY bells. Of course, being there on Easter may have had something to do with that.
Interesting day visiting Korneuberg, a town outside Vienna where a friend of mine grew up; local market, bakery, coffee shop, bookstore.
Train (Railjet) to Budapest was fast, comfortable, shiny.
Budapest is a city of contrasts. We stayed at the Hotel Gellert, connected to the Gellert hot springs. Impressively art-nouveau and also on the Danube. Of course we "took the waters", visiting the spa. The springs are beautifully decorated, and a range of temperatures. Didn't beat Noboribetsu, but that's a pretty high bar. The weather was cold enough that we didn't try any of the other hot springs (of which Budapest has many). Buda was impressively rocky; Pest was flat and built up. The whole city has kind of an air of "faded glory"; lovely ornate buildings everywhere, and the castle and parliament are incredible. But off the main tourist drags the plaster facades were often peeling and dirty. The front of the main train station is lovely; the back is disintegrating. Easy to see the grandeur underneath, though.
Night train to Krakow. Very long train, and our car was almost at the head end, so a real haul from the station. Decent compartment, neither the best nor the worst I've been in, znd comfortable enough. Very friendly conductor, very smooth ride.
And now we are in Krakow. The train station, and attached mall, are 21st century; the old city across the street is clearly centuries old, with stone wall and cobbled streets. Our hotel, the Hotel Polonia, is in between. Our room is large by American hotel standards, and even larger if you consider cubic feet -- the ceilings must be 12 feet high. Unlike everything we have visited so far, Krakow was barely damaged during World War 2, so there is not the focus on restoration we saw, for instance, in Vienna. Anything less like a grim Soviet-era city it is difficult to imagine! I have (inevitably?) developed a nasty cold, so activities for the next couple of days will be very low-key.
I'll post more thoughts or observations and less recital of locations as I get a chance. Now you at least know where we are!