Last winter, my husband Mark and I experienced the romance, history and beauty of the “Blue Danube” as we cruised this legendary area with Viking River Cruises.
Our journey began in Budapest, Hungary…a city (technically, two cities on either side of the Danube) that we were unprepared to love as much as we did. Taking advantage of Viking’s pre-cruise package gave us an extra two days and nights in the charming Castle District. We visited the iconic Parliament building, explored the three-story Central Market and so much more. One memorable stop on our tour was the Great Synagogue (aka the Central Synagogue) on Dohány Street, which is the largest synagogue of Europe and the second largest one in the world. Also on that site are the Central Synagogue Jewish Museum and the Raul Wallenberg Memorial Park, home to the Emanuel Tree Memorial dedicated to Hungarian Jews killed during the Holocaust.
The Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest.
The first official night of the cruise was spent onboard our ship, docked in downtown Budapest. The next morning was a leisurely cruise to Vienna, where we toured the city…such fun seeing the home of the famed Lipizzaner stallions! While in Vienna, you must visit the exquisite Schönbrunn Palace, a palatial complex which is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. A special Viking treat was an evening at the Opera – a private performance of “The Marriage of Figaro,” where we met the cast members.
Cruising upriver took us through the beautiful Wachau Valley, blanketed with vineyards and dotted by colorful villages. Another high spot for us was the Melk Abbey, a massive baroque Benedictine monastery with beautiful ceiling paintings and more than 90,000 volumes and rare manuscripts.
We really enjoyed Passau, Germany – great gift-shopping – even though I got separated from our group (too much photo-taking) and followed my map on my own walking tour around Old Town, talking to friendly locals as I found my way to our meeting spot…actually a lot of fun
On our walking tour of Regensburg, one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval cities, we saw impressive13th and 14th century church spires, towers and homes. One optional tour I urge you to take is a visit to the BMW factory. It is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at a combination of robotics and “worker-friendly” assembly lines
The last stop on our cruise was Nuremberg. While our day there was more sobering, it was an eye-opening look at history we only thought we knew. We saw Zeppelin Field, the former Nazi parade grounds, and the Palace of Justice. We also opted for an unforgettable tour of the World War II Museum, a fascinating interactive experience using an audio guide that I highly recommend.
A big part of traveling is wonderful food, and we had some great culinary experiences. Recommendations: historical Wurkstkuchl of Regensburg, the oldest sausage tavern in the world (bring back a jar of homemade sweet mustard); Figlmüller in Vienna, serving up the most delicious Frisbee-sized schnitzel you’ve ever seen or eaten (take a friend to share with); Strudel House on the Pest side of Budapest, where you can watch them hand make mouth-watering savory and sweet strudels. Some of our finest meals were onboard our Viking ship. They featured regional cuisine that brought our destinations to life, a variety of menu selections at every meal and an extensive wine list. Desserts were artistic and delicious, and the service was always impeccable.
Our ship was elegant, and service and food were tops. Our roomy stateroom had a beautifully-appointed bath and a balcony. For us, this trip was really about the experience, and our shore-excursions were first-rate with English-speaking guides bringing us closer to the history and culture of the area
There's never been a better time to plan a Viking River Cruise!
*New bookings only; available on October 2017 departures of Danube Waltz.Other restrictions apply. Must book by 8/16/16.
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