Riverboat on the Danube - July 2012

Mike and Sandy went on two back-to-back river boat trips during June-July 2012. The first trip was on Viking River Cruies on the Elbe River, from Berlin to Prague, while the second was on the Danube, from Prague to Budapest, traveling with AMA Waterways.

This page is about the Danube trip -- the Elbe River pictures can be seen here.
Here's a map of their route, and their boat for their week on the Danube.

NOTE: To enlarge any picture below, just click on it, and it will open in a new window -- click the "back" button to return here.

Mike and Sandy were already in Prague, and met up with their group (about 40 folks from their church in Danville). While in Prague, the group visited the Jewish museum and cemetary. Once on the bus heading for the riverboat, they stopped for lunch at the little town of Regensburg, noted for having Germany's oldest stone bridge, built across the Danube in the 1100's. The AMA-Lyra was waiting, their home for the next week. This is a considerably newer and more "up-market" riverboat, carrying 148 passengers, than the one Sandy & Mike had just been on along the Elbe River.
The first day on the Danube brought us to Passau, where everyone had a choice of a town walking tour, or a guided bicycle tour. (The AMA-Lyra carries 25 bicycles on board for its guests.) Passau is at the junction of 3 rivers, at the border of Germany and Austria, and somehow escaped any serious damage during WW II. It has the usual castles and churches, but a big claim to fame is the largest pipe organ in Europe (18,000 pipes) at St. Stephens Cathedral. In an odd way, the town seems almost proud of the many floods it has endured over the years -- here's our guide in front of a marker. Back on board, dinner awaited, while we sailed on down the Danube.
Dawn brought Linz, Austria, where the city hall has an enormous aerial photograph of the town on its floor. There's a quaint "old town," and a huge steel mill (conveniently hidden around a bend in the river). Mike & Sandy did the optiona tour to the Austrian Alpine Lakes region, visiting two locations from the movie "Sound of Music," including the beautiful old church where the wedding took place. Later that evening, the ship moved on down the river to Melk, a town dating back to the 8th century.
A visit to the enormous Melk Abbey, set on a rocky hill overlooking the village, started the day. Although the Benedictines have had an Abbey here since the 9th century, the current building dates from the early 1800's.) As the ship continued eastward, everyone was on deck for the Wachau Gorge, noted for vineyards and castles along the river. In Durnstein, known to historians as the place were King Richard the Lion-Heart was imprisoned in 1192, the group visited a winery for a taste of what happens to all the grapes we'd seen. For a small town, this little winery cooperative was very impressive in their tour and tasting operations.)
With music everywhere, we arrived in Vienna, where we also saw some sadder aspects of Austrian history, including the balconey from which Hitler announced the "annexation" of Austria in 1938. After dinner on the ship, everyone returned to town for a Mozart and Strauss concert (no pictures allowed), held in a rather unique venue - the building had previously been the Vienna stock exchange.
Now the ship sailed across the border into Slovakia, noticing ruins of river fortifications dating back 600 years. Not much to see in Bratislava, the capital city -- odd modern street sculptures were in evidence, as was a revolving restaurant on top of a bridge's suspension tower.

That evening the Captain's farewell dinner reminded everyone that Budapest, the next stop, was the last one on the trip.

Mike and Sandy have been to Budapest before, but it was nice to see what had changed since their previous visits. Hero's Square was familiar, the bronze shoes remembering Jews shot and pushed into the river by the Nazi's was new, and the view over the city from Castle Hill was beautiful as always.

The trip down the Danube on the AMA-Lyra was fun, and included several locks, some quite deep. Some nights local entertainers came on board, and at other stops, everyone met down at the pier for free local beer and to watch folk dancing.

The next morning Mike and Sandy headed to the airport for their flight to Helsinki, Finland. Yes, Helsinki -- people traveling with miles don't have much pull, and when the Hungarian airline with whom they had non-stop tickets to New York went out of business, they had to take what they could get. (The Olympics in London that week didn't help finding available seats, either!) But after a night at a nice Holiday Inn by the Helsnki airport, they were off to Chicago, and then on to San Francisco.