My husband and I have recently returned from a month’s holiday. It was our 40th wedding anniversary earlier this year and we decided to celebrate by going on a river cruise, from Budapest to Amsterdam. This week my blog posts will be about our trip.

On the cruise, you travel on three rivers – Danube, Maine and Rhine – plus a couple of canals. The canals were built to connect the rivers and create a transport route for cargo. Although it is slower than trains or trucks it is much cheaper. It has also become a popular tourist route as it is very relaxing being on the water. However, we were kept busy with land tours and given a lot of historical and cultural information about the various towns we passed. After the cruise, we attended one of Andre Rieu’s concert in his home town of Maastricht, a couple of hours south of Amsterdam, but still in the Netherlands.

First stop: Budapest, capital of Hungary
Budapest is an interesting city, full of history, old buildings, and crazy drivers. Our accommodation overlooked the river and the first thing we saw was a couple getting married on a boat! (You can see them in the foreground of my photo of the Houses of Parliament).

Before the start of the cruise, we did a little sightseeing on our own and visited the Rock Hospital on the Buda side of the city. It was a series of natural caves which were turned into a hospital during World War 2. It is now a fascinating museum. Some displays were scenes of different aspects of their work. Other displays were of utensils, tools and examples of their innovation. Doctors and nurses did amazing work under difficult circumstances.

We expected to have a cruise on the Danube in the evening, but night cruising has been banned since 30 Koreans died in an incident with a cruise ship about a month previous. An inquest is taking place but it is unlikely that night cruising will resume.

We had very knowledgeable tour guides throughout the trip and heard a lot of history. Budapest has a population of nearly 2 million people, while the next biggest town in Hungary has only 200,000. Most of Budapest was bombed in the Second World War and suffered significant damage so a lot of the old buildings are reconstructions, including the five bridges that crossed the Danube at that time. We saw a lot of green space in Budapest, many trees and gardens which were lovely, but they were often unkempt.

Next stop: Vienna, capital of Austria
Vienna was around before Roman times and became the capital of the Austrian Empire in the 19th century. In the 1850’s it experienced rapid growth. It didn’t seem as old as Budapest, and much of it is a modern city. Austria is much smaller now than in the past. It once had a sea border on the Adriatic Sea as well as a land border with Russia.

Next stop: Bratislava, capital of Slovakia
Bratislava is like many other European cities, full of old buildings and lots of history. The historic part of the city is now a pedestrian precinct as there are narrow streets, old buildings and many small shops.

After visiting three capital cities in three days, I was looking forward to visiting some smaller towns!

More on that next time.