Fri-Sat May 21/22, 2010

Having just spent   two days in two capitals of two European countries, and knowing that we’ll spend tomorrow in a third, this is probably a good point at which to warn you: don’t bother coming to this part of the world if you can’t stand castles, hate cathedrals, and have been known to die of boredom in medieval old towns. Because that’s mostly what you get to see on a river-cruise like this through Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.

Yesterday was a BIGGIE! Leaving the Amadeus Elegant safely parked in the Danube Canal, we started with a Vienna sightseeing tour that took us along the majestic Ringstrasse, through the Schwarzenbergplatz, past Charles Church (Karlskirche) and the stunning Opera House – ending up at the awe-inspiring St Stephens Cathedral. Oh, plus time to stroll along Kärtnerstrasse and sample Vienna’s famous pastries!

Then, in the afternoon, we were up-and-off to the Schönbrunn Castle, one of Vienna’s most gorgeous buildings and a World Heritage Site – centre of courtly and political life under the reign of Empress Maria Theresia (who died in 1780).

And, as if that wasn’t enough for one day, we all got dressed up in our finery and headed out after dinner to a marvellous ‘Sound of Vienna’ show at one of the city’s countless concert chambers. There we were treated to a charming, cultured evening of classical Viennese waltzes, polkas, arias and operettas – “a living firework display for all senses” – by musicians, opera singers and ballet dancers.

Fantastic? Oh yes! And an unforgettable evening, for sure …

Sometime during the night our ship must’ve left Austria and entered Slovakia (used to be part of Czechoslovakia, now an independent sovereign state) – because we ate breakfast this morning in Bratislava. Unlike neat-as-a-pin Germany and sparkling Austria, this one time communist state looks a bit tired and beat-up, but that didn’t stop us enjoying a tour of the city’s major sights, including some take-your-breath-away views from the 13th-century Bratislava Castle.

This afternoon, some of our Kiwis roamed Bratislava on their own – while others of us visited Schloss Hof, an Imperial Festival Palace built in the 18th century by the ruling Hapsburgs.

Then, tonight, our second-to-last evening on the Amadeus Elegant, we attended the Captain’s Gala Dinner – prior to casting off and cruising along the Danube Canal, Bratislava’s magnificent castle looming high and all-lit-up above us …   

PEOPLE NEWS: Another one bites the dust …

* Jean wins the ‘Happy Hour’ Award for showing younger travellers how to do it by engaging in some late-night partying with some Scottish folk on board!

TOMORROW: We reach out final port-of-call – beautiful Budapest in Hungary

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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