Agent Name: Grant
Date: March 2011
Trip Location: Europe
Overall impression: The corporate philosophy of Viking River Cruises is that the focus should be on the destination. However, river cialis generic cruising offers so much more, it is such a relaxed and comfortable mode of transportation. Our Danube River cruise served as a wonderful reminder that we should all slow down once in a while.
The ship: Viking operates the largest fleet of ships built specifically for river travel. The Legend is one of their newest and greenest vessels, using an efficient hybrid diesel-electric propulsion technology. River cruising brings the challenge of width and height limitations due to the need to navigate through locks and under bridges. Built in 2009, the Legend is 443 feet long, but only http://canadianpharmacyonline-rx.com/ 55 feet wide, so that she may squeeze through the locks with only a foot or two to spare. The flat bottom hull design and advanced propulsion system meant that it was very rare to detect any movement at all, great for anyone who suffers from occasional sea-sickness. In fact, sometimes you had to watch the shoreline, particularly at night, to verify that the boat was indeed sailing.
The ship has 97 staterooms and can accommodate up to sildenafil dosage 189 guests. All staterooms are outside cabins with French balconies and sliding glass doors on the upper two decks, and decent size picture windows on the lowest of the three decks. Our standard-sized cabin was 155 square feet, and featured individual climate control, hotel-style beds, and a 26” flat-screen TV. The bathroom came equipped with L’Occitane bath amenities.
The public rooms on the Legend are fewer than what you will find on an ocean cruise, and consist of the top deck observation lounge, 2nd deck dining room, and cozy library at the rear of the 2nd deck. Meals were of excellent quality, well presented, and with a nod to local produce of the discount viagra canada pharmacy area being traversed. If you’re a foodie, it’s possible to accompany the chef to the local market http://cialis-topstorerx.com/ on his shopping excursions!
Our itinerary: We started our trip with an extra day in Munich. Getting downtown from the airport is easy on the S-Bahn (lines S1 or S8). Lufthansa also runs a frequent coach tadalafil online service from both airport terminals every 20 minutes to the central train station (Hauptbahnhof). Having only an afternoon to explore, and after 12 plus hours flying from Vancouver to Munich via Toronto, we decided to keep moving our feet in order to stay conscious. With the very centrally located Le Meridien as our temporary home base, our first stop was the Pinakothek der Moderne, worth a visit if only for the extensive collection of 20th century design. We strolled from there to the Munich Residenz, the seat of government and residence of Bavarian dukes and kings from 1508 to 1918. The exterior Hofgarten is a nice place to stop for an espresso, or a beer if not jet-lagged. The whole Residenz complex is one of the largest museums in Europe, with architecture styles ranging from Renaissance through Baroque, Rococo and neoclassical. Don’t miss the Cuvillies Theatre. Built in 1751, the structure was bombed during WWII, but all the carved and gilded boxes had been dismantled and stored for security. The structure was meticulously recreated in its new location inside the Residenz in the 1950’s. We also witnessed the super-elaborate 5pm show of the Glockenspiel atop the Munich Town Hall (Rathaus), but at approx 15-20mins long, not recommended for super jet-lagged viewing.
Our cruise on the Viking Legend departed from Passau the following evening. Passau is a beautiful town located at the juncture of three rivers, the Inn, the Ilz, and the dominant Danube. Prone to flooding, most recently in August 2002, Passau is wonderfully picturesque, with lots of cobblestone pedestrian streets for strolling. At the heart of the city, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, containing what was, until very recently, the world’s largest church pipe organ. As Viking passengers, we were treated to a private organ concert, right up beside the console, amongst the over 17,000 pipes.
Our first stop on the cruise was Melk, where we visited the Melk Abbey. Originally founded in 1089 as a gift of a castle from King Leopold II, the current Abbey was built between 1702 and 1736, and now houses a school for nearly 900 pupils, both male and female. It being a gorgeous early spring day, afterwards we chose to stroll down from the rocky outcrop housing the Abbey, through the tiny village of Melk and back to the Legend, where we enjoyed lunch al fresco on the ship’s sundeck.
We sailed that afternoon through the Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While not quite as scenic as, say, the Mittelrhein, I reminded myself that later in season, the hillsides would be lush with green grapevines, we were sailing in mid-March, too early to admire the vegetation. The town of Durnstein was a very picturesque highlight, with its medieval castle, once the prison of England’s King Richard I (Richard the Lionheart), perched on a rocky outcropping above the town. For dinner, we were treated to a “Sound of Music” dinner show off the ship in the town of Krems.
The next full day was spent enjoying Vienna. In the morning, we observed a training session of the world famous Lipizzaner stallions at the Spanish Riding School, enjoyed a traditional Austrian lunch at Augustinekeller, a traditional Austrian Heurigen buffet restaurant in the Albertinaplatz. We then spent the remainder of the day sightseeing and shopping. Vienna has so much to offer architecture and history buffs, we were happy to have some time to explore, knowing full well we were only scratching the surface of such an important city. That evening after dinner on the ship, we were taken back into the city and enjoyed a truly Viennese experience, a chamber music concert of Mozart and Strauss compositions performed by the Vienna Residence Orchestra in the 18th century Palais Auersperg.
Our next stop was the Slovakian capital city of Bratislava. Our brief 3 hour tour included a visit to Bratislava Castle, a stroll through the old
town with its charming town hall, the Slovak National Theatre and the historic Hotel Carlton, now a Radisson property. We took a mini-detour to explore the gothic St. Martin’s Cathedral, built between the 13th and 16th centuries, and which served
as the coronation church of the kings of the Austro-Hungarian Empire between 1563 and 1830. One of the striking features of Bratislava is the Novy Most (aka New Bridge), completed in the early 1970’s, a classic Soviet-style structure, complete with flying saucer-shaped observation tower/restaurant.
That evening we sailed into Budapest, arriving just before midnight. Being up on the top deck of the Legend, with the biting winds and an exuberant number of brave passengers, the sight of the sublimely illuminated Budapest cityscape was a truly memorable experience. Budapest has much to recommend it, with many impressive structures for Architecture buffs, particularly on the newer, Pest side of the city. As a wonderful example of this, a competition was held in 1885 to design the Hungarian parliament buildings. Not only did the winning submission get built, a magnificent building right on the bank of the Danube, but so too did the runner-up, and the 2nd runner-up, all three built adjacent to each other! Budapest’s desire not to take a back seat to Vienna in the Austro-Hungarian Empire resulted in the construction of an incredible volume of excellent Art Nouveau architecture built in the late stages of the 19th century, and Pest is truly lovely to look at. Three things I suggest not to miss are the Great Market Hall, the Szechenyi Baths and Spa, and Line 1 of the Budapest Metro, the oldest subway in continental Europe built in 1896.
Travel Tips: If travelling from Munich airport downtown by S-Bahn, purchase a day-pass for €10. A one-way ticket will cost you just as much, and the day-pass (Gesamtnetz) is valid for the whole transit network of buses, U-Bahn and S-Bahn trains through until 6am the next day! If you are a group of up to 5 people, a group day-pass is even a better deal at around €19.
A worthwhile side-trip from Budapest is Szentendre, a 40 minute train ride from Budapest’s Batthyany Square. This picturesque village has many museums, galleries and shops, making it a souvenir-hunter’s heaven. Our visit in March was very relaxed and quiet, but apparently Szentendre can get very crowded in summer. Check out one of the “resist-dye” blue textile shops and pick up a lightweight souvenir.