We arrived in Budapest, capital of Hungary, around lunchtime on Sunday and checked into our hotel on a hot 35 degree day. The Marriott hotel was lovely with a view of the Danube from our room and, at first glance, the bathroom looked very simple and manageable. But…….. on checking it a little more thoroughly we discovered the lowest toilet you have seen in all your life. Honestly, it was about 30 cm off the floor – now I am not going to go into detail about this but just picture yourself getting off that and you will understand that attending a gym class is entirely necessary!
Our first glimpse of Budapest on our trip from the airport was of many apartment buildings in need of maintenance and we have since heard from our tour guide that these buildings are remnants of the Communist Regime which ended in 1989. There are some beautiful buildings too and it appears that a lot of work has started on repairing and refurbishing those along with monuments, parks and city squares. Perhaps the EU is assisting in bringing this city back to life. Our boat, the Scenic Jewel, is on the Buda side of the Danube and we were fortunate to have our cabin looking out to the Danube and directly over to the beautiful Parliament Buildings on the Pest side of the city. As night falls, these buildings and bridges are lit up spectacularly and they are truly a sight to see.
Our city tour from the boat was interesting taking us to both sides of this city, firstly up the hill to the Citadel monument giving magnificent views to all parts of the city, Liberty Bridge, Elizabeth Bridge, past the Opera House which is being refurbished and on to City Park – a lovely park with a Church, Agricultural Museum, playground, lake and the Escritor Anonymus Statue where, legend has it, if you rub the pen you have good luck. The one in charge of the B’s tells me “go rub that pen” so I did – top, bottom, back, front – I got it all covered! Good luck coming our way!
All this sightseeing was followed by a visit to a small concert hall in a lovely building which is part of a school for visually impaired students. The treat was a short piano and organ recital by one of Budapest’s famous pianists, a Professor of Music called Csaba Kiraly and a pure genius on the piano and organ. It was wonderful.
This afternoon we have had a safety drill – we knew it was happening. It just entails climbing the stairs up to the top deck, putting on a life jacket (properly) and lining up where you are supposed to so that your cabin number can be checked. Interesting! Some people must have thought we were going to get a cocktail up there whilst clipping up the jacket and checking the whistle so they came dressed for it – very high heels, handbags, long dresses and jewellery that glimmered in the sun – then it seemed that photos were more important than safety training so they had to strike a pose and the ones taking the photo took 10 to be sure, to be sure! Heaven forbid – I thought the boss was going to burst a foofoo valve in frustration!
On Tuesday evening we were invited to dine with four other guests, ze Captain, Hotel Manager and Tour Director and a five-course dinner was served with wines especially chosen by ze Captain who was also proud to tell us that the main course was NZ lamb and delicious it was! As you can imagine, we desperately needed the five courses but it would definitely help the problem of the shrinking clothes if they were all bowls of lettuce! I have made myself feel a tincy bit better but doing ten laps of the upper deck this morning in the sunshine which equates to 1.5 km. The trouble is I need to add about another 50 laps to soak up the calories. The boss decided it was more important to read the world news to keep up-to-date with what Boris and Donald have tweeted in the past 24 hours! By the way – all the Australians we have met absolutely love Jacinda and want her cloned so she can run Australia too!
Now as I write this we have a free day as we sail up the Danube (which isn’t blue!) towards Vienna. We have this morning gone through Bratislava in Slovakia and we are now in Austria and arrive in Vienna at 4 pm – 272 km from Budapest which takes this boat 22 hours at 14 km/ph. We will also go through 68 locks during this two-week cruise up the Danube and joining the Rhine at Wiesbaden. The one in charge of the B’s (also boats) is on the verandah enjoying the view as we pass some very long barges being pushed up the river. It is a beautiful scene as we pass people fishing from little inlets, children playing on small beaches, pretty bushlands, little villages and other riverboats with people waving at us and we at them. Then we came to an area near Vienna where there are tiny cottages – maybe little fishing huts or baches and then I report to the boss, who is quietly reading, that I am sure some of these people are wandering around without the clothes. Now maybe I need to go to Specsavers, but I am sure this is the case so I am thinking that maybe their clothes may have shrunk like ours have and they have abandoned them! The boss announces that we won’t be following this example. Then, just as I was recovering from seeing these naked men on the sideline the Austrian Military sent about ten small boats in a line up the river at great speed past our boat – what is this about? There is never a dull moment sitting on this verandah! Around 4 pm this lovely boat glides into Vienna and we have an early dinner because the treat tonight is a classical concert at the Palais Lichtenstein and we all set off at 7.15 pm to this beautiful venue and are greeted in the magnificent foyer with a glass of champagne. The concert was an absolute treat not to be missed with nine wonderful musicians from the Vienna Imperial Orchestra and a soprano, a tenor and a ballet duo. We sat in the most breathtaking concert hall in the Palais to listen to this musical feast and it was amazing.
This morning there was no sleep in because we had to depart at 8.15 am for a city tour of Vienna followed by a special visit to the Spanish Riding School here – a very famous riding school dating back to 1735 and featuring the famous Lippizaner white horses. The principal horses are away on holiday but the baby horses were on show along with some others and they were wonderful to see. It was a hot day here in Vienna at 35 degrees and the one in charge of the B’s (seems that means the blonde as well!) was looking after me – hat, umbrella, cold Kathmandu necktie etc etc. All good and that is ‘ow we cope with ze temperature at present which global warming seems to have thrust upon uz just when ve don’t need it! My minder looks after me which is good because the Lime are here as well and every so often he grabs my arm to stop me being flattened by ze German Lime! I tell you – these things have invaded the entire world. I thought it was Phil’s problem to solve in Auckland but all his mates in every city are trying to solve the same problem.
By the way – you will all be extremely relieved to know zat ze bathroom on zis boat is like a Kiwi bathroom and no “Bathroom for Dummies” manual required and we can work everyzing without calling the engineer on zis boat! Oh what relief. I can put the Rescue Remedy back in the suitcase!
And so we sail on up the Danube hoping that global warming will deliver rain so that this boat can carry on!
We awoke this morning tied up beside the little village of Durnstein, Austria and, as our departure was 10 am we got up for an early breakfast and took a walk to discover this beautiful but tiny village where the apricot trees flourish and the vineyards are planted on steep slopes reminding us of the Cinque Terre in Italy. Now we are back onboard and sailing up the river past campers enjoying the sunshine and very long barges being pushed upstream.