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Sailing The Danube River on Avalon Waterways

Our Danube River Cruise Itinerary

Is a Danube River Cruise for you? Learn what destinations can be visited when sailing this legendary river.  In September of 2022, my husband and I sailed on a Danube River Cruise on Avalonwaterway.  I think after you read this, you will want to take your own trip to experience these exciting destinations.

Let me start by saying that it was supposed to rain every day of our trip.  The forecast was not favorable, and I checked multiple sources.  All in all, we only had one rainy morning and two rainy afternoons (one of which we just stayed on the boat so not a big deal), so we were very lucky to experience such lovely weather on our trip.  Do not ever be discouraged leading up to a trip if the forecast is not favorable, just pack accordingly and hope for the best – you might get the best!

Budapest

Our trip started in Budapest. I have been wanting to go there for a while, but especially after I planned a surprise engagement for a client in 2020. I studied the city in even more detail to help plan the perfect proposal, but that trip was unfortunately canceled due to COVID. I knew exactly what I wanted to do there:

1. Visit the ruin bars
2. Visit Castle Hill
3. Visit a thermal bath

We did not accomplish any of those things – not a single one! It is important to remember to roll with the punches when traveling. We headed to the ruin bars on a Saturday night and were not expecting them to be as popular as they are – the lines were massive. We ended up going to a bar next door and meeting an American who was staying with a friend in Budapest and recommended another ruin bar farther away. We went there, but Rob had forgotten his ID, and we were asked for it. Apparently, his graying hair and my laugh lines were not enough proof of our ages. We ended up at a rooftop bar which was beautiful, but we stayed out too late. We woke up early the next day for a walking tour, but it started drizzling in the afternoon, and we could just not motivate ourselves to leave our Panorama Suite which allowed us to gaze at The Danube from the comfort of our window facing bed! Luckily, I will be back in March (work trip referenced above), so I will make sure to do ALL THE THINGS then!

Luckily, we did a scenic sail as we left and saw some of the big sites … in the rain! Here is a little video of that experience. And here is a video of the most memorable moment from our walking tour …

Bratislava

Our next stop was Bratislava.  I think my biggest take away from Bratislava was being surprised how beautiful the old town was. When I think communism, I think of prefab blocks of apartment buildings.  However, this capital city is quite lovely and has more of a town feel than a capital city.  We really enjoyed our time here.

A friend of mine had recommended a post-communist tour of Bratislava in an old communist Skoda car.  Our tour guide runs the business with his brother.  His stories of growing up during communism and using his antenna to watch western television from Austria which was only 2 miles away and right outside of his window were fascinating.  He also carried items from the tour in an old bag from the travel agency his parents worked during communism so obviously that was interesting to me!  I learned that while Yugoslavia was technically behind the Iron Curtain, it had some of the more lenient policies and many people would vacation there to then escape.  To think, travel agents once were a key to freedom!

Vienna

Undoubtedly, Vienna was our busiest stop.  The architecture in Vienna is so impressive, I could have walked around for hours more, if it wasn’t for the rain … our morning in Vienna was the soggiest time of our trip, but we made the most of it. Luckily, Avalon Waterways keeps umbrellas onboard so we made good use of them!  Here is a snippet of what we saw that morning.  Luckily, the rain subsided in the afternoon which made our food tour much more enjoyable, click here for a peek at that experience.   We ended our evening at a classical concert that featured the work of Austria’s most notable composers such as Mozart, Schubert, and Strauss.  The performers made the experience fun, which I really was not expecting.  It was such an enjoyable evening, and I am so glad we opted for this experience.

Dürnstein & Melk

The sun was shining bright when we arrived in Dürnstein, a small town along the Danube famous for it’s wine production.  As some of you have previously read, Rob loves growing plants so we opted for a trip to a saffron farm.  It was fascinating to learn that the owner of the farm was researching a story at nearby Melk Abbey’s historical library and found out that saffron used to be grown extensively in the Wachau Valley.  Now, most people grow wine in the region, but he and his wife decided to bring saffron back to the area despite coming from corporate backgrounds and never having grown anything!  Don’t worry though, we made time to purchase some wine during our short time there.
 
We returned to the boat and spent the late morning and early afternoon sailing through the Wachau Valley which was lovely.  I love sailing on rivers and all the sites you see along the way.  We stopped at Melk Abbey which is a Benedictine abbey above the town of Melk and a world heritage site because of it’s splendid Baroque architecture.

Český Krumlov

A small, central European medieval town, the architecture of Český Krumlov has remained intact over the decades.  The town was not always a tourist destination. We enjoyed a walking tour in the morning and our guide informed us that when he arrived to the area in the 1970s, it was full of nomadic people.  Needless to say, they did not really have a connection to the town and it was not well taken care of.  In the 1970s, things started to change, but it was not until after the fall of communism that the town was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1992.

It is not a large town, so it is often added to an itinerary as a day trip from Prague which is how I saw it the first time about 15 years ago.  It is also a short trip from Linz, Austria which is where our river cruise was docked for the day.
 
As I mentioned, we started our day on a walking tour.  Our guide was so entertaining.  He was the first official tour guide ever for the town.  He saw the potential long before all the tourists arrived in this storybook setting.  The most stunning aspect of the town is the castle built on two hills.  I do not think it was any accident that our departure point of our tour was at the dramatic point where the castle is built between the two hills.  It reminded me of a Roman aqueduct  Here is a quick video of our trip including arrival or check out the below photos.

From there, we wandered through the cobblestone streets while listening to the stories of our guide.  We made our way to the castle and was released to explore it on our own and was given advice on where to get the most authentic dumplings in town.  In case you were not aware, the areas of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, and perhaps further afield, love dumplings.  Not sweet dumplings or Asian dumplings, knedlíky are traditional Czech dumplings which use a dough similar to bread dough. They’re boiled and sliced, and served with a variety of traditional Czech dishes.  I remembered liking them last time, so I enjoyed them again but Rob opted for schnitzel and delicious potato salad, as well as liquid bread aka beer!  We could have opted for dining along the river in the sun which was very tempting, we opted for authentic, very authentic …

We spent the rest of the day wandering around and shopping for a perfect souvenir for the boys that we never found!  With so many nooks and crannies, Český Krumlov is the perfect town to wander around.  It was the perfect ending to our perfect day!

Passau

Passau is found near the border of Germany and Austria and sits at the junction of three rivers—the Danube, Inn, and Ils.  Thus, they have had some issues with flooding in the past!  Notice the markings on the building in the top right photo – these markings indicate the water levels that occurred during floods.  
 
As dinner was served, we left Passau behind us and spent our last evening with the friends we made on our journey while looking forward to reuniting with our friends the next day at Oktoberfest and our children the day after that.

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Click Here for a trip report from my Fabulous Stay at The Palms Turks and Caicos

Click here to find out why you need to go on a river cruise (even if you don’t like cruising) …