I would like to tell you about the experience I had sailing down the Danube River on an Avalon River Cruise. While there may be countless words to describe the feeling, I can think of a few. Tranquility, Scenery, Imagery and Tapestry, Poetry. Is it any wonder why Avalon Waterways chose these words to name some of these world renown ships?
We chose the “Legendary Danube” with a three-day extension in Prague, and while I seat here and reflect on those 10 magnificent days, I chose the top five reasons to take one of these European River Cruises.
1 – Great Value for your Dollar
2 – Variety of Itineraries
3 – Easy Pace
4 – Delicious Food
5 – Superior First-Class Service and Accommodations.
Our itinerary began in Prague, Czech Republic and here, everything seems to happen in and around the Old Towne Square, the heart of the city, with baroque buildings, Gothic Churches, and its famous medieval Astronomical Clock, which animates the crowds with hourly time telling shows.
The Saint Charles Bridge, The Church of St. Nicholas, the narrow winding streets of the old Jewish Quarter and The Palace Gardens are some of the most popular MUST-SEE attractions of this beautiful city; considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world and a UNESCO Monument that is also known as “The City of the Thousand Spires”.
The fabulous St. Charles Bridge in Prague
Yes, there is so much that can be said and written about Prague, you could walk and walk and at any moment come upon a certain picture-perfect corner with a monument or a church or something that will make you stop and be awed.
After three restful and enjoyable nights, we left Prague on a nostalgic and gloomy rainy morning; we headed west on our motorcoach towards the border of Germany on our way to Nuremberg, which was to be our next stop and the place where we would board our ship.
There have been cities and places that have left a mark on me and have stayed with me for many years. Nuremberg is one of these places. The city seats on the edge of the Danube canal in the state of Bavaria and it is known as the city of toys with its famous Christmas Markets.
Nuremberg also houses the famous courthouse where the Nuremberg trials took place and as I stood in front of the witness stands, I got the chills on my skin. It was quite a feeling.
We boarded our ship just after noon and I immediately noticed the quality of the ship. With only 52 suites and 12 staterooms, these ships are equipped with the latest technology and comfort that is difficult to match.
Everything from the way the chairs are arranged in the lounge and in the restaurants, the spotless glasses and shiny utensils in the dining tables, the shine on the stair’s handrails and doorknobs.
The tiny details that mean so much, like the chocolate that’s place on your white plush pillow as they come into your cabin to turn your bed, the daily program with the following day’s activities and visits with maps, tips and hints on what to expect and do.
Everything is so meticulously done that it makes you feel as if you are in a five-star luxury floating hotel.
A river cruise vacation allowed me a nice and relaxing time, where I could lay back and enjoy my time off, while combining it with an itinerary that includes visits to cities, towns and villages that are rich in history, beauty, and culture.
As I sat on the top deck of our ship and looked into the open waters along the Danube and took a drink of a nice cold and refreshing German beer, I just felt blessed. What a joyous experience.
As we cruised down the Danube canals, we reached Regensburg, where we finally got a taste of the Danube River. Interesting fact about this city of Regensburg; history has it, that it was the only city in Germany that was not bombed during WWII. As with many of the cities that we will visit during our cruise, Regensburg was no exception. It is filled with about 1300 historical sites and architectural wonders that go back as far as the Roman Empire 170AD. It is truly a treasure of a city.
The beauty of sailing on a river cruise is that you literally stay in each place it docks all day, so a typical day is that you wake up as we did today in Passau, we have our breakfast, and we are off to our morning sightseeing tour which begins around 10am.
Since the ships dock right in the middle of the city or town, we can do a walking tour to see the highlights of the city, in Passau for instance, we walked down its many maze-like narrow cobble streets with incredible old and impeccably kept Patrician Homes, The St. Stephen’s Cathedral an architectural Italian masterpiece among other interesting sites.
The tour normally ends on or around lunchtime, so when we get back to the ship, we go straight to lunch. We have some time to relax, wonder around the ship, go up to the observatory (top) deck to read a book or you may wish to go out into the town again to revisit the places you saw in the morning, go shopping or simply seat on a bench and people watch. The ship departs during or after dinner and when you wake up the next morning, you’re in a new town.
The Incredible Melk Abbey, to see its interior, you must go because it is without words.
Melk, Austria, is a small town on the edge of the Danube River. It is the most famous for its UNESCO World Heritage Site; the beautiful and incomparable Melk Abbey, considered by many to be the most beautiful church in the world and to others as the world’s finest example of Baroque architecture. This abbey seats on a hill overlooking the Wachau Valley and the views from the top are breathtaking.
The Abbey was built in the 1700s as a royal palace and then giving to the Benedictine monks who turned it into an Abbey. Its library which houses over 80,000 leather bound medieval manuscripts and the church with its 213 feet high ceiling with frescoes and an extravagantly decorated altar with statues of gold and walls of marble and paintings of famous artists. I cannot believe the beauty of this place.
One of the greatest composers of all time - Johann Strauss
Our next stop was Vienna, the city of music, a city of art, aristocrats and intellectual legacies that affected the history of Central Europe. A city rich in culture, vibrant and traditional in its own ways of royalty. Famous for its Schonbrunn and Habsburg palaces, the Vienna Boys’ Choir, the beautiful Lipizzaner Stallions, and its museum district that is almost second to none. Here we took an optional evening excursion to one of the many classical music concerts in the traditional concert halls. In Vienna you can walk and walk and there is so much to see. You need at least 3 full days to see this beautiful city.
As our ship continued its course down river, we made our grand entrance to Budapest, Hungary the door to Eastern Europe with its bridges, its palaces and its lively markets of exotic spices and other wonderfully interesting things you will find in them. Budapest nicknamed “Paris of the East” is an intriguing and lively city with a mixture of youthful and traditional classical music. It's an amazing architectural monument with its lavish bridges, royal palaces, and Castles and a one of UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right. Budapest still has a sense and the spirit of one of the old eastern bloc countries and you can distinctively notice the difference in its people.
Budapest was the best way to end this incredible journey through the Danube River and the sights, sounds and memories will stay with me forever.