Taking a river cruise on the Danube River with my husband brought back memories of my mom and dad waltzing around our house to the tune of the Blue Danube Waltz when I was a little girl. It was also a dream come true for me to see some of the places that were in my all-time favorite movie, The Sound of Music. Somehow, my thoughful husband thought it will be a nice surprise for me when he overheard me say I love the movie so much (as I was watching it for the _th time) because of the memories of my childhood watching it in the naval base so many times and again and again in my teen years. I can never grow tired of that movie!
This trip also offered us a unique perspective of a scenic and culturally-complexed region. Besides the grand old capitals of Mitteleuropa, like Budapest and Vienna, we also discovered gems like Salzburg, city of Mozart; picturesque German and Austrian ports like Vilshofen, Grein and Linz; also the ever-dramatic Bratislava, capital of Slovakia.
We began our trip in Budapest, the capital of Hungary. Budapest is the most freewheeling city in Eastern Europe and is actually a union of two cities, Buda and Pest, lying on the opposite side of the Danube River. The cities united in 1872 as Budapest, once called the “Paris of the East”. The climate is continental, with cold winter and warm, pleasant summers.
In Buda, the city’s western right bank, we took a tour to see the massive castle complex on top of Castle Hill and the palace, destroyed in World War II and restored to its original splendor. We enjoyed the panoramic views
from Fisherman’s Bastion before crossing the famous Chain Bridge to Pest on the eastern side of the Danube.
In the afternoon, we took a ride to the “puzsta” (steppes) were we enjoyed a spirited display of the skills of the Hungarian horsemen. We were also treated to a carriage ride then sampled their authentic Hungarian food and wine while enjoying the tunes of Gypsy music.
The next day, we visited the local market for some souvenirs and also got an exclusive behind the scenes look at the Budapest Opera, one of the most acclaimed cultural institutes in Hungary which was nearly destroyed in World War II.
Three days in Budapest, we were ready to move on. We boarded our river cruise ship, MS River Symphony, for Slovakia’s capital of Bratislava. As our ship started to glide, they started playing Blue Danube Waltz. Is it really blue or is it really green?