Waltzing along the Danube with Viking
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As a regular ocean cruiser, one of the
problems you don’t encounter is lack of water.
However, our Romantic Danube cruise with
Viking, planned for late last year, suffered from just that issue. So, rather
than use two ships to complete the journey we decided to take the first cruise
of 2016 which left on Easter Saturday.
Concerned about Bank Holiday traffic we
booked meet-and-greet parking at Heathrow through Holiday Extras. At terminal
five our car was driven away, we were quickly through security and settled in
to our short flight to Munich from where we transferred by coach to Erlangen,
just outside Nuremberg, to join our ship.
Freya was our home for the week, one of
the Viking longships hosting 190 guests. Our well-equipped balcony cabin had everything
we needed with a large double bed and excellent shower with good quality
toiletries which, along with towels and bottled water, were replenished without
us ever having to ask our excellent cabin steward. The main dining room was
supplemented by an outdoor terrace for al
fresco eating. The whole of the top deck was available for relaxation and
even sported a large chess set and shuffleboard as well as a herb garden that
kept the kitchen well supplied.
Viking offers an included tour each day, so we joined our fellow guests to explore Nuremberg. It’s probably best known
for links to the Nazi movement and subsequent war crimes trials. However, there
is far more to discover than this dark period of German history. It was for
many years the toy-making capital of Europe and is also renowned for its
gingerbread. Three miles of the medieval
city’s wall are still intact and include a number of watch towers and gates.
The hilltop Imperial Palace was impregnable until the advent of gunpowder and
the city contains many half-timbered houses. At the end of the year the lively square
holds one of Germany’s best Christmas Markets.
Arriving in Regensburg next morning, one
of the major benefits of river cruises became clear. Ships usually dock in town
centres, so hopping off to explore on your own is simple and convenient. Before
doing that, however, we joined the tour of this UNESCO World Heritage town.
It’s home to many well-preserved patrician houses as well as Germany’s oldest
restaurant, the Alte Wurstkuche or Old Sausage Kitchen. Bavaria is big on beer
and sausages! The 12th Century stone bridge is a great example of
early engineering. However, it was built for horse and cart, not motor traffic,
and is currently undergoing sympathetic restoration.
Next stop was Passau on the
Germany/Austria border. It was founded by the Celts over two thousand years ago
and the Danube, Ilz and Inn rivers meet here, earning the name of ‘City of Three
Rivers’. As we learned, Germans are not very creative when it comes to naming
things. Passau’s many magnificent buildings include the 17th Century
St Stephen’s Cathedral which boasts one of the largest organs in Europe with
over 17,000 pipes.
The following day we awoke in sleepy Krems
in the Wachau Valley. Its vines produce grapes for some of the best Reisling
wines. Our morning was spent visiting a nearby hilltop Benedictine monastery, and later we later hopped off to enjoy wandering round the small peaceful town.
The pace hotted up as next morning found
us in Vienna, probably best known for its waltzes, coffee houses and the famous
Sachertorte chocolate cake. It’s also
home to the world-renowned Spanish Riding School, and it’s where Mozart and
Strauss composed many of their famous works. There’s much to see, but the city
is not large and is manageable on foot.
We left Vienna late afternoon and
enjoyed the scenery as Freya sailed across the border into Hungary and the
Siamese-twin city of hilly Buda and flat Pest.
We moored right next to the famous
chain-link bridge that connects the two halves of the city, a copy of the bridge
over the Thames in Marlow. We admired the hilltop view of the city from Fisherman’s
Bastion, visited Matthias Church next door, toured many places of historic
interest on the Pest side of the river and admired the stunning riverside parliament
building, faintly reminiscent of our own, just a few yards from where we were
moored. Later we enjoyed the night-time view from Freya as many of the
buildings are beautifully lit up. It was a memorable end to our trip.
Our cruise was a very sociable affair
and being docked in city centres meant getting more involved in each
destination. After a final overnight stay in Budapest we were sorry to say
good-bye to Freya and our many new-found friends as we headed out to the airport and
our flight back to Heathrow.
Viking River Cruises offers a seven night river cruise, discovering one of Europe’s most romantic rivers, the Danube, from £1,795pp full board including all meals, drinks with meals (wine, beer & soft drinks only) and 6 included guided tours. Price includes flights and is based on 2 people sharing a cabin. For more information visit Viking Cruises website or call 0800 319 6660.
Holiday Extras offers great deals on airport
parking, lounges, hotels and more. Visit Holiday
Extras website or call 0800 1313 777.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Viking River Cruises.
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