A beautiful blue Danube river cruise
On Sept. 16, 2016, my friend Nancy Appel and I boarded a Delta flight out of Sky Harbor Phoenix airport for a 7½ hour flight to Amsterdam, then Prague, in the Czech Republic. We cleared immigrations and claimed our bags, exchanging our U.S. dollars for Czech Koruna. Euros are accepted at some establishments in Prague, and we planned to use Euros throughout the remainder of our cruise in Germany, Austria and Slovakia. We planned to use Forints in Hungary.
Day 3 of the trip, our group boarded a bus to downtown Prague to "Hotel Esplanade Prague," a very quaint beautiful hotel. On our tour of Prague, we visited the Old Town Square, home to pastel-colored buildings. We visited the Church of Our Lady before Tyn , and the Astronomical Clock , built in 1410.
During World War II, the Germans damaged this beautiful clock. The figures within the clock were burned. The clock was rebuilt in 1865. The figures of the apostles appear in the windows every hour, while at the same time some of the sculptures begin to move. The death figure holds its hourglass and beacons to the Turkish man sculpture, which shakes its head in response.
There is Vanity portrayed as a man with a mirror and Miserliness as a man with a money bag shaking a stick. The other statues, that do not move, are an astronomer, a chronicler, a philosopher and an angel. When the apostles finish their journey, the golden cockerel at the top crows and quivers its wings, the bell rings and the clock chimes the hour.
Day 4: We board a bus leaving for to Passau, Germany, one of Germany's oldest cities, situated on the confluence of the Inn, Ilz and Danube rivers. On our walking tour, we enjoy this beautiful fairytale town that dates back more than 2,000 years. Next visit is to the beautiful Baroque Cathedral of St. Stephen , home of the largest cathedral organ in the world. It is now time to embark our Mayflower Tours river ship, the MS Maxima, our home for the next seven nights.
Day 5: We leave our ship on the Danube to board a motor coach for Linz and Salzburg, Austria. Hitler spent most of his youth in the Linz area, from 1898 until 1907, when he left for Vienna. Next stop Salzburg, Austria.
Mozart's birthplace and "Sound of Music." The Austrian countryside is beautiful, as is the Baroque architecture. We walk along the famous Getreidegasse Lane , past Mozart's birthplace.
Day 6: We are on our boat, the MS Maxima, sailing down the Danube to Melk, Austria, where we tour the Melk Abby , a beautiful 900-year-old Benedictine Abbey. The Abby, founded in the 11th century, overlooks a panorama of the lower Alps. With its beautiful marble and Fresco ceilings, it has been rebuilt several times throughout history.
The terrace presents views of the Danube below. It is thought to be the most beautiful Baroque church in the world. The Abby is still a working Benedictine Abbey and Monastic school catering to approximately 900 pupils.
This afternoon our MS Maxima boat will leave Melk to sail down the Danube to the beautiful Wachau Valley.
The valley is lush with vineyards and apricot orchards on the hills along the Danube. We are sailing to Durnstein, Austria, a charming village with cobblestone streets and quaint houses. We tour the historic ruins of Keunringerburg Castle , which served as a prison to England's Richard the Lionheart in 1193.
'City of Music'
Day 7: We depart Durnstein for Vienna, Austria, the capital of the Republic of Austria, the country's largest city. The Romans arrived here around 15 B.C. Vienna, known as the "City of Music," is home to composers including Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart and Johann Strauss. We tour through the Shonnbrunn Palace , with its beautiful interior and landscaped gardens.
Day 8: We depart Vienna for Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia and the former capital of Hungary. We leave the boat and board a Bratislava city train for a grand tour of the medieval city. We visit the Bratislava Castle , Slovak Philharmonic Hall and the Opera House, among other spots.
Day 9: Budapest, Hungary, is our final stop. Budapest is the capital of Hungary, also known as the "Queen of the Danube."
We visited Buda and Pest. Buda on the west bank of the Danube is known as the Castle District, while Pest, on the east side, is the commercial center. During 1873, Buda and Pest were united to become Budapest. Budapest straddles both banks of the Danube, linked by seven bridges including the famous Chain and Elizabeth bridges.
Budapest has had a tumultuous history, ruled and invaded by many countries throughout history — the Celts, Romans, Mongols and Turks, to name a few. It was hit by British and American air raids in World War II.
The town was devastated then the Communist dictatorship followed until 1956, when the people rose up against the Soviet occupation. In 1988, the city was restored including Heroes' Square, the beautiful Parliament building, the 500-year-old Matthias Church and Gellert Hill. The Republic of Hungary was proclaimed in 1989.
While visiting Hungary, several citizens expressed their appreciation of the U.S. and the Marshall Plan that helped to restore their country.
Time to return to the MS Maxima ship to enjoy our farewell dinner on board along with the Captain's farewell reception.
Day 11:We board the coach to leave for the airport to take our flight home.
It was a fantastic river boat cruise on the beautiful Danube!