Cruisin' the Danube The Romantic Danube - Viking River Cruise - May 1, 2016
The Danube Narrows is where the famous river cut through a low mountain range, and you take a boat ride along the river past towering cliffs and unspoiled forests.
We had a passionate & entertaining tour guide (He actually sang to us - TWICE!) We walked past the Old Town Hall and the 12th-century Old Stone Bridge, a 16-arch marvel of medieval engineering that still carries traffic today (but under construction at this time). We saw the famous Alte Wurstküche (Old Sausage Kitchen), Germany’s oldest restaurant, and explored courtyards and alleyways. We walked around St. Peter’s Cathedral, but did not enter.
& Organ Concert
We explored the Italianate-style streets of Passau, where three major European rivers have converged to shape a distinctive city. We meet our local guide and began our walking tour through delightful old-world streets, taking in a pastel rainbow of building facades. We saw the impressive Bishops’ Residenz from where powerful prince-bishops ruled secular and religious life for hundreds of years and continued past the 14th-century Rathaus, or Town Hall, built on the site of a former fish market on the Danube. Our walk ended at the magnificent 17th-century St. Stephen’s Cathedral. This baroque wonder houses Europe’s largest pipe organ, with more than 17,000 pipes, and inspired Liszt to write his Hungarian Coronation Mass.
Both banks are dotted with ruined castles and medieval towns and are lined with terraced vineyards. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, the Wachau is described as "an outstanding example of a riverine landscape." Noted for its cultural importance as well as its physical beauty, UNESCO says,
"The architecture, the human settlements, and the agricultural use of the land in the Wachau vividly illustrate a basically medieval landscape which has evolved organically and harmoniously over time."
The Gottweig Abbey is a living, breathing abbey where Benedictine monks work and worship on a hilltop overlooking the splendid Wachau Valley and the Danube River.
We were welcomed in the abbey’s picturesque apricot garden with a taste of sparkling apricot wine produced in the region, then viewed a short film about monastic life, exclusive to Viking guests, and learned what it takes to run a monastery today.
Then, continued into the abbey’s museum, which chronicles its former incarnation as an Augustine monastery and its role as a monastic retreat. The three-story Imperial Staircase, crowned by one of the largest and most spectacular ceiling frescoes in the world, depicts the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI as Apollo. The adjoining princely and imperial rooms showcase splendid artwork from the abbey’s own collections
Vienna City Tour
This was a drive into the city for a half-day coach and walking tour, focusing on the splendid buildings on the remarkable Ringstrasse, the gracious boulevard laid out on the site of the old city walls in the mid-19th century. Imposing palaces, elegant public buildings and grand residences line this world-famous avenue. We saw the magnificent Hofburg Palace, winter residence of the Hapsburgs and home of the Spanish Riding School with its Lipizzaner horses. Admire the great, Gothic St. Stephan’s Cathedral, crowned with a gleaming spire and colorful roof tiles. And view the beautiful Vienna State Opera concert hall, its facade adorned with elaborate frescoes depicting Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute.”
The Danube splits Hungary’s capital in two sections, Buda and Pest (pronounced pesht), which used to be connected only by ferry. Throughout the years, several bridges were built; the Chain Bridge was the first. In 1873, the two sides unified to officially become Budapest. They’re vastly different in appearance and geography, though. The hilly Buda side features historic buildings like the Castle Palace, Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion. Meanwhile, Pest, which lies on the flat side, sports a more modern feel. Parliament, Central Market Hall, St. Stephen’s Basilica and Andrassy Avenue are located on this side.
Budapest City Tour
We met our guide at the ship for a panoramic tour, beginning in modern Pest. Along the elegant Andrássy Avenue, the Champs-Élysées of Budapest, admired the Hungarian State Opera House.