Buda+Pest = Budapest

I think my biggest challenge on this (and probably on any other cruise) is to not over indulge in food and drink. I’m trying to find the balance between sticking to a healthy diet and enjoying the local cuisine. That’s not easy when the staff is constantly handing you snacks and refilling your wine glass.

Heroes’ Square

Today started with a tour of the city. It was a gray and rainy day, but the bus was warm and and the ride was pleasant. Budapest is divided by the Danube, with the hilly Buda side on the west bank and the flat Pest side on the east bank. Our ship was docked on the Pest side, so we began with a bus tour of the Pest sights. Our tour guide was a local woman (Vicky) who was born in the United States to Hungarian parents, but has lived most of her adult life in Budapest, so she was fluent in both Hungarian and English. We drove by the amazing Parliament building and the Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe. We stopped at Hero’s square and got off to take photos of the statues of the Seven Chieftans of the Magyars and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Matthias Church

On the Buda side, the bus took us to the Castle District where we entered the beautiful neo-Gothic style Matthias Church. We stayed there with our guide for a while and then had free time to roam the streets and admire the tourist traps. Back on the bus, we drove on to Visegrád where our ship was now docked and ready to serve us lunch. (more wine!) Soon after we boarded, the ship began the long sail to Vienna.

After lunch we had a safety drill that was hilarious. Everyone had to put on a life vest and report to the lounge where they did a head count and informed us that it was unlikely the boat would sink, if it did we were never far from shore, and the real danger is from fire so we shouldn’t use curling irons in the staterooms. Good to know.

A sea of orange life vests

At this point the rain had stopped and my Fit Bit was telling me I hadn’t moved enough, so I put on my coat and went up to the sun deck to do a couple hundred laps on the walking track while listening to an audio book. Then it was tea time. (more food!)

After tea, we sat through a long lecture and slide show about the cafe culture in Vienna and about Mozart’s life. This was to prepare us for tomorrow’s excursions in Vienna. It was a little boring and we were seated right by the bar, but I avoided the temptation to get another drink. We had about 15 minutes after the lecture to change for dinner. When we returned to the lounge, we were handed glasses of champagne and had the official welcome to the ship and introduction to the staff. We met a lovely couple from Oklahoma who went with us to dinner where we were joined by the couple from Virginia whom we met last night. We feasted on Chateaubriand and our wine glasses were magically refilled throughout the evening. The conversation was lively, mostly about American football, a topic I’ve had decades of experience feigning interest in.

Tomorrow we dock in Vienna at around 9:00 am. Paul and I had only one day in Vienna, so we’ll be happy to return.


We Are on the Boat in Budapest!

The Chain Bridge over the Danube

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.

The Parliament

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.