Well, I have returned from an Eastern European trip with my friend M. The trip was planned when M mentioned ear a River Cruise trip he was taking. The company was waiving single supplements ( the bane of all independent travelers!), so I investigated and decided to go along. M was going to do some post-cruise traveling in Germany and I tagged along for that too.
Speaking for myself, it was a great time, hope M feels the same way. Let’s start in Budapest which is where the cruise began.We decided to fly into Budapest a few days early to get some advanced tour time in what seemed to us, an “exotic” city. How many people do you know that have been there???
This was a wise decision because Budapest is fascinating and beautiful. I happen to love Art Deco/Art Nouveau and the “Arts & Crafts” Movement. The idea that architecture, furniture can be beautiful but functional. I suppose if you only care for Modern architecture your opinion of this city would be different. I doubt, however, that any traveler would be unmoved by the history of the Hungarian people in Budapest. Tragic, very tragic and only recently (1989) were these people free to establish their own government. We stayed at a decent hotel – modern, NOT Art Nouveau but situated near the Opera House on one of the main arteries. The night we arrived, we went out for a walk and saw four book stores within a short walk and I knew I loved the place.
Sisi was crowned Queen of Hungary in this church She was also called Elizabeth of Baveria (Sisi was what her siblings called her), also Queen of Bohemia, Empress of Austria, Queen of Croatia. Sisi was a woman ahead of her time, and therefore considered very beautiful and very weird. Sisi was married off to Franz Joseph (who, despite the arranged marriage love her very much) at the age of 15 and grew to hate the life of a monarch. She was very intelligent, shy, enjoyed conversation rather than small talk, developed illness when faced with a bad situation and basically lived a sad life feeling very trapped and died by assasination. I learned about Sisi when M and I went to visit the castle of mad Ludwig II. Supposedly she was the only woman he every loved – even though she left Bavaria at 15 . As an adult Ludwig II become more and more odd; when asked why he didn’t marry, he responded that there was NO TIME FOR MARRIAGE! His castle is well-known for it was the castle that Walt Disney used to design the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. Well, now his castle in Germany is like Disneyland. Although it is architecturally marvelous it is too croweded, visitors must stay with a guide, there is no English audio, etc. There are other homes of Ludwig that are just as ornate and not as crowded. More about these interesting folks later. we are still in Budapest!
Thrilling – there are stalls and stalls of produce – beautiful produce from Turkey and Italy, fresh because the distance from farm to vendor isn’t far and they come by truck. There are stalls of nuts, paprika, meat, more meat…On the top floor is what Americans might call a Food Court, for the lack of knowing what else to call it. Different vendors have set up their particular speciality and there are all kinds of goulash, roasted meats, cabbage dishes, pastries, on and on.
M and I walked over to the Market Hall after checking into our cabins-due to set sail that evening. I was astounded when I saw the cabin – believing that any moment the manager would say, “oops, sorry you booked a steerage cabin – lets go three more floors below…” I had paid for a cabin in steerage so when I was shown into a small cabin with walls covered in gray silk; velvet headboard on one of the most comfortable beds I have ever enjoyed, a long mirrowed vanity with L’Occitane skincare products and clear glass shower, a huge closet, bottled water (replaced daily) plush bathrobe and towels, etc.
Budapest was fabulous. As M said, with a bit more investment and she could be a world-class city. If you enjoy Art Nouveau/Deco architecture you will love Budapest. If you enjoy history you will love
Budapest and leave not feeling like an ignorant uneducated American, Here is an example
Here in Vienna, most of the passengers elected to go to a Mozart concert the first night; M and I decided to check out Vienna. We figured out the underground system and the trip from the Danube into the heart of Vienna was only four stops. Too bad Vienna was virtually deserted at only 6:30. The shops in Europe usually close by six unless it is Late Shopping Night.
Clearly, not many workers live in Vienna because there was no one on the streets. Instead, we walked around the Center of Vienna – the Ringstrasse. All of the government buildings, museums and monuments are centered around this “ring.” Then stopped at a cafe for the obligatory hot chocolate, apple strudel and went back to the ship. Sitting in cafes and sipping hot chocolate or coffee sounds very appealing right now.
Aerial view of the Benedictine Abbey at Melk (Lower Austria) The Abby was founded in 1089; the land and the buildings were a gift to the monks. We toured several spectacular rooms, including the library. There is much use of trompe l’oeil throughout the rooms, providing 3-D optical illusions, mostly on the ceilings and around arches. “The library houses about 1,800 manuscripts from the 9th Century, including a copy of Virgil from the 10th-11th Century. Only in 1997 was a fragment of a copy of the Nibelungenlied from the 13 Century discovered. There are also 750 incunabula. Of a database of about 100,000 volumes. On display were recently e.g. two copies of the printed by Anton Koberger Nuremberg Chronicle.”
I found this spectacular photo online
(Below) this is a postcard view of the church