Our final destination on the cruise was Budapest. Viking scheduled our arrival at night so that we could see Budapest along the Danube all lit up. Despite years of communist rule, the palatial buildings (some dating back to the Hapsburg empire) are quite impressive when lit up.
The next morning, despite some drizzle, we took a panoramic bus tour of Budapest. One of the stops was Hero Square, including the Hungarian tomb of the unknown soldier.
After the walking tour, Nicole, Greg, Karen, JJ, Candy, and I walked a short distance to the huge indoor market near where our boat docked and not far from the downtown shopping area. We were hungry for lunch, so we stopped at a Hungarian cafeteria style restaurant for traditional Hungarian food while being serenaded by a violinist.
That afternoon Dave and I took a biking tour of Budapest. There were just two from our boat (Dave and me) and two from another Viking boat. It was a great tour. Our guide took us to places we couldn’t see from the bus tour, and we covered a lot of ground that we couldn’t have covered on foot. We even rode out to Margaret Island, where vehicles are not allowed.
We had four birthdays on this trip: Nicole our first night aboard, Candy a few days later, and Dave and Brenda the same day, our last night aboard. The Viking staff brought a passion fruit cheesecake to both our tables and sang to Dave and Brenda.
The next day we transferred off the boat to our hotel in the castle district for the remainder of our stay. Before even checking into the hotel, we were whisked away on one of our tours.
The next day, Eric, Vickey, Candy, and I took a van trip to Skanzen near the town of Szentendre. Skanzen (pronounced like the back half of Wisconsin), is like the Dutch outdoor museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. In this case over 240 buildings were moved with painstaking care from around Hungary to build several authentic villages depicting live in Hungary in different regions at different periods of history.
We only had time to visit 20 or 30 buildings of the 250 on display at Skanzen. Afterwards our guide took us to Szentendre, a real town filled with interesting shops. There were some of the tourist souvenir shops, but there were also a number of legitimate local craft shops too.
The next day, Eric, JJ, Dave, and I walked a quarter mile to the Hungarian military museum. While not nearly as ornate or extensive as the one in Vienna, there were some interesting items on display.
We all had different flights the next day, so we didn’t see each other. Travel home was high adventure for most of us with cancelled flights, delayed flights, delayed takeoffs, and lost baggage.
The next morning we found ourselves in Bratislava, the capitol of Slovakia. We took the panoramic bus tour around town and up to the castle. This portion of the trip seemed rushed. We took the quick bus tour, walked around downtown for a few minutes, and then got back on the boat. Another two hours would have been a perfect amount of time to explore downtown a little more.
We began our time in Vienna with a walking tour of the downtown area and the Hapbsburg palace with its many courtyards. After the walking tour, there was some scheduled free time for shopping. Instead of shopping, Greg, JJ, and I met Duncan at the Vienna military museum.
Duncan had found this gem while looking for things to do in Vienna many months ago. Duncan skipped the walking tour entirely to make sure he had time to see everything. JJ, Greg, and I spent over four hours there. It was well worth the time. The architecture in the museum and the artwork, but might have been “over the top” in an art museum. It is unprecedented in a military museum.
I took over 350 photos in this museum. These are just a small sample.
After seeing everything in the museum itself, we walked around the corner to the panzerahalle (Tank Hall). This included an excellent display of Russian and Cold War equipment that you rarely see.
The day of the Wachau Valley cruise, we also stopped at Krems to visit the Gottweg Abbey. They abbey was impressive. The tour ended in the gift shop for some wine tasting, as the abbey seems to be famous for its wines, and it is in the Wachau Valley, which is wine country.
We had a little time after returning from the abbey, so then Dave and I hike into the hills around Krems for an hour.
After our day at Linz, the next morning we set sail along the Danube toward Bratislava. This was meant to be a relaxing day absent a bunch of excursions. The morning was foggy, but along the way, I was able to capture some pictures of some castles and the countryside. Violeta, our program director, was providing a narration during this porting of the trip, but for some reason, it was difficult to hear and understand her on the top (sun) deck. As a result, I don’t have a lot of details about these various sights, other than they are picturesque.
As is typical on Viking cruises it seems, much of the staff is from Central Europe. Violeta was from Romania. She recognized my name immediately as we came on board as being Romanian. In Romanian “Surdu” means the deaf. One evening, Violeta gave a presentation about what life was like under the communist regime in Romania that all Americans need to hear. It was long and suffered from a little meandering, but the content was good.