Cruisin' the Danube The Romantic Danube - Viking River Cruise - May 1, 2016

Though I have been to Europe on business in the past (actually just England), this was my first vacation adventure to this continent. We chose a River Cruise which seemed to be an acceptable compromise between our traveling companions who prefer to a cruise ship to multiple hotels and me who is very prone to motion sickness. It turned out to be a good trip, no sickness, lots of interesting sites, great company and a bit of time to explore on our own.

First Stop:

Nuremberg, Germany

Nuremberg CityTour

We meet our guide at the ship, hopped on the bus, and headed to the Old Town. Our guide pointed out many sites and relayed bits of history along the way. We drove through the grounds where Nazi rallies were staged and passed the Palace of Justice, and the Imperial Palace, one of Europe’s most formidable fortresses. We then got off the bus and strolled down the castle hill past half-timbered houses and browse the stalls at the Market Square. We did a little side exploration outside the Market Square before returning to the bus and heading back to the ship for lunch!

We met the ship in Roth, Germany and headed to the restaurant for lunch. We enjoyed a nice cruise on the river in the afternoon as we headed to our next port.

100 miles of river, 16 locks, and numerous bridges to duck

Next stop:

Regensburg, Germany

In Regensburg, we chose an optional tour to the Weltenburg Abbey via the Danube Narrows. Our tour guide and bus met us at port to take us over to Kelheim to board a smaller ship that would take us through the Narrows to the Abbey and also provide a "second" breakfast of beer and pretzel...yum!

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.

The highlight at the end of the river trip is the Kloster Weltenburg, the world’s oldest monastery brewery.

A walk along the river takes us back to the bus and the big ship just in time for lunch. Then it is off on the include Walking tour of Regensburg.

Regensburg Walking Tour

Regensburg is one of Germany’s best-preserved cities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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.

Old Town Hall

Next Stop: Passau, Germany

Called the “City of Three Rivers,” Passau lies at the confluence of the Danube, Ilz and Inn rivers, which may explain why the city has been prone to flooding throughout the centuries.

Passau WalkingTour

& 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.

Before we began our walking tour we attended the organ concert at St. Stephen's Cathedral.

Europe’s largest church organ -- with its 17,974 pipes and 233 stops

During an afternoon of free time in Passau, we chose to climb the steps to the Fortress Museum. Veste Oberhaus is a fortress that was founded in 1219 and, for most of its time, served as the stronghold of the Bishop of Passau, Germany. It is currently the site of a museum, a youth hostel, and a restaurant, as well as an open-air theatre dating to 1934.

The fortress is located on the mountain crest (St. Georgsberg) on the left side of the Danube between it and the Ilz, and dominates the old city of Passau, which it faces across the Danube. Below Oberhaus on the promontory between the two rivers is Veste Niederhaus, part of the fortress system.
Panoramic view of Passau from the Veste Oberhaus.
goodbye, Passau!

Next stop: Krems, Austria

Krems an der Donau is the eastern gateway to the Wachau Valley, one of Europe’s loveliest river landscapes.

Sailing thru the

Wachau Valley

The stretch of the Danube between Krems and Melk, known locally as "the Wachau," is possibly the loveliest along the entire length of the majestic river.

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."

Once we docked in Krems, we boarded a bus bound for a tour of the Gottweig Abbey

Benedictine Abbey Tour

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

At the end of our time at the Abbey, we boarded the bus once again to meet up with our ship in Tulln.

Next Stop: Vienna, Austria

The center of arts and intellect during the reign of the Hapsburgs and beyond, Vienna dances to a tempo all its own.

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.”

a view of the city from the top of St. Stephen's Cathedral

Schonbrunn Palace

We chose the option tour of the magnificent home of the Hapsburg Dynasty, built to rival the sprawling palace Château de Versailles. We drove just outside the city center to the monarchy’s fabulous summer residence. In 1569, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II erected the original hunting lodge here and called it Schönbrunn, meaning “beautiful spring.” In 1775, Empress Maria Theresa, the only female ruler of the Hapsburgs, added the grand neoclassical Gloriette colonnade so she could have sweeping city views. We enjoyed a guided tour of the imperial apartments and grandly furnished rooms where Maria Theresa resided-no photos :( .

Final Stop:

Budapest, Hungary

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.

We stopped at Heroes’ Square, a wide-open plaza of monuments and statues commemorating the Magyar state.

Across the river, explore the more traditional Buda side of the city. Here you will visit the Castle District with its massive hilltop castle complex, the turreted Fishermen’s Bastion and Matthias Church, named for the country’s most popular medieval king. From the heights of Buda Hill, enjoy fantastic views of the famous Chain Bridge, the first span to ever connect the two halves of the city when it opened in 1849.

Matthias Church

Chain Bridge

Scenic Evening Cruise
kcbenson descriptions sourced from Viking Daily Ship Newsletter, Lonely Planet, other website info

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