By: Sandra B. Wilkins
Senior Agent, AffordableTours.com
(Did you miss Part 1 of this article? Click Here to read it!)
Our next day in Vienna was more rewarding with a nice included tour of the famous city center, including famous St. Stephens Cathedral. Before we left home we had booked tickets for the Spanish Riding School. The famous Lipizzaner stallions and their skilled riders have performed their precision maneuvers and leaps for over 400 years. The horses themselves originated from a breed in Spain and it takes both the stallions and their riders over 6 years of training before they are ready to perform in public This event was definitely worth our $75 ticket!
Vienna is a very large city, and one is almost overwhelmed by the sheer scale of her monumental buildings, statues and public areas. As home for over 600 years to the powerful Habsburg Empire, one expects that the wealth and influence of this family would want and be able to finance such undertakings as part of their ongoing legacy.
One fun thing we did here was conquer the Vienna metro system, and ride from city center our to the Danube river where our ship was docked. It was surprisingly easy to manage, quite inexpensive and efficient, and well, it’s always good to take advantage of public transportation, whether in Paris, London, Prague or Madrid!
We enjoyed a lovely Captain’s Farewell dinner onboard with our new friends from Florida before sailing into our last port of Budapest. I must report that the quality of the meals we enjoyed on both of our Avalon river cruises was of the highest standard (better than Tauck and AMA, my two other river cruise experiences!).
Avalon cruises allow guests the opportunity to enjoy local cuisines – many menus are inspired by locally-sourced ingredients and devised by some of Europe’s most highly skilled chefs. Dinner is generally a classy affair (though quite casual) with a sit-down meal served in a single sitting. The chef delights guests with a delicious gourmet selection. Dinner menus typically feature an appetizer, soup, entrée, dessert, and coffee or tea, with unlimited regional wines to compliment the meal.
Next morning we sailed into Budapest, cruising by Margaret Island on our left, and after the next bend in the river the famous Parliament Buildings of Budapest materialized. At last we’d arrived at our last stop on this memorable river cruise.
First stop, our terrific cruise director, Nancy, walked our group over to the exciting Grand Market Hall. What an adventure for photos and shopping! One of my goals for this trip was to buy some genuine Hungarian paprika, because I’m a cook (Cordon Bleu trained!), I love to cook, and I’m a very good cook! Well, prayers answered in spades at the market and I did stock up for me and friends and family, buying a large quantity of both the “hot” and “sweet” paprika varieties offered at the many stalls in the market. There are some excellent recipes for authentic Hungarian recipes using both paprikas if you just google “hungarian recipes with paprika”.
We skipped back to the ship from the market to ready ourselves for the afternoon tour of the Buda Castle District, and the Fishermen’s Bastion and St.Matthias Church. This area was located on the opposite side of the Danube, on the Buda side of the city, and it was a delightful experience. You’ll learn all about the history of this complex on your guided tour, but for me, I loved the many photo ops afforded by this area. The roof of St Matthias is a dazzling array of colorful tiles fading into the lovely white stone of the building itself. Just opposite a few paces away stands the Fishermen’s Bastion, also white stoned, and a combination of neo-Gothic and neo-Romananesque, full of turrets, parapets and climbing stairways. Well known for its incredible panoramic views across the Danube to the Pest side of the Danube, the cafe at Fishermen’s Bastion thrives with happy visitors.
I confess that Budapest did not delight me so much as Prague. In some places I sensed sort of a “Soviet hangover” which had been totally banished from Prague. Nevermind me, Budapest is the 37th most popular city in Europe with almost 3 million visitors a year.
Happy to have met new friends and experienced many new places, I happily endorse and say with confidence that all who opt for this adventure will be justly rewarded!
© Sandra B. Wilkins
About the Author
Sandra Wilkins is a Tour Specialist at AffordableTours.com
Tel: 800.935.2620 Ext 115
Email: [email protected]