Last Days of Danube Cruise
17.11.2018 - 18.11.2018 17 °C
It was a bit of - but not a big fuss on board the AmaLea: which would be the mode of transport from Vienna to Budapest? Well, the writing seemed clear on the vessel wall right from cruise embarkation: AmaLea was not going to make a complete cruise journey all the way to Budapest. And, prognostics were right. Record levels of drought in summer yielded historic water level lows for the Danube, especially in Austria and Hungary.
And so, because of dry and rocky situation, it was back on the road again to bus it to next cruise destination. This time, we traveled to where the Hungarian hills of Buda meets bustling city paths of Pest. No huff and puff from me leaving Lea via coach ride. No luxury cruise would ever make me become "that" cruise goer ("that" meaning a haughty "she-diddy" type). No qualms here, after all, I already experienced a wonderful cruise experience- aside from one rude awakening of the captain horn from a morning transfer in Austria preceding or during a passage through locks. Ultimately, I made the best of things- all things considered.
Three hours on coach was very bearable, especially with excellent Wi-fi connection and handy snacks in the sack. After crossing the Austria-Hungary border, the 3-bus Ama Waterways brigade along with coaches from another cruise liner (That dominating one that starts with a "V" ) simultaneously stop at a fuel station. Whoa- what a scene: about 200 cruisers queued up at the stop for potty break and stretch. My bladder wasn't truly full , so I stayed at the rear of the coin bathroom queue.
First impression of Budapest began with sight of three prominent bridges in the Inner City - Liberty , Elizabeth and the most grand of all- Szcechnyi (practice to say the latter name correctly). Such towering achievements to appreciate up close and personal! Before having to chance to explore them by foot, I lunched at Peppers Restaurant at Marriott. On this occasion was the best Goulasch ever had- not that there were terribly many had previously.
After Peppers came one of the best moments on trip- and in life. After a quarter of a century (wow, times jetting by) of trading letters & e-mails, I met my dear, gracious Balkan buddies- Vladimir & Dragan in person. We merge as one. Our first activity was too mundane for the moment - drinks at Starbucks just down the way from the Marriott. Wow- this SB was the busiest ever- even more than any coffee joint in west Los Angeles. No big deal though- there was so much catching up to do with the guys... especially about family talk, funny life & body changes from aging and reminiscing "the good ol' days " when people were more saner and the music was way better (That would be the 90s, our coming of age generation).
My time in Budapest tour continued southeast along the charming Danube and across to famed Vaci Street (Utca) in Inner Pest . The guys being the ever-so-genuine gentlemen hauled my suitcase down the pavement and into the confining elevator up to their comfy Air B&B rental, by Corvinus University. Oh the peculiarity from this moment for me- feeling absolutely feeling at home in a Hungarian apartment having Turkish style coffee and Serbian wine with two men I had just met hours ago whom I've seemingly known forever. More quality time with the guys was filled with old stories and laughter was spent hiking on Pest, swirling through Buda Castle, the best destination for all-around city views. In a more formal setting, the guys and I joined the AmaLea passengers on a cozy dinner cruise boat for a fancy buffet and dazzling Illuminations tour on the river, a major contender for the most magnificent evening of sightseeing ever. Later, I relaxed in at the "5 Star consolation accommodation" that Ama Waterways set up for me and all the Lea group- Hotel Sofitel ( This mini Insta review says it all about my stay here https://www.instagram.com/p/BqqA0_anf0A/ )
Photos by V. Stanojević
On the final day of the trip, there was no formalized tour itinerary. After sweet good-byes to my cruise-tour protégé Brigid, a few other Amalea passengers and cruise Manager John, it was off I went with the guys for a last hurrah together at the main city Christmas market exploring and Vaci shopping. Markets eats: My yummy market food of choice was a dark sausage variety off at the market. The huge frank was kind of funky smelling but being the quasi- brave eater, I got it and was not disappointed. Shopping: Vaci shopping was entertaining...much so seeing just how hawkish some salespeople got, like the one girl selling me "gourmet" soap. Also, notably and funny was how Vladmir and I kept keep losing a drifting Dragan in shop after shop in pursuit of the perfect doll gift! Sweet.. To support Budapest commerce (of course) I had to buy paprika. It almost seemed obligatory to do while in Hungary. My post-trip potato meals were highly enhanced by the fresh Hungarian seasonings.
Oh, the taste of Budapest in my buds, like my time with my Serbian buddies in Budapest and was all too was brief but remain strong.
All in all, Sunday was a wonderful cap to a whirlwind trip, Until next time, Budapest and the Danube...