We've just returned home from Budapest and are engaged in a very quick turnaround as we head to Thailand tomorrow for a family reunion trip and the wedding of a close friend. I'm not sure we have ever had back to back trips as close together as this, but it's certainly exciting. Our river cruise was exceptional. We genuinely and wholeheartedly recommend AmaWaterways and especially the AmaMagna for anyone wanting to experience a relaxed style luxury river cruise. I'm sure we will sail with them again ourselves in the future, and I'd even consider the same itinerary, but in winter, to experience the Christmas Markets and a completely different feel to a summer cruise.
Anyone interested in a Christmas Markets cruise for this year should be looking at it soon!
Top 5 Highlights, Salzburg to Budapest
The picture perfect small charming town of Durnstein reveals 16th century town houses and wine taverns set on cobblestone streets. The unique blue facade (above) of the Baroque Stiftskirche is considered the most beautiful in the whole of Austria. Whilst Helen enjoyed a 20 mile bike ride along the banks of the Danube, thanks to Amawaterways enhanced focus on wellness programs, I did some proper research on the local apricot industry, enjoying a tasting of brandy, liqueur, apricot chutney and some chocolate covered apricots in the middle of a local vineyard. The liqueur was sensational and a couple of bottles may have been purchased for consumption with desserts later in the week.
2. Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna
There are an astounding 1,441 rooms in this Baroque Palace (above), the former summer residence of the Habsburg Emperors. A visit here will give you just a taste of the opulence and amazing aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs. The gardens are almost as impressive, built around an artesian well from which the Palace draws its name - Schonbrunn means "beautiful spring".
Top tip - don't miss the Carriage Museum where an incredible collection of carriages through the ages is housed, all used by the imperial family and Viennese court.
3. Bratislava, Slovakia
Probably overlooked by many as the city falls in the itinerary between Vienna and Budapest, it really shouldn't be. From quirky sculptures like "Man at Work" (above), which pokes gentle fun at Communist era workers, to the gleaming Bratislava Castle (below), this city exudes charm. The Old Town and Main Square are delightfully walkable and we were also treated to a wonderful street food market with a particular emphasis on Italian specialties as part of a festival.
4. Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Dams
The Captain of the AmaMagna encouraged us to visit the top deck as we passed through this last lock between Bratislava and Budapest. I am so glad I did, as the sky performed wonders for us late in the evening, enhancing the whole experience and showcasing the ship itself as well as the rather dramatic location.
I feel like I am committing a major crime by allocating Budapest just one little segment. We spent 4 days here in total and just loved the city. With such a horrible 20th century history to digest, much of which can be viewed in great detail at the House of Terror and felt at the Dohany Street Synagogue (above), the city has shown remarkable resilience.
Our other highlights here - Ruin Bars which have sprung up literally from ruins and dilapidated areas, the city stunningly lit up at night, the funky 8th district, the Parliament building (below), Buda Castle area, and goulash - did you know traditionally this is an appetizer soup, not a stew?
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