Amsterdam to Budapest - part 5

Words and photography by Peter Thorpe

The Albertina Museum of Art in Vienna

It’s Day 12 of our 14-day tour and sadly, we are getting towards the conclusion. However, looks like they have saved the best for the end. We are now in the city of Vienna. Absolutely beautiful city and by the way – if you like coffee – you will love it here. They have a population of fewer than 2 million people and there are over 1,100 coffee shops! Literally one on every corner! The Viennese people are real coffee people. Also heaps of wonderful museums and art galleries and fabulous shopping.

Today, we opt to skip the regular tour and instead, we tour the Albertina Museum of Art. Heaps of Picassos and Monets plus Reubens and Rembrandts hanging everywhere.
They are very religious here and today, all the shops are closed for the Feast of the Assumption when Mary went to heaven. Thank you, Mary – you saved me a small fortune, I’m sure! (My wife has a black belt in shopping).

Horse-drawn carriage is a popular way to see Vienna

Vienna is widely recognised as the world’s capital of classical music. More famous composers have lived here, than in any other city in the world! In Vienna, music is literally in the air! And, to prove it, tonight, we are going to the Liechtenstein City Palace for a private concert with the Viennese Imperial Orchestra for a bit of Mozart and Strauss.

The magnificently restored Palace has gold everywhere you look

The palace is amazing with 2-ton chandeliers hanging everywhere and more gold trim than Donald Trump’s toilet seat!
The City Palace has been privately owned by the princely family of Liechtenstein for over 300 years and is deeply rooted in Vienna’s history. Situated right in the heart of Vienna´s inner city, it has been under renovation for almost five years and now appears in all its former glory. It is said to be the first major building of the High Baroque age in Vienna.
The magnificent Baroque stucco ceilings and opulent neo-Rococo interiors are complemented by the original furnishings, to create a state of opulence and wealth one can only imagine.

We enjoy a private concert by the Viennese Imperial Orchestra

|Firstly, we enjoy a feast fit for a king, then we are treated to an exclusive performance (for our ship’s passengers only) by a 20-piece orchestra, plus opera singers and the Vienna Girls’ Choir. Apparently, sometimes they have the Vienna Boys’ Choir but they are currently somewhere else in the world touring. The performance of the orchestra and the singers and choir is really quite spectacular. This is truly an event to remember with memories that will last a lifetime.

Budapest is actually two cities Buda and Pest joined by a bridge

The following day, we arrive at the final destination on our journey – Budapest, the capital of Hungary. The cruise into the city is quite spectacular and different from most of the scenery we have seen so far along the way. Budapest is not like the many sleepy little villages and towns we have been visiting along the Rhine and there is a complete change of culture here. This is a bustling city with a population of almost 2 million people and it’s not so lay-back.
We join our group for a guided bus tour of the city and there is a lot to see. This includes the Fisherman’s Bastion, a 19th-century fortress with 7 turreted lookout towers offering panoramic views across the city. We also visit the Great Market Hall, a huge market place in a beautiful historic building built in 1897, selling everything from local food and produce, spices, wine and craft beers to souvenirs and artifacts. We also wander around the city centre and I even find the house where Harry Houdini the famous magician was born!
Then it’s back to the ship for an evening of Hungarian food and gypsy singing and dancing, with a local group of musicians and dancers who have joined us on board.

Houses of Parliament in Budapest at night

The next night is our final night on board and we assemble in the main lounge for farewell drinks with the Captain and crew. But our voyage is not quite complete. We leave the port and go back down the river for a few kilometres, then we turn around and sail back into port! This is so we can enjoy the view of Budapest by night. And, what a spectacular view it is. What a great way to end our river cruising experience.
The next day we bid a fond farewell to all our new found friends we’ve met on the journey, as we gather our bags and head for the airport. It’s only been two weeks but it feels like we have known some of them for years.

It’s been a great experience and – as Patsy would say – absolutely fabulous!