By: Derek Miller, Travel Consultant
Arriving early in Budapest served me and my cousin well. We got a chance to see the city before starting our Avalon Waterways river cruise the next day.
Once we began our adventure with Avalon Waterways, we started with a short tour on the Pest side. There are two sides of Budapest. The Buda side and the Pest side. The Buda side with started back in the 1200’s and the Pest side in the 1850’s. The Buda side is made up of large hillsides and is primarily residential. The Pest side is more commercial and the landscape is flat. Many of the city’s best hotels are on the Pest side.
I ended up going to a traditional Hungarian dinner on the first night. Never in my life have I had goose, but I’ve had duck several times. This goose was so tender, that the meat was falling off the bone. It was a fantastic dinner that also included a wine tasting as well has a Hungarian Gypsy band playing in the background.
Once the day of sailing arrived, some of us went to a large Hungarian farm where we were greeted with wine and drinks. Once we had our drinks, we proceed to go watch a horse show which was amazing. At the conclusion of the horse show, we all proceed to go see the animals of the farm. Lastly, we were all led to a giant Hungarian feast, which started off with a bowl of goulash. It was mighty tasty too!
The next day began with a tour of Durnstein and Melk, Austria. Durnstein is a town of about 200 people, famous for capturing Richard the Lionhart in the 1100’s and holding him hostage for a year until a hefty ransom was paid. Prince Léopold is the one that ended up capturing the king. The fool king tried to blend in with the common folk, but had a bunch of gold rings on his fingers. He was quickly discovered.
Once we left Durnstein, we headed to Melk. The highlight of this city was touring the Abbey. This is a huge monastery primarily used as a museum for tourists. I had no idea of this rich history!
Salzburg was also very interesting. I ended up visiting university square and market square, which are located in the center of Salzburg. There is a huge shopping market there and lots of wonderful museums. If you are a sausage lover, this is the place to be. The sausage in Austria is commonly served with sauerkraut if you get it on a plate.
That evening, on the ship, we had previously signed up for the bistro tapas dinner on the main deck. It was a 6 course tapas dinner and it was absolutely wonderful.
Another highlight was when we toured Regensburg, Germany. There was an amazing Cathedral that dated back to the early 1200’s. The inside was just as impressive as the outside. Toward the end of our tour, we ended up at a famous sausage house. The sausages were served on top of a bed of sauerkraut.
Although Budapest was an awesome city, Prague had me almost at a loss for words.
My second day there, I attended a wonderful city tour of the old town, Jewish town, and got to walk across the famous Charles Bridge. It was absolutely stunning; with statues from the ages scattered from one end of the bridge to the other. It’s definitely a must see.
After walking across the Charles Bridge, you run into what’s known as Venice, Italy. It is named for the narrow water ways with the gondolas. It kind of reminds people of being in Italy.
The next day, I visited Republic Square, a square near city hall and the famous Hrad Prague Castle. This is a huge compound that includes a large cathedral. I believe it has about 4 or 5 large courtyards. I stood admiring the view for who knows how long. This is another must see when visiting Prague.
The very last day was a visit to Terezin. This is a massive compound that was built from 1780-1792 to protect the Czech’s from the Germans. This wasn’t accomplished, because the Germans ended up occupying the compound in 1939. The Germans mistreated, abused, brutalized, and murdered thousands upon thousands of Jews from 1939 to 1945. There is a huge cemetery on the compound along with a museum and lots of other fascinating buildings. What a history lesson that was!
By: Derek Miller
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