We cruise seven days on the Danube. From Engelhartszell to Budapest. The stops on the way are Vienna, Esztergom, Budapest, Bratislava, the passage of the Wachau and Melk. Our ship is the A-Rosa Mia. It´s the first cruise on this vessel under the new Corona conditions. Now let’s see what happens in the cities with the Corona restrictions.
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Many Danube river ships depart from Passau. Under normal circumstances the port is crowded with river cruise ships , but at the moment no ship is present. The Arosa shipping company embarks its passengers in Engelhartszell in Austria. This is about 25km away from Passau. There is a paid bus shuttle or you can arrive by car, just like us. We leave our car in the immediate vicinity of the pier in the guarded car park and walk on board.
On the way to Vienna
To the left and right, mountains rise. Sometimes I can only guess where the Danube Cycle Path might be, because of the vegetation. Unfortunately, it rains and we prefer to stay indoors. The next noon we are supposed to arrive in Vienna and the rain has become even stronger. And a gusty wind blows as we dock in the middle of Vienna, not far from the Prater.
36 Hours in Vienna
We grab our rain gear and walk 700 m to the subway. You can buy single tickets, day and multi-day tickets at the vending machine. A mask has yet to be worn in public transport, not inside shops. But things may change soon.
At Stephansplatz we get off and go on a short walk to the “Time Travel Vienna“, a kind of interactive and multimedia presentation about 2000 years of history of Vienna. 12 meters underground, this spectacle has been staged here. You should definitely buy tickets online beforehand, as there are only certain access times. Audio guides offer different languages. It is already well suited for school children, smaller ones are likely to get bored. Since these are always group tours, a mask must be worn.
It is clear, that we may be out as little as possible under these weather conditions. Until we can get a timed ticket, it takes a little longer and we visit Café Korb, a typical Viennese coffee house. The coffee house tradition has been included as a UNESCO World Heritage.
The different strudels are very tasty, the Viennese Melange too.
In order to bridge the time gap, we visit the Albertina museum with its incredible exhibition of paintings. Many Picassos can be found here, but also Monet, Dürer and Andy Warhol and many other artists. Something for every taste. Again, wearing a mask is no longer mandatory.
The next day is sunny and warm. We both rent a city bike, helmets we have taken from home. The 10 km to Schönbrunn Palace we drive through the middle of the city, but the bike paths are extremely well marked and with our Komoot app we quickly find the best way. There are many city bike stations in Vienna and the first hour is free of charge. If you stop for at least 15 minutes, you have another hour for free. The wheels have a 3-speed circuit and a basket at the front.
We visit Schönbrunn Palace from the inside (the wearing of a mask is not mandatory, distance should be preserved). The tour is very informative and with the audio guides you will learn everything you need to know, and you can walk through the castle at your own pace. Afterwards we stroll through the magnificent castle park. Although it is almost noon, very few people are here with us. I have experienced this quite differently at “normal” times. But what is normal at the moment?
We leave the zoo in Schönbrunn Castle Park on the left, as we already know it and walk some minutes to quickly find a place in the large garden of the Kurkonditorei Oberlaa, a kind of restaurant or café. The coffee is good, the cake also delicious, but quite small for the price…
We take the subway from here to the Hofburg and visit the Imperial Apartments, the Sisi Museum and the Silver Chamber. I find the depiction of the Empress particularly interesting. Surely many still know the ancient Sissi videos, which very idealised the life of the Empress Elisabeth. It is well portrayed here that she was a multi-layered and very educated woman who tried to preserve her personal freedom in the circumstances of the time.
This is the end of our visit to Vienna and we continue our cruise on the Danube. The next morning we already have breakfast in
Esztergom in Hungary
Esztergom was the capital of Hungary between the 10th and 13th century. We march uphill to St. Adalbert Cathedral. Unfortunately, it is being restored on the outside and provided with scaffolding. Inside, we are particularly fascinated by the high dome. If you want to climb up, you buy a ticket at the entrance. We resist, because the view over the Danube is already spectacular from the viewing point. If you would cross the Maria-Valeria-Bridge, you would already be in Slovakia and in the middle of the sister city of Storovo.
The time we got here is just enough for the visit of the cathedral and we will continue our cruise on the Danube through green meadows and very flat land until we arrive in
in the early afternoon. It’s really hot, so we decide to start the afternoon with an ice cream. We walk a few minutes from our anchor place below the Citadelle to the Nagy V’srcsarnok, the “Great Market Hall”. Already here we notice that the Corona limitations still have the city of millions under control. Masks are no longer compulsory, but many of the market stalls arestill closed. Even in the Vici utca, the pedestrian zone it does not look much different. Apart from us, there are some tourists on the street, and very few Budapesters. Many shops have been closed for weeks and even with the restaurants it doesn’t look much better.
In the evening we find the small Borsso Bistro in a side street. For Hungarian conditions it is not quite cheap,but here I eat the most tender duck breast on basil bulgur,with strawberry puree and pepper of my life. The aperitif is a local sparkling wine and during dinner we enjoy a Hungarian wine. Absolutely recommended!
On foot we set off quite early the next morning. Our destination is the castle hill and the fishing bastion. Again, we are almost the only tourists. So, we have a lot of space and leisure to look at the whole area. Everything is being renovated or rebuilt. We are now on the Buda side of the city. The other side of the town is Pest, where our ship is located, can be seen very well by the huge and beautifully designed Parliament building. P, like Parliament and Pest. So, these two parts of the town can be very nicely
From the castle hill you have a magnificent view over the Pest side and the parliament. We recognize our ship A-Rosa Mia behind the Elizabeth Bridge, over which we also came to the Pest side. It is the only river cruise ship where at some times there are more than 20 ships at the same time. This cruise on the Danube is really special.
The traffic is breathtaking and doesn´t stop at night, but I did not check this, because I prefer to sleep, there are miles of traffic jams here on both sides of the Danube and in the city centre. But the noise and hustle and bustle of the cars is only very, very subdued up here on the Castle Hill.
We cross the whole area of the castle until we stand in front of the late Gothic Matthias Church (M. Templom). In contrast to the blue sky, it shines brightly on us. I find its colorful roof particularly beautiful. Presumably, the foundations of the church were laid in the middle of the 13th century.
Here in this district, almost all houses are now beautifully restored. At the town hall, the Polgérmesteri Hivatal Budapest we circle the building complex and go back towards the fishing bastion. At the Waltz Café we have a little break and taste the homemade cake. The owner speaks German and English.
We don’t have much time left until the ship leaves, so we slowly head back towards the Danube and leave Pest over the famous suspension bridge Széchenyi L’nched. But before we take some photos of Fisherman´s Bastion. At Hard Rock Café, we have a cold drink before we head back to the A-Rosa Mia.
With Budapest we have reached our geographical end point, now we go back to Passau on our cruise of the Danube.
Here, too, we get an overview of the city by climbing the castle hill. From the berth of the A-Rosa Mia, it’s only some minutes through the pedestrian zone to the foot of the mountain. The path is well signposted.
Bratislava Castle ( Bratislavska Hrad) was rebuilt, a baroque garden is located behind the castle. From the observation wall you have a genuinely nice view over the Danube and the “UFO”, a futuristic bridge.
We do not have much time here, so we stroll a little bit through the already busy pedestrian zone of the city center. It is noticeable that the restaurants and cafés here are already very well visited and the audience is very young. In a not really inviting looking backyard we find a very small café, the Pasteleria. We can definitely recommend coffee and cake and also the nice, very young staff.
Along the Danube
We continue our cruise on the Danube. Like almost the whole trip, the shore on both sides is left to nature, with its old arms and small islets. Time and again a lock needs to be crossed, but we never have to wait. This is already a form of luxury, as well as our visits to the individual cities, where we never need to queue or wait.
As bad as the effects of the Corona pandemic are, we will probably never be able to visit all these sights again so calmly and without hustle and bustle. We are well aware of this and we enjoy this luxury very much. Actually we wanted to spend our holidays in the solitude of the Yukon in Canada, but when I look at these green landscapes along the Danube and can hear the many bird voices that reach the ship, I don’t miss the long planned holiday in Canada. We´ll do this another year.
I am very surprised how little buildings or villages are along the many kilometers of the Danube after all. Of course, we cruise through small places again and again, but most of the shore kilometers are passed with old trees. Waterfowl we see and a lot of driftwood. On the to Budapest, the Danube carried a lot of water, as it has rained a lot. Some of the banks are flooded. On the way back, the water has sunk, and it flows more slowly. I don’t know if that’s really the like this, but it seems so. On some evenings we can admire breathtaking sunsets and are very happy that we have a cabin with a French balcony where we can open wide the big windows and listen to the chirping of the birds. The ship sails so quietly that I sometimes wonder, if I am in the middle of the forest. It’s so relaxing.
Unfortunately, our journey, the cruisse on the Danube, is coming to an end. The last morning shows us the beauties of the
an UNESCO World Heritage Site in Austria. It starts just before Krems and ends in our direction of travel at Ybbs. Here, preferably apricots are grown and on the typical terraces we see lots of vineyard. The winde you can enjoy at the “Heurigen”. Krems we pass quite early in the morning and the panorama of the place with the castle, which towers over everything, is simply too beautiful, picturesque, almost kitschy beautiful.
More and more castle ruins greet us from their lofty heights, in between the green vineyards. We see a lot of cyclists at the shore. This is another way to explore the Danube.
Our last stop on this cruise on the Danube is
Melk Abbey (Stift Melk)
We see the huge monastery building long before we stop below. Also,the Melk Abbey in its baroque version is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Benedictine monks have lived and worked here continuously since 1089. Of course, public services are still offered at the church.
From the A-Rosa Mia to the Abbey itself we walk about 20 minutes. The trail has just been built new and leads first to an old inn directly along the Danube. Here you can see the flood marks very well. The Danube can really get high above its berth…
In the village of Melk there is a stairway directly to the Abbey, it is easy to overlook, but shortens the path neatly.
In the village itself there can be seen lots of people, mainly cyclists, who treat themselves to an ice cream or an isotonic cold drink (a beer) in the wonderful sunshine and the already quite high temperatures.
At the monastery itself, at the top of the mountain, there is hardly anything going on and so we quickly buy the tickets. The masks are only required if a minimum distance is not possible. This does not happen today, with us there are very few people here who want to look at the rooms that can be visited.
Unfortunately, photographing indoors is not allowed, but the museum impresses me with its very modern and multi-media representation, especially from the ancient church treasures.
During our tour we also come to an outdoor area, which is right in front of the library. From here you have a genuinely nice view over the Danube. Then we head into the incredible library. About 100,000 volumes from many centuries, including manuscripts, are kept here. I love books and am absolutely thrilled! The ceiling vault of the hall is also a masterpiece.
Then we enter the church and here we hear a small choir of priests or monks who sing fantastically. The atmosphere in the church, the singing, the magnificent furnishings and the countless paintings make me quiet. Actually, one should spend hours and days here to discover all the little things that hide in the pictures on the walls and the dome. For us “enlightened” people of the 21st century, they are no longer so easy to understand, people a few hundred years ago could interpret the meaning in the paintings much faster.
The tour is finished here and we go on to the garden pavilion with its special exhibition about water, which was probably designed by children and is quite informative. Our next stop is the center of
We take another way back, as we want to try an ice cream cup in the Corrado Café. There, a scary second hits my husband Dirk, who misses his camera! He quickly remembers that he put it on a board at the water exhibition. He sprints back up the stairs to the Abbey and actually finds his camera where he has placed it. If the Abbey hadn’t been so empty, he certainly wouldn’t have found it there…
On the way through the town, back to the jetty we explore anothern small shop, the Tastedillery.. “Unfortunately” we are seduced to try out some nice things that can be made of apricots and now we have to make our way back to the ship with two heavy shopping bags.
The last evening starts with an extremely tasty dinner, a good wine and of course, packing the suitcases.
Unfortunately, our relaxing and very interesting cruise on the Danube comes to an end. We enjoyed the seven days very much, let ourselves be pampered on the A-Rosa Mia. I didn’t need my books at all, the view from the sun deck or from our cabin while cruising was entertainment enough. I took countless photos and never got bored. The cities were interesting, and we have seen many new places.
Of course, such a cruise on the Danube does not replace a multi-day city trip to one of the visited cities, but we got a good overview. Since we were in Vienna and Budapest overnight, we had more time there anyway.
If you have the desire for such a relaxing river cruise as well, then just let me know!