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Archive for March, 2010

What a winter adventure!  Our trip was during the beginning of the Christmas markets (Note: due to the dates of our trip, they were setting up the markets in the Czech Republic and Germany; we did not visit any markets until we reached Austria and Hungary).  Prague, Nuremberg, Regensburg, Vienna, Salzburg, Budapest and the amazing Danube River!  A trip I would definitely recommend! 

We began by adding a two-day excursion to Prague, Czech Republic to our trip.  We were a bit more adventurous and chose to do this on our own instead of the package offered by the cruise line.  Prague is an amazing city.  The people are very friendly and many speak English.  I would recommend staying near the Old Town Square.  By doing this you are in walking distance to almost everything.  The public transportation is also easy to use to get across the Vltava River to Prague Castle, a must see!  I recommend riding to the top and then walking down through the castle and back into town.  Another “must-do” is to take the funicular up to the top of Petrin Hill near sunset and stay to watch the city light up for a breathtaking view. 

The bus ride from Prague to Nuremberg takes about half a day, where you will travel through some beautiful countryside.   When you arrive in Nuremberg, the ship docks on the Main Danube Canal, as a note this is a bit far from town.  We chose to wait to go into Nuremberg the next day.

The cruise line does a wonderful job of including tours each day that you may choose to take if you are so inclined.  For Nuremberg, our tour took us around the city seeing everything from the Nazi rally grounds to Nuremberg castle.  If you can plan it, it is worth being in the city square at noon to see the performance of Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady).  Another “must-do” is to eat some of their world-famous gingerbread (Lebkuchen)!

Leaving Nuremberg, we sailed down the Main Danube Canal towards Regensburg.   Going through the locks and under the VERY low bridges was really interesting.  You will definitely want to go up on deck at least once to watch the Captain’s bridge “shrink” and the Captain tell you to sit down.  You can reach up and touch the bridge! 

Regensburg is a wonderful German town.  A place I am already planning to go back to some day!  We chose not to take the tour offered this day since you are docked in town and can walk everywhere.  The town is so quaint.  Although everyone will tell you, you must visit the Dom Cathedral (and I agree), a unique spot that I found to visit was St. Emmermam’s Abbey (part of Thurn and Taxis).  The painted wooden ceilings are amazing!   There are many cafes and biergartens to visit throughout the town.  You’ll definitely want to eat a sausage from “Two Sisters” which can be found along the river. 

The next stop was Passau, Germany.  Here you can choose to tour Passau and then cruise down the Danube to Linz, Austria or you can choose an excursion to Salzburg, Austria.  Based on conversations by other passengers, the little town of Passau and the afternoon cruise was beautiful (if you had already been to Salzburg). 

I chose to take the bus ride to Salzburg.  What a great city!  “The hills are alive with the sound of music”!   Once in the city you will take a walking tour that really includes everything!  I chose to go up to one of the overlooks of the city during my free time (a must do if you have a clear day…looking back towards the Alps!)  The Christmas markets were open in Salzburg.  What hustle and bustle!  Everything Christmas you can imagine.  Food, ornaments, and crafts galore!

We returned that afternoon to Linz to meet up with the ship.  We were there in time to experience their Christmas market.  The locals all gather at the markets in the evening.  It is quite the “place to be”.  A tradition is to drink some local gluvine, a warm mulberry wine, while walking around the markets. 

The next day included a stop in Melk for a tour of Melk Abbey and then an afternoon of sailing the Wachau Valley.  What an amazing afternoon!  The sun was shining and the countryside was beautiful.  We were able to enjoy a glass of wine, from one of the local vineyards, as we set on the deck.  The castles, vineyards, mountains, and river were so beautiful.   This is not the day to take an afternoon nap!  This was the most beautiful scenery of the river journey!

Vienna is another wonderful city! There is so much to do in Vienna that you will have to make some choices about what you want to see and do (there is more than one day’s worth of things to see).  We arrived late afternoon on the day before, and we chose to go into the city that night to the Christmas markets.  There are many Christmas markets in Vienna so this worked well for us, so that we could spend a bit more time the next day sightseeing.  The next day we took the tour in the morning which gives you an overview of the city.  That afternoon we did not do the excursion to Schönbrun, instead we enjoyed lunch at Mozart’s café and took a local tour of the Opera house.  What a unique experience where they take you back stage!

Sailing into Budapest is worth waking up early!  It is reminiscent of sailing in Venice.  The bridges, the House of Parliament, Buda Castle and so much more!  I would recommend adding an extra day on to your trip.  We were rushed trying to see the city in just one day.  I fell in love with this Hungarian city.  The Christmas markets were a bit different than the ones in Austria; these included more local crafts (jewelry, ornaments, laces & fabrics).  The city at night is absolutely beautiful! 

The trip was a wonderful experience!  I would definitely recommend sailing the Danube River.  The crew aboard the MS Amalyra was wonderful and very helpful.  The ship was very nice!  The local entertainment brought on board each night was very good.  The cruise director really made the trip successful.   The Christmas markets were enjoyable as well, but they do take up quite a bit of your sightseeing time, so this should be taken into account when planning your trip.  If you would like to see the Christmas Markets, then plan to go starting in December so that all of the markets are open.  If you are not interested in Christmas markets, then I would recommend choosing a different time of year, but DO NOT miss out on cruising the Danube!  By H. McKenzie.

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