Wednesday, September 30, 2015

River Cruising in Europe (part 1)

From Budapest to Amsterdam
I wrote earlier about the wonderful cooking class in which my wife, Dianne, and I participated in Budapest, Germany.  Well, that was just a prelude to a fifteen day river cruise that took us from Budapest to Vienna on the Danube through Bamberg on the Main-Danube Canal. Continuing on we visit Wurtzburg and Wertheim on the Main,
The Buda side of Budapest
reaching the Rhine at Mainz and on to Koblenz and Cologne. We ended in Amsterdam having covered just over 1800 km and five countries. 

Hero's Square Budapest
We had a little extra time in Budapest before boarding our ship (the Viking Longship Mimir) so we did some typical touring (Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus) which took us to both the Buda and Pest sides of the Danube.  We went to Hero's Square with its massive statuary and museums.  This borders on a beautiful park containing some of Budapest's most famous hot spring baths.

The New York Cafe
A real treat was lunch at the famous New York Cafe, a gorgeous, mid-19th century, coffee house with vaulted ceilings and gold gilt everywhere. This used to be the meeting place of authors, artists, playwrights, actors and intellectuals. It is said that the writer Ferenc Molnar, on the day the cafe opened, threw the keys into the Danube so that it would never close...oh...and the food was good too! 

Budapest Farmer's Market
After lunch we continued our tour and visited the multi-purpose Farmer's Market.  The ground floor of this massive building was devoted to every kind of gastronomic consumable you might imagine. From fresh produce to just butchered meats to both hot and sweet paprika...among other spices and treats.  The second floor has other items that range from fine linens, tablecloths and runners to leather and lace clothing to typical tourist paraphernalia.

Fois Gras
Dinner approached and it was time to indulge in one of my most favorite Hungarian treats: lightly seared foie gras.  I had some the last time my wife and I were in Budapest and found it to be the best we had ever had (sorry, but even better than the French we had previously enjoyed!).  We were not the least bit disappointed. This, combined with a local Hungarian red wine, made for a marvelous meal!

Fisherman's Bastion
We boarded our ship the next day for the official start of our cruise, which had another day and a half in Budapest.  The official cruise tours (included in the price of the cruise!) are some of the best we have ever had. You don't have to huddle about your guide to hear what they are saying as a roaring motorcycle drowns everything out.  You each have a set of earphones while the guide has a microphone. (The bad part of this is that my wife can fall behind, do a little shopping, and still hear the entire tour!) 

Matthias Church
The tour included the massive hilltop castle complex on the Buda side with its famous Fisherman's Bastion and Matthias Church overlooking the Danube and the Pest side of the city.  We also made a second trip to Hero's Square and took in the sights such as the Chain Bridge and the Parliament.

Hungarian Horsemen
The last part of the day was spent at Lazar Equestrian Park for a show of great horsemanship.  The local Hungarian Horsemen are talented and showed that skill with one of them standing astride two horses running at full speed to marksmen shooting arrows at targets while at full gallop.  Something I had never seen before is that they were able to get their horses to lie down and even sit...all of these tricks without saddles!
Hungarian Horsemen Kneeling Horse

The show finished, we headed back to the ship for a cocktail, a nice dinner and a relaxing evening. We had the opportunity to meet new people from all over the US and Europe (Viking caters to English speakers), had a couple of lively conversation, of course a nightcap and finally a good nights sleep. The ship silently set off to our next destinations: Bratislava, Slovakia and then Vienna, Austria.  More on that in my next post!

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