John and Karen Clarke ’77 on the Danube River

John Clarke, Karen Clarke, Lena Shirley on the Danube River.

Alumni couple travels with college friend to explore the Danube River on a Viking cruise.

The adventures of John Clarke ’77 and Karen (Benz) Clarke ’77 continued with another update on their latest journey that included longtime friend Lena (Lee) Shirley ’76. This trip centered around a Viking Danube River cruise. Continue reading for more on the trip from John Clarke’s perspective. 

Brockport alumni John Clarke ’77 (BS-Earth Science) Karen (Benz) Clarke ’77 (BS-Social Work), and Lena (Lee) Shirley ’76 (BS-Nursing) travelled together with Lena’s husband Paul, an RIT alumnus, on a Viking Danube River cruise, September 15-23, 2022.

The couples’ friendship dates back to the 1970s when they attended Brockport and Karen and Lena were off-campus roommates. The group began traveling together in April of 2022 on a trip to Spain.

John and Karen Clarke '77.

The Danube River cruise originated in Budapest and travelled upstream to Regensburg, Germany. We arrived in Budapest on September 16 and made our way to the boat, the Viking Var. Budapest is divided into two parts, split by the Danube: Buda is the west side of river with large hills. Pest is the east bank with flat topography. In addition to nice, older buildings and churches, the city still has ugly Soviet style housing from its years behind the iron curtain. The city is known for its hot water baths and weekend spring break like nighttime “Sparties.” Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to enjoy the baths.

Water levels in the Danube were low due to a serious drought, so after our bus tour we met the boat further upriver to bypass the low spot. We then continued to Vienna where we viewed the sights, had an apple strudel at a Viennese coffee house, visited Saint Peter Church and were glad to hear a string ensemble practicing. The next day we visited Schonbrunn palace, home of the Hapsburgs. Very opulent, reminded us of Catherine’s palace in St Petersburg, Russia. When we returned to the boat, we spent time watching the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. That evening, we attended a fantastic Strauss and Mozart concert performed by 17-year-old conductor Alma Deutscher who composed and conducted, played violin, and even danced waltzes. This was one of the highlights of the trip.

Karen (Benz) Clarke '77 and Lena (Lee) Shirley '76.

After Vienna we made stops in Krems, Austria, where we visited Gottweig Abbey, sampling apricot wine, followed by Passau, Germany where we boarded a bus to travel to Salzburg, Austria. Salzburg is the birthplace of Mozart and is where the movie, “The Sound of Music” was filmed. We visited film locations where the movie was filmed, specifically the Do-Re-Mi scene. The town was celebrating the Rupert festival with games, rides, food, beer. Must have been a day off for school. Folks were dressed in lederhosen and traditional dresses.

After arriving at our final stop at Regensburg, we again boarded a bus, this time headed to Nuremberg. We were fortunate to have a small group, with only 4 participants and the guide. Nuremberg is an ancient city; however, much of it was destroyed by WWII bombs. Here we saw Nazi rally sites and the courthouse complex used for the Nuremberg war crime trials. Our trip concluded with a quick tour of Regensburg, a beautiful city that was untouched by bombs in the war.

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