Danube River Cruise
The Beautiful Danube River Cruise on the Amadeus Elegant with Mayflower Tours in May. We started out in Budapest, Hungary and cruised to Passau, Germany followed by a motorcoach ride to Prague, Czech Republic. I hope you enjoy some of my photos and general information on the ports. Budapest, Hungary is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Known as the “Queen of the Danube”, she straddles both banks of the Danube with Buda on one side and Pest on the other. Seven bridges link Buda and Pest. The first afternoon we arrived, we walked through a large market hall near where our boat was docked. It is a restored neogothic hall for traders with produce, meat markets, restaurants and souvenirs shops. We will need to find the Paprika & maybe some Hungarian Gulash.
On our city tour the following day, we saw historic Buda Castle, 500 year old Matthias Church, St Stephen’s Basilica, the distinctive Fisherman’s Bastion and the Royal Palace. Below is the Parliament Building. We also walked a mile or so along the river to find the “Shoes on the Danube,” a memorial to honor the Jews who were killed in Budapest during World War II. Here is part of the story – A post by Phil Watkins –
Miklós Voglhut will not be a name synonymous with the majority of people but his story is just one of many linked to the Shoes on the Danube. Born in 1898 to an artistic Jewish family he decided from an early age that a career in music and theatre was what he wanted to pursue; his brother was a clarinet and saxophonist whilst his nephew was a well renowned jazz musician. His individual career gathered pace, but by 1924 there was large scale anti-semitism sweeping across Hungary and Europe, this led Miklós to change his name to a more Hungarian sounding stage name… and so Miklós Vig came into being (Vig in Hungarian means cheerful or merry).
In the harsh winter of 1944 despite the fact he did not have a Jewish name and had married into a catholic family Miklós was rounded up along with others from the ghetto by the ruling Arrow Cross Party for Jewish activities. Like many before him and many more after him he was forced to strip naked on the banks of the Danube and face the river; a firing squad then shot the prisoners at close range in the back so that they fell into the river to be washed away. This was a common practice that occurred during 1944-1945; although the Swedish Diplomat Raoul Wallenberg did save many more from this terrible fate.
Sculptors Gyula Pauer and Can Togay have created a moving memorial to these Holocaust atrocities that sits in front of the magnificent Parliament building on the edge of the river. What visitors will see are 60 pairs of rusted period shoes cast out of iron. Different sizes and styles reflect how nobody was spared from the brutality of the Arrow Cross militia (the shoes depict children, women, businessmen, sportsmen etc.). Behind the sculpture lies a 40 meter long, 70 cm high stone bench where at three points are cast iron signs, with the following text in Hungarian, English, and Hebrew: “To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944–45. Erected 16 April 2005.” During a visit to the shoes memorial you may see relatives lay flowers, wreathes or light candles to honour the fallen who have given their lives; whilst at night under the ethereal glow of flickering candles and the moon the sculpture presents a very different image of solitude. Take a moment to stop by these shoes and reflect on how fortunate we all are… Post by Phil Watkins
After two wonderful days in Budapest, we sailed on to Bratislava, Slovakia.
Here we saw the imposing Bratislava Castle built more than 1,000 years ago, the National Slovakian Theatre and Blumental Church. Bratislava was the capital of Hungary for more than 300 years. It is in the southwestern corner of the country, on the Danube where Slovakia, Austria, and Hungary meet. Below you see that the Danube runs through Bratislava.
The Old Town hall dates back to the 15th century. A cannonball hit it when Napoleon attacked the city in 1809 and this historic relic can still be seen today in a wall of the building. The city is filled with life-size statues. Don’t miss one of Napoleon’s soldiers leaning on a bench and be careful not to step on the worker peeping out of a manhole while walking through the main square! We spent one day in Bratislava before moving on to Vienna, Austria. Hoping for some Apple Strudel…
For over 600 years, the baroque capital city of Vienna was the seat of the mighty Habsburg Empire. This heritage has bestowed Vienna with many dazzling palaces and monuments. In this very cosmopolitan city you will find many grand buildings such as the State Opera House, the Museum of Fine Arts with all the treasures of the Habsburgs, the Natural History Museum, City Hall, Parliament and the Burgtheater. This city is also known as the “city of music” for having once been the home of composers such as Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart and Johann Strauss. The highlight of our day was the visit to Shonbrunn Palace, a former imperial summer residence of the Habsburg monarchs. The Palace was beautiful and grand but the many gardens had to be my favorite part. Just beautiful!
Our next stop was is Durnstein & Melk, Austria. The pretty, medieval town of Durnstein is set in Austria’s spectacular vine-terraced Wachau Valley. I just loved this little town!
It has a population of only 400 people and our local tour escort told us that they only have 16 kids in school. When her twins start Kindergarten in the fall, they will be the only two in the class. Above the town, there is a castle that was first mentioned in history in 1193 when the Duke of Austria, Leopold V, following a dispute during the Crusades, held the King of England, Richard the Lionheart, captive.
I would have loved to spend more time here but we moved on to see Melk and the 900-year-old Benedictine Abbey today as well. The Abbey did not disappoint. It is perched high above the Danube with wonderful gardens and an awe-inspiring view of the river. Inside see the Marble Hall and Library with its thousands of identically bound books.
We Continued through the Beautiful Wachau Valley towards Linz & Salzburg, Austria When we arrived in Linz, we decided to go to Mozart’s Salzburg, a short bus ride away. On our way to Salzburg, we made a brief stop in the Lake District of Austria, which featured picturesque hillsides. In Salzburg, we saw the fountain and gardens used in the filming of the Sound of Music.
We spent some time exploring the city and crossed the bridge spanning the Salzach River where people add “love locks” as they cross. This is similar to the locks in Paris that have just been removed.
Linz and Salzburg are both very charming cities to visit with so much history.
Now on to Passau, Germany
View from our balcony – Passau, Germany
Passau is one of Germany’s oldest cities dating back more than 2,000 years. We loved the cobblestone streets and the Baroque cathedral of St. Stephan, which contains the largest pipe organ in the world with 17,000 pipes. It was a little rainy that day but we still enjoyed all that Passau had to offer as this was our last stop on the river. From here we head into the Czech Republic to Prague.
Prague, Czech Republic. We journey on to Prague for a last two days in Europe. The Old Town Square is home to pastel-colored buildings, the Church of Our Lady of Tyn, the Town Hall and famous Astronomical Clock that displays the actual time as well as the movement of the sun and the moons around the signs of the Zodiac.
We visit the 9th-century Prague Castle with its regal palaces, gardens and churches, still used by the government today. We see Wenceslas square, and the medieval Charles Bridge adorned with statues that each tell a story of Prague’s colorful past.
We loved spending two days here with a variety of outdoor vendors with food and souvenirs. We spent some time in the Jewish Quarter, where the synagogues, cemetery, and streets of the former Jewish Ghetto can be explored. People are buried up to twelve deep, one on top of the other, in the cemetery. We also discovered that despite the terrible purges, Adolf Hitler actually wanted to preserve the Jewish Ghetto in Prague. It is said that Hitler considered Prague too beautiful to destroy and wanted the Jewish Ghetto to remain as a monument to the eradication of the Jews. The Jewish Quarter forms an integral part of the history of Prague and offers a real insight into the life and times of the people who lived there.
This was a great ending to our wonderful time on the River Danube. We started with the great city of Budapest and ended with the great city of Prague. When you choose the Danube you can choose to go in either direction and will see many wonderful cities in between. The scenery on the river is beautiful and this is a very relaxing way to travel between them. I certainly cannot describe all the wonderful things we saw in this blog post and have probably gone on too long already but if you would like more information on the river and her cities please call or email me anytime!