Come with us as we take a 3-week Viking river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest, Hungary; ending the tour with a land coach ride to Prague, Czech Republic.
We began in August 2014 with 3 days in Amsterdam. The weather was sunny and warm. Amsterdam is a great city to walk in, and we put loads of miles on our tennis shoes visiting the Ann Frank House, Rijksmuseum, neighborhood open air markets, and of course, the famous Red Light District.
Our first morning aboard our ship, The Alsvin, we disembarked for an excursion along the picturesque Dutch countryside to the historic Kinderdijk area. Built in mid-18th century, the collection of 19 windmills are a World Heritage Site. They are an intriguing glimpse into Holland’s past. Families still live in these mills to keep them in working order. It is a strange sensation to walk across the dyke from our ship and see that the land beyond is at a lower elevation than the ship: much of this part of the Netherlands is below sea level.
As we continued a beautiful cruise down the Father Rhine, we dock in Cologne, Germany.
We took a walking tour of the magnificent Gothic cathedral, began in 1248 and completed in 1880. It largely escaped damage that ravaged the city and much of Germany during WWII, and is still northern Europe’s largest Gothic cathedral.
The rest of the day we toured the Old City and visited the Fragrance Farina House, which claims to be the birthplace of Eau de Cologne.
That evening we sampled some of Cologne’s famous beers, including the famous Kolsch beer, in some of it’s historical Brauhauses.
The next morning we arrived in Koblenz, Germany, and toured Marksburg Castle. Set high above the hills, it is the best preserved castle on the Rhine. Built approx. 700 years ago, it is complete with torture chamber and implements.
The next 4 days we continued our cruise down the Middle Rhine, entering into the Main River, where we visited such beautiful old medieval cities as Braubach, Miltenberg, Wurzburg, and Bamberg, passing through the dangerous waters of the Lorelei. We docked at these old towns along the way to visit, churches, palaces, castles, fortresses and ancient streets of half-timbered houses.
And of course, the local food and drink.
The next day we entered the Main-Danube Canal. This engineering marvel stretches 106 miles. Begun as Charlemagne’s dream in 793, it was completed in 1992 with 16 locks that raise the water to 1,332 feet. Connecting the Main and Danube Rives, today it enables river travel from the North Sea to the Black Sea.
For the next 3 days we docked and visited (1) Nuremberg, home of the post-WWII war trials, and also grounds where Nazi rallies were staged, (2) Regensburg, one of Germany’s best-preserved medieval cities, and (3) Passau, where we were thrilled to attend a concert in the 17th-century St. Stephan’s Cathedral to hear Europe’s largest pipe organ.
We sailed into the beautiful blue Danube—NOT!!!! It is not blue at all, but it is large and placid with the blue sky often reflected on its vast, still waters. We sailed into Melk, Austria, to visit a 900-year-old- baroque Abby, perched on sheer cliffs high above the Danube. After a day of leisure cruising, we docked in Krems, Austria. where we took a wine tour and tasting of the Erhard Morwald vineyard.
The next morning we arrived in Bratislava, Slovakia. Set picturesquely at the foot of the Little Carpathian Mts, Bratislava is dominated by a massive square castle, and its Old Town has a beautiful cathedral and 15-century tower. We took a short bus tour out of the city and visited the home of a Slovakian family who has a small vineyard and sells wine to support their family. We were served wine (at 10:30 a.m.), coffee, tea and cake and were allowed to ask any questions we wished about their lives before and after the fall of Communism.
That evening we cruised towards Budapest, Hungary. The weather turned very chilly for August but the light rain we had that day ceased as we pulled into Budapest under darkness. Everyone was on the sundeck, wrapped in warm blankets, to witness one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring sights I have ever seen. To come into Budapest by ship at night is to enter a magical space in time. All the buildings and bridges are aflame with lights, and the reflection from the Danube is beyond description. This was my “MOMENT” ! The one moment I always look for in a trip! No words or photos can describe the beauty that Budapest displays at night.As beautiful as Budapest is at night, I enjoyed it almost as much in the daylight. The weather was beautiful as we awoke to the beautiful sights of Budapest. We had docked between the Elizabeth Bridge and Chain Bridge on the Pest side of the city and could see both from our room. A morning spent on the massive hilltop castle complex, with its turreted Fishermen’s Bastions and Matthias, was just a beginning of our enjoyment of this city that is cut through its heart by the lovely Danube.
The afternoon was spent visiting the colorful Jewish quarter and the 19th-century Moorish-style synagogue and museum which highlighted some of the terrible days the Jews of this city suffered in WWII.
This was our last night onboard our ship, and the next morning we said goodbye to our ship and staff.
Twenty-one of us took a land coach from Budapest to Prague, Czech Republic. It was to be a 5-hour trip, but due to road construction it took us 8 hours…a long, but beautiful drive.
Prague. What a wonderful city! We spent the day walking Old Town and viewing Prague Castle, a massive complex which includes palaces, churches and museums. After crossing the famous Charles Bridge, we walked the Wenceslas Square and saw the famous 15th-century Astronomical Clock as it gave its historical hourly performance. Two full days here was just not enough, but they will have to do until we hopefully visit again. After all, we did rub the brass behind of a saint on the Charles Bridge–said to ensure our return.
This has been a wonderful trip, and we look forward to traveling with Viking again soon. Thank you for taking this journey with us.