Budapest to Vienna - We Hit the Water

Thursday 14th May, 2015
Friday 15th May, 2015
Saturday 16th May, 2015
Sunday 17th May, 2015

Thursday 14th May, 2015

Winery Lunchstop photograph

Winery Lunch Stop

Winery View photograph
Winery View

Drop Cap very long day in a coach today - Prague to Budapest. It is over 500 kilometers. However, the countryside was attractive - the constant stream of trucks less so - but we eventually made it to Budapest. On the way we stopped for a welcome lunch break at a country winery by a lake where we enjoyed a good chicken salad and a glass of local wine in a wine cellar decorated with wreaths and flowers. It was a very pleasant spot.

Drop Cap ater in the afternoon we stopped in Hungary in a much less salubrious truck stop where the toilets were not very clean and the car park was full of unsavoury characters trying to sell us smart phones and i-pads. We didn't think the quality would be very high so just kept our wallets close to our chests.

Our Cabin Amareina photograph
Our Cabin on the lovely Amareina

Drop Cap ur ship, the Amareina, is marvellous. Our cabin is small but very compact, a good sized bathroom, robes and slippers, our own computer/TV and a balcony. We had a safety briefing from the Captain, the hotel manager and the Tour Director. Then a very nice dinner. I had stuffed pancakes, grilled fish and coffee ice cream. Mac had the pancakes, salami wrapped roast pork and no dessert. (We weighed ourselves this morning!)

Budapest Night photograph
Illuminated Budapest by Night

Drop Cap fter dinner we set off for a short cruise up the river, passing the glorious illuminated bridges and medieval buildings, castle, parliament, cathedrals. It was absolutely wonderful but I don't think my photos will do it justice. (They didn't - night shots require an absolutely steady hand and the ship was moving as well)

Tomorrow a land tour of Budapest before we sail. The weather so far has been wonderful.

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Friday 15th May, 2015

Budapest Opera House photograph
Budapest Opera House

Drop Cap he weather broke today of course, a little light rain, but not too bad. After breakfast we went out on a half day tour of Budapest. It is a fascinating city, a lot of grot as is normal in old cities (particularly those which were under Communist regimes) but a great deal of beauty. We have little communication devices to spare the guides' voices but they don't seem to be very reliable and make us look as though we are wearing hearing aids.

Budapest Opera Singer photograph
Budapest Opera Singer

Drop Cap evertheless, our first sight was the Royal Opera House built with money donated by the music loving Hapsburg Franz Josef. It is very like Vienna's only smaller (by royal decree) and very ornate with gilding and frescos and huge chandeliers. When we had seen over the audience area we had a drink and a performance from a rather flamboyant tenor; a folk song, the Brindisi from Traviata (or Trovatore - always confuses me) and the Toreador's song from Carmen.

Budapest Heroes' Square photograph
Heroes' Square, Budapest

Drop Cap fter this we drove through the centre of town to the Heroes Square - a monumental space with columns in colonnades and statues of kings and emperors and warriors generally. No women. It was very impressive, and gave the impression of wide open spaces. Considering the number of coaches parked there I'm amazed that it was not shoulder to shoulder crowds, but it was reasonably uncluttered.

Budapest Royal Palace photograph
Budapest Royal Palace

Drop Cap nce we had been suitably impressed we drove through town again, passing the chief synagogue in the former ghetto area, and across one of the many bridges to the Buda side of the river where we piled out of one of about a million buses to tour the hill with the old Royal Palace remains, the Cathedral and the famous Fisherman's Bastion, a lookout tower behind the palace.

Cathedral Budapest photograph

Budapest's Beautiful Cathedral

Fishermans Bastion photograph
The Fishermans Bastion, Budapest

Drop Cap t was steep but hugely picturesque. The Cathedral was lovely with a beautiful tiled roof and the Bastion was just great, towers and turrets with a fantastic view over the river. We could see our ship looking tiny below, in front of the incredible Parliament building which looked even better than lit up last night. We felt we did not have enough time to enjoy Budapest; it would have been nice to wander, have a coffee and relax.

City Hall Budapest photograph
Budapest City Hall

Drop Cap espite the warnings about pickpockets in both Prague and Budapest we have not encountered any problems. This morning we could have bought any number of dodgy items from street hawkers, but did not succumb.

Along the Danube photograph

Along the Danube

Along the Danube photograph
Along the Danube

Drop Cap s I write we are sitting out on our balcony ( Mac is wrapped in a fluffy blue blanket) watching the river go by and the heavily wooded banks, no sign of the city. As well as the woods, there are several sandy beaches and more civilisation than we noticed before. Some interesting buildings, houses, taverns, boat houses etc, then the woods started again. The churches have lovely onion spires and there was one monumental domed building which I think was a monastery or at least a cathedral.

Along the Danube photograph

Along the Danube

Freight Barge Danube photograph
Freight Barge on the Danube

Drop Cap his evening we had a champagne cocktail with the captain and a special welcome dinner. OK I guess but we have been eating far too much lately. We went up on to the sundeck after dinner and walked two kilometers around the path. Must try to keep it up.

Tomorrow we arrive in Vienna. We will have the usual walking tour and later in the afternoon a musical recital at Palais Liechtenstein.

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Saturday 16th May, 2015

Drop Cap rrived in Vienna about 1300. Mac set the alarm for 0100 so he got up in time to see us go through the first and largest lock in the system. I slept through!

We saw us through another large lock before lunch then we docked in Vienna. Not quite in Vienna, a bit outside as the river does not run through it as in Budapest.

Vienna Streetscene photograph

Vienna Streetscene

Modern Vienna photograph
Modern Vienna

Drop Cap fter lunch we went on a city tour around the central historic (Hapsburg) area where we saw St. Stephens and lots of other churches, the Hofburg, even catching a glimpse of some of the Lippizaner horses at the Spanish Riding School. We even passed the Capuchin church with the Hapsburg crypt which Mac and I visited in 2007. I bought a sketch of St. Stephensdom from a street stall and we got some more euros from a cashpoint. It has been warm and sunny, a lovely day. The centre of Vienna was very crowded as there is a parade of some sort tonight.


Drop Cap e arrived back at the ship with about ¾ hour to freshen up and change for our classical concert. Dress code "smart". The women tended to be but a lot of the guys were still in jeans or cargoes. Mac at least had his good pants and jacket and tie. We were taken to the Palais Liechtenstein, which is owned by the Royal Family of Liechtenstein, just another of its properties. We walked through closed off streets and teeming crowds, some of whom were fantastically dressed in a theme of gold and white for the "Life Ball". The Life Ball assists an AIDS charity and I think it is sort of equivalent to the Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney.

Old and New in Vienna photograph

Old and New in Vienna

Drop Cap ur concert was just lovely, we all enjoyed it and the surroundings in the Baroque Palais made OTT seem mild. So much gold, huge chandeliers, mirrors, curlicues, the full baroque extravaganza. We had a chamber orchestra, four violins, viola, cello and bass, trombone, French horn, flute and drums. They were great, lots of personality as well. Three opera singers, a baritone and two sopranos, one a mezzo, and really good acting as well. A gaggle of kids also sang a folksy song. A lot of the music was familiar and all of it was accessible and we had a very enjoyable evening.

Back to the ship to a late Austrian dinner of schnitzel and strudel. All good. Very tired.

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Sunday 17th May, 2015

Schonbrunn photograph

Schonbrunn Facade

Drop Cap e headed out after breakfast for our tour of Schonbrunn Palace. Mac and I had, of course, been here before on our European tour in 2007. It was a nicer day today than it was then, cloudy but not actually raining.

Schonbrunn was monumental (the building is a kilometre long!) but recently refurbished so was sparkling with gold leaf and spectacular chandeliers. We only went through about twenty of the two thousand or so rooms (thank Heaven!) then strolled about a small area of the enormous gardens. These were lovely and we enjoyed the flowers and the fresh spring greens. A lively red squirrel bounced out of the bushes and came quite fearlessly towards us.

Us at Schonbrunn photograph

Mac and Rosemary in Schonbrunn Gardens

Schonbrunn Squirrel photograph

Schonbrunn Squirrel

Drop Cap hen we returned to the ship we found that there were now two boats, one on either side of us and moored so closely that we had to cross via the other ship to get aboard. Our balcony has been unusable since last night because the other ship was so close and breathing out stale cooking smells. Not happy really, we didn't really expect this. And what with high water levels making one bridge impassable and necessitating packing our luggage and joining a sister ship on the other side of this bridge near Nuremburg, it isn't quite as idyllic as I had hoped.

Drop Cap owever, tomorrow is one of the most scenic parts of the river, the Wachau Valley from Durnstein to Melk. I hope the weather is kind, because this is what I came for!

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