Guten Tag Plaid Fearless Travelers!
I had never been on a river cruise and in preparation for our Fearless Travel Paris to Normandy River Cruise, I thought I would do some research. To be perfectly honest with you, my husband wanted to take this trip. I usually lean toward vacations with a more rustic and adventurous theme. Never-the-less, to sooth his “You never want to go where I want to go” lamenting, I packed my bag and we headed to the airport with a “Ve Vill have fun!!” attitude. And you know what . . .we had an absolutely outstanding adventure.
This cruise was the Viking’s Blue Danube River Cruise. We were on one of their newest ships, the Odin. The Odin was commissioned in 2012, carries 190 guests in comfortable, understated elegance, with hotel-style beds and amenities like 40 flat-panel TVs and in-room refrigerators. From the bow of the boat we could take advantage of the indoor/outdoor viewing area and grills for al fresco dining. We met for lectures in the day and danced the night away in the Observation lounge and bar with floor-to-ceiling glass doors . The restaurant with it’s floor-to-ceiling windows for panoramic views was a perfect setting for communing with new friends as we dined on delicious food. It is the little things that impress me such as the 110 volt plugins for us Americans so no adapters needed on this trip. Then there was the ice machine down the hall for this Texas girl, that has to have a lot of ice – just because.
The best part is we unpacked our luggage and didn’t have to repack until the night before we left and we visited three countries!
We made all our travel arrangements through Viking and we are glad we did. We were not sure if we would be able to get out of DFW as we left the day after the tornado disaster in Oklahoma. Fortunately, there was an earlier flight and we were able to fly out before any more storms closed in on the DFW area. We were met by a Viking representative when we landed in Budapest and when we departed Nuremberg for the US. It was very reassuring knowing that someone was there to help us throughout the trip.
Upon our arrival in Budapest we were whisked off to our boat the Odin just in time for dinner. Perfect timing. We met and ate with wonderful people the first night. But, you could drop in at any table and have a wonderful dinner and excellent conversation. The next morning we disembarked for a tour of Hungary’s beautiful capital. The Danube cuts through the heart of the city, separating the Buda Hills and the Old City from the elegant boulevards of Pest. Our tour highlights were the Parliament, the National Opera House and Heroes’ Square. Then we crossed the river to the more traditional Buda. There was a beautiful massive hilltop castle complex and Matthias Church. We did run across the Chain Bridge, one of several bridges that connect the two halves of the city. Hopping back on board just in time and I do mean just in time to set sail for Vienna, Austria.
We awoke in Vienna, one of Europe’s most elegant and romantic cities. Imposing and gorgeous palaces and grand residences lined our way to the medieval Innere Stadt,”Inner City”. We toured the Schonbrunn Palace which is said to be equivalent to Versailles, in France. What fun it was to attend a concert at the Opera House and the finale was?
You guessed it, The Blue Danube Waltz. AMAZING! As the animal person, I had to see The “World Famous” Lipizzaner Stallions at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Austria. I want to go back to Vienna and do a behind the scenes tour and watch them train. I would like to thank General Patton for saving these beautiful horses at the end of World War II from certain extinction. We visited the Schonbrunn Palace which rivals Versailles. I cannot tell you that hearing the Blue Danube delivered by a Viennese orchestra took my breath away. We waltzed our way back to the boat just in time for us to sail to Melk, Austria.
This area of Austria is the heart of their wine country and is filled with cultural and historic importance. It is one of the most beautiful areas I have seen thus far. It has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site with it’s 900 year old baroque Melk Abby. As we begin sailing to Passau, Germany, it was like looking at one continuous postcard.
We docked in Passau on Sunday and were able to visit St. Stephen’s Cathedral which contains Europe’s largest pipe organ. We stayed for the Sunday service in this massive and breathtakingly beautiful cathedral. When the organist struck the first cord and I closed my eyes to enjoy every note, I felt I had stepped back in history. I could see myself in a medieval costume, of course I was about 35 pounds lighter.
Next morning we awoke in Regensburge where we toured the medieval city on foot. The meticulous care that the city gives to these buildings is unbelievable. They appeared to be brand new. We were lucky that the rain finally stopped and we made our way by small boat to one of the oldest monasteries in Germany, The Weltenburg Abby. It was founded in the 7th century. I love these monks. They have been brewing beer here since 1050 and continue to do so.
Our last stop was Nuremberg, Germany.
Along with it’s medieval city, handicrafts and toys, Nuremberg is best known in this country for the Nuremberg trials after WWII that were held at the Palace of Justice and for the grounds where Nazi rallies were staged at the Imperial Castle. Some of the guides seem a bit uncomfortable talking about that time period and I will tell you it was still a bit overwhelming standing inside that castle. It was interesting that there was a fire not far from us but it was the Nuremberg Fire Department training new recruits.
The beauty of this area is legendary and well deserved. We still cannot figure out the real reason that the Danube is call the Blue Danube because we didn’t see anything blue about it. We did hear stories, but they included a lot of liquor and guys, but that is another story for another time. I also want to know who invented or designed the locks system on the Danube. Amazingly, we went through 28 locks on this adventure.
I will have to admit to my husband that he was right. Sometimes that is not so easy for me to do, but in this case “He was right !!”. He picked a magnificent vacation in every aspect. I am so excited to start preparing for the Paris to Normandy cruise. I will be honest with you, I would liked to have spent a bit more time in each port, but that would have added about ten days to the tour. These cruises are a wonderful way for you to get an idea of selected areas of interest all the while having your hotel travel with you.
All you Plaid fearless travelers I highly recommend a river cruise and I am so looking forward to our Paris to Normandy cruise in May, 2014.
I will say auf wiedersehen to Hungry, Austria and Germany and Bon jour to France.
Hope to see you on the road !!