No more packing and unpacking or schlepping bags onto trains! We are done lugging luggage! This last leg of our journey will be spent on a Viking river boat just like the one in the ad we saw before every episode of Downton Abbey.
We arrived by train in Budapest around noon today. It was cold and rainy and the Budapest train station is a depressing place. It’s unlike the other train stations we’ve visited in Europe. It reminded me of stations in old movies from the 1930s and 40s, but not as romantic. It was cold and dark and dirty and all the signs were totally incomprehensible (to me). In high school and college, I had a lot of French and some Spanish, so Italian (another Romance language) was not that hard to figure out. German was much harder, but I know enough words to get the gist of street signs. But Hungarian! I was clueless. We decided not to try to use public transportation to get to the Viking pier, so we took a taxi costing us many thousands of Forints. The driver spoke some English, enough to ask us what we thought of Donald Trump. It seems all Europeans find the current administration amusing.
Once on the boat, everything changed. We were shown to our room, our bags were delivered for us, and we were invited to have lunch in the lounge where we were immediately offered beer and wine. The rest of the afternoon, we just relaxed and looked out at the Danube. At 4:00 there was a wine and cheese tasting party, then an orientation presentation and then dinner with more wine and beer. At dinner we met another retired couple from Virginia and we exchanged travel stories. As we ate, the ship began a short cruise up the river, around an island, and back. The major buildings on both the Buda and the Pest side of the river, as well as the bridges, were brightly lit and it was gorgeous. We finished eating and went to the top deck where it was very cold, and very wet, but gorgeous. While we were roaming the deck, listening to the commentary from the program director and taking pictures, we were served Schnapps!
Tomorrow we take a bus and walking tour of Budapest while the boat sails on to Visegrad. We meet up with it there, and then it’s on to Vienna.