A Travellerspoint blog

March 2019

BudaBest of Times

Last Days of Danube Cruise

semi-overcast 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.

Budapest harbor

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/ )

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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...


Posted by Marinarena 14:43 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest danube cruises cruise hungary buda hungarian pest amalea szcechnyi Comments (0)

Va- Va Wachau & Vienna

Day 4, 5 & 6 of Danube Cruise


Four days on cruise at this point: It was time to slow down the pace. Up I went to the comfy peachy pastel lounge area, aka my temporary living room away from my living room. From there, I watched the Wachau (pronounced like English "Va-cow") world go by. The AmaLea drifted into the Wachau Valley, Austria's wine country and the most gorgeous stretch of the Danube journey. Quite imprinted in my memory : that spectacular sparkle, a dusted golden sparkle from the almond trees and apricot fields throughout the region.
See video of trees- https://www.instagram.com/p/BqkQXz3jB45/

Inside AmaLea

Danube River

Wachau is the heart of wine country. Mostly whites were-a flowing during on-board wine presentations by Dr. Frank Winery, featuring Fred Frank and at tastings conducted at outside venues. I got very familiar with Grüner Veltliner, a regional staple and my go to white variety, Riesling was my go to, that good ol' reliable one who always cheers me up.

Such a pretty place to visit no matter your religion or lack there of The rocky-top Benedictine abbey is the standout Wachau landmark. I snapped snapped away at this gorgeous golden edifice for lovers of Baroque and Gothic and Neo Gothic style. Pity I could only snap snap on the exterior grounds. Thanks to the stupidity of people using and abusing flash , shooting indoors is banned - so, too bad for me- I can't have nice indoor photo things for my Danube Diary scrapbooks.

My Melk Abbey Collage on Instagram

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This "Pearl of Wachau" is a storybook kind of Austria town. It was a splendid time in this popular wine-making and apricot growing town. For an alternative to the basic walking tour, I went on a kiddie-like "train ride" through vineyards and leisurely strolled through altstadt. Guiding me and the "slow poke" gentle walker group was a rather bright-eyed, bubbly local ( named Christine?) who seemed inebriated by apricot liquer , Riesling or some other feelgood stuff but she was good natured and spoke of fascinating folk tales.

Lovely Krems is just outside the Wachau area. Here is where I ventured off for an afternoon jaunt with my spirited Irish cruise companion, Brigid. We built up a little sweat strolling up hilly Krems old town (alstadt) and got lost making the way down and around- happily lost though! Day turned dark quickly here. Sadly, my camera and phone were low in battery , so I couldn't snap, snap away. However, I stumbled upon joyful rotund lady and man statues in front of Karikaturmuseum. See photos pf museum and statutes here https://hiveminer.com/Tags/deix Photos by deix.

After the splendid journey through Wachau came grand Vienna, 81 km west. By far, this is the premier capital of Central Europe. My Viennese visit was too short . Blame it on the pit-stop nature of river cruising. However, I made the most out of the regal paradise with a city tour by Ama Waterways. The tour was marvelously escorted by a blond, quintessentially tall Austrian woman. She truly gave keen city insider tips , ones I can't wait to try next time in the city. The main city landmark I hit was St, Stephen's Cathedral in the center of Stephanplatz (the 2nd worship place of Steve hit on the Danube cruise) and Spanish Riding School, just a few pristine blocks away. It would have been the icing on the cake to see the acclaimed horse show at the school. However, I experienced the next best thing: an up-close tour of the stables to see the doe-eyed muscled equines. No petting of horseys was allowed- but I was content.

Also worth mentioning- I ate Sacher Torte! OMG- this decadent cake lives up to the hype! Do save room this Viennese dessert delight and enjoy it slowly. Let the roof of your mouth savor each moist chunk. Also quite enjoyable--- my latte and visit at the best McDonalds ever It was a 2-story locale featuring a magnificent McCafe of locally crafted pastries, strudel and all. Why is it that McDos does its restaurants substantially fancier outside of America ? 'Tis a mystery. Now, don't judge me wrong. I should have experienced one the signature, elegant cafe houses in Vienna, the Euro cafe capital outside of McCafe. Regrettably, there was just not enough time! That being said, I did enjoy a traditional apple strudel and remarkably fast and gracious service at the Riding School. Cafe interior was rather ordinary and cramped but otherwise, i was satisfied.

My Viennese experience was capped with a visit to Christmas market (Christkindlemarkt). Finally, after much bated breath anticipation , I experienced my first Euro Christmas market. It was staged near Spanish Riding School This was more of a shopping experience than stuffing my mouth occasion (after all, I had plenty of food on cruise. Ultimately, I settled on buying small, fragrant seabreeze and lavender balls at a booth.

Sadly my original digital Vienna pics were destroyed after my cell was crushed to demise. However, some live on on Instagram.
My Vienna pics on Insta

My Take Away: A giant slice of luscious Sacher Torte with a side of apricot liquer that Christine did not drink.


Posted by Marinarena 22:40 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna austria wine unesco krems melk wine_tasting dürnstein wachau_valley wachau riesling melk_abbey Comments (1)

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