Let the scenery unfold on a cruise along Europe’s waterways. Our ship, the MS Amalegro, glides along the Danube River through Austria’s Wachau Valley. Up on deck I marvel at the scenery that slides past. The forest of spun gold and deep burnt ochre is sporadically interrupted by terraced vineyards that disappear into the hills.
We cruise past thick woodlands where the shades of autumn leaves could easily fill a home-decorator’s colour chart. It’s a storybook section of the Austrian countryside bursting with Baroque abbeys, medieval fortresses, vineyards, villages, bike trails and quaint country lanes. The area is also one of the most picturesque stretches along the popular Budapest to Amsterdam cruising route.
The river cruising wave has well and truly taken off. In the last few years more and more Australians have caught on to the benefits of cruising Europe’s waterways.
On a river cruise you only have to unpack once and your belongings float with you through several countries. There are no crumpled maps or driving arguments, long bus journeys or missed trains.
Our stateroom is luxuriously furnished with a queen-sized bed, flat-screen LCD TV, writing desk and lounge chair. It is serviced twice daily; once in the morning and a turn-down service each evening. And there are nice little extras such as thick fluffy white bathrobes, high quality toiletries and bedtime chocolates placed on our pillows each night.
Excursions and guided walking tours are included in the cruise fare. Most last about one hour and provide a basic orientation of each place. And in most places there is ample opportunity to wander around and explore further after the organised tour.
Menus change daily and offer regional fare and fine wines that reflect the different countries we cruise through. We dine on Hungarian goulash while cruising past Budapest and Vienna schnitzel as the lights of Vienna twinkle in the distance. There’s something memorable about nibbling delicious Austrian Germknoedl, yeast dumplings with a big dollop of plum compote and sweet poppy seed butter, while gazing at the green Austrian countryside.
Budapest to Vienna
My cruise begins in Budapest where a sightseeing tour is offered before embarking the ship. But in Budapest and Vienna, I decide to forgo the organised bus tour and explore on my own.
While the rest of the group is gazing at Vienna’s stately architecture, I’m off savouring Viennese pastries and chocolates. While they visit Budapest’s Fisherman’s Bastion, I soak in a thermal bath. But that’s the beauty of this arrangement; you’re free to spend your time however you wish.
It can be fun exploring new places with new friends you meet on board. We cycle through cobblestone villages and gaze at magnificent medieval churches. We admire splendid Gothic, Romanesque and Baroque buildings, and sip schnapps in Durnstein.
In Germany we fill up on sausages and beer at Germany’s oldest sausage kitchen in Regensburg. Then we wander through Regensburg, browsing the warren of boutiques that sell whimsical metal sculptures, pottery, soaps and beeswax candles.
A bus tour in Nuremburg takes us to the Nazi Party Rally Grounds, Congress Hall and the Hall of Justice. Hitler chose Nuremberg as the site for his annual Nazi party rallies and the city later became the location for the Nuremberg Trials where Nazi party leaders were held accountable for WWII war crimes.
A highlight of the cruise is the ride along the Main Danube Canal. Completed in 1992, the 171-km canal links the Rhine River, via its tributary the Main River, with the Danube River.
This linking of the two rivers allows ships to sail from the Rhine delta, at Rotterdam in the Netherlands, to the Danube delta in eastern Romania. It connects the North Sea to the Black Sea.
Main Danube Canal
The canal climbs 176m from the city of Bamberg to the top of the European divide at 406m. From there it descends to the village of Kelheim before connecting to the Danube. Ships traverse the canal through a series of 16 locks.
At the highest point, which is marked by an unimpressive concrete wall, our captain gathers the passengers in the main lounge and we toast our arrival at the top of the canal.
Christina Pfeiffer was a guest of Korean Air and APT