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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
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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...

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

Pretty Pretty Passau

2nd & 3rd Day of Danube Cruise

semi-overcast 12 °C

After a sweet shore visit in Vilshofen , AmaLea headed smoothly 19 km SE to Passau, a very picturesque town with greater attraction points. The indulgent American in me can't help referring to Passau as the "Pittsburgh" of Germany. Two tributaries, the Ilz and Inn flow into the Danube here , thus creating a 3-river junction, similar to Monogahela-Allegheny-Ohio of Pitt-town. However it is own right, Passau impresses with its baroque style and yes, once again, blocks of bright multi-colored like buildings, like those adored in Prague and Regensburg.

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Best snapshots of the cruise were taken here in this Bavarian town of about 50,000 people. The autumn Tuesday was sun-kissed — perfect for an hour's walk. City tour highlights included a stroll in Hollgasse Artist Alley , recognizable by its cobblestone alley with bright, colorful painted blocks and whimsical art displays. Good thing there was not much time and Euros for me to shop in the boutiques! So much glee was had by merely snapping away through the alley ways.

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After the charm of trekking the riverside path, I arrived at one of the most lauded religious sites in all of Germany— St. Stephan's Cathedral.
It was at first a quick visit inside, as service was underway but later, I was able to capture its conspicuous baroque intricacy and elegance inside. The grand interior feature is the largest pipe organ in Europe, built in 1733.

Passau was my swan song to Germany, as I was sailing on into the Danubian waters of Austria. Back on AmaLea I went to get a good night's sleep. Next stop on the itinerary, Day 3: Linz. This city was literally electrifying at first as I woke up to the neon blue and fuschia light of the Arstecnica buildings. The morning Linz city tour was fine, not as charming as the previous altstadt stroll in Passau and Regensburg. Perhaps it was the heavy mention of Linz being Hitler's fave that took the enamor of the place. Plus, it did not help that the weather and city exterior was more gray and stark. However, I won't "poo-poo" Linz too much. That Ars center would be a thing to not just marvel for its neon lights but for a proper visit. More time needed here, even just for a bike ride along the Danube and cafe visit to devour a truly authentic Linzer torte!

Posted by Marinarena 16:36 Archived in Germany Tagged art danube austria germany german bavaria linz passau danube_river passau_germany passau_art Comments (0)

Hallo AmaLea & My First Oktoberfest

First Day on the Danube cruise

semi-overcast 13 °C

This longest day by far in 2018 was on the 11th of November. Prague— as entertaining as it was— all but pooped me out and after a stroll in wedges in Regensburg , I was ready to call it a night. BUT- oh no, this was the official EMBARKATION DAY. It was time to check in, un-load, sort out all the garb and what-nots in my roll-on and backpack in the stateroom closet, freshen up and get ready and festive for Oktoberfest in the town of Vilshofen !

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EMBARKATION... There she was waiting for me at just about sunset...the beautiful AmaLea. She had make her debut earlier in the year. What a vexing vessel — so sleek on the exterior and so comfy within! Her flair was subtle but elegantly artful with autumn leaf carpets and Gustav Klimt paintings adorning walls. Adorned in her interior Side note: 443 feet long and is 38 feet wide. Her sister is AmaKristina, a new charmer of the major European rivers who has been garnering much clamor along with Lea.

Check-in process was a breeze. Staff was prompt, super accommodating and smiley as one who expect for a top-notch luxury cruise liner. After a brief visit in my stateroom, off I went to the huge event tent set up for Oktoberfest. A local Vilshofen song and dance group all decked out in leiderhosen, bundhosen and all got all the cruisers who were not jet-lagged (and coach-lagged) in a jolly mood. Slowly but completely, I washed a whole stein of beer down and ate a stift brick in the form of a pretzel. I just can't call that thing a pretzel. Terrible- and no mustard to get it down., no warmness. That twisted brown thing could have sent me to the orthodontist office!

Otherwise, my short stay in Vilshofen was a delight. This town was colorful on its surface, just as Prague was but unlike the latter city, Vils was sleepy. No great noise or hoopla about this place— just peace and quiet along with quaint shops and an array of odd placed sculptures like the
"Book of Wisdom".

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My take away: BIER ! (German Beer) I await for the next Germany visit to experience a good Bavarian pretzel.

Posted by Marinarena 16:11 Archived in Germany Tagged danube germany cruise german cruise_ship oktoberfest klimt vilshofen danube_cruise amalea ama_waterways Comments (0)

A fond stroll into the past : Remarkable Regensburg

2nd Pre-Danube Cruise Stop

After bussing it 3 hours from big town Prague— with a burger break at a Czech McDonalds— I arrived in Germany. My very first German town to explore was Regensburg, a well preserved medieval gem at the confluence of the Danube (Donau), Naab and Regen rivers. Though it may be in the shadow of big city Munich, Regensburg is a dearly lauded part of Bavaria. Here is where I met the Danube for the very first time.

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From the old stone bridge to distinguished Dom of St Peter, a stroll in Regensburg enchants in Alstadt (old town). In between, I was snapshot crazy for the pastel colored wall surroundings— comparable to the one in many Prague neighborhoods. Call me a peculiar Californian too accustomed to blah-blah Spanish tan architecture everywhere. Hues of limey-green, lemony-yellow and peachy-orange throughout town enthrall me. No matter the cold weather, there is a warmness felt from the pastel wall surroundings. Back to the Dom— the only Gothic cathedral In Bavaria— what a striking edifice, a more muted beauty made of limestone. I peaked inside for about 5 minutes while a service was just commencing, then exited. A silvery human statue greeted me nearby. Maybe I should have drop a few Euros in this hat- or not.

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What I adored the most in Regensburg- the feeling of Italian! I had just left Italy 3 days prior entering Germany. Regensburg was reminiscent of Rome and Florence with an emphasis on Greco-Roman architecture throughout the town.

It's no wonder why Regensburg has been deemed as the" northernmost extension of Italy".

Ultimately though, Regensburg is lovely in its own right.

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My Take Away: Regensburg, an elegant dish of Donauwaller on a bed of beets— scrumptious.

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Source: Suddeutsche Zeitung Magazine

Posted by Marinarena 14:37 Archived in Germany Tagged danube germany europe regensberg dom_of_st_peter Comments (0)

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