Setting Sail – Traveling the Danube
If you’re thinking of trying something a little different for your holiday this year, then why not try a river cruise? The number of people cruising has risen dramatically in the last few years, with river cruising in particular seeing a huge rise in popularity – especially within Europe.
With a vast network of rivers, river cruising in Europe enables you to see lots of different countries and types of scenery all in one holiday. For example, a Danube river cruise passes through cities such as Budapest, Vienna and Bratislava, and flows through ten different European countries including Austria, Germany, Romania and Hungary.
The Danube is Europe’s second longest river, running southeast from the Black Forest in Germany to the mouth of the Black Sea in Romania and the Ukraine, through lush valleys, patchwork fields, historic castles, tranquil villages and spectacular cities, making a river cruise the perfect holiday for anyone wanting to see as much of Europe’s splendour as possible. Travelling through 2,000 years of history at a gentle pace, you take in the sights of the river that inspired Strauss to write the Blue Danube.
Starting at the source of the river in the wonderful German Black Forest, the Danube river cruise follows the meandering river up to the medieval towns of Regensburg and Passau before the reaching Austria’s picturesque Wachau Valley, where you have a chance to try some of the region’s best wines in the town of Melk. The next stop is Dürnstein, an enchanting town steeped in history with a ruined castle that was once prison to Richard the Lionheart!
One of the highlights of the Danube is Vienna. The capital city of Austria, Vienna is celebrated as the ‘City of Music’ having inspired composers such as Mozart and Beethoven, and it’s treasures include the imperial Ringstrasse, and the ornate Hofsburg Palace and Opera House.
Leaving Austria, the Danube travels to Slovakia, passing through Bratislava, before arriving in the capital of Hungary, Budapest. The imposing Parliament building and historic Matthias Church make the city a ‘must-see’. Downstream from Budapest is a beautiful Baroque town called Kalocsa, where visitors can purchase some of the towns ‘red gold’ – paprika.
Serbia is the next stop on this tour of Europe, as the river brings cruise passengers into the atmospheric capital city of Belgrade. The home of Serbia’s film industry, it is a hotbed of cultural events with film festivals, theatre festivals, music festivals, book fairs and a beer festival taking place as annual events. It also boasts many museums such as the National Museum which is home to paintings by artists including Cézanne, Renoir, Monet, Matisse, Picasso and Van Gogh.
After leaving Belgrade, take some time to relax whilst traveling through some stunning scenery before reaching the Iron Gates, a gorge that forms part of the boundary between Romania and Serbia and separates the northwestern foothills of the Balkans and the southern Carpathian Mountains.
The cruise then moves on down the river within easy reach of Bucharest, another capital city with a lively and historic air. Visit the colossal Palace of Parliament, home to both chambers of the Romanian Parliament, and the world’s largest civilian building, most expensive administrative building and heaviest building. The Danube, along with the cruise, finishes at the Danube Delta at the Black Sea, one of the least inhabited areas of Europe. The area is made up of wetlands; the habitat of some extraordinary wildlife.
If you’re not quite ready to leave the luxury of the river cruise behind you, there’s the option to extend your stay in Europe with a voyage from the Danube to the Main and Rhine rivers via the Main Danube Canal. The canal, completed in 1992, crosses the European watershed, running from Kelheim to Bamberg via Nuremberg. The breathtaking scenery continues with quaint villages and romantic landscapes as the Main merges with the Rhine, which takes you past Cologne and all the way to Amsterdam – an ideal destination for a few days to spend enjoying the city or the perfect transfer point for journeys back to the UK.
If you are interested in cruising the Danube with Avalon, clickhere and the link will take you to all the cruises that they offer on the Danube. Of course, you might want to cruise another river so take a moment and look at all the offer. As I have mentioned before, this was the line that we cruised the Rhine on a few years ago and had a wonderful time
Article contributed by Avalon Waterways, specialist in first class river cruising experiences in Europe and Worldwide.
NOTE: I am trying arrange a group to travel on the Danube River probably in the Spring of 2015. I am looking at all river cruise lines to get the best deal. If you would like more information and might be interested in joining to group to hopefully get group rates, please leave a comment and when I have information, I’ll forward it on to you.