It's been a wonderful start to our Germany/Austria/Slovakia/Hungary trip. The weather has been just perfect, we are loving traveling with old and new friends, and the sights have repeatedly exceeded expectations. On top of that, the AmaMagna, AmaWaterways brand new double-wide Danube ship, is just gorgeous and easily has become the most luxurious means of sailing this most picturesque of European rivers. The ship is not even christened until next month, and usually a new cruise product takes a while to iron out a few opening kinks. In this case, I'm not sure what they can do to improve, it really seems that they have nailed their offering from the start.
Lots of photos this week, as they really tell the story better than my words.
Top 5 Highlights - Munich to Salzburg
We were struck most of all by the very relaxed vibe and cheerful people on the streets of Munich. This was Munich's 861st birthday weekend so that added to the outdoor festival feel, but the city's beer gardens (above) really are a way of life, especially for Bavarians. It's Bavaria that really gives the international world it's "generic" view of Germans. This is where lederhosen and beer really are a part of everyday life. Much as I wanted to pick a pair out, the handcrafted and intricately decorated lederhosen (below) are really expensive, and apparently rather uncomfortable.
2. Dachau Concentration Camp (above and below)
Deep travel isn't always pleasant and I believe that sometimes you should visit somewhere that is going to punch you in the gut and enable just an inkling of understanding of the depths of inhumanity and at the same time unbroken courage, that makes up the complexity of human nature.
Dachau Concentration Camp is such a place and my high school history classes did not come close to preparing me for the impact of actually standing in a place of such horrors.
3. AmaMagna (above and below)
This new ship is truly a revolution on the river. At double the width it will only be able to sail on the Danube due to the size of locks on other rivers, but the extra space this has afforded, along with AmaWaterways deliberate decision to only increase passenger capacity by around 20% when available space has increased nearly 100% means this is the absolute best choice for relaxed luxury anywhere in Europe. The suite category we have which is mid level is a whopping 355 sq ft and it has broken the mold of the sub 200 sq ft cabins being the norm. There are 4 restaurants to choose from, which of course, is unprecedented for a river cruise ship. We've tried 3 so far, the Main Restaurant, Jimmy's and Al Fresco and all have been exceptional. I imagine the Chef's Table tonight will be more of the same.
Honestly, this is probably a city that you would never choose to visit unless on a Danube river cruise. And yet, it's thoroughly charming, non-touristy, photogenic and fun. A morning hike up to Veste Oberhaus (the Castle) enabled stunning views (above) of the 3 rivers that converge here and the old town, and our lunchtime beer sure tasted good. Then we wandered into St Stephen's Cathedral and lo and behold it houses the largest and most spectacular organ in the whole of Europe (below). Five independent organs consisting of a staggering 17,974 pipes and 233 registers, can be played concurrently from the main keyboard.
5. Salzburg (above and below)
A city that absolutely deserves a Top 5 all to itself, but needs must. Now, perhaps the one drawback of a river cruise is you quite often discover places that you really would have liked to spend more time in, and occasionally a city or location inspires so much that you put it on your list to return to again to explore in real detail. Salzburg definitely makes that list. Castle, Cathedral, market squares, narrow explorable cobblestone alleys, a Palace and Gardens are all here. It's compact enough for it all to be walkable and large enough that it needs a few days to see it all. We will return.
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