Susi and Austin's

Travelling the Rivers and

Canals of Europe


Cruising the Danube

Tuesday 16 May 2023 12:44 AM

After our luxurious Danube Cruise we are now back on our humble Lodi. No more butler service, buffets and evening entertainment. From now on it’s just our crew of two scrubbing the deck, labouring in the galley and managing waterways and locks! We thoroughly enjoyed our Scenic cruise and are quite glad, we didn’t do the Danube with our boat.

The currant of the river in certain sections was extremely strong and with huge distances between sports harbours suitable for the Lodi, or any moorings at that, it would at best mean very long days of cruising. As we are used to a more leisurely life of moving a little, exploring a little and resting a lot, this wouldn’t have suited us. So here is a quick summary of our Danube experience.

We set off with a guided tour through the old centre of Nürnberg crowned by it’s castle and fortress. Unfortunately this lovely town is tarnished by the connection to WWII events. After the inner city was largely destroyed at the end of the war, the people of Nürnberg decided to rebuilt the medieval core as it once was and they did a marvellous job in reconstructing castle and the 90% of houses which were lost.

At Nürnberg our river journey began on the river Main, or what is called the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal. On this stretch are 16 locks to be climbed. There were plenty of “oohs" and “aahs" from our fellow cruisers as we entered the first large lock chambers. Being old river rats and having seen it all before, we just sipped unblinkingly on our cocktails, until we heard a familiar scraping sound and saw a puff of smoke rise up the ship’s side. Apparently, the captain had relinquished the wheel to a trainee 

captain, who had slightly misjudged the distance to the wall. Austin was ready to give the poor fellow a few tips, but really, we were glad that something like this happens to the professionals aswell! The rest of the journey to the bavarian town of Regensburg we slumbered through in our very comfortable cabin.

The next day we visited the Weltenburg Abbey. It is the oldest Benedictine Abbey of Bavaria and famous for it’s 18th century church with beautiful baroque interior. 

Of course, as any good abbey in Germany, Weltenburg makes it’s own beer and sampling the brew was obligatory! A ferry then took us through the Danube’s narrow gorge, called the “Donaudurchbruch", back to our cruise ship on the side canal. Just to explain: “Donau” is the German word for Danube and “Durchbruch” means breakthrough. Just to add to the little language lesson: Donau is pronounced Doh-now, Vienna in German is “Wien” -pronounced Veen and Budapest the Hungarians call “Boodapasht”.

Naturally the evening meal offered typical bavarian pork, sausages, Sauerkraut and Knödel (dumplings) followed by a “Schuhplattler" performance of a local folk dance group. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my Dirndl and Austin his Lederhosen, otherwise we would have joined in, for sure!

From our next stop at Passau we travelled by bus through the beautiful Bavarian Forest into the Czech town Cesky Krumlov. Our tour started at the impressive castle guarded by three bears of which only one seemed to be on duty. Apparently Don Julius from Austria used to throw his lovers out of the castle's windows - maybe this was his way of avoiding commitment?!

The icy Vitava River below, once functioning as a moat, is crossed by an ingenious covered bridge leading straight from the castle into the picturesque, medieval town. Cesky Krumlov is a UNESCO world heritage site and has a mixture of renaissance, baroque and gothic architecture. The town is also known as a former center of alchemy and this was the home of the "vampire princess" Eleonora zu Schwarzenberg, who allegedly inspired an early draft of Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula”.

During the night we cruised into Austria and so escaped any vampire attacks or murderous Dons. Needing a rest from sightseeing and cobblestone streets, we decided to forgo a visit to the abbey of Melk.

Instead we took two of the ship’s E-bikes and cycled along the Danube through the wine and fruit tree clad hills of the Wachau Valley

For me it was the first time on an E-bike and I could almost keep up with Austin. We hopped back on the ship for a short cruise to Dürnstein, where everything was about the local wine and apricots: apricot jam, apricot liqueur, apricot schnapps, apricot cake etc.

The blue tower of the Foundation Church in Dürnstein is the emblem of the Wachau Valley. The view from the church’s balcony is the one above, and although this church was not promoted as a tourist attraction, we found it’s interior surprisingly beautiful.

What can I say about our last two stops, Vienna and Budapest! There is just so much to see! We stayed for an extra 2 nights in Budapest and then took the train back for a couple of days in Vienna, but it just wasn’t enough time and so we only skimmed the surface!

In Budapest we were most touched by the great Synagogue. Our jewish guid

e gave us an inside into jewish life before, during and after WWII. Hungary had it’s own jew persecution, starting even prior to Germany to edict anti-jew laws. The worst were the Arrow Cross Party. Jewish men, women and children were taken by them to the quay of the Danube, shot and thrown into the river. Pairs of shoes along the quay are a heart wrenching memorial of these atrocities. So is the willow tree in the garden of the synagogue. It’s silver metal leaves are engraved with the names of hundreds of victims.

The Danube separates Buda on the left bank and Pest on the right. On the Buda side Castle Hill is the older part of town and features not only the castle but is also crowned by the bastion and the 1015 Matthias Church. From there the view over the river and Pest with the famous Parliament House in the foreground is just breath taking! By the way, buildings on the Pest side can’t exceed 96 metres in heights, so that only the Parliament (state) and St. Stephen’s Basilica (church) are towering above them.

On our last night of the cruising we were invited to the exclusive bow restaurant of the ship. From there we had an amazing view of the lit up shores, parliament and Buda castle.

My personal favourite was Vienna. I loved the grand renaissance and neo- renaissance buildings of the Ringstrasse, the Hofburg, Schönbrunn Palace, the Opera aswell as the old alleys with some hidden gems. Not to speak of the apple strudel, the Sachertorte and Kaiserschmarren at Café Korb. We attended a wonderful concert at Palais Lichtenstein and also saw a performance of the Spanish Riding School with the beautiful Lipizzaner horses.

Everywhere you go in Vienna you follow in the footsteps of Mozart, the diverse Strausses., Siegmund Freud, Mahler and many other artists and scientists. A fairly new statue of former ruler Franz Josef erected in the Hofburg garden surprised. A guide told us that things happen very slowly in Austria. "They take at least 50 years” he mentioned. So after many decades of democracy, the Viennese

thought of remembering the former super conservative ruler via a statue in his former private garden. Apparently Gustav Mahler who fled to the US during the Nazi regime was quoted to have said: “If the world collapses, I will return to Austria. Because everything happens there 50 years later!” Mozart statue on the left with a musical key made of flowers underneath - sorry didn’t make it quite on the photo!

We are ready now to take the wheel again and start our own cruise. After some pretty cold and rainy days the weather seems to be improving and the Mosel is waiting for us.

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